Saturday, December 31, 2011

Are We Richmonders Yet?

It's official!  We have lived in Richmond for an entire calendar year (and then some).  Feeling like we're part of a community is very important to me.  I love feeling part of a place, as if our lives are woven into the fabric of the landscape and the culture.  In the new places I've lived as an adult, each move is an opportunity to get to know a place, its personality, its skeletons and rainbows.

In 5-1/2 years in Oklahoma City, we really got to know it.  It was the longest I lived anywhere, and it was a close rival for my husband.  I miss it so much.  Especially our dear friends and neighbors and house.  We got a Christmas card from one neighbor named Connie.  She wrote us a great 'update' about our block, and I will admit - I have emotions - and I got upset when she said "I'll always think of the house across the street as your house."  So will I.  :(

This being the 4th or 5th place new place I've lived as an adult, I feel I've been more mindful and strategic about getting to know Richmond.  So here's my breakdown of our year becoming Richmonders:

Family life:  We are card-carrying members of the Children's Museum of Richmond, the Metro Richmond Zoo and I got a Richmond Magazine subscription for Christmas!  We know where all of the indoor mall play areas are!  I read faithfully!  But I hear there are fantastic parks I want to explore!

Neighborhood:  We have found a great, locally-owned respected daycare that we love and grown into.  We know all of our neighbors and have had several gatherings at our house!  I started a Facebook page for our neighborhood which has about 16 members!  We got to know each other so much better during the Hurricane Irene power outage, and have found great friends in a certain family (you know who you are!)

Culture:  This one is sketchy.  I don't feel like I know much about the personality or characteristics of the greater Richmond community yet.  This takes time, I realize, and I think it is easier for folks living 'downtown' as opposed to the 'burbs' where we live.  Living in Chesterfield County, it has a personality of its own - and we live on the edge.  (I've noticed that Richmond is a mesh of kind of disjointed cities/community and that there's some lack of cohesion in identitiy.)  I do, however, know that I live in the Dale District, I know who our representative is and saw him in Arby's the other day!  As the kids get older, we will explore more Uniquely Richmond things - I hear there are great festivals - and with my Richmond Magazine in hand, that is step one!  (Although Richmond magazine so far makes me feel like I lack a certain level of coolness to fit into this city!)

Getting around:  I will admit, I'm still mainly a GPS driver in Richmond.  However, I at least know where major roads are now in relation to each other, and how to get to most places using 64, 94, 195, the Powhite Parkway and the Chippenham Parkway.

Professional Realm:  This is a toughie.  I had a good network of colleagues in Oklahoma and I had a good thing going in my job.  Here, I work with a lot of great people who I'll call colleagues AND friends, but I still feel pretty much like an 'outsider' in the Healthcare community.  Again, this takes time.  Richmond wasn't built in a day.

In sum, I miss the OKC.  I will always be an Oklahoman at heart (Go Sooners!).  And a North Carolinian.  And an East Coaster.  And an honorary Togolese.  But I've been a Virginian longer than I've been anything (if you add up the 3- and 4- year periods) am enjoying becoming a Richmonder and look forward to building our relationship with her in the years to come.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New MyMemory Samples and Giveaway January 5th!

I am a very serious person and would not pull your leg.  MyMemories has some seriously cool software!  I am showing you some more samples of what you can do.  I used one of the Holiday templates - free with the software - that had 6 pre-designed beautifully laid out pages.  It was so easy to upload my pictures and move the design elements around.  I love the idea of doing a 'family recipe' page or even a whole book!  The prices for printing books are very reasonable and much cheaper than buying all the scrapbook supplies and starting from scratch!  Keep reading!
I am giving away a copy of the MyMemories Digital Scrapbooking software to one lucky reader!  I am requiring at least 10 entries - so enter now!  To enter this giveaway, simply visit the My Memories Suite webpage, choose your favorite design, and tell me how you'd use the design and the software!  SWEET!  (Drawing will be held January 5th!)  *BONUS entry if you also become a follower of my blog or LIKE the MyMemories Facebook page!

f you can't wait until then or don't win enter the following code to receive a $10 discount off the purchase of the My Memories Suite Scrapbook V3 software and a $10 coupon for the store - $20 value!   

Tell your friends and family to do this too!  I LOVE giving free stuff away!  

Friday, December 23, 2011

The New Nativity Scene: A Hot, Bloody Mess?

I love Christmas.  I love so many things about it...  the food, the festivities, the feelings, the fun.  All of the F's.  I love that so many people around the world are celebrating something so deeply personal all at the same time in a variety of public ways.  And if you know anything about me, it may shock you that I love the story of Christmas.... as in, the story of the birth of Jesus.

My 'deeply personal' religious story is winding, rooted in interesting experiences, observations, and has yet to have a plot twist or denouement, nevermind a happy ending.  Let's just say I have more questions than I feel there are answers.  That said, I think the story of baby Jesus is one of the most beautiful I've ever read or heard.  The plot is as intriguing as it gets.

A young woman - Mary - pregnant even though she's never had sex.  Scared, told that her baby is the son of God.  Joseph - a young man, kind and supportive to her.  An arduous journey that peaks with her having the baby in a barn with farm animals.  Angels making proclamations to people.  Can you imagine?  Real angels - what would they look and sound like?  In my imagination, the sights and sounds and smells of the story are stunning.  All of that hope and love and joy and peace embodied in a tiny baby, bundled up in swaddling clothing, who would change the course of the world forever.

Who couldn't love sweet baby Jesus?  Babies are cute and I'm sure Baby Jesus was adorable....  but Mary is the real central character here.  I love how in all of the manger scenes, it's just her and Joseph and the baby, all looking clean and glowing and happy.  Are we to believe that this young girl gave birth with only Joseph to help her?  Or are we to believe that Jesus just popped right out, all clean and cute and cuddly? How did they cut the cord?  What did they do with the placenta?  So many unanswered questions.  

I remember from my Catholic days, Jesus was all God and all man.  So I think he must have been born like all men, in a painful, hot bloody mess.  Having gone through childbirth myself now, I feel I understand a little more about what may have happened that night.  Mary was out of her mind with pain for many hours.  She may have felt like she was going to die.  There was a lot of screaming involved.  Jesus was born an adorable, hot, bloody, sticky, gooey mess.  Surely there was a midwife to help.  Mary breastfed Jesus.  She got freaked out by all of the blood and gunk that came out after the baby.  This I can related to.

Leaving all these details out of the story and the Nativity Scenes does a disservice to the story and to Mary and that whole experience that night.  What it must have been like. So I think in all Nativity scenes from now on, There should be a midwife honored among the wise men.  Mary should be shown breastfeeding Jesus.  And there should probably be some blood on her clothes and in the hay, but I guess that would scare children. 

If you have seen a Nativity Scene like this, show me!  I will put it in my yard! 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Crying in the Juice Aisle

I almost cried in the juice aisle today. Let me back up for a minute and tell you about a time when Big Sister was 5 months old (over 3 years ago). I breastfed her from the start but around 5 months old, the milk I was pumping was not meeting her need at daycare. We had to buy formula. I clearly remember standing in the formula aisle at Target just crying and crying, and my husband rubbing my back and telling me that it was ok, we had no choice, our daughter needed to eat. I felt like a failure. I felt like a bad mom. I wanted to provide everything she needed and this was the 'writing on the wall' that I couldn't do that. The end of the story is boring. We bought the organic formula because it just sounded the best, she got hooked on it, wouldn't drink the cheap stuff, and we still nursed until she was a year old.

Fast forward to today. I didn't really cry. I almost did. I was trying to buy apple juice. To get you up to speed, there is recent news about excess arsenic in apple juice due to unregulated pesticides used in orchards overseas. ARSENIC?? What mother would want to buy something that has arsenic in it??? Well, my kids love apple juice. They are snobs about it. No other juice will do. The stuff is good. So I'm thinking - "I can do this. Surely I can find juice made from organic apples grown in the United States." I read the labels on every bottle. I know other customers thought I was crazy. Slowly, I felt the stinging behind my eyes. Clear sign that tears are coming. What is wrong with me? I thought. Why am I crying about this? It was the same feeling I had years ago in Target. I want to provide the best for my kids but I feel like I don't have a choice.

I had no freakin' clue which apple juice to buy.

I landed on an expensive organic apple juice. I brought it home. Big Sister loved it. I now feel like a good mom, like I've done the best I can.

The problem with both of these stories is, while I did the best I could, I wouldn't say the same of the formula or juice companies or those who regular their sale and the process that gets the apple, turns it into juice and gets it on the store shelf. Months after we bought the formula, it was recalled for being contaminated with bug parts. None of the juice companies put on the label where their apples were grown.

So many people think that health and well-being is all about personal choice and personal responsibility. I feel like both of these stories, and my emotional reactions, illustrate that the personal is political. Even in the juice aisle.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Christmas My Memories Giveaway!

It's baaacccckkk! 

I am hosting another MyMemories Suite software giveaway!  The best part is -- I'll be giving away the software on Christmas day - December 25th!  You can enter to win for yourself or a friend or loved one.  

If you haven't checked out MyMemories lately, you should.  They have just released Version 3 of the software and the new features are so much more user-friendly.... which is great because they were pretty user-friendly before!  It flows with how you would naturally make a paper scrapbook page. 

It is easy to import pictures, and there are so many free nicely designed page sets of all sizes that come included!  Also, MyMemories gives away free paper sets regularly.  To the left are just a few pages from one of the included paper sets.  I didn't design these - just did the 'automatic import' option.  I just wanted to give you an idea.  There are tons of cool embellishments like flowers of all colors, buttons, stitching, and so much more.

 To enter this giveaway, simply visit the My Memories Suite webpage, choose your favorite design, and comment below telling me how you'd use the design and the software and you could win a free copy of the My Memories Suite Digital Scrapbooking Software!  SWEET!  (Drawing will be held Dec. 25!)  *BONUS entry if you also become a follower of my blog or LIKE the MyMemories Facebook page!

Here's the best part:  If you can't wait until Christmas, enter the following code to receive a $10 discount off the purchase of the My Memories Suite Scrapbook V3 software and a $10 coupon for the store - $20 value!   

Tell your friends and family to do this too!  I LOVE giving free stuff away!  Trust me - this is worth it if you love scrapbooking or doing creative projects with photos!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Working With Style

OK.  I am not wild about this picture, but I've been wanting to link up with the Liberating Working Moms Working with Style series / blog hop for a while now.  So here it is!  I love this outfit.  Regardless of how I think it looks in the picture, I feel good in it.  It makes me feel like "myself."  There's something about jeans or tights+boots that just put me in a good mood and good frame of mind.  But there's something about taking a picture of yourself in your office using the auto-timer on your camera that just makes you feel very weird not unlike the feeling of confessing you've done something naughty.  Perhaps Santa will knock me down on his list for this.  But if he hasn't, if you're reading dear Santa, bring me more of these skirts!  And tights!  And boots!  For they make me happy.  Despite feeling a little be-frazzled in the morning, lucky to have gotten a shower, having given up on taming my crazy hair long long ago, an outfit you feel good in is priceless.
Shirt:  Teal; Gift from my in-laws for Christmas last year, by Jeanne Pierre.
Tights:  Purple; Kohl's
Boots:  Brown; JC Penney (though I'm currently boycotting them; see previous post).

Saturday, December 3, 2011

What Should We Boycott Next??

Chick-fil-a, you won't be getting our $ anymore.
First, it was JC Penney. (Or JC Penny?  Is there an S?)  I began boycotting JC Penney's when the news broke that they were selling this shirt targeting girls ages 7-12.  Despicable.  I think it's great that they took it off the shelves, but somebody in their organization a) decided that at one point it was a good shirt, b) decided it was something JC Penney should sell and c) obviously didn't see a problem with it.  THAT's what I see as the problem.  So I haven't bought anything there since .  Which is a little sad because I used to really like them, much to the dismay of persons-to-remain-unnamed who basically said "ewww gross!" when I told them I shopped at JC Penney.  And now you understand a little bit about the priority of clothing in my life.

Now it's Chick-fil-a.  Or Chick-fil-A.  Or some other iteration of Chicken filet.  My husband informed me that recent reports seem to suggest their foundation arm has discriminatory policies towards homosexuals and has given quite a bit of money to anti-gay organizations.  This is a much more important reason to boycott a place.  I understand not to believe everything I read, but there's enough there for a reasonable doubt.  Not only does it conflict with our personal beliefs of equal rights for all people and support for gay marriage, but it surely has an impact on the chain's work environment and who they hire.  Hopefully an investigation is in the works.  So despite them having the cleanest indoor play areas in all of greater Richmond and having great Tuesday night free kids meals, I am agreeing with my husband on this one and the boycott has begun.  SeeYaLater despicable suckers. 

And now I've used the word despicable twice in this post.  Next up:  unconscionable.  And why are the names of these places so hard to spell?

I am really tired of the parade of unsavory, unconscionable acts by big corporations.  But JCP and CFA are standing on the shoulders of giants such as Wal-mart, KFC, Abercrombie and Fitch, Lehman Brothers, Johnson and Johnson (formaldehyde in baby products?? Oh yeah I'm boycotting them too) and others who take their customer's money and use it - knowingly and intentionally - irresponsibly.  Technically I guess they can do that.  Well, actually, I don't know if they can 'do whatever they want' as some people say - legally, that's up to the courts to decide.

I DO KNOW that I can do whatever I want with my money (except I have to pay taxes) and I'm exercising that right by NOT SPENDING IT at these deplorable places AND now I'm telling you about it as well!  I am also very interested in joining the Occupy movement but - and this is not a comment on their employment or sanitation issues - I am too busy with the rest of my life, job, etc.  So bummer there.
Where else should I boycott?  Bring it on!!!  Pretty soon I will be grinding my own flour, raising sheep and spinning my own wool for clothes, buying a cow and getting milk and butter.  Now I'm getting carried away --- but it doesn't sound like a half bad idea.  Let's see if my husband will join me in that hairbrain scheme!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Semi-Homemade Aurora Crown

My child so badly wants to be a princess some days.  Today was one of those days.  We have princess decals in her room and she always points to either Belle or Sleeping Beauty (Aurora) and says - When I grow up, I'm going to have that hair, and that dress, and hold that thing (a fan) and have a crown like that and be a princess.  It is perhaps the cutest thing ever, since the most recent thing my children did that was the cutest thing ever, like 5 seconds before that.  So today we indulged her a little and made a crown!  And okay, we were both a little bored.... 4 days at home!  A pleasure, and a challenge!  So I googled "aurora crown" and we found this simply adorable pattern.  However, we didn't have craft foam or jewels.... so, enter tin foil!  Here's what we did:  1) Trace the template in the pattern on card board.  Cut out!  2)  Cover it with glue and wrap with tin foil ("silver" as Big Sister called it) 3)  Find a head band that she never wears and glue the 'silver crown' to it, held in place with clothes pins for ~30 minutes 4) In the mean time, make 4 "jewels" by covering diamond (or whatever) shaped pieces of cardboard with tin foil.  Crayons worked okay for giving the 'jewels' a hint of color.   5)  Glue the 'jewels' on the 'crown' in your desired pattern.
Presto create-o!  An aurora crown that Big Sister has worn all day!  And we didn't have to purchase a single thing or make a trip to the craft store!

Friday, November 25, 2011

A My Memories Calendar? Priceless!

SPOILER ALERT:  I made a calendar for a family member for Christmas using the new My Memories Version 3 software.  Yep - they've upgraded and the software has some very cool new features!  One of my favorites so far is the ability to easily make a calendar using either pre-designed scrapbook templates (you get a very nice selection with high-quality looking papers and designs) or templates you design yourself!  You can choose either the standard 12x12 scrapbook page size OR a normal sized 8-1/2 by 11 paper size.  This is SO much easier with Version 3 than the previous version.  
An example of what I did for my calendar is posted to the left.  In total, for a 1-year calendar you will need 26 pages:  You create a cover, each of the designed/ photo pages (which you can actually pre-load with pictures you select into a separate file), each of the calendar pages, and a back cover.  You'll need to 'map it out' to make sure you have the order right, and the number of pages depending on the months you want.  For a 2012 calendar, it cost me $17.99 plug shipping. 

You too can make a calendar like this!  The software is normally $39.95 but you can use my special discount code to get $10 off plus a $10 coupon to use on the online store.  The code to get the discount is STMMMS40533 on the My Memories Suite webpage.  Have fun!  I sure did!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pretty Is As Pretty Does

This has been rolling around in my head for a while so I'm going to lean my head to the side, shake it really good, and let it drop out and clink onto my blog page.

Pretty is as pretty does is perhaps one of the worst phrases ever.  It is a double edged sword.  It has popped up through the years in my life in various contexts, and a few weeks ago, I caught myself actually thinking it with respect to my daughter.  Is this a phrase I would want to use with her?  What does it really mean?

I would love your input on this, dear reader.  Have you ever heard this phrase before?  What does it mean to you?  Is it just us Southern-raised girls who hear this?  Is it an American thing?  Where did it come from?  Perhaps I shall ask Google.  Results: The free dictionary says "Pretty is as pretty does.  (old-fashioned)
something that you say which means that you should judge people by the way they behave, not by their appearance 'She's very pretty.' 'Yes, but pretty is as pretty does. I haven't been terribly impressed by her manners.'"  Something else links it to a windbag-sounding British book from 1853.  Oh geeze.
At any rate, I think it's a deceptive phrase that on its face is simple and well-meaning.  Somebody, however, first said it to me when I was quite young and feeling quite non-pretty.  Around puberty, I guess.  It stuck in my head like glue.  I chewed on it like gum.  You never know what phrases are going to do that, but this one did.  To me it said - "We don't really know if you're going to turn out nice-looking, but if you act nice to people they might think you're pretty so be as nice as you can!"  Not that this phrase had so much power over me, but I do find myself caught in that "look nice and be nice" circle that I think many women find themselves in.  This leads to me second-guessing actions and decisions that I think may come across as "rude" or "impolite."  This leads to me (and women in general) apologizing too much.  This leads to women getting paid less than men for the same job.  This leads to all sorts of similar crap that I believe, at the very heart, is caused by society telling women to be 'pretty,' 'nice' and 'polite.' 
I imagine it has this affect no matter how attractive the girl/woman actually is to whom it is said.  If I thought I was pretty and somebody said that to me, I would surely think, "They must think I'm not very nice."  Ultimately, this tiny phrase just makes women self-conscious about constantly trying to look and act pretty. Look pretty, act pretty, a combination of both...  it's such a vicious, pointless cycle.  And the word 'pretty' - which I've used so many times in this entry already that it looks and sounds weird - it's a nonsense word.  Pretty.  What does it mean?  It's a horrible word that at its heart means --- "Constantly care what others think about you - how you look and how you act."
I will try to never use this with my daughter.  Some iteration may slip out....  and so I'd like to propose that the iteration be, "Be true to yourself and kind to others.  Beyond that, don't care what people think of how you look or you act."   And by "iteration" I mean, scrap it altogether, burn it and tell girls things whose clear intention is to empower them.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Lost Kardashian Sister

Warning:  This is what you get folks when it's been several weeks with no bloggy, and I'm home on a Thursday afternoon by myself and my remote access to the work server is down.  Warning over.

So I know you've all been dying to know - What are my Style secrets?  Every time I leaf through a magazine to read some celeb's favorites list, I can totally relate to everything on the page.  After all, I am The Ultimate It Mom.  It is so apparent that my middle name is Style (and you just thought the E stood for Elizabeth, or maybe you were confused by the Beth - it's all a ploy to keep you guessing just like Madonna).  In fact, when I read people's minds, I hear them think - "Is she the lost Kardashian sister?  She's got the Style, but I'm confused by the Master's degrees and correct grammar.  And Style would be a really cool unique celeb baby name." 

Well, guess no longer.  I'm going to give you my Favorites List so you too can be The Ultimate It Mom like me. 

Victoria Secret 5 for $26 panties. I might give up a non important body party for these panties, they are so great.  They used to be 5 for $25 so you can see it's been a while since I bought some.  Great colors, perfect fit, no riding in the wrong places and they make my Kim Kardashian-esque butt look kind of cute if I do say so myself.
Gap 1969 Curvy Jeans  They are a little steep at $69 but I bought them with a Groupon over a year ago and they are always my go-to jeans.  I shed a small tear when I want to wear them and they are past the dirty threshold.  I would spend $69 today for a new pair if I had $69.  Thus, my ongoing comparison of myself to Kim Kardashian is losing some footing.        
Basically anything from The Body Shop but I especially love their shower gel and carrot moisture cream.  Somehow I have ended up with about 5 containers of this stuff, they have great sales around the holidays and I stock up!  Great for hands, face, feet, body ---  LOVE.  Here I must mention I don't really even really  know who the Kardashians are.

I just discovered Neutrogena Naturals and am really loving the Fresh Cleansing + Makeup remover and matching moisturizer (Walgreens fake brand).  Great for It Moms like Me because it is a multi-tasker.  It and I have a lot in common, actually.  I'm good at removing makeup from my children and I multi-task.

So I have curly hair and it is unruly.  My comparison with the Kardashians is, I believe, shattered.  I am really a mess and pretty much all-around fashion faux-pas and my style choices are based on 1) practicality, 2) trying to look unique kind of like Blossom or Clarissa Explains it All (I am sooooo dating myself) and 3) avoiding looking tired or like I'm wearing food.  Still - like you, dear reader, I am an It Mom and these products make It Work and I Love Paul Mitchell's sculpting cream because it makes my curly hair look like it's supposed to be that way.  It creates the illusion of time and effort.  I Love fashion Illusions!

Finally, I love Scentsy not only because I sell it, but because it smells so good and creates the illusions of lack of negative odors in our house.  I'm not saying our house smells bad, but it smells soooo much better with Scentsy.  

I also love my go-to mommy purse that my dear friend Alicia gave me.  I love my Coach purses, but there's something about a big professional looking bag that you can throw a lot of junk in and still look nice can't be beat.  I don't have a picture of it, but here's a nice one on clearance at JC Penney that I like - and the price is right at $23.99.  Eat THAT Kim Kardashian! 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thrifty Thursday with My Memories!

*Alert:  Free Digi-scrap pages ahead!*

Every Thursday I will be featuring a Free digital scrapbooking page set giveaway from My Memories!  Click on the image below to download this week's free kit!

If you haven't read about it on my blog before, My Memories Digital Suite is scrapbooking software that allows you to create beautiful digital scrapbooks, calendars, gifts, movies and more that you can download, print and share in so many ways.  Christmas is right around the corner... it would be great for creating a holiday family newsletter or creating a calendar for the grandparents.

For busy mommies like me and many of you who don't have time to do 'real' scrapbooking, this software is a steal at $39.95 and with my code STMMMS40533, you can get $10 off your purchase and a $10 coupon for the store - a $20 value!  Happy digi-scrapping!

Get this kit for free and use my code to get $10 off the software!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Beware the Mommy Brain!

...or just crazy!
I frequently do silly things.  Silly may be the wrong word...  others may use the words...crazy, irrational, funny, weird, bizarre, unique or slightly out of my mind.  You say po-tay-to, I say po-tah-to.  Do not go calling the nice men (or women) in white coats to come and take me away just yet.  I think it is Mommy Brain.

Do you have Mommy Brain?  Or if you're a daddy, is there such a thing as Daddy Brain?  You may have it if things like this happen to you.

You pack your clothes for a long-distance trip.  You're so pleased at your super awesome packing skills that you get done early and play on the computer, forgetting that YOU GOT TO GO to the airport so you jump in the car, leaving later than you wanted.  You get halfway to the airport and it occurs to you that you forgot to pack ... wait for it.... underwear!  Too late to turn around.  You spend your time in both airports with your coworker, answering the question - Do they sell underwear in airports?  The answer is - Yes but only expensive Calvin Klein underwear that might as well be called Wedgie underwear.  Yes.  This happened.  To me. 

Or - you are so happy with your skills to pay the bills - online!  Technorific!  Efficient!  You can do it during the kids' naps or on your break!  No problem-o!  But wait - you think, hmmm, have I paid the power bill?  Let me check.  Yeeessss  buuutttt... that amount looks like the exact same amount I paid to the credit card company.  OH NO I DIDN'T!!  Oh yes I did.  Thankfully -- and coincidentally -- they were almost for the exact same amount and due around the same time.  WHEW!  Crisis averted, no thanks to Mommy Brain!

I am going to advocate for the creation of  an official DSM-IV mental illness diagnostic criteria for Mommy Brain.  On the other hand, scratch that, because that would probably lead to those little women and men in nice white coats coming to take all the mommies away.... because I think I'm not alone in my illness.  Am I....?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

More with My Memories

So - even though I've already given away the free copy of the My Memories software, you can still use my code to get $10 off plus a $10 coupon for the online store.  I should be sleeping but instead I'm playing!  Look what I did in the past 20 minutes or so.  I didn't have in mind what I wanted to do, but I took a few pictures from a trip we took in the early Spring to UNC Chapel Hill.  I like the way it turned out....  this was one pre-designed page of a 5-page album but I changed the photo layout very easily, adjusted the photos to black and white and added the word "family."  What do you think?  Pretty cool huh?

The code to get the discount is STMMMS40533 on the My Memories Suite webpage.  

It would be great for making a Holiday letter, wedding album, baby album, calendar for a gift and much more!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pulling the Santa Card

Picture of me, taken by Ivy - Summer 2011
It is official.  Threes are more terrible than the two's.  I love her dearly but Big Sister has taken an interesting turn lately.  It all started with a bad report at school.  She had scratched another little girl and gotten time out.  Time out?  My child?  We had just had Parent's Night where her teacher raved that she never has any problems with our angel!  Perhaps my daughter had her super radar far-away hearing aid on that night and heard it....  and decided "I'll show them!"  Her first time out was the next day.

Then the next day, she got sent to (wait for it...) the director's office.  Her little yellow behavior school bus went from green to yellow to RED!!  The details are foggy now...  it involved scratching several times, and laughing when she had to sit in time out.  Today was the fourth day we've gotten such a report.  No more trips to the principal's office, but time out nearly every day!  What is going on?? 

We've made her apologize to the teacher each time (again), and she's grounded from the iPhone and special things like watching movies and playing on the computer.  She doesn't seem to care.  We talk about it (maybe too much), she says she doesn't know why, and gets upset and looks like my precious tears-streaming-down-her-baby-face angel.  (Her teacher says it's because she wants whatever they have and gets mad when they won't bend to her will).

I am reminded of a line from Tangled.  "I can't help but notice you seem to be at war with yourself." 

While it's maddening that nothing we do or say seems to have an impact, it does seem like she's having an internal struggle too.  Trying to figure out right and wrong, what to do with some feelings she has - like when she wants something but can't have it, how to resolve that.  It's tough to be on the parenting end of this because you need to accomplish all of the following:  discipline your child, help her understand and resolve her feelings about things, figure out how to help her behave when mom and dad aren't around - and protect her current and future victims.  As if she'd listen to us.  Hah.

Tonight I pulled the Santa card.  "He's always watching you, and he only wants to give toys to children who are nice to their friends- not little girls who scratch their friends."  (Oh yes I did that, and I cringe now.... I don't want her thinking she's a bad girl.)  But she's too smart, she's not buying it.  "He can't see me from far away."  Ever the realist, I played the Santa card and it fell flat.  Got any ideas?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Don’t put me in a box. Ever.

I have had TOO MANY interactions lately with people who seem to think that American values are going in the toilet, and part of the ‘fix’ would be returning to the ‘good old days’ when all women stayed home with their kids all day and built community through volunteering and charity work.  This is an extension or part of the ‘let’s stop supporting and funding birth control’ conversation.  Forgive me while I roll my eyes and puke and gag all at the same time.

What is happening here?  What it is ain’t exactly clear.
Is this - as suggested by a very smart friend of mine - a symptom of the current trend of glorifying the 50's and 60's in TV shows such as Pan-Am (career choice for women = stewardess and only if you were ‘attractive’), Mad Men (career choice = secretary, coffee getter and object of butt pinches), and Big Love (no career choice, many sister-wives living in submissive harmony)??  Or perhaps people are starting to again believe women are stupid – from shows like Two and a Half men and Jersey Shore.  Or perhaps the rise of pandering on behalf of certain sneaky trojan horse type people under the guise of rising political parties who have strong opinions about ‘a woman’s place' and gaining traction that way. 

Who knows.  I honestly haven't watched many of these shows so need to put that on my 'to do list' to see if that is indeed a contributing factor.  But I hear too much screen time rots your brain.  Plus need I remind you – I have two youngsters, ONE husband, 3 dogs and a full time job. 
The truth of the matter is those ‘glory days’ sucked for women big time and I have no interest in returning there.  What woman in her right mind would want to???  

The other truth of the matter – on a personal note - is I don’t want to stay home with my kids all day. 
My parents worked hard to put me through college.  I worked hard to pay for and earn two master’s degrees.  I have an impressive 12-year resume in a field of work that I absolutely love (toot tooting my own horn).  It fits me like a glove.  I am so much better at doing my day job than everything I know I would try to do at home: do daily educational and art lessons, provide 3 healthy meals and snacks, coordinate sleep schedules, ensure socialization with other children, make sure they spent time outside.  I know I would not be good at that.  I would be depressed.  I would wind up doing volunteer and community work, figuring out how to take my children with me to city council meetings, trying to arrange daycare I couldn’t afford.  I call all of that work and I might as well get paid for it! 

Do NOT mistake this for not loving my children. They are first in my heart and mind ALWAYS.
Do NOT mistake this for disrespecting or thinking less of women who choose to work at home, taking care of the house and everyone in it.   (See above.  They probably do more work than I do daily.)

Do NOT mistake this for an opinion about how others should live their lives. It is what's best for me and our family.  My husband knew this about me from the start and supports me in every way.

The beauty of the world today is women have  more choices.  Not as many as we should, and they’re not available to all women equally across socioeconomic classes, and the jury's still out as to whether we can truly 'have it all.'  But the *availability of choices* -- THAT is where the cultural shift needs to happen. 
Women don’t need to change.  Don't take away my choices.  Don’t take away my birth control.  Don’t force every one of the eggs in my ovaries to become a baby.  Don’t put me in a stay-at-home box or a working-woman box.  Don’t put me in a box at all.  Ever.  Don’t try to change women or moms to fit the current messed up socioeconomic, health care, daycare, employment, good-old-boy, (etc.)  systems. 
Change the Systems to fit us.  All of us.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Pedicures: Pathway to Peace

10 years ago I was in the Peace Corps in Togo.  50 years ago the Peace Corps began.  I missed all the anniversary festivities this weekend in Washington DC because of rain, kids and life.  That's ok.  I don't need to go to festivities to remember my time there (though I do crave Togolese food something awful!).  I think about it almost every day.

There are threads that run through life that connect people, places and moments through time and space.  Oddly enough, Pedicures are one of those threads for me.

One of my favorites memories from the early days in my village began with pedicures.  I remember the first nights being in self-imposed seclusion in my house, not comfortable speaking the language, not comfortable with the dark of night, with only using a lantern to get around, with being an object of curiosity.  I would shuffle about in my little house, feeling all of the children's eyes peering at me from outside.  Fish in a bowl - that was me, except the barrier was a mixture of culture, awkwardness and curiosity. 

Former Peace Corps volunteers had recommended packing nail polish.  One night, I wanted so badly to make a connection with my new 'family' outside and so I finally remembered - the nail polish!  Be bold!  Be brave!  Be enameled!  None of us could speak to each other, but I opened the door and showed them all the colors of 'vernis.'  Floodgates open!  Within minutes, all the children were in my house and it was the biggest pedicure party I'd ever seen!  They spoke to each other, tried to speak to me, I tried back, and somehow we all got our nails done and made friends.

From that night on, pedicures happened pretty regularly, which opened the door for card-playing, hand-clapping games, and even the littlest ones trying to teach me the local language.  I finally had friends who eventually became like family and I miss them dearly to this day.

Peace through pedicures.

Tonight, the kids and I did pedicures!  Somehow, that same magical thing happens in our house when we bust out the nail polish.  Even the guys want in on the action!  Hurt feelings get smoothed over, tears and frustration are gone for a short while and none of us have to be on the same page to be happy with each other....  as long as after everything, nails are blue or pink or red.... with sparkles of course!

What problems have you solved with nail polish?  :)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

We have a winner!

Congratulations, Amy!!  You have won my first giveaway - a free copy of the My Memories Suite software!  I loved how you said you would use it, to make a baby book for your daughter.  I am so excited you get to do that now.  I will send you your code soon - please report back about how you liked it!

For those of you who didn't win, fret not!  My $10 code is still good and $29.97 is a steal for this software.  I played with a little more tonight and was able to download 12 free pages and sets for free -- but there were over 50 to choose from!  These items alone would have easily cost $30 in a craft store.

The code to get $10 off plus a $10 store coupon is STMMMS40533!  

Thanks to everybody who entered -- and good night!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Memories Suite Giveaway This Weekend!!

I am so excited this giveaway that I can't wait any longer.  I'm giving away a FREE copy of the My Memories Suite Software this weekend!!!

How to win:  Simply visit the My Memories Suite webpage, choose your favorite design, and comment below telling me how you'd use the design and the software!  SWEET! 
*BONUS entry if you also become a follower of my blog or LIKE the MyMemories Facebook page!

If you don't win or can't wait, I have something for you too!  Simply enter the following code to receive a $10 discount off the purchase of the My Memories Suite Scrapbook software (making it $29.97) and a $10 coupon for the store - $20 value!  STMMMS40533

Tell your friends and family to do this too!  I LOVE giving free stuff away!  Trust me - this is worth it if you love scrapbooking or doing creative projects with photos!  It's great for the working mom to save time, money, space and hassle.  Look at what I did this morning in 10 minutes!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mommy Haiku

Lollipop lovers
M&Ms melt in their hands
Bathed in saliva
But not in the car seat

Driving home from school
Humming along to veggies
Who sing about God

Cars at the daycare
Bland colored piano keys
Running to and fro

Ballet class.  Pink walls.
Tiny feet, moms' finger tips
Tap tapping away.

Naked baby blast!
Shake your booty in the bath tub!
Happy artist time!
Bubble manicures.

(Former title:  Tired mommy 5-minute red light break time Haiku.)

Share your mommy haiku with me!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Day in the Life

This may sound crazy but sometimes I feel if I talk candidly about some of our 'normal' days, that they will sound crazy to most people.  Even more crazy (see - that's the 3rd use of the word 'crazy' (4) so read on at your own risk)...  I feel like it may out ourselves as doing the completely wrong things or scare people away from wanting kids or more kids, or that I will somehow reveal that parenting ain't all it's cracked up to be.  See - crazy, me thinking I would have all that power....  but truth is, some days are no cake walk.  Here's the breakdown of our day yesterday.

6:30  Wake up, have leisurely hour or so having fun, getting annoyed with each other, getting over it
7:30  Finally decide we're all going to get donuts and get advil for baby Roy who's had a fever all night
8:00  Eat donuts; the kids eat all the frosting; we get all the rest; most ends up on the floor
8:30  Navigate grocery store with Big Sister to get advil, diapers, others - I'm sure I forgot something
9:00  Head home, get "real clothes" (forgot to mention kids are in pajamas) and head to zoo despite it being overcast!
9:30-11:30  Have a great time at the zoo!  Despite not feeling well, Baby Monster and Big Sister love it.  The clear highlight of the day.
11:30-12:00  Stop at home improvement store - make decision to move forward with getting carpet, after months of discussion and indecision!  We leave without doing that due to Big Sis having diarrhea again and being trumped by people looking at higher-price carpet.
12:00-4:00  Snacking/eating, reading books, lots of crying and naps.  Baby Monster seems to be feeling worse.
4:00  Big Sister and I go to the library.  Get lots of great books!  She has lots of diarrhea and we leave with her going commando and me smelling like, well, you know.
5:00  Get home - decide Baby Monster needs to see a doctor. It's Saturday evening.  Thank goodness for Kid Med.  Catch up with a friend while cuddling in the doc's office and make plans for next weekend!
6:00  Baby Monster as 102 fever (they took it the 'old fashioned' way), diagnosed with ear infection  My poor baby :(.
7:00 Fill prescription at Walgreens.  He's starting to smile and laugh and feel better - so relieved.
8:00  Finally home.  Big Sister has no pants on -- has had diarrhea again.  Has it one more time.
9:00  Baths!  Officially way past bedtime....  we read some new books and....
9:30  Crying ensues.  Lots of it.  Unsure why.
10:30  Both kids asleep.  I can't sleep so get to read The Help FINALLY after it being on my book shelf for 6 weeks.
11:00  Realize I still have my day clothes on, and still smell a little like diarrhea.  Take a shower, then Thankful for the peace and quiet.... and that we had a nice day despite all the sickness and diarrhea and that everybody has a path to wellness now.

In the end, we all love and took care of each other.  I guess maybe it doesn't sound so crazy after all.

Friday, September 16, 2011

More Fun with My Memories - and a Rule Change!

Ok.  Clearly I am not in sleeping mode tonight.  Plus it's a Friday night and what better way to party in my jammies than to play with the My Memories Suite scrapbooking software?  Let the good times roll!

But seriously - Look what I've done!  I did these pages in about 15 minutes.... plus my cool new banner for my blog (see top of page).  I am feeling pretty positive about my creative crafting skills right about now!  I used a template for a whole book that had about 10 pre-designed pages...  but you don't have to use them all and you can change the layout and add words, embellishments, ribbons, bows, more photos... and it's super easy to use.  If you can use a computer, you can figure it out without a manual.

Also I've changed the rules for my FREE giveaway!  I can't wait until September 30, I'm too excited!  So I'll give away the My Memories software to a lucky reader once I get 1500 page views on my blog so spread the word!  If you'd love to have the software and haven't done so yet, visit the My Memories Suite page, pick a layout you love and 'comment' on my blog telling me how you'd use it.  Extra 'entries' for following my blog and 'liking' the My Memories facebook page!  (You have to tell me you did that).  Also make sure I know who you are when you 'comment' :)

Finally - if you can't wait or don't win, use my CODE to get $10 off the software PLUS a $10 store coupon - a $20 value!  That's $29.97 after the coupon!  A great deal.  The code is STMMMS40533. 

Good luck - and good night!  I'm going to bed!

Positive Princesses? Perhaps.

My daughter is three.  What can I say?  She loves princesses!  Specifically, the Disney variety- but we have some 'generic' princess movies she likes too.  WAIT - what?  We let our child watch movies?  On a TV??  I understand that some parents don't allow kids to watch TV and we do try to limit it since we understand that research shows that screen time may turn tots' eyes turn to jelly and their brain into goo.  So far, on less than 2 hours a day ( the recommended limit I believe), no sign of jelly or goo.  Plus - no shows with sex, guns, drugs, violence or cussing.  But bring on the rock-n-roll! We're good.  Moving on.

We have approximately a thousand movies.  Maybe less.  I got a sweet deal on VHS tapes on Craig's List.  She has diverse taste, but Big Sister will usually choose a Disney/princess or Barbie/princess movie.  I struggle with the Princess movies and the whole capital-P Princess phenomenon.  I too loved them when I was little but I have grown up and it's hard for me to not see the negatives:
  • The motif of an absent biological mother and and evil stand-in-mother figure, usually a stepmother or witch of some sort, set against a bumbling, arrogant or otherwise flawed mostly-absent but wealthy man.
  • The consistent theme of marriage being the girl's ultimate dream, goal and the 'happy ending' of the story - usually at the age of 16!!??!!
  • Somebody else having control over the girl-slash-princess's freedom
  • The clear depiction of beauty=good, ugly=bad, or just defining a certain look as being beautiful (long flowing straight hair and dress, perfect skin, youth....)
  • The woefully underdeveloped "prince" characters
  • The portrayal of animals as talking.  Animals don't talk!  Dragons don't exist!  Clearly I'm KIDDING - these are great parts and if anybody finds a magic wand please let me know I want one!
Is this really what I want my daughter to be learning about the world and how it works?  On the other hand, do I want to endure the battles that would ensue if I eliminated princesses from her world? 

No, and No.

So I've decided that it is my job as parent to explain these shortcomings to MY SON AND DAUGHTER (despite their puzzled facial expressions) and also point out the positives about the princess stories.   Positives you say - what are they?  Funny you ask.  I've thought about a few:
  • Ariel (the Little Mermaid) is curious about the world, has a rebelious streak and has a great imagination, telling stories about the objects she collects.  Also she saved the prince's life, instead of the other way around.  She is perhaps my favorite.
  • Snow White is a survivor.  She ventures into the woods, makes a life for herself without help from anybody (the dwarfs weren't much help at all) - and emphasized proper hygiene.  She's an honorary Peace Corps volunteer and public health worker if there ever was one.
  • Belle loves to read and speaks two languages.  She also loves her father very much.  (Again, where are these girls' mothers???)  Other than that, her story is - in my opinion - among the worst.  Enslaved by a beast until she loved him?  Gross.
  • Cinderella is a toughie.  She is kind to animals and to everybody.  She embodies 'turn the other cheek' which is a good skill to have sometimes
  • Sleeping Beauty is tougher still.  She walks in the woods and sleeps a lot which are good for your health.  That's all I got.
  • Pochahontas, however far from the original, has a lot of good lessons.  Protect water, trees and animals.  Stand up for what you believe is right.  Learn about and value other cultures.  And it doesn't have the marriage-as-a-happy ending thing.
  • Rapunzel is brave and adventurous and goes for a thief instead of a prince, whose life she saves at least once.  I like this girl. 
  • Also, Princess Fiona in Shrek 4 is awesome.  A mom-of-triplets turned leader of the anti-dictator rebellion.  My hero.
The other princess movies, we don't own or I haven't watched enough.  I'll put it on my long to-do list!  Right below "Invesigate good role-model type movies for boys that my son can enjoy" (am accepting ideas!) and "Make sure my kids grow up to be kind, thoughful, brilliant, family-oriented but independent people."  Check!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Digital Scrapbooking with My Memories - My First Giveaway!

You may not know that I love scrapbooking.  Over the years I've made quite a few but when Big Sister and Baby Genius came along, all scrapbooking ceased.  What's sad is this is the time when I really wish I could do more of it to put the HUNDREDS of pictures we take to good use AND compliment my journaling with beautiful photo books.

{Insert a shout-out to my mom, who has made several scrapbooks for me and my kids!  But there's just something about doing it yourself... you know?}

Enter:  MyMemories Suite Software.  I am flattered that they found my blog and approached me to try it out and tell people about it.  It is the coolest thing!  Look what I made in less than 10 minutes.  It was super easy, fun and fast.  I would not lie to you.  And the coolest part is I can print it, download it, email it, make a book, a JPG, share it on Facebook or whatever!  There are lots of pre-set pages or you can design your own; there's a nice selection of embellishments, paper choices, and so much more! 

The price is pretty decent too - $39.97 for the software (or $29.97- keep reading!).  I once tried one of those online upload-your-photos and make a memory book.  I had a Groupon and still paid something like $30 for the small, basic book.  For almost $40 you can make unlimited pages - a much better deal - AND you can make books, calendars, movies....  lots of cool things!  This would be a GREAT tool to make home-made Christmas cards and gifts!  (Think... calendars for the grandparents...)  Truly if this is your 'thing' you should check out the website:  My Memories Suite.

Here's the best part:  For my readers, enter the following code to receive a $10 discount off the purchase of the My Memories Suite Scrapbook software and a $10 coupon for the store - $20 value!  STMMMS40533! 

But Wait!  There's More!  I also have a FREE giveaway for a lucky reader!  Simply visit the My Memories Suite webpage, choose your favorite design, and comment below telling me how you'd use the design and the software and you could win a free copy of the My Memories Suite Digital Scrapbooking Software!  SWEET!  (Drawing will be held Sept. 30!)  *BONUS entry if you also become a follower of my blog or LIKE the MyMemories Facebook page!

Tell your friends and family to do this too!  I LOVE giving free stuff away!  Trust me - this is worth it if you love scrapbooking or doing creative projects with photos!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where My Girls At?

This post is rated G!  :)

Yesterday I did my first 'show' type event with Scentsy.  It was fun.  It renewed my energy to sell Scentsy.  Why do I sell Scentsy, do you ask?  Even if you didn't ask I'll tell you because I think a lot of people who know me think it's unlike me.  First of all, it's fun.  It smells really good.  It makes our house smell great...  it masks the everpresent odor-mix of diapers, wet dog, multi-species poop/pee/vomit mix and dinner-du-jour.  (By the way, I've been meaning to invite you all over for the weekend -- sound appealing?)  Also, the success of it depenends entirely on my own steam which is appealing to me.  What can I make of it?  I've always had a tiny dream to own my own business and it's giving me a taste (or scent - ha ha) of that.  Finally, I make some money doing it.  A hobby that actually makes you money?  What's not to like. 

So yesterday at Victory Lady Fitness in Short Pump, I met some awesome women who own, manage and go to that gym.  I'm thinking of joining myself!  They did not pay me to say that.  Also - I met some great potential customers and some very cool women who also sell stuff.

Now I arrive at the point of this post.  There are a lot of companies out there that women are selling things for.  Scentsy.  Avon.  Mary Kay.  Party Lite.  Thirty-one.  Stella and Dot.  ItWorks.  Pampered Chef.  Arbonne.  Miche bags.  And more - and my apologies if I misspelled any of these companies' names.  This is my blog-version of a Shout Out to them. Where my fellow sales-gals at?  Holla!  I realize - as we all should - that you're doing something you enjoy, trying to grow yourself and support your families.  Double holla!

Since I started selling Scentsy I've gotten a variety of reactions.  Some people act like I'm selling used cars or suddenly have a contagious disease and avoid me and the topic.  Some people act like it's a bother that I even told them about my new endeavor, saying that they just steer clear of friends selling things.  Some people have been really supportive, respectfully interested - and some couldn't wait to try it out! 

I encourage you all to try out this last category.  Let me ask you.  Would you rather buy Maybelline or Cover Girl, and support Queen Latifa's or Drew Barry Moore's paycheck?  Or buy similarly-priced products from Avon and support your neighbor's bottom line?  In a time of high unemployment, I unequivocally vote for the latter.  I love Queen Latifa but I'm pretty sure she makes more than my neighbor.  And if you buy Yankee candles anyway, why not give Scentsy a try?  It's safer and you are helping a friend instead of a faceless far-away company.

I don't care if you ever buy anything from me, but if you did you'd get the highest quality customer service, as I'm sure is true of many of your friends who may be selling stuff.  Think about this as Christmas approaches, or the next time you buy a tube of lipstick at Walgreens or a necklace you just have to have.  Imagine that 20% or more of your purchase could help a fellow mom or friend put food on the table (or get a newer car, get new carpet or go on a real vacation - these are my goals).... and maybe you'll make a different choice.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

I Heart Birth Control

I woke up yesterday morning and all of a sudden it seemed like National Stupid People Day.  In addition to people going absolutely nuts in rain-driving department, I heard an infuriating story on NPR about how people are now not only opposed to abortion but to birth control in general.  Note:  I am not calling these people stupid, but they said things that sounded stupid to me.  I heard one female elected politician compare insurance coverage of birth control to covering manicures and pedicures.  I heard a male politician voice his opposition to birth control because it 'prevents babies from being born' and defended the provision of Viagra but not birth control by saying that sexual dysfunction is an 'actual medical condition' while people can decide whether to have sex or not.

That's right.  I just used the "s" word.  That's my first rant.  Apparently politicians think that the only purpose of having sex is to make babies... but I bet if you ask marriage counselors/therapists/ANYBODY they would tell you that sex is an important aspect of a relationship that builds and expresses intimacy and affection with your same-or-opposite-sex life partner and within a marriage, it makes that marriage stronger which is what I thought politicians on the same side of these anti-family-planning-nonsense would be in favor of!  This is truly hippocracy at its worst (or best).

Also - wrap your mind around this.  By covering Viagra but not birth control, I believe these politicians are advocating cheating on your wife.  If a man is using Viagra he clearly intends to have sex.  But if he does not want that sex to result in a pregnancy, he cannot have sex with his partner.  Catch 22. 

So here is my ode to birth control.  And let me be clear here:  I'm mainly talking about the pill, IUDs, that a) women can control, b) have lower failure rates than condoms... but condoms are great too.  And I'm not leaving out the men but let's be real here, the burden of all things pregnancy-and-baby-related falls more heavily to the woman.

Birth control, birth control, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.  You make it so that women/girls who make a perhaps-unwise-and-regrettable choice of having sex with men/boys can avoid a life-course-altering pregnancy and possible abortion.   Oh birth control, you realize human dignity and that humans should be able to plan their life.  You help those are interested to do so.

Oh birth control, your starring role is helping women plan their lives, live their dreams, and not be subject to unlimited childbearing.  But if that is a woman's choice, that's cool too.  You help the woman who wants to wait until she's married, or 28, or has a career.  You help the family who wants to wait to have a baby until there is money and food to feed the baby and rest of the family without having to rely on government assistance (Pay Attention, oh hypocritical politicians). 

Birth control, my ode to thee includes Thanks for for helpings couples be able to space their babies, for you understand that it is often easier and more healthy for everybody if there is some healing time.  And thank you for helping these couples decide when enough is enough.  And I'm not talking about manicures.  I'm talking about babies.  For you recognize the wisdom of couples to realize their means and be able to live within them.

Oh birth control, you neither hate babies nor want to destroy them.  You love them, and want to help them be born healthy and their parents be happy and healthy too.

Oh manicures and pedicures, how did you get into this conversation?  Providing birth control to women is NOTHING like providing manicures and pedicures.  That's just plain stupid, so mani/pedis you're officially ejected from this Ode.

UPDATE:  You can read the original story here.  Sandy Rios is NOT an elected official, but a woman with a stage and conservative opinions who made the mani/pedi comments.   Her website is  Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) made the other lovely comments; you can reach him at

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Mommy Blogger Reject

Perhaps I am trying to do too much.  It doesn't feel that way.  We've (that's me and Roy) got it all under control.  I work full time (leave at 7 coffee and necessities in hand thanks to Roy, home by 6, grocery shopping on my lunch break, dropping up and picking up both kids thank you very much!).  I sell Scentsy on the side for fun and a little profit (hopefully).  We spend all our free, extra, evening and weekend time focused on the kids.  And I like to write so I dabble with it for, and here on my blog. 

So why do I feel left out of the blogosphere?  Maybe I'm late to the train.  The train left several years ago and I'm trying to jump on board.  I read through mommy blogs and it seems like there's a whole community and a whole lingo and to be accepted into Their Community would take an additional piece of my brain I just can't sacrifice.  Plus I wouldn't even know where to begin. 

Who are these mysterious mommy bloggers with witty and insightful musings about their lives and children?  How do they have time for daily posts?  And who are the select handful whose musings turn into book deals?  Who can be accepted into their community and boards?  Clearly not I.

So where does that leave me?  I have one follower other than myself.  I don't even think people read this.  My husband wonders why I do this.  Well, because I look at other mommy bloggers and I have stuff to say every bit as important as what they're saying...  just with less time and no foot in the door.  And so I trudge on... trying to be the voice of the full-life mommy/wife/woman, sharing my own occasional musing about it on here, and not caring if somebody reads it or not.  (But if you do, leave me a comment so I know!) 

Friday, July 15, 2011

5 Things I Won't Miss About the Baby Years

 Now that our son is well past age 1 and our daughter has been out of 'baby mode' (mostly) for over 2 years, I almost feel like the "Baby Years" are behind us.  I loved my babies.  I loved everything about them, every moment, every new thing, every sensation in every way.  However, like many earth-shattering, life-changing experiences, there are things about it I won't miss.  Similar to my Peace Corps experience, being a new parent during those Baby Years was the "toughest job I'd ever love" (I've heard adolescence isn't a cake walk either!) and I am here to say "good riddance" to the tough parts!  Here are the Top 5 things I will not miss in any way shape or form.

1.  Feeling like a hostage to my babies' breastfeeding needs.  I loved breastfeeding and I would make the same choices all over again.  But sometimes I felt like breastfeeding's puppet, like it really controlled me, rather than the other way around.  And I don't tend to like not being in control.  But that's how nature intended.  It's what works best for baby.  Maybe it was my personality, but there were times when I could almost see the metal chains and feel the metal cuffs that, whenever my kids' needed to nurse (sometimes every 30 minutes an hours!) would supercede everything else in my life and pull me out of the real world and into the nursing cocoon.

2.  Trying to use the bathroom while nursing one baby and comforting the other (A.K.A. Ridiculous multi-tasking).  That's almost all I need to say or can say about this one.  I don't even like the feeling I get just trying to remember what it was like to hold a nursing or crying baby with one hand and finally decide to just go ahead and use the bathroom at the same time, come what may.  Stretched.  To.  The. Max.  Emotionally and physically.  Moving on.

3.  Not getting a chance to look at myself in the mirror (and when I did, not recognizing the person there)  This is just a different variation on #2, but a distinct one.  Basically, I will not miss having no time to pay attention to myself.  I know my hair looked scary crazy some days and there were days when I just had to 'take one for the team' and skip a shower.  I would go to work and people would pick cheerios off my back and politely tell me they thought I had dried baby spit-up on my shoulder.  Nice!  What this boils down to was having so many people (kids, husband, co-workers, boss, etc!) with so many needs imposed upon me that I just feel like an entity meeting the needs of others,to the point of losing my sense of self.  [Perhaps I could have used some therapy for that, ha ha!]

4.  Feeling not unlike a cow.  All you new mommas who pump milk for your baby, holla!  I may miss breastfeeding my kids (eventually) but I will NEVER miss the pump.  It was a nice pump.  It worked very well and allowed me to feed my child when we weren't together.  For this I am forever grateful to the inventor of the pump and to those who gifted me the pump.  But the pump and I had a love-hate relationship I will not miss.  MOOOOOOOOve over pump, don't let the door hit you in the butt when you leave!

5.  The ever-present fear that somebody or something would take away my newfound joy.  This is not something I've talked about with other moms so I'm unsure if this is a common feeling.  I was, almost on a daily basis, scared that somehow, my babies would die.  I hate to put such a fine point on it, but that's how I felt.  The nature of my career has enlightened me about all of the possible ways parents can lose babies, so that may be part of it.  More than that, though, was that  I was so incredibly in love with my babies, so happy with everything they brought into my life that I thought there was no way that Whoever's In Charge would allow me to continue being so happy without some sadness to balance it out.

I'm not sure that the fear of #5 has subsided, but it is more in the background than the foreground now.  I know that statistically, the risk of losing a child after infancy drops dramatically.  There are times when I hug them and think about all these things I won't miss and pull them a little tighter, feeling like we've done battle together and I'm ready for almost anything ahead.  I've been in the trenches of the Baby Years.  Bring it on.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The first poem

OK so I've decided to share the first poem which I wrote and received notable positive feedback in a creative writing class I took with Robert Bausch in the summer of 1996.  At the time I was 19 years old majoring in Chemistry.  We read my poem in class and I got good feedback from my classmates.  Aftewards we all went to a restaurant and "Bob" told me I was in the wrong major, that it should be poetry.  Now that I think about it, it may have been the beer talking - but I've always remembered and appreciated his feedback, and even though I didn't change my major, I think his comment at least partially inspired me to keep writing, creatively or not.  Even if very few people think it's good, care about it or read it. 

A few high school teachers' comments and words to me were also inspirational.  Ms. Turner, my high school AP English teacher; Ms. Zimmerman, my senior year GEMS teacher, and Madame Rose, my senior year French teacher.  They all seemed to see something in me that I didn't see in myself.  Ms. Zimmerman has since passed away and I regret not having the opportunity to tell her how much her words meant to me. 

So to Ms. Turner, Madame Rose and Bob - if by some off chance you ever read this, this one's for you.  Thank you.

leg freckles

I have four freckles on my legs.
Two on one.  Two on the other.
Connect the dots and form
almost perpendicular lines.
Almost mirror reflections.
I used to wish they were perfect
freckle-to-freckle prints.
Same browns.  Same sizes.
Symmetrical so if I were
split down the middle, I'd be
the same on both sides.
Making sense.
But now, I like them 'cause
they're imperfect.  A little
off-center, slightly askew,
a tad under- or over hue and
instead of reflecting each other,
they reflect me.
Pretty accurately.

Copyright Mary Beth Cox, 2011.  All rights reserved.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The last of the "clip clops."

Slowly and quickly, we have stopped keeping track of Big Sister's age in terms of weeks and months and we are now decidedly keeping track by the full year count.  Three.  I never get tired of saying "It's hard to believe."  Because it is.  Somewhere along the way, between 24 months and 36 months, after coming up for air after the grand entrance of Baby Genius into our lives, I realized we had been keeping track of so many "firsts" that the "lasts" had been quietly fading into the past.  When did we switch from counting months to counting years?  I cannot say.

So I've been trying to capture, using my mental camera, my real camera, and my periodic journaling, the "lasts".  One of the most painful for me is that somewhere between the summer of 2010 and the advent of spring 2011, Big Sister gained the ability to say the "f" sound, so what once were "clip clops" are now "flip flops" (or close enough anyway).  I really liked "clip clops" so I reserve the right to still call them that!  Every time she says 'flip flops' I'm reminded of the passage of time... like sands between my toes when I'm wearing my clip clops.  :)

Baby Genius has had many recent notable and noticeable lasts.  I missed documenting the exact date, but we put away the Johnny Jump Up a few months ago, and the Activity Table.  He is too thrilled with running and moving to be deterred by such stationary or restrictive devices!  Almost as soon as his grandparents bought him his first pair of Big Boy Size 4 shoes, he outgrew them.  Those are the worst.  When the 'last' butts up too close to the 'first."  Those are hard on the heart.

Perhaps the biggest "last" lately has been the end of breastfeeding.  That happened on Saturday, June 18, almost 3 weeks ago.  I made a conscious decision to always remember it.  I came home after a 2-day trip and tried to nurse him to comfort him and he bit me!  That bite told me, "Mom, this has been dwindling for a while.  I drink milk just fine!  I don't need you to do this any more for me."  (Also he was really gassy!)

This 'last' signified freedom for me, and greater independence for him.  So far we are both the better for it!  I can wear pretty (smaller!) bras, and not feel like there's an invisible chain he can pull to make me do his bidding!  He seems a little more relaxed; I think the need to nurse sometimes made him anxious and uncomfortable. 

I know one day I will be sad remembering the days when all my kids needed was a fresh diaper and some food that only I could provide.  There may even be a day when I wish I had another baby to hold and cuddle and nurse.  But those will be fleeting, and I will be able to return to the here-and-now and relish in being able to have my body be my own!  At last!