Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Have a Happy Merry Holidays Christmas

It has been a couple of months since I've posted.  The business I'm starting, Eclectic Willow, has begun to have some success, so much of my time has been split between my family and work.  But there is one issue that bothers me so much that I just had to post--the "Happy Holidays" vs. "Merry Christmas" debate.

When I was a kid, people said "Happy Holidays" all the time.  It wasn't a big deal.  No one I knew took it as a foul insult or assault on their religion.  My understanding was always that "Merry Christmas" referred largely to Christmas day while "Happy Holidays" was used more generally to cover the time between Thanksgiving and New Year's.  It was also used when one was not sure of another person's religion, since it could cover any holiday occurring during that time range.  It was a way to say that you hoped that time of year was wonderful.

Now?  Now you might as well say "Christmas is an invalid religion which you have no right to celebrate.  Become Satanist.  Become Atheist.  Jump off a bridge.  Bah Humbug, and I hope your life sucks."  At least to some people.  I've actually heard of a cashier who got told off for saying "Happy Holidays".  In a similar vein, it annoys me when non-Christians get upset if someone says "Merry Christmas".  They are just being nice.

To me, getting angry at someone for saying "Happy Holidays" OR "Merry Christmas" is basically like telling someone to shove it when they tell you to have a good day.  These are polite, well-meant phrases of goodwill that no one has to say to you.  Why are we making a habit of rejecting goodwill?  Good.  Will.  Who cares if it doesn't follow your personal religion or creed?  Does it really matter if your cashier at the grocery store celebrates the same way you do?  They are wishing you happiness and joy.

Really, isn't there enough conflict in the world without getting all worked up about this?  When you tell someone off for saying "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas", aren't you defeating the entire purpose of this time of year?

Christians: Maybe you think everyone should be Christian and celebrate Christmas.  That's cool.  But what kind of example are you showing when you tell someone off who was just being nice?  Your anger and your conflict turn more people away from Christ than will draw them to Him.  WWJD is a good question here.  I personally think He would say "Happy Holidays", bless them, and move on.

Non-Christians:  Like it or not, Christianity is the major religion in much of the United States.  You don't have to follow it.  Your faith or lack thereof is your own personal matter.  When someone says "Merry Christmas", 99% of the time they are not insulting you or your religious choice.  They have probably just assumed that you are a member of the majority religion.  Say "Merry Christmas" back and go on with your day.  Even if you don't celebrate it, they clearly do, and your response is meant for them anyway.  Acting like an asshat is only going to make Christians more hostile to those rude non-Christians.

It seems like politeness is hard to come by these days.  As I mentioned above, no one has to wish you a good day, a good month, or a happy holiday season.  They do this out of kindness.  Other times of the year, we are lucky to get any kind of good wishes.  So stop getting worked up about the form this kindness takes.  This is a beautiful time of year, a time that should not be marred by endless arguments over which phrase of goodwill is more appropriate.  Accept the blessing you are given.  Go home, have some hot chocolate, and enjoy this merry season.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Truth in Advertising

When it comes to advertising, words do not always mean what you think they do.  Forgive me if I've ranted about this before, but linguistic manipulation is a pet peeve of mine.  What got me upset this time?  Here's the front of a coupon attached to a Babies'R'Us circular:
Note the words here-- ANY (capitalized and bold) one regular-priced baby item.  This sounds great.  Then you look at the back:

Just look at that long list of exclusions.  Foremost?  Excludes ALL (caplitalized and bold) toys.  Did the people who made this coupon misunderstand the meaning of 'all'?  You know, "the whole of (used in referring to quantity, extent, or duration): all the cake; all the way; all year."  

Their first use of 'all' is clearly not correct.  They don't mean everything, after all, only some of the things.  Can I apply that to the same 'all' they put on the back?  Can I pick what I want to exclude from their exclusion policy?

This happens a lot with 'free', too.  Buy X and get Y free.  Except Y isn't free--didn't I have to buy X to get it?  Free:  "costing nothing; provided without charge: free entertainment."  If I pay you money, it isn't free.  It may be a bonus or an extra but not free.

Maybe I should send advertisers a free* dictionary including ALL** of the English language.

*Requires purchase of one item from my Etsy shop.
**Some words may be excluded at my discretion.  You won't know if they're the ones you need until you are searching through said dictionary.  Sorry.

Help for Teething Babies

Just a quick post to tell my parent friends out there about a great giveaway.  If you have a teething baby, check out this Teething Bling pendant giveaway.  In case you aren't familiar with the company, Teething Bling makes a variety of necklaces designed for babies to chew on.  They are free of chemicals and toxins that might harm your child.  You can find them here on Facebook.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Little Pieces

There are some tasks that are just too big to be contemplated at once.  Well, at least for me.

I'm the type of person who gets easily overwhelmed.  I still remember when we moved into our current house.  Instead of taking them to the proper room, the movers stacked most of our boxes in a big box mountain in a single room.  We called it Mt. Boxmore.  I hated that pile.  Take one box off, and it still seemed like it hadn't been touched.  It took a long time and a lot of help to get that pile unpacked.  I still hadn't learned how to focus on the little pieces.

Oddly enough, though, I had unconsciously started my writing process in just that way.  I don't know how most writers work, but I start a new file for each chapter.  Only when I am finished do I combine that chapter into one file with all the rest.  I didn't think about why I did this, but it makes so much sense to me now.  If I tried to write everything in one big file, I would get too overwhelmed.  I know I can finish a chapter.  It is a small goal, an accomplishment I can feel good about during the greater process.  It keeps my book from feeling like Mt. Boxmore.

I'm finally started to actively apply that to my life in other ways.  I organized my pantry one shelf at a time.  I set small goals that I know I can complete.  It sounds SO very simple, but it isn't.  When you are a perfectionist, it is a struggle to turn off the part of your brain that says you should be able to do everything at once (and do it well).  But finally, I'm learning to celebrate the small steps.

Thank goodness for little pieces!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Babies, and Travel, and Fevers, Oh My!

What a week!  It started off well.  Monday, I had a babysitter for writing time and got to go take pictures with my friend Sarah.  Tuesday, I left for my mom's house.  My husband had a conference to go to, so the plan was to visit with my family, then meet him at the hotel on Thursday.

Well, Wednesday my daughter developed a high fever.  104.8!  No walk-in clinic would see her, so I had to take her to the ER.  An out of town visit to the ER with a 1 year old?  No fun for anyone.  I think Kira called the nurses "meanymeanymeany" quite a few times, as a matter of fact.  Poor nurses.  And after all the tests, the doctor could only say that she has a virus.  Probably.

Yesterday, she did great.  As long as she had her Motrin, she was playing and happy.  The same this morning.  So, I set out to meet my husband a couple of hours away.  By the time I got to the hotel room, she had a fever again despite the Motrin.  I gave her some Tylenol, and now she is resting in her playpen while I try not to panic.

As far as I can tell, traveling with a baby is a bit like playing roulette.  There's just no telling what will happen.  And we have a road trip coming up in a couple of weeks.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Vacation from Vacation!

We went on our first vacation with Kira a couple of weeks ago.  Whew!  Going on vacation with a one year-old is an experience.  I'd planned to post from the beach, but I spent most of my time trying to keep the baby out of, well, everything.  We stayed with my in-laws, who live near the beach, and Kira was more than happy to explore their house.  It took me a week to recover from my vacation.

I thought I would start out this week with vacation highlights.

 I took this shot at the Gulf Shores Zoo.  Though it is a small zoo, I love the atmosphere.  See that rail at the bottom?  That's how close we were to the tiger.  This is not my long-range lense!  You can see the fence in the next picture, where Kira is looking at the tiger: 
Kira didn't seem too sure of the beach.  As long as her feet didn't touch the sand, she was okay.  She enjoyed watching the waves and playing with her beach toys (so long as they weren't in sand).

We also went to Fort Morgan, a Civil War fort.  I took lots of pictures, but these two were my favorites:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Blogging Burnout

A few weeks ago, I joined a great site, voiceBoks.  Now let me start out by saying that this is a great community, and no one there is in any way responsible for my burnout.  The fault is entirely mine, and I highly recommend this site for women bloggers.  But here's what happened.

At voiceBoks, there are lots of events that you can join, events designed to increase your GFC and Twitter followers, Facebook likes, etc.  I made the mistake of trying to join too many at once.  I wanted to be social and to participate, and I was excited.  This was great, at first.  I've found lots of wonderful blogs to read, and I'm still happy with the community.  But after I found myself frantically trying to return follows one night before the event closed, I realized that my enthusiasm took me too far.

I've been meaning to post all week.  I had a candlemaking post planned for Tuesday and birthday party pictures for Wordless Wednesday.  Problem is, I've just lacked the motivation.  I spent so much time networking and blogging that the thought of looking at blogs has been somewhat repulsive.  I have avoided Blogger all week.

I guess the lesson here is not to try to take on too much at once.  I have a lot of things going on.  I'm trying to finish the book I'm writing (on the last chapter or so!), start a crafting business, and blog, and all of these things take a back seat to raising my daughter.  I'll still participate at voiceBoks, but I think I need to slow it down.  Burnout is not a useful thing.

Tell me, how do you avoid burnout? 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Happy Birthday, Kira!

Today is my daughter's first birthday.  It is so hard to believe that it has been a year already!  A year ago today, I was trying to figure out how to take care of a new life who already ruled my heart.  Kira is the light of my life, and I am so lucky to have been blessed with her. 

I love you, Kira!  Thank you for being my wonderful daughter!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Gerber Generation

A couple of days ago, I decided to buy Kira a Gerber Graduates cheese ravioli meal.  My thinking was that it would be easy to cut into small pieces, and that was indeed the case.  The only problem?  I don't know what that stuff is made of, but it isn't food.

She made the worst face when she tried the first bite.  Then, I got the "what is this?  have you lost your mind!?" look.  The look that says I am too crazy to even be babbled at.  Wondering what could be wrong with cheese ravioli, I popped one into my mouth.  Without another word, I went and got her something else to eat.  How, Gerber, how can you go wrong with cheese ravioli?

You know how American cheese says "Processed Cheese Product" on the label?  Honestly, I don't think this meal could even qualify for that.  I couldn't even taste fake cheese flavoring.  No wonder she didn't want to eat it.

My daughter will happily snatch up pieces of rice and chicken from the Mexican restaurant and curry at the Thai place. She loves to eat what we are eating, and that makes me happy. I thought the occassional Gerber meal would be good for lunch if I was super busy, but Kira will have none of it. And who could blame her?

I've seen children who will only eat chicken nuggets and fries at every restaurant.  Sometimes, that's just a phase.  But I have to wonder if sometimes that is caused by a generation of children raised on these Gerber Graduate meals.  They are bland to the point of ridiculousness when few spices cause children any bother.  How many children think that is what food is supposed to be?

I've decided that if I want a quick and easy lunch for Kira, I'll just make extra real ravioli next time we have it and put it in the freezer.  Thawing might not be quite as fast, but it will be so, so much better.  In more ways than one. 


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Me and Dr. Sears

Brace yourselves.  I am about to speak words of blasphemy to many new mothers.  Ready?  Do you have your fingers in the angry-comment position?  Okay.

I do not like Dr. Sears.

There, I said it.  Now, I have nothing against the man personally.  I've never met him or interacted with him in any way, so it would be entirely unfair to dislike him on that level.  What I don't like is the phenomenon that is Dr. Sears.  The figurehead.  The ultimate authority.

Dr. Sears is everywhere.  Open up a magazine on babies and toddlers, and chances are good that you'll find an article written by him.  Baby products proudly announce that they are endorsed by Dr. Sears.  "But he is full of wisdom about babies," you might say.  I'm sure that is true.  I'm sure that his advice has helped plenty of parents. 

That being said, he is not the god of pediatricians.  "Because Dr. Sears said so" should not be the end of any discussion.   I have encountered that attitude entirely too often.  Your method of parenting is not necessarily better just because it is endorsed by Dr. Sears.  There are other pediatricians and baby experts in the world, and I can even have an opinion different from all of them.

Really, I think we rely on "experts" entirely too often for things that are not serious health questions.  Maybe it goes back to that need for validation that I've mentioned before.  We as parents need some way to say "I'm doing a good job because..."  But these experts are not in our homes with our babies.  Their advice can be useful, but it shouldn't be used as an ultimate authority.

It is time to rely more on Dr. Mom and Dr. Dad.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Difference a Week Makes

It is amazing how quickly babies change.  You hear that statement so many times, but when you are struggling with a transition, it can be hard to believe it.  So goes the sippy cup saga.  Was it just a little over a week ago that she finally started drinking from the sippy?  Yesterday, she took all of her milk from sippy cups without a complaint.  It didn't even mess up her bedtime routine!

I suppose this has me feeling a little philosophical.  How often do we feel like a situation in our lives can never change?  When you are in the middle of said situation, it is difficult to consider that it will ever end.  But you just never know.  I have no idea why Kira went from zero interest in her sippy cups to loving them.  It just happened.  That kind of unexpected, unexplained change can happen in other areas of your life, too.

I've had a lot of trouble with postpartum depression and anxiety, and at times, I feel like I'll never get better.  But hey, I never know what day my hormones might settle down.  I could go back to feeling normal tomorrow.  One thing is for sure, though: as long as I keep feeling like things will stay the same emotionally, then they certainly will.

It is hard to remember to look on the bright side.  You never know when a negative will become a positive.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

First Birthday Madness

Baby's first birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks, and I have to admit it--I've started going just a little crazy about it.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm not going to be featured on TLC's Outrageous Kid Parties.  There won't be a petting zoo, circus, or fair rides.  Heck, there won't even be a clown.  It is more that I have become obsessed with the details.

First, I had to find the right theme.  Kira loves giraffes, so I went to Party City and various craft stores in search of a jungle-themed party set.  For baby's first birthday, they had: Sesame Street, Princess, and Sports themes.  Thankfully, had this set:
 Perfect!  (Why am I so obsessed with this?)

The other big question: What about the cake?  I've been to Kroger, Publix, and Walmart in search of the perfect giraffe cake.  Of course, the cute book full of cakes is focused on licensed themes from every kid's show you can think of with surprisingly few general ideas.  I found one jungle cake at Walmart that would in no way match the above set.

My mom considered making the cake, but I stressed her out too much.  That design is too round, I don't like the colors on that one, etc.  We finally decided I should find a bakery so I wouldn't be mad at a family member if the cake was wrong.  (In case you are wondering, Publix has a giraffe template and can use the colors from the plates and napkins.  Here's hoping it looks good!)

This whole thing is rather odd to me, as I am usually easy-going about these kinds of details.  I hated wedding planning because I just didn't care about most of the small stuff.  Aside from my dress, I think someone else could have picked everything, and I would have shown up happy.  Why am I worried about the dark green jungle cake matching the plate set?  WHY?

I don't know.  But I hope I don't drive my family crazy before the birthday party gets here.  :)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Morning Milk and Cuddles

If you remember one of my last posts, you know how much trouble I've had getting Kira to drink from a sippy cup.  I'm happy to say that we've had a little progress on this.  For the last two days, she has drunk almost all of the milk at her mid-day feeding from a straw sippy cup.  I had to hold the cup the whole time, but hey, I'm still counting it as a win.

Now that she has started to drink from her sippy, I know it is time to begin moving her off bottles.  Every day, I tell myself that I'll start tomorrow.  Tomorrow, I'll get Kira up and dressed, then give her a sippy cup of milk in her high chair.  Yep, I'll get right on that.

I know I should have started trying sooner to get her used to the concept, but I keep hesitating.  This time, it is all me.  See, I love our mornings.  Kira starts to chatter in her crib, so I go make her milk.  When I opened the door this morning, she started kicking her feet happily and saying a few words (?) of greeting, though sometimes she is standing up and jumping.  I cuddle her in my lap in the glider and give her her milk.  I can lean down and kiss her head and hug her close.  It is a precious moment.

I guess it is hard to face that my baby is turning into a little girl more every day.  If I had been able to breastfeed, I suppose these moments could have continued, but that was not to be.  Right now, it is all on me to transition.  I dread doing it.  After her milk, Kira cuddles on my lap and often gives me hugs.  The rest of the day, she wants to be on the go constantly.  Will I lose that when she starts taking her milk from a sippy cup?

Only time will tell.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Free Music Through Amazon!

Hey, guys, if you don't have a lot of spare money for music or like to try an artist before buying a whole album, this deal is for you.  Actually, it is pretty much for anyone who likes music.  Amazon has a $2 MP3 store credit with the code CLOUDMP3 through June 30th.  You can CLICK HERE to get directly to the place where you enter the credit.  I had to enter mine all in lowercase for some reason, but I have two free songs to add to my collection.

Also, if you have multiple devices and are tired of trying to save your music on all of them, give the Amazon Cloud Drive a try.  You get up to 20 gigs of free music storage, and you can access that music from the internet.  There's even a Cloud Player app for Android.  I am totally in love with this service. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Candlemaking 101: The Workshop

Last week, thanks to help from my wonderful nephew, I finally got my craft room back in order:
Well, usable at least
This reminded me that I hadn't blogged about crafting in a while, so I thought I would do a few posts about candlemaking.  I'm not going to try to tell you how to get an organized workroom; clearly, it can be done in a more organized manner than shown above.  This post is more about what you will need to get started.

This picture shows most of the basic supplies:

1) A good work surface, either something you don't care about or something well-covered.  Note the wax stains.  Drips are common and accidents happen.
2) A hot plate of some kind.
3) A double boiler setup of some kind.  You boil water in the bottom pot and cover that with a pot with holes in the bottom so the steam can come through.  NEVER PUT A POT OF WAX DIRECTLY ON THE BURNER.  Don't worry, I'll remind you when I go through making a candle.
4) A spatula.  Silicone spatulas designed for high heat (not the cheapo ones) are perfect for stirring wax and working wax out of stubborn places.
5) Heat-resistant pads to put hot candles and wax pots on to cool.
6) Not shown: Oven mitt, apron, wax thermometer, and fire extinguisher.  Hmm, maybe that last should have been number 1.

Candle molds are great, but you don't have to start with them.  Tin and glass containers are excellent to learn in, and coffee cups are cheap at the dollar store.  If you look at the first pictures, you can see the types of containers I currently have in my craft room. 

I also have plastic and silicone molds not pictured.  Plastic molds are cheaper, but I'm not a fan of them.  I tend to prefer either metal molds or containers.

While you can use old tin cans, I recommend getting the pitchers made for melting wax.  The handle and the spout have saved me a lot of burns, and it can be hard to get a precise pour from a tin can.  However, if you are not sure you want to do much candlemaking, this isn't necessary.

You will, of course, need wax.  This pitcher is for beeswax, and that is what beeswax looks like when it is cool.  I prefer beeswax and soy because they are natural, but paraffin is pretty common.  I'll list my favorite candle supply websites below if you want to see prices, though I recommend ebay for beeswax.

Wax dyes and scents are optional when you are first starting out, but they certainly make candlemaking more fun.  You will also need wick (of course) and wick clips.  I forgot to pull out a wick clip for the picture, but you'll see it when I do a tutorial on making the actual candle.  (I believe that is soy wax in the glass cup, by the way.  It tends to come in flakes.)

As promised, some of my favorite candlemaking supply websites:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The (Anti) Sippy Cup Revolution

I might as well face it. I am going to be one of those mothers.  The ones maligned in playgroups and motherhood forums.  Yes, you guessed it--I'm still going to be giving my baby a bottle after she's a year old.  Other mothers will give me dirty looks in public or smirk about my inferior parenting skills.  How could I do such a thing?  Don't I know that doomhorrordentistbillsOMG will descend upon my head?

Okay, maybe that's a bit dramatic, but I have heard people talk about how horrible it is for babies to have bottles after a year old.  The truth is, they need to be convincing my 11 month old.  I'm on board.  We've bought multiple types of sippy cups (about 3 more types not pictured below), but my daughter will have none of them.  Now, some of you might remember an earlier post about sippy cup success.  It seemed that she would initially take the type on the bottom right, and she will chug water spiked with a dash of fruit juice out of the darn thing.  But milk?  Not so much.
My enemies

The doctor told me at Kira's 9 month checkup that she should be drinking out of sippy cups by a year.  He forgot to mention how to accomplish this feat against a willful baby.  Lately, Kira's favorite game is "drink an ounce from the cup, then see how far I can throw it."  You might be thinking that maybe she isn't thirsty, but that is not the case.  She'll take the rest of the milk in a bottle.  

It appears that she is having her own little revolution.  She doesn't care about anyone else's plans.  She wants the bottle, and that is what she will have.  Mommy, doctors, and random passersby cannot change her mind.  

Vive le biberon!

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Request for Votes

I'm not going to get a very long post up today.  My niece and nephew are visiting, and so far, our fun hasn't involved much blogging.  :)  I did want to post a brief request, though.  Please go vote for my baby in the Parenting Magazine's cover baby contest at this link.

 How can you resist this face?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Baby Safety (Or a Lack Thereof)

I have a little bit of a rant, my friends.  This isn't about people who endanger their children, though that could certainly be its own post.  This is about companies that endanger our children without thought of the consequences.

You know the scenario: You are out and about with your baby when you smell that telltale scent of 'diaper needs changing.'  So you go to the store's bathroom, pull down the changing station, and prepare to change that diaper.  Now imagine my surprise the other day when I went to secure the safety strap (You use them, right?  Concrete floors are hard.) and found that our local Wal-mart cut off the safety straps.  This was clearly not negligence, a simple lack of knowledge about broken equipment.  The straps were intentionally cut off close to the base, and I found this to be the case in the other bathroom.  I've found plenty of broken or otherwise unusable safety straps at other changing stations.  

Another common scenario:  Your family is going out to eat, and you request a high chair for your baby.  Many times this works fine.  But there have been cases where restaurants have had to search through their chairs to find one with working safety straps.  Now, I know that there are plenty of moms who don't use them.  I see it all the time, especially with older babies.  But when my daughter was six months, she didn't always sit up well, and at ten months, she likes to try to lean over and reach stuff she drops.  Darn skippy I use those straps!  We should not have to search through a stack of high chairs to find one that is actually safe.

I don't understand how companies can do this.  Aside from obvious lawsuits (it's only a matter of time for our local Wal-mart), these are babies.  How can you play with the safety of little babies just so you don't have to spend a few bucks on a new high chair?  It is truly sad.

I wish more places would copy our local La Siesta restaurant.  When I pointed out a broken plastic piece on a high chair, the waitress was horrified and took it to the manager immediately for replacement.  We haven't had a broken one since.  Much better than the server we had at O'Charley's who put two broken high chairs back on the stack without a word.

Anyone else run across this problem?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things

I'm a Stay-At-Home Mom with little spare time or money.  Thankfully, there are a few things I've found that a) don't take much time and b) help get me things for free.  I haven't scored tons of money or prizes, but I've been happy with what I've earned so far.  So what are my favorites?

1)  Giveaways
 Since I started entering giveaways, I've become a huge fan.  So far I've won a Baby Brezza baby food maker from the Momformation blog and SkinMD lotion and a $10 Pampered Chef gift card from Mommy and Me Giveaways.  It is only a matter of time until I win something really big, I just know it! (Come on, HGTV dream home!)  In the meantime, I'm really hoping to win a Levana Safe 'N See Digital Video Monitor here from Mommy and Me Giveaways.  Fingers crossed!

For giveaways not necessarily related to motherhood, two great sites are Sweeties Sweeps and Freebies 4 Mom (don't let the name fool you--the Sweeps she lists are rarely related to motherhood).  Feel free to list more in the comments section!

2)  Surveys
There are lots of survey sites out there, but so far there's only one I've stuck with: Valued Opinions.  Most survey sites give you points and maybe a contest entry, and you use those points to enter other contests with no sure win.  With Valued Opinions, you earn a "dollar" amount per survey.  When you've earned $20 worth, you can trade that in for an equivalent gift card.  I've made $40 in Amazon gift  cards so far and am close to having another $20.  Free e-books for me!

3) Ebates
If you haven't found and you love to shop online, then you should totally go there now!  Ebates gives you cash back on purchases made online at tons of stores.  I wasn't sure about it at first because it sounded to good to be true, but I've cashed a check from them myself.  I've only earned $7 so far, but I wouldn't have had that if I'd bought my Old Navy clothes at their store.  It is easy to sign up for Ebates.  Why wait?

I hope you've found my list helpful.  It won't earn you lots, but sometimes just a little can be a big help.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Musing

I was pondering this morning about how, when I was a kid, I didn't really think much about Memorial Day.  It was a day off, and there was often grilling and swimming.  It was the official start of summer revelry after a year of school.  I didn't really consider those who sacrificed so much so that I could enjoy those picnics in peace, freedom, and safety.  Ah, the blindness of youth.

My grandfather was a decorated veteran, of World War II, I believe (he didn't talk about it).  According to my mother, he faked his age to join the war, so he had two birth years during his life--the official one and the real one.  He didn't die in the war, but he certainly gave a great deal, which is probably why he didn't talk about the experience much.  My mom still has the awards he won.

When I was a child, he was the only person I think I knew who had ever served.  I know a great deal more now, both friends and family through marriage.  My father-in-law is a Vietnam veteran, a Navy pilot.  I know people who fought in the Gulf War and in Afghanistan.  Like my grandfather, they survived these wars, but today reminds me of all they sacrificed.

Thank you to all who have taken time away from your families for not enough pay just to keep us safe and free.  Thank you to all who huddled in trenches, flew planes and helicopters into danger, and suffered through terrible conditions. 

Thank you most of all to those who gave their lives in service.  May you be in the most beautiful heaven of your personal faith, enjoying the rewards for your valor.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Power of Showers

I am convinced that showers (and maybe bathrooms in general) have some kind of mystical power.  I'm not talking about the obvious physical cleaning that takes place in the shower but rather the thoughts that are born there.  Have a problem that needs to be solved?  Need inspiration for a scene that just won't write?  Take a shower, my friends.

I don't know what it is, but as soon as I get in the shower, I start to puzzle over whatever is bothering me.  I've worked out countless plot issues in my book and problems in my life.  The thoughts and inspiration flow like the water, washing away whatever is blocking me.  Come to think of it, what could I do with a waterproof laptop?  I could probably write the next great American Novel, along with a few Broadway plays and Oscar-winning movies.  Well, provided I could overcome prune fingers and an uncooperative water heater.

Tell me, am I alone in this?  Am I the only person who tends to think best in the shower?  Surely, I'm not the only strange one out there.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Baby Hugs and Kisses

Early motherhood is a combination of wonderful and grueling, a test of patience and perseverance, and sometimes it is hard to tell if you are doing a good job.  First, you get smiles, then laughs and happy babbling, and these things warm your heart.  But still, though you give your baby hugs and kisses all day long, it can be hard to tell what that means to them.  Babies can't say thank you or I love you.  And sometimes--sometimes, you find yourself doubting your place.  Anyone would do, right?  My baby doesn't really need me.

Then, it happens.  Your baby's first hugs and kisses.

I'd been down lately, dealing with postpartum depression and hormonal crap.  I'd started to feel like I wasn't particularly special to my daughter above anyone else.  Then two nights ago, my husband picked her up off the changing table, and she launched herself at me.  Her little arms squeezed around my neck in an obvious hug, and she smashed her mouth against my face.  Last night, she did the same and again today.

There just aren't words to express how much that means.  All the doubts and the fears fade away in the power of that moment.  My baby doesn't give me hugs and kisses because she has to.  It's not like crying for food or sleep.  These gestures come wholly from her heart, an expression of love so pure it is hard to fathom, and there are few experiences that can really compare.

Mothers may not win awards.  We don't get promotions or raises, and we don't get progress reports to evaluate how well we're doing.  But when you get that first real hug and kiss, it feels better than getting all of those things.  They're a baby's best "thank you."

Rejoice in that moment, your accolade for a job well done.  

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Sneaky Way to Introduce Avocado

I've read a good bit about making baby food, and I have to say that one of the foods I was most looking forward to giving my baby was avocado.  I mean, avacado is full of vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats.  It is soft and easy to smoosh.  An obvious choice for one of baby's first foods.  But there was only one problem--my lovely daughter hated avocado.  

I gave up on this wonderful fruit until I ran across this blog post over at Wholesome Baby Food.  It sounded like a great idea, but I didn't get around to trying it until just recently.  I modified her recipe by using a mango instead of half a papaya.  Why?  Well, papaya was around $4-5 at the store that week and mango was $1.50.  I imagine you could substitute other tropical fruits just as successfully.  Basically, I combined and blended:

1 mango
1 avocado
1 quarter of a pre-cored pineapple

I have to say, the recipe is awesome!  It smells absolutely wonderful--you could probably add some ice and make yourself a fruit smoothie with the same stuff.  My daughter can't get enough, even with the addition of her nemesis, avocado.  I've also mixed it with some banana or vanilla baby yogurt.

If you want your picky baby to get some avocado goodness, I highly recommend this recipe.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Reflections on the Death of a Madman

I'm pretty sure we've all heard the news--Osama bin Laden is dead.  When I first saw the announcement last night, I was jubilant in our victory.  But that feeling waned quickly into something harder to identify, a feeling that only increased as crowds gathered to celebrate.  I was surprised to find that it was sadness.

Don't misunderstand.  The man was crazy, a murderer who had to be eliminated for the safety of thousands, possibly millions.  I don't mourn that he was killed, and if I was a family member of one of his victims, I would be dancing in the streets for a solid week.  What gets me is the sheer waste of it all.  The waste of a life that was too caught in madness to be saved.  The waste of a soul that could not be redeemed.  He was a natural leader.  What could he have done as a force for good?  For love, peace, and acceptance?  What turns a person to madness and evil so dark? 

I suppose there is no good answer to that.  But I feel that we need to be careful not to fall into a similar kind of callous insanity.  Celebrate, yes.  Innocents have likely been saved by the death of one so terrible.  But remember to celebrate with modesty, with a touch of sadness for potential lost.  Why?  Because to cheer the death of any human with a complete lack of feeling brings us terribly close to the terrorists, to the people in other countries who celebrate in the deaths of Americans without thought.

He has been removed from the world, and that is a good thing.  Now it is up to the Divine to judge and punish him, and we will never know in this life what that punishment will be.  It is left to us to promote peace here on Earth, to try to turn others from the path of mad hatred.

But we will never convince others if we become consumed by that hatred ourselves.

Friday, April 29, 2011

A Blessed Birthday

I didn't post yesterday because, well... it was my birthday, and I just didn't get around to it.  I have to say, this was one of the best birthdays I've had in a while, and it wasn't necessarily because of presents or my birthday dinner (though those were wonderful).  Mostly, it was that I was alive.

For the two days before my birthday, storms threatened my area.  First off, I am terrified of tornadoes to near-phobic proportions.  I tend to start praying at least two days before a forecast severe weather outbreak.  During the storms, I have the weather on constantly, much to my husband's unhappiness, and I just found the joy that is live streaming weather coverage.  Now I can hunker in the hall with my laptop beside me.  
The storms weren't nearly as bad here as the ones in Alabama, but we did have two small tornadoes touch down within miles of our house on Wednesday.  Let me tell you, there's nothing like being in the hall putting your body over your baby in her car seat (hey, it might help) twice in one day to make you appreciate life.

I spent all day yesterday thankful that I got to see this birthday.  The week before had been horrible, as I was suffering through the hormonal PMDD stuff I wrote about on Monday.  I was on such emotional overload that I didn't know if I could stand it at times.  Now, I'm just incredibly grateful--for my life, my family, my home.  Both my and my husband's family were in dangerous areas, and all made it through safely.  A minor miracle considering the amount of family he has in Birmingham.     

I don't know why some people were spared and others weren't.  I don't know if there's some mystical reason or if it's just random chance.  I'm sure that those affected were no less worthy than I am.  None of us, no matter our religion, really has the answer to that.  But for whatever reason, I'm still here.

You can't get a better birthday than that.

Monday, April 25, 2011

PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder): It Can Happen to You

I am writing this post in particular for new mothers, though it may certainly help others.  You see, after birth we hear many times about the dangers of postpartum depression, but it is less common to hear about potential changes in menstruation once your period returns, including the possible development of PMDD.  Before I developed PMDD, my knowledge was limited to a brief blurb on a birth control commercial.

So what is Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder?  Basically, it is a very severe form of PMS that can cause depression, extreme mood swings, unexplained anger, and sleep problems, (among others).  For a full list, check on this article on WebMD.  It is actually somewhat similar to depression, but PMDD only occurs about a week or so before your period and then goes away.  It is so extreme that you can't help but notice it.  Probably anyone within a ten mile radius will notice it.

According to my doctor, PMDD can get worse if untreated, and I believe it.  This started to develop for me not long after my period came back, but it wasn't so bad at first.  Then over the last three months, it has started to build in intensity.  It is noticeable and unavoidable.  About a week and a half before my period, I wake up despondently depressed.  It doesn't matter if the previous day was the Best Day Ever followed by a night of Blissful Sleep.  Suddenly, I have all of the symptoms listed above--actually, almost all of the symptoms listed on the website.  I go from exercising and eating healthy food to not wanting to get out of bed and wanting only junk food.  I want all of the chocolate in the world.

The worst is the arguing.  My husband and I start arguing constantly and for no definable reason.  Like a compulsion I can't stop, I find myself snapping at everything.  I get furious for no reason.  It seems like I will never feel like myself again. 

Then I have my period, and I go back to normal.

Why am I writing this particularly for new mothers?  Because before I had my daughter, I didn't have PMDD.  I had pretty typical PMS, but no sign of anything like this.  I have since learned that your cycles can completely change after birth; I had known that some changes could happen, but I had never expected anything so extreme.

Be on the lookout, ladies!  If you start feeling like this, go to your doctor.  No one should suffer through PMDD when there are treatment options available.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Skin MD Natural, My New Favorite Lotion

First, let me say that I am in no way being paid to write this.  Actually, I don't think the company has any clue that I AM writing this.  I did win this bottle free over at Mommy and Me Giveaways, and I am so glad I did!

Ever since I had my lovely daughter, my hands have been super dry from all of the hand washing / sanitizing.  I've tried all different kinds of lotions with little luck, so when I saw the great review this product got on the Mommy and Me Giveaways site, I was eager to enter.  I tried it out as soon as I got the package.

Let me tell you, I couldn't believe the results.  I wish I'd taken a before picture of my hand so I could give you a visual, but I think this lotion took about 5-10 years off my hands instantly.  The effect didn't go away as soon as I washed my hands, either, though (as per the directions), I did have to reapply it a little more often the first day.  You can bet that as soon as this bottle gets close to running out, I'll be going to the Skin MD Natural website to order more.

Something else I love (from their website):  "Our lotions are made to be free of parabens, petrochemicals, dyes, and other irritating ingredients. They are also vegan, cruelty free, and eco-friendly. We don't participate in animal testing or use any animal products in our lotions and Skin MD Natural is formulated in the United States in a facility that uses 100% solar power."

If you have really dry skin problems, I would highly recommend this lotion.  Great stuff!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Business2Blogger Product Reviews

I have run across a new (to me) service, and I am intrigued.  Business2Blogger is designed to allow even owners of small blogs to do product reviews for businesses.  I just signed up today, and I can't wait to get the email with this week's opportunities!  I'll keep you guys posted on how it goes, though I suppose you will know if I succeed by a sudden influx of product reviews.  :)

Oh yeah, and they are also having a contest to win an iPad2.  If I win, maybe I should write a product review for the iPad2.  I could totally force myself to do that.   

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Things You Learn

Kira is almost 9 months now.  Sometimes, it is surprising to see how much of her personality is already evident (inasmuch as I can tell sans crystal ball).  So far, there are two big things that I know about my daughter: she loves people and animals, and she has a quiet, stubborn will.

Her love of people and animals is immediately obvious.  I posted a while back about how she seems to make people happy, and part of that is her infectious smile.  She smiles at people constantly.  And nothing makes her face light up quite like an animal--any kind, really.  She adores our cats and our dog.  She has tried to garble out "Hi, George" (our cat's name) and "good cat."  She loves the zoo and will stare, smile, and laugh at pictures of giraffes and penguins.  A future biologist or animal activist?  Time will tell.

What really catches me by surprise are her moments of quiet rebellion.  So far, Kira isn't one to throw fits or cry, though she does cry some when she is upset.  Instead, she has a way of doing what she wants without fuss.  An example:  Three months ago, Kira first held her bottle herself.  She did it once but refused to do so again.  If you tried to put her hands on the bottle, she would jerk them away and look at you like "That's your job."  She wanted her hands free for more interesting things, like grabbing necklaces or smacking herself in the head to stay awake because she didn't like how soothing drinking milk could be.  Then a couple of days ago, she started sort of holding her own bottle.  She put one hand on the bottom like she could barely manage.  I thought the odd shape of the Tommee Tippee bottles might just be harder for her.

Today, I caught my little willful faker.  She started out with her normal 'hand on the bottom of the bottle' hold and balanced it there.  Then when she was done, she pulled the bottle out with both hands.  She proceeded to turn it around, shake it, smile and chatter at it.  She held that bottle like a pro, and even brought it to her mouth easily a few more times.  I'm pretty sure she's had the ability for a while now considering how well she has held her toys; she just didn't want to do it.  No tears, anger, or fuss.  Just a quiet refusal to do something that she didn't want to do.  I guess she finally got tired of not having control of her milk.

I think I'm going to have to keep a close eye on her in coming years.  I can imagine her quietly going to her room when I tell her to clean it and proceeding to play for a few hours, and I don't even want to contemplate the implications for the teen years. 

I foresee a lot of double-checking in my future.  :)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Counting the Good

I was reminded yesterday that if we celebrated happiness the way we do unhappiness, our lives would be much richer indeed.  This conversation came not long after a pretty bad couple of weeks.  It wasn't that one truly bad thing happened; no, it was one of those times when one thing seems to happen after another.  When you feel like you can't take one more thing, and then something else comes up.  Your refrain becomes "seriously?", and it feels like you will never escape.

After the fact, I tend to realize that part of the problem is my own reaction to stress.  After a few stressful events, it's like I start looking for more.  I get tunnel vision and only see the bad.  I think I could win the lottery during one of those weeks and only be able to think "Oh no, taxes!"    

So why are the opposite types of weeks so rare?  I don't seem to get tunnel vision for the awesome times nearly as often, though good things certainly happen in my life.  I suppose you could say that it is partially where I am on the pessimist v. optimist spectrum, but I refuse to accept that.  I'm not going to let myself stand in the way of my own happiness. 

As my friend suggested, I think I need to work on counting happy events as strongly as the negative ones.  Though this is not entirely natural to my disposition, I am not such a pessimist that I can't reverse my thinking.  I used to be an extreme pessimist; I was emo as a teen before emo was cool, but I've worked myself to the middle ground.  Now, it is just a matter of bumping myself a little farther along on the optimist side.

So let me start by saying that it has been an excellent week so far.  Kira has been extremely happy, and I've been in a good mood.  My family and friends are all safe from the storms that came through on Monday, and we didn't have any storm damage.  Ben had a good birthday dinner Tuesday night, and Kira was good the entire two hours at the restaurant.

What about you?  What good things have happened for you this week?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Your Wednesday Geek Moment

My husband and I had quite a debate last night on the way home from his birthday dinner.  Though only marginally related to politics, it grew quite heated at one point.  Our point of contention?  The proper composition of a questing party when attempting to save the world.

It started with my husband's assertion that, despite their presence in movies and books, there hadn't really been many evil geniuses in human history.  I responded that there had been but they had been stopped by a party of people on a quest to save the world.  This unknown history had, of course, been lost, only to be found once more by Japanese RPG makers and fantasy novelists.

All you need, really, is a warrior, a healer, a couple of mages, and a rogue.  It is necessary, I asserted, that at least one of these people be royalty, either openly or secretly.  What epic quest can succeed without a prince or princess in the mix?  Chances are, the hero will be an orphaned prince or the heroine a run-away princess.  Who else is going to hook you up with an airship when the evil villain is surrounded by impenetrable mountains?  No one, that's who.

My husband disagrees.  He maintains that a child of any kind of head-of-state is acceptable in this day and age.  But really, a proper questing party has to travel around the world anyway.  There are plenty of monarchies where they could pick up a needy royal.  So what if they're angsty and not necessarily good at their role?  We're talking airships, people.  A president would have to spend months getting that through congress. 

In all seriousness, wouldn't it be cool if the world's problems could be solved via RPG quest?  I suppose it would be kind of strange to see a group of people in armor beating up slime in my backyard, though.

But whatever works.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Competing with Yourself

I'm sorry that it has been over a week since I posted.  Aside from a brief mini-vacation, things have been a bit crazy around here, and not always in a good way.  Colds, exterminators, and a great deal of "seriously?" in the last two weeks.  I can only be grateful that Kira isn't a toddler yet, or things would have been destroyed.  Yeah, like that.

Anyway, on to my point.  I've posted a lot about the trend of competitive motherhood.  Just recently, I've been reminded that the competition is not always external.  I've found myself struggling with the internal kind, and boy, is it insidious.  

I have several friends on Facebook who have babies around the same age as Kira, and they post pictures.  Pictures of their babies crawling, pulling themselves up in their cribs, holding their own bottles--all things that Kira has yet to master.  Now I'm not one of those mothers who thinks bad thoughts about other babies; I'm legitimately happy for those families.  The criticism is all for myself.  "What am I doing wrong?" I ask myself.  I start to wonder if it is my fault that Kira isn't already doing these things.

I've heard over and over that babies develop at their own pace and that we shouldn't compare.  Logically, I understand and even believe this.  So why can't I seem to believe it emotionally?  Surely I should be able to teach Kira to play Mozart and read Shakespeare by 5, right?  Surely.

When this happens, I just have to stop and roll my eyes at myself.  Sometimes, I am too much of a perfectionist for my own good.  So Kira isn't crawling or walking circles around the couch.  What, exactly, does that mean?

Besides the fact that I don't have to chase her yet.  Hmm... Maybe the other mothers are envying me.  :)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Personal Demotivator?

As my Facebook friends know (whether they wanted to or not), I had a rather demotivational consultation with a personal trainer yesterday.  Gold's Gym only gives you one free consultation, and I had envisioned that they would give me tips on my workout routine, explain the machines to me, and provide encouragement.  Unfortunately, that isn't exactly how it worked.

The trainer started out by determining my motivations and then explaining the fundamentals of weight loss and exercise.  He talked about the type of routine required for a good twenty minutes, yet somehow managed not to provide any really useful information.  He told me that eventually I would want to have a strong basis in resistance training, cardio, and nutrition.  That I would start out on mostly cardio, but they would eventually get me to the right form.  My questions on any of this tended to be brushed aside with a "that's complicated" or "we'll get to that later."  Later, it appears, is after I've started paying them $45 a session. 

Some of what happened was contradictory and confounding.  He had me use the treadmill, and when I got on, I asked if he could explain the machine.  He breezed right past my question with some mumbled phrase about how he didn't really know all about the machine or need to know.  It was clear that he just wanted me to shut up, hit the Quick Start button, and start walking.  After that, we did some floor workouts.  Earlier, he had asked me if I was sore anywhere from previous workouts because pain after workouts meant that you should rest that area for a couple of days.  I told him my legs were sore from Yoga.  What floor exercises did he give me?  Leg exercises.  WTF?  I hurt so much today that it's hard to walk.

At the end, he told me that 7 out of 10 people at the gym wouldn't make their goals or get full use out of the gym--except for the people who paid for a personal trainer.  Apparently, those people never fail.  Instead of learning what my (safe) target heart rate should be during exercise (I was told it was complicated and would be calculated later), I learned that Gold's Gym's trainers are pretty much there to try to get you to spend lots of money.  That being said, my friend BJ told me that there are some truly good trainers out there. 

How does one go about finding the good kind?  Anyone have a good experience?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Babies, the Natural Mood Boost

I have come to realize that babies are a mood boost.  I'm not necessarily talking about the joy we feel as parents nor am I in any way implying that postpartum depression can be cured by our babies.  As a matter of fact, I'm not talking about depression at all.  I'm talking about a baby's effect on other people, random strangers you see in stores, the park, the zoo, etc.  If you are paying attention, it is magical.

Now let's be honest: a crying baby in public doesn't help anyone's mood.  Pretty much ever.  But I've noticed that when Kira is happy in her stroller, the people around us are happy, too.  People who were walking by with frowns, looking harried, will stop for just a moment to smile at my daughter.  In restaurants, neighboring diners brighten when they see Kira chewing on a roll or practicing her "ma da la ba da."  Her smile has the power to alter the worst moods.

Is it her innocence, her cuteness?  Or is it the innate happiness she exudes (except at nap time)?  I wish I had her ability to be so absolutely, completely happy.  So in the moment.  Rest, a full stomach, and a nice stroller ride with new sights to see--these are enough for her.  In that instant, Kira probably isn't thinking about getting a new toy or outfit or about what kind of cereal she'll have for lunch.  She is just happy to be in that place at that time with her physical needs met.

Maybe when adults and older children stop to smile at her, they are picking up on that magical, pure happiness.  Babies remind us of hope, innocence, and joy for a reason.

Maybe we could all learn from a happy baby in a stroller.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Gyms Are for Moms, Too

When I was younger, I hated going to the gym.  Treadmills were boring, weight machines confounding.  I tried to go many times, but I inevitably quit.  But now that I'm a mom, I've found several reasons to love the gym.  Free childcare is only one of them.  :-)

Many of you know from my earlier posts that I have found being a stay at home mom sometimes unrelentingly lonely.  I adore my daughter, but day after day of being in the house alone with her starts to wear on me, especially considering she can't even talk yet.  Going to the gym is an excellent break in the monotony; it doesn't matter if I end up walking alone on a treadmill.  I'm surrounded by people, and I'm getting my body moving.  Working out is an excellent mood boost.  

It is incredibly invaluable for a mother to have an hour to herself.  If you've been thinking about joining a gym but feel insecure or doubtful, do it anyway!  We aren't going to lose that baby weight sitting on the couch, and people are not very likely to make fun of someone who is obviously trying to get healthier.  Find a gym with good childcare, and savor that hour of time to think, daydream, or plan.  Your baby will love seeing other children--and you might just find it helps to save your sanity!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Diaper Woes

Before Kira was born, I was convinced I would use Huggies Little Snugglers Diapers. They looked so cute and had the little cutout for her umbilical cord.  The only problem--they didn't work well for her.  I ended up going with the Pampers Swaddlers that the hospital used because they were wonderful for Kira.  They held up well and rarely leaked.  I even ordered the size 2-3 from Amazon so she could stay in them longer.  Although she could still fit into them now weight-wise, her increased activity has made it necessary to move to the next stage.

Unfortunately, so far I haven't found a diaper that works as well.  Pampers Cruisers are great when she's awake, but they leak at almost every nap.  The back is just not designed for a baby who likes to prop her legs up on the breathable bumper in her crib.  Huggies Little Movers work great at nap and bedtime because they have a gather at the back, but they have leaked on three different outings for no apparent reason.  I tell you, fellow parents, it's enough to drive me just a little crazy.

I guess my next try will be Target brand.  I've heard good things about them.  I'm still too intimidated to try cloth diapering, especially since my husband will then change zero diapers.  Guess we'll see how my next try goes.

(Disclaimer:  I was not paid by any diaper company for this post.  Darn it.  Alas, we had to pay for the above diapers.  But if any diaper company wants to send me some to try, I'll certainly post about it.  ;-)  I do have the Amazon Associate links, but there's no obligation to buy anything.)     

Friday, March 11, 2011

Eyes on Japan

I got up this morning ready to do my usual blog post.  But you know, as reports of the devastation in Japan plays in the background, I have a difficult time concentrating on the usual topics.  If you are not aware, a 8.9 magnitude earthquake hit off the Northeast coast of Japan.  Aside from earthquake damage, there was also a tsunami that wreaked havoc on their coast and is still heading toward North and South America, though tsunami waves are not expected to cause much damage here.

One of the first stories I saw on Yahoo has a collection of earthquake and tsunami footage.  Scary stuff!  It's one of those things that makes you want to hug your family close.  Whatever your religion might be, say a prayer for the people of Japan.  There are reports of hundreds of bodies from the tsunami alone.

If you are willing and able to donate, you can visit sites like the American Red Cross.  They also have a Facebook page with news and a place to donate.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What We Are Not

Okay, this has nothing to do with motherhood, which tends to be one of my main themes, but it was inspired by my last post.  Remember when I said that things are defined not just by what they are but also what they aren't?  Ever since, I've been wondering--what are the implications of that?  How deeply does that shape our world?

Though this could easily get political, I'm going to try to keep it neutral.  I could write an entire post alone about how I don't fall into any of the popular political categories, but I'll spare you unless it is requested by popular demand.  :)  But think about this for a moment: Could the us vs. them mentality sweeping the United States at the moment be a sign of a people who are so completely confused about how to define themselves that they can only do so by announcing vehemently what they aren't?  Is our country in a definition war?

This can be applied on a much smaller scale, which is probably a good idea if I want to avoid politics.  Think about high school--the jocks vs goths vs geeks vs whatever.  Think about the angry mom forum debates over things like breastfeeding and vaccinations.  It seems to me that a great deal of the arguing and attacks in such cases are really a way for insecure people to define themselves.  I actually touched on that a bit in one of my first posts (Motherhood: The New Competitive Sport).  What point is there in attacking another person's lifestyle choice except as a way to make yourself feel better because you are not that?

We must be honest when we ask ourselves--does that person's decision affect me?  No?  Then why do I feel the need to attack them for it?  If you are truly confident about yourself and have defined without doubt who you are, then there is no need to rant at a mom who chooses to feed her baby another way or to tease a fellow classmate who wears black.  Such teasing is a way to set yourself apart, to make it clear that you are not part of that group.  If the core of who you are can be changed by associating with someone different, then you need to take a look at how you have defined yourself. 

So what do you think?  Do you sometimes define yourself in such a way?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Linguistics for Babies

You know, for a person like me who loves all things related to linguistics (except for William Foley, whose horrible writing skills have forever scarred me), watching a baby learn language is a rare and amazing opportunity.  Okay, okay, it is a rare and amazing experience for every parent, but I can't help but examine this with the fascination of a linguist as well as the wonder of a mother.  How can a human go from "bababababa" to writing dissertations, novels, or articles?  No one really teaches us language.  The amount of deductive reasoning required  is, if you stop to think about it, quite boggling.

At seven and a half months, Kira is just starting to really exhibit signs of comprehension.  As a really small baby, she would try to mimic sounds without any understanding.  She would try to repeat "good girl" and "I love you," but it was obvious that she didn't know what she was saying.  Around four months, she went practically silent for 2-3 weeks.  Then, she starting practicing in her crib.  We would hear "bababa" and eventually "dadada" over the baby monitor, but she refused to repeat it around us.  Until one day, she yelled "dadadada" triumphantly while playing in the living room.  Apparently, she likes to practice in secret.

Kira loves the song "If You're Happy and You Know It" and would get super excited every time we clapped.  It didn't take her long to learn to join us.  Within a week of first clapping to the song, she would clap every time she heard the song.  I was amazed, though, when she learned to clap when I asked "Can you clap your hands?"   

What is even more fascinating is watching her learn doesn't mean clap. Should she clap for any song or any phrase that starts with "can you.."?

At first, it seems like a simple error or that maybe she doesn't really understand, but when you pay attention, it becomes obvious that she is trying to narrow down the meaning in a similar way to how we learn to classify objects (i.e. a cat has four legs, a long tail, and pointy ears, but so do some dogs.  We have to narrow down the criteria to differentiate between the two).  For instance, I started to sing "Bingo" to her and she clapped.  She didn't get the same response from me as when she claps to the other song, so the next time I sang "Bingo," she did not clap.  She learned that singing in general does not mean "clap".  She clapped when I asked "Can you kick your feet?"  I moved her feet the next few times I asked until she started kicking instead of clapping at the question.  With each of these interactions, she learned to narrow down the meaning of what I say.

If you think about it, it really comes down to this: In order to understand what something is, we have to know what it isn't.  A cat isn't just defined by having four legs and a long tail and by meowing for attention; it is also defined by the fact that it doesn't bark, have floppy ears, neigh, or eat grass.  These are things that we must all learn to reason out for ourselves, though others may help us.

Isn't language an amazing thing?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Shop Link Up Party

A quick word for my fellow crafters: Remodelaholic has a "For Sale By Owner 40, Shop Link Up Party" going on.  This is basically a place for crafters who work at home to place a link to their shop.  So far as I can tell, the only thing you need to do is go to this site and refer them via your blog.

The more the merrier!  Here's hoping we can get some new business.  :)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Chocolate Bars, Attempt One

Recently, I decided to eliminate excessively-processed foods from my diet.  If it comes mostly from a box or if I can't pronounce the ingredients, then I'm avoiding it.  Since I know that I will probably have some trouble with this, I do allow 1-2 exceptions per week.  But the thing is, I love chocolate; unfortunately, there are also a lot of additives in most chocolate bars, like PGPR (Polyglycerol Polyricinoleate), which falls under the "unpronounceable ingredient" category.  What's a girl to do?

Experiment, of course!  I bought a bar of unsweetened baker's chocolate and melted it in a crock pot.  Then I blended in honey and milk until I had a yummy, dark chocolate concoction.  I also added coconut, though walnuts or almonds would have been equally wonderful.  I poured the chocolate into a bar-shaped mold I bought and put it in the refrigerator.  Ingredient list?  Chocolate, honey, whole milk.  That's it.

The only problem is that it didn't want to set.  The consistency turned out to be more like fudge, which isn't really a problem if you only care about the taste.  But the taste... So. Unbelievably. Good.

I'm thinking that next time I'm going to try using a combination of honey and unrefined sugar in the hopes that it will set more like a chocolate bar.  I'll let you know how it turns out!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mystery Fevers and Paranormal Fun

Last week, as you might have guessed by my lack of blog posts, was a bit hectic and a little strange.  Wednesday, I took Kira to get her flu shot booster.  She felt a little warm to me but didn't seem sick.  I asked the nurse, who took Kira's temperature, and found out she was running a 101 degree fever.  The nurse's concern worried me, so it was a difficult wait until they could get her in to the doctor later that day.  The cause?  Maybe a virus or roseola.  Now it is Sunday, and the fever is gone.  She never had any signs of actual sickness, so who knows what it was.

Then Wednesday night, just as I had started to relax in bed, I felt a nudge in the small of my back.  My back was to the wall, so it couldn't have been my husband moving around.  I turned around, but I didn't see any sign of a ghost or other mysterious entity.  No fog, creepy music, or strange voice muttering threats.  Honestly, it felt just like someone trying gently to get my attention.  I have no idea what it was, but I am 100% positive that I did not imagine it.  I wasn't anywhere near sleep, and it wasn't a subtle touch that could've been the blanket moving or something.  The experience was both freaky and cool at the same time.

Did you have an interesting week?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Baby Bathing Woes

I always thought that babies loved baths.  Oh, sure, there is generally an adjustment period.  Newborns are confused enough as it is and are generally not thrilled the first couple of times you put them in a bath tub.  But soon, they are soothed by the water until it becomes an essential part of calming down for bed.

Not my baby.

From the very first attempt until just yesterday, she has always screamed her head off at every bath.  First, she was in the newborn sling on her baby tub, then in the baby tub itself.  I put the tub in the kitchen sink, and I put it in the big bath tub.  Screaming.  Next, I ran a little bit of water in the big tub and tried her in there.  I've tried colorful character sponges, singing, making funny noises, and bubble bath.  Nothing works.

Yesterday was my first attempt with the bubble bath.  Now that she is a good sitter, I thought she might like to sit in the tub and play with the bubbles.  No such luck.  She cried and kept looking at me with this expression of misery bordering on betrayal.  "Why, Mommy?  Why do you do this to me?"  I really dread bath time.

The only other thing I can think of is bathing with her, but I don't know when I'll be able to do that.  My pelvis is still out of alignment from the birth, so getting in and out of our little tub in our cramped bathroom with a baby seems like a painful and dangerous proposition.  I'm completely out of ideas at this point.

Any suggestions?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Kira Picks a Car Seat

Last weekend, we went shopping for a convertible car seat for Kira.  I was much more prepared this time.  When I picked her travel system before she was born, I had no clue what to look for.  They were all pretty much the same, right?  Wrong!  For the love of all that is holy, don't pick Cosco.  Trying to push that stroller was like escorting a drunk home.  As soon as she could hold her head up, we abandoned the stroller portion for the Combi Cosmo EX Stroller in Wasabi Noche and just transferred her to the stroller at need.  And now, we have finally replaced the loathsome, hard-to-buckle car seat.

I did a lot of research online.  Based on reviews I read on and, I decided to go to our local Babies-R-Us and take a look at two different models.  We ended up looking at a third while we were there, as well.  We tried:
   Review-wise, Britax slightly edged out Evenflo (and Safety 1st, I discovered later).  Since the Britax is regularly $279.00, I thought it was worth checking out the competition.  Both had good safety reviews.

The Britax and Evenflo were next to each other in the store, making comparison easy.  My husband preferred the Evenflo right away.  He said that it seemed to have more padding and that it looked more comfortable.  Undecided, we put Kira in the Britax.  It was easy to adjust once I figured out how, and she sat there looking around happily.  Then we switched her to the Evenflo.  Almost immediately, she started to fidget.  By the time we got everything adjusted, she was making angry noises.  Kira voted no.  When we tried the Safety 1st seat a little farther down, her reaction was worse.  Though it was clearly designed to start out rear-facing, she didn't seem to fit well in the seat.  So we moved her back to the Britax to make sure she wasn't just irritated in general and--happy baby. 

Cost-wise, the Britax would be closer to $209 with Babies-R-Us' 25% trade-in deal (bring an old item for 25% off a new one), but come to find out, Amazon had this Britax model for sale for $209 without having to trade anything in.  With the Amazon Prime membership I still had from when I signed up for Amazon Mom, I got free, 2-day shipping.  I decided to order from Amazon.

The car seat arrived yesterday, and it was easy to install (provided you can read directions).  Most importantly, Kira still seems happy with her choice:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sippy Cup Win

At her 6 month appointment, Kira's doctor told me that I should start trying her on a sippy cup with a goal of being off bottles by one year old.  This sounded like an excellent plan.  The only problem--Kira wanted no part of the process.

I first tried the Tommee Tippee First Sips Weaning Cup - 4m+ - 5 Oz. (Pink) (except mine was a hard spout design that I can't find to show you).  I thought Kira would transition well to this kind because she loves her Tommee Tippee bottles, but all she did was make a disgusted face and look at me like I was crazy.  I thought that maybe it was the hard spout and started to look for another type.

Since they didn't have the cup linked above at my local Babies R Us, I next bought the Dr. Brown's Soft Spout Training Cup, 6 Ounce.  Yet another fail, my friends.  I even tried taking out the part that makes the cup spill-proof to see if better flow would help.  But as soon as she felt the odd shape, her face screwed up in that annoyed look and more juice was wasted.

I tried both cups multiple times over the last month, hoping she would eventually adjust, but Kira refused to take either one.  Last week, Mom and I were wandering around Walmart and came across the Playtex Baby The First Lil' Gripper Twist 'n Click Straw Cup 7 OZ - girl colors.  I was doubtful, but Mom was willing to buy it for Kira to see if she would take a cup with a straw.  I tried it today, and it actually worked!

It took her a few tries, and I still have to steady the cup for her.  Despite that, she managed to drink two ounces.  Obviously, I can't do away with bottles any time soon, but that's two ounces more than she's ever drank out of a cup.  I am cautiously optimistic.

If there are any other moms out there struggling with the sippy cup transition, I highly recommend this type of cup.  I'm hoping that once she learns that milk can come from something besides a bottle she will start to take other kinds as well.  Keep your fingers crossed!