Saturday, December 14, 2013

How Having A Baby Made Me Feel Like An Outcast

Earlier this year, hubby and I were blessed with our little girl. Girl number 4 to be exact. We're a bit like the Brady Bunch. Hubby has two girls from his practice marriage and I have a boy and girl from my practice marriage. It had been 6 1/2 years since my youngest was born, so I sort of felt like a first timer again. I honestly forgot all the sacrifice and hard work that goes in to being the parent of a newborn. Obviously I remembered, but I didn't really REMEMBER.

Luckily my labor and delivery were "easy"...aside from the scare when they put me on oxygen due to fetal braydycardia (slower than normal heart rate), the fact that there was no fluid when the doc tried to break my water, NICU being rushed in for the delivery and giving birth to a purple'ish-gray'ish baby due to the cord being wrapped around her neck twice. I stayed in the hospital for one night (the absolute minimum that I had to) and couldn't wait to get home with our little bundle of joy where I could keep her safe and smell her intoxicating baby smell all day every day.

The first 2 weeks were a breeze (apart from the cracked bleeding nipples due to baby-girl being tongue tied and the resulting issues we had with the latch/seal). She was sleeping for roughly 6 hour stretches at night, I was getting naps in during the day, she hardly ever cried, hubby was an absolute dream cooking dinner for me and the other kids at night and my diet didn't seem to be affecting her at all.

Unfortunately, the part about my diet and her not crying changed right at the 2 week mark. One evening hubby cooked an amazing meal that was particularly heavy in dairy. The following morning baby-girl was a total mess. Screaming, spitting up everywhere, not sleeping. She seemed congested, but I found out that was actually milk that wasn't making it all the way out when she was spitting up. I did a little research and found a lot pointing to the possibility of her having a sensitivity to dairy.

So, I cut it all out. Everything. Cheese, yogurt, milk, coffee creamer, butter, ice-cream. I also found out that I had to cut out a lot of baked goods too. Breads, muffins, brownies, cakes. It became almost impossible to go out to eat anywhere. Even going over to dinner at my mother's house was a pain. No one thought about the fact that I couldn't eat dairy and as a result, I had to sort of pick around whatever was on the menu for that night. I suddenly started to feel extremely overwhelmed and alone.

When baby-girl was 6-weeks-old, we went out of town for hubby's grandfather's funeral in Tallahassee. We had to stop to get me a rotisserie chicken on the way in to town because hubby's Aunt and Uncle, whose house we were going to, were making pizza for dinner. I sat on my own in the kitchen the following day after the service to eat my leftover chicken while everyone else was enjoying the Italian buffet covered in cheese and butter under the tent in the backyard. This was after I had to leave the church a quarter of the way through the service itself because baby-girl started fussing, and basically spent the rest of the day secluded from everyone else due to the constant feeding schedule that she was on at the time.

2 weeks later we drove down to Miami for a memorial that was being put on by the City of Miami (hubby's grandfather had been the Chief Medical Examiner for Dade County for over 40 years). We were staying at my mother-in law's best friend's house. She is an incredible cook and had all sorts of delicious foods for breakfast every morning...none of which I could eat. So I cooked myself some dry scrambled eggs and drank some black coffee while everyone else sat around eating biscuits, eggs with cheese and breakfast casserole and drinking coffee full of cream. I also missed about 3 quarters of the service that time too because, you guessed it, baby-girl got fussy. (I will also note that while I was in the lobby of the auditorium, there were 3 motorcycle cops sitting on the only chairs there and not one of them offered me a seat. Pigs. Oops, was that out loud?)

I felt like I should have just stayed home. I felt like an outcast. I felt the same way I did when I stopped drinking. People looking at me funny and asking me why. Being the only one there who can't eat what everyone else is eating. Interrogating my hosts about the ingredients of everything they prepared; Does the crust have butter in it? What is in the salad dressing? Is that cream cheese? Do you have any salad without cheese? 

I was frustrated to say the least. I was surrounded by people, yet I have never felt so alone. I tried to focus on the reason why I was feeling this way - my baby. She was worth it all, wasn't she? I contemplated giving up breastfeeding and putting her on formula. I had more than one person tell me that they would have done just that. Then I could pass her off to other people to feed and comfort so it wouldn't be all up to me. I could eat all that damn Italian food and all the pizza and breakfast casserole I wanted. Truth be told, I didn't give up dairy just for her, I gave it up for me as well. If she wasn't screaming and spitting up every 5 minutes, I would be a lot more sane. If I gave up dairy for me, why shouldn't I just give up breastfeeding for me as well?

I found myself crying in the bathroom on a few different occasions. I didn't want to complain to anyone because I thought; a) I would come across as a whiner. No one would understand and I would be met with more of the "why don't you just stop breastfeeding" comments. b) I would come across as a whiner. At least I was able to breastfeed. Lots of women aren't able to. c) I would come across as a whiner and be judged for being selfish about thinking of myself over my baby. So, I kept my mouth shut and dealt with it. I figured the baby and I had managed to overcome the latch/seal issue and from what I was reading, most babies started to outgrow the dairy sensitivity at around 3 months.

Well, baby-girl is now 6 months old and has only just turned the corner with the dairy thing. Seems now, for the most part, I can eat what I want and she is able to tolerate it. It makes me sad that I felt I had no one to talk to about the way I was feeling without being judged. Shouldn't we, as mothers, be able to talk to one another about anything to do with raising our child(ren) without fear of being criticized for what we are or are not doing? You're not breastfeeding? You must hate your baby! You haven't introduced her to solids yet? You must hate your baby! You don't use cloth diapers? You must hate your baby - and the environment! You don't make your own organic baby food? You must hate your baby! You're letting her cry it out? You must hate your baby! 

I don't regret sticking with the breastfeeding/no dairy thing. I am proud of myself for persevering even with all the challenges I faced daily. I have realized that my feelings of loneliness and frustration are not uncommon - if I felt that way, there must be other women going through similar situations. I want to let other mothers know that is it OK to reach out for support, advice or just a shoulder to cry on. If someone is going to judge you for how you choose to care for your baby, they aren't worth confiding in. I promise you, though, that there are many women out there who are understanding, supportive and non-judgmental. I wish I had reached out to some sort of breastfeeding support group.

I didn't realize it at the time, but looking back on it, it is all too clear.  It wasn't just the difficulties of cutting out dairy. I was suffering from postpartum depression. I had done strict diets in the past, such as the Atkins diet, and I never got depressed over it. It never made me feel lonely. After my first child was born, I was convinced I didn't have postpartum depression. According to my mother, it was primarily in the person's head. She never suffered from it, so surely I wouldn't. It wasn't until my second child was 6 months old that I finally admitted that was what was wrong with me. I made an appointment with my doctor and got myself back on track.

If I could give anyone struggling with any choice they make for their child some advice, it is to stay the course. If you feel it is the right decision for you and your baby, go with it. We, as mothers, have a unique sixth sense when it comes to our babies. If it feels right in your gut, it probably is. Stay strong, seek out support if need be, but whatever you do, don't give up. Allowing difficult circumstances or other people's opinions dictate how you care for your little one(s) will only cause you to be regretful of not doing what you believed in to begin with.

In addition to that, I think the most important thing is if you feel like you might be suffering from postpartum depression - get help. If you don't think friends and family will understand, go to your doctor, find a support group. Know that you are not alone! It is not all in your head! It is time we come together as women and stop being afraid of what people will think of us for our "weaknesses". It is time we stop looking at postpartum depression as a weakness. It is not a weakness, it is a condition. A serious condition. You are worthy of help and support and it is out there if you just reach out.

Who Are Children's Parties Really For?

My son is turning 7 on Sunday. We had planned a trip to Legoland, but for various reasons we are having to postpone it for another weekend. So here I am, second week of school, three days away from the weekend and no plans for his birthday. Shit. I enter panic mode. Not only that, but our whole family is out of town and the hubby is leaving on Friday and won't be back until late afternoon on Sunday. The kids and I would typically go with him but we're house-sitting for the folks and they have a dog, so I can't leave town. I rack my brain for a while and decide that a couple of hours at the local splash park with friends, snacks and cupcakes will be perfect. Then I start to question myself. Will it be good enough? Will the birthday boy be happy with a last minute, thrown together party?

What the hell has happened to children's birthday parties? When I was a kid I remember inviting some friends, most, if not all, attended. We had a couple of bowls of chips, maybe some sandwiches, we played pin the tale on the donkey and hide and seek, had some cake and presents and everyone went home. Nowadays it seems as though you can't get away with anything less than lavish. You have people hiring ponies and magicians for their kid's first birthday. How do you compete with the parents who have 4 different bounce houses, mermaids swimming in their pool and real, live goldfish as party favors?

If you do decide to do the "simple" homemade birthday party, in your home, complete with a cake baked by you and simple party favors also assembled by you, you're in for a rude awakening. After checking with the birthday boy, who changes his mind more than his underwear when it comes to what theme he wants, you start your search for ideas. You probably go on Pinterest and Google and search for "circus birthday party". And here is what smacks you in the face:

How much did they pay for those invitations? Probably more than you had planned on spending on the entire party. 
My wedding invitations weren't even this elaborate!


Really? Where does one find all these props? No way this is homemade. 
I can smell the professional party planner from here.


Where the fuck do you get a real monkey from for your mantle?


You can't just bake a regular cake and stick some plastic animals on top? 
You have to go with edible clowns?! Can you say "professional baker"?

At what point in time did we start to think it was OK to raise the bar so high on a child's birthday party? I mean, the kid probably isn't even going to remember the damn party. I put together a Dora the Explorer party for my daughter's 3rd birthday. I baked a regular sheet cake but painstakingly drew Dora on and decorated her with icing. Do you think she remembers it? Not at all. All the time and effort we put in to these celebrations and they aren't even remembered apart from the photos uploaded to Facebook and Instagram. And with as many parties as we all have to attend in one calendar year, even the adults have a hard time remembering them.

So who are children's birthday parties really for? Us. The doting parents. We have to prove to ourselves and all we know that we love our children so friggin' much, we'll spend an entire week's salary on one friggin' party. I am just as guilty of this as anyone else. What starts out as a simple get together quickly spirals out of control with the cake, the decorations, the party favors and games, the food and drinks. We spend months planning these things and they are over in a flash. Nothing show for it but the wake of death and destruction caused by the tornado of psychotic kids hopped up on sugar and artificial food colorings that just ran rampant through you home obliterating everything in its path. 

I say it is enough! It is time we get back to simpler times. Bake a cake, hang some balloons from the ceiling fan, put out a couple of bowls of chips, offer some juice pouches and hand out a little plastic bag with a few items from the dollar store. Take a deep breath and chill. Seriously. I don't know why I found myself in such a tiz-waz over the whole thing. I mean, we bought tickets to fucking LEGOLAND! The whole deal behind that was not planning an actual birthday party. I felt so disappointed that we weren't able to go this weekend, that I assumed my son would be crushed, devastated, if we didn't have some form of celebration. 

So off to the splash park we will go with some water bottles and cupcakes and he will have an absolute blast. He won't care how many people are there, how many presents he gets or how elaborate the cupcakes are. He will be thrilled that he gets to have a party, play in the water and spend time with friends. At the end of the day he won't remember how extravagant, or not, the decorations are, or how much money is spent on the favors. I won't care either. I don't need to prove to anyone that I love my son, least of all him. He already knows. And I will be reminded of how much he loves me by the smile on his face, the giggles that fill the air and those big green eyes looking up at me as he hugs me tightly and tells me that it was the best birthday party. Ever.


This picture just freaks me out. They look like they are about to go on a sadistic killing spree.



I Love My Husband and I'm Not Afraid To Say It

Yesterday the hubby and I celebrated 4 years since our first date. Yes, it may be very "high-school" of us, but we don't care. I had invited this incredibly hot guy from work to meet up with me and some friends at a local bar. He almost didn't go. His brother's girlfriend convinced him he should. (Thanks Suz!) We had a great time talking, smoking and drinking gin and tonics. At the end of the night we hugged and went our separate ways. I was giddy. I felt like a little schoolgirl. The next day at work we shot each other little smiles and glances across the room during a staff meeting. I was already smitten.

Recently, I Want A Dumpster Baby and Sammiches and Psych Meds both wrote about the increasingly popular husband bashing phenomenon. It really got me thinking; why do women that? I know we all poke a little fun at each other from time-to-time, but some of the quotes and "funny" pictures floating around out there are demeaning, undermining and uncalled for. I can't help but wonder why these obviously perfect women stay with men who are so unworthy of their love and affection.

Wait, what's that, you say? Maybe these women are just unhappy with themselves and are projecting that on to their husbands or significant others? I know what it is like to be in a marriage that just isn't working anymore. I know that people change and grow apart and two seemingly fitting people end up becoming more like a round peg and a square hole. I know that it is scary as hell to think about being alone, especially if there are children involved. I am certainly not saying that every couple having problems should run out and get divorced. But maybe, just maybe, if we tried to be a little more positive, things would get better.

I know women whose husbands work, sometimes in jobs they can't stand, so that they can stay home to be with the kids. These women post pictures about husbands not pulling their weight around the house etc. Well, here's a novel concept; Your husband works all day and you are home. Maybe it is your responsibility to do the brunt of the housework. He wouldn't expect you to go to work and do your job, would he? Then there are the families where both parents work. In that case, the housework should fall equally on each partner. Oftentimes it doesn't always work out this way, but if you are unhappy with the way it is going, talk to your partner. Don't bash them all over Facebook where their friends and family see it all.

I happen to be lucky to be married to someone who works a job that he doesn't hate (anymore) and also helps out around the house and with the kids. I will totally admit that I am often lax in keeping up with the housework, or it gets half-done. You know, like the clothes get washed and dried but not put away or the floors get vacuumed but not washed. But, I am trying. Apart for about 8 months after my son was born I have always worked. I am still trying to get the hang of this SAHM thing.

Seeing all of the negativity spewed towards husbands, boyfriends and partners really helped me to realize something I already knew, but often take for granted. I am lucky to be married to the love of my life. Do I get frustrated sometimes? Sure I do. But I'm going to own that and say that it is probably caused by something that is going on within myself at the time more so than something he did or didn't do.

No one is perfect. There is no such thing as a perfect marriage or relationship. We all have our ups and downs. But I am going to go out on a limb and, at the risk of being hung, drawn and quartered by all the other hating women out there, say; I LOVE MY HUSBAND! I ADORE HIM! I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR HIM! I AM MARRIED TO A HARDWORKING MAN WHO LOVES HIS FAMILY AND I DON'T CARE WHO KNOWS IT! AND HE IS TOTALLY FREAKIN' HOT!



So, haters, keep hating. Keep posting your negative, demeaning memes about how horrible your man is and I will continue to shout from the rooftops how lucky I am to have a true partner in my life. You never know, maybe if those of us who feel that way say it often enough, it will become contagious and more deserving men will get the respect and love that they need.


My Infant Cusses Like A Sailor

Have you ever wondered what goes through a baby's mind at any given time? When we're all standing around ooohing and aaahing at them as they stare back at us with those blank looks. Or when we give them solid food for the first time. Or when we speak to them in those condescending tones as though they are complete idiots. Seriously, why do we act like complete blubbering twat-waffles when there is a baby around?

Think about it. We spend the first year of life saying things like "look at the doggy...fishy...meow meow...moo cow". It isn't an effing "meow meow". That is the sound a cat makes, but we insist on using these terms. But you'd better believe that as soon as the little one starts speaking we are all up in their shit correcting them; "It isn't a fishy, it is a fish." I'm sure at that point they are looking at us, thinking; "I know that, douche bag. I only said it like that because you insisted on calling it that!"

The hubby loves playing with the 6-month-old; tickling her, or tapping his finger over her mouth so that she makes that sound we used to make when we would run around playing cowboys and Indians as kids. He is convinced she likes it, me, not so much. She inevitably starts complaining and fussing. I know what's going through her head. "Quit fucking tickling me! How would you like it if I sat here smacking your mouth so that you would make 'cute' noises? Knock it off! I'm not your goddamn play toy!"

I'm convinced that babies think we are all complete idiots. I mean, whats to say they can't understand everything we say right from birth? That baby from 'Look Who's Talking' could. You know that commercial, I think it is for V8, where the mom is all "Mommy's eating french fries, yes she iiiiissssss" and the baby smacks her on the forehead? The kid isn't doing it because she's eating fries. The kid is doing that because of the way his mom is talking to him. "Dumb-ass...talk like a normal person!"

Hubby gives the 6-month-old her nightly bottle, and when she is ready for it, she lets him know. If she sees it before he is ready to give it to her she goes ballistic. I'm talking body rigid, arms flailing, face red, yelling at him! Of course, hubby and I think it is funny and he sort of holds the bottle in front of her, almost teasing her. She, however, does not find it amusing. I know exactly what is going through her mind; "give me my bottle, bitch!"

I think we are all sadly mistaken in assuming that infants don't understand what we are talking about. I don't think we give them nearly enough credit. Just because they can't verbalize it yet, doesn't mean they don't know what we're saying. I can be known to cuss like a sailor. Especially if I stub my toe, or if the dog barks and wakes up the baby. I know by infant cusses like a sailor too. I'm pretty sure the her first words are going to be "Goddamn it Dixie! Fucking dog!"

We Totally Rocked The Morning Of The First Day Back To School

Ever have one of those perfect first-day-back-to-school mornings? You know, when you wake up and the kids are already dressed, got themselves breakfast, brushed their teeth, put their shoes on and have their backpacks waiting by the door?  When all you have to do is feed the baby, pour your coffee and walk out the door?

I DO!!

OK, maybe I had to wake them up, and maybe I had to gently "remind" them to put their shoes on and brush their teeth. But all-in-all, it was a very successful morning! I had visions of me screaming at them as they argued over who was going to brush their teeth first; throwing their shoes at them when they hadn't put them on after the tenth time of telling them; driving off without their lunches, or forgetting the baby and having to turn around to get them/her; getting out of the car to walk them in and realizing I was still in my pajamas...

For the last few weeks we have been getting things ready for going back to school. Shopping for supplies and clothes, haircuts, searching for the best new backpack. We started going to bed at the normal 8:30 time the week before school started so that the routine wouldn't be such a shock to the system come Sunday night. After putting them to bed last night (at 8:30 - score!), I sat there dreading the morning. Not because they were going back to school, but because I was convinced that it was going to be a nightmare getting them back into the groove.

During those lackadaisical summer days I completely forgot how much I loathe school-day mornings. One should not have to endure stress like that before they've even had chance to drink their first cup of coffee. No one should have to send their kids off to school after screaming at them for the previous hour, even if what they were berated for was not doing things that should come naturally, like putting on their shoes brushing their teeth. No longer would we have the liberty of eating breakfast at 10 am or sitting around in our pajamas all day watching movies or building forts.

The kids were so excited about going back to school, you would have thought last night was Christmas Eve! They were chattering away excitedly as though they were going to wake up with a huge pile pf presents under the tree. They both proclaimed that there was no way they were going to be able to sleep. The 8-year-old came out 15 minutes after going to bed to announce that she said she couldn't sleep because "all the school things kept going through her head". I went in to wake up the 6-year-old and much to my surprise he was already awake and greeted me with "FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL" as he hopped out of bed and started to get dressed. Well that was easy. Usually I have to employ the jaws of life to pry his limp, sleeping body out of bed.

I have mixed emotions about school starting again.

On one hand, I am ready! The kids were starting to get restless over the last few weeks. Usual stuff - arguing more than normal, moping around the house saying they were bored. I could tell that they were yearning to get back into the swing of things. I'm one of the lucky ones whose children actually enjoy school (for now anyway). They love to read and, as the 6 yo's teacher told me numerous times last year, have a thirst for knowledge. I'm also looking forward to actually being able to get some things done around the house! Between having the 6 month old and 6 and 8 year-old kids at home full time, and having hubby's 9-year-old twins with us for their first 6 weeks of summer vacation, I didn't have time for much of anything.

This was the first summer that I wasn't working full time. After having a baby in February and being laid off from my job in March, hubby and I decided that we would see how long we could make it work with me staying home. I, we, are firm believers that if one person is home and the other works full time, it is the primary responsibility of the person at home to keep on top of laundry, cleaning etc. Well, try keeping up on all of that with anywhere from 3 - 5 kids in the house at any given time who need feeding, changing, burping, entertaining, feeding again.

On the other hand, I am going to miss them. I'm going to miss the time I had with them that I felt I missed out on all those years of working full time during their summers. I'm going to miss hearing their giggles and listening to their intricate spy games as they tried to sneak around the house, avoiding the bad guys and keeping their baby sister and I safe. I'm going to miss those lazy days that we will now only have on the weekends. I'm going to miss the excuse I used to have for not getting the laundry, dishes and housework done!

So I suppose I had better get up and pull out the vacuum...but first I am going to bask in the glorious quiet, drink my coffee and watch the Today Show in peace, and revel in the fact that we totally rocked the morning of the first day back to school!

An Apology To My Babies

To My Babies,

I'm sorry for not playing Legos, Barbies, Pirates or babies with you because I had to do the laundry.
I'm sorry for not letting you push the shopping cart because you accidentally ran into the back of my legs.
I'm sorry for not going swimming with you because I didn't want to get my hair wet.
I'm sorry for not letting you have two pieces of gum because it is a waste of money.
I'm sorry for feeding you fast food because I was just to damn tired to cook.
I'm sorry for letting you down by not taking you to the Children's Museum because you made me mad.
I'm sorry for pushing you aside for your baby sister.
I'm sorry for not watching you during Tae Kwon Do class because I was playing on my phone.
I'm sorry for not letting you have dessert because you were talking and took too long to eat dinner.
I'm sorry for barking at you to get out of my face because I didn't know you were trying to give me a kiss.
I'm sorry for every way in which I've let you down, made you sad, embarrassed you, made you cry or hurt your feelings.
I promise to do better.
I promise to try to do better.
I love you.


I Refuse To Give Into The Joneses

Since when did life become such a competition? I mean, we've all heard of 'keeping up with the Joneses', that old idiom referring to trying to outdo one's neighbor with material goods and social status. But in this new world of instant connections through social networking such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, are we now trying to outdo each other in all aspects of life?

Take, for example, when your little Timmy comes home at the end of the year with an Honor Roll certificate for the final quarter. You take a picture of him holding up his certificate, grinning from ear to ear, and immediately post it on all of the above social networking sites. Almost instantly you have 23 "likes" and a couple of congratulatory comments. Then you see it. The comment from the douche canoe who has a child the same age as Timmy. "Oh, that's nice. Little Suzi made Honor Roll all four quarters this year. So proud! <3" Really? What a fucktard. Can't little Timmy just have the spotlight for a moment without it becoming a competition. This isn't about you or your genius. Post your own damn picture on your own damn Facebook page and brag about Suzi there!

Or what about the new parent who oooh's and ahhh's over abso-frickin-lutely everything about having a baby in the house? "The baby hasn't slept in three days, I'm covered in spit up from head to toe, my nipples are cracked and bleeding like a stuck pig, when she latches on it feels like fire, I haven't showered in a week and I have hemorrhoids the size of golf balls. I wouldn't change a thing. I am so truly blessed!" Screw that. You are such a LIAR! There is no way on God's green earth that you are actually enjoying any of those things! You can't tell me that you wouldn't sell your precious new bundle of joy (or at very least your firstborn) for a hot shower, 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep, your boobs not to feel like they're clamped down in a hot vice grip and to be able to poop without pain.

We are all blessed by these little angels we bring into this world. That intoxicating baby smell, the way they fall asleep on your chest and snuggle there for hours, the little gassy smiles and giggles, those tiny hands and feet that you could stare at for hours on end...the list goes on and on. But there are also a lot of things about newborns that no one would wish for. The sleepless nights, that disgusting oil slick, sticky poo, the crying for hours on end (even if your baby isn't colicy, you are bound to experience this at one time or another), the spit up, the pains of breastfeeding - trying to find the right formula if you're bottle feeding, or waiting for the disgusting umbilical stump to fall off.

Sometimes we are looking for feedback from other mothers who have been through a similar situation. Maybe we wonder when the postpartum blues will start to subside, when the weight will finally come off, if we are the only ones who dream of a day when we can have a date night, the way it used to be, with our significant other. Maybe we want to know if our middle-schooler will ever outgrow the awkward, introvert stage he is going through, or if our 13 month old will ever like anything other than yogurt, or if our high-schooler will ever admit she has parents, let alone want to be seen with us. What we don't want is someone responding by saying; "I lost the baby weight in 3 months and now I'm back to my high-school weight" or "My son is in 11th grade and still hugs me and kisses me in front of all his friends!"

Why do people seem to be so anxious to show that their lives are so much better than everyone else's? Anyone with half a brain knows that no one has a perfect life. Our kids act like little a-holes. We fight with our partners. The baby won't sleep. We forget to pay the electric bill. We can't lose those last few stubborn pounds. Why are some people so quick to rub your face in it like a dog who just shit in the house?

God forbid you stop in front of the boxed baking mixes and get caught by the mother with a cart full of organic everything. That happened to me yesterday. This lady gave me the stink eye because I had 3 of my 5 kids with me and I was looking at brownie mixes. She just looked at me and looked at her cart with the corners of her lips curled up slightly in a smug grin as she fed her kid another piece of organic banana that she obviously hadn't paid for! (OK, so maybe she could have brought it with her.) That look made me feel about 'thisbig' and made me want to run after her saying - look, I have organic products in my cart and I'm not buying the brownies! - while my kid run behind me wailing - What about the brooooowniiiiiieeeeesssss?!

What ever happened to banding together as women and mothers and being supportive of each other? So what if I chose to breastfeed and you chose to formula feed? So what if your baby rolls over 2 months earlier than mine? So what if your kid made honor roll four times and mine once? So what if I buy a box of brownie mix?

I decided in the grocery store yesterday that I am not going to allow others to male me feel bad about MY choices. I will not allow myself to feel envious of the mother who has the seemingly perfect life. Or the one who claims to love everything awful that goes along with having kids. I will not buy a bigger light-up Santa for the yard to out-do my neighbor.

I refuse to give in to the Jonses, literally or figuratively, in person or online.

Are We Encouraging Our Kids To Grow Up Too Fast?

Yesterday morning I was watching the Today Show and they had a segment on companies who are designing high heeled and wedge shoes for little girls. It got me thinking; "Are we encouraging our children to grow up too fast?" As mentioned on the show, most little girls at one time or another put their mother's heels on and teeter around playing dress-up. It isn't uncommon for girls to pretend to be grown ups, playing mommy and baby, wearing someones dresses, shoes and jewelry, dreaming of what it is like to be an adult. It seems that nowadays, we are letting our innocent young children become "grown ups", or at least look like them, far too early.

Take the recent controversy over Victoria's Secret's 'Bright Young Things' line of lingerie that had many parents up in arms. The company claims it was targeting college-age spring breakers with its neon colors and sparkly, girly embellishments. This may be, but apparently the company's "Chief Financial Officer Stuart Burgdoerfer made it clear when asked about Victoria’s Secret’s PINK lingerie line that they are trying to reach a teen audience. “When somebody’s 15 or 16 years old, what do they want to be? They want to be older, and they want to be cool like the girl in college, and that’s part of the magic of what we do at PINK,” said Burgdoerfer." When did we go from dressing up in our mother's clothes to allowing our children to wear thongs with "Call Me" on the crotch?

Between us, hubby and I have 4 girls - 5-month-old, 8-year-old and and 9-year-old twins. The 8 and 9-year-old girls play all the typical girly games; Barbies, baby dolls, dress-up. They put lip gloss and scented body lotion on. They love getting their nails done and are always trying to do something with their hair. I try not to encourage the older style clothes, but between TV shows with kids dressed like 20-somethings, the other kids at school, and the limited clothing inventory at the popular stores, it is hard to get them to agree to the knee-length shorts and regular t-shirts over the skimpy spaghetti straps and cootchie cutters that everyone else seems to be wearing.

Now, I am no prude by any stretch of the imagination. I don't expect them to walk around in floor length, burlap sacks. We do live in Florida and bikinis and flip flops are an acceptable dress code at most places. I wonder though, if there is too much emphasis on being pretty, older and stylish and not enough on just being a kid. What happened to playing outside all day and only watching cartoons on a Saturday morning? Times are different than when we were children. I have a rule in our house that the TV is not to be on all day and has parental controls set so that they cannot watch anything over PG. They can play on the computer for 30 minutes each day on websites with games that are approved my me first. 

Even with all the limitations I have set, there are still kids channels that have shows like Victorious, iCarly and Sam and Cat, that feature tweens dressed as though they were in college, talking about boys, kissing and are usually involved in various other activities that may or may not be appropriate for young audiences. There is typically the popular main character and his/her sidekick, who is oftentimes not portrayed as the brightest crayon in the box. After sitting through a 30-minute episode of one of these kids shows I literally feel like I lost more brain cells than I did throughout my entire college career. All the drugs and booze in Tallahassee ain't got nothin' on the mind numbing qualities of what kids these days find entertaining.

Whatever happened to The Flintstones, Tom and Jerry and The Looney Tunes? They have been replaced by kids trying to look older than they are talking about things that are too mature for their age. It isn't just the shows themselves. What about the commercials advertising hair styling products, fake tanning companies and make up? Why are those playing on children's television stations? Why does ABC Family advertise shows like Pretty Little Liars and Twisted when 6, 8 and 9-year-old kids are watching a PG rated movie on a Friday night? Half the time the hubby and I feel like we have to mute the TV. 

So what do we do? Encase our babies in bubble wrap and not let them out of their rooms until they are 35? Of course not. Let's just take time to help them be kids. Be silly, make them play outside, build forts and run through the sprinklers. Shut off the TV's, iPads, tablets, video game consoles and smartphones. Read books, plant flowers, go for walks. Allow them run through mud puddles, slide on their knees in the grass and drip ice-cream down their faces in the hot sun. Teach them that life is about more than who has the coolest clothes, prettiest hair and highest heels.

Who Is Actually Doing The Parenting?

So around Christmastime, we were at my parent's house for dinner. My mother went around the table and asked us all what our goals were for the new year. I thought about this for a few minutes and responded that I was going to work on being more patient and less quick to snap at the kids over the small stuff. It isn't working.

 I took the 5 month old, 6 year old and 8 year old to Target yesterday. Big mistake considering the 5 month old was awake before 5 am and I obviously hadn't had enough coffee yet.  However, I had told them the day before that I would take them so they could spend some of their piggy bank money.  So, off we went. I had already warned them that I was exhausted and not in a good mood so to please try their hardest to be on their best behavior. No arguing with each other, no asking me to buy things, no annoying me.

When we arrived we headed to the back of the store to start looking at toys.  After about 5 minutes of 8-year-old looking at the Our Generation dolls (think inexpensive American Girl dolls), the following conversation ensued;

8-year-old: "I have to go to the bathroom."
6-year-old (as he waddles out from the next isle over): "So do I.  I have to go number 2!"
Me: "OK, OK, I don't need to know what you have to do. Let's go. We have to go ALL THE WAY back to the front of the store!"
8-year-old: "Sorry Mommy."
Me: "It is OK, you don't have to be sorry. It isn't a problem."

Navigating through the store is a whole other issue. 8-year-old is pushing 5 month old in stroller. 6-year-old is pushing shopping cart. You know those bumper cars they have at county fairs where you can run into the other cars and smash the crap out of each other? That's pretty much what it was like.

CRASH!!! "Watch were you're walking, not what other people are doing!"  SMASH!!! "Stop looking at the clothes, look where you're going!"  WHACK!!! "SERIOUSLY! Pay attention to what YOU ARE DOING!"

I swing myself around and give them my icy "I'm going to lose my marbles" look. They just look back at me all wide eyed and cute.

Me: "It is OK, no problem, just watch where you're walking."

We make it to the bathroom and they each go in their own stalls. (I still don't let 6-year-old boy go in men's bathroom alone.) About 45 seconds later, 6-year-old comes back out and is washing his hands.

Me: "That was quick."
6-year-old: "Yeah, I didn't have to go number 2 after all."

So we're off to the toy section again. 8-year-old resumes her search for the perfect doll as 6-year-old and I stand there, patiently watching.

After a couple of minutes, the 6-year-old (holding himself and bouncing slightly), says: "OK, now I really do have to go number 2!"
Me: "Cheese and rice...You've got to be kidding me!"
6-year-old: "No, I really have to go!!"
Me: "But we were JUST there!"
6-year-old: "I know, but I didn't have to go then but I do now."
Me: "You are unbelievable. Come on then. Off we go all the way back up to the front of the store. Again."

Now I'm pissed. I mean, he knew he had to go the first time we went, but didn't. We're never going to get out of Target. The 5 month old is awake and will no doubt start "complaining" at any minute. After dodging, and narrowly missing, various other shoppers with our game of bumper cars, we make it back to the ladies restroom and all shuffle in. 6-year-old does his business and everyone is happy. We're off to the toy section again.

8-year-old decides on her doll and 6-year-old starts looking at boy toys.

8-year-old: "I have to go potty again."
Me: "What the heck are you talking about? We were just there. TWICE! and now you have to go again? You are unbelievable!!"
8-year-old: "I can hold it. I'm fine. I'll wait."
Me: "Are you sure?"
8-year-old: "Yes. I'm sure."

Great . Crisis averted. 6-year-old can pick out his toy and we can stop at the restroom on our way out.

1 minute goes by...

8-year-old (while crouching on the floor and bouncing up and down): "I REALLY have to go now, Mommy. I can't hold it any longer!"
Me: "Oh. My. God. Let's go. I can't even believe this! I'm DONE! Do you understand me? DONE! This is the last time I'm taking you. If you have to go again, you can go in your pants!!!! Or maybe you want one of the baby's diapers??"

As I snarl that last threat I catch another mom looking at me in horror. I'm sure she was one of those "perfect" moms who never yells, curses or freaks out at her kids for needing to go to the bathroom. I just look at her and smile sweetly as I turn back to look where I'm going. That's when I see it what no parent ever wants to see. I see the look of shame and embarrassment pasted all over my 8-year-old's face and now I'm the one that's horrified. I mean, really, what is the big deal? So she needs to go to the bathroom...again...so what? So what if we never, ever make it out of Target. It isn't like we have anywhere better to be.

Shit, what do I do? Quick, make it into a joke...

Me: "Maybe your brother should wear one! Or what about me? Should I put one on? We could all wear them...over our clothes...like superhero underwear!"

With that, we all start laughing.

As we made our way back to the ladies room, I really got thinking, who is actually doing the parenting? We are supposed to be teaching our young how to react to certain situations, how to handle issues that may arise, how to share with other kids, how to be someone's friend and not be mean, how not to say anything if they don't have anything nice to say. Sometimes, though, I find myself reacting in the exact same way I would tell them not too. It takes me stepping back for a moment and looking at these beautiful, innocent creatures, to realize that life is really too short to stress out over all this petty shit.

Need to go to the bathroom? No big deal, let's go. Knock over your drink at dinner? Who cares - that's why we have paper towels. Drop your snack on the floor because you weren't sitting up to the table? So what - we have two 4-legged vacuum cleaners. The way I look at it, they are only going top be kids for a short while. Next thing I know, I'll be packing them up and sending them off to middle school, high school, college. If 75 trips to the Target bathroom is the worst thing I have to deal with, I've got it pretty good.

I believe if we all sat back, took a deep breath and observed our little minions more often, we could learn a thing or two from them.

A World Full Of Rainbows and Unicorns Who Poop Glitter

Three days from now the hubby and I will be celebrating our 1 year wedding anniversary. (It seems like A LOT longer. And I mean that in the best possible way!)  I use the term "celebrating" loosely as we have a 5 month old at home so a night out on the town or romantic weekend getaway isn't exactly in the cards for us. We met almost 4 years ago at work and have been through a lot of shit in that time.

I broke my foot. (I was on a beer run. Slipped off the curb. Totally sober. Beer survived.)  I lost my grandfather. Hubby went from loving his job to hating it. Hubby had knee surgery. I had surgery. I went from loving my job to strongly disliking it. Hubby had major back surgery. We found out I was pregnant. (During the throws of  hubby's withdrawals from dilaudid, which he was on because of his back. Think shakes, cold sweats, nausea, dehydration and crazy emotional roller coaster. Like "world is coming to an end, we're going to lose our jobs and be homeless on the streets with a newborn" type of roller coaster. That dilaudid shit is no joke. If anyone ever tells you to take it, JUST. SAY. NO!) Hubby's twins were moved across the state. We both got laid off from our jobs in March. (His crazy dilaudid-induced fears turned out not to be too far from reality.) Hubby lost his grandfather. There were some others, but I feel they are too personal to share at this time.

"So what?" you say. I know that no one has it perfect all the time, and the truth is, we have a lot of good in our lives too. We have 5 wonderful, frustrating, enjoyable, mischievous, intelligent children. Hubby was able to find a job that is allowing me to stay home for a while with the 5 month old. We have incredibly supportive families. We laugh. A lot. We have fun together, whether we're sitting around the house, running errands or out for the day with the kids. I happen to think hubby is extremely sexy and knows how to work with his hands. (Don't be perverted. I'm referring to his ability to build/fix anything from the engine in his truck, to planter boxes, to the sprinklers to kid's toys.)

We also frustrate the hell out of each other. Hubby snores. I leave the kitchen cabinets open. Hubby whistles, which is both endearing and annoying. (I used to hear him whistling his way around our old place of employment and it would make me smile. But it quickly loses its charm being stuck in a car for 5 hours, whistling all the way.) I forget to replenish the toilet paper. Hubby wants to talk about any issues that may arise as soon as they do. I want time to mull them over, figure out what I'm feeling and whether or not it is worth the argument/discussion. Hubby forgets to take out the trash. I forget to restock the diaper bag.

That said, I wouldn't change a single thing about him. Not one. Not even the whistling. There are a lot of people who "brag" about how amazing their spouse is. How in love with each other they are. How they are so perfect, and happy and giddy and live in a world full of rainbows and unicorns who poop glitter. I'm calling bullshit. There isn't a single person on earth who has a perfect life, perfect spouse, perfect kid(s). People die, lose jobs, break bones, have surgeries. Spouses forget to do laundry, forget an important date, say things that are hurtful. Kids argue, throw fits, lie and make us crazy. It isn't about the specific things that happen in our lives that define us, but rather how we handle them and what we learn from them.

Sometimes the differences between two people eventually pull them apart. There are certain basic fundamentals that have to be in place. You have to have similar morals, you have to have similar goals in life. You can't have one person who is an extremely motivated, hard worker and one who is happy to coast through life taking what they can from other people. If one person feels they are being held back they will eventually come to resent the other. Resent is not a healthy building block for an relationship. There has to be trust. Sometimes trust is broken. Depending on the severity and the situation, sometimes that trust can be earned back, sometimes not. A successful partnership takes both parties being completely and equally committed.

When I look back on the past 4 years and all the ups and downs, the one thing that stands out the most is the unconditional love and support we have given each other through all of it. We've been discouraged and disheartened, yet found a way to encourage and inspire each other.  We've been heartbroken and pessimistic, yet found a way to bring back joy and enthusiasm. We have been distrustful and fearful, yet found a way to believe and be confident.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that life isn't always easy. After almost 4 years together and 1 year of marriage, I can honestly say, without a shadow of doubt anywhere in my mind, there is no one I would rather go through this journey with. Unless he's snoring...then it is questionable...


It Really Is OK For Your Kids To Be Disappointed

So over the weekend, two Texas high schools played each other in a football game and, let's just say - it was a blowout.  Aledo High School beat Fort Worth Western Hills 91-0. Some are saying that a beating of that magnitude constitutes as bullying, and one parent of a player on the losing team has actually filed a formal complaint. With all the horror stories in the news lately of the bullying that is going on and the effects it is having on our children, it is somewhat understandable that parents are more sensitized to it. However, does that mean a winning team should purposefully dumb down their game to lessen the spread? Personally, I think the answer to that is no.

My son just started on a local U8 soccer team. They have had 4 matches - 2 the first week and 1 each on the second and third weeks. The first two matches were terrible. They lost the first one 12-0 and they lost the second one 7-0, I believe. As a parent of a child on a losing team, let me just tell you, that sucks. There is nothing worse than seeing your child bust his ass only to lose. The teams they played in the first 2 games were obviously better players and had an unfair advantage.

There are 6 kids on my son's team - 2 girls, 4 boys. Each match is 4 to a side, no goalie. During the first practice, they split all the kids up into random teams and all the coaches walked around evaluating the players. They took this information and supposedly created the teams by mixing the experienced players with the not-so-experienced players. It was obvious during those first 2 matches that my son had been placed on a team of basically inexperienced players. He is also lacking experience as his only other involvement with soccer was during a week long camp two summers ago.

Each team is sponsored by a local business. One thing that was glaringly obvious to me right from the get-go is that these so called sponsors obviously have a certain amount of influence when it comes to picking teams. The whole "I'll be a sponsor if my son Bobby and his friends Tommy and Billy can be on our team". If you watch the interaction between some of the kids on these teams, they are obviously buddies and have been playing soccer for a while. Is this fair? Not at all. But life isn't fair. There is always going to be someone who has a leg up on you because of money, or knowing the right people.

Do I think that the team that beat us 12-0 in the first match we ever played should have purposefully lessened their game so that the final score wasn't so high? No. Do I think that team was bullying us by beating the snot out of us? Sure don't. They were better, they played better, they deserved to win. Whether it is because they had more experience than our kids or not, they played the better game.

During week two's match, our kids improved slightly, but were still not on the same level as the team we played. There were a couple of kids who looked like they had been playing since birth. Also, they had 8 players on their team. Our team only has 6 and 2 of them were out of town. Every 7 minutes, or so, the opposing team switched out every kid, meaning not one of them had a real opportunity to get tired. Our 4 kids had to play the ENTIRE game. They had no one to sub in and out. My son was so exhausted after the match that he barely spoke for 2 hours. Is that fair? No, I don't believe it is. However, it is also not something we could control. We can't tell the other team not to sub their players just because we don't have that option.

Fast forward to week three...our kids actually looked like a team. They were finally playing offense and not just relying on defense to stop goals. They were getting in there and actually trying to score goals! Novel concept, I know, but when you have a team of beginners who have been beaten so badly in all the other games, it is understandable that they just want to hover around the goal to stop as many points from being scored as possible. Don't ask me why they don't have goalies this year. I don't understand it, and neither to most of the other parents. But, it is what it is and will be different next year.

I'm afraid that we have become a society so concerned with not letting our kids feel left out or less than any one else, that we are setting them up for major failure later in life. There is always a winner and a loser. In everything. soccer teams, football teams, job interview candidates, etc...etc...etc... Why do we feel the need to coddle our children so much? It isn't just in sport either. Nowadays, teachers are being reprimanded by parents for their children failing.

Um, how about you take some accountability here. Your kid is failing? Maybe you should actually sit with them in the evening and make them read to you. How about you tell them to turn of the TV...X-Box...Play Station...iPad...and tell them to get on with their homework. How about you put yourself second for once and get over the "inconvenience" of your child's education. I'm very sorry it interferes with your time tending to your horses, or hanging out with your friends, or getting your nails or hair done, or whatever else you feel it gets in the way of. Or worse yet, stop doing your kids homework/projects/assignments for them and make them accountable for themselves.

We are so concerned with making sure everyone is on a level playing field in everything, that we are neglecting to teach them fundamentals such as not always winning, being a good sport and not being a sore loser. Could you imagine if, in 1944, the Sooners took it easy on the K-State Wildcats when they beat them 68-0? Or Bobby Bowden telling the Seminoles to ease up on the Wolfpack back in 1995 when they whooped them 77-17? Of course not. That would be like walking into a room full of candidates all vying for the same job you are and asking them to tone down their resume because you don't have quite as much experience as they do.

Come on people. Wake up. No parent wants to see their child fail at anything. It absolutely broke my heart looking at those kids faces week after week, being defeated by the other teams. Did I make a stink and run to the league officials telling them to rearrange the teams or accusing the winning teams of bullying? Of course I didn't. What lesson is that going to teach my son about sportsmanship? Nothing, that's what. All it is going to teach him is that someone should be there to pick up his mess and wipe is butt for him for the rest of his life.

What I did was simple. I allowed him to be disappointed, hurt and upset at their losses. I told him that is was OK not to win, and that the more his team practices, the better they will get. I told him to continue trying his hardest. You know what he said to me? "It's OK, mom. I had fun playing and that's all that matters."

To my son I say, you got it, buddy. As long as you are doing your best and having fun while you do it, that is all you can ask for. It isn't about winning or losing. Sometimes you'll win, sometimes you won't - that goes for everything in life. We need to show our children that it is OK if you don't come in first all the time. Pop that proverbial bubble and stop sheltering them from disappointment. Make them be accountable for their own actions - whether it is how they conduct themselves on or off the field, working hard in school, or anything else they may be doing.

Is Watching Porn Something Boys Just Do?

Some recent Facebook banter between a friend and his friends on a picture that he posted got me thinking about something that gets many people a little hot under the collar. I'm talking about porn. Yep, I said it. Sex has been around as long as people have been around, and I'm pretty sure the early humans had their version of modern day porn. Obviously not on computers, tv's or mobile devices, but I'm sure some of those caves were rocking much the same as many apartments and houses do these days.

The picture was of a full face mask with a small cone shaped object protruding out the front. A friend of his commented that it looked like a butt plug and I asked how he knew hat a butt plug was. The response was something along the lines of "we're boys. We watch a lot of porn. It's just what we do." Was he joking? Maybe, maybe not. But that is a common conception - that boys watch a lot of porn. If that's true, if it is "just how it is", then why do so many of these boys deny and/or hide it, what is the obsession with it and why do most girlfriends/wives/significant others get their panties in a wad just thinking about their men watching porn?

I am not, in any way, shape or form, passing judgement on anyone for their preferences on pornographic material. Like it? Fine. Don't like it? Fine. Unless you are watching things involving children or animals. In that case, judgement is passed and you need help. Seriously. Especially if it is children.

(I should also note that I'm not getting into the psychology behind why people feel they need to watch it and aren't just happy enough with themselves or their partner. I'm also not going into the whole porn addiction thing. In order to become addicted to something, one has to try it, in which case it probably started out as one of the following scenarios.)

From what I can gather, there are a few basic types of porn watchers. We have the single guy or gal who enjoys it, possibly due to the lack of real life partner. We have the couple who watches it together. And we have the couple in which one, or both, watch it, but do so in secret, lying to their significant other about it.

The first two scenarios, for the most part, are not an issue. If you're single and don't have anyone else's feelings to consider, or if you're in a relationship and it is something you enjoy with each other, so be it.

The third scenario, however, is a MAJOR problem. So why do people feel they need to lie about watching porn? Obviously it isn't socially acceptable, in many circles, to admit that watching other people have sex, especially some of the weird shit in porn movies, is something you like to do. It is private, just as regular vanilla sex (thank you, Christian Gray) in your bedroom with your spouse is. You don't broadcast that, so why broadcast that you watch porn. The real question is, why would you hide it from your significant other? The one person you should be able to trust with anything and everything?

If you feel a need to hide it then you probably know they would have a problem with it. Why continue doing something you know would ultimately cause a problem between you? What is it about porn that will allow people to risk their entire relationship for a few minutes of imaginary pleasure?

We all know that a relationship based on, or swimming in, lies is not a healthy one. It really doesn't matter what the lie is - carrying on a conversation with someone that you wouldn't want your spouse to know about, secretly smoking cigarettes or watching porn - a lie is a lie.

Some people consider porn watching to be a form of cheating. I both agree and disagree with that. In
my opinion, it depends on whether or not the other person knows about it. If your wife knows you
watch it and doesn't care, no big problem. If you hide it from your wife, and lie about it when
questioned, then yes, I feel that is a form of cheating. It is much the same as texting or emailing with someone and deleting the evidence. There may not be any physical contact, but you are doing something that you don't want your spouse to know about. That is cheating.

The way I look at it, if someone is ashamed to tell their significant other that they watch porn, it is because they themselves, think they are doing something wrong. They are embarrassed and or ashamed about it, they feel guilty about it. I would imagine it is the same way one would feel if they were were having a physical affair with someone.

I guess my question is, if porn is "no big deal" and it's just a "thing boys do", then why do so many people hide it? And why are their significant others so threatened by it? Isn't it just a guilty pleasure? A distraction? Are they afraid that the people on the computer screen will become more appealing to them?

Wouldn't it be easier to just admit it and have your significant other find a way to deal with and accept it, rather than sneaking down to the basement computer on sick days, or while they're out on a girls night?

Depends on who your significant other is, I suppose. Some people would rather not know - the whole "ignorance is bliss" thing.

What is your opinion? Would you want to know if your spouse was a habitual, or occasional porn watcher? Does it signal something wrong in the relationship, or is it just as innocent as watching football on Sundays...you know, just a thing boys do?

What In The World Are Sassy Stripes Anyway?

With Halloween right around the corner, and 5 kids in the house, ranging in ages from 8 months to 9-year-old twins, costumes have obviously been a topic of conversation. The twins don't actually live with us, we only get them every other weekend (they live too far to have them any more than that). The last time we had them, we took all the kids to the party store to pick out their costumes.

On the way there I explained that we would not be spending $200 on costumes, so they needed to keep the price range within reasonable limits.  We also wouldn't be loading up on optional accessories, so make sure the costume they picked had what they needed. In no way whatsoever did it occur to me that we should have the "nothing too grown-up" a.k.a sexy, talk with them. I mean come on, they are still babies!

When we got there our son picked out his Stealth Ninja costume relatively quickly. He is literally covered in black from head-to-toe. Basically his eyes are the only thing you can see.

Stealth Ninja

Next, our 8-year-old daughter picked out a Venus costume. She thought the dress was very pretty (light blue is one of her favorite colors). Again, very covering, long floor-length dress. Perfect.

Venus

One of the twins picked out a girl pirate as soon as we got there. She had said all along she wanted to be a pirate. The costume she picked was very cute, and age appropriate.  Then her sister picked out a costume called Sassy Stripes. First of all, what are we doing naming costumes for young girls sassy anything? I wasn't convinced, I felt it was borderline - I mean, the skirt was very short - but the hubby felt that because the top wasn't revealing and she would be wearing black leggings, that it would be fine.

Sassy Stripes

Now, after seeing her sister's costume, the first twin decides she doesn't want to be a pirate anymore. She has changed her mind and wants to be a Feisty Fairy. So we tell the Party City employee and she calls the costume to the person in the warehouse so she can go back and try it on. Just as we're about to go back there, hubby tells me he doesn't think he is ok with her new costume choice, and that I need to go back and look at it again - so I do.

Feisty Fairy

Now, keep in mind that the model is wearing fishnet stockings and knee-high boots (totally inappropriate for little girls), but picture it with black leggings (like her sister's costume) and black ballet flats, and the look of the costume is completely changed. Hubby wasn't having it. She had to pick out something different. She settled on a girl version of the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland. I much preferred that costume anyway.

Mad Hatter

Now, if you put the last three costumes side-by-side and imagine them all with black fishnets and knee-high boots, they are ALL inappropriate - or are they? Sure, the skirts are super short, but other than that, none are extremely revealing. Now, the poses that they have the models in - hips thrust out to one side, hand on the hip, slight tilt of the head - and the names, (why is it that we feel the need to name anything to do with young girls feisty or sassy or anything of the like?) and we have what appears to be an age-inappropriate costume. Suddenly we are objectifying young girls and comparing them to skanks on their way to a frat party. (I should note that I was that skank in college - French Maid, sexy Angel - but I was also considered an "adult" at the time.)

Now, do I think any 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 year old should be wearing fishnet stockings and knee-high boots with one of those short skirts? Absolutely not. Would I prefer if these children were making homemade costumes like I did as a kid? Sure I would. I do think part of the fun of Halloween has been lost. One of the best parts was making your costume. An old sheet if you wanted to be a ghost, black pants and top and your mom's black eyeliner as face paint if you wanted to be a cat, your denim skirt, an old ripped t-shirt and some blue eye shadow and teased hair if you wanted to be a punk rocker. Now we have to spend an average of $20-$25 per costume, per child, for things like Sassy Stripes. What the hell is is supposed to be, anyway?

I know why the one twin picked out that costume. It resembles a zebra because of the stripes and she is obsessed with horses. But it doesn't look anything like a zebra, or a horse. That's like carrying an ostrich skin bag and saying you're dressed up as an ostrich. She thinks it is "cute". But why? I thought the point of Halloween was to dress up as something or someone. Maybe a person you admire, like Abraham Lincoln, or a character you love, such as one of the Ninja Turtles. Since when does wearing zebra striped leg warmers and a sleeveless hoodie actually count as dressing up as something?

Who comes up with these costume ideas? Oh, let's throw some leg warmers and a short skirt in a bag and call it Sassy Stripes. It's like the Naughty Leopard costume that Walmart pulled off its shelves after receiving complaints about its "suggestive" name. However, if you actually look at the costume, there is nothing suggestive about it at all. It is a knee length dress with a cat ear headband. Again, like Sassy Stripes, it doesn't look like a leopard, at all, but it also isn't sexy, or revealing, or anything like that.

Maybe the real question here is not why companies create costumes like this, but why do we, the general public, turn something that is ultimately innocent into something sexual? Why do people get their panties in a wad when a celebrity, like Jessica Simpson, posts a picture of their baby in a bikini? Seriously...what the hell is wrong with someone that they would get something sexual out of a picture of a baby? Last I checked, people haven't worn full body covering bathing suits since around the 1920's. 

Why can't we adjust our way of thinking? Why can't we let innocent children be just that...innocent children? 

I'll tell you why. Because there are those out there who DO objectify our babies and children. There are those sickos who will view children in Halloween costumes and babies in bikinis as something more than they are. It is up to us to protect our young. Buy them that Sassy Stripes costume, but don't pair it with fishnets and stilettos. Teach them the difference between appropriate and non-appropriate behavior. Go trick-or-treating with them. Know who your children are with - their friends, their friends parents. Know where they are going, how to get in touch with them and be sure that they can get in touch with you.

At the end of the day, we can't control the other people out there. We can, to a certain extent, control the situations that our children are in, the people they are around, what they go out of the house wearing etc, at least while they are still young. Controlling that now also sets the building blocks for a strong foundation of being able to make wise decisions when they are out there on their own. 

A Few Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me BEFORE I Had My First Kid

There are some things everyone knows to expect when they find out they're pregnant; nausea, heartburn, swollen feet and ankles. There are a few things, however, that I certainly didn't expect and would have liked a little warning about. So, this post is to give a little heads-up to anyone getting ready to have their first child, and what to expect in the first few days to months post delivery.

First, let's talk about boobs. More specifically, how freakin' big they are going to get! Don't get me wrong, I figured they would get a little bigger while I was pregnant, but I'm talking about the ones that would appear overnight about 3 days post delivery. I remember going in to the bathroom one morning, looking in the mirror and saying, out loud, "holy shit, look at those things!" Move over Pamela Anderson. I felt like a porn star, seriously. I was part in awe, part afraid. How could they possibly grow that much in once night?

My advice: expect it, and roll with it. Enjoy your new girls. Don't be caught off guard like I was. Take a picture. Really, I almost got the camera and took some. Trust me, they will NEVER look like that again. Ever.

In keeping with the porn star theme, have you ever wondered what those poor girls must feel like sometimes after shooting a few takes? If I could imagine, it would feel similar to how I felt after giving birth for the first time. I don't know what I was thinking it would feel like down there after pushing the equivalent of a bowling ball through one of those little cartoon mouse doors, but I...well, I guess I didn't think about it at all. All I was concerned with was making sure my pain was under control during the labor and delivery, not after. My doctor wrote me a prescription for percocet, which I didn't fill because I thought for sure it would get to my baby through the milk my gigantic tits were producing. (This was 8 1/2 years ago. After the birth of my 3rd, 7 1/2 months ago, they didn't offer me anything other than Motrin. Not sure if this is because they figured after 3 it didn't hurt anymore, or if they don't hand that out willy-nilly anymore.) I did break down and buy one of those little doughnut pillows to help with car rides. I felt like my vagina had exploded off my body, never to be seen again, for a good two weeks. Thankfully this got better with my second child.

My advice: keep on top of the Motrin. Don't let the pain get ahead of you and take comfort in knowing that it is temporary. If you catch yourself in a moment of weakness, questioning why you ever signed up for this, hold that little baby close, breath in his/her intoxicating scent and it will all disappear...at least until you get up to move again.



Finally, the hormones. (Know how you make a hormone? Don't pay her. Badum-pschhhh.) We have all heard of the baby blues and we all know that our hormones are going to be out whack both during and after pregnancy. What I didn't realize is that they would help contribute to me becoming a stark raving, lunatic. Add that to the sleep deprivation, and I was seriously out of my mind.  Take the day I was in my daughter's room changing her (we lived in an apartment) and heard the upstairs neighbors bumping uglies. I actually got the broom and banged on the ceiling so that my precious, innocent little angel wouldn't be subjected to listening to it. Or the time I called the front office because it sounded as though the same neighbors were throwing weights around their apartment and kept waking me and the baby up. I left some garbled, incoherent message, sounding much the same as a rabid dog would sound (if they could talk), throwing around some inane empty threats. Oh, and then there was the time I made my ex husband put bars up on our second born's windows because I was convinced someone was going to break in and steal him. (Yes, really. Yes, I know.)

My advice: some women get it bad, others claim they don't get it at all. Wherever you fall within that spectrum, know that it is normal. Eventually everything will level out again. (If you feel you are not coping well on your own, please, please speak to your doctor. There is absolutely no shame in asking for help.)

In all honesty, I'm not sure that it would have helped even if someone could have told me I was going to go through all of the above things. I probably wouldn't have believed them if they did. I would have smiled and nodded, but the full extent would not have been comprehensible. Like when everyone tells you how having a baby is going to change your life. You know it will, but you have no way of knowing exactly how much until you are actually going through it. Like how spontaneous sex on the couch (or in the kitchen or in the shower or in bed) will be few and far between. Or last minute weekend excursions now take 3 days of planning and an entire minivan full of baby supplies.

In the end, all the advice, warnings and stories that you may hear from others will never fully prepare you for what is coming. What is coming, exactly? A whole new world of ups and downs, giggles and cries, but most of all, the greatest gift that has ever been given to you; the unconditional love from the sweetest creature(s) you will ever meet.

Facebook - Bullies Everywhere

So a Facebook "friend" of mine (who shall remain anonymous - unless you happen to be friends with this person as well, and then you'll know immediately who I am referring to) posted a status update recently that really got me thinking. The basic gist of it was; does anyone else find Facebook depressing? This question and the conversation that took place between us afterwards, really got me pondering about the old FB, what is was, what it is and the varying effects it has on different people.

Back towards the end of 2007, my husband and I were in the process of separating. We had two young children, ages 1 and 2. It was a rough time for all involved. Even though I was the instigator, the one who said those four dreaded words - I want a divorce - it didn't mean it was an easy time for me. When I got married I thought it was forever. I was in love and wanted to spend the rest of my life with that person. Needless to say, it didn't end up that way (and that's a whole different post, for another time). Anyway, one of my oldest friends asked if I was on Facebook. I had never even heard of Facebook. I had only just barely discovered the world of MySpace for goodness sake. She told me that everyone we went to school with was on there and that I should sign up too.

So I did. Suddenly, I was reconnected with friends that I went to boarding school with as a child in London and Scotland, as well as friends from high school, and a couple of childhood friends from when I lived in Spain from age 8 - 11. It was amazing! I could see what everyone looked like, where they were living, how many children they had, what they were doing with their lives. It was like an online reunion. So I started sharing pictures of my children, taking the fun little quizzes that everyone did back then - What type of Barbie are you? What type of drink are you? What's your stripper name...it was silly, but it was fun! It brought me some little bit of joy in a time of my life that was otherwise bleak, to say the least.

Fast forward 6 or so years...Facebook (FB) is still used for keeping in touch with friends and families, sharing pictures of our kids, pets, dogs etc, but it has exploded into much more than that. People use FB as a forum to get messages to others ranging from groups dedicated to ending violence against women and children and Americans against GMO's to groups about hating dolphins and claiming that physics doesn't exist, it's all gnomes! (Seriously.)

Now, I, personally, think that FB can be, and is, a great tool...if used appropriately. I've known married couples who have deleted their respective accounts due to questions of infidelity and jealousy. I've known friendships to end over differing political opinions. I've witnessed mothers being berating each other because they chose to breast-feed, not breast-feed, co-sleep, not co-sleep, etc, etc. I think half the problem is a little something I like to call computer balls. People are suddenly very brave when a keyboard and computer separates them from the person they are "talking to" and they are able to say things they wouldn't ordinarily say in person.

The husband who wouldn't have the balls to approach the good looking woman in the grocery store is able to send messages and pictures privately via FB. (Yes, I realize this can be done through regular emails as well, however, it is not as easy to search for strangers via email as it is on FB.) The woman who wouldn't normally be so vocal towards a mother who doesn't breastfeed is suddenly bashing her for not giving her child the "best start to life". Friends who may engage in some witty banter amongst each other regarding their political beliefs are now making cruel and unnecessary remarks, slamming each other and showing no respect for each other's opinions.

When I was doing a little research for this, I typed in negative effects on Google and negative effects of facebook was the second item on that little drop-down list. One article I found was written by a lady called Stephanie Allen, titled The Psychological Effects of Facebook. She basically hit the nail on the head of what I was thinking. FB as morphed into this fantasy world where people only post the best pictures of themselves and their families (I am just as guilty of this as everyone else), brag about how amazing their dog, child, husband, job, life is, etc...etc... According to the article, "facebook envy" is a living, breathing issue that people really have and they claim "Facebook to leave a negative impact on their lives".

When and why did we allow this to happen? Why can't we just go back to those early days of Facebook where people were (mostly) kind, and enjoyed looking at each other's photos and reading the silly little status updates that we all used to share? When and why did FB become the modern day schoolyard for adolescents and adults, where bullies lurk around every corner and everyone is showing off their shiny new toys and clothes?



FB should not be invoking envy, depression, or any other negative emotion within any of us. Unless you are a member of one of those groups trying to bring attention to something serious, like child abuse or animal cruelty, take a deep breath, step away from the computer, and shake it off. It should be known and accepted that most people don't post the shitty parts of their lives online - unless they are fishing for attention or sympathy. Most of us are posting the pictures of ourselves that we have scrutinized and gone over with a fine-toothed comb to be sure there are no obvious blemishes, wrinkles, dimples, lumps or bumps that will be immediately noticed.

Let's all take a xanax and just chill. Seriously. With as much "real" stress as there is in the world these days - wars, the economy, disease, world hunger etc - I think we all need to put things in perspective. Facebook is Facebook. People will use it not only to advertise their business, blog or cause, but also to brag about their wonderfully perfect lives. Take it for what it is - or at "facebook" value. No one's life is as perfect as they portray it to be.

Does this mean I'm going to stop posting the cute pictures of my baby and children smiling, and laughing and looking like little angels and start posting pictures of them having meltdowns and throwing attitudes? Hell no. Does it mean I'm going to get "real" and post the good, the bad and the ugly photos of myself? Fuck that. But it does mean that I am going to assume that everyone knows I am only posting the good and that no one is going to sit there envying my life. Trust me, people, my life isn't always a world full of rainbows and unicorns who poop glitter.

I do, however, love my life and the people I choose to share it with and I am going to highlight that with what I post.

I'm Still Doing That Mom-Blog Thing

I haven't written anything in a few weeks. I'm not really sure why. I mean, sure I've had a lot going on lately, but when I first started my blog I would ignore everyone and everything to write. Baby is fussing? She'll Be fine for a few more minutes. Dogs need to go out? They can hold it until I've finished this paragraph. Laundry is piling up into mountains and everyone is wearing their bathing suits in lieu of clothes? I'm pretty sure we can make do until I've posted this! But for the past two weeks I've had absolutely no motivation. At all. Hubby even asked me last night if I'm still doing that "mom-blog-thing".

Two weekends ago I came down with the worst cold/flu that I've had in years. I was so sick, I didn't even want to nurse my baby. At one point I think I would rather have poked my eyeballs with sticks. I was so desperately tired, I had hubby feed her a bottle of formula. I felt guilty about that for about this-long.  We were also house-sitting at the time and had to deal with not only our two dogs, but another as well. One of ours went into heat while we were there and the little bitch kept running away when I would take them out to do their business.

When we got back into our own house, the 7 month old decided to cut her two bottom teeth, so I was dealing with an incredibly clingy, fussy baby for about three days. Needless to say, it is a little tough finding time, or energy, to write when you have a 20 lb, wriggling, whining weight hanging off you 24/7.

The 7 and 8-year-old have Tae Kwon Do class on Monday and Wednesday evenings and now the 7-year-old has soccer on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. The thought of having to lug the 7-month-old all over town, get homework done before practice, come home and cook dinner, give baths/showers and put them all to bed by 8:30 exhausts me. The only motivation I seem to be able to muster up is to get myself to bed! How am I supposed to find the energy to blog on top of it all?

I know, I know, cry me a river, right? If those are the worst things I have to deal with then I'm doing pretty OK. It isn't as though I haven't had ideas flowing through my head. I have multiple ideas every day. Sometimes it's a little annoying. All these things streaming through my head and no motivation to do anything with them.

Anyhow, I guess the point is that I have no good excuses. I just didn't wanna. Kind of like when my kids don't want to go to bed, or eat their veggies, or brush their teeth. There's no real reason why. They just don't want to.

I've come to realize that sometimes it is OK not to want to do something. It is OK to be lazy. It is OK to temporarily lose motivation. Eventually something or someone will light that fire again and you'll get up off your arse and do whatever it is you've been putting off. Now, I wouldn't advise putting off brushing your teeth or showering, at least not for too long, but maybe every now and then we should allow our kids those five extra minutes before bed, or let them skip the veggies.

At the end of the day we all have things we are supposed to do but don't want to, and in today's time of over scheduling and constant running, I think we should all allow ourselves a break every now and then.

What In The Sam-and-Cat Hill Are We Doing To Our Kids?

I briefly touched on this in a previous post, but now I am mentioning it again. Over the weekend, I was watching TV with the 7 and 8-year-olds. While flipping through the channels we came to Sam & Cat, a popular show on Nickelodeon. Apparently the show is geared towards teens, however, it airs at all times, when non-teens are watching. 

Sam & Cat

At the insistence of the children, I stopped at that channel and proceeded to play Candy Crush on my iPad. I don't know when it happened, or how it happened, but the next thing I know, I am fully engrossed in this show. It was like a bad wreck that you pass on the interstate - you don't want to look but ya just can't help it. I was shocked, dumbfounded by what I was seeing and to be perfectly honest, it really started to piss me off.

The main characters, Sam & Cat, are described on the show's website as the following; "Sam's loud, independent, and tough as nails, while Cat is sweet as pie and super flighty." Super flighty? More like super stupid! I understand the concept behind highlighting the unlikely match between two opposites, but did that mean they had to make Cat seem as though she had the mental intelligence of someone who is 3 years old?

I actually found it hard to watch. I was embarrassed for this girl who plays Cat. I mean, how does someone actually agree to play that role? I can just picture the interview/casting call now;

OK, we are looking for someone to play the most dizty, flighty, and unintelligent role you have ever seen....no, no, lets try that again, only this time, act MORE stupid...come on now, you can do better than that...really look lost...AHA! Perfect! You are the most dumb-acting person we've had so far. You got the part!

The worst part about it was that my kids were watching it like it was nothing. I kept waiting, praying  for one of them to comment on it. Ask me why that girl is acting like that. But nothing. They just sat there, giggled at her "flighty" comments. I couldn't take it anymore. I had to say something.

Me: "Wow, this show is terrible! Why is that girl acting like that? You don't actually think this is funny do you?"
8 yo: "Yeah, I think she's really funny."
Me: "You can't be serious! Why do they maker her so...stupid?"
7 yo: "She isn't 'the s-word', she's just funny."
Me: "No, she isn't funny. They have her acting like the biggest airhead. Exactly what is funny about playing the part of a teen-girl who has the mental capacity of a 3-year-old? What are they teaching you kids? That it is OK to act ditzy and not use your brains?"
8 yo (with an eye-roll): "It is just a show mom. It isn't real."

That last comment made me feel a little better. At least she knows it isn't real, that it is just a show and that they are not "real" people. I couldn't help but wonder, though, what in the Sam & Cat Hill are we doing to our kids?

Why can't there be more shows on real, historical characters that young girls, and boys, can look up to and be inspired by? What about a modern take on Amelia Earhart? A woman who had a dream, and wasn't afraid to chase after it? Or Helen Keller, a woman who overcame many obstacles and beat all the odds to become a successful author, political activist and lecturer.

Amelia Earhart

Helen Keller

Even the American Girl line of dolls have historical characters that mix "adventure with actual events". Problem there is that not many can afford to buy the American Girl dolls. At over $100 for the doll and book, without any accessories, I know I can't afford to buy my three girls all the different characters.

Am I the only one who feels this way? Am I just getting old? I don't think so. I am concerned about the garbage that we are exposing our kids to. Garbage in, garbage out, right? 

Maybe it is it just up to the parents to make sure their kids know the difference between fantasy and reality. There's a novel concept. To do that, however, we parents need to be present and hands-on in our children's lives. I know how easy it is to get wrapped up in the daily bullshit - work, bills, housework, grocery shopping, laundry etc. I know that sometimes, by the time my kids are done with their homework, making them sit down and do their 20 minutes of reading is the last thing I want to do. I would rather curl up in the fetal position on the couch and nap while they watch that mindless crap. But then I remember, if I don't help guide them, who will?

I will carry on telling my children that they can do anything they want with their lives and to dream big, go to college, work hard in school. That they can overcome any obstacles that may seem to be in their way. I will keep reminding my daughters that smart, intelligent women who work hard get so much more out of life than the ditzy ones who rely on their looks to get by. When my son is old enough, I will tell him that he wants to find a woman who is motivated and has her own goals and dreams. 

So, for now, I will continue to take comfort in the fact that the 8 year-old seemingly knows that Sam & Cat aren't real and that they are only "pretending".