Friday, March 21, 2014

Dear Diary, Best. Morning. Ever!

Dear Diary,

Today has been the best day! Last night I got eight consecutive hours of sleep for the first time in over a year! After I dropped Mister Man off at school, I set off to finally to run those "quick" errands with the baby toddler in tow. You know, the ones that involve shopping and trying on and decision-making levels of concentration. The kind which are the bane of every young child's existence. The kind that I normally give up on and walk out of the store thinking, "I'll go tonight when the hubs is home," and then once the kids are in bed it's dark out and I'm tired and only want to put on my pajama pants and watch Everybody Loves Raymond reruns on Netflix and so never get around to doing. That kind.

I went to Academy and took forever to find what I was looking for. I asked two people and eventually found it. Then we looked for shoes for Mister Man while we were there.

Not a peep from my little Sugar Plum in her stroller!

1 down, 2 to go...

Next we went to the mall. Yes, THE MALL. For me this is the most dreaded place to take a young child. I still have flashbacks of toddler melt-downs in front of The Children's Place. Gymboree is a fast-track to tantrum town. It's as if Cinnabon was placed there solely for the sakes of frazzled mothers of toddlers and pregnant women.

Before heading into the main mall, though, I first popped into Barnes and Noble "just to walk through" to the main mall. I was able to read, choose, think about, change my mind about, then finally thoughtfully decide on four books to buy. And, Diary, you KNOW I read a hundred and four children's books before picking those four!

Still so far so good!

Then we went to...wait for it...Victoria's Secret. I know, I know, what was I thinking? There isn't even room for a stroller in that store! But I so desperately needed undies without holes in them, and they were having a sale (7 cotton undies for $26.50, if anyone's interested), and for whatever reason, VS seems to have the only underwear in the world that fits me well. Li'l Bit was doing so well there that I took a chance to try on a couple of bras. Goodness knows I really need a non-pregnancy, non-baby, non-push-up, my-boobs-have-found-a-new-normal-and-I-hate-bras bra! But I never braved even trying to shop for one before today!

It was like a dream! I tried on a couple and, just like in the book store, was able to think clearly (-ish, let's get real here, Mom-brain is here to stay) and make a decision without duress! She was such a fun little shopping buddy that we laughed and "chatted' with each other during the entire checkout line wait (and you know how long that can be).

Okay, Diary, so far this has been the stuff of legends. But you haven't even heard the best part yet. Oh no, you haven't!

In the car, she fell asleep. I slyly turned into the parking lot next to the nail salon. I oh-so-carefully pulled the car seat out and slid it into the stroller frame. I went inside for a pedicure, armed with snacks and a hope-for-a-miracle attitude. SHE SLEPT THROUGH AN ENTIRE SPA PEDICURE! I'm not even kidding (you know I would never lie to you, Diary)! THIS HAPPENED!

I want to remember this morning forever. For once, a public outing with one of my kids was more of a fairy tale and less of a precautionary tale.

When we got home, we had just enough time before picking up Big Brother to eat a quick lunch while writing to you about my amazing morning. And she didn't even poop!

I have to go, because I need to pick up Mister Man from school and then tackle the piles of laundry. But, oh, Diary! What a glorious day today has been!

Wait, scratch the "didn't even poop" part. Gotta run! 'Till next time!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

I Got In Trouble for Breastfeeding in a "Public" Child Care Room at the YMCA

Recently I joined my local YMCA, and have enjoyed the group exercise classes there. Each of my two kids has only somewhat warmed up to the child care. This morning I had only my 12 month-old daughter with me. Sometimes she does fine, but last time we were there she cried the entire hour, and this time when I took her into the child care room she clung to me with a death grip and started fussing. None of the three care givers came over to help her or hold her as they sometimes do, so I sat down with her myself just inside the gate and pulled a couple of toys off the shelf to try to engage her with them.

I knew she wasn't hungry because I had made sure to feed her just prior to going, but she was still fussy and scared, so I did what most nursing mothers would do in a similar situation. I took off my jacket to use as a cover, and began to discreetly breastfeed her to comfort her. I thought that if I nursed her for a couple of minutes in the room, she might become more comfortable there. Hey, it's worked before in other places.

One of the care givers immediately told me I couldn't do that in "public", and told me I needed to go into the bathroom to breastfeed. I looked square at her as I continued to breastfeed my baby, and told her I am not going to feed my baby in the bathroom, with a disgusted, that-is-the-grossest-thing-I've-ever-heard look on my face. Because it is.

She continued to tell me it is against the policy, that I couldn't do that in public, and, "Look! Now there's a man over there dropping off his child!" (Oh! The HORROR that he might see my jacket draped over me and perhaps even guess what might be transpiring underneath!)

At this point I was in utter disbelief. If the policy was about modesty, the simple fact is that I couldn't have been more modest and discreet about it. Very likely, the care giver and myself might have been the only people who even knew I was doing it. I am an extremely modest person - a downright "prude", if you will. I have breastfed my children in all kinds of public places (including church!), all over this country and Europe. I'd bet a million dollars that nary a soul has seen anything remotely inappropriate, even by the most modest of standards (you know, as opposed to Victoria's Secret and Abercrombie & Fitch "modesty" standards).

Continuing to feed my daughter (and remember this all transpired in a matter of 2-3 minutes), I looked at the care giver and said, "This is Texas. By law, I can breastfeed in public here."

When my baby was finished, she was calmer and suddenly interested in the toys again. (Duh.) I turned around to leave, and saw the same care giver standing next to an official-looking director, who politely asked if she could speak to me in her office.

Oh brother. Is this for real happening?

She reiterated the policy, this time saying they do not allow parents in the child care room at all, except in the bathroom to help a child or change a diaper. She then, sweet and diplomatic as can be, while making fake chit-chat with me throughout, asked me if I'd seen their "wonderful locker rooms"! The locker room was a bathroom-y, small-ish area with three benches and some lockers opposite the toilets and showers. But wait, there's more! If I go to the far bench between the lockers and the wall, and no one happens to be sitting there, I can have "complete privacy!"

So in the future, she said, if I "don't mind", please breastfeed in the locker room and not in public.

I told her I do mind, but I understand that is the policy, albeit a bad one. As I reiterated to her several times, I purposely wanted to nurse her for a couple of minutes in the room where I would be leaving her in order that she might be comforted there.

Still, I went ahead to yoga class, seething for the next hour, trying to figure out what, if anything, I can or should do.

When I went to pick up my daughter the care giver was cool and seemed to have let the whole thing wash over already. They didn't treat me as that horrible woman or anything, and all parties were polite about the whole thing.

However....I wonder if I should quit my membership altogether (there was no annual fee and no contract). What happens the next time I want to nurse my baby and I'm already inside the building (meaning I ain't going back to the car)? I have to do that in the yucky locker room? SERIOUSLY? I'm not sure it's worth putting up with that in order to continue going there, which stinks because the membership there is affordable, I enjoy the classes, and the child care is easily available.

Perhaps I can find a way to get the policy changed, although they are saying no parents are allowed past the gate in the child care room at all, not just for breastfeeding (although they didn't mind it when I was sitting inside with my daughter and not breastfeeding her).

Still, under that policy and Texas law, I should still be allowed to breastfeed anywhere else in the building that adults are allowed, even though I feel that they would try to send me to the locker room again.

I hate confrontation and escalation. I don't really want to stage a nurse-in or something, lining the halls with breastfeeding mothers, but only letting me breastfeed in a bathroom or locker room is terrible! I am allowed to breastfeed in public under state law!  

And doing that shouldn't have to be an act of defiance.

What would you do?

**UPDATE: I sent an email to the executive director, and she called me to apologize. It took a while to drive home the point that it this morning's issue wasn't the lack of a comfortable private place to breastfeed, but the fact that I was being told to go to a private area. In the end, I think she understood. I also cancelled my membership there and was granted a full refund at my request.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Seven Quick Takes - The One With Zumba: Sweating With the Oldies to Blurred Lines

Tuesday at yoga class I met a woman who is 70 years old. Seventy. Today is my 36th birthday, and I'm coveting the flexibility of a 70 year-old. I told her I would never have guessed 70. She said, "Oh, that's because I dye my hair. You gotta dye your hair when it goes gray."

So there you have the secret to aging: Yoga and Nice 'n Easy.

Since I'm going to yoga at the YMCA now, I also started going to Zumba. I am terrible at Zumba. The truth is, I'm astonishingly uncoordinated, and I look ridiculous.'s still fun and a fantastic workout. For the most part, I'm better at it than the elderly Chinese man in the corner. Not always, though. He gets pretty funky with the right choreography.

This morning while I was cha-cha-ing and body rolling with the old folks at the YMCA to the lyrics "I know you want it...", a 2014 Word of the Year finally occurred to me: STRONG. This year, I want to become stronger both physically and spiritually. Time to get my tiny arms-of-steel back.

My baby's first birthday is tomorrow. How has it already been a year? Is that really possible? She's walking, eating human food and saying words. It's occurring to me that what I really have now is a toddler. A TODDLER. What the what? She was just born, like, a minute ago!
This is my daughter getting run-by photo-bombed by her brother.

The Bachelor is a terrible show. But I've never, and I mean never ever ever, had more fun watching any TV show than I did watching The Bachelor with my sister the other night. "My shirt is thread-bare, but it has a spunky pocket. It cost $700." We are HIL.AR.I.OUS. Seriously, we should be on TV.

My sister recently brought to my attention a real concern relating to selfie-taking. Hey selfie-takers: Why don't you have friends? Is there really no one else around who can take a proper photograph of you with your new hair cut snuggling with your [child, pet, beer] on the beach? It's a topic I may (or may not) cover in another blog post.

For the past two years I have done random acts of kindness for my birthday. This year I followed through, although I did it way early. I made 36 face/neck warmers (gators) for the homeless in my city. It's not nearly enough, but it's more than none. All during last year I would look for 50% off remnants of fleece to use at Jo-Ann Fabrics (goodness, I go there often enough). It takes just a little sewing, and they are easy enough to make for military personnel in the field or for the homeless. Here is a site with instructions:

Bonus #8!
This morning during Zumba class I kept thinking of the scenes from the Friends episode, The One With the Fake Monica, where they take a tap dance class and Monica can't keep up with the choreography. So in the spirit of Throwback Thursday, I leave you with this clip:

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Thinking Out Loud...On Kid Birthday Party "Thank You Notes" and Opening Gifts During the Party

After two birthday parties my son has attended where gifts were expected, I received "thank you notes" in the style of the one shown below:

Yuck. Have our personal interactions become so non-personal that this is considered an acceptable thank you note? To me it is more of a delivery confirmation. Emily Post would be scratching her eyeballs out.

The first time I received a card like this, I thought, "That's it? Does the kid even know what he received or that it was from my son? Does he care? Did he enjoy the gift? Does he care? Does he at least appreciate it (I handmade it for him with his name on it and everything)? Was it worth going to the trouble at all or was the gift really expected to be more of a dropped off "entrance fee" to the party? Does he care? Do his parents?" Of course, as is increasingly more common to do nowadays, he opened gifts after the party when the guests were gone, so we didn't even get the joy of at least feigned appreciation for the gift.

Seriously, people. This is the worst "thank you note" I have ever received (I can't even bring myself to call it that without the quotes - in person they would be air quotes). It left me with such a feeling of non-caring that for the next party I didn't go to so much trouble.

The second time I received this kind of card, I had taken a gift that was handmade with my son's help. Again, the birthday boy didn't open presents at the party and I received this kind of card again. I have no idea if he thought it was a great gift or a lame gift. I have no idea if he even associates it as being from my son, let alone made for him by my son. We weren't there. I imagine him ripping mindlessly through gifts while his mother wrote down the name on the gift card and the name of the gift on the "thank you note", then stuffed the envelope before they moved on to the next gift without thought. Upon entering the party venue, we set the package on a table at the back with a pile of gifts and my son didn't get to experience the joy of seeing his friend look into his eyes and so much as acknowledge that the gift was thoughtfully chosen and made for him.

What a shame to lose the personal interaction opportunity for both kids. What a shame to lose the opportunity to learn social etiquette.

My children and their friends are too young to read/write notes right now. But if there is no personal interaction in the context of the gift giving, then doesn't it become just about the gifts themselves? At the very least, a thoughtfully written (or drawn!) thank you note is something! We aren't talking a full letter here, just a few lines. Didn't anyone else's mother make them write thank you notes growing up?

The joy of choosing and giving the gift in the first place is completely lost in the removal of all personal interaction. The chance for the recipient to practice polite gratitude and to associate a gift with an actual person either by opening it in the presence of the giver and/or by crafting a written thank you note is lost.

Receiving "thank you notes" like the one above felt almost insulting, at the very least disappointing. I realize it takes more time to craft something more personal, but do we really want to sacrifice even more personal communication at the altar of busyness and digital communication?

"It's just a stupid gift between children. Don't care so much about it. The kids probably don't." Well, I don't want not to care, that's the point. I see a trend of caring less and less about everything, and it doesn't feel good. It doesn't feel right. I do care, and I want my son to care, too. Not about gifts, but rather about people. The gifts are unnecessary. They are things. We always have "no gifts" kid parties. But if gifts are going to be part of the celebration (which is fine, too!), then it makes me sad that the people part is increasingly being removed from the exchange.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Save Money in Ten Seconds or Less: Paper Towels

In honor of a new year, I've decided to start a new category on my blog. (Remember this blog? The one I barely write in anymore? Yeah, that's the one.) The category is called Save Money in Ten Seconds or Less. The idea is to share some of the small, simple ways I save money around the house, especially by minimizing spending money to replace disposable household items.

Don't get me wrong, we are not living on a self-sufficient organic farm, weaving our own cloth and wiping our arses with orange peels, but small savings add up to big savings over time, and foster a habit of being mindful stewards of our money rather than wasting without thought.

So without further ado, I now present to you the first installment of Save Money in Ten Seconds or Less...


Each time I use a paper towel, it costs money because it has to be replaced. I haven't done the math on how much a single paper towel costs, but I do know this: if I use a dish cloth instead, that roll of paper towels (yes, we do use them - especially for cleaning up a dead bug or something) will last longer. And the longer they last, the longer I go before having to replace them. The longer I can go before buying more, the fewer I buy altogether.

Start small. Start with one. Once during the day, instead of using a paper towel, reach for a dish cloth instead. If you need it for cleaning up a mess or spill, then simply rinse it out, let it hang dry on the oven handle or something, and either use it again for cleaning or toss it into the laundry.

I keep a plastic basket on top of my dryer, which happens to be near my kitchen. When I feel that a dish cloth is no longer clean enough to use again, I drop it in the basket. Then I toss whatever is in the basket into the washing machine the next time I do a load. If I already have one (or two) dish cloths out for wiping counters and need a clean one for washing veggies, then I grab a clean one the same way I would grab a clean paper towel. Typically I go through several during an average day.

They make great gifts, if you want to bulk your stash a bit. But even if you only use a few, you are saving at least that many paper towels from having to be replaced, i.e. purchased with hard-earned money.

Dish cloths can be used for anything a paper towel can (and is arguably more effective in most cases), including but not limited to:
- wiping vegetables
- general kitchen cleaning
- cleaning spills/messes
- as napkins (see my future post about cloth napkins)
- drying hands
- drying dishes

Plus, they're much prettier in the kitchen than a roll of paper towels.

*Note: I'm using the term "dish cloth" interchangeably with the term "dish towel".

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Open Letter to That Man Who Was in That One Church That Easter Sunday

It's taken me a long time to get around to writing this (about seven years, actually), but I remember the incident clearly. I was back in my hometown visiting my family over the Easter weekend. I was single, and newly Catholic. Not having ever gone to mass in my hometown before, I found a nearby parish to attend on Easter Sunday, and my mom, who is not Catholic, went with me.

I already felt like a stranger, being a first-time visitor, and my mom really felt like a stranger, not quite knowing what to do at a Catholic mass. (I told her simply to switch between standing and kneeling at the sound of each Picardy third in the music, but she stared at me blankly.)

We walked into the small church and looked for seats. As soon as we were in the sanctuary, a man sitting near the back looked generally at the flood of visitors entering the church and said, in an annoyed voice, loudly enough for all of us to hear (I presume that was the intent),

"Here come the Easter and Christmas people."

At first I felt like hiding. He was talking about me and my mother along with others, and suddenly I felt conspicuous. It was a small parish, and we were obviously "outsiders".

Then I felt like punching him (I know, that isn't very Easter-y).

No one said anything. No one reproached him. No one corrected him.

Sitting directly behind him and his wife during the mass, my thoughts were often distracted by various responses (most of them snarky) I wish I had thought of and said as soon as he had made that comment aloud. Don't you hate those kinds of missed opportunities?

Even after mass, in fact, even after all these years, I still think about that man and the impact of his words.

So to that man, here is what I want to say to you:

I want to tell you that some Easter/Christmas visitors are regular mass-attendees from out of town, and you effectively let them know that visitors from other parishes are not welcome in yours, at least, according to you.

I want to tell you that some are obliging their family members by going to church at all, maybe even for the first time - and you probably just reminded them why they never wanted to go before.

I want to tell you that some may be thinking about returning to the faith after a long hiatus, perhaps returning to God after a long hiatus, and by being hostile to them, you may have made them reluctant ever to set foot in church again.

I want to tell you that no matter how long you have gone to mass with or without missing a Sunday, that you are still no more deserving than anyone else to sit in that pew. That when worshiping our Lord, it doesn't matter that you were or weren't there last week or last year. It doesn't matter if you sinned three minutes ago or three seconds ago (for example, by saying what you just said). It matters that you are there now. That you want to repent and come back to God again. Because we all keep messing up and have to go back again and again.

And to push a sinner away from our redemptive Savior is a sin in itself. A big one, by the way. I'm going to throw you the benefit of the doubt and suppose that you didn't think through these things when you said what you said.

But next year, please extend the grace to your neighbors that you would surely extend to yourself if you missed a Sunday...or two...or a hundred.

Next year, instead of loudly, arrogantly, ignorantly making a blanket rebuke toward people on their way to worship, try quietly engaging them to learn their stories. Smile sincerely and tell them you are glad they are there and you hope to see them next week. That it won't be quite as crowded then, and you'll be able to save them a seat next to you.

Tell them that they are welcome anytime to come into the church and break bread with the family of God.

P.S. To clarify, I'm not saying it's not a big deal to skip church, I'm saying that we should be nice to people once they're there.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

"Pink is my favorite color." "STOP KICKING YOUR SISTER!" and Other Things We Say During Family Prayer Time

Family prayer time. It's a beautiful idea, and I am determined to make it successful happen on a regular basis. A family that prays together stays together, right?

Did you know that the divorce rate is not so much decreased by regular church attendance/involvement, but rather is decreased dramatically among couples who pray together?

As a family, we have started saying the rosary as an entire family  (okay, we've done it twice so far with intention to make it weekly). At first I thought, there is no way this will be successful. (Get behind me, Satan!) But then I talked to another mom with small children who does pray the rosary with them and she reminded me that success depends on expectation. That it is completely okay to only do one decade of the rosary as a family instead of all five.

Then I thought, I can do that!

I'm currently involved in a mom's group at my church and we are reading the book, The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic by Matthew Kelly (click here for a FREE COPY). I highly recommend this book, not just for Catholics, but for all Christians. It is inspiring and motivating to get us praying, studying, giving and evangelizing, in small bits at a time, so that we find ourselves saying, "I can do that!".

What does our family rosary look like (you know, the two times we have done it so far)? Well, we do it after dinner. We clean up the dishes and kitchen, then we sit around the kitchen table. The baby stays in the high chair so she is with us. The four year-old gets the rosaries (or the "rosemary", as he calls it) and hands them out. He gets the pink one, because that's his favorite color. Then we pray the beginning prayers, one mystery/decade, and the closing prayers. We do this corporal-prayer style, so that one person starts each prayer and then everyone else joins in.

In other families it looks different, and I know ours will continue to evolve, hopefully over the course of all our years together. For now, Mister Man spends the entire decade deciding which bead he should be on and insisting he hold a different bead or "in between", while Sugar Plum starts fussing about half-way through. It is what it is. During this season of our family, the most important thing is just we that do it, and consistently.

I've also been more intentional about praying with our son before bedtime. I did it before, but it was inconsistent and unstructured (which is okay, too!). In the book, Kelly lays out a great framework for stimulating a daily conversation with God. He calls it "The Prayer Process".

I've adapted this process for Mister Man. After jammies are on, teeth are brushed and books are read, we turn off the light and I take him through five steps of praying:

1. What do you want to tell God thank you for today? He answers, and I tell him to tell God. So he says, "Thank you, God, for ____."

2. What do you want to tell God you are sorry for today? Tell God. "God, I'm sorry that I _____."
Sometimes I offer a helpful reminder, for example: "Would you like to tell God you are sorry you kicked your sister?" "No. No, thank you." (Well, I try.)

3. What was your favorite thing about today?

4. Who else would you like to pray for? ...

5. Then we pray an Our Father (Lord's Prayer), Hail Mary and/or Glory Be.

I believe this is all a good start to a good thing, and I'm hoping that by blogging about it, two things will happen: (a) I will feel accountable to continue against odds and inconveniences, and (b) someone else might read this and think, I can do that! and another family will bless God and themselves with regular, intentional prayer.

The Prayer Process
Taken from The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic
  1. Gratitude: Begin by thanking God in a personal dialogue for whatever you are most grateful for today.
  2. Awareness: Revisit the times in the past twenty-four hours when you were and were not the-best-version-of-yourself. Talk to God about these situations and what you learned from them.
  3. Significant Moments: Identify something you experienced in the last twenty-four hours and explore what God might be trying to say to you through that event or person.
  4. Peace: Ask God to forgive you for any wrong you have committed (against yourself, another person, or Him) and to fill you with a deep and abiding peace.
  5. Freedom: Speak with God about how He is inviting you to change your life, so that you can experience the freedom to be the-best-version-of-yourself.
  6. Others: Lift up to God anyone you feel called to pray for today, asking God to bless and guide them.
  7. Pray the Our Father.