Wednesday, June 29, 2011

40 B4 40 Update III

3. Sell something on

Well, I haven't sold something yet.  But I did finally put my store online.

I chose the shop name Do-It-Myself as a play on the popular term Do-It-Yourself.  Because the types of crafts I'll be selling are the types of things mosts women (or men) would make themselves for family and friends if they had the time, money, or talent (although I didn't include that last part in the shop description!).

My first listing is the superhero capes that I've been making for Thing 1 and Thing 2's friends.  I can tell you from experience that these make great birthday presents.  What kid wouldn't love their own personalize superhero cape?

Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

40 B4 40: Update II

My little garden
In January, instead of a New Year's Resolution, I wrote a blog listing the 40 things I wanted to accomplish before I turned 40.

In April, I wrote an update.

So, I figured it was time to write another update.  If for no other reason than to prompt myself to keep working to check some things off.

4. Present at a national conference - Unfortunately, the proposal I submitted to ACTFL was not accepted.  I was pretty bummed about this, until I found out that my work's budget was being slashed 46.5% for the 2011-2012 school year which means no one will be traveling anywhere for any conferences.

My basil
12. Grow an herb garden - Unfortunately, my seedlings I started were picked by curious boys.  But I do have one basil plant growing in a pot on the back porch.  It's not quite an "herb garden", but I think it is a good start.

13. Grow a vegetable garden - Like the herb seedlings, my vegetable seedlings did not make it. :(  But I do have five tomato plants and three peppers that I bought from seedlings planted in the garden.  I managed to clear out and till about 10% of my garden plot.  If I can keep these babies alive, then I think I'll feel more confident to plant even more next summer.

33. Learn to use coupons (making it a habit) - Honestly, I'm not sure if I care about this one anymore.  The more and more I read/watch/learn about couponing, the less I'm convinced it is useful for me/my family.  #1 Seeing people fill entire rooms full of groceries creeps me out.  I am an anti-clutter person, so I don't like lots of stuff.  Not to mention it makes those people look like they are preparing for armageddon or when "they" come for our guns.  #2 Most of the coupons I find are for boxed food (Hamburger Helper, instant mashed potatoes), canned food (Chef Boyardee), and frozen pizzas or tv dinners.  And that's just not how we eat.  We tend to buy ingredients, not pre-made foods.  So unless coupons start coming for fresh fruits and veggies, eggs, milk, flour, etc.  we will concentrate on just trying to stick to a budget.

This update does remind me that I need to re-visit my store idea.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Maybe I'm too sensitive

Maybe I'm too sensitive, but man I get tired of all of the breast-feeding nazis out there.  Every day I feel like I see something about how my children are going to be dumber, fatter, sicker, slower, uglier, and more cancer ridden because they were formula fed.  Actually, I'm just surprised they didn't die from SIDS since I was so uncaring enough not to breast feed them until they were old enough to chew filet mignon.
Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating.  A little.

But c'mon you breast feeding proponents.  Enough already.  We get it.  Breast is best.

Really, do you think there is a person out there that still doesn't understand that breast milk is the optimum choice for a baby's nutrition?  That it is biologically engineered to feed that baby.  We get it.  We all get it.

Do you think people who smoke really don't know it will cause lung cancer?

People who don't breastfeed don't not do it because they don't understand those facts...  They don't do it because their milk doesn't come in, or the baby doesn't latch right, or how about this: they just don't want to.

I have a good friend who didn't breast feed because she just thought it sounded gross.  She is very private about her body and her personal parts and didn't want a) a baby sucking on it or b) to have to breastfeed in public etc.  So she chose to bottle feed with formula.  She didn't put her baby to the breast even once.  Not even to try.  Immediately after labor she began working to dry up her swollen breasts.

Meanwhile, my milk never fully came in.  Try as I might.  I drank Mother's Milk tea.  I took Fenugeek supplements.  I drank liters and liters of water.  I did kangaroo care.  I pumped every 2 hours, on the dot.  I barely made enough to feed one baby, let alone two.  I wanted to breast feed so bad it hurt.  Literally.

I had planned to do it for a year.  We even moved within a mile of my work so that I could go home to nurse once I went back to work.  

But my children would have starved if it hadn't been for formula.  In more ways than one.  Because not only did my milk never fully come in (I never once had "let down" or "engorgement"), but also, my boys never learned to latch on.  Lactation consultant after lactation consultant, even one that specialized in preemies, couldn't help me get those boys to successfully hook up to the tap.

But I was so adamant to give my boys "the best" that I kept trying.  I was like the Little Engine That Could trying so hard to climb that mountain.  Being weighed down by weak breasts, lazy feeding babies,  post-bedrest recovery, and post-partum feelings of failure because I couldn't do this simple thing that nature had designed for my body to do.

After weeks and weeks of torturing myself...  pumping every 2-3 hours, losing sleep, crying rivers of tears each time my babies wouldn't latch or I pumped just 2 ounces, I finally considered giving up.  Superman was beyond relieved when I mentioned it.  He had been wanting me to stop trying weeks ago, but knew he couldn't suggest it.

I called a cousin of mine who I knew had gone through the same thing and eventually given up.  She's a great mom to two beautiful healthy kids.  She had quit after her breasts had failed her with her son, and had such a bad experience that she decided not to try with her daughter.  After several phone calls and hours of consoling, I knew she was right when she told me that I wasn't a bad mother for wanting to quit, that in fact, I would become a better mother after quitting because I would be able to enjoy my babies more.  Feeding time would become joyful, rather than dreaded.  I would hold my babies and smile and laugh while they ate, instead of live in constant anxiety and sadness each time feeding didn't go well.

The final straw was the morning I had pumped and pumped for 40 minutes and gotten less than an ounce.  While cleaning my pump, I accidentally spilled my milk.  And oh did I cry over spilled milk.  I had a full blown hysterical collapse.  My milk was more precious than gold to me at that point.  I was working so hard to produce even the slightest drops for my pre-mature infants...and now it was just a tiny whitish puddle on my kitchen floor.

As I was sitting on the floor sobbing and wiping my eyes, I knew.  My phone calls to my cousin weren't about looking for advice.  They were about looking for permission.  Asking permission from someone I knew to be a good mom that it was okay to quit.  I wanted to quit.

So I did.

I called the hospital and arranged for them to come get my rented hospital grade pump.

Then I called my husband and asked him to bring me home a bottle of wine.

Thing 1 and Thing 2 were 8 weeks old.

And guess what?  They didn't didn't die.  Niether did my friend's who chose not to try.  They aren't dumber, fatter, sicker, slower, or uglier than my breast fed friends' kids.  In fact, all three of the kids are incredibly bright, healthy, perfect size for their ages, and good-looking four year olds.  And we are both great moms, if I may say so myself.  We both make the best choices possible for our kids.  We put our childrens' health and happiness first.

I wonder if all of the breast-feeding propaganda bothers her like it does me.  Maybe I'm overly sensitive because I did try so hard and still failed.  To me, even four years later, it still feels like having salt rubbed over my wounds.  Like I'm being judged by people who don't even know me or my story.  Like I'm being marked as a bad mom by some imaginary Scarlett F.

It's funny, because I don't feel this way about my c-section.  Not in the least.  Would I have preferred a traditional delivery?  Sure.  But once my doctor said the c-section would be best having twins, I trusted her, accepted it, and moved on.

I don't know if it's because the c-sections vs. vaginal delivery rhetoric isn't as prevalent, or if I just don't notice it because I've never had one ounce of remorse, regret, or guilt, like I have known some other c-section mothers to have.  My babies needed to be born, and my doctor and I made an educated decision on the safest way to bring them into the world.  End of story.

Maybe it's because I feel like with my c-section I was in control.  I made the ultimate decision.  Where with the breast feeding, it seems like the decision was made for me (by my body).

So if you are a breast-feeding mommy.  Good for you!  I hope you feel lucky and blessed that you are being honored with the ability to provide and bond with your baby this way.  And if you are a struggling breast-feeding mommy, know that you have to follow your heart.  Maybe the answer is to stick with it and it will get better, but if you need to stop, it will be okay too.  I promise there are many more factors to having great kids than whether or not you breast feed.  And if you chose not to breast feed, while I may not understand it, I can respect that it is your choice.  And I'm sure your children will turn out great too.  'Cause like Superman always says "Some of my favorite people in the world were formula fed babies."  (That would be him and me. :)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Happy Father's Day Superman

I recently posted this article about Fathers on my facebook page, commenting how I'm so glad that both Superman and my own father are the good kind of fathers.  The kind that have made being active with their kids a priority in their lives.  A father who is actually an equal parent and an equal spouse, doing housework and laundry because it is a household responsibility, not claiming it's woman's work.  (On the same token, I have been known to roll up my sleeves and mow the lawn and take out the trash and grab my tool box to fix a faulty light switch or replace a toilet, because it's not men's work.)

I thought: How sad that this needs to be written in 2011.  It seems like such a 1950s idea of woman as caretaker and man as standoffish provider.  But sadly, I do personally know couples where the mother does do it all while the father works.  And when he comes home he needs his "me time" to unwind from working.  And then spends hours and hours of golfing on the weekends.  For some of them it works (and good for them, who am I to judge), but for most of doesn't.  The women feel over burdened and unappreciated.  And they are sad to see their children who idolize their daddies, getting so little of his time or attention.  And they fume when the absentee fathers suggest having "just one more" baby.  One of my friends even secretly had her tubes tied during her c-section, and as far as I know STILL hasn't told her husband, because he wanted more kids and she didn't.  And some of these women eventually became so tired of being single mothers that they eventually left their husbands to be actual single mothers.

I wouldn't say that I'm lucky Superman turned out to be a good dad, because I always knew he would be.  In fact, that is part of why I fell in love with him.  Part of why I knew I wanted to marry him. We met when we were both working for a non-profit organization that provided care and job opportunities for adults with physical and mental disabilities.  Watching the care, patience, and compassion he had for a population most people are afraid of, I could see the kind of father he would one day be.  And throughout our dating, as I got to know him better and better, I just became more sure of this.

Because remember ladies, we don't live in a patriarchal society with archaic arranged marriages.  We CHOOSE our mates.  We CHOOSE who we want to procreate with.  Who we want to share our genes with and our lives.

In fact, when I first met Superman, I was actually dating someone else.  This guy was fun, funny, interesting, and he adored me (who wouldn't love that?).  I knew he wanted to marry me.  I knew he wanted to have kids with me.  But the thing was, as fun as he was to date...I knew he was not the guy I wanted to be the father of my children.  First of all, he had a son.  And honestly, as much as I liked the guy, I thought he was a pretty lousy father.  True, there are some other factors why I knew he wasn't the one that I won't go into here, but the bottom line was even without any of those other factors, seeing him father his son, I knew I would not be having kids with him.

But I guess maybe I was lucky.

Lucky that Superman didn't change. Some women I know have married men who maybe they thought would be great dads, but somewhere along the line they made their careers a priority over parenting.

Lucky that he turned out to be an even better dad than I ever hope or imagined.

When I found out I was pregnant, we immediately started discussing whether or not we could afford for one of us to stay home.  Even from the beginning, it wasn't how I would stay home.  It was which one of us.  Prior to getting pregnant, we had never discussed how to handle child care.  Which in hindsight was a mistake.  However, as luck would have it we both were in 100% agreeance that we didn't want to put a baby in daycare, and that we would find a way to make sure that, at least for the first year, one of us would stay home to raise it.

Because we had just moved to a new state for my job, and Superman didn't even have a full time job yet (did I mention the pregnancy was unplanned?), he volunteered to stay home.

Then we found out we were having twins.

He didn't bat an eye.  In fact, once he found out we were having twin boys, he seemed pretty excited for his "guy time".

After one year, we both agreed that the arrangement was working so well that he would go ahead and stay home another year.  At the end of year two, we decided to go for another!  For three years, he was the primary caregiver, before we decided it was time for the boys to head to pre-school, and for Superman to re-enter the outside-of-home-workforce again.  I was both happy (for the boys starting a new chapter of their lives and for Superman getting a chance to work among peers again) and sad (because for three years I never had to worry about my children's care and happiness).

But you would not believe how many comments I heard from other women (mothers and non-mothers) saying "I would never let anyone else raise my children".  Excuse me?  I didn't drop them off with some stranger, they were at home with their father.  What makes you think that you have more of a right to raise your children than he does?  What makes you think you'd even be better at it?

Honestly, are there things I probably would have done differently (like more scheduled activities and taking the kids on playdates), but I say probably because I realize some things are easier said than done.  What I think I would have done and what I actually would have done might be two wholly different things...

But I can tell you what they did learn from their daddy that they most likely wouldn't have learned from me (at least not as well):

Patience.  I am much more hot-headed and quick to temper than my calm-demeanored husband; I love that they seem to have acquired his personality.  After all, if I hadn't thought he was pretty great, I wouldn't have married him.

A love for music.  Sure, I love to sing along with the radio, but by three years old, my boys already knew how to keep a beat on drums and hold a guitar the right way as they lip synced to old school 80s rock songs, thanks to hours and hours of home jam sessions.  I swear to you they can tell the difference between Girls, Girls, Girls, Crazy Train, I Love Rock n' Roll, and Jump by just the first two bars of the song.

A love for the outdoors.  Even on the hottest of days, when I would have hidden away in the security of the air conditioning, Superman would venture outside with the boys and find something fun to do.  Whether it was splashing around in the wading pool, looking for bugs, or just taking a short walk.

How to be active.  Superman is an avid runner, and loves being active.  He would take the boys on really long walks, all around our little town.  Often walking them up to my work to visit me during the day.  Now 4 years old, Thing 1 and Thing 2 really show the benefits of being raised by someone so active.  (Not to say that I'm a lazy-ass, but let's just say I find doing a craft project more fun than taking a 5 mile walk pushing a double stroller.)

I could go on.  But, my point is...yes, we are different parents.  But neither one of us is the inherently better parent based on whether we sit or stand when we pee.  We both have our strengths and our weaknesses.  And I like to think that as co-parents we compliment one another well and have raised two amazingly awesome kids because of it.

I think it is time to stop accepting that fathers are some kind of second rate parents.  Quit describing a dad spending time with his kids as "babysitting" or "giving mom a break", he is just doing what he is supposed to be doing...being a parent!  Quit having such low expectations of what a father looks like.  EXPECT a father to be a parent.  A real parent.

And don't accept this "I work hard all day" as an excuse for not parenting nonsense.  Guess what?  For three years I was the working parent with the 9-5 job, yet I somehow managed to come home, change my clothes, and go play with my kids...and my husband (because that is important too).  In fact, everyday I would make sure to 1. notice and give Superman a compliment about the house, 2. give him a rest from the kids (stay-at-homes need this "me time" much more than working parents I think), 3. cook dinner, and we alternated days for who gave the evening bath.  Was it tiring?  Of course.  But who ever said being a parent would be easy?

I'm happy to say that its summertime again, and school is out.  Which means my husband has left his Clark Kent job as high school teacher to resume his role of Superman stay-at-home-dad.  So, for the next 2.5 months, I can rest easing knowing Thing 1 and Thing 2 will be having the summer fun of their lives!

And honestly, I'm pretty jealous.  Because who wouldn't want to spend all day hanging out with this guy --->?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Happy Birthday x2

Thing 1 and Thing 2's birthday...where do I start?  This birthday will definitely go down in infamy as the birthday that EVERYTHING WENT WRONG!

Fail #1 For weeks, the boys have been saying they wanted "guitar cake" (they had a guitar cake last year).  Thing 1 wanted a blue guitar cake and Thing 2 wanted a red guitar cake.  One week ago they sprung it on me that they wanted a train cake instead.  Hmm, so off to google images search for me.  I found a lot of inspiration and decided I could make a decent homemade train cake using bread pans and lots of colored icing.

It started out okay.  But as I was preparing to put the final touches on the train, I noticed that the train tracks I had drawn with marker on the cake board was bleeding.  UGH!  Hours of baking (all cakes and icing from scratch) and now the cakes might be ruined.  It was past midnight, and my choice was to start over or try and salvage the cake, hoping that the bleeding had only affected the cardboard, and not the cake itself.  I checked and the marker was "non-toxic", so I decided to try and salvage the cake.  Thing 1 and Thing 2 mostly just eat the icing off the top anyway, maybe other kids would do the same.

I re-located the cakes to another board, covered in foil, and finished piping it and covering it with candy cargo and oreo wheels.  It came out okay, not as cute as I'd imagined, but not bad.  But I was still worried that it would taste like magic marker, so to me, it was deemed ruined.

Yesterday we took it to school and had the boys' party.  Their classmates loved the cake.  And luckily, most only ate the candy and icing (good!).  But take it from not use magic marker on your cake boards!!

Fail #2 The boys' birthday coincided with their last tee-ball game.  So I told the coach I would bring the snack for the game.  I made some super cute baseball cupcakes.  And unlike the train cake fiasco, these turned out exactly as I'd hoped.  The problem: it stormed last night and the fields were flooded.  So, their game was cancelled.  Am I bad, but I'm NOT making cupcakes again next week.  I'll go buy some popsicles instead!

Fail #3 We decided not to do a party this year.  I am not one of these parents that thinks my kids need a party every year.  We had a big one for their first birthday (actually, we had three!), but did a small family celebration for their second.  We planned a small one for their third birthday, but somehow it turned into a fairly big one because almost everyone we invited came, just one kid couldn't make it.

I honestly wasn't planning on doing any sort of party this year, but I felt bad that this was the first year the boys really got that it was their birthday, so we decided to do a "Birthday Playgroup."  Our plan was to invite their three best friends (two from school and one from church) to go bowling at the bowling alley right near our house.  About two weeks ago, I sent out a "Mark your calendar" email to the parents.  And then sent a FB message to the bowling alley asking if I needed to actually reserve a lane for only five kids.  No response.  About a week ago, I called them.  No answer.  Last night, I called maybe six times, each time letting the phone ring and ring and ring.  I even told Superman "maybe we should just go over there and make the reservation in person."  But in the end we decided that we highly doubted they'd be so crowded at opening on a Saturday that we couldn't just show up and snag a lane.  I was right.  And wrong.

We pulled into the parking lot at 12 pm sharp this afternoon.  There weren't a lot of cars, but no worry, the bowling alley opened at noon, so how many people would be there right at opening.  But it turns out, they weren't open at all.  In fact, they hadn't been open for more than a week.  UGH!?!?  At this point, all five boys were running around the parking lot, hugging and talking and laughing and excited to play.  Now we had to load them in the car and head over to the other bowling alley.

Fail #4  I was embarrassed for my lack of foresight, but everything was going to be fine because the other bowling alley wasn't a far drive.  And in about five minutes we were in their parking lot, which also seemed very empty.  A woman stuck her head out and let us know that they would be open at 2 pm, since their summer hours were different than their regular hours.  UGH!!!  Might want to change your website info people!!!

Man I was so embarrassed now.  I couldn't even think straight.  But with the help of the other parents, we decided to all head over to a nearby playground where we had an impromptu picnic pizza party (thanks to Little Ceasar's $5 hot and nows) while we passed the time waiting for bowling alley #2 to open.

Honestly, the kids had a blast running around chasing each other.  And they loved that they got to eat the cookies and candy in their treat bags while waiting for the pizza (because who doesn't love to eat dessert first?!).

2 o'clock came and we headed back to the bowling alley.  It was chaotic, but so much fun.  And I was really really glad that we only invited 3 kids though, because I don't know how we could have coped with more.  Teaching four 4 year olds and one 6 year old to take turns bowling was definitely a challenge. :)

Interestingly, while we were there Superman ran into a bunch of people who knew from his pre-married/kids life.  Among those, two birthday parties.  And guess what?  They had both had the same exact morning as us.  Well, not same exact.  Because their parties were a bit bigger than ours, and they had actually made reservations at the other bowling alley only to show up and find it closed.  So, I felt a little better knowing that even if I had made that reservation, the morning would still have been so disorganized. Turns out, the other bowling alley was closed down by the IRS.  I guess you can only go so long without paying your taxes...  And they had never notified any of the people with reservations of the closure.

After settling in to our game, the boys were all having a blast.  But then one by one they had to go home.  Bless their parents for letting them stay sooo long in the first place, after going from location to location.  We were so thankful they were so understanding and gladly waved goodbye and thanked them for coming.

The day did end on a perfect note, though.  Thing 1 and Thing 2, despite my best efforts, love McDonald's chicken nuggets.  So, we packed in the van, along with Grandma and Papaw Train and headed to Mickey D's and had a fast food feast with a side of indoor playground.  We came home, gave the boys a bath, and let them fall asleep in their train pajamas watching one of their new train DVDs.

In the end, the boys had a great birthday.  They didn't notice the train cake may or may not have tasted like magic marker.  They didn't notice that they missed their tee-ball game (because we spent that time skyping with my parents and opening their presents).  They didn't understand the bowling alley confusion fiasco; all they knew is that they got to play at the park and eat pizza and open presents and eat cupcakes and even ride in our van with two of their favorite buddies.  And of course, they loved their birthday dinner at McDonalds.  They even were able to get Papaw Train to buy them McCones before we left.

This is probably the first birthday they will remember (it's crazy to think they are going to be able to start remembering stuff that is happening long term now), but they will only remember the good stuff.  It's only us Type A hyper-organized mommies that will remember this as the birthday that taught her to always, always have a plan B! :)