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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Christmas Breastfeeding - G'head, Tell Mary and Jesus to Cover Up...I'll Wait

When my son was just over a year old, we ran across this video.  I'm not at all religious, but it struck me nevertheless.  My son was hypnotized.  There were so many babes in arms having "bed" like he did.  It was like he could relate on the deepest of levels.  He watched it over and over again, falling asleep in front of the screen, which was unheard of, as he always fell asleep at the boob instead.  Something about this, though, touched his little self and it has had a special place in my heart ever since.

Enjoy.  Enjoy the full message if you're the religious sort or on mute if you don't care to hear about the Mary, Joseph, Jesus story.  The images are gorgeous no matter what you believe and they speak to my heart and the heart of my son who breastfed like these babes for 4 1/2 years.  They didn't need to #normalizebreastfeeding or raise awareness about #NIP, because it already was normal.  It is normal.  

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Help Refugees While You Shop

Americans and Syrian refugees
are experiencing two very different types
of camp-outs this Black Friday.
The shopping season is upon us. Coming up is our beloved Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday. Oh, and there's a massive refugee crisis happening that you can help with during any and all of those days.

Head to Made for Refugees, satisfy your shopping needs (or, more accurately, wants), score unique deals, and do your part to help those in need. It's a multi-fer! (That's like a two-fer but not.)

from the Made for Refugees Facebook page

From the site:

How does it work?
Very simple. Browse our shop. Purchase your items. When we receive the funds, we will donate them in their entirety to the International Rescue Committee.

Oh, and did I mention I'm one of the makers? I am. Check me out. I don't have a lot of disposable income, but I have a strong desire to help those in need, a crafty inclination, and a friend who has friends, so I got to be involved. And now you do, too. Lucky you!

The IRC was carefully chosen and vetted by the Made for Refugees founders, but please feel free to check them out on Charity Navigator (which I recommend doing for all your charities). You'll see they have top status, so your money will be going to all the right places.

Maybe you're an early bird, like me, who has all their holiday shopping completed. (Way to be!) You can still help by donating at the bottom of the Made for Refugees website through your PayPal and/or sharing this blog post encouraging your friends and family to shop and share along with the #madeforrefugees hashtag. Oh, and don't forget to like their Facebook page, too!

It's hard to see the travesty going on around us and feel helpless as so many struggle. We can't all do the big stuff, but we can and should do what we can with what we have. This is our little way of helping.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Rage: The Unspoken Symptom of Postpartum Depression

I remember vividly the day I finally learned that rage is a symptom of PPD. I read an article posted by a favorite FB page of mine and it was like the clouds parted and angels sang on high. Until then, I had NO idea that my rage was a result of anything other than my husband being an asshole. Or was he? Was anything as asshole-y as I thought? I couldn't have PPD. I mean, I was so blissfully enamored with my son. I didn't feel sad, cry uncontrollably, feel apathy toward or want to hurt my son. I was pissed off, though. I could've cheerfully choked out my husband most days of the week for the better part of a year. Now, in fairness, this was not the first period of time I was miffed at my husband and it was surely not going to be the last, but my feelings during this time were not the same. The intensity of the rage I felt for him was terribly real and strong.

Upon researching this finding further, I decided to head to a therapist. After the first session, she diagnosed me with both PPD and PPA (postpartum anxiety, which is also not talked about nearly enough) and suggested I talk to my doctor about getting a prescription for meds to help while we continued with talk therapy.

The effects of the Zoloft were almost immediate. No longer did I feel violent urges which I painfully admit I sometimes acted out on in a way I could not control at the time. No longer did I feel inexplicably furious the moment my husband walked in the door after work and every time I saw his face or even thought of him in the other room. The black cloud lifted from me and it was glorious.

Unfortunately, it took longer for it to lift from our marriage. The effects of my PPD on my husband have taken years to heal and fade. Still, there are times when he struggles with wrapping his brain around my rage being an effect of an illness as opposed to me just having been a terrible person.

We must speak about this. It's a silent symptom not because it doesn't present itself, but because we're more ashamed of it than we are of the other symptoms...and that's saying something, since PPD is still seen as shameful, thus we're silent about it. If you're feeling rage during the postpartum period, you are not alone. I am here as a testament to that. I am also here to tell you that there is help. You are not a bad person, you can get relief, you are not being judged.

I ask you to share this far and wide. I ask this not as a means of self-promotion, but in effort to spread the word, to get it out there to that one person who is on the brink of destruction because she doesn't know what she doesn't know. Help her. You can help her.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Book Review: Sex is a Funny Word

First things first: GET THIS BOOK.

Ok, now, let me back up a bit and tell you why.

Sex is a Funny Word: A Book about Bodies, Feelings, and YOU
covers the basics. By basics, I mean such crucial topics as:

- consent
- trust
- masturbation
- secret touch
- sex vs. gender
- respect
- and so much more!

What it doesn't cover is the mechanics of a penis entering an orifice or other forms of copulation. There is another book that came before this called What Makes a Baby? that covers reproduction and a book that will come after which is set to cover intercourse. Without even having to read them, I'm already recommending them. This book is so superb, I'm giving the authors a recommendation on any book they've ever written or will write just because of it.

There are precious few hard and fasts in this text. "There are many ways to be a boy or a girl. For most of us, words like boy and girl, or man and woman, feel okay, and they fit. For some of us, they don't." They then go on to discuss being called a boy, but feeling like a girl, vice-versa, feeling like neither or both, feeling unsure, and just being all right with who you are. Sweet fancy Francis, thank you for this book!

One of the only things they write about for which there is no bend is "secret touching." "Secret touching might feel good like helping touch or bad like hurting touch. It might feel strange or weird or scary, or it may just leave you with questions. But one way you can tell it's wrong is that the person doing it makes you keep it a secret." Me likey.

Everything is frank and direct, which is exactly what I like. "Some people use the term private parts to describe parts of the body that have to do with sex. Because any part of your body can be private, in this book we don't call them your private parts. We call them your middle parts, because they are in the middle part of your body. Just because we choose to keep our middle parts private and covered most of the time doesn't mean they are bad." No shame. You will find absolutely zero shame in this book. Hallelujah!

I could go on, gushing over the stellar quality of the words, message, tone, and graphics on each and every page, I could go on quoting all the fantastic excerpts, but I'd simply end up giving you the entirety of the book, which might peeve the authors ever-so-slightly, so I'll leave you, once again, with a link to the book HERE. Get it. Get it and encourage your library to get it, as well, because this book needs to be in every child's hands post haste.

If all of this isn't enough to convince you, just check out my 4-year-old son reading it to himself after I read it to him the first time and started the second round until my throat literally got sore from reading aloud so much in one sitting. If that isn't high praise, I don't know what is.

Got questions? Hit me.

Review: Baby Foot

A friend of mine posted pictures of herself going through the Baby Foot process and I immediately knew I just HAD to have it, do it, love it, roll around naked in it (ok, maybe not that last part, although.......). She was thoughtful enough to post "warnings" to those in her feed, in case they'd be too grossed out to look at her photos. I will do no such thing. If you read my blog or are my friend (hopefully, there's some overlap there, although, again.......), you already know I'm going to be nothing but honest and direct with my review and my experiences.

As such, let's get started. My Baby Foot arrived on Saturday via Amazon and I wasted no time in getting it on. The instructions are straightforward, the application is easy, and the bonus is that you get one hour of down time. Three-fer! The instructions mentioned that you might want to wear socks over the booties and I chose to do so, because the booties are fairly loose themselves and I wanted all the goodness making as much contact with my skin as possible, so socks went on, too, and the fit was much more snug. I waited my hour, I washed my feet with warm water and soap, then I waited. Given my level of patience, the waiting part was the hardest by far. I pestered my friends (I later found that a second friend is currently in the process just about 6 days ahead of me) shamelessly about how much longer I needed to wait to start seeing results and then whined like a newborn puppy when it wasn't happening NOW.

Well, the day I've been waiting for has finally arrived! It's day 5 of the process and day 1 of the peeling. Here's what I'm looking at:

After this: nada. All progress halted. A week and a half later, I did another treatment, because I simply refuse to be the ONE rare case that showed no effects. I need my peels, damn it!

Second treatment: still nothing.  What. the. hell?  Now, I was both pissed and resolved.

I ordered two more boxes. I WILL PEEL. Seriously, at this point, I was bordering on obsessed. It wasn't healthy. I know.

Treatment number three: rousing success! Huzzah! This time, I not only soaked my feet for the hour a day they suggest, rather I put a pot of water down in front of the couch and every time I sat, I soaked. Every. single. day. For, like, five days in a row. And POOF! Peel they did! Finally! And it was glorious. Glorious, I say! It was every disgustingly satisfying pimple popping, cyst-bursting, skin peeling video I've ever watched all on my own two tootsies. Oh, Mama!

Then, I couldn't stop. The first (well, third) try was so good, I had to have more. MORE! So, I did my fourth treatment another two weeks after that. MORE PEELING! MORE SATISFACTION! MORE GROSS-FACTOR!!!

I've stopped...for now. I'm not going to show you the picture of my smooth feet. A) They're just feet and it's hard to see how smooth they feel, so it'll have to suffice to say that they are smoother than my son's feet. I cannot stop feeling them. It's like that feeling the day after you get a wax or when you first get your braces off. You know the feeling. So good. B) Nobody really wants to see the smooth result anyway, right? You really just wanted to see the peely-grody-ick shots. I'm onto you. You're so gross.

Final word: GET BABY FOOT! Get it, use it, try to have a healthier relationship with it than I have. (I'm off to order my next box. Oh, shush.)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Review: Maple Holistics Conditioner and Lip Balm

You know one of my biggest principles on this blog and in my life is honesty, so I'll be no less than brutally honest about these products from Maple Holistics.

Let me start with the Argan Oil Conditioner.  Overall, I'd rate it a 7 out of 10.  There are so many factors outside of the control of Maple Holistics, though, that go into this rating.  My hair is uber-thick, curly, and dry.  There are two conditioners I've ever truly loved and I have tried a LOT in my quest to tame my mane.  Given my hair, I need conditioner that forms "stiff peaks" when squeezed into my hand.  This conditioner formed "soft peaks," which puts it leaps and bounds above the other "raw egg, no peaks" brands I've had the misfortune of trying.  I truly believe that without hair like mine, hair that has led to the nickname "Mu" (short for Mufasa) being bestowed upon me, you'll enjoy the product.  So, bad news: not so perfect for my hair.  Good news: totally worth a shot for yours.

Now, the lip balm is a whole other Oprah.  This stuff makes me want to buy stock in the company.  It makes me want to slather over my whole body and run through the rain naked while clicking my heels.  From the moment I tried it, I was in love.  It has the perfect glide-stick ratio.  It's not too glossy, not too waxy.  And the scent is heavenly.  It's lasting power is perfection and it doesn't make for icky kisses, which brings me to my next point.  My 4-year-old son has also fallen in love.  "Mama, you like to share with me" is what he says right before he's about to steal it.  I accidentally made the mistake of letting my mom try it and she almost confiscated, too.  We all need the Acai Berry Natural Lip Balm.  All of us!  NEEEEED!  I thought I lost it on vacation last week and I almost wept.  I almost don't want to write about it, because I fear that I'll try to order some and it'll be sold out.  (That's giving my blog a WHOLE lot of undue credit for readership, though, so I think I'll be safe.)  Get this.  Seriously.  Get it.  You're welcome.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Review: "It Works!" Wrap (aka "That Crazy Wrap Thing")

As my cousin said, "Wrap yourself in thirty $1 bills and
you'll get the same results."
I thought long and hard about writing this review, because it seems like every other person I know online sells them and I'm bound to offend at least a fair percentage of them. I've never shied away from truth for my readers before, though, so here goes nothin'.

Several months ago, I was given a free wrap in exchange for hosting an online informational session. I was dubious, but treated it like a science project. I had seen vast quantities of "before and after" photos that seemed to show drastic differences, so I figured it was worth a shot.

Upon getting my wrap, I read all instructions carefully and got to work. I tried it on my chin area, because it was as good a place as any and the distributor said it would work as well there as any other place. I was asked to check in regularly with her to update her on my progress. Suffice it to say, after the first message to say that I did it, I didn't initiate contact with her again, because "progress" was not something I was noticing.

Snotty ecard made by wrap-pushers
who don't quite get science yet.
Truth be told, because I had no expectations, I had no feelings about it not working. She, however, was miffed and got quite pushy. Clearly, it was user error. Well, let me back up a bit. In reading the instructions, I noticed that it included copious amounts of notes on diet and lifestyle changes. I didn't do those. If you're running a science experiment, you can't change several of the variables at once to determine which created the change, you have to change one at a time. If I start drinking vast quantities of water, cut down on caloric intake, and increase exercise, I'm sure to see results, but I'm not sure (in fact, I am sure, but I'm throwing them a bone here) whether it was the wrap or the other modifications to my life. So, I did the wrap and only the wrap. Science works. The wrap doesn't.

If the only way this sucker creates weight loss and body reshaping is by following its instruction to change ones diet and movement, I'm going to go out on a limb and say you're wasting your money. Save your cash on the wrap (and myriad other gimmicky pills and supplements they also try to push), get a good reusable water bottle, sports bra, and pair of tennies and skip the wrap. Or be happy with your body as it is. Whatever you want, as long as it is what you want, not what someone else wants based on their beauty standards.

Monday, July 20, 2015

A Lesson in Customer Service for Marcy's Diner

I'm going to approach this whole Marcy's Diner ridiculousness from another angle. Sure, there's the whole childism aspect, but those in Zen Parenting-esque circles have done this to death. Besides that, we're preaching to the choir. None of her throngs of supporters give a gnat's eyelash about kids, as demonstrated by their myriad brilliant comments and I'm too tired of asinine people to worry about trying to educate them. So, let's chat about customer service instead.

Among other things, I have a strong background in customer service and public relations. I have worked in those areas and been educated in them for years. I can speak with 100% confidence when I say that the owner of this family eatery did everything WRONG when it comes to customer service and public relations. Everything. E V E R Y T H I N G.

Good customer service is scarce enough these days. That as many people are supporting her as is the case, supporting that piss-poor customer service blows me away. And yet... I mean, folks, don't wonder why you get such awful customer service yourself when you support it for others. Don't once complain about a bad experience at a store, on the phone, or in a restaurant again, because you're all out there supporting that same crappy service for other people.

You know what, don't take my word for it. Let's look at some (more) pro words of wisdom.

Allbusiness.com says that there are 10 rules for stellar customer service:

1) Commit to quality service. Nope. Per her own words, she snaps at kids who displease her with their kidness and has no problem with screaming at them. This is not a first. She's committed to something, but not quality service. Or, perhaps that shows a need to be committed......

2) Know your products. In this case, her product is food. If she can't handle a short stack of pancakes, it's pretty clear she doesn't know anything about her product or business.

3) Know your customers. If you'd like an adult only establishment, perhaps go into a more fine dining business. If you're a down-and-dirty, cash only, family diner, you're going to get kids. If you want to know about kids, you might wish to take a couple classes on child development. Then take a class or twelve on customer service itself, because customers like being treated nicely. Weird, huh?

4) Treat people with courtesy. She doesn't even think she's done this. I mean, do I really need to break this one down for anyone?

5) Never argue with a customer. Ummmmm.......

6) Don't leave the customers in limbo. Again, if you can't handle a short stack, maybe it's time to hire some help or, if that's no possible, at least communicate with the customer so they know what kind of wait they're in for.

7) Always provide what you promise. Pancakes. Pancakes in a timely manner. If someone asked for this at Fry's Electronics, that would be silly, of course, but I don't think it's out of bounds to expect a few of them on a Saturday morning at your local diner.

8) Assume customers tell the truth. I'm directing this to loyal Marcy's supporters. There's not a big reason for the parents to lie about this. There would be a reason for the owner to lie, but, as outlined above and below, her customer service skills are so lacking that she doesn't even care that people know how horrid she is. And, sadly, you all back her up. Again, don't be surprised when you cross her. Nobody's going to feel sorry for you then.

9) Focus on customers, not sales. People are loyal to you. Their money follows those loyal people. The funny thing about customer service is that good service will spread via word of mouth to just a couple people, BUT poor service will spread like wildfire. It may not seem fair, but it's reality, so you better be on point with those people who have no problem telling their friends when you're not.

10) Make it easy to buy. The best servers will always offer to put the kids' orders in first and tell the cooks to rush it. Why? Kids are kids. That means that they're sometimes impatient, irrational, and just plain pissy, especially when they're hungry. Want to circumvent a problem with the aforementioned? Get those orders out to them stat. Make it easy for the kids, the parents, and, in turn, the other customers and yourself.

You may weather this storm, Marcy's. It is guaranteed, though, that if you continue to bring the rain upon yourself, you won't be in business for the long-term. Customers quit. Word of mouth spreads. People matter. All people. Psst...kids are people, too.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Explaining Financial Hardship to a 4-Year-Old

My husband is both a full-time high school biology teacher and a part-time college biology professor. During the summer, we're out almost $1000 a month while he is on break from the local college. Given that neither of us are fabulous budgeters, summertime expenditures are practically nil and that means explaining some harsh realities to our son.

At the end of the school year, I sat him down and explained to him that we don't have much money in the summertime. He knows that Dada doesn't have to work two jobs for a little bit, but he also knows Dada is still going to work every day (and for far too long, considering his 100 mile round-trip daily commute), so things were still a bit foggy for him. I explained that the extra things that we usually get to do and buy won't be happening for a couple months. Instead of going to the "dinosaur museum," we'll go see the free puppet show at the library. Instead of hitting the "craft store" once a week, we'll hit the library for their free craft day. We won't be able to buy movies on iTunes, we won't have pizza on Friday night, we won't be able to go here or there. We'll still have fun, it just won't be all the same fun and maybe not as much of the bigger excursions or buys.

His reaction? "OK." That was it. I was honest with him. I was real with him. He was OK with that.

He forgets sometimes. He's four. I remind him and he goes right back to being OK with it. "Oh, ya, I forgot," as he scurries off to find another way to entertain himself.

The point? Just be forthright with kids. They can handle it. They get it. They aren't as selfish as we make them out to be. In fact, they're pretty cool.

I'd write more, but my son has just started building a "tall, tall tower" out of the couch cushions (for free) and, according to him, he needs help stabilizing it. Free fun, learning, and bonding, comin' up!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Book Review: The Tiny Book of Patience

I'm a bad, bad friend. I cannot even tell you how long ago my friend Sam Vickery of Love Parenting asked me to take a look at her book, The Tiny Book of Patience. Suffice it to say it was looooong ago. I sheepishly admit that I even forgot about it. I finished another book last night and was looking through my Kindle Cloud drive to find another when up popped Sam's. Ya, I should've read it eons ago, but I finally did last night and am better off for it.

This is the second book of Sam's that I've had the pleasure of reading. You can read my first review HERE. As with Trust Me, I'm a Toddler, she writes in the familiar, which brings me a sense of peace. I am immediately put at ease, knowing that I'm being talked "with" (as it were) instead of to. This is one of my favorite things about Sam's writing. She doesn't write as if she knows all, as if she were better than the rest of us, as if she is an expert we should all revere. Sam is a mom just like us - fallible, real, trying her best every day.

Ironically, The Tiny Book of Patience is perfect for the truly impatient, like myself. There is no fluff here. She pulls no punches, wastes no time, beats around no bushes. She knows parents are busy, so she gives us only what we need to take care of both ourselves and our kids. At only 36 pages, even the least patient of us can get through this book in no time and come out at the other end with a greater understanding of our and our kids' needs and how to meet them. Does it get much better?

We're going to mess up. We're going to lose ourselves from time to time. Recognizing that in ourselves and reminding ourselves to do better next time, forgiving ourselves for what can only be described as our humanity is what mindfulness is all about. Sam doesn't shame us for that humanity. She's that parent, too. She's one of us. She's a friend who gets it in 36 short, but powerful pages. I'm grateful for her. Thanks, Sam.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Public Schools Charging for Education

I was a high school teacher. My only dealings in elementary education were when I did a semester of semi-student teaching in college at an elementary school that was K-8. (That schools are K-8 is another problem for me, but one that will have to be addressed in another blog, so I don't digress too much.) So, when a friend of mine said that a public charter school here in our state (Arizona) was trying to shake parents down for $350 a month per child for full-day kindergarten, I was appalled. Swear words abounded, but I calmed myself for long enough to reach out to a former student of mine who is a kindergarten (soon-to-be second grade) teacher at a nearby district. She informed me that it is, in fact, legal, and also agreed with me that it's completely unethical and just, quite frankly, grody.

Evidently, they can get away with charging for public education, because (here, at least) kindergarten is not "required." So, it's a privilege? Education is a privilege? Ah. No. And those who are privileged enough to afford said privilege (again, we're talking about the privilege of education - PUBLIC education), can pay for their children to get it. The rest of us, piss off. Get your PUBLIC "world class" education elsewhere. OUR education is a privilege reserved only for the wealthy.

Way to teach kids to know their places right from the get-go, foul bunch of privileged and privilege-propagating asshats.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

My Son is a Quitter...and I Respect and Appreciate That

My son has never been Mr. Outgoing. He's not the one who'll jump straight into the fray in and amongst strangers just looking for a good time. He and I are introverts and he's quite a cautious one. This is who he is and I both respect and appreciate that.

He's done soccer twice now. This last soccer season, he started off not going on the field during practice or games without me holding his hand. That's what he needed, that's what he got. By the end of the season, he was on the field by himself, running around like a maniac (still dodging the ball when it came to him, but he was dodging it all by himself!). He grew and he enjoyed doing it. I respect and appreciate that.

During that time, he blossomed socially. He made friends. He even took "buddy pictures" with his friend Bella, so he can remember her always. He spends at least a couple days a week with his coach's daughter and new favorite chum, Georgia. He's still my cautious introvert, but he's a changing cautious introvert. Most importantly, he's changing of his own accord and at his own pace. I respect and appreciate that.

Yesterday, he went to his first basketball practice. He got his own ball with his name on it, his own 80s-style sweatbands (so rad!), pumped himself up with his jams on the way there, and was the first one to arrive. He was stoked. He even got me to be the assistant coach. (Poor kids!) Unfortunately, basketballs are hard and noses are bustable. Mid-practice he got a ball passed to the middle of his face, which resulted in a bloody nose and a little shiner. "Basketball hurts" according to him. I can't argue. He doesn't want to do it anymore. It's his body and his life. I respect and appreciate that.

After several talks, he decided he'd rather do soccer again. Yes, there's something to be said for learning not to quit when things get hard, but that's a lesson we're teaching through modeling and without creating miserable experiences that will sour him for life. He's four. He has plenty of time to try any number of sports, activities, and hobbies...or not. It's up to him. Maybe he'll try basketball again later. Maybe he won't. Maybe he'll play soccer for years to come. Maybe he won't. Maybe he'll do another sport or not. Maybe he'll spend every afternoon reading in the hammock in the backyard. Maybe he'll do ballet or gymnastics or krav maga, maybe he'll really dig the Baden-Powell Service Association that he's starting this fall and he'll stick with that, maybe he'll want voice lessons and spend his weekends doing karaoke on the Wii. I don't care what he does or doesn't do as long as he does what makes him happy as opposed to what he thinks will make me happy. I respect and appreciate him.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Colossal Failure Turned Try #2

There are still four days and $14,000 left until the Kickstarter for the book ends. Call me cynical, but I'm thinking it may not work. Instead of taking my ball and going home, hiding in shame, and letting the book go by the wayside, the book that so many wonderful people have worked so hard on, I'm working on plan B. Said plan includes a crowdfunding site that is not all-or-nothing, no fundraising deadline, and a far more manageable goal. I'll get this book published if I have to work all the way through the alphabet!

You can help get Zen Parenting: The Book out there by donating HERE and sharing liberally. Ask your friends and family to do the same. We cannot continue to allow What to Expect to be the standard in pregnancy and parenting books. We cannot. Parents and children alike deserve infinitely more than that.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Weaning off Anti-Depressants - Day 1

Postpartum depression brought about a few years of Zoloft. (You can read more about that HERE.) I have no complaints. It's been a gift. I needed it, I've been taking it, it's been terrifically helpful, and now I'm ready to go off it. It's a weaning process, though, so I figured I'd do a little updating as I work through it.

Day 1:


I mean, do you want more detail than that?

Fine, but my writing will likely feel peevish, because I feel peevish.

I went to the doctor yesterday and discussed, among other things, weaning off my meds. He put me on half the dose I had been taking before and I started that this morning.

Now, in fairness, everyone could just be extra irritating today. People and pets can be jackasses. Chances are slim that they do it in unison, though, so I think it's probable that I'm the issue.

So far today, I've threatened to rip off the dogs limbs and beat her with them, I'm on the verge of sending her to the pound for digging up the tree I just planted this afternoon then adding insult to injury by traipsing through the house (including on my furniture) with her muddy paws; I've called my husband at work requesting a stiff drink when he gets home (I don't drink "stiff" and very rarely drink at all); I feel so tense my body is literally vibrating and my jaws are clenched tighter than usual; and my 4-year-old son has twice given me advice on how to destress - "Maybe you need sprinkles. Sprinkles always make me feel better when I'm grumpy" and "Try to think of happy things like rainbows and ponies and happy robots."

To recap...

Day 1:


Monday, April 20, 2015

I Probably Don't Love You Unconditionally

I may love you a LOT, I may love you more than most, but unless you are my son or my nephews, I don't love you unconditionally. It's true. Go ahead. Pick your jaw up off the floor, sweep up the pieces of your shattered heart, and read on.

I think this idea of "unconditional" love is bandied about willy-nilly without much thought as to what it really means. Think about it. Unconditional. There are absolutely NO circumstances, no conditions under which you'll no longer love that person. I'm too logical, too realistic to say that about most anyone.

I love my husband terribly. (This is quite the Happy Anniversary blog, huh, honey?) There are precious few conditions that could crop up that would cause the love to disappear, but they are there. If he were to hurt my son (I mean hurt my son, not accidentally hit him in the face with a ball while playing a raucous game of catch in the backyard), the love would surely die.

I love some of my friends I've known for a long time and some I've known for a short time, but have wheedled their way into my heart, but I don't love them unconditionally. They surely get more chances than most others get, they're given a greater berth for hurtful screw ups, but there is a limit to what I'll put up with. It's a large limit, but it's there, to be sure.

If one repeatedly proves to me that I am of little importance to them, I will gracefully bow out of the relationship. The process will hurt, but the love will eventually fade. It just will. If one hurts my son or someone else I love, I'll swiftly run from the relationship. The process will hurt, but the love will fade (probably just as swiftly as my sprint from the person). That's really the litmus test for me. If a person hurts my son, will I still love them? If not, then I can't honestly say I love that person unconditionally, because that is, of course, a condition.

This really bothers some people. I'm not entirely sure why, though, other than it's a bruise to their egos. I can think of precious few people who love me unconditionally. I know I am loved by several, but only unconditionally by a scant few. Love is wonderful, beautiful, magical even. It is not, for the most part, unconditional.

Friday, April 17, 2015


Yes-friends are dangerous. They feel good, sure. They're excellent ego-strokers. They're no good if you're ever looking to improve yourself, grow, or converse on a level with any sort of depth.

How do you know what anyone really ever thinks if all you hear is your own thoughts and opinions parroted back at you? How do you ever create an actual relationship beyond the surface if you've made it clear that no one is to ever have their own beliefs, certainly not any that could potentially cause dissension between the two of you? Are you comfortable staying stagnant as a person? Stagnation is all you're ever going to get if you surround yourself only with those who are always in agreement with you.

Yes-friends drive me to drink. When I ask for constructive criticism, I want it. When I get back nothing but pats on the back and a bunch of "good job" comments, I know they're telling me what they think I want to hear. A) I worry that they see our relationship as so shaky that they believe I can handle nothing other than a yes-friend. B) What have I done to make them question my sincerity? I'm telling them what I want and that's what I truly mean. I think it's simple, but I'm learning that's not quite the case.

Those so desperately in need of yes-friends are at the height of both the fragile ego and insecurity scales. It's sad, really.
Example: I once had a friend who posted a Facebook status saying something to the effect of "I guess I'm boring" along with some "feeling" about how she was completely devastated. 1) Vaguebooking is icky. Stahp. 2) Once the yes-friend cavalry charged in, a link was posted which provided some clarity to the situation. As it turned out, the friend posted two pictures in an art group - one in color, one in black-and-white with the request for a critique from those others in the art field. One comment said something such as, "They're both nice, but I prefer the color. The black-and-white doesn't provide enough of a difference between the background and the subject, making it a little boring." Somehow, this turned into another opportunity to play victim. Ok. What bothered me, though, was that it was clear that the friend wanted nothing more than a bunch of yes-friends around her at the time (as always). Not only was it important for the yes-friends to lift her up from her chosen position as victim to a position wholly unearned as museum-worthy artist, but it was also crucial that they slam the person who had the gall to offer up the critique that was requested in the first place. How dare that blind shrew??! What was also terrifying to me was how quickly and completely the other friends all jumped into their roles as yes-friends. That's telling, as well. It's an interesting power dynamic and a gross demonstration of manipulation on all parts.

Of course, it takes great strength to surround yourself with those whose opinions are in open opposition to yours. You have to be able to get past the knee-jerk reaction of taking things personally, open your mind in a way that is incredibly uncomfortable, and allow yourself to entertain an idea even if you don't agree with it. This requires more mental toughness than some people have, but if you look beyond the short-term want for an ego-boost and to the long-term need for personal expansion, you'll find that yes-friends just aren't worth it.

*Note: This does not apply to emotions. You get to feel what you feel, when you feel it, and for as long as you feel it. Nobody gets to tell you no to your feelings. That is probably for another post, though...

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Books on My Son's Shelves

I have been collecting children's books since I was in my early 20s. To put that in perspective, I didn't have my son until I was 32 1/2. My collection really amped up after I took the best children's lit class ever, also in my early 20s. The professor who taught that class also taught feminist lit and owned a children's and women's bookstore, so you can bet her suggestions all went on my shelf immediately. I'd like to take this opportunity to pass along to you all the best, funniest, most visually stunning, most important books for children of all ages.

The Table Where Rich People Sit by Byrd Baylor
"Mountain Girl (nicknamed for her place of birth) would like her parents to earn more money so they could have nicer things. At a family meeting around their "...old, scratched-up, homemade kitchen table," her parents, who work outdoors for a living, convince her and her younger brother that the enjoyment of their natural surroundings and the richness of one another's company are worth a fortune." (School Library Journal)

I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont
"This curly haired African-American moppet really likes herself. No matter what she does, wherever she goes, or what others think of her, she likes herself because, as she says, 'I'm ME!'" (School Library Journal)

Aesop's Fables by Kees Moerbeek
Minimal words, maximum gorgeous visuals that pop up to meet us with wonder and amazement.

Romeo & Juliet by Michael Rosen and Jane Ray
"Rosen summarizes much of the action in language that maintains the integrity of the play. Shakespearean passages are highlighted in bold print and unfamiliar words are explained in sidebar definitions. The adapter's prologue and endnote place the narrative in the context of a theatrical performance. The prose is readable and will lend itself to young thespians wanting to dramatize either individual scenes or an abridged version of the whole epic. Ray's fine watercolor artwork, though stylized, realistically portrays the characters and climactic moments." (School Library Journal)

Press Here by Herve Tullet
"Tullet's brilliant creation proves that books need not lose out to electronic wizardry; his colorful dots perform every bit as engagingly as any on the screen of an iPad." (Publishers Weekly)

The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone
The classic we all remember from childhood. Don't forget to share those good ones with your babes.

Ten Little Menehunes by Demming Forsythe
"This is a charming Hawaiian counting book in rhyme. Learn how to count from one to ten in Hawaiian while learning some of the Hawaiian language. Follow the adventures of these merry Menehunes, the mythical little people of Old Hawaii, as they watch for whales, pick mangoes, make poi, run along the shore and into the deep forest." (Amazon)

All My Friends are Dead by Avry Monsen and Jory John
"If you're a dinosaur, all of your friends are dead. If you're a pirate, all of your friends have scurvy. If you're a tree, all of your friends are end tables. Each page of this laugh-out-loud illustrated humor book showcases the downside of being everything from a clown to a cassette tape to a zombie. Cute and dark all at once, this hilarious children's book for adults teaches valuable lessons about life while exploring each cartoon character's unique grievance and wide-eyed predicament." (Amazon)

Tuesday by David Wiesner
"In this nearly wordless picture book, Wiesner ( Hurricane ; Free Fall ) again takes readers on an imaginative voyage, using everyday reality merely as a touchstone. Here, a squadron of frogs soars through the night air one Tuesday, squatting upon lilypads that they use as flying carpets. Apparently intending no harm, these mysterious visitors to a suburban development leave a minimum of disruption as evidence of their eerie flight: a few startled eyewitnesses, some scattered lilypads and a spooked dog. Wiesner's visuals are stunning: slightly surrealistic, imbued with mood and mystery, and executed with a seemingly flawless command of palette and perspective." (Publishers Weekly)

Bunnicula by James and Deborah Howe
"This book is written by Harold. His fulltime occupation is dog. He lives with Mr. and Mrs. Monroe and their sons Toby and Pete. Also sharing the home are a cat named Chester and a rabbit named Bunnicula. It is because of Bunnicula that Harold turned to writing. Someone had to tell the full story of what happened in the Monroe household after the rabbit arrived.
Was Bunnicula really a vampire? Only Bunnicula knows for sure. But the story of Chester's suspicions and their consequences makes uproarious reading." (Amazon)

We Are in a Book by Mo Willems
"In their latest pairing, Elephant and Piggie are finally ready to get meta. Realizing that their trademark blank background is, in fact, a page, the duo has a blast convincing the reader to say funny things out loud—until Piggie mentions that the book will soon end. Cue Elephant’s existential crisis: “WHEN WILL THE BOOK END!?!” From there on, it’s a cute—but never too heady—play on the physical object that the reader is holding, including a bit where Piggie appears to flip the pages forward to get a sense of how much time they have left. Willems’ satisfying (if self-serving) solution? Read it again!" (Booklist)

Looking for a Moose by Phyllis Root
"Four intrepid youngsters set out to find a moose–a long-leggy…branchy-antler, dinner-diving, bulgy-nose moose. They've never seen one, but they know what to look for. Their investigations take them through the woods, into the swamp, behind the bushes, and up a rocky hillside before finally reaching their goal. In the end, they find not one moose, but more than they ever imagined." (School Library Journal)

The Legend of the Ragged Boy by Wes Magee and Linda Hennessy
"On a snowy Christmas Eve, a cold, hungry homeless child wanders the street, ignored by those around him, until a poor family takes him in, and they are suitably rewarded." (Amazon)

I Love You, Stinkyface by Lisa McCourt
"A vividly illustrated bedtime story that shows how the unconditional love of a mother can be tested through the relentless questions of her little boy." (Amazon)

The Tushy Book by Fran Manushkin
"The sounds of the words are as much fun as the scenarios that celebrate the body and how it works, and kids will want to chant along with the infectious rhymes. A book to share and talk about." (Booklist)

Doggies by Sandra Boynton
Kids learn to count, you learn to bark like myriad dogs. Two-fer!

Mrs. Biddlebox by Linda Smith
"While the book looks like a Halloween title, its overarching theme is one of empowerment by facing one's troubles squarely." (School Library Journal)

Dear Mrs. LaRue by Mark Teague
"A clever book for a clever dog, Dear Mrs. LaRue collects a series of guilt-inducing letters sent home by the cat-chasing, chicken-pie-eating Ike to his 'cruel' owner Mrs. LaRue, whom he hopes will come to her senses and spring him from obedience school." (Amazon)

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson
"A story of friendship across a racial divide. Clover, the young African-American narrator, lives beside a fence that segregates her town. Her mother instructs her never to climb over to the other side because it isn't safe. But one summer morning, Clover notices a girl on the other side. Both children are curious about one another, and as the summer stretches on, Clover and Annie work up the nerve to introduce themselves. They dodge the injunction against crossing the fence by sitting on top of it together, and Clover pretends not to care when her friends react strangely at the sight of her sitting side by side with a white girl. Eventually, it's the fence that's out of place, not the friendship." (School Library Journal)

The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz
"In this fractured fairy tale, three little pigs are portrayed as frustrated siblings fed up with a wolf that loves to huff and puff and blow houses down. In an attempt to protect their homes in their Japanese village, they train at a Ninja school. As the first brother begins aikido lessons, he finds himself bored and drops out, which gives him little defense when the wolf comes to call. Pig Two attempts his skill at jujitsu but his confidence is larger than his capabilities, and he is no match for the villain. Their sister is the only one who studies well and practices until she masters karate. When the wolf arrives at her door, she settles the score and sends him running. Learning a lesson from their gutsy sister, the brothers return to their classes with more determination and success. Unlike the original tale, the pigs are given responsibility for their misfortune and a chance for improvement. The story has a clear message that success requires perseverance." (School Library Journal)

Halloween by Jerry Seinfeld
"This nostalgic view of Halloweens past will ring true with everyone who remembers the trials and tribulations of trick-or-treating--from the stupid masks with thin gray rubber straps and cheap little staples to the humiliation of having to wear a winter coat over your store-bought Superman costume. Of course, the smart-alecky Seinfeld puts his own stamp on things in a voice that is so distinctly his." (Amazon)

Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester
"Tacky the Penguin is a total nonconformist who lives with a group of formal, proper penguins. But it is Tacky who foils the plans of three critters with get-rich-quick plans that threaten the penguins' existence. With his un-penguin-like antics, Tacky puzzles the hunters to such an extent that they're firmly convinced they cannot be in the land of the pretty penguins. This is a rollicking tale that clearly shows that there are advantages to being an individual." (School Library Journal)

Raising Dragons by Jerdine Nolen
"The unforgettable story of a young girl and her best friend . . . a dragon." (Amazon)

Dear Mili by Wilhelm Grimm
"On September 28, 1983, the discovery of a previously unknown tale by Wilhelm Grimm was reported on the front page of The New York Times. 'After more than 150 years,' the Times noted, 'Hansel and Gretel, Snow-White, Rumpelstiltskin, and Cinderella will be joined by another Grimm fairy-tale character.' The story of dear Mili was preserved in a letter Wilhelm Grimm wrote to a little girl in 1816, a letter that remained in her family’s possession for over a century and a half. It tells of a mother who sends her daughter into the forest to save her from a terrible war. The child comes upon the hut of an old man, who gives her shelter, and she repays his kindness by serving him faithfully for what she thinks are three days. Actually, thirty years have passed, but Mili has remained safe, and with the old man’s blessing there is still time for a tender reunion with her mother. As for the pictures that interpret Dear Mili—hailed by School Library Journal as 'gorgeous'—they were a milestone in Maurice Sendak’s career, the work of a master at the height of his powers." (Amazon)

The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
"Here is the "real" story of the three little pigs whose houses are huffed and puffed to smithereens... from the wolf's perspective. This poor, much maligned wolf has gotten a bad rap. He just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, with a sneezy cold, innocently trying to borrow a cup of sugar to make his granny a cake. Is it his fault those ham dinners--rather, pigs--build such flimsy homes? Sheesh." (Amazon)

It's a Book by Lane Smith
Pure goodness on behalf of the golden age of books that both adults and kids will love.

The Lion & The Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
"In award-winning artist Jerry Pinkney's wordless adaptation of one of Aesop's most beloved fables, an unlikely pair learn that no act of kindness is ever wasted. After a ferocious lion spares a cowering mouse that he'd planned to eat, the mouse later comes to his rescue, freeing him from a poacher's trap. With vivid depictions of the landscape of the African Serengeti and expressively-drawn characters, Pinkney makes this a truly special retelling, and his stunning pictures speak volumes." (Amazon)

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin
"The literacy rate in Farmer Brown's barn goes up considerably once his cows find an old typewriter and begin typing. To the harassed farmer's dismay, his communicative cows quickly become contentious:
Dear Farmer Brown,
The barn is very cold at night. We'd like some electric blankets.
The Cows
When he refuses to comply with their demands, the cows take action. Farmer Brown finds another note on the barn door: 'Sorry. We're closed. No milk today.' Soon the striking cows and Farmer Brown are forced to reach a mutually agreeable compromise, with the help of an impartial party--the duck. But this poor, beleaguered farmer's atypical troubles are not over yet!
This hilarious tale will give young rebels-in-the-making a taste of the power of peaceful protest and the satisfaction of cooperative give and take." (Amazon)

What Mess? by Tom Lichtenheld
"A hilarious conversation between a boy and his parents about a room that's such a disaster zone, he'd have to clean it just to call it a mess." (Amazon)

Mustache Baby by Bridget Heos
"When Baby Billy is born with a mustache, his family takes it in stride. They are reassured when he nobly saves the day in imaginary-play sessions as a cowboy or cop and his mustache looks good-guy great. But as time passes, their worst fears are confirmed when little Billy’s mustache starts to curl up at the ends in a suspiciously villainous fashion. Sure enough, 'Billy’s disreputable mustache led him into a life of dreadful crime.'” (Amazon)

Crankenstein by Samantha Berger
"Faced with the slings and arrows of early wake-up calls, miserly Halloween candy givers, melting Popsicles, long lines, cough syrup, and bedtime, the fearsome Crankenstein can only respond with a baleful look and a groaning 'MEHHRRRR!' The only possible cure for such terror? Laughter, naturally, which comes along with play and friendship and puts a total, if temporary, kibosh on the crankiness." (Booklist)

The Happy Hocky Family by Lane Smith
"The Hockies may be a classic family of parents, boy, girl, baby, and pet, but these events--like those in Mother Goose or schoolyard lore--hinge on misfortune: ants escape; the contents of pockets shrivel in the wash; grandmother's perfume smells like too many flowers; a cousin habitually breaks toys; sibs exact retributive justice." (Kirkus Review)

Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson
"This potent synthesis of art and prose conveys a child's first awareness of the changing seasons with reverence and wonder. Fletcher, a tiny fox, is concerned when his favorite tree turns brown. His mother tells him, Don't worry, it's only autumn, but the tree hardly seems fine to Fletcher. As its leaves fall and flutter away, the youngster struggles in vain to catch and reattach them. When only one leaf remains, he does his level best to secure it to the limb, but eventually the stem dries up and the leaf pops off. Mournful and confused, he carries it home and takes it to bed with him. Still worried about his tree, he wakes up the next morning to find that it has undergone a sweet and satisfying transformation. Beeke's resplendent watercolors work beautifully with the book's tone, content, layout, and design. Picture books about nature sometimes suffer from cloying, excessively pastoral language or imagery; this rare example succumbs to neither. A first purchase for every collection." (School Library Journal)

The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
"Gilly Hopkins is a determined-to-be-unpleasant 11-year-old foster kid who the reader can't help but like by the end. Gilly has been in the foster system all her life, and she dreams of getting back to her (as she imagines) wonderful mother. (The mother makes these longings worse by writing the occasional letter.) Gilly is all the more determined to leave after she's placed in a new foster home with a 'gross guardian and a freaky kid.' But she soon learns about illusions--the hard way. This Newbery Honor Book manages to treat a somewhat grim, and definitely grown-up theme with love and humor, making it a terrific read for a young reader who's ready to learn that 'happy' and 'ending' don't always go together." (Amazon)

The Old, Old Man and the Very Little Boy by Kristine L. Franklin
"An African boy loves to listen to the village elder's stories, but cannot comprehend his talk of the very little boy who still lives within the old man. When enough seasons pass, however, the boy, long grown, begins to speak of the inner youthfulness that now underlies his own old age. Franklin summons evocative images to chronicle the links between the generations and the bittersweet passage of time. The old man's face is as brown and wrinkled as the deep garden soil and his toes spread like stubby fingers from decades of walking barefoot, as around and around the seasons danced." (Publisher's Weekly)

The World of Pooh by A.A. Milne
The complete tales of Winnie the Pooh.

Love That Dog by Sharon Creech
"Jack hates poetry. Only girls write it and every time he tries to, his brain feels empty. But his teacher, Ms. Stretchberry, won't stop giving her class poetry assignments -- and Jack can't avoid them. But then something amazing happens. The more he writes, the more he learns he does have something to say." (Amazon)

Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner
"Based on a Rocky Mountain legend, Stone Fox tells the story of Little Willy, who lives with his grandfather in Wyoming. When Grandfather falls ill, he is no longer able to work the farm, which is in danger of foreclosure. Little Willy is determined to win the National Dogsled Race—the prize money would save the farm and his grandfather. But he isn't the only one who desperately wants to win. Willy and his brave dog Searchlight must face off against experienced racers, including a Native American man named Stone Fox, who has never lost a race." (Amazon)

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
"After James Henry Trotter's parents are tragically eaten by a rhinoceros, he goes to live with his two horrible aunts, Spiker and Sponge. Life there is no fun, until James accidentally drops some magic crystals by the old peach tree and strange things start to happen. The peach at the top of the tree begins to grow, and before long it's as big as a house. Inside, James meets a bunch of oversized friends—Grasshopper, Centipede, Ladybug, and more. With a snip of the stem, the peach starts rolling away, and the great adventure begins!" (Amazon)

Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary
"Having a little sister like four-year-old Ramona isn't always easy for Beezus Quimby. With a wild imagination, disregard for order, and an appetite for chaos, Ramona makes it hard for Beezus to be the responsible older sister she knows she ought to be…especially when Ramona threatens to ruin Beezus's birthday party. Newbery Medal winner Beverly Cleary delivers a humorous tale of the ups and downs of sisterhood. Both the younger and older siblings of the family will enjoy this book." (Amazon)

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
"Princess Elizabeth is slated to marry Prince Ronald when a dragon attacks the castle and kidnaps Ronald. In resourceful and humorous fashion, Elizabeth finds the dragon, outsmarts him, and rescues Ronald—who is less than pleased at her un-princess-like appearance." (Amazon)

This is just a sampling. There's a little something for everyone here. Some are his favorites, some are mine. Some aren't favorites, but are important to read, to consider, to take in. I left out some of the more popular, well-known wonders in favor of bringing you the underrated goodness that is here. They're in no particular order. They're all deserving of your and your child's time, though. So, head to the library and get lost in the wonderful world of books. Enjoy!

Review: Westwood Sunglasses

This is not normally the kind of product I'd review on my blog, but special circumstances abound, so here we are.

Methinks I shall start and end with the bottom line: I love Westwood Sunglasses.

Ahem, that would be my oldest little sister and brother-in-law there.
They're models.  That's right.
Mostly, they're just good people and I love them.
I'm all about supporting my loved ones and their loved ones, so when my sister and brother-in-law shared an IndieGoGo for this budding company, I shared it, too. They're friends with the founders, so the founders are friends of mine (whether they know it or not). They even took part in the ad campaign. When your family cares about something, you care about something. That's how it works. So, I hyped their shades and I even gave what I could, ending up with a pair of their goodness at my front door long after I'd forgotten I'd even donated any money. I didn't expect to get anything out of the deal, I just wanted to share a product my family believed in and that I, after doing a little research, had come to believe in, too.

It took exactly half a second for me to fall in love with my new shades. They're gorgeous! Not only are they gorgeous, though, they also fit well and provide incredible sun protection. Light eyes allow in more light, so I find myself squinting and getting headaches from squinting a LOT when I'm out in the sun. Sunglasses are essential for my blue eyes. Polarized, UV protection sunglasses are important. These fit the bill and look good doing it.

Westwoods are handcrafted from actual wood, so they're light on the face and float when you drop them in water (which you know, at some point, we all do whether in the pool, in the lake or river, or, because we're parents, in the toilet...). They don't have independent nose pieces, so they don't pull your hair out when you take them off the top of your head to put them back on your eyes. I hate when glasses do that! They're just good.

A couple of weekends ago, my beloved Westwoods went to the big sunglass graveyard at the park...where I stepped on them at my son's soccer game. I am telling you, I almost cried. I made an off-handed comment on one of Westwood's FB posts and what do you know, they offered to replace them for a picture and $20. Seriously, they're too good to be true. So, my second pair is on its way and I plan to use the bamboo case in which they come this time, because soccer happens and I don't wish to be with out my darlings again.

Thanks, Westwood Sunglasses! I love you!

Find Westwoods:

Find my fashionable sister Carly's blog HERE. She's about to graduate college with a fine arts degree, so forgive her if she's not active on the blog just now. She'll be back.