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It all Started in an Elevator.

Someone asked me recently, “Since when did you become so passionate about the LGBT community?” Ever since I decided to open my mouth and speak my mind.

In college my husband was a theater major. Now there are a lot of stereotypes about the LGBT community that are completely false, but the one about an amazing number of actors and dancers are LGBT I must say is fairly true…. We were surrounded by some pretty open minded people and the community was overwhelmingly accepting. I never had to defend anyone in college for their sexuality.

Right after college we were both working in theater and again… we were surrounded by our LGBT friends and there was never a moment I had to defend them.

openmouth

It wasn’t until my working career that I ever experience discrimination. I was in an elevator and another group of coworkers were spouting off about others on staff that are lesbians. These coworkers were educators- my thought was how could one say such things… how could someone make fun of them, treat them as less or act as if they were any different? I must have been in my own little naive world or maybe my “gaydar” is broken…. or maybe I simply never gave a crap long enough to try to decipher people like that.

A few weeks later, in the same elevator, one of my coworkers informed me that their roommate was pregnant. At that moment… I realized her “roommate” was not really a roommate… Again naivety at its best. I decided from that moment instead of like the previous conversation I had in the same elevator.. that I would in fact take the high road. I decided in that moment to become knowledgable about the LGBT community and  embrace instead of berate them.

gaydar

My friendship with my elevator mate grew into a wonderful friendship and my relationship with her led me in many different directions. It led me on a closer walk with God. It led me to wonderful friendships and bonds. It took me on a parenting journey teaching my children diversity and acceptance for all. It brought me closer to my husband, because we realized we are far more similar in our ideals than we had ever realized. It caused me to stand my ground against those that didn’t agree with my friendship, church, marriage, and parenting. It caused distance from those that didn’t agree with me and ultimately I am the better for it. I am healthier because I stood my ground instead of keeping my mouth shut while the doors were shut in elevators.

elevators

Maybe that was my first step in ‘growing in gumption’. I walked out of that elevator a changed person. I walked out an ally.

 

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Village People and Root Friendships

Village People

Standing- L to R – Dave (Char’s dad), Rob and Crystal (Lauren and Allison’s parents) April my college roommate not part of the daycare but she’s still part of this village for sure (Lauren and Allison in front of them) and my husband John. Sitting- L to R Helen holding Char, Jenna holding Isabelle, Me holding Maggie, Alden and James Isabelle’s father.

I have never been a one best friend kind of person. I admire those people that are so devoted to each other and I used to wish I had that, but I think I got a pretty good package myself. I was told once that your husband cannot be your best friend. John ultimately is my best friend- I share my home- my bed- my secrets- my offspring- my finances- my everything with him. I don’t see how it can be seen the other way truthfully. I mostly have other girl friends. I only have one other guy friend to speak of really that I am closer to him than I am his partner. My most devoted friend for the last decade is Crystal, but my goodness my life is filled with second place best friends. I am so so blessed.

Lauren and Maggie napping together.

Lauren and Maggie napping together.

I get a little emotional.

I am in a position where there is so much reshaping that I have to give myself a second to regroup and take a deep breath. I have formed these amazing relationships over the last few years. My mentor in this process of me owning a daycare said to me, “Under no circumstances are you to become friends with your clients.” My response was, “Well then I’m screwed because I’m starting this business on the premise of an already solid friendship with Crystal.” My goal in this daycare was to be a trustworthy and faithful childcare provider when I lost my faith in humanity when a sitter we had made some very poor decisions. I needed to be home with my own children to insure that my children were safe. It was by far the best decision. I surrounded myself with some amazing families raising amazing children. My mentor warned that people would just not pay me some day and with friends I would be in a position to feel bad if they couldn’t pay. She warned of parents picking up late and not caring about my time and my home. The pay hasn’t been an issue- All of the parents of the children I watch are college graduates with professional jobs- nurse/lactation consultant, teacher, social worker, engineer, and IT specialist. They get paid and I get paid. Money is a non issue and they would never consider not paying me as an option. I charge a reasonable fee and they pay me that and a load of gratitude for the care that I give their precious ones.

everyone

An Oldie but a goodie

It’s a spark. 

baby char and alden

Alden holding baby Char

As I have been working through the emotions of this process in realizing that in less than six full months my daycare will close I get a little scared. I know friends who have children and they have friends with children, but I’m not sure that I can compare this to anything other than being an aunt. My nieces and nephews do this same thing to me so maybe other aunts and uncles out there can understand this comparison. On June 11, 2010, I closed my classroom door for the last time and road in the car to hold my new “job” in my hands. I arrived at the hospital to see my friend Crystal and her husband Rob. Lauren was placed in my hands for the first time. The spark I felt when Lauren was placed in my arms is the same thing I feel now when I hold her. It is a reminder of when God closed a window and opened a door into my future and guided me on a path to where I am now. Not too many people in your life give you that… it is simply untouchable. Then I held Allison, then I found Isabelle by responding to a craigslist ad and Charlotte through Isabelle. I would never have these children call me mom, but truth be told I am like a sistermom to them. I am much like an aunt to them. I’m not just a babysitter to them. I love them.

I crossed the line.

So I must apologize for not listening to my mentor. I crossed the line and I am so glad that I did. In crossing that line I created this amazing village of friends. I’ve had one parent arrive late for pick up. They felt horrible and paid me back by watching my kids overnight. Now we just keep trading back and forth. I watch hers and she watches mine and we get some time to ourselves without kids. What these women wouldn’t do for me… I’m not sure I can answer that. I’m sure they just thought of something totally inappropriate that they wouldn’t do and they are laughing amongst themselves. For my surgery they were the most amazingly supportive friends. They came to my room to check on me to see if I was okay. They cared for my family and my home while I recovered. They are my village people. It’s not just me standing in as the chief. They talk alone too. They watch each others children so the other one can go for a run or share clothes and household gadgets. They help each other in taking care of themselves from signing up for weight watchers together to training for a half marathon side by side. Sure sometimes we get on each others nerves like siblings would and that’s okay because it’s not a “perfect thing”. Just like anything natural sometimes it gets to be too much and you reel it in and regroup.

They are root friends

Take a little advice from Madea.

I’ve had some friends come and go over time and some fade in and out like the leaves. I’ve even had a few branches fall down, but this is root work here. Realizing that in the next six months our lives will change drastically is becoming a bigger pill to swallow, but we don’t really have a choice anymore. We’ve grown connected in the village of root friends and we will go from seeing each other daily and having the bond that we have be changed forever. We can’t take this back nor recreate it.

I think we’re like monkey grass though- you separate us at the roots and we will grow on our own. Separating us wont kill us, but the transplant will give us distance from each other that is unavoidable.

Sisterwives- Bromances- SisterMoms- BrotherDads- Siblings- ::Love::

“You don’t just say and do these things with just anybody”~ Jenna.

Originally, I was going to blog on making a village of friends, but I can’t tell you how to create a village. I can only tell you how much I have been blessed by it. It all started with me loving their children as much as my own even when they screamed in my face and bit their friends I still loved them. They knew it and could feel it. Who doesn’t want to drop off their children every day with someone who loves their children unconditionally and fully and will gripe about their day over a glass of wine on ladies craft night. More so the children love each other. The look on Charlotte’s face as she reaches for Allison in the mornings is a bond that melts my heart. When Lauren and Isabelle make each other giggle and they lean into each other and snuggle I’m still melting. The twins have that weird twin bond that is an entity of beauty all by itself. When Charlotte and Alden see each other and they embrace they both light up. If Maggie and Isabelle aren’t insulting each other about who can color better they are surely snuggled up sharing a blanket and talking about how they like like each others new earrings. It’s not to say there are never issues. We aren’t unrealistic… in fact we are quite real with each other. And truth be told we all just simply love each other and our families. 


But it’s good enough for granddad and it’s good enough for me. 

~ April ~

Come on 6 o’clock- Ready for the weekend.

Dan Auerback- Goin’ Home

This week flew by for me, but I am so looking forward to this weekend. We have one kid tonight and none tomorrow. We have many plans and no plans. Since our vacation we pledged to spend more time just the two of us and we really need this weekend. The last time we planned this type of weekend it fell completely through. This Sunday is one of the busiest days of the year for my husband for his job- normally we dread October. He works so much in this month. I’m surprised I actually survived this one without half losing my mind.

Avett Brothers- Pretty Girl from Annapolis

We’re still on our flylady cleaning process and the house has come a long way. It has really helped us to feel relaxed in the home. We’re going to spend some time at home this weekend. We feel the need to escape less. It’s really simple in teaching habits. I would encourage you to at least try her system of cleaning.

Joe Purdy- Can’t Get It Right Today

I really liked my blog suggestion of the week on Rosie the Riveter. I can see several blogs stemming from that one alone. Felt my writing and teaching worlds collide on that one.

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This quote from our daughter was up at daycare this last week. It warmed my heart. It’s something we do purposefully as a family and I love that she acknowledged it. Pretty awesome.

Capturing the Spirit of Rosie the Riveter

Blog suggestion of the week-  Rosie the Riveter; Were we better off in the home?  Women went from cooking, cleaning, and having babies to working outside the home, cooking, cleaning and having babies.  We’ve stepped up our game, but has this really led to equality?  How has the role of men changed in response?  Why do we still feel so torn so many years later? 

This has been processing in my mind for a long time and once it was suggested I’ve been chewing on it for a few days. How to approach this? How to say what really needs to be said appropriately and honestly? No matter how it is approached someone will be offended. So get ready to push those feathers down and take it as it is- my opinion.

I can’t find it now, but there was a picture of a rally where a woman was chanting something. It was an old black and white photo and the text over her body said- “The feminist movement is over.” This was a few weeks ago – going around facebook- and I had some time to think about it and I’ve had time to form my response in my head. If you think the need for equality is over you’re wrong. I thought – would Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lecretia Mott-  think we were done?  Really, April…. who gives a crap they’ve been dead for over a hundred years. What do our mother’s think? Do they think we should stop- their opinion and ours are the ones that matter.

I hope this baby was crying for joy- I know that wasn’t the intent. Suffrage- is simply the right to vote. So this baby is crying because his mother was working for her right to vote. Yeah- Thanks mommy suffragists for getting us the right to vote since 1920. It hasn’t really been so many generations since women got this right… embrace it more.

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My mother was a great role model when it came to raising us three girls when it came to being a strong independent woman. The church we were raised in made my mother feel as though women had no role outside of the children and home. The church taught no respectful position for a woman.  My mother felt as though women were always projected as the subservient. My mother was in the first class at Liberty University although for financial reasons she was unable to finish. She traveled with Jerry Falwell and traveled the Holy Lands with him. She sang for the University- I grew up with my mom on the cover of albums- but she studied to be a secretary. See back then career choices were nurse, secretary or teacher as far as feminine career options. The first part of my childhood my mother was in the home and homeschooling us girls. As time passed, my mother started working outside of the home and I attended public school. I am very unique in that I was raised with two extremes- the life as a home-schooled kid and the life of a latchkey kid. I was one of the first women in my family to earn a college degree. Have we really come that far then? Could my daughter be the first to get a Masters or a PhD- or could I continue on to do so or my sisters as well? Only time will tell, but in my family line I am quite the accomplishment. To my family’s credit- they have an amazing work ethic- my grandfather still likes to work and feels bad when he’s not. My grandmother was still working until she had some heart trouble, but even after that continued to work. I was certain we’d have to take her away kicking and screaming. 

My mother was born in 1954. I gather that an advertisement like this one was one she grew up looking at- while she balled it up and rubbed it together to use as toilet paper in the outhouse- the best use for advertisements such as these.

christmas

The disturbing thing is that as much as ads like this drive me crazy my husband has purchased me a dishwasher- steam cleaner- a fax/copier/printer combo and food processor for gifts in the last decade. I accepted them with joy and wasn’t insulted by those gifts at all. In fact, I greatly appreciated them. I didn’t find it offensive, but this ad.. this ad infuriates me- although a new Hoover would make me happy at Christmas…. ::sigh::

On the flip side- my husband does the lawn work. This is mostly due to the fact that I’m deathly allergic to bees and after seeing my mom mow the grass and hit a yellow jackets nest I have never been comfortable doing it since. It doesn’t mean I wont get out there and do other things though, but I am currently physically unable to help for long. So I should mention in all fairness I have purchased my husband in the last decade- dual shop-vacs, a cordless drill and I’m sure something else that is gender discriminatory in its use. Still I assure you I have used that shop-vac and cordless drill a million times over the times he has used the food processor and steam cleaner.

I hate to say this but this ad still depicts so much of our lives even today. Not necessarily in our home, but it is so much worse in other homes than in ours. The problem is that these women in all likelihood did not pull an eight hour day pick up the kids from after-school care, cook dinner -while helping with homework, cleaned up dinner and then bathed the children before bed. I might bring my husband a cup of coffee, but dear Lord he serves himself. These women that I have described are exhausted… burnt out… feel unappreciated… feel like their husbands are lazy and not contributing. I don’t know if they have expressed these feelings with their husbands or if their husbands are aware of this at all. My husband and I have difficulty talking about this. I think it’s because I am so opinionated about gender roles, but at the same time I get my feelings hurt if he says the kitchen isn’t clean enough. We both recognize it as a responsibility we share and yet I take it personally. I know that some of the mothers I’m referring to want to do it all- they would like to feel like they can do it all. Husbands have picked up in the last few generations- diaper changing, laundry washing, and so on… 

livingroom

Here is my personal hang up with this- We haven’t gone far enough and we’ve gone too far too fast. Now I know that makes no damn sense- here is the problem—- balance. Our families are out of balance, but women have a ways to go. Men want their wives to have jobs and make money to put them in a more comfortable position- after clothing- a second car- daycare expenses. Many of the women I know make just a little more than enough to maintain it all. They go to work because they simply would lose their minds at home and they worked hard for their degrees- to each their own. If you look up old ads you will find a lot for keeping women mentally balanced enough to do the housework so sad. Women want their men to work hard, but still spend time with their families and not lose time together. No one wants to clean the house, but to be perfectly honest most of the women I know do the majority of the house work, planning, shopping… and so on… For the sake of your families- our children- we’ve got to figure it out. We’ve moved away from latchkey kids to after-school care kids. Leaving your kids at home unattended carries a certain stigma these days. The time we likely get with our children is between the hours of 6 to 8 every night before bed- that is our quality time. Now I don’t care if it’s the woman or the man who stays home, but for the family it is the best though that someone is home. If you can afford an au pair awesome do it.

Again- I’m hoping this was another outhouse option for my mother. Really. We’ve come a long way- but honestly we’re still missing something. I think that is open honest less obtrusive conversations with our spouses regarding gender roles and working together so that women are not so exhausted. We’ve made it to work, but we need more balance in the home.

ties

About a week ago John said, “I really want to take you out on a date. Just the two of us.” So we headed out for a lovely evening to a romantic restaurant followed by beers at another location. While we’re sitting at the bar he says to me, “What do you really want to do when you close the daycare? Is teaching what you really want to do?” I replied, “Honestly, if money were not an issue I would just stay at home.” He was floored. I mean the man I’ve been with for nearly twenty years in complete shock. He said, “I always thought you didn’t want to ‘just stay at home’. ” I chuckled, “I don’t just stay at home... so I don’t like it when people say that. I work hard and it’s insulting when someone says I don’t. If I could in a day pay the bills…do the laundry… Run to the grocery store…. Take a run on the greenway… then swing by the school and pick up the kids help them with their homework and make dinner- that’d be awesome. It would really change our evenings and our stress level together.” He said, “Oh I thought you were insulted, as a woman, by that statement. Isn’t that what women worked so hard to get away from?” Me- “Yes I guess so but honestly, I didn’t get away from it did I? I still do the majority of the house work and still work full time.” He responded, “Well then maybe we should figure that out. I would love to have less chaos in running around attempting to get things done. Lets look at what we could do financially to make this happen. Maybe not this year or the next three, but I want you ultimately to be happy and our family to be happy.”

This is an example of a healthy conversation. I’m just aware that some of the women around me are not having such healthy conversations. One such woman wanted to resign from her job and her husband said he wanted to pay off debt within a certain time and refused to “allow” her to resign- she didn’t resign… their debt is worse than before and yes the word allowed was used.  Another said her husband refused to ever change a diaper since his father never had… he never did. Now I realize some of these things are cultural and religious based, but I think this is a conversation worth having premaritally and opinions may change over time, but it needs to be a healthy conversation. My mother taught me to not allow a man to treat me like the above photo and I married a man unwilling to treat me that way intentionally. I think being a parent puts these things into perspective even more so and it’s okay when you’re a working woman, but when you’re a working mother it’s a whole new ball game. When I was nursing our babies- I woke an hour early to pump. I lost my break during the work day to pump. I had to get both kids in the afternoons and then I would be up several times a night nursing babies. It was so exhausting… I wish I had just been home to make things run smoothly.

It is unfair to say that we were better off in the home, because it’s presumptuous in assuming permanent gender roles for all women. That’s where we were. I’m glad that women stepped out of the norm- if my daughter wants to dream to be an astronaut, a doctor, or a lawyer I will let her dream. I don’t have to say – oh sweetie that won’t happen, but you can be a secretary for any of those men. I do want for her at the same time if she marries and wants to stay home with her babies to have the respect from other mothers for doing so.

During WWI and WWII , there were lots and lots of posters like the one below- it’s properly termed Propaganda. It was used to encourage people from all walks of life to participate in the war effort… anything from gardening and canning to recycling your nylon pantyhose for parachutes.

navy girl

As Americans, we’re in a constant rat race- the men and women having- jobs- daycare- home- and activities. I’m so frustrated with this society behaving this way- stop freaking racing and just live.  It’s this one up mentality- so many people striving for more and not appreciating that they already have enough. If we can look back at how being latchkey kids for our generation of thirty somethings changed us – just imagine how our children are going to feel. Many of my friends are starting to figure this out, but mostly because of the economy it made people have to slow down because they couldn’t afford childcare or couldn’t find a job. If you both want to work fine- great but both of you need to take care of the home and the kids. If one of you wants to stay home- great make it work financially and make sure the house is ready for just family time when the spouse gets home. If you can homeschool- great do it. If you work inside the home- great take care of the home as best you can (dear Lord knows my situation is crazy and unique), but otherwise split it down the middle so you can both have fun when it is all said and done.

My favorite piece of propaganda from WWII- the infamous Rosie the Riveter. During the war, the majority of capable men were sent off to fight the war, but the machinery needed to defeat the Germans, Italians and Japanese took extreme effort. We were fighting in so many theaters during WWII- we fought in the Pacific, Africa and in Europe. We needed tanks, planes, ships, and sadly used two atomic bombs to end it and they needed to be built fast. Women were encouraged to roll up their sleeves and do their part in the war effort- they helped build and worked all kinds of machinery. Americans needed them to do it and in the end their efforts did not go unnoticed. Many of those jobs following the war went back to men and women were expected to roll down their sleeves, wipe off the grease and find a nice house dress. Then while popping out those baby booming kids- that ultimately caused a huge wave in the population growth. They were expected to continue carrying on like they didn’t know how to roll up their sleeves and work hard like a man.

we can do it

Should we stop the women’s movement… no not at all. Not all women want to have babies or get married- and we have to pave the road for them to be successful too. What we do need though is balance in the homes we already have. No one should feel like they are doing it all. Balance makes for happy marriages and I do believe this has something to do with the divorce rate in the United States. How you were raised is irrelevant- the spouses need to find balance to find happiness for all. I don’t want this for my marriage and I count myself lucky that my husband and I are capable of communicating. It’s not easy for even us to have these conversations.. so I can only imagine that in other homes it’s even harder. There is no better time to talk then now instead of continuing to have overworked exhausted women and husbands that may not even be aware that they could help make it better. We marry for love and sometimes for convenience. I’d like to think that the exhausted women in my life could be heard not just by their friends, but their husbands love them enough to listen to what they need to find the right balance. We still feel torn because it is still not balanced and granted there are some things physically that I can’t do, but that doesn’t mean other women can’t do them- that’s again presumptuous. We’re still torn because we have unequal pay. We’re still torn because we are still unequal in political seats being filled by women. We are still torn because we are still tearing each other apart- as long as the woman is happy leave her alone in your judgements. If she’s happy plating her husbands food- leave her alone. If she’s happy staying at home- or working- leave her alone. If she’s happy doing all the house work- leave her alone. It’s the unhappy people I’m worried about.

 I hope that I can capture the spirit of Rosie the Riveter in my life. I am strong and capable and I hope that my son sees me as strong and I hope he sees his sister as strong. I hope that both of my children learn to clean house and may they both learn to change the oil in a car.. may they both get their hands dirty and learn how to clean up a mess. May my daughter grow to see herself as capable, intelligent, and not finding herself having to be subservient to anyone based on societal expectations. 

capture the spirit

Halloween Costumes

My friend requested this blog—- Halloween Costumes- I’m very opinionated about not pouring a fortune into kids clothing. I mean I like for my kids to look clean and neat, but some of this stuff is just OVER the top…. Halloween costumes are maybe my one thing I like to spend money on for the fun of it, but I try not to spend too much and I shop around for the right thing at the right price.

So here are my shopping for costume tips in respect of being fiscally responsible and having a good time.

Alden's costume scored from amazon... super cute. shipped and fit perfectly.

Alden’s 2006 costume scored from amazon… super cute. shipped and fit perfectly. Maybe $25

Make a decision for what you are looking for before you ever leave the house- let the kids see stuff online and ask well in advance as to what they want. If they don’t care- great this makes things sooo flexible, but otherwise know exactly what they want and all decisions are final.

1. If your child isn’t too picky something like a Costume Swap is a great idea- Check out your local swaps.

Alden's 2007 costume- Purchased second hand at Once Upon a Child- he wore it for years. Just got rid of it this year in 2013

Alden’s 2007 costume- Purchased second hand at Once Upon a Child- he wore it for years. Just got rid of it this year in 2013 – Less than $10

It’s too late to swap here in Roanoke, but maybe next year….Roanoke’s Costume Swap.

2. Goodwill– I have found some hilarious things at the thrift store. You may find exactly what you are looking for, but if your costume is like a witch or something you can make happen in this fashion do it!!!

Fall 08 059

2008- Alden’s costume purchased from ebay. He wanted to be an itsy bitsy spider. We made it happen and thank the Lord I plan ahead. It shipped from China and took forever. Then it didn’t fit to the charted size. I had to cut the legs off the costume and put the top with some slacks he already had. $ 25 max.

3. Consignment sales and stores– I have gotten plenty of Halloween Costumes and play clothes at Once Upon a Child– click here and find one near you. They even Halloween t-shirts and hair clips for the season….I should add I get them a size too big when I do buy them. Alden has been wearing the same Halloween shirt since he was 4!!! I just store it in the Halloween bin every year and get it out so it is not over used.

4. Ask in advance for gifts– one of the coolest presents we got was for our baby shower. Someone picked up a baby costume on the clearance rack. Saved me a lot of stress when our daughter had her first Halloween.

5. Rent them– If your child wants something random- you’d be surprised what you can rent from the local store- actually it’s rather scary.

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2009- Alden’s costume was purchased from amazon and Maggie’s was a baby shower gift. – Maybe $30

6. Amazon and Ebay– Yes they have awesome costumes. Read carefully the reviews and the shipping. Many of the costumes are shipped directly from China- the sizes are wrong and the shipping takes FOREVER! —- I speak from experience. 

Halloween 2010

2010- Alden’s costume was purchase from ebay- I ordered early and larger. Maggie’s I made from a pattern. I spent more money on this one- closer to $50, but it was by far my favorite.

7. Etsy– if you want something unique and you are willing to pay for someone’s craftiness this is the place to go!!!!

Maggie's costume was purchased at k-mart. Black tights at Once Upon a Child and she already owned the shoes. Alden's costume was a $5 score at a yard sale and hairspray paint from K-mart.

Maggie’s costume was purchased at k-mart. Black tights at Once Upon a Child and she already owned the shoes. Alden’s costume was a $5 score at a yard sale and hairspray paint from K-mart.

8. K-martWalmartTarget I shop online personally. I read the reviews and pick out the best costumes from each place and make checkout boxes for each company. Also pay close attention to those shipping dates- yes they ship them separately. If you get all the costumes from one location you can get free shipping!

9. The Disney Store– again pricey but I’m sure they are lovely costumes.

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2012- John had shirts made for us as animal control officers. Alden was a puppy again- Score! Maggie was a black kitten. I used scraps from my mom to make the tail and ears. She wore her black leotard and black slacks. $20 for the entire family.

10. Post it on Facebook exactly what you are looking for- If I had it in my closet I would loan it to my friends. I know I would. My kids like to keep their costumes every year…. so they don’t get passed on very often, but it doesn’t mean I can’t loan it out for a few nights!

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Sneak Peek for 2013- Spent less than $50 by getting free shipping and ordered from Walmart. It was cheaper than K-mart and Target when I compared them. They got exactly what they wanted and I saved my sanity by not trying to make them or run around store to store. They picked them out from the computer at home. I take sanity this time…

11. If you can sew you could always make your own. Find good Halloween Patterns here. I have done that and it was probably my most favorite of all… Going to second hand stores you can find used patterns there too… just keep your eyes on the look out for them. I know I have some stored in the closet myself- again I would loan it out if I knew someone needed it!

Breastfeeding- Yeah I’m a guilty supporter.

This weeks requested blog topic- Breastfeeding.

I realize this isn’t a topic that will intrigue most of my recent followers, but it’s important for me to discuss it as it’s something I actively support.

I am guilty of being the biggest supporter of the nursing mother and also guilty of being the least likely to give up in the cause for those I have helped. My mother was firm in creating a sense of knowing your own body and listening to it. Formula wasn’t really an option for thought… nursing your babies is what God intended for women to do. We don’t have to like it, but it is how our bodies are made.

…Well unless you’re like some of my friends whose boobs never “worked” or received the message. They carry this weight of guilt around like they did something wrong. As someone who knew from early on that my body was going to struggle having babies, I can relate to feeling like you failed at something. If you are a victim of broken boobies this is for you— Stop beating the crap out of yourself and those of you reading this just to use it as an internal guilt trip. STOP NOW> your boobs never getting the message is not your fault and this blog is not for your self abuse! Don’t read it to question what you did or make yourself cry either! I am speaking to some wonderful mothers I know who read these things and feel bad bout them… still wonderful mothers regardless of malfunctioning boobies.

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My precious son Alden getting Momma loving.

My history of experience- I only saw a lactation consultant in the hospital and never went to any La Leche League meetings. I nursed both children and worked full-time. I nursed both of my children- my son Alden nursed until about 9 months when my supply went down and the fattest baby on the planet was not satisfied by what I gave him any longer. At 10 months he decided his teeth were a weapon and laughed at me from the breast while I was crying my eyes out. My daughter Maggie nursed until 17 months. She never had a drop of formula and I had learned so much along the way that I was able to take my experience and blossom. I have counseled many women- strangers- friends and clients along the way. If you are nursing in public and I happen to pass by I may stop to talk to you or smile and nod…

So I’m going to try to give you my advice- this is obviously not professional advice, but it’s stuff that worked for me.

Being In the Right State of Mind

A friend of mine posted this picture on facebook this week- from a 1910 Southern Tenant Farmers Union outside meeting.

Now I love old black and white photos, but I really love this one. This is the ease we should feel. When I was nursing my babies. I would have covered myself with a wrap and I would have felt like all the people around me were uncomfortable. I would have been tense with fear that my child would flash me to the crowd. I love this photo because it captures the spirit of the culture. This my friends is the way it should be. So my first piece of advice is to say this don’t ever let anyone make you nurse or pump in a bathroom stall or any other filthy location. Yes- I did both and never again would I ever allow someone to do that to me. In the state of Virginia it is not indecent by law to nurse in public don’t let anyone tell you that. Also under Obama care legislation  you are allotted time at work and a location to pump in private- no bathrooms or nursing stations are allowed. When I had my son in 2006 this was not the case and yes I did have coworkers walk into a locked room unannounced while I was pumping… it does happen. Remember to be like this woman. You don’t have to be fierce in your natural state. Anyone who is offended has lost sight of nature and has been watching too many angels from Victoria Secret or Miley Cyrus videos…. and don’t see breasts as their natural form any longer. That’s their problem. Not yours.

Tips

1- Be natural and calmly fierce.

2- Know your federal and state rights.

3- Surround yourself with supportive folks. If people make you leave the room or make you uncomfortable… don’t visit them for a while. They may miss out on your wee little babe, but they would be missing out with you in another room anyway.

4- Nurse where you are the most comfortable otherwise. I bought a mini-van when I had my son so that I could pump in the car with privacy. Yeah all it takes is two middle aged men to walk in on you pumping to change your perspective on yourself.

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Alden my squirrel cheeked Hokie.

Having the Right Support

When I had my son I was twenty-six and other than my sisters and my sister -in -law I didn’t really know any other moms nearby. Luckily, the ones I did know had nursed their babies! My mom, step-mom, and John’s mom all nursed their babies and were big advocates for the cause. They were all wonderful women to have around. In my own personal life, at social functions, work life and just any other time I wasn’t with my family it was pretty empty in the support realm. The other problem is that only one of my family members had ever pumped. I remember my very dear friend Chris, a woman, came to see me in the hospital in her normal mother support grabbed my breast to get my son to latch on correctly… awkward in the moment but she was spot on… love her. I instead did a lot of reading. I’m not knocking down the La Leche League- but I didn’t have time for that. Not in the job I did and trying to pump. It was way too much going on regardless of that. So I read… a lot.

This is my favorite site- kellymom

As far as other moms- don’t be afraid to ask. I love when a new mom skirts around their question like I’ve never heard it before!

One of my favorite stories is one told by my sister. She had befriended some African immigrant women. She was in a room of women all nursing openly and speaking in their native tongue. One of the women quite engorged shot milk clear across the room hitting another woman and the room filled with laughter. The cultural and language barrier was dropped in their most natural abilities and to laugh like that takes no language at all. Don’t feel alone and find support from all ages, stages, and cultures.. advice as old as time may be the best advice you receive.

For me the worst advice I ever received was from the lactation consultants. When I was in the hospital both times they had advised the football hold since I am so well endowed- Oh how I blistered. My toes curled in pain every time my son latched on. With my daughter I was fine until the consultant came in- then I blistered and cried. My mom looked at me so distraught in the hospital bed. She said to me, “This is your body. You know what feels right. Yes, she’s an educated person, but that doesn’t make her advice the right thing to do. Did it hurt before she came in?” Me- No. Mom continued, “Well then pretend like that idiot never walked in here. Pretend she never said anything. Do you remember how you were holding her and how she was latched? ” Me- Yes. Mom- “Well then by all means… take a deep breath and forget it all and bring the baby back to the breast the way you were doing it before.” I took a deep breath and did what my mother said… 17 months later I cried when I weaned my precious little one having never to look back after the first day. ~ Thanks Mom.

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Me just out of the recovery room- LOOKIN ROUGH- notice my daughter, Maggie, in a deep sleep.

It may be natural… that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Given our cultural times I think we have fewer and fewer people that have ever nursed in front of us. The amount of support we have is oddly limited and we don’t see it as natural. For my children, I ask that people not really cover in front of them. I want them to remember it and see how to do it. I want them to be able to embrace it as natural.

Just like those of you who struggled with fertility you heard- Well how hard could it be? Yeah- those same idiots say those things about moms who struggle with nursing. Ignorance is annoying, but teach them a lesson and help them learn.

You will hear that it’s not supposed to hurt if the baby is latched correctly. This may be true but I left the hospital with blisters both times and once they are blistered even if they are latched right it flipping hurts. Yes- dear God it hurt. I can’t remember who it was my mom or my sisters someone said to me- get through the first three weeks and then it will be okay. I found this to be very very true.

My husband went to breastfeeding class with me and although he found the class disappointing (not sure what he was hoping for— more show and less tell…) I’m glad he went with me though. His understanding was super important.

If you are falling apart- call someone who makes you comfortable to help you walk through it. I’ve helped so many women along the way and it’s important to me for other people to have the support.

Read up about latching techniques and common problems.

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I love posts like this one. There is also a breastfeeding support page on facebook called “If breastfeeding offends you put a blanket over your head.” – They have some pretty funny posts.

Get the Right Equipment- If I were pregnant this would be my shopping list. 

Target is awesome for supplies.

Milk storage bags– These bags held up great in the freezer- fridge etc. For freezing lay bags on the side. They thaw easier that way.

Nursing Pads– I prefer this brand because the other ones pooched out at the nipple and that’s just weird. These made the breast look more smooth also this brand pulls away from the nipple better. Some cheaper ones are like pulling a fuzzy shedding cotton ball off you leaving cotton residue all over you chest. It’s gross- go with these.

Lanolin– Yeah this is like heaven for those first three weeks when you think it might be more helpful to remove your nipples.

Madela Pump– Madela is expensive but it’s the tried and true pump.  Make sure you get a car charger… you’ll want it. ‘Get some extra storage bottles while you’re at it.

Nursing Bras– Now I’m very well endowed. I’m a woman of many blessings… ::sigh:: If you’re a bigger chested gal- bravado is the way to go!!!

Nursing Apron– I like the ones at Target- but you can find some pretty unique ones on etsy too.

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Maggie- I mean who in the world doesn’t want to give her the healthiest options.

Successful Nursing- Making it a breeze

Rule number one- This should have been at the top. Have that baby and get it to the breast. Once the baby is born it’s alert for some time and then CRASH they are passed out. Sort of like that call right before bed that makes you stay awake way longer and you can’t fall back to sleep from all the excitement in your brain, but getting up in the morning is super hard. The same thing happens to babies… If you get the baby right to the breast it has an easier time latching on and knowing what it’s supposed to do. If you wait then it throws the baby off… trust me. I had my baby at 8pm and midnight they finally brought him to me. He was sound asleep and he had so much trouble latching. He also lost a ton of weight from it. My daughter was at the breast in the recovery room… I couldn’t even sit up but she was latched on. I love that memory… truly love it and things were so much easier with her.

Rule number two- Never pump or nurse without water near by… I would drink 90-150oz of water a day.- that’s not a stretch either that’s exact.

Rule number three- If your baby is spitting up it’s probably something you’re eating, but cut out the common foods first… if that doesn’t work talk to the pediatrician. Look it up on kellymom… I’m lactose intolerant but had one yogurt a day because sometimes a girl needs yogurt.. My daughter projectile vomited all over the place. I cut out that one yogurt and she stopped throwing up. My friends’ son had so many reactions I think she lived off of gluten free triscuit style crackers or well … pretty much cardboard for months.  I realized if I had a glass of wine my kids both of them got super gassy and had funky stools for days…

Rule number four- Have that drink, but for the love of the Lord do not dump that milk! Your milk is only as intoxicating as you are intoxicated so if you have one or two beers I would  not even pump… but lets say you were celebrating a big event and got wee bit too tipsy I would wait until I sobered up and then pump some. There is no sense in pumping and dumping for cases like my kids and wine because the food you ingest stays in the system for a long time…. so if you notice something like this… you have to just cut it out of your diet- sorry folks.

Rule number five- pump and nurse in different directions. I know this sounds weird, but I know I had clogged milk ducts and the beginning of mastitis, but I never once had to have it checked. I put warm compresses on those puppies and massaged until I felt those knots out of there. I self compressed… pumped with the pumps to the side and woke the baby in the middle of the night and nursed them laying in opposite directions. I would do whatever it took to get that knot out.

Rule number six- supply and demand baby. You can try fenugreek, oatmeal, dark beer etc, but I say take good vitamins- drink tons of water- get rest- relax and get that baby to the breast. When my milk was low during the work week I would put my baby to the breast all weekend long. They were probably overfed but the result was my body needed that skin to skin contact just as much as babies need it and by Monday my supply was back up. When you introduce solids pump in replacement for it. My supply dropped off quickly when they started solids and my milk supply decreased too quickly, but if I pumped more when they increased solids everything worked out fine.

Rule number seven- don’t over do it. If you are exhausting yourself… loathing life.. or pumping so much your nipples hurt—- chill out or push through depends on how hard you want it. Quitting was not an option for me… so I pushed through. If your milk after the colostrum stage looks orange or yellow after you pumped it… you are trying too hard. That is actually blood in the milk- wont harm the baby so dear Lord don’t throw it out, but do slow down a bit and don’t push yourself so hard.

A Shirt I needed— Weapons of Mass Lactation 🙂

Pumping Tips

* If you are like most people I spoke to prior to writing this blog they say to me- I really should have listened to that rule about pumping three weeks out, but I didn’t. So If you have 6 weeks off start pumping at 3 weeks. Now again I’m not a professional lactation consultant, but what I am is a successful pumper. I  made more milk supply than most people. I took care of my baby and I was overproducing.

* Three weeks before I went back to work- I would feed the baby the last feeding of the night. Then pumped after I put the baby down. No more than 20 minutes. This pumping session drove up the demand without bothering our daytime routine. I froze everything I had at this session even if it was just two ounces for the following three weeks to six weeks since I had c-sections I had more time off work.

* Week two I started pumping in the morning and at night. I would feed the baby the bottle from the am. The baby should start having a bottle once a day three weeks out just so that it’s used to it.

*Week three you should pump in the am- and whenever you anticipate that you will be pumping when you will be returning to work. You can feed your baby these bottles or have them nurse from one side etc. Switch it up.

* The goal here is to up your demand and get your body into a schedule of when to expect that demand. You are smarter than your body, but your body gets into a routine. I used to pump at 5 am and on the weekends I would wake at 6 am and have to pump even on the weekends because the milk was in on schedule but I wasn’t up yet and it was uncomfortable.

* For work pack a lunch/snack for when you pump nothing is worse than feeling starved and dehydrated and trying to feed an invisible baby.

* Create a safe place and relax. I pumped in the van I made curtains that clipped up on the back and ran the pump. Ate my lunch and made phone calls. Listened to music and just felt at peace with the world. Pumping in the office- was never- ever- relaxing. Not after my interruption by fellow employees.

Good luck and I hope this helped! Enjoy your babies!

Orange is the New Black and Real Life Tiffany Encounters

I just plowed through the 2013 season of Orange is the New Black.  As I watched the last few episodes, I was disturbed when the character Tiffany said that she was ready to murder someone and just needed to back it up with scripture to make it the right thing to do. She found it in Luke 19- once she turned around the scripture to her liking. ** Spoiler alert ** The backstory to Tiffany is that she murdered someone who made fun of her for having multiple abortions.

A little taste of the Orange is the New Black Tiffany

I was talking to an agnostic person several years ago and they said to me, “You call yourself a Christian? I mean I believe in a higher power, but I just cannot support Christianity. I would never be a “good enough” Christian. There is always someone hanging around saying you are not as good a Christian as someone else and you are set up for constant failure the way the Bible is written. It has been translated so much… who knows what it was really saying. Christians as a whole are so cruel to each other. So don’t doubt me that I believe there is a God and I pray and meditate… I just don’t follow the Bible so closely that I exhaust myself. I do believe in good and evil. I do believe that there is a certain way to treat others with love and compassion… I consider myself a genuinely good person, but this self-righteous crap keeps me from ever walking into the doors of a so-called Christian church.  I can’t believe how incredibly cruel they are to one another and I refuse to be part of that type of institution and constant criticism.” This was the first logical explanation for being agnostic I have ever encountered and I never once questioned someone again who said they were spiritual but not exactly religious. Yes I do consider myself a Christian, but I refuse to surround myself with Tiffany like folks. I wonder how many people have lost their way in their relationship with God because of the self-righteous behavior. I wonder if Christians had truly treated each other with more hospitality and grace much like Jesus loved us, the impact that that would make on our community as a whole.

In the recent weeks, I have had to distance myself from a real life Tiffany. One who spouted hateful things about my contact with my church and allowing my children to attend a wedding, which according to Tiffany was not an acceptable occasion, I  was responsible for the doom of my children’s souls. I was so incredibly offended by Tiffany and I understood more in that moment people that are driven from Christianity. If I were not so settled with my faith and my church I would be tempted to blame Christianity for this, but it’s not the case. It’s just Tiffany.

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God Knew of Their Coming

The impact I hope to have on my children in my choices are this… 1. No matter the persons past, color, education, sexuality or wealth they deserve grace and respect. 2. God is there for everyone in prayer and we were all created to serve him. Never ever tell someone anyone they cannot be a Christian… in fact God knew of their coming. 3. Yes read the Bible and do your best to be a good person, but not every bit of  scripture should be taken literally in today’s terms – I would have to expect my daughter to not speak in church and obey her husband. My son would be expected to see his future wife as his obedient subservient companion… whilst we have taught him to respect women.  We’d have to change a lot of this blended cloth too. I’m not sure how my son would feel about not having pepperoni or bacon anymore. 4. Forgiveness is important and without forgiveness no one learns and grows… they only grow apart. 5. They have already learned love, family and marriage from the life we have created in our home, but they have witnessed love dissipate and marriages fail already. I can’t save them from that, but I can teach them to show love and respect for those that are from broken families — not pity- compassion 6. Everyone sins and no one is free from it… in fact expect it and respond appropriately. No one is perfect. If you expect everyone to be perfect sinners and do not show compassion for them… don’t expect compassion when you sin because you do and you will.

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This most beautiful sunset on our trip this summer was shining into a very important moment for me a moment in nature when you know God is with you.

A friend of mine has a relative that is incarcerated for abusing a child sexually. The friend visits the inmate in prison much like the visitors in Orange is the New Black. It is out of love, grace and compassion that they visit and show forgiveness. The friend said to me that they are blood and it is extremely important that they treat the incarcerated as forgiven. The inmate has repented, even turned themselves in and doing their time here on earth. This is God’s grace…. this is ultimately what it is all about. This friend of mine is a good Christian and I respect them so much for this and may God continue to bless them all. This is opposite of Tiffany in that they are faithful people and act with love and grace instead of self-righteousness. I pray that I may be like this friend in my faith.

One real life Tiffany that I know would instead never speak to this family member again and back it with scripture. Particularly with 1 Corinthians – in the letters from Paul saying to not associate with these people- remove the wicked from among yourselves. Are we guilty by association? Some people would say that is the case- trust me- don’t think those words have not been said to me. As the alabaster jar was given to Jesus with weeping tears,  the sinning woman was shown grace and compassion from Jesus. Might we all show more hospitality to all sinners not just the ones we approve of and allow them to anoint our lives with oil. As with Tiffany from Orange is the New Black- just because you twist things around scripture to fit what you’re doing… doesn’t make it right. Is this Christian behavior? Is this what being a Christian means to ostracize and treat people as less and not worthy of God’s love? What makes Tiffany so mighty to say that they are a better Christian. In fact, I actually have chosen to distance my children from such Tiffany’s because this is exactly what I don’t want them to learn. They could possibly otherwise push my children farther from God as it did so many of my Christian friends who do not attend a church or for my agnostic friends who simply cannot be part of this behavior. This is what I’m teaching my children … to love.. to forgive.. to see others as sinners as well as themselves… to judge lest they be judged. I hardly feel as though their souls are ruined for this lesson.

My son, Alden, lied to me yesterday. We had overbooked ourselves and the kids and I missed out on church while my husband went. Alden threatened his sister while playing in his room and she came and tattled on him. That wasn’t the problem… the problem was that he denied it and lied to me. I knew he was not telling me the truth. I told him that I did not believe him and that he was to go to his room and pray. I told him he should think about it and pray for forgiveness because he knew he had broken “big God rules”. He had lied to his mother. After a few minutes, I went to check on him. He was quiet when I entered his room. He said to me with tears in his eyes, “Mom, I don’t know how to pray that.” He’s seven and I thought although a struggle it was worthy of a lesson in knowing that it is hard to pray on your own. So I told him that we would pray together so I said the prayer for him and when I opened my eyes and raised my head I realized he was looking at me in awe. He wasn’t streaming tears, but his eyes were still filled and for this brief moment I know I’m doing the right things with my children. I know that I am … no matter what Tiffany says.

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Hardly Damaged Goods

Many of my readers have read my previous blog on what type of church I attend and I must say it was a Tiffany that created that desire within me to find an open and accepting church. We were sitting around a Thanksgiving feast when Tiffany went on to say that they just love their new pastor. They were previously uncertain about his coming and now felt totally confident about his presence and his guidance. His first sermon was the Sunday before this feast and it was very fresh and new to Tiffany. Tiffany went on to say that his first sermon was the best they had heard in a long time and how spot on it was. Now Tiffany was certain this was the right pastor for them. I was thinking it was something amazingly powerful and inspiring the weekend before Thanksgiving. Being intrigued I asked what this amazing sermon was on… Tiffany’s response was unnerving and ruined my meal or maybe my faith in humanity or maybe perception of Christianity. Tiffany said the pastor read scripture and described how all homosexuals regardless of repentance would all surely burn in hell. It went on and on for several minutes. Oh how lovely…. Happy Thanksgiving? From then on I refused to attend church with Tiffany and instead I sought out a church that spoke of no one in such light… I refuse to subject myself to hate. Did this pastor quote Rahab during this story of sexual immorality… if it is not so clear that with repentance and faith she was forgiven for her prostitution?  I sought a church instead that would teach me to grow in grace. I wasn’t expecting to end up where I did, but when I found my church I felt love and am loved by many. No one spouts off about abominations or sits around judging others with their hate. Instead I am moved by their compassion… their love… their forgiveness… I could not and would not allow my children to be taught to hate. My children don’t really care to understand the concept of our family being any different from anyone else that attends or the make up of couples because they simply care as much as me- they don’t spend any time trying to discuss it… there is simply nothing to discuss. They don’t talk about sexuality in children’s church… it’s the same as children’s church as when I was a child. What I do know is that they are surrounded by many people of all walks of life and have been taught so many things by feeling the love that simply pours from the doors of the building. My children love Sundays… absolutely love them. They beg to go to church and have been caught in their disappointment realizing it is Saturday and not Sunday. I walk out of church on Sundays enlightened by the peace of the scripture and the blessing of the presence of those who surround us.

It is scary to me in my faith journey to think that this conversation about Tiffany’s new pastor drove me away from God and Christianity for a few years. I understood more clearly what my agnostic friend was talking about. I allowed someone that is Christian to back their hate with scripture keeping me from being connected. I realize that real life Tiffany’s will continue to exist, but I can only hope that churches like mine continue to show that Christianity is not about being self-righteous. There are churches that teach to embrace the incarcerated- the homosexuals- the poor- thieves- or well… anyone really. Certainly, it is easier to sit back idle and go unnoticed as a Christian, but it doesn’t make me any closer to my faith detaching myself from Christianity for the fault of my supposed imperfections. It takes strength to be an ally and a Christian, but let them cast their stones at me for loving my neighbors and treating them with grace…. Trying to change me by involving my children by writing their souls on the stones was a low attempt and hurt to the core of my being, but it doesn’t mean my children are damaged goods. It just means that Tiffany is not part of the lessons I want to teach my children about Christianity at this age for fear that they will be led away from God being squeezed so tight they lose sight of the spirit.