Monthly Archives: November 2008

Challenge: baseline

Today is the baseline weigh-in, people.  I am not putting my weight up not because I am ashamed but because there might be some who are heavier (and probably taller and bigger-boned) who have set this weight as a target.  This is not about comparing with others but rather about reaching personal goals and supporting one another.  So, as of today, we have all lost zero pounds.  Weigh in again next Sunday to see the progress one week has brought.

If you feel so inspired, please make a note in the comments of one change you are making this week towards healthy living.  It may help others make some changes, too.

My family has switched our one night out a week to an all-you-can-eat soup and salad place.  It has the added benefit of being cheap and having no wait for the food.  Fortunately, they have muffins for Zachary, who would otherwise starve.  They also have soft-serve, although Benjamin usually quits his frozen yogurt to return to his peas.  That’s one kid who definitely does not need to make any changes for healthy living.

Up for the challenge?

            I am starting to hate ice cream.  Ever since I realized the correlation between eating a bowl of ice cream with peanut butter on top (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it) at bedtime and my milk supply the next day, I have eaten it every night.  Sometimes I am not in the mood, but I eat it anyway because if I don’t, my milk supply will be trashed for two days.  Ice cream has now become an obligation.

            My bedroom at 3 AM is the site of a reverse manufacturing process where my breasts turn ice cream into milk.

            Needless to say, I am unlikely to lose the baby weight anytime soon.  I am 20 pounds up from my pre-pregnancy weight.  Before you pooh-pooh that, let me explain that I gained 30 pounds.  Since the baby was 7 pounds and you have to figure another couple for all the fluid, breastfeeding for the last two months has clearly not helped me lose anything.  I have resigned myself to the extra pounds right now, as feeding the baby is my top priority, and I went down to the local consignment shop to get myself jeans three sizes larger than I usually wear.

            In an interesting turn of events, my husband also wants to lose 20 pounds., although he does not have a convenient scapegoat for the gain.  He’s having a rough time sticking to a diet, so I have challenged him.  We are going to see who can lose the weight first: him dieting or me breastfeeding.  Over Thanksgiving, a cousin who also wants to lose weight joined the contest.

            Now, I’m opening it up to the larger public.  If you are struggling to stay on a diet, please feel free to join in.  If you only have ten pounds to lose, you can compete for the first ten.  If you have 30, stick with us for the first 20.  Weigh-ins are Sunday mornings before breakfast.  You do not need to tell your weight, just the weight change from week to week.  If we get any participants, I’ll post my weight change each week and you can leave yours in the comment section.  (You can also do it without telling the world your change, but please tell me if that is your plan so I know whether anyone is interested; if no one speaks up, I’ll not bother to post it.)

            December may seem an odd month to diet, but I submit that it makes a good deal of sense.  You don’t need to decide each cookie on an individual basis if you have sworn them all off.

            I want to also note that I only want people participating if you are doing this to feel healthier and more active.  If you are a swimsuit model trying to go from thin to emaciated, fuck off.  We don’t need your kind around here.  This is a friendly competition for people trying to support one another in a healthy lifestyle.

            So, anyone in?  After all, how hard can it be to lose more weight than the chick eating ice cream every night?

Flat screen TVs

Please, please, think twice about buying a new flat screen TV.  We really only have one planet.

Step away

            Today is Black Friday here in the U.S.  Traditionally, this is the day that Americans, groggy from their obscene over-eating, head out to malls and Target and Costco where they indulge in obscene over-purchasing.  The naysayers would have us believe that this year we are all too freaked out by the economy to actually do any holiday shopping, but somehow I suspect a few of you are about to fire up the old Pontiac and head over there, anyhow.

            While you are at the mall, strolling past tween-targeted displays of skimpy clothing and kiosks filled with useless electronics, you will come upon a Yankee Candle.  Actually, you will probably smell it first, that distinct mix of fake spice and wax.  You will look down at your list of obligatory gifts, and you will see the names of several of your children’s teachers on it.  You will think to yourself, “If I go in here, I can cross three gifts off the list all at once.”

            As a former teacher, as a mother, as an environmentalist, I beg you: Please, do not give in to temptation.  If you buy that teacher a scented candle, here is what will happen.  The cellophane wrapper and ribbon will end up in a landfill.  The candle will go onto a shelf or into a box with all the other scented candles the poor woman has received over the years.  There, it will gather dust, forgotten except for once a year when the teacher opens the box to shove in the latest installment of holiday gifts.  Decades from now, her heirs will find the stash as they clean out her house to put it on the market.  And, unless someone has found a use for scented candles by that time, it too will end up in a landfill.

            Step away from the Yankee Candle.

            Your child’s teacher does not want another vanilla-pumpkin-spiced candle.  She knows it, I know it, and, deep down, you know it, too.  While we’re at it, let’s go over a few other things she does not want.  She does not want a coffee mug.  She does not want yet another $5 picture frame.  She does not want a gift book of sweet platitudes to put in her bathroom.  And, I am so sorry to inform you, she does not want homemade cookies, although in that last case she’ll appreciate the effort before throwing them away.  Because, you see, you were not the only one with that idea, and if she eats all the fudge and cookies that parents prepare for her, she will not fit her teaching clothes anymore.  On her salary, she really cannot afford to buy new ones.

            This person (who I have gendered female for simplicity’s sake) spends all day trying to educate your precious offspring.  Please, please, get her something useful.  Get her a freakin’ gift card.

            “But,” you protest, “that’s so impersonal.”  To which I answer: who gives a shit?  If it is the thought that counts, show the woman that you think enough of her to give her something to help make up for her pathetic salary.

            And, please, spare me the argument that you don’t want to spend very much.  I know times are hard, really I do.  But, the first place to economize is not your kids’ teachers, nor, for that matter, is it your postman, your trash collector, your place of worship, or your favorite charity.  The first place to cut is the gifts you give immediate family.  I’m not suggesting you deny your children holiday gifts, but do they really need as many as you have on that list?  Can they do without a fancy video game so you can instead show gratitude to those around you?  And, if the budget is tight, can you and your spouse agree not to give one another gifts this year?

            Of course, many people have already made these cuts, and I am certainly not suggesting you must spend a lot on teachers. For those who really cannot afford to spend anything, I promise the teacher will know that and be grateful for simply a kind word, but the rest of you can funnel the cost of baking ingredients into s small gift card that will not go bad in a few days.  If all the parents in the class gave a very small contribution, you could probably get a pretty nice gift card, which I guarantee the teacher will appreciate more than twelve scented candles, eight batches of cookies, and a couple of coffee mugs.

            If you don’t want to organize the class or perhaps all the parents in the group despise one another, consider a small gift card to a place where $5 can actually buy something: a coffee shop or a card store. Or, if you must buy a tangible gift, how about stationery?  After all, she will need something on which she can compose thank you notes for all those scented candles.

Kits, cats, sacks, wives

Litlove writes a fantastic blog, which is ostensibly about books she has read but seems to also bleed out into gentle yet powerful musings on so many other topics.  She does not write short, pithy posts, but if you are up for a healthy dose of intelligence with your blog reading, she’s your girl.  Which is why I was honored (should there be a U in that word, as she’s English?) that she awarded me the “I love your blog” award.  The bling got lost along the way, but the rule is that I am to pass the love on to seven others, a game that reminds me of the man coming from St. Ives.  I have chosen blogs that may or may not continue the chain but that I consider gifts to you for their consistently high quality.

Yankee Fog

Full Hands

Woman on the Verge

Blogs Are Stupid

Julie Pippert: Using My Words

The Musings of a Defiant Mother

Missing in Iraq

I’m off to enjoy some quality family time this weekend.  Happy Thanksgiving to those who are celebrating.

Flying the banner

            My post last week led to a few very respectful dissenters who wondered why I couldn’t respect other people’s desire to raise their children to believe in modesty.  Well, actually, I am not all that immodest a person these days.  If you want to know about high school, you’ll have to ask Chris to comment, and Poker Chick could probably tell a few tales about college, but nowadays I tend to keep my shirt on even while drinking.

            However, breastfeeding is not an issue of modesty.  Modesty is about not letting your seven-year-old prance about with words on her perky little butt.  Modesty is about buying a Prius even though you can afford an SUV.  Modesty probably entails not letting your four-year-old still see you undressed, but I’m still working on that.

            Breastfeeding is an issue of feeding a hungry baby.  It is also about health, because it is far better for the baby and the mother than formula.  Breastfeeding is about the environment, as it saves all those canisters of formula and the gasoline required to get it to my front door.  And, it sure helps out on the pocketbook.

            None of this is to say that I think those who don’t breastfeed are ogres set on tormenting their children.  Like the rest of us, they have their reasons for the choices they make (and for some it is not a choice).  But they ain’t doing it the way I do it.  I won’t judge them if they promise not to judge me.

            To be honest, I do think there are limits on when breastfeeding is appropriate.  But those limits have to do with age, not location.  Unless you have a very precocious child, once the child is able to say, “No, I’d prefer the left one, please,” it may be time to think about weaning.  Until that time, it is essential that women feel comfortable breastfeeding where and when they need to.

            Because public breastfeeding is about a commitment.  When I feed my baby in public, rather than hiding in a corner or trying to cover her head or letting her scream till I can get her home, I am denying the shame that people try to attach to the act.  The moment I accept heavy limitations on breastfeeding is the moment I start to fail.

            When I lived in London, I found that the women in my area were very uncomfortable feeding their babies in public.  They only nursed in private.  And, soon, they began to feel stuck in the house.  So, they would supplement with bottles when they needed to go out.  Their milk supplies began to decrease because they were using the bottle any time they were not in their homes.  Pretty soon, they had given up altogether.  Nursing for only a few months is considered successful breastfeeding in that neighborhood, and I think it has to do with the anxiety over public feeding.  While that might be fine for some, I feel very, very strongly that my kids deserve at least six months of exclusive breastfeeding and another six months of plenty o’ Mama Milk if they are willing.  Benjamin, it turned out, was not so willing

            So, despite the taboos, I breastfed my second child in London much as I had my first in Philadelphia, which is to say everywhere.  Walking to the Tube, on the Tube, listening to a string quartet in Covent Garden.  “Fly the banner,” the violinist commented.  Sadly, many of the English were somewhat less supportive.  Not that they actually said anything to me.  That would have been terribly un-English.  But they looked at me and then looked away, which is English for “WTF?”

            Being American, I kept right at it, which is how I found myself on a bench outside the Science Museum one fall morning, feeding Benjamin while Zachary and J went inside.  Next to me sat a couple about my age.  The man was right beside me and he looked over.  Actually, he stared right down at the little head as it took care of business at my bosom.  “Great,” I thought.  “Another Englishman appalled by my behavior.”  Except it turns out these folks were Italian, and the man said something to me as he gazed down at the suckling child.  The woman proceeded to translate, but there was no need; I know what “Bella” means.

            These are culturally constructed attitudes, and we can decide as a society that nursing is something to be hidden or something so lovely we cannot stop staring.  If I cover up, I am agreeing that there is something to hide.  I am telling other mothers that they should keep it under wraps, which is the best way I know to sabotage breastfeeding.

            I’d rather fly the banner, thank you very much.

Please disperse

Today, I have an article up at Mamazine, a fantastic zine that I hope you will check out regularly.  Click on over and read my article.  Pretty please?

What would T. Berry say?

            Lately, Zachary has resumed his habit of drinking a lot of water before bed. I go to bed right after I get the baby down, so it’s too early to lift him to the toilet before I head off to sleep, but by the time I wake up in the night to feed her, Zach has wet through his pull-up.  Hence, I have started insisting he visit the commode immediately prior to climbing into bed.  Sounds like a reasonable solution, no?

            It turns out that four-year olds are not all that into reasonable.

            Zachary is appalled that I should suggest he use the toilet before bed.  This is because he does not need to urinate.  He stands in front of the toilet and whinescreams at me.  Eventually, of course, he lets out a long stream of pee, because his bladder is full to bursting.

            The other night, he felt the whinescreaming was insufficient to express his dissatisfaction.  He decided, instead, to use another weapon in his arsenal.

            You know where I am going with this, right?  If you don’t know, you must have never in your life met a four-year-old boy.

            So, what, exactly, if the appropriate response when one’s child waves his p-nis about midstream and pisses on the bathroom floor?  I mean, what would Dr. Sears do?  Whatever it is, I am pretty damned sure what I did was not what the experts would advise.

            I went ballistic.  I pulled his hand away so that the rest of the contribution went into the toilet, then yanked up his pjs and handed him a wipe, yelling, “You clean that up!”  I don’t mean I told him to clean it up.  I hollered it.  With fury on top.

            We were both shaken.  I got him into bed and kissed the boys goodnight, still fuming.  He was whimpering for me to come back with another kiss, which I did because I don’t deny them kisses, but I did not give it with particularly good grace.  A few minutes later, I checked in one more time, this time softening my response by gently telling him that I love him, even though I am angry.

            We all lose it with our kids, and I do try to forgive myself.  The next morning, after an apology, we got on with our day because I cannot spend forever dwelling on it every time I lose my temper.  I brought them to school and stopped back into Zach’s room after bringing his brother to the younger classroom.  Zachary was working on his letters at a little table with two of his classmates.  Suddenly, my son was screaming at his friend, “You’re bad!  You’re bad!  You’re being mean!”  Tears were flowing down his face and his tone reminded me of something…  Something I had heard very recently.

            It turns out the other child had hit Zach, and my son responded by yelling in a possessed tone of voice.  With fury on top.  His reaction was probably over the top, although I told him I was pleased he had used his words instead of hitting back.  I guess it’s good he is defending himself and I suppose I would yell if someone hit me.

            Nonetheless, I wonder where he learned to holler like that.

Public Schooling

            Three kids.  Over two combined years (thus far) of breastfeeding.  On airplanes, while walking, on the Tube, by the side of the road, in the Enchanted Tiki Room.  And the  other day was the very first time.

            I got called out for public breastfeeding.  Oh, yes I did.

            I was talking to the preschool director about some issues and she haltingly brought it up.  “I am getting some comments about the breastfeeding,” she told me.

            “Why?” I asked, already defensive.  Sometimes, I feed Lilah on the benches outside the school or on the couches in the waiting area because she is shrieking and hungry after drop-off or before pick-up of her brothers.

            “I don’t know,” the director told me.  “I used to breastfeed everywhere.  But I guess some of the kids are asking questions at home.”

            “Well, if they want to complain, send them to me,” I replied.

            “I think I took care of it,” she went on.  “It seems to me it is a very natural way for them to see a breast.”  Not, of course, that anyone sees much.  My baby’s head is sort of blocking the view.

            I suspect she was hoping I would offer to cover up to save her the headache of dealing with the complainers.  She probably does not think I should have to but would appreciate if the issue resolved itself.  Of course, we all know that most babies prefer not to be covered while eating, and I have yet to see a single baby sitting out front who is covered while drinking a bottle or a toddler with a blanket over her head while eating Cheerios.

            I am not going to cover up.  But, the question remains whether I should simply find someplace to hide while doing it.  If it were just adults, I would say, “If you don’t want to see, don’t look.”  But, these are kids who are always looking at everything, and the parents do have a right to raise their kids within their belief system.

            As do I.  So, I think I will stop feeding my baby in front of them as soon as they stop parading things in front of my kids that I don’t believe in.  That means, no nail polish on their children, as I don’t approve of my kids wearing nail polish (a subject for another post).  And they will have to pack lunches without any disposable items, because I do not use baggies or Saran Wrap.  I expect to see the boys wearing pink on a regular basis, of course, since that is what I am raising my kids to feel comfortable doing, and we are now all adjusting our parenting to make everyone’s kids feel comfortable with my values.

            Did I mention they’ll need to start buying organic produce?  

Breast is best

Two weeks ago I published this post asking everyone to leave a comment with a link to his/her blog.  If you missed that post, please do click over and leave a brief comment.


            Benjamin’s blankie has a little giraffe head in one corner.  The rest is giraffe-print.  I can only assume that the idea of these animal blankies it to help children bond by encouraging them to think of the blankie as a living creature.  This seems to have been quite effective with my two year old.  A few weeks ago, he got his little hands on one of the spare Giraffies that we keep hidden and rotate in so we can launder the one he has been sucking on all day.  We usually keep them hidden away so that he only has one Giraffie at a time, but now and then he manages to sneak one out of the laundry.  When this happens, he behaves as though he has won the Lotto – two Giraffies means twice the emotional gratification.

            On this particular day, Benjamin sat in the middle of the kitchen, one Giraffie in each hand, and introduced them to one another.  They promptly fell in love, and by the time I found him, they were engaged in kissing one another.  I broke up the love fest when I took the spare blankie to hide away, much to Ben’s confusion.  He could not imagine why I would discourage Giraffie heavy petting.

            I guess giraffe blankies must have a short gestation period, because it appears we now have a baby Giraffie.  I know this because the other day I found Benjamin in the living room with Giraffie’s head stuck down the front of his shirt.

           “Giraffie eatin’ my breast,” he enthused.  I wonder if La Leche League has a division for animal blankies…