Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Holy Mother of God

By Peter Paul Rubens
So, I went to church the other day. I sat there....oh no, wait, I forgot that I'm Catholic...I kneeled there, praying. I was praying that God would make me all super holy and more Christian than others so that I can feel righteous in judging some awfully gnarly things in this world, like the anatomical features of my own womanly body that He created. I hadn't noticed much when I walked into the church because I was too busy feeling the Spirit, but after some  prayer, I opened my eyes and looked around. I noticed the most vile and crude things. There were paintings....painting that showed a woman's breasts! In church! Where Jesus lives! Oh my God, this woman who apparently has an affinity for blue robes modeled for a bunch of paintings showing her indecently breastfeeding an infant - and sometimes a grown toddler! Fucking hell, even one of the paintings showed this rather old-looking naked baby just clinging on to her exposed breast, nipple and all, while He looked outward, smiling. This woman, this floozy, obviously thinks she's all that because in some pictures she is wearing a fancy crown and she always has a halo. Oh, heavenly. And just to prove how immoral she is, she is almost always flanked by flying babies, who are also naked and flaunting their wings and penises. Oh my God. Who does she think she is, just sitting there in her regal robes acting like she is the Mother of God while forcing our young, impressionable children to look at her breasts? Have mercy! I started having heart palpitations, so I had to look elsewhere and I focused my attention on the Crucifix hanging from the ceiling. I focused on the bruised, beaten, pierced body of Our Lord and all the blood that trickled down from His wounds and I prayed that I never have to see anything as offensive as a painting of some woman breastfeeding in public again. I then looked at one of my favorite statues in the church - it depicts Jesus, wearing nothing but His underwear, tied to a post, being whipped, His back a bloody mess as He received the cruel punishment for being the Son of God. I focused on those bloody gashes on His back again and prayed that the children will not ever have to view the vile images seen in those paintings of the breastfeeding woman. Then I took out my rosary and prayed to Mary, the Mother of God for a little bit, though I was still distracted by the flaunting woman in those paintings. I think I may write a letter to the Pope, asking him to have all such images removed from Churches so our children do not have their innocence stolen from them. First, I'm going to follow the Stations of the Cross around the Church and focus on the depictions of Jesus dragging that cross across town, His body full of bruises and blood until He finally had nails driven into his wrists and feet...I think they need to take those paintings down and replace them with a nice, moral Saint. Saint Agatha comes to mind. I've seen paintings of her holding a plate with some sort of jell-o molds or something. Kids love jell-o.

St. Agatha



Seriously, people think like that. Recently, someone had an image of a Renaissance (or high medieval, I forget) painting of the Virgin nursing baby Jesus removed from her page for indecency. In Facebook's never-ending witch hunt for breastfeeding images, despite their claims of allowing such images, they even managed to insult God and His mom! Asinine! I then saw a lot of debates on Facebook in the last few weeks about the appropriateness of churches housing paintings of the Virgin Mary breastfeeding the wee little Jesus. I guess I didn't get the memo that we'd be returning to the Protestant Reformation, when great works of art were defiled in order to cover up any saucy bits of flesh exposed on the subjects. There are actual discussions as to whether it's okay for people to see Jesus and His mom doing what many babies and moms actually do. I have to say it's not surprising given the fact that this country has a problem with respecting the rights of mothers to nurse their babies in public. It's been a long battle since we decided that breasts were no longer for nurturing the babies and were now only to be used as objects of sexual lust. So, yeah, I'm used to it....but, Jesus' mom? Are we really going to ask God's mum to wear a Holy Hooter Hider (comes in a lovely pastel blue with a virginal white lily print or you can get a custom designed one from Etsy with the Vatican logo embroidered on it)? Let me frank - Jesus was breastfed. I know there are some Christian traditions which are all about telling women that they are the embodiment of sin because they are women and that their bodies are shameful, but that crap doesn't fly with me. Why would God have a problem with the body that He created? He designed boobs all by Himself. He knows they can serve more than one function - nourishment, a nice place to lay one's head, a good place to hide small toys or, for the adults, a little something nice to look at. Obviously, God didn't have a problem with boobies or any other part of the womanly body because He saw fit to send his Kid to reside in a human womb, shoot out of a human vagina and nurse at human breasts. Get the hell over it already! The body isn't sinful! The sin is in shaming our bodies so much that we don't even remember what's normal about their functions anymore.

The Holy Family By Joos Van Cleve - is she mom enough?

It especially pisses me off because these are typically debates held about images seen in Catholic churches...by non-Catholic people. Dude, this art is our tradition and it's sacred. Respect that. Why are the breastfeeding pictures so hotly debated? Have you seen the imagery of Jesus on the day He died? It ain't pretty. In fact, you are more likely to walk into a Catholic church and see a variety of images of Jesus getting the crap kicked out of Him and, of course, nailed to the Cross. There's usually blood. There is no uproar over the Pieta, an image of the Virgin Mary holding her adult son, Jesus, dead and slumped over in her lap, yet we whine about an image of the same pair, only 30 years before that when Jesus was a baby at His mother's breast. Really? Where is the uproar over images of St. Agatha? She was martyred for her faith and they cut off her breasts. She is most often depicted in two ways - either in the moment of torture as they cut her breasts from her body or in her more Saintly form (fully clothed and, you know, alive) holding a plate with her own two breasts on it. Oh, but St. Agatha art gets a pass because her breasts are being removed, they are not nursing an infant. Art depicting violence towards a woman's breasts is ok. Art depicting the natural function of breasts is sinful and shameful. The hypocrisy is astounding.

Michelangelo's Pieta at St. Peter's Basilica


I guess people are getting weary over the whole breastfeeding in public argument because they keep getting beaten down by logic and reason. So, they do the natural thing when you cannot reasonably argue and discriminate against something - hide behind religion. Eyeroll. It's not going to work folks. You can stop harassing moms in malls when they feed their children. You can also lay off the Mother of God. There are other problems in the world and the sight of a mother nursing her child is not one of them. It's time to move on. Your religion doesn't give you the right to harass and judge any mother for nursing in public, whether she is the Mother of God or a mom sitting behind you in your church pew. Nothing divine or earthly gives you that right.


"Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast." - Joel 2:16


...."God bless your mother--the womb from which you came, and the breasts that nursed you!" - Luke 11:27



P.S. - a little fun trivia - an important component of Medieval and early Renaissance artwork was to communicate with worshippers back when the more common folk couldn't read. Paintings were loaded with symbolism that most people would have been able to understand. Baby Jesus nursing was a major symbol of His humanity. That's also why He was depicted nude. Let's have fun with the Van Cleve painting up there, just for a moment. Nude baby nursing = Jesus as a human. Knife = circumcision (booo) of Jesus. Old dude = it was commonly believed that Joseph was a really old guy when he married Mary. Mary's blue and white duds = her virginity, purity and motherhood. Mary's red duds = Passion of Christ and His blood that washes away all sins. Citrus fruits = weaning. It was believed Jesus was weaned onto citrus fruit. Enclosed window with garden/pastoral scene in the background = Mary's purity. Joesph is often seen at that window as a symbol of his protection of her purity. I think there is a sheep in the pastoral scene behind Joseph and that = Jesus as Lamb of God. There is a glass of wine which = Christ's blood and passion. There is a reflection of light in the shape of the cross in the glass. I'm not sure what St. Joe is reading here, but he is often depicted reading The Magnificat. Isn't that cool? The medieval paintings are treasure troves of symbolism.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Immaculate Detachment

Unless you are living under a rock - and what are you doing reading me, then? - you are very much aware of the senseless tragedy that destroyed lives and sent 26 Heavenward last week when a gunman opened fire inside a school.

The news shook me to my core. I do not do well when I hear about harm to children. Whether it's children in this country or another country, it hurts my heart to think of them suffering in any way. Furthermore, I have a 6 year old son - the same age as many of the children who were ... killed. He goes to school, too. My mind has not been off of this tragedy for more than a few moments since it happened. So many things have floated in and out of my brainspace since then - sorrow, hatred, anger, fear, hope, compassion, empathy, more fear, shock, more sorrow, more sorrow and more sorrow. My heart grieves so much for all the lives lost and the families and friends who are missing their loved ones.

As usual, when you have a mass shooting - - - Wait...wait. Can I just say that it is completely FUCKED UP that I just wrote, "as usual, when you have a mass shooting?" Why is it usual? Stop the world, I want to jump off. - - - Anyway, when these tragedies happen, you can expect the usual reactions and debates over guns. Obviously, when crimes of this nature happen with guns, it's reasonable people are going engage in a discussion about them. That's not a surprise. That's something I expected. I also expected people to raise the issue of how we deal (or don't deal) with mental illness in this country. Of course we're going to talk about that.

But there is something I didn't expect from a source that really should know better.

It was Friday, just hours after the shooting. I had taken my son and daughter to a local mall with my mom to visit Santa and have a picture taken. Afterward, my kids played in a little play zone full of things to climb on and kids with germs to share. My mom wandered around, keeping an eye on my kids, while I played bad mom and sat on the corner of a cushioned bench and looked at my phone. I wasn't truly paying attention to my phone. I always have an eye on my kids. I was mindlessly letting my Facebook feed scroll on by, not really noticing the words on the screen. I fought back tears as I kept thinking of those children and the adults who tried to protect them. I went to my own Facebook page for this blog. The last thing I had posted was from the previous night when I advised people to run outside and check out the meteor shower. I thought of how I lifted my son from his slumber, bundled him up and took him outside where he saw 5 shooting stars slowly flash across the sky. I then wondered if any of the children who passed away had spent their last night alive doing the same thing...stay up late, bundling up to go outside and watch the skies. Not know that the Heaven they stared out would be waiting for them. I fought to keep more tears back as I watched both of my kids slide backwards on a slide in their fancy Santa picture clothes.

I needed something to take my mind someplace else, so I clicked back to my news feed, in search of some other news or maybe some silly cat meme.Instead, I found something to make me angry. It was from well-known natural childbirth advocate and educator, Suzanne Arms. She is the author of Immaculate Deception, which has been read by many birth advocates over the decades. That book was one of the first books I had ever read on the subject and it provided me with a little bit of inspiration when I was a teenage birth activist. She is currently working on some film project in which she wants to relate the experiences within the womb and the experience of birth to our psyches. In essence, she believes that your life as an unborn baby and the way you are born will have lasting effects on your mental state for the rest of your life. She also believes in the importance of the mother-child bond and that this can be altered by birth experience. Ok. I can get behind that somewhat. I sure do believe that birth is extremely important, which is why I believe it's essential to make sure we are respecting women during pregnancy and birth and that we empower them to make decisions regarding their pregnancy and birth. Of course I believe a strong bond between mom and child is important for a healthy mental state. Duh. However, I believe that these things make up a few pieces of a billion piece puzzle. I believe a good, gentle birth, breastfeeding and attachment type parenting are very important, but I know that other variables may come into play during a person's childhood that can alter their mental and emotional well-being. It's not exactly black and white. As it is, Suzanne Arms is focusing on how the pre-birth period and birth itself affects a person because that's her scope of interest. She has been working on getting her film funded and relies heavily on donations. What does any of this have to do with the horror that happened in Connecticut. Oh, I'll tell you.

Within hours after the shooting...before the sun set...Suzanne Arms posted twice to her Facebook page. And it's what she posted that caught my attention as I sat in that playzone trying to fight tears. Oh Suzanne, you helped me fight those tears, just not in the way I expected. She posted that a horrible tragedy unfolded in Connecticut and that it made her sad. Well, that's a reasonable response. She stated that the shooter had killed his own mother (she also incorrectly reported that the mother was teaching a room of kindergarteners) and that was tragic. Of course.  Her next sentence is where any sensibility that she possessed went to die. She said that this incident was "clearly" (her word) and example of the importance of that mother-child bond and attachment. She then spewed a little bit about the importance of a good womb environment and birth. Yes, folks, she actually made the leap from some soulless piece of shit slaughtering children and adults to the act being a clear example of what goes wrong when a mom isn't happy in pregnancy, doesn't have the perfect natural birth and doesn't establish the correct kind of bond with her child. Are you furious? Do you want to get more furious? Her next spewing of sentences was to tell us that THIS - this motherfucking senseless horror - was a perfect reason to DONATE to her motherfucking film! And then she went on and on about what amount you can donate.

Let's sum this up. All in one status up, Suzanne Arms briefly mentioned the school shooting was sad. She then hitched the shooting to her theory that bad pregnancies and births lead to psycho killers. She then asked people to donate to her so she can continue to make her film about this theory.

Of course, most people responded to tell her she was an ass. That prompted her to write a follow up status update. Did she apologize for attempting to co-opt this tragedy to fund her film? No, because that's what people with hearts would do. She merely asked her fans if her words were upsetting and wanted to know if they agreed with her colleague who said she was out of line. She made no admittance of feeling the slightest bit guilty. Again, many people responded that she was, in fact, a cold-hearted opportunistic bitch idiot. There were a few people who defended her. Some even said that their FIRST thought was what kind of birth the killer's mother had. I shit you not. Their first thought wasn't about those slaughtered children...it was whether or not his mother had a serene hypnobirth or an intervention cascade into a c-section. And we wonder why people think natural birth advocates are insane. Another person said we are "stupid" to not make the connection between birth trauma and mass murdering gunmen. And then we had the typical folks coming out of the woodwork to say, "see? This is what's wrong with all of you natural birth nuts. You people are the crazy ones." Suzanne Arms managed to offend to senses of reasonable people with her use of the tragedy to make a buck, she laid the blame of this on the feet of the killer's mother and she also helped to further isolate the natural birth movement and have all of us birth activists lumped into the same category of insanity. Thanks, Suzanne.

Now, I have to relay all of this to you based on my memory. I cannot provide links. Without a word, Suzanne removed those status updates. That was two days ago and she has not posted since. A compassionate person with some semblance of a heart would have issued an apology. Two days is too long for me and the small amount of respect I used to have for her has been flushed down the toilet. She is a thoughtless coward.

Does she realize the pressure she just put on mothers who didn't have her optimal kind of birth when she stated that this tragedy was a "clear example" of her theory? If you didn't give birth, orgasmically and in water under your backyard honeysuckle bush while some chickadees and robins serenaded you as you softly hummed your baby out of your vagina (which was previously anointed with unicorn breastmilk and fairy tears by your midwife as she sang ancient tribal hymns) then your baby will grow up to be a mass murderer. If you had the misfortune of having your birth plan ripped to shreds by the hospital staff and you end up with pitocin, and epidural and a c-section, then your baby will be a serial killer. If you stressed for one moment during your pregnancy and disturbed your unborn baby's daily yoga meditation because you had the audacity to worry about your creeping blood pressure....well, you might as well just hand that baby a gun and tell him to go to town right after birth because there's no hope. It's that kind of talk that helps widen the divide between mothers in this society. Rather working towards this common goal of empowering women and educating them so that we can improve birth experiences and outcomes, blind statements such as the ones made by Suzanne Arms end up placing blame on those mothers who didn't have the "perfect" experience and it turns people off to what could be a good message. Statements like that do more harm than good, no matter the intention.

But, above all, she did a terrible disservice to the victims of the shooting. Capitalizing on their deaths to further your own agenda for your birth film is despicable at best. I said on my Facebook page that I no not believe in the devil, but if I did I would say that he was with Suzanne when she decided to write those statuses within hours of children being shot to death. Other people mentioned and I agree - perhaps we should have a discussion with Suzanne about the way she came into the world. Was it her own birth that caused her to be so detached  and callous when speaking about this incident just hours after it happened? Perhaps her own mother didn't give birth the "right way," which has caused Suzanne to believe it is perfectly fine to mention murdered children as an afterthought when trying to get funding for an unrelated birth film. I am bothered by the notion that it's possible a family member of one of the slain could be a birth advocate who follows Suzanne on Facebook. What if she came across that status update and a knife pierced her heart as she viewed that opportunism?

I won't harp on Ms. Arms for much longer. I wanted to get this out there. I needed to vent about it. I'm not going to wish harm or failure to Ms. Arms for what she did, other than the natural consequences that occur when you make dumb statements ( i.e. people like me blogging about what an ass you are). I can say that I'll never recommend her works. I'll never promote her film. I'll leave this here to be seen and people can decide for themselves if it's something that bothers them. I'm releasing this energy and it's done.

Of course, now that I have your attention, I am going to ask you to do something before you "X" out of this little post. Just stay there for a moment and be silent. Pray. Do whatever it is that you do to put good energy out into the world. First, pray for the sweet souls of those who were killed. Then, pray for peace and comfort for their loved ones. Lastly, pray for peace for all of us - an end to this senseless violence would be a wonderful thing. Much love.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Scrooge vs. The Elf: A Tale of Christmas Compromise

It's the most wonderful time of the year. A time when we celebrate the birth of Baby God by standing in line for 17 hours on Thanksgiving so we can push ourselves through store doorways, elbow one another, threaten to cut a bitch and stuff our carts full of cheap plastic crap made by Chinese slaves children workers for $0.09 cents an hour. And God forbid the 16 year old cashier who has been standing on her feet since last Tuesday wishes us a "Happy Holiday"... because she will be solely responsible for waging a war on Christmas, the little heathen. It's beautiful traditions like this that make December (and the September, October and November preceding it) so warm, fuzzy and wonderful. Sure, sure - there are other traditions such as lighting Advent candles on a wreath, singing carols about some impoverished baby born in a stable - what he has to do with Christmas is anyone's guess - and stringing up thousands of lights on your windows despite warnings from your Homeowners Association.

Different families have various traditions for this time of year. My family always goes to a certain Christmas display in the area. We have gone since I was a teeny EarthBabe. In my own home, we celebrate Hanukkah, St. Nicolas Day, Yule and Christmas and there are lights, foods, crafts, treats, decorations, prayers and traditions that go along with those four.  One newly manufactured  and super trendy tradition that I have been avoiding for the past few years is anything involving that mother-fucking Elf on the mother-fucking Shelf. It's true - I have not been a fan. My eyes have rolled numerous times reading status updates from mothers worried that their Elf on the Shelf won't be in as cool a location as their neighbor's Elf on the fucking Shelf. Deep sighs escape my throat as I see one more Pinterest photo of some creative ways to stuff your Elf into precarious situations around the house. My head has hit the desk on more than one occasion as yet another terribly over-saturated Instagram photo with too much blue filter shows an Elf getting into all sorts of silly hijinks. The mother-fucking Elf on the mother-fucking Shelf with his little prissy sideways eyeroll and unfortunate case of rosacea (or is it? I personally think he drinks too much) was not going to be welcomed into my home. I am comfortable being judgmental about the damn Elf as I sit at my computer, in my Christmas penguin fleece pajama bottoms while sipping my iced coffee from a wine glass. I even made fun of the thing on my Facebook page:

"Got one of those Elf on the Shelf dolls. I set him up in a kitchen cabinet last night. Woke up to find him with a dead hooker and a bag of blow. Decided he was in no position to judge my kid and make reports to Santa and sent him to Blitzen's Home For Wayward Holiday Helpers. Hope he makes a good recovery." - Me

That was as close to my home that any Elf on the MF Shelf was going to get - a fake scenario in a status update. 

Until I went to Target with my son. 

We arrived at our local Target with the simple task of getting a present for a birthday party. That was all. I had a coupon for $3.00 of my purchase. It was going to be an easy and happy and cheap trip. Of course, I can't just walk into Target and go to my targeted (giggle) aisle and pick out the one thing I needed. Noooooo. I have to walk to perimeter of the whole store. If I don't, the world will spin off it's axis and things will suck. True story. I wheeled my cart through the store, with my 6 year old laying on the very bottom rack of the cart and my 15 month old standing in the part where little kids should be sitting - pretty much everything that the warnings on the cart tell you not to do - and passed display after display of crap I don't need. I saw a display of the mother-fucking Elf on the motherfucking Shelf ('twas only one plush Elf left, surrounded by EOTS books, CDs and other overpriced elven do-dads) and proceeded to smugly walk right by it, happily glowing with my sense of pride that we don't do that. The squeaking of the cart wheels was met with another high-pitched noise - my little boy shrieking, "Mama! Stop! Stop!" I, of course, have a heart attack and immediately think this is what I get for being that bad mom who lets her kids ride on carts in unsafe ways. I thought I must have run over his hand, or his nose or something. No. He continued, "It's the ELF! Oh my God! It's really the ELF! They come alive at night and run around your house while your sleeping! Oh my God! I never thought I would ever see one!" He jumped up and grabbed that last little Elf and asked, "Mama, please, can I have him? Please? I've never had a real Elf before!" His gorgeous brown-green-brown eyes were lit up like the finale of the Wanamaker's light display in downtown Philadelphia. He was glowing - actually glowing - with excitement. You know how they talk about the Christmas Spirit and all that magic? You know, the magic that we have forgotten as we grew up and stopped believing? It was right there - emanating in all of it's red and green glory from my son.

This is the part where I could have educated him about our culture of consumption. I could have lectured him on advertising and it's sinister effect on children like him. I could have made a grand speech about how he didn't need to have an Elf of his own just because other kids have one - be yourself, kid. Stand out in the crowd! I could have told him that the Elf isn't real. 

Or course, I said, "Wow! I think this little Elf was waiting here just for you." More light and sparkle in his eyes. "What shall we name your Elf?"

"Golly!" he said. (pronounced like "jolly") This is not the typical EOTS. It's plush and it has a kinder gaze, not that sarcastic sideways creepy killer clown look. It comes with a removable skirt, so your Elf can conform to gender roles and be either a boy or a girl. I asked my son if Golly was a boy or girl. "A boy!" he said. I pointed out that we could take the skirt off when we got home. "Why would I want to take his skirt off? That's his skirt. He needs it and you can tell he likes it." Well played, little man. 

And he was a happy little boy. And I was a happy little mom. I couldn't take that moment of magic away from him - even if I don't believe (or do I?). It was a beautiful moment and I think I may have even heard an angel sing....until I heard more shrieking. This time, it was from the little baby girl in my cart who was trying to furiously rip the Elf from my son's hands. "No! No! He's for BOTH of us, but he wants ME to carry him. You stay in the cart." Cue crying from the little girl. Ahhh...the beautiful sounds of the season. 

Bonus: the Elf was on sale. We did not get the book. My son does not seem to know the "official" story. To him, this elf is a magical little dude who just shows up in different places when he wakes up in the morning. We do not say the Elf is spying and making reports back to the North Pol-ice. There is no pressure to "be good" in front of the Elf. The Elf simply finds a new place to plop his little skirted ass each night. There is no pressure for mama, either. I have a few tricks up my sleeve for Golly's nightly maneuvers, but I don't worry about being Pinterest perfect. When my son wakes up each morning and sees that Golly has moved and may or may not being doing something silly or helpful (we found him with a screwdriver and my son's new Ikea chair fully assembled), he laughs and is happy and excited. He lets his child imagination take over and basks in that wonder of the Christmas season that so many of us secretly wish we could get back.

Here's to Christmas magic and compromise - and to the hope that the little Elf really will do something magical, such as organize my pantry or put the laundry away.

















Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sexy Hobbit Feet and Other Compliments for Pregnant Women

There is nothing more glorious and glamorous than a pregnant woman. Each protruding curve of her beautiful body evokes the image of an almighty mother goddess and Mother Earth herself. She is curvy, glowing and vibrating with life.

Of course, those curves can barely stay contained in the are-you-fucking-kidding-me-that-maternity-clothes-are-this-small -?-maternity shirt (TM). Her belly hangs well below the hem of her shirt and her breasts are spilling out from the nursing bra that she bought in 3 cup sizes bigger than normal and it still doesn't have the decency to contain her boobage. And no one ever told you that the beautiful curves of a pregnant woman included her swollen feet, did they? The glow is likely due to the immense amount of sweat pouring out of her pores because anything warmer than 38 degrees Fahrenheit is like standing in the middle of the Sahara for a pregnant woman. And vibrations? Dude! Her blood sugar is crashing - those are the I-need-food-NOW-shakes. She just spent twelve hours standing in line at Babies 'R' Us (it's corporate policy to have only one apathetic cashier available on their busiest of days) buying breast milk storage bags and baby booger suckers and now she is hypoglycemic! So grab her a chair so she can get her feet up, get her some ice water, heavy on the crushed ice, and bring her a damn sandwich! And make sure you tell her she's beautiful at least 4 times every 19 seconds. Clock is ticking.

I know. I just inspired millions of women to get pregnant right.this.minute. How can you resist my ultra glamorous portrayal of the maternal state? All joking aside, pregnant women are goddesses and we are all simply beautiful. It's just that we don't always feel that way about ourselves. Yeah, yeah, it's all a miracle. We know. We know that we are gestating the revolution, the next generation and whatever other hippie love phrase you want to put in there. We know it's sacred. We know we should be worshiped. However, there are times, when your maternity jeans keep slipping down your butt and your maternity shirt keeps hiking up, that you don't feel like much of a goddess supermodel. People can tell your feet are curvy because you're wearing flip flops - in Minnesota, in January, in 17 feet of snow. You have no choice because your feet have swollen to the size of a small toddler. Your legs have been shaved into an odd patchwork pattern because you just plain can't see them. You tried to sit down in the shower to shave them, but found you couldn't get back up - worse, your husband was still at work, so you spent two hours sitting in the bathtub, clutching your razor, while your not-very-helpful cat sat on the tub ledge and stared at you as you cried one of those pathetic, snot-bubbly cries until the husband finally walked in the door and rescued you. You ended up with a cold and suffer because you can't take anything useful and when you go to the store to buy tissues, you are standing in line when you feel a sneeze come on and you do one of those unfortunate sneeze-cough-burp-fart things and pee just a little thanks to the baby squeezing every noise and fluid producing organ and hope no one notices as you dig through your wallet for your store bonus card and some dignity. At some point, you're sitting in the library when you get a whiff of decomposing onions. You look around to see where the stench is coming from when you realize it's you and that the joyous hormones of pregnancy have added to your normal bodily odor and then you start to dry heave from your own scent because morning sickness still has not passed at 7 months of pregnancy. Yeah, we know this is a miraculous time, but we don't always feel it. And that's okay.

Here's what's not okay - telling us that we look bloated, crappy, tired, fat, whorish, smelly or hairy. Nope. You just can't do that. Sure, your pregnant friend might say, "I just feel so huge and nothing fits and I smell really weird," but you can't agree. No. She looks beautiful. And no comparing how big she is to how big you were.

Here is a helpful list of what to say:

Don't say: "Wow. You're tiny for 30 weeks. Are you sure you're really pregnant? Are you eating enough? Are you worried that the baby will be too small?"
 Do say: "Wow. You're gorgeous. You are a glowing Earth Mother Goddess."

Don't say: "Wow. You're HUGE! Are you sure there is only one in there? Wow! I can't believe you're only twelve weeks. I didn't even look that big when I was 40 weeks. Are you worried your baby will be too big?"
Do say: "Wow. You're gorgeous. You are a glowing Earth Mother Goddess."

Don't say: "Look at those huge feet! They look like Hobbit feet - are you from the Shire, Frodo? Man, I bet a guy with a foot fetish would love those. How can you even walk with feet that huge?"
Do say:  "Wow. You're gorgeous. You are a glowing Earth Mother Goddess. Would you like to sit down. Here, have my seat. In fact, let me get you a gift certificate for a pedicure."

Don't say: "I've never seen a person eat so much. You're only eating for two, not seven. Aren't you worried you'll make your baby fat?"
Do say: "Wow. You're gorgeous. You are a glowing Earth Mother Goddess. Can I get you another sandwich, with a side of steak?"


Don't say: "Girl, your hair is looking kinda greasy lately and your skin could use some love. Come to think of it, do you smell that? Is that you? Oh, you must be having a girl and she is stealing ALL of your beauty and then some." 
Do say: "Wow. You're gorgeous. You are a glowing Earth Mother Goddess. Let's go get our hair and make-up done. My treat."

Don't say: "Holy shit -  you're carrying around a load of weight. Woo. That looks painful. You should get one of those belly slings so you can heave that beast around."
Do say: "Wow. You're gorgeous. You are a glowing Earth Mother Goddess. Can I give you a back rub?"

I'm sure you get the point. It is a little hard to carry around an extra human strapped to your lower front half, defying some laws of physics. No matter how gorgeous we look, we can have times when we aren't feel the sexy glamor and it can be hard on us. We don't need someone extra reminding us that we are huge or blotchy or stinky or that we are eating a load. Even if you're thinking it, don't say it. We hear enough crap from the media telling us that we have to be sexy pregnant ladies, with petite bumps, globe-shaped perfect tits and NO STRETCH MARKS. We don't need to hear it from our friends, family and co-workers. So, remember, even if your pregnant best friend is weighing down the passenger side of your car and she's sprouted 4 extra chin hairs right in front of you and she keeps burping due to her acid reflux, please don't tell her anything other than she is the most beautiful person you've ever seen.






















Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Nursing in Public: Horror of Horrors? Maybe Not

Nursing in Public with my breast friend. Copyright 2007 JSH
Ah yes, the image of a mother sitting on a bench at the mall, sandwiched between Hollister and a free-standing kiosk where some creepy dude asks if he can see your nails. Scores of teenagers walk by, clad in high top sneakers and neon short shorts (wait, did I just write that in 2012? Did we time warp back to 1987?), eyes and fingers glued to iPhones. Sure, we could get offended that a 13 year old girl just walked out of Hollister wearing a tank top that shows her ample perky cleavage, with the back of the top made out of see through lace and a pair of shorts that are so short that you can see her buttocks clinging to her thighs for dear life as they fear they may fall to the ground without any support. Across the way, Victoria's Secret's music is thumping and you can see four posters up on the windows showing underweight models with breasts the size of GMO watermelons pouring out of bras that promise to lift, define and change your whole fucking life. One of the models has her body twisted in a pose that not only shows her heaving bosom, but also reveals her airbrushed taut ass being barely covered in a lacy thong. All of that is fine. We're not going to call a security guard because some 13 year old girl is barely covered in her clothing or because there are posters showing mostly naked women seductively staring at you from behind the bra shop window. We don't care that Hot Topic is blasting some song about someone wanting to fuck someone else. No, we care that the mother sitting on the bench is committing such a terrible sin - nursing in public. That's right. She's sitting there with her baby sucking on her breasts. In public. I mean, you can't even see her boob because she has one some sort of clothing that prevents that, but you know what she's doing. If you get close enough to scold the mother for her indecency, you may even hear the baby making swallowing noises as he eats. Isn't that terrible? Of course, you don't want to get too close or you and your children might just see a nipple. Did you know there is an epidemic of people dying because they see nipples? I didn't, either.

Puh-fucking-lease. If this is you, the person who gets oh so offended over seeing a mother nurse her child in the mall or any public place, please do the world a favor, get on the right side of history, and get over yourself. I have zero tolerance for individuals who call security guards and cops on women who are feeding their children. It's 2012. We all know by now that nursing is normal. We all know that people don't die when they see nipples. For fuck's sake, Mark Wahlberg's three nipples hung above Times Square forever and no one died. Why is a nipple that feeds a child any different? Obviously, a nip slip while a mother is nursing is actually quite rare and the most anyone will see is the top of her breast, maybe some side boob or underboob. Sorry, none of that is offensive. You see more titty on teenage girls. You see more titty on grown men. Don't like it? Don't look. For god's sake, use your neck and turn your head. Blink. Look elsewhere. Babies eat from boobs. It's not about you. It's not about someone trying to offend you. It's about feeding babies. Get over it.

Really - you feel the need to take a cop off the street, from protecting the public from real crimes like rape, burglary and murder just to tattle on some woman who is breastfeeding in public? Damn, better pay me a few bucks, because you just wasted my tax dollars for that frivolous cop call.  Sitting at home on your Facebook, playing Farmville and flagging other Facebook members for posting nursing photos or videos? Life called, it wants you to get in on it.

Before you call the cops or before you report some Facebook photo, take a moment to get on your knees and pray. Pray to God, Jehovah, Jim, Flying Spaghetti Monster or Gene Roddenberry - I don't care. Just pray and say thank you. Thank your God that your life is so darned fucking perfect that the only thing you can find wrong with it is that some mother dared to breastfeed somewhere within your optical field. It must be really nice to live in such harmony where a mother who feeds her child in the most normal way is the only damn thing you can find wrong in this world.

I am not here to condemn you, despite my obvious hostility in this post. I am here to help you. You seem to lack a broader world view and that can lead all sorts of narrow-minded shenanigans, such as soliciting law enforcement to make a baby stop breastfeeding at Applebees. I want to assist you in finding other  things wrong with the world. You seem to want to help make this world a better place. You seem to have a need to be mad at something. By now, you must realize that shaking your fist at nursing in public isn't the answer. So, where can you turn that self-righteous indignation? Let me show you the way. Here are some real problems that should make you want to take action.

1 in 7 Americans lives below the poverty line, with more than half of our citizens experiencing true poverty by the age of 65. 1 out of every five children lives in poverty. The same amount of children, 1 in 5, goes day to day wondering when or where there next meal will come. 48 million Americans - 16 million of those are children - struggle to feed their families each day. Get pissed about hunger.

In America, a person is raped every 2 minutes.  How many people have been raped since I started writing this ten minutes ago? 1 in 10 men have been raped. American women are 10 times as likely to be raped than to die in an automobile collision. 1 out of 7 college women has been a victim of rape, yet 90% of them never report it. In fact, of all the rapes in this country, over half do not go reported. 1 in 15 rape victims will become infected with a sexually transmitted disease. Only 3% of rapists actually go to jail. Get pissed about rape.

Everyday - every mother fucking day - more than five children in this country will die of child abuse. When you go to bed tonight, don't think of the nursing mother at the mall, think of the 5 children who were alive 24 hours ago but died at someone else's hands. 80% of those children who died were under 4 years of age. Of the children who survive the abuse, 30% will grow up and will abuse their own children. There is a report of child abuse filed every 10 seconds in America. I couldn't even write this paragraph without breaking down. Get pissed about child abuse.

Over 42 million Americans have been sexually abused as children. 500,000 of the children born this year will experience sexual abuse as children. 1 in 4 girls will be sexually abused. 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused. I want to vomit. Get pissed about child sexual abuse.

Count to 9. Are you done? In those 9 seconds, a woman was beaten. When you go to bed at night and you think of the 5 children who died as a result of abuse today, please add on the 3 women who die each day at the hands of a husband or boyfriend and the one man who dies each day at the hands of a girlfriend or wife. 10 million children witness domestic violence in their homes each year - half of those kids will grow up to become abusers and continue the cycle.  6 million men are victims of domestic violence. Get pissed off about domestic violence.

That's just a sample of things in this country that are truly wrong. If you're reasonable, you'll see that these things are worth way more of your energy than worrying about a mother nursing her child somewhere public. Focus your energy into solving these problems and not harassing some random breastfeeder at Denny's. Good? Good.

Statistic Sources:

http://www.dvrc-or.org/domestic/violence/resources/C61/
http://domesticviolencestatistics.org/domestic-violence-statistics/
http://www.d2l.org/site/c.4dICIJOkGcISE/b.6143427/k.38C5/Child_Sexual_Abuse_Statistics.htm
http://www.childhelp.org/pages/statistics
http://www.oneinfourusa.org/statistics.php
http://www.rainn.org/statistics
http://www.crisisconnectioninc.org/sexualassault/rapestatistics.htm
http://www.bread.org/hunger/us/facts.html

How you Can Help:
Bread For the World - Hunger
The Hunger Site - Hunger and Poverty
RAINN - Rape, Abuse, Incest
Darkness To Light - Child Sexual Abuse
American Humane Association - Child Abuse
Every child Matters - Child Abuse
National Network to End Domestic Violence  - Domestic Violence














Monday, October 1, 2012

My Cloth Diaper Sh*t List

Buttons that touch baby's skin. Pet peeve.
I love me a good cloth diaper. Cloth diapering is something I firmly believe in for many reasons - for the health of the baby, health of the environment and the health of a family's finances. I have no problems admitting that I am a cloth diaper addict and I definitely have more than I need. I could certainly get by with a small stash of a dozen prefolds, a few flats and maybe a pocket or two and a bunch of covers. However, my addiction doesn't allow for that and I have more than I actually need. Still, in cloth diapering two children, I have not spent near as much as it would cost to disposable diaper one child. I love most of my cloth diapers. I am partial to Mudshrimps covers and pockets. I also love Thirsties along with plain old prefolds and flats. I've tried a few brands over the years and like most of them. Yet, there are some brands or some cloth diaper accessories that I just don't like. So, here it my Cloth Diaper Shit List.

Boingo - these are fasteners for prefolds, flats and contours (remember those?). They are an alternative to Snappis and pins. Boingos come in a set of two fasteners. One for each side of the diaper. These have recently been "improved," but I can't comment on that as I never owned a pair of the old kind. The thing that drew me to these was that they are like pins - you use on to fasten each side of the diaper. I love my Snappis and never honestly had a problem, but I was always a bit turned off by the fact that a band goes across the belly. I'm always checking to make sure it's not too tight as I imagine it would be uncomfortable for the baby. Lots of people raved about Boingo fasteners, so I decided to give them a try during the 2nd Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge. They are damn cute, I'll give them that. However, I hate using them. It's not for lack of trying. I have tried so many times, in so many ways with so many diapers. I have tried them on a variety of flats, prefolds and my old Kissaluvs contours. They don't work well for us. I can't get a tight enough fit with them and I end up with a diaper that will fall off before I even get a cover on them. Some people say to fasten them quickly first and then go back and fasten them a second time and get it tighter. Well, that is fine and dandy if you have one of those babies who actually stays still for a diaper change. I don't have that variety of baby and I don't have the  time to fasten and re-fasten and re-fasten. No, they should work properly the first time. For flats, I have tried them with the diaper bag fold, the Jo fold, the origami fold, the kite fold and the neat fold. Nadda. I forget the name of the fold I use for prefolds - angel wing, maybe? Anyway, they suck for that, too. I can't even use two for a Kissaluvs contour because they're big and my daughter is bitty. One Boing could hold the two sides together - in the middle of her belly, which defeats the purpose of using them to avoid having something going across the belly. Also, they are large and I have a bitty baby and they rub against her leg. Again, this was true for all folds, no matter how tight or loose I got them fastened. By the time I changed her diaper, they would shift and a part would rub against her skin and leave red marks. Speaking of mark, I cut myself with the teeth more than once and my daughter, who is in the habit of grabbing herself when I change her diaper, was scratched as well. When I compare the Snappi teeth with the Boingo teeth, they don't look any different, but I've never hurt myself with a Snappi. Speaking of teeth, these fuckers have put holes in my prefolds and my flats. Yes, some of those holes do shrink up when I wash them. Some stay, however. Even with the ones that shrink up after washing, you have to wonder if repeated tearing would eventually be unrepairable. The worst tears were in my Ikea Burp Cloths that I use as flats, my Osocozy flats and my Indian prefolds. They did not leave holes in my Kissaluvs or my hemp/cotton prefolds.

I really wanted to like these. I realize they are popular and many mamas like them. They are adorable and I like the idea. For now, I am staying with my Snappis. Maybe I'll learn to use pins.

Thirsties Aplix - I have been using Thirsties covers since my son was a year old. I started using their old AIO/pockets when he was around two years old. they don't make them anymore - they probably got sued by FuzziBunz (who hasn't?) or something - and have switched to a different AIO and pocket design. The ones I have had for years have been washed a billion times and have held up nicely. The Aplix is holding up just fine. When my daughter was born, I needed a few more smaller covers and also decided to try out their Duo pockets and their AIO. I love the Duo pockets. The AIO is fine, too, but not as absorbent as I'd like. The Aplix, however, is a different story. I don't know if Thirsties changed something with their Aplix, but the newer diapers do not hold up like the old ones. I mean, the Aplix started to wear out on all of my new Thirsties stuff within three to four months. She was wearing a dress one day this past Summer and I didn't use the little bloomers that came with the dress because she had a cute little Thirsties diaper under there. We were eating at a restaurant and I picked her up from her high chair and the diaper stayed behind. It came undone by itself. Isolated incident? Nope. I found this happening again and again with several of my newer Thirsties items. They do offer snaps on their Duo line, but not on the plain covers, if I recall correctly. I chose the Aplix because it's daddy friendly. My husband has learned to fold flats, but he and snaps do not get along. He tries, but they are more frustrating for him. The newer crappy Aplix in these diapers is disappointing. I will continue to use Thirsties products, but I'll have to avoid Aplix from now on.

Charlie Banana - people rave about these, too. I never had any intention of buying them. My friend got some on clearance at Target, didn't like them and gave me three that she didn't use. They're cute, but they are definitely far from my favorite. These are one sized diapers that you adjust with elastic in the gussets. Guess what? I hate that part. I hate gusset adjusting. Yep, I do. Since my daughter is so small, I've had to adjust it to the tiniest setting. The diaper bunches up horribly at the waist when adjusted to small. Plus, it doesn't stay that way. I'm constantly having to re-adjust the elastic. I also get those awful hip wings, where part of the diaper slides out from under the fastening snaps. I also hate this feature in the one FuzziBunz one size that I own - yet another diaper I received for free because I will not give that company any money. Speaking of -

FuzziBunz - their diapers are fine. I own three, a one size and two perfect sizes. These were all free to me. I dislike the one size for the same reason I dislike the Charlie Banana - adjustable elastic in the legs. The perfect size are just fine. I dislike the company. I have been reading about cloth diapers since way before my son was born in 2006. I used to lurk on the AOL cloth diaper message boards (remember those?) and I remember when the initial "scandal" surrounding FuzziBunz went down. The gist is that pocket diapers have been around for a few decades, but became more popular in the 2000's. The founder of FuzziBunz took the opportunity to patent the pocket diaper. Was her design original? No, but she had the "smarts" to patent it. What followed was panic by a lot of work at home moms, some of who reported being harassed and threatened with legal action or coerced into forming license agreements with FuzziBunz. There's slightly more to the FuzziBunz story, including her recent issues with Charlie Banana, where she made serious false accusations against CB and emailed retailers telling them not to sell CB products. It just left me with a bad taste in my mouth regarding that company and I choose not to support them.

Microfiber - I have plenty of diapers with microfiber sewn in and with microfiber inserts. This is a material that I am trying to get away from. First, microfiber is a petroleum product. Ew. Second, it just plain sucks. Yes, it's absorbant. However, I find  that microfiber is the only material I have ever had stink issues with - in both inserts and AIOs. Plus, it takes for-fucking-ever to dry. I have always disliked BumGenius diapers and the main reason is the microfber as it retains smells, holds residue and takes for-fucking-ever to dry. I liked Kissaluvs fitted when my son was a baby and planned to buy a few more for my daughter. Nope. They replaced their cotton terry soaker with microfiber. Bummer.  I've been making the switch to mostly hemp inserts. Yes, hemp takes for-fucking-ever to dry, too, but it's the lesser of the environmental evils.

Snaps inside of a diaper - there are some diapers out there who were so poorly designed that the snaps, whether to fasten them shut or to hold an insert, touch the baby's skin. This is not okay to me. I have an old Thirsties fitted that would probably be a workhorse, but I don't use it because of the rows of snaps in the front that directly touch the baby's belly. I also have a Baby Bee-Hinds bamboo (another fake eco-friendly fabric) fitted that is unbelievably absorbent, but has snap-in inserts where the snaps directly touch the baby's skin. Unlike the Thirsties diaper, I am able to place one of my thin fleece inserts into the diaper to cover the snaps and hopefully make it more comfortable for the baby. Again, Kissaluvs is an example here. I wanted to get their organic fitteds, made with hemp and cotton. Sadly, they come with snap-in inserts and the snap is exposed and will touch baby's skin - right at the tailbone area. Ouch. It's just a dumb design flaw with some diapers and I don't see why manufacturers think it's a good idea.

$35.00 Diapers - bitch, I'm poor as hell. I don't care if it's made of sustainably harvested fibers from a unicorn's mane. A diaper cost $35.00 or more better change it's damn self.

And that, folks, is my cloth diaper bitch session for today. Do I expect you to agree with all of these? Nope, so please don't feel defensive. These are merely my opinions. I am perfectly fine with the fact that people love FuzziBunz, Boingo and Charlie Banana and are happy to spend $35.00 on a diaper. These are my own thoughts. Much love.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Crafty

My little cast on. I can't get past this point.
I am craft challenged. I can do a few things here and there. Obviously, I can make bees out of toilet paper tubes. I don't have much in the way of an ability to think up things and put them into action. I am a complete Pinterest fail. I want to be crafty. I don't need to make more houses out of Popsicle sticks or puppets out of paper bags, but there are some things that I would really like to learn.

Sewing

My mom has sewed for nearly here entire life. Her mother sewed. Her mother's mother sewed and so on. My mom had 5 siblings and she is the best at sewing out of all of them. She has sewn many a Christening gown, wedding dress and Communion dress. She has made dolls, home decor, pillows, blankets, cloths, cloth diapers....pretty much anything. She sewed my wedding dress (which still still curses me for to this day). You would think I would have learned to sew when I was little. For some reason, it never happened. I am a major perfectionist. If I can't do something just right I tend to abandon it. Very immature. I tried to learn now and then, but I never wanted my mom to see that I sucked. My mom is the last person on the planet who would care if I sucked. She would never judge me, but I just didn't want to show my suckitude.

Knitting

I have a lot of friends who knit. I am jealous of their ability to whip up a sock, a hat or a sweater. I would absolutely love to be able to knit my own wool diaper covers. I've never taken lessons, mainly because I can't find any in-person lessons at a good price. I have watched some YouTube videos and did learn a simple cast on method, but I can't get past that point. So many videos are poor quality, or the instructor goes too fast or they don't have a good angle where you can actually see what's happening.

I do have a round loom and I made two hats that don't look entirely too stupid, but I can't do any of the fancy stuff that I see other people do with looms. plus, I want to learn how to knit with needles. Right now, my knitting needles have been primarily used as weapons (that'll teach my husband to eat one of my fair trade organic holier-than-thou chocolate bars again).

Crochet

Just like knitting, I have a lot of friends who can crochet. The same jealousy regarding the ability to whip up craftiness applies here. My belly dance instructor crochets and she has made some of the most amazing things to wear with her costumes or in class. I can make a chain, but I can't get past that point. If there is ever need for a 36 foot chain, I'm your gal.

Those are the three main things I would like to learn how to do this year. I just think it would be wonderful to be able to sew, knit or crochet your own garments and whatnot. It's a great way to be frugal. It's the end of September already, but I am going to kick myself in my own ass and make myself get the ball rolling. I am giving myself until the end of the year to learn how to do something - even if it's just to crochet a small dish sponge or knit a little flower or sew a napkin.

Another factor is belly dance. I take tribal belly dance classes. It's something I am very serious about and intend to pursue for the rest of my life. I'm just a baby student so I don't have any performances on the horizon, but those days will come and tribal belly dance costuming can be very ornate. Many dancers do a lot of crafting of their own costumes pieces, from hair accessories to shirts to bras. It can be way cheaper to make your own than to buy something ready made.

December 31, 2012 - I will have something to show you by then, no matter how small, unless that whole Mayan thing was true and the world is goen by then. I'm committed. I'll be watching You Tube videos, checking tutorials online and maybe I'll take a crochet class from my belly dance instructor. This mama is going to get crafty.


















Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Confession: I Hate "Back to School"

Oh, the ugly cry.
I admit it. I'm one of the seemingly rare parents who does not rejoice wildly at the idea of her child going back to school. From the myriad of posts that come up in my news feed, I appear to be in a minority. Most people say, "Oh, I'll miss the kids, but I will love having some extra me time." There are a few who count down the days from the moment the Summer break begins. I always thought I wanted to homeschool. It was my plan since before my son was born. However, after a lot of back and forth and tons of consideration, we decided it was not the best for my son at this time. So, he goes off to public school. Last year was Kindergarten. He was there for a half day, so I made it through. He goes into first grade next week...a full day. I'm going to miss him terribly. I do love a good back to school supply sale because I have a slight office supply fetish. Most of the supplies I bought on sale this year won't be going to school with my son. They're for home. Those sales are pretty much the highlight of this time of year for me.

Today, I noticed a link being passed around from The Stir. I generally avoid this site because, frankly, it annoys me. I opened the link anyway and read this little post. Hey, who am I to tell someone that they can't be happy that their kids are returning to school? The graphic about homeschooling is bit snarky and rude (because most homeschoolers I know are rejoicing, too), but it's her page and her right to write about her true feelings. I, personally, do not feel that way about my kid going back to school, so I thought I'd 10 Back to School confessions of my own. I'm sure there are others like me out there. Right? Right?

1. I am going to shrink into a crying heap of tears before I even pull out of the school parking lot. Not just cry - but I'm probably going to do that ugly cry. Puffy eyes, awkward snot and that weird gasp that you do when you cry.

2. Would it be wrong to give the teacher a pineapple on the first day of school? I figure apples are going to be popular and I like to stand out. I might even include a note that my child happens to be awesome and I'm sure she'll enjoy having him as a student.

3. My kid still fits into a lot of his clothes from last year, which is great because I don't have a lot of money to buy many new things. We bought some new clothes and I let him pick them out. I want him to be able to express his personality and feel comfortable in the clothes he chooses without feeling the need to fit in. 

4. I have a tradition of dropping my son off, going out to get coffee and then driving by the school on my way back home to make sure he's not wandering outside or something. I always wave to his classroom from the road, even though he can't see me, and whisper, "Hi Monkey. Hope you're enjoying school. Love you."

5. We had a great summer full of great family adventures, trips and some all around relaxation at the beach and the pool. Summer went by way too fast and I'm not ready to give it up yet. I'll miss being able to snooze in the morning and then get up and plan the day's adventure.

6. The sight of school buses sends my heart racing. For starters, some of the bus drivers around here are plain scary and one wonders how they even got their license. School buses also mean more traffic and the fact that a five minute trip to the store will take 15 minutes due to the frequent bus stops. Furthermore, the buses in my area pick kids of a few yards (literally) from school, despite the fact that there are sidewalks and a traffic light. Very few walk.

7. Sometimes, I consider homeschooling. Come August, I wonder "why the fuck aren't we homeschooling?" I feel frustrated that my plans to do so didn't come to fruition for many reasons.

8. I'll be lucky if I get a perfect back to school photo. I just want one photo of my little boy with his little backpack. I couldn't give a shit about posting it to my blog, I want the memories for my own heart. I'll be fighting back tears and he'll probably be spinning around or doing laps in the front yard before we leave for school, so I'll be lucky if I can see through the viewfinder and if I actually catch him without blur.

9. I like to make a full and hearty breakfast on the first day of school and on every day of school. I believe it lays an important foundation for the rest of the day and that good nutrition and food provide what the brain and the body need to get through 6 to 7 hours of learning. 

10. I couldn't tell you how many days, minutes and seconds there are until school starts. I'm still in denial that it's right around the corner. I'm trying to do my best to slow time down. So far, it's not working. For that, I am sad.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Belly Flop

Once upon a time, there were two sides to my abs - the right side and the left side. They were in love and they secured their bond with connective tissue. They had a fight last year when I was gigantically pregnant and they separated. After I gave birth, they started to work out their differences, but the same spark wasn't there and the bond they formed was weaker than the original. There is a gap in their love and I would say their relationship is merely platonic at this point. I'm breaking my back trying to get them together again and to form that strong bond they used to have. No, literally, their strained relationship is causing me actual back pain.

It's time to talk about my belly again. It's all floppy. No, I don't hate the fact that I look like I'm 6 months pregnant at 11 months post partum. I don't dislike my stretch marks. I've made it clear that I love my stretch marks. I don't want to look like a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model (do those still exist?). I do want my strength back. My belly is soft, yes, but my muscles just gave up and they are the ones who have gone floppy. It's really starting to hurt my back because I don't have that strong core.

Like many women, my abdominal muscles separated during my pregnancies. They snapped back into place after my first pregnancy, but they are now weak and out of place after my third pregnancy. I have what's known as diastasis recti. That's the fancy term to describe the separation of the abdominal muscles. It can be caused by many things in men and women, but pregnancy is when we commonly learn about it. They usually go back to where they belong after pregnancy, but some women are left with a bit of a separation. This can result in a protruding belly. I'm a good example as I have lost all the weight I gained in pregnancy, but I still look pregnant. My muscles should be holding my abdominal organs back, but since they are separated that job has been left to some thin old connective tissue, which leads to the protrusion of the belly. This isn't life threatening, but it can increase your chances of a certain type of hernia. (Side note - I'm discussing post partum diastasis. I do want to mention that, while this is very common in pregnancy, a severe case of it can actually cause the uterus to tilt forward too much which leaves the cervix misaligned and can lead to positioning issues with the baby.  I just wanted to get that awareness tidbit out there.) Not only does this leave you with a protruding belly, it actually hurts your back. I have a ton of lower back pain from this, because those core abdominal muscles also play a part in proper posture and movement. When they are weak it causes your posture to suffer and you may not move as well. I know that I actually feel strain just from walking. Another perk is that it can affect your pelvic floor and make you more prone to a tinkle or two when you sneeze, cough, laugh, hiccup or think of Snooki.

How do you find out if you have diastasis recti? Check out this website for a simple test that you can perform on yourself. Here is a video showing you how to test for it. If you're curious, I have a severe case. I can feel my organs and my pulse. Yum! 

Thankfully, this is something that can be repaired in the majority of cases. Extreme cases may require surgery, but it's not common. There is loads of advice out there for dealing with diastasis recti. Some folks recommend belly binding post partum. I have no personal experience with this, but I have been told that it can be helpful, with the addition of exercise, especially in women with a severe case. There are exercises that you want to avoid because they will make the diastasis much worse. Often, when we think of toning our abs, we think of doing all sorts of crunches and lying leg lifts (when you lay down and lift up your legs). This is actually counterproductive. I personally don't believe in crunches at all, but these types of exercises are especially bad when you have a diastasis as they work to worsen the condition. Actually, too many crunches can cause a diastasis. My friend, Eve, from Nurturing Our Roots runs a business with her husband called Optimal Performance Systems and one of the many things they do is teach people how to heal their bodies with functional exercises and corrective movements. I get a lot of advice from her and she has sent me information on someone who does functional exercise videos. I'll let you know what I think and how that's working for me when I check them out.

In addition to functional exercises, my plan is to heal my belly with some belly dance. Despite it's name, belly dance utilizes the entire body, not just the belly. It's a dance form that arose from the natural movements of a woman's body during childbirth. Due to the fact that belly dance movements are based on real movements, it works with your body rather than against it. Belly dance requires you to be aware of your body and your muscles. There is a lot more to belly dance than simple shimmies of the hips or belly rolls. Muscles all over the body are given a chance to work. For instance, you may look at me and only see my hips moving. However, to move my hips a certain way, I am utilizing my oblique muscles, my glutes, my quads and those pesky rectus abdominus muscles. There are plenty of fast movements, but there are plenty of slow movements as well, which provides balance in the type of work your muscles have to do. In a belly dance class each move is broken down and students quickly learn how to isolate their muscles, leading to greater body awareness and proper movement.  Posture is extremely important in this dance and awareness of the proper posture is a must when dancing in order to properly execute the movements and to prevent injury.

I've been taking belly dance classes for nearly three years. I started with the traditional form, Raqs Sharqui, but have recently moved to learning Tribal Style, which is the form I plan to stay with. I take a class once a week and it is just amazing. I love dancing (and I look pretty good doing it, for a clumsy girl) and the movement just lifts up your spirit and really empowers you. Belly dance is incredibly inspiring because it caters to ALL women and you most definitely see all types of women dancing - stick thin, big bellied, big hipped, big everything, super muscular, not-so-muscular, pregnant, post partum - every size, shape and color is represented in belly dance and it's beautiful. Unlike other dance forms, there is no pressure to conform to a certain body type or weight. You are accepted as you are. Anyway, I admit that I slack off during the rest of the week. I should practice everyday or every other day, but I don't. If I practiced once a day, I know it would improve my muscle strength, as well as my technique. So, I'm issuing myself a challenge to dance at least once a day, even if only for 10 or 15 minutes. Not only is it good for me as a dancer, but I am certain that it would improve my diastasis recti and help me regain some of that strength back.

Honest moment - I have hesitated writing this because I don't want it to come off the wrong way. I see nothing wrong with the way my body looks as it is right now. I don't want a change for looks because I absolutely adore my body. Part of me is sad at the thought of losing my soft belly. But, I'm in pain and I'm not able to do the things I am used to thanks to the diastasis recti. Self love is not just about accepting your body shape, you stretch marks and the skin you're in, it's also about taking care of that body and making sure it's in it's optimal shape. I can't ignore my back and my muscles shouting to me that they hurt. I have to take care of them in order to take care of all of me - because I love me.

I'll be updating my progress here and on my Facebook page now and then.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Does This Judgment Make Me Look Pretty?

Copyright JSH 2006
It seems every few months I am writing something about how mothers judge one another. We judge one another for breastfeeding with or without covers, for screaming in birth, for not feeling happy with our birth experience and so on. Once your pregnant, everything is left up to be judged by everyone else. My newest peeve? Judging mothers who do not look pretty enough in their birth photos. Oh yes, you read that right. I've seen enough of this behavior to inspire a blog post about it.

In case you weren't aware, you can actually look too fugly in your birth photos. Not only that, but the type of birth you have dictates how gorgeous you will look in your pictures. Hospital birth with an IV, Pitocin and an epidural? Hideous troll. Elective c-section? Hideous troll with devil horns. Natural hospital birth? Moderately attractive, but with some drool on your cheek. Homebirth? Divine angel Goddess, glowing like all the stars in the night sky and sprinkled with a bit of faery dust direct from the Supreme Mother Faery Goddess's vulva.

Seriously, I have read way too many comments that go something like this, "Oh, you can totally tell she had a natural birth. She looks so peaceful and beautiful. That's the way it's supposed to look." Or, "There is nothing more beautiful than a woman who has had a natural birth at home." Are we fucking serious? Have we gotten bored enough with judging one another with every other aspect of pregnancy that we now have to move on to our looks? I have read, in horror, as other mothers pipe up to defend themselves for not looking serene and beautiful enough in their birth photos. "I don't have any photos like that. I was a last minute transfer that ended in a c-section. I was exhausted, blotchy and my eyes were puffy from crying about needing surgery." Some mothers have lamented that they do not have the glossy, soft-lit black and white photos of themselves birthin' a human in their kitchen that will get shared on several birthy Facebook pages. Others say they looked and felt great after birth, but they didn't get a chance to take photos because they were in the hospital and staff was in the way yadda yadda. And then others just plain feel the need to defend their birth choices no matter how they look due to the implication that it's only the natural birthing mamas who look gorgeous. Come on! With all that we feel the need to defend we are now adding birth glamour shots into the equation? Give me a fucking break. I hate that I've read comments from so many mothers who feel the need to justify why they don't have a share-worthy glorious birth photo. How incredibly sad. Have I mentioned that it's sad yet?

Our birth experience doesn't define how acceptably beautiful we are. Let me tell you this - one of the most beautiful birth photographs I have seen is of my friend. She looks like her gorgeous self. She is glowing and full of joyous anticipation in her eyes. She has that serene Goddess look that's super duper important. If I tell you the description of the picture, do you automatically assume it's a natural birth at home? Well, some people do. I have asked in several forums and that's the most popular guess.  It wasn't. She was strapped to a table, pumped full of meds and fluids, wearing a surgical cap and having a c-section to bring forth her twins. She was beautiful and it had nothing to do with how she was giving birth. Your beauty is not defined by your birth experience.

All women are beautiful when they give birth. It doesn't matter if you are loaded on pitocin, and epidural, demerol and hooked to bags of fluids. It doesn't matter if you are home, in a hospital, at a birth center or in the middle of the ocean with Flipper and his dolphin friends swimming circles around you. It doesn't matter if your baby is being cut from your belly or is sliding out of your vagina. Nor does it matter if your hair is perfectly in place, your make-up perfect and your skin flawless. Doesn't matter if your eyes are blood shot, the capillaries in your nose are broken and your sweaty head of hair is held up in a haphazard ponytail with a scrunchy from 1992 while you're wearing a neon yellow bra with a ketchup stain on it. Wherever and with whoever you bring your baby in the world, you are a beautiful woman. Goddesses give birth at home, in the hospital, with help and without it. They hypnotize themselves, they dance their babies out or they get epidurals. Some Goddesses get their babies cut out of them. The point is, every experience is beautiful, even if it's not what you planned. You are beautiful in your birth and your mothering and don't let anyone tell you any differently.

Clowns Are Evil and Yogurt Tastes Funny

I take pictures like this at 2am in my bathroom.
Not too long ago, I asked a question on my Facebook page. Is there something about you that people would be surprised to learn? No one answered with any stories about hidden bodies, which is a good thing. It's always interesting to find out new things about people. There are people who you know for years and are very good friends with who surprise you with little tidbits. A friend of mine started taking burlesque dance lessons a few years ago and recently performed live. I never knew. She didn't tell anyone because she was afraid they would judge her for sexy dancing or she was self-conscious and didn't think she was very good at it.

There are things that people may be surprised to learn about me. Some are fun. Some aren't.

I hate yogurt...because I think it tastes like semen. There. It's out in the open.

I am not superstitious in my daily life, but I can be very much so in my professional life. I will not say the following words at my job; bloat, colic and quiet. I believe saying the first two will bring in patients with those problems and the third word will ensure that a relatively smooth day will turn to shit. I will not cut the nails of an animal before it has emergency surgery. I feel like that dooms the animal to die under anesthesia. Also, I will give an uneven/lopsided shave job to animals coming in for emergency abdominal surgery. First, in an emergency you don't have time to make sure your edges are fine. Second, I believe a perfect shave job will doom the pet. I'm serious. When I place catheters, I have to drop the stylette (the part that does not stay in the vein) onto the floor. Doing so will ensure a smooth catheter placement. Pisses my co-workers off.

The biggest surprise is that I am shy. This is not a surprise to me and I find it hard to believe  that many people don't see it. This goes for people I know in my personal life as well as people I have only met on the internetz. The story goes that people think I am extremely confident and have high self-esteem. While it's true that I am confident in my decisions, my self-esteem is pretty low. I also have a reputation for being a bit of a bitch and not taking shit. This is true. I do stand up for myself. If you have done me wrong, I will let you know. If I'm mad at you, you will know. So, people assume since I am so willing to stand up for myself that I am very secure. I'm not. Thanks to all of the bullying throughout the years, I am extremely self-conscious. I always worry about how I look. I always worry about being laughed at. I always worry about sounding stupid. For years, I couldn't go to the store by myself. I barely ever made my own phone calls to businesses. I was always afraid to try new things. If I became interested in belly dance 10 years ago, that version of me would have never gone to classes without knowing someone in them. When my husband and I first started dating and we would go to the store or any place that required money, I would hand him my money - if I was paying for something - and have him go up to the cashier to pay for me. It's gotten a lot easier since having kids. I almost always have a mini sidekick.

Clowns scare the shit out of me. Mmm hmmm. Have you seen Poltergeist? We rented it when it first came out on BetaMax back in the early 1980's. I was about 5. There is this scene where an evil clown doll from Hades comes out and grabs a little boy during a thunderstorm. Scarred me for life. I used to have a clown doll in my bedroom. It was crocheted by my grandmother's friend. After seeing Poltergeist, my mom had to remove the doll (I would not touch it) and hide it in her closet until my adult years. I'm okay in a crowd. People have tried to send clowns over to say "hi" to me at various events thinking they will scare me. Nah. I'm okay in public, but in a home or when I'm alone is a different story. My childhood best friend collected clowns. She had dozens in her bedroom. Couldn't be in there alone with those devil beings. When I slept over, I turned to face the wall. My aunt had clown pictures in her bathroom (this should have been a sign that she's a bitchface). I swear they were watching me as I peed. I swear. Clowns are evil - don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Did I mention that yogurt tastes like semen?

I don't own a single pair of white socks. I blame the Spice Girls. Yes, the Spice Girls. I don't even know any of their songs - all I know is they had some verbal uttering where they all had this collective seizure and kept saying "zigazigahhhhhh" or some shit in one of their songs. That's almost all I know of them, except for a bit about socks. They were on TV being interviewed and, as I was scrambling to find my remote control (those were the size of a cereal box back then, kids), the interviewer asked one of them about her socks. They were bright and funky and she said (and I'm paraphrasing since this was 80 years ago), "I always wear bright and fun socks. Even if I'm having a bad day, I can look down and see happy feet." I thought that was a little bit cool and started buying my own funky little socks. It's over a decade later and my sock drawer is a rainbow of colors and images and there isn't a single plain white one in there.

Alan Rickman makes my pants fit funny.

So does Alan Cumming.

I do not drink and I've never been drunk. I have never done drugs. I am a total hippie who does not and will not smoke pot. This floors people. First, the drinking. At least once a month someone will tell me that I "just have to" get drunk just once in my life. No, no I really don't. I will have a glass of wine once in a great while. I don't even finish that. I don't have any alcohol in my house. My decision to not get drunk or high has been incredibly socially isolating, though people who cannot accept me just because I don't alter my mind in their way are simply not worth my time.  I wasn't necessarily raised this way. My parents are not drinkers and there was never alcohol in the house, but they never harped on me about drinking or drugs. My husband is an alcoholic. He's been sober since the first year of our relationship because I made it quite clear that if he wanted to pursue things with me he would have to quit drinking and smoking. He did. He comes from a family of drinkers. His grandfather was an alcoholic and died because of it. His stepfather was a raging alcoholic, even after receiving some organ transplants, and it eventually killed him. My husband's mother died as a result of an aneurysm, which was not helped by years of prescription drug abuse. I'm not longing for the experience of being drunk. There is not a single thing about it that appeals to me. I also fear who I would become if I was drunk. Some people think I'd be just hilarious. I believe that I would be insanely violent. As such, I'm not one to find out. Pot is the same. Everyone thinks that I must be incredibly pro-marijuana and that I grow my own. I've never smoked it and I have no desire to do so. The smell makes me incredibly ill and I can't stand being around people who have recently smoked it for that reason. Like alcohol, I have no desire to experience it. I'm goofy enough as it is and I don't feel the need to get drunk or high. It also doesn't help that there have been way too many - and I mean WAY TOO MANY - people in my life who have battled addiction, who have died, who have gone to jail and who have been killed as a result of alcohol and drugs. It's just not for me.

I listen to Eminem. He makes my teeth sweat.

I think Jell-O and any kind of flavored gelatin product like it is vile. It looks like troll boogers and probably tastes like troll boogers.

I love Frankenstein. Ok, technically, the monster in the novel isn't actually named anything, but everyone in this day and age refers to him by his "daddy's" name, Frankenstein. I love the novel. I connect with the idea of being a loathed outsider. I don't quite connect with being pieced together with bits o' dead people, but we can make a pass at that. I don't collect anything, per se, but I do have an awful lot of Frankenstein Halloween decorations.

I love, love, love Laurel and Hardy. Yeah, the 1930's comedy team. I think they are hilarious.

I bought....used my own money...a Britney Spears cd.

I am terrified of thunderstorms. For that reason, I am really into meteorology. A lot of my friends ask me about forecasts and weather stuff, especially during severe weather outbreaks. I study weather and thunderstorms because I fear it. The more I know, the less I fear. The sole reason I ever started using internet on my phone was to access radar 24/7. I have even paid $10 for a super fancy radar app.

I super love Marilyn Manson. Love him. I also love him. For whatever reason, this shocks some people. I'm not down with his drug use, obviously, but I think he is incredibly intelligent and just plain beautiful. We both worship David Bowie. 

My husband and I share a wedding anniversary with John and Abigail Adams. No, that wasn't planned. I didn't learn about that until a few months before we were married. Oddly enough, John Adams is one of my most favorite historical figure and we honeymooned in Massachusetts and took anniversary trips there, visiting Adams National Historic park (on Occtober 28 - the anniversary of Abigail Adams death - how weird is that?). I was into him way before he had his own mini series on HBO. My interest was initially peaked in 1997 when I went (6 times) to see Brent Spiner ("Data" from Star Trek) play Adams in the Broadway play 1776. My boyfriend back then was a historian whose area of expertise is the American Revolution. I am from Philadelphia and surrounded by history at every step, so it was quite easy to indulge my interests. I'll say this, even though he got his own HBO show, John Adams is one of the most underrated figures in American History.

I own a Twilight pillowcase. It has a picture of Robert Pattinson (Edward) on it. I'd be happy to lick the sparkles right off him. Don't judge. 

I've gone nearly my entire life thinking that coffee cake actually contains coffee. I was floored...utterly shocked...when I learned the truth.

I have never been bowling.

I take pictures of trees that have knots or other bumps/patterns that look like boobs, penises or vulvas.

Someone got a Brazilian...
Copyright JSH 2012


And last - it took me three months to finish this. This was sitting in the Blog Oubliette (Labyrinth reference FTW) for a while. Usually, posts that end up as drafts never see the daylight. I just found this and thought I'd finish it. Sadly, I couldn't think of many interesting tidbits about me. Even worse, I'm much more boring in person.




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