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Monday, October 28, 2013

Why We Need Lactivism

Without any sort of doctoring, tricks of the trade, or even expectation, THIS is what I found when researching this blog post and I believe it speaks for itself.

Any questions?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Bucket List

I'm not yet middle-aged (hopefully not even close), but, you know, I might as well start figuring out all the cool things I want to do before I keel over now, right?

So, here goes (in no particular order):

- travel to all the continents
- travel to all 50 states in the U.S.
- swim in every ocean
- take singing lessons and perform without hiding (I can sing...well...but I generally hide away when I do it, because I don't like all eyes on me)
- learn to play a musical instrument

- hike the Appalachian trail (at least part of it)
- visit every national park
- go on a scenic train trip
- road trip the entire PCH (CA highway 1)
- write a book (hey, that one is in the works...sweet!)
- take son to where we eloped and honeymooned
- visit all towns called Bray in Europe (my maiden name)
- trace genealogy on paper and then travel to all the places my ancestors lived
- own a bookstore
- see the Northern Lights
- visit all the wonders of the world
- send a message in a bottle containing a deep, dark secret
- give Zen Husband a Christmas with every gift he ever wanted as a kid (he wasn't allowed to get excited on Christmas morning as a kid and it's my job to right that wrong for him)
- learn to quilt, sew, and crochet then make memory items for Zen Son
- visit every home I ever lived in
- build my dream home
- spend the summer in an RV traveling with absolutely no plan of action
- and more as inspiration hits me!

Hopefully, Zen Son and Zen Husband will be along on a great many of these adventures. Although, life with them has been the greatest adventure of all. Even if I never accomplish a thing on this list, I will have had the best life imaginable.

What's on YOUR bucket list?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Zen Son's 3rd Birthday Party

(Update: Napkins.com awarded me their "Best Decorations" award for August 2014. I am so honored!)

What Zen Husband and I had planned: a trip to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

What Zen Son said he wanted: "books"

Books it was, then!

I set off to research ideas for a children's book party. While I was perusing Pinterest, my son caught sight of a Mr. Bump and Little Miss Giggles cake and was immediately smitten. Mr. Bump is his favorite of the Mr. Men/Little Miss books. Everything else fell into place from there.

Cake (hot chocolate flavor with marshmallow filling - Zen Son's choice) - Pixy Cakes - $70 (including tax)

Custom Mr. Bump Pinata - You Buy It You Break It on Etsy - $58 (including shipping)

All decor and finishing touches (chosen by Zen Son) - Target

Guest List - only those requested by Zen Son
- his Mammy and Papa
- his godmother and her girlfriend
- his favorite (great-)aunt and great-grandma
- his three cousins were invited, but were unable to attend

Time Capsule - Michael's - $5 (not including cost of paint - color chosen by Zen Son)

Mr. Men and Little Miss inspired food
- "bookworms" (gummy worms)
- NYPD Pizza with happy face pepperoni (Mr. Happy)
- Laffy Taffy (Little Miss Giggles)
- white Airheads cut into bandage strips (Mr. Bump)
- 100 Grand minis (Mr. Greedy)
- Nutella tea sandwiches (Little Miss Neat)
- Sun Chips (Little Miss Sunshine)
- animal crackers (Mr. Funny who cheers up all the zoo animals)
- licorice ropes (Mr. Brave who walks the tightrope)
- Crunch Crisp minis (Mr. Noisy)

Bunting - handmade by me from old books he no longer read and ribbon

Badass pirate/bibliophile/Karate Kid - all him.

All in all, it was a fantastic day for him (and the rest of us, too!). He had fun, he was with those he loves most and who love him right back - it was truly his day, just as it should be.

Here's to another amazing year, baby. Mama loves your guts out!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

"Quit Acting Like Such a Girl!"

I have a couple unusual phobias and more unusual fears that are not quite phobic-status, but still rank right up there and the list of things that make me squirm.

I am completely phobic about crawl spaces, vast meadows surrounded by mountains (I cannot ever protect my back - old law enforcement-y phobia), and bugs, reptiles, or animals that move quickly and unpredictably (small lizards, moths, snakes, mice, etc.). They're irrational, I'm aware, which is what makes them phobias. My brain tells me one thing, but my instincts take over and cause intense reactions that I feel nearly powerless to control. These reactions, however, have NOTHING to do with the fact that I am a woman.

Of course, whenever I am in the midst of a phobic reaction, someone along the way tells me to "quit acting like such a girl!" You know, if you want to snap me out of said reaction, if only for a moment, that's the way. Not because it shakes me back to the reality that I'm acting ridiculous (which is what "acting like a girl" means, of course), but because my desire to smack you temporarily supersedes my intense fear.

First of all, way to dismiss my feelings and experience. Secondly, that's some really awesome dig you're taking at all women there. You're just rad all around.

How do girls act anyway? When one of my step-nieces was young, she walked around the corner of the house saying, "Ouch. Ouch. Ouch" over and over, very calmly and matter-of-factly. As she approached, we saw she had in her hand a little reptile that kept biting her finger. She loved it, so couldn't be stifled by the fact that it was hurting her. After she was finished with the lizard (or whatever it was, because you KNOW I wasn't getting close enough to check it out!), she traipsed off to play house with her dolls. That's how one girl acts.

One of my good friends grew up with livestock. She could help a cow give birth after she helped inseminate it, wipe her hands on her jeans, and then go in and bake brownies. That's how one girl acts.

My mom is one of the most athletic people I know. I'd pit her against anyone (male or female) on any field, court, or other athletic venue. She is regularly sought after by the top men in her sports to team up. This has been the case since she was a girl in school to now when she competes in the Senior Olympics. She also has a jewelry box almost as tall as I am chock-full of baubles that she wears all the time. That's how one girl acts.

I can fix or fashion most anything. Cars, home repair, refurbishing of all types, you name it, I can usually do it. And I love it! My garage walls are covered with pegboard full of tools - MY tools. Sometimes, I go out there just to gaze at them and imagine what I'll do with them next. I also scream and cry when I find a lizard in my home. That's how one girl acts.

How is any of this different from how any boy acts, pray tell? My husband has a debilitating fear of clowns. My brother used to have recurring nightmares about attack dogs and snakes. My step-dad would never sit with his back to the door of a restaurant. My son is afraid of the dark. They're men and boys. They're acting like men and boys, because they ARE men and boys. Just like no matter how I'm acting, I'm acting like a woman, because I AM a woman - not just any woman, though...I'm acting like ME.

I grew up with the understanding that "acting like a girl" was a negative. As such, it was a huge insult to me. I took great pride in being "a guy's girl" and unlike all the "other" girls. Why? Because society says girls and women are inferior. Patriarchy says men are superior, thus we should all strive to be as like them as possible. Men must be the manliest. Women must either know their place as demure, inferior dolls or ditch their femininity in order to be taken seriously by their male counterparts. And, of course, I was as entrenched as most in our patriarchal society, that I didn't even know what I was doing or why.

I know now. I have no shame in being a woman. I am proud of who I am. I am a teacher, mother, writer, wife, handy-person, woman, great driver, feminist-in-training, human rights advocate, and so much more. I also have phobias. It's just one part of who I am that has absolutely nothing to do with me being a woman.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Postpartum Visitors (How to Be a Good One...and a Bad One)

As you may know, I planned a homebirth, but 20 hours into labor I transferred to the hospital and 14 hours later had a c-section. (You can read more about it here.) I did NOT have a smooth recovery, to say the least. And we didn't have an easy time breastfeeding. (Read more about that here.) Basically, the first couple of weeks was a mix of pure bliss and pure struggle.

To add to the bliss, one week postpartum, my sister-in-law dropped everything to drive four hours to our place and take care of us. She did laundry, dishes, took a nap with our son while I took my first shower in the whole week. She swooned over him, was the perfect mixture of helpful and out of the way, was just everything I could've ever wanted in a visitor. I have never loved and appreciated her more than I did that week and will always be indebted to her.

In stark contrast and to add to the struggle, was my mother-in-law. She came in the same day as my sister-in-law, but she did it uninvited. I never would've asked her to be there (well, I never would've asked her to come period, but...) a week after I'd just had a new babe and major surgery. She arrived, declared she was on vacation, stayed for an entire week, never once lifted a finger to help with ANYthing, made messes in my kitchen with the junk food she brought for herself to snack on, held our son only two or three times, refused to look at me as I breastfed, never spoke to me, and sat in one of my two favorite breastfeeding chairs every single time she came in. In short, she was a nightmare.

My mother came two or three weeks later, after consulting with us on when would be a good time. She brought groceries. She made dinner. She cried over the sight of her new grandchild. She stayed at a hotel nearby so as to not overwhelm us. She did more laundry (it's amazing how much the laundry piles up when you have a new child...I had no idea!). She kissed his little head as he breastfed. She told me how proud she was of me. She, like my sister-in-law, was the perfect visitor.

Folks, when you visit a new parent, here are some guidelines:
1) ASK first.
2) Bring food.
3) Do chores.
4) Love the babe and the new parents.
5) Don't overstay your welcome.
It's just that simple.

Partners, when someone visits and finds themselves in violation of any of these guidelines, YOU get to run interference. And by "get to" I mean MUST. I don't care if it's your little ol' granny...you take care of your partner and new babe first and foremost. In hindsight, one of my husband's big regrets is that he allowed all of that to take place with his mother. Whatever small fissure there was between me and my mother-in-law before that "vacation," has now widened to one beyond repair. Don't let that happen in your home.

In short, helpful guests are good, unhelpful guests are bad. I would've thought this went without saying, but, clearly, it does not. Learn a lesson from these three women. Take the good, dismiss the bad. Next time you find yourself in a position to visit someone postpartum, be a good visitor, a helpful one, a conscientious one - if you can't, please, for the sake of the new parents, stay home and send a lovely greeting card instead, maybe even include a gift card for the grocery story or something helpful like that.

New babies are miraculous. Everyone wants a look, a chance to ogle the new life. It's important to remember, though, that while this is an amazing time for the new family, it can also be a stressful time and adding to the stress is, obviously, not helpful. Follow my simple guidelines for being a good visitor and you should be on your way to having a perfectly lovely visit with that perfectly lovely family about whom you care so deeply, I'm sure.

(Note: I would've added a picture of my mother-in-law holding our son, but we only have one from the few times she actually did hold him and it's this odd hold where he's kind of just laying across her lap as if he were a blanket for her cold legs instead of a child being snuggled, so I left it out.)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Are You Flipping Kidding Me? (My 6th 30 Day Block)

You know you're severely sexually repressed when even the insinuation of a penis in this picture of my son (covered in Nutella) offends you enough to report it:

As a result, Facebook has blocked me for another 30 days (my 6th such block, for anyone counting). It is, however, my first block for anything on my personal page. All others were as a result of some tight-asses on my former Zen Parenting FB page. It's taken me 36 hours or so to even write about this, because by the 6th 30-dayer I'm just exhausted. Exhausted. This was one of the myriad reasons I removed ZP from Facebook. I would've removed myself completely, but I work for my mother's real estate company as her social media person and am writing What to Expect Naturally, so am needed for that. Facebook sucks and as soon as I can get out completely, I will do so and never look back.

Alas, I'm there now (well, not NOW, because of the block...the SIXTH freaking 30 day block!), so I live as I've always lived. My profile is private. I make public several posts that I don't mind sharing, but the default is to keep everything between friends. One of those "friends" decided that the mere knowledge that my son has a penis is just too much for them, thus they reported it to FB and, being the champs that they are, the FB gods took action against me...again.

In fairness, it may not have been one of my friends. Both my husband and mom were tagged in the photo (that's my non-FB-having pops in the background, so I tagged her to show him), so one of their friends could've reported it. Yes, both their profiles are private, also, so the photo wasn't out there for the masses. Objectively, it was likely one of my mom's friends who reported it, as those on her page are decidedly more conservative than those on mine and my husband's.

Regardless of who it was, though, it was a bullshit move by both the reporting party and the illustrious Facebook team.
1) It violates NO policy. We all know FB has no beef with male nipples (female nipples are a completely different story, to which a couple of my other blocks can attest). There is no genitalia showing. NO policy violation.
2) Evidently, the person who reported it is simply freaked out by knowing that there is a penis present on the body in the photograph. I got news for you sexually repressed coward, he has a penis. No matter what picture you see of him, he always has a penis. Unless he chooses to make it otherwise as an adult, he's always going to have a penis. Let's see some other pictures of him in which it is certain he has a penis, even though you cannot see it, shall we? If you're offended easily, you may want to shield your eyes.

                                                         There's a penis in that diaper!

                                     Look at him all not caring about the fact that he has a penis -
                                             just DARING you to report his penis-having self.

                                               Attack of the naked baby photo!  The horror!
                   There's a penis down there (you know, where you aren't able to see).  Noooooooo!!!

                                                         *gasp* *shudder* *REPORT!*
         Two penises (not featured in the photo, but they're there...lurking...being all penisy and such) together
                                      AND male on male kissing.  That's it, we're all going to hell.

                                    PENIS!  You know it's there, just taunting you, offending you,
                                   insinuating that we should all be unashamed of our bodies.  Pfft...

                             Naked child with his penis out and free and there's photographic proof!
              Well, not really, since you can't SEE the offending organ, but it's there damn it...it's there...

I'll tell you what, dear reporter, next time you see a picture of ANYone, you should notify Facebook immediately.  Do not pass Go, do not collect $200, because they're in there...in every one of those pictures, there's some kind of genitalia lurking just around the corner and we simply cannot have that!

Or, you know, you could grow up, get some therapy, and get stay the hell away from my family and me.  Ya, ya, that's the one...I choose that one.

Swim Spray: A Review

Recently, the water in my city became contaminated with E.coli. In order to treat it, they flushed the system with overwhelming amounts of chlorine. Among other issues with that, one of my problems is that I am allergic to chlorine, so showering and bathing became nearly unbearable. I would only do it when the backs of my ears started smelling like Parmesan cheese. Don't judge. You don't know.

I happened to whine about it as What to Expect Naturally on Twitter one thankfully, I was contacted shortly thereafter by the good folk at Swim Spray. They shipped me out some product and here I am telling you what I think of it.

Swim Spray is just vitamin C and water in a spray bottle. Sprayed on the skin, it'll stave off any allergic reaction from chlorine one may experience on the skin as well as any of those ugly chemical effects the chlorine has on the hair. I was at once optimistic but skeptical. It couldn't be that simple - spray on, shower, goodbye negative shower experience. Nah.

I tried the spray four different times, in four different ways to ensure I wasn't imagining anything or dismissing anything else.

First bath: Sprayed on both feet (the place on my body that is always most irritated by the chlorine), entire body, hair.
- Result: Didn't work (at least not on my feet). Frustration and disappointment ensued as I slathered my dogs in hydrocortisone cream and covered them in socks.

Honestly, I almost chucked the whole experiment then, because making myself the guinea pig for this particular assignment with these particular potential results seemed more than I could take. I'm no quitter, though! (Or, perhaps, I'm just that much a masochist.)

Second shower: Sprayed on both feet. Sprayed more than I did the time before and left it on for longer before showering.
- Result: MUCH less itching on my feet. I did still have some between my toes, but I began to think I had possibly not covered those crevices thoroughly enough. I was willing to keep trying!

Third bath: Sprayed on both feet. Completely saturated those puppies. Every nook and cranny was soaked with Swim Spray. I also let it stay on for a couple minutes before hopping in the tub.
- Result: Success! Absolutely no itching whatsoever. Hallelujah!

Now, I do realize that the amount of chlorine in the water may be decreasing at this point, so I experiment one last time.

Fourth bath: Sprayed on one foot only. Completely saturated it again. Let it stay on for a bit before immersing myself.
- Result: Sprayed food was golden. Nekked foot was not hydrocortisone-itchy (thank goodness!), but was noticeably itchier than the other.

Conclusion: Spray good. Chlorine bad.

1) It took a LOT of spray to cover just my feet. After just those four times, I went through almost an entire big bottle of the Swim Spray - $13 for 4 oz.
2) If I didn't do it JUST so, it was ineffective. Especially busy parents do not generally have the luxury of all the time it takes to fully saturate every single speck of skin and hair BEFORE getting in the shower that they don't generally have the time to take.
3) Cost. (See Downside #1.)
4) Seems to be not as effective against super-high levels of chlorine, which is when it's needed most.

Final Call:
If you have the time and money, I recommend it without reservation. I mean, there's no denying that it does have its merits. Being as I don't swim often, I'd certainly have a bottle on hand for those times when we go to the pool.

I don't honestly know what else one should do for such an allergy except get an expensive filter (also, a cost issue, obviously) or avoid chlorinated water altogether (not really feasible for most). Unfortunately, I cannot afford $13 for a bottle that only lasts me four showers, nor can I afford the time it takes in prepping for said showers. So, I'm left with itching after my quickie showers, longing for a cure that is sure to be just over the horizon. I mean, if Swim Spray can get this close, I'm sure they're on the cusp of something even more fantastic.