Tag Archives: mothering

Things that I know

I may never have over 1000 twitter followers

I may never have over 1000 “likes” on my FaceBook page

I may never be invited to a big blogging conference

I may never be a popular “mommy blogger”

But I do know…

that for my husband, I am his Complement

that for two little girls, I am their first example of God’s love for mankind

that for my friends, I am as Christ to them and they are as Christ to me

that there is nothing wrong with having faith, in a world full of pain

that as a broken person, I am more than happy to lean on the crutch of Christ

And to steal from Aaron Neville and Linda Ronstadt, “…that may be all I need to know.”

(Image from Danyso.blogspot.com)

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Filed under Catholic, children, husband, life, marriage, Thursday

Manners Monday: Reclaiming the fine art of the Thank You note

Ah. The day after Christmas. Boxing Day if you are in a Boxing Day country. Personally I think Boxing Day is a great idea… why don’t we have Boxing Day? Or just celebrate St. Stephen’s Day? I know, it’s just an excuse to go out and shop, but the extra bank holiday might be appreciated by some. Anyway…

Gifts have been unwrapped and put away. Paper and packaging has been cleared away. New play-doh that came out of the can in such vibrant colors are now a sad shade of beige. What’s next to do? Thank You Notes. Time to write the Thank You notes.

What?! You may think that Thank You notes are antiquated and a throwback to the dark ages before we had stuff like email and unlimited minutes and instant gratification but that is what makes Thank You notes (or letter writing and manners in general) is fine art that transcends all social and class lines. It really can be the great equalizer!

Writing a note by hand allows you to put to paper human emotions: joy, sorrow, gratitude, love, nostalgia. And if you think about it, those (and anger) are among the first emotions we learn to articulate verbally.

Before sitting down to write your notes, gather your supplies:

Pen

Paper

Envelopes

Address Book

List of gifts and their givers (if needed)

According to Margaret Shepherd, author of The Art of the Handwritten Note,  your Thank You Note should have five characteristics. It should be: generous, specific, prompt, succinct and personal.

Generous. Send the note even if you’ve already thanked the giver in another way.

Specific. Mention the gift but thank them for the THOUGHT behind it.

Prompt. Send the note right away, but don’t let lateness stop you from writing at all.

Succinct. Keep it short by writing about any unrelated matters in a separate note.

Personal. Write it by hand. No form letters, printouts or greeting cards.

Things to say:

Thank you so much.

It’s just what I’ve wanted

How did you guess I wanted a [the gift]

I am enjoying wearing, playing with, looking at, eating, listening to, reading [the gift]

You were so thoughtful, kind, generous

Things to avoid:

Thank you for the gift [this may imply to the giver that you have forgotten what they gave you or that you lost the gift. EXCEPTION: when the gift is money in some form. In that case, thank them for the “gift” but then be sure to tell them what you are planning to do with the gift.]

You shouldn’t have 

Thank you for dinner. [Was the rest of the evening just awful?]

I’m exchanging it. [Wow.]

IT’S THE BEST GIFT EVER!! [makes you sound a bit insincere.]

Now some of you, like me, are parents. And since you are a parent, that means you have children. If you have taught your kids to say “thank you,” you can teach them to write thank you notes! When it comes to kids, you have a new options. For the first five years, or so, you can write on your child’s behalf. I, personally, write in the child’s voice. For an older preschooler, they could dictate to you what to write or copy a few lines down that you have written for them (if they can write their letters) or they can write their name at the end of the note.

For older children, help them enjoy writing notes by employing some of the following tactics:

Schedule time together to write. We all know how kids fare better when they know what to expect and when, so set aside, in advance, a set an hour or so on a specific day to write notes

Support your child. Give your child their very own stationery and special pen. Make sure your child has all of the needed addresses or address the envelopes for them as they write the note.

Personalize it. If you child likes glitter, stickers, stamps, or the like, let them add the embellishments to their note.

Model. Your child will not want to write thank you notes if they do not see you writing notes. Just as your child sees you saying “Thank You” in person, let them see how that gratitude is translated into a thank you note. Make sure your child sees how enjoyable RECEIVING thank-you notes is by reading the notes you receive aloud and posting them.

Join them. Sit down with your child and write something as well: your own thank-you notes, journal, a letter, etc. If nothing else, it’s helpful for your child for you to be there, to offer support with spelling, advice and phrasing.

Have the gift at the ready. Kids are concrete. They remember the here and now, so it might be helpful for to have the gift in front of your child when they write. Ask your child how they felt when they received the gift. If they were not too keen on the gift, ask them to imagine how happy Auntie was picking out the gift for them.

Reciprocity. Help your child understand the pleasure people get from being thanked by making sure they know what it feels like to give a gift and then receive a thank-you note. If you write a thank-you note to your child, it is a concrete example of how thank-you notes make people feel. And how cool is it, as a child, to receive a thank-you note from a grown-up?!

I hope this takes some of the scare out of writing thank-you notes and encourages you to start a new tradition of your own!

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Filed under christmas, etiquette, family, gifts, holidays, manners, monday, mothering, toddler

Manners Monday: Parenting with Grace under Pressure

A Facebook friend recently shared this on her Wall:

What would you do? Could you do anything? I’m curious what others do or think. I felt nothing I could do would help, and I was too overwhelmed caring for my babies. But I saw a scandalizing example of why many people develop a dislike for Christians. A mother w/ a 2ish year old and 4ish year old shared the “cry room” with us for a random church session. And proceeded to hiss, yell, slap, pinch and otherwise verbally attack her kids throughout the whole thing. It was very disturbing and I ended up leaving the room to stand in the back w/ my kids.

At the end, she literally physically dragged them into the main church and told them they had to do stations of the cross for being bad while on their tippy toes. She kept twisting the older child’s arm b/c he wouldn’t stop sobbing. I feel bad b/c my reaction was so strong I could not think clearly or think of any helpful way to intervene/redirect/de-escalate. My kids were freaking out and I didn’t want them to see what was happening, too. Mostly I was shocked that she had no filters whatsoever…she didn’t seem to care at all that others saw her and heard her. Ok so there’s my current stomach-turning issue.

Comments ranged from total compassion for the mother (‘you don’t know what kind of day she was having’) to complete and total derision toward her (‘you should have called CPS right away.’) Parenting is full of Monday Morning Quarterbacking moments and this is for sure one of them.

I think that we have all been in that sort of situation to some degree. We have been the mom at our wits’ end with our children and we have been the passive bystander asking herself “What should I do? Should I ask her if I can help? Oh, those poor children!” None of us are parenting experts, even those with a whole alphabet’s worth of letters after their name. We all have great parenting days and we all have craptastic parenting days, but the mark of a Parent with Grace is how you handle those craptastic moments.

I will say that I take issue with how this mother handled her craptastic moment in general and specifically at Mass. Pinching, Twisting, and Bopping your kid only teaches this that it’s acceptable to pinch, twist and bop those weaker than you if they don’t do as you say. Mass is supposed to be a celebration and Church should a happy place to be… not a punishment for anyone. If nothing else, this mother has planted the seeds for extreme religious hatred for her children. Instead of seeing the Stations of the Cross as a monument of Christ’s love for us, they will see it as a punishment, something that they had to to when they pissed mom off at church.

Discipline is proactive. Punishment is reactive. There are days that I would love to get to daily Mass, but it doesn’t happen if I know that my children are not prepared for the Mass. That means: well-rested, fed, dressed and briefed as far as my expectations go for them. If I am choosing to take them to Mass and I know they are hungry and tired, I have no one to blame but myself for setting THEM up for failure. We, as parents, need to also drop this facade of perfection that we carry around. We all have bad days and accepting help from a stranger, or asking for help is not a sign of weakness. If someone offers you a hand, do not take it as a personal affront to your parenting skills, as it is only when we accept help from others that we allow them to become Christ to us.

So what would I have done if faced with this dilemma? Honestly, I have no clue. I’d like to think that I would have said something to her but I really don’t know…

What would you do? Should you do anything?
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Filed under Catholic, etiquette, family, manners, monday, mothering

I’m a Barbie Girl…

So… I have this old Glamour Magazine Subscription that I have had for years and whenever I get a new issue, I find myself practically busting blood vessels out of frustration at the content. I first subscribed to Glamour back in the 90s because it, to me, was the anti-Cosmo. Cosmopolitan was all about “Do this to please your man” or “try this to make him moan,” basically making women into drooling, fem-bots whose only goal in life was to please their partner of the night. Glamour was different… it was empowering women to go out and make something of themselves and rule the world. Glamour still has that at it’s heart, but it seems to have morphed into Glamour’s wanna-be tag-along friend.

Glamour still writes about the hard hitting issues, but it usually involves women in “those other” countries. Women facing brutality because of religion, Female Genital Mutilation, Women getting torched because their husbands don’t want to be married to them any more, etc, etc. But then it will turn around, and white-wash serious issues that their readers may be facing. Some of the things in the September issue that just pissed me off:

pg. 266 Talks about the Birth Control that your OB/GYN uses (IUD.) Explains how it works with respect to sperm motility/ sperm environment. Where it is placed, how effective they are, price, if your guy will feel it and how it feels getting the piece inserted, but NOTHING about the SIDE EFFECTS or who SHOULDN’T use one! From American Pregnancy Association:

An IUD should NOT be used by women who:

  • Have or ever had cancer in the uterus or cervix
  • Have unexplained vaginal bleeding
  • May be pregnant
  • Have pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Have a history of ectopic pregnancy
  • Have Gonorrhea or Chlamydia.
  • Are not in a mutually monogamous relationship

Potential side effects from using an IUD include:

  • Mood changes
  • Acne
  • Headaches
  • Breast tenderness
  • Pelvic pain
  • Cramping (copper IUD)
  • Increased bleeding during menstruation (copper IUD)
  • Nausea

Emphasis mine, because if you have read a Glamour or Cosmo, you know that a mutually monogamous relationship is NOT the norm.

pg. 274 Article is titled: “Everything you don’t know about your Lady Parts… but Should!” and had a pic of a nude, from the waist down, woman holding a rose at her mons pubis. Pg. 277 starts a series of questions from readers about their “lady parts.” Because Vagina is too much to say. And has pictures of subliminal vaginas (even one in an orange cross-section.) One question in the section was about vaginal discharge and how it changes throughout your cycle. Now, I know that not everyone is anti-birth control like I am, but wouldn’t this be a great jumping off point to even mention Natural Family Planning? But it’s probably better that it was not… back to the whole monogamous relationship thing. The closest they came was to say that, “after you release an egg, discharge gets cloudier and thicker. ‘All the better for catching and trapping sperm, which your body naturally wants to do.'” Wait… my body is giving me natural cues that aren’t masked by synthetic hormones?? No. Way.

There is a redeeming factor in the “Lady Parts” article. Have you heard of “The Barbie?” Yeah, me neither, before I read this article. The Barbie is a type of female genital cosmetic surgery in which the total labia minor (the inner lips of the vulva) are surgically removed. WTH?! But it gets better, doctors can continue on and remove the fatty mons pubis (the mound you see when you look down at your toes and you are nude) via liposuction and the prepuce of the clitoris (protective skin around the clitoris.) Thank You, Porn Industry.

In case you were wondering, the World Health Organization defines Female Genital Mutilation as “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” If it walks like a duck… and sounds like a duck…

Pg. 375: The Piece de Resistance… The number one thing HE wants in bed. “Fellatio, blow jobs, going downtown, giving head…” The article goes on to talk about how great it is and how empowering it is and how only “10-20% of women felt disgusted or bored by it.” The article runs about 2 pages long, with a nice Red Rocket popsicle melting for a graphic along with “Blow Job Milestones in History,” but only a narrow side bar about the RISKS associated with Oral Sex. Hmmm.

So, yeah. Glamour I am so over you, but at the same time, shame on you for filling the heads of tweens, teens, and twenty-somethings about how this is what an empowered woman looks like. In your pages, female empowerment means sleeping around (just make sure you have the “right” birth control,) getting your dues at the office (but don’t be a b*tch about it,) and doing it all (as long as you keep him happy in bed.) Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll stick to my Good Housekeeping.

(But I will say, without Glamour, where will some of my posts come from?)

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Filed under feminism, political, Tuesday

Welcome to the World, Cazimir Kolbe!

This past Sunday (Aug 7) I took part in what has to be the one of the most amazing moments of my life, and it totally changed the friendship that I have with one of my BFFs.

My friend’s husband is overseas for the time being and as a result wouldn’t be able to be here for the birth of their third child. Earlier this Spring, my friend called me and asked me if I would consider being her birth partner for this child’s birth. I didn’t have to think twice, of course I would! She and I have been friends since 2007, I met her at a La Leche League meeting right after I moved here to St. Louis. The Bear was almost 4 months old and she was expecting their first child that month. She helped our family find our Parish and she and I really hit it off right off the bat. Through the years, our friendship has been through highs and lows, through births, through moves and changes, but our friendship has only changed for the better.

Early Sunday morning (around 230a) she called me and told me that she was going to have the baby today. I dressed, grabbed some stuff and drove to her house. Her doula and I arrived at the same time and we helped her labor at home until 530a. We arrived at the hospital around 6a and this is where things got a little fun. (Just a little aside, the staff working in ERs really need to cut back on the caffeine! My friend’s water hadn’t broken yet, but she was having intense contractions… to the point where she had to stop walking and concentrate on the contraction. Labor was not imminent in the fact that the baby wasn’t going to fall out of her right then and there, but the staff added a little unneeded stress to the situation by basically chiding us for not getting to the hospital “sooner.” Anyway.) We get to Labor and Delivery and get my friend set up on a birthing ball. Now, she and I have the same OB/GYN, a fantastic man who is a great husband and a father of 7, but he was on-call at another hospital until 7a. If you have given birth, you know how particular one can be about “your” OB delivering the child. So, my friend labored and worked through her contractions all the while praying for Dr. G to get there.

My friend had made it clear to me and her doula and in her birth plan that she wanted to have a non-medicated birth, and that she would ask for pain meds when she wanted them. But here’s the funny thing about birth, if you are going natural, the moment you think you really want those meds means that you are probably closer to time to push than you think. So, she was checked and sure enough, she was 8cm and 80% effaced. After another 20 minutes of work, she asked for an epidural again and the orders were put through… at least they tried to put them through. The hospital had just switched over to electronic filing and there was a little issue getting the meds ordered. By the time the order had come through, her water had been broken (the sac was bulging, bulging but wouldn’t rupture) and she was feeling the urge to push.

She pushed through a couple contractions while on the ball and then decided to move to the bed. During the next contraction, the doula and I checked and sure enough… we saw hair! The doula pressed the call light for the nursing staff (another aside and a reason why I LOVE this particular hospital… if you are having a non-medicated birth, the nurses really do not come in much. They will come in to check fetal heart rates every so often but other than that, they are pretty hands off. I just wish they had birthing tubs) and Dr. G and the nurses came in. My friend pushed another 6 times or so and my godson, Cazimir Kolbe, was born! (For those trying to keep track, from the time we arrived at the hospital to when he was born was 2 hours.)

The Post-Birth-Happy-High set in pretty quickly for my friend (another upshot to the non-medicated birth is that the after birth endorphins aren’t blocked by pain meds) and she was so amazed at her body that she not only had a son but that she birthed her son without the aid of an epidural or pitocin! She couldn’t believe how great she felt and how “fast” it worked. I know that feeling because I felt that same way after birthing The Dragonfly. It seems as soon as they place that baby on your chest, you completely forget about the previous time that you are working and exhausted and that you thought you couldn’t do it anymore.

For me, the experience really enforced, in my mind, how childbirth should be. Childbirth is an event that can unite a couple, but even more so, it is an event that unites women across time. My friend is not kidding when she says that our friendship has changed because we have been to the edge and back together. I looked into her eyes and I saw the moment when she had to let everything go and trust her body and trust her support team to walk with her to the end.

And it was amazing.

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Pax Christi!

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Filed under family, life, mothering, Tuesday

How Formula Marketing Came to Be: A Bit of Satire

Scene: The year is 1939. War is raging in Europe We are in a high-rise office over looking the big city. It’s late. There are two men sitting inside, wearing suits and ties and smoking. Because, after all, smoking is cool. 

Man 1: So, so, so! (Slapping Man 2 on shoulder) How’s fatherhood treating you?

Man 2: The boy is great! He’s quite the little man, I’ll tell you. Strong, happy but you know what? He takes up all of my wife’s time.

Man 1: (Guffawing) And that’s a bad thing? Take my wife, please!

Man 2: No, I am serious. Every time I look at her, she’s holding him or playing with him or cooing at him or feeding him. He’s only three weeks old, but it’s as if he’s more important than me! The feeding is the worst part… those used to be my toys. (He looks wistfully out the window.)

Man 1: But she’s still fulfilling her wifely duties, right. After all, that’s her job too.

Man 2: (makes a rude noise) NO. Because whenever I start in on her, that baby starts crying or smacking his lips and she’ll push me off to “comfort” him. And when he finally does go to sleep, she tells me that she’s (takes on a whining tone) “tired” and “doesn’t want to be touched anymore right now.” Fine. I won’t touch her, but I have needs too, dammit! (hits the table with fist.)

Man 1: Wow. That baby’s taking over everything. You can’t even touch your wife anymore. (starts laughing)

Man 2: You know it would be just better if there was a way for her not to feel so worn out. I think it’s all the milk the baby takes from her. He’s sucking on her every two hours.

Man 1: You know, that sounds familiar… hold on there, sport. (takes a drag of his cigarette and walks over to a paper-strewn desk. Begins to rifle through the papers.) Here it is! This was submitted a few weeks ago and I didn’t know where to go with it. It’s for an artificial infant feeding mix.

Man 2: How’s that?

Man 1: According to this, it’s based in evaporated milk and has a bunch of other stuff thrown in. I don’t know the science, I am just supposed to sell the stuff.

Man 1: Who’s it for?

Man 2: It’s supposed to be for mothers who can’t make their own milk, but it’s just not selling.

Man 1: If I could get some of that to my wife, I might get her in bed once in a while. I mean if that evaporated milk stuff is as good as her milk and it can buy me some time with her, I am all about it. When is the ad campaign due?

Man 2: (Takes another drag.) It’ll be tight. I have to make the pitch in 2 weeks.

Man 1: OK, let’s work on this. Because you know that  am not the only man out there cast out like a dog because of the baby. We need to figure out a way to make the regular way of feeding seem inconvenient and lower-class. We need to make this stuff sound futuristic and better because it’s made in a factory. How about this, we spin it so that we “Dads” can get more involved (snorts) because we can “help feed the baby” giving our wives more time for themselves! Do you think they’ll buy it?

Man 2: We’re smoking aren’t we? People will buy anything if you sell it right.

(Scene)

OK, yes, this was a little satire…  but for a little history: From Wikipedia:

In parallel with the enormous shift (in industrialized nations) away from breastfeeding to home-made formulas, nutrition scientists continued to analyze human milk and attempted to make infant formulas that more closely matched its composition.[4] Maltose and dextrins were believed nutritionally important, and in 1912, the Mead Johnson Company released a milk additive called Dextri-Maltose. This formula was made available to mothers only by physicians. In 1919, milkfats were replaced with a blend of animal and vegetable fats as part of the continued drive to closer simulate human milk. This formula was called SMA for “simulated milk adapted.”[10]

In the late 1920s, Alfred Bosworth released Similac (for “similar to lactation”), and Mead Johnson released Sobee.[10] Several other formulas were released over the next few decades, but commercial formulas did not begin to seriously compete with evaporated milk formulas until the 1950s. The reformulation and concentration of Similac in 1951, and the introduction (by Mead Johnson) of Enfamil in 1959 were accompanied by marketing campaigns that provided inexpensive formula to hospitals and pediatricians.[10] By the early 1960s, commercial formulas were more commonly used than evaporated milk formulas, which all but vanished in the 1970s. By the early 1970s, over 75% of babies in the United States were fed on formulas, almost entirely commercially produced.[4]

When birth rates in industrial nations tapered off during the 1960s, infant formula companies heightened marketing campaigns in non-industrialized countries. Unfortunately, poor sanitation led to steeply increased mortality rates among infants fed formula prepared with contaminated (drinking) water.[19] Organized protests, the most famous of which was theNestlé boycott of 1977, called for an end to unethical marketing. This boycott is ongoing, as the current coordinators maintain that Nestlé engages in marketing practices which violate the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes.

I read something somewhere and it much more succinctly sums up the whole breastfeeding/ formula feeding debate. While breastmilk is superior, Formula is not bad. Formula has helped countless babies over the years who otherwise might have fared worse. Formula Marketing is the problem.

Now, people could say that breastfeeding doesn’t need to be marketed, because it’s always there, but what does need to be marketed is how breastfeeding is a normal activity and not sexual and not deviant. We need to market that if you want to breastfeed your child, and you need help, find help and we need to market where that help can be found.

When I was pregnant with The Bear in 2006/7, I remember on my first office visit walking out with a book about fetal development and formula samples. No information about La Leche League or other breastfeeding support groups, nothing. On one of the later visits, when I made my breastfeeding intentions known, I walked about with the “Just in Case” sample bag with the cute little “Breastfeeding Kit” tag. It was a shoulder bag filled with formula samples… just in case I needed it. Again, nothing on breastfeeding support.

Why do moms fail with breastfeeding? Because they don’t have help and they don’t know where to find help. I chatted with a young mom at the park last week. She had a four month old with her and she nursed baby for one month. When I told her I was a volunteer working with nursing moms, she told me that she stopped nursing because baby would choke, cough and pull off whenever she tried to nurse, so she thought that something was wrong with her milk! (Any thoughts as to what was going on? Sounds a bit like oversupply to me.) Had this mom been with a group of  other breastfeeding moms she might have been able to nurse her baby a little bit longer, maybe even to her goal of six months.

I know that it sounds like a radical departure for a self-professed lactivist, but again… formula in and of itself if not bad. But the marketing sure is. And I am sure that sexually-deprived ad men are not to blame for formula marketing, but it does make for an interesting plot device, no?
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Tomorrow is the last day to enter to win “The Invisible World!” Click here to find out how to enter. I’m drawing the winner tomorrow!!

Pax Christi!

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Filed under breastfeeding, fathers, feminism, food, funnies, wednesday

Top Ten Things to say to encourage a nursing mother

It’s Time for another List!! Part of me is thinking about making Thursday my “List Day.” My post about breastfeeding this week kind of got me thinking about some of the other “booby-traps” that moms run into, and negative comments tend to be right up there. Honestly, I think it’s because people just don’t know what to say to a nursing mom. Here’s an idea: Just talk to her like you would any other mom. The fact that she is nourishing her child with breastmilk shouldn’t sway your conversation (and that applies if she is nursing right next to you or just nursing in general.)

Top Ten Things to Say to Encourage a Nursing (or Any) Mother

10. You are doing great!

9. What can I do to help you out right now?

8. Can I make you dinner tonight?

7. Would you like a glass of water?

6. You been nursing for (2 weeks, 6 weeks, 8 months, 3 years)? Congratulations!

5. Nurse where ever or how ever you are most comfortable.

4. Your baby looks very happy/content.

3. Any amount of breastmilk your baby receives is fantastic for his health.

2. Formula and Breastmilk can work together, it doesn’t have to be ‘all or nothing.’

1. I am here if you need me, even if it’s just to listen.

I know that it sounds kind of counter-intuitive, coming from a self-professed “lactivist,” but I have really been thinking about why I began breastfeeding and why I wanted to help other mother’s breastfeed. I believe that breastmilk is superior to formula but I am also a realist knowing that not all moms will make the choice to stay home with their children (or that it is financially feasible.) So if I mom decides that pumping her milk for while she is away is too much of a hassle and would rather use formula when she is away, that is what works best for their family.

But there is the flip-side, I do believe that more should be done to remove some of the barriers that impede the efforts of nursing mothers. I mean, you figure if a mom wants to nurse her child exclusively for 9 months and goes back to work when the baby is 3 months old, she’s requiring time to pump for 6 months. When that comes up, all of a sudden there are calls about how it’s not fair that this mom has to have:

1.) time to pump

2.) a private location to pump that’s not her car

3.) storage for the milk (optional)

I think back to when I was working (before teaching) and our workplace was smoke-free, when the smokers could go out willy-nilly to have a “smoke-break” in addition to their mandated breaks. Did I think that it was fair that me, as a non-smoker, didn’t have that luxury? No, I didn’t think that it was fair, but to be honest, I was happy that I wasn’t saddled with a nicotine addiction, so it was a wash. But we have to remember, fair does not mean equal.  When I was teaching, I used an easy way to illustrate this: Is it fair that I have to wear glasses while my BFF has perfect vision? No. Should I stop correcting my vision or should she wear corrective lenses so we are equal? No.

When my DDs were little, they both wore a cheeky one-sie that we bought in Chicago. It read:

” Thank You for not giving my parents unsolicited advice.”

I think new parents are so bombarded with advice, that they forget to follow their God-given instinct. Mothering is hard enough as it is and we make it harder by always wanting to either out-do each other by being the “better mother” or by thinking that somehow we are doing something wrong because we are not following the latest expert advice to a “T.”

But I think the best thing you can say to any mother is:

You baby/ children is/ are beautiful and you all look very happy.

And that’s music to any mother’s ears.
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What’s the best or worst advice you received as a new mom, nursing or not? Share below!!

Pax Christi!

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Filed under breastfeeding, family, fathers, feminism, lists, mothering, Thursday

Don’t let appearances deceive you

Earlier this Spring I gave a lecture, along with another breastfeeding mom, to a series of high school classes. The class was on child development and the teacher was a breastfeeding advocate, but having no children herself, was having a difficult time answering some of their questions. So, she contacted the organization that I am a member of and we set up the talks.

I was super excited about the talks because it had been almost 4 years since I had left the classroom and while I love my life as an at-home-mom, there are days that I do miss teaching. Taking the opportunity to it’s fullest, I put on my best “teacher-like” outfit: pencil skirt, black twinset, nude calfskin platform pumps, and pearls. I even had my cutest two accessories with me: The Bear and The Dragonfly. (The teacher was 100% on board with us bringing our kids because she felt it could make a clear point about how mothering is 27/7/365 to the students. I, admittedly, was having trouble finding child care as the first class began at 730a and the school was about 45 minutes from my house.)

We walk in and start chatting with the students and one of the girls says to me: “Cute shoes!” I am a shoe lover and since I am a size 12, I don’t go hog-wild with purchases, but I tend to buy quality over quanity usually because there isn’t a large quanity of 12s out there, so I was very flattered that she noticed my shoes. I thanked her for her complement and she followed up with this comment:

“You guys don’t look like breastfeeders.”

Huh? “Look like breastfeeders?” My curiousity, of course, was piqued and I asked her what a breastfeeding mom looked like. She responded, “Well, kind of like a hippie.” At that point the bell rang and I made a mental note to come back to that, but I kind of forgot. For some reason this exchange popped into my head this weekend and I figured it would make a great blog post/ discussion.

Part of me wonders if some mothers have difficulty choosing to breastfeed because they feel that you have to bring all the rest with it. What is all the rest, you may ask? These are the things that I’ve heard from others, plus some of the things that I’ve incorporated into my own life:

Organic food

Gardening

Attachment parenting

bed sharing/ co-sleeping

homeschooling/ unschooling

cloth diapering

forgoing makeup

Gentle Discipline

not looking fashionable… just looking like a “mom”

smelling like patchouli (I am still not sure what that smells like.)

staying home with the kids

But do you really want to know what you need to make breastfeeding successful? A pair of lactating breasts, a baby and a support system. The rest is just details. While it’s true that breastfeeding and natural living and natural/ gentle parenting tend to go hand-in-hand-in-hand, breastfeeding is not dependent on your knowing what essential oils are best for what use, or where to find the best deals on amber necklaces. People may try to make you feel as if you are less of a mother if you are not breastfeeding AND making your children’s clothing AND tending a garden AND using the family bed AND homeschooling, etc, etc, etc, but one thing to remember is this:

every family is different

Each family makes the best choice for their particular situation and comparing what your family does to what your BFF’s or your WEF’s does (WEF= worst enemy forever) or what the Queen Bee at your kid’s school does will do nothing but keep you awake all night grinding your teeth in frustration. When in doubt, ask yourself these questions:

Am I happy?

Is my partner happy?

Are our kids happy?

Are we healthy?

Are we safe?

If you can answer ‘yes’ to these questions, then there’s a good chance you are parenting just right. (So, I know that was kind of a trip down the rabbit trail, but it all kind of goes together.)

Back to breastfeeding appearances? A breastfeeding mom looks like any other mom out there, she just has fewer bottles to carry around.

And what does this breastfeeding mama look like?

Everyday Look (if I’m not at the gym)

I’ll admit it. I am all about makeup, doing something to my hair or wearing a fascinator (crafted by moi, of course!) For me, it’s the little accessories that make the outfit. And come July 11, I will have been breastfeeding for 4 years.

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What are your thoughts? Has the breastfeeding culture, without intention, alienated some moms or made breastfeeding more complicated by setting unspoken standards?

Pax Christi!

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Filed under breastfeeding, feminism, life, sunday

Summertime Modesty: Not Impossible!

It seems as if this week has been all about body image, gender and modesty. Wow! Well, let’s round it out!

Modest dressing is easy enough to do in the wintertime; especially if you live in chillier climates but come summertime, it seems as if all sensibilities kind of go out of the window! Yes, summer is hot but that’s no excuse to stop dressing modestly, if that is your goal.

For me, when I put an outfit on, I ask myself if I am dressing to attract the attention of men other than my husband. If the answer is yes, I change. Maybe you are one that that standard is not for you. You may feel that we as women should not be responsible for the eyes/ actions of men and I wholeheartedly agree, but when I said my marriage vows, I promised to forsake all others and in my mind, if I’m dressing in a way that is disrespectful to my husband or our marriage, I am not staying true to my vows. (I am sure those advocates of the SlutWalk** might take issue with my opinion, but I digress.)

So, if you don’t care what your outfit represents to the world about your marriage, ask yourself, “Would I want my daughter to wear this?” because as her mother you are her biggest influence. If you have sons, ask yourself what message are you sending to your son about women?

Actually, take that last statement and apply it to all of your children, how does your dressing affect their perception of women?

Without further ado, some modest dressing tips for summer:

Undergarments


1. two words, Flesh toned! Light, unlined pants, that are more popular in the summer, are notorious for showing your undergarments, so if you don’t want the world to know you’ve got your polka-dot panties on, don’t wear them or make sure your trousers are lined.

2. Camisoles make great layering pieces, especially when dresses show a bit too much décolletage. The lacy topped once even make your tops that much prettier.

3. Make the half-slip your friend. Seriously. You would be amazed at what “Mr. Bubble Sun” will show when shining through your dress. (That’s DD1’s nickname for the sun.)

Dresses


1. I’m taller so I especially love the maxi dress trend. But it even works for those not so tall ladies. Find a tailor if needed or take the dress up on your own. (If your dress has a major or busy print, you might want to take it to a tailor and have them take it up at the waist rather than just hem it.) What I like about dresses is that they are easier to put on than a tee and shorts and you look that much more put together, plus they are breezy!

2. I personally follow the rule of “one set of limbs out at a time.” So, if I am wearing a  sleeveless dress, I like the hem to be longer. If the dress is shorter, you’ll find my cardigan or wrap not far away.

3. I think it was Stacy London who said it but: “short+tight+shiny=cheap.” and I don’t think she meant garment cost.

Shorts

1. If you can see where your buttocks meet your thighs, those are too short.

2. If your shorts look painted on, they are too tight. I don’t care how thin you are.

3. (Butt) Crack is Wack.

4. Skirts make a great alternative to shorts, but can be hard when you have little kids and you play on the ground with them, but you can make it work.

Tops

1. Bra straps were never and will never be a fashion statement. Whoever said they were lied to you.

2. Bikini tops at beach: good. Bikini top while running errands far from beach: bad.

3. Polyester and Spandex blends make for bad choices.

4. If your shirt proclaims to the world that you are a “MILF” or “Hot Mama” or “Sexy WIfe” you might want to re-think that. In fact, re-purpose that shirt for cleaning around the house. In fact, just make them cleaning towels.

And above all else: BUY WHAT FITS! Ignore that little evil number or letter denoting the size. When I am shopping, I tend to take three of an item into the dressing room. The size I think I wear, one down and one up. Different garments wear differently and different manufacturers size differently. Ladies’ garment sizes are not the same across the board and are  sized very arbitrarily. If the tag bothers you, cut it out or cover it up. An item that fits well will flatter you so much more than that coveted size X. (And make friends with your tailor because they can do wonders with fit!)

Dressing modestly is not about hiding your body, but it is about presenting your body and yourself in a way that command respect from those around you as a person and not a piece of flesh for pleasure. And the ironic thing is, modesty can lend itself to sexiness. Stay with me here: Think of some of the most smoldering movie scenes (Titanic, when they are on the bow of the ship, comes to mind for some reason.) They are hot not because of what they are showing, but because of what they are not. InStyle magazine interviewed fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld earlier this year who said that the sexiest part of a woman’s body is the curve of her lower back. (for the life of me, I can’t find the issue!! But he drew a little sketch with it and everything, it was great!)

And above all, if you are a church goer, please dress for church and not the beach or the club! I know that we are not supposed to judge and if I find myself becoming distracted, I really should refocus on the cross but come on! Yes, it is fantastic that you are at Mass, but shouldn’t you give Christ respect by dressing well? I am sure that it’s a throw-back to my Baptist upbringing, but we never went to Sunday Services in anything less than our… Sunday Best, and I continue that with my family. Yes, you could meet a fantastic mate at church, but do you really want to lure him or her in by being scantily clad while listening to the Word?

So, keeping in mind that these are all my own opinions, I hope it does help you with the tricky summertime dressing!

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**While I agree with the premise of Slutwalk (i.e. no woman is ever asking to be raped by her attire, her behavior, her state of mind) I take the same issue with the recapturing of the term “slut.” When I was teaching, girls called each other sluts and bitches all the time, as terms of endearment. Really? That’s where we are? The English Language has how many words in it and those are the ones that we are choosing to use with one another?

Pax Christi!

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Filed under family, feminism, Friday, manners, modesty, mothering

A few Words Wednesday: Shirt or no Shirt?

I just wanted to share a little scene I saw yesterday at the Missouri Botanical Gardens. It really plays in well with our discussion about gender and all things girl and boy. We were in the Children’s Garden and there they have a little splash fountain area. It was hot yesterday… over 95 degrees and humid, so it was the perfect oasis! OK, here you go:

MOM (to her two children, boy about 5, girl about 3): OK, Have fun you two!

(Son takes shirt off. Daughter starts to take hers off.)

MOM (to daughter): Oh, no, no, no! You can’t take your shirt off. You have to leave your shirt on.

DAUGHTER (in tears): WHY?

MOM: because… because… boys can take their shirts off and girls can’t.

DAUGHTER (still trying to take shirt off): <Inaudible through tears>

MOM: If you keep trying to take your shirt off, we will have to leave

DAUGHTER: (more tears)

MOM (to son): you don’t need your shirt off, put it back on. It will dry if it gets wet.

SON (whining): I don’t want my shirt to get wet!

MOM: (big sigh)

At this point, DDs decided they wanted to play in the sprinklers with this mama. So, we went.

(Now my little editorial… her son had a pretty intense sunburn and maybe should have a shirt on more often.)
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ETA: Now, this mom might have wanted to teach her daughter about modesty, but it really wasn’t the best argument. But as moms, we’ve all been there. Where do you think “Because I said so” comes from?

Pax Christi!

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Filed under family, feminism, manners, mothering, wednesday