Baby Friends are Forever

I believe that the friends you make when you're pregnant with your first child, are often friends for life, especially when everyone is having their first babies.

When I was pregnant with Alex, I met a group of wonderful women about three months into my new life in Doha. None of them, of course, were locals since many of Qataris kept to themselves. These ladies were from Canada, Australia, England, Scotland and the USA. We met every week at different people's houses for coffee and company for what we called the 'Itsy Bitsy Baby group'.

My two years in Qatar were hard. I was pregnant for 18 of those months in heat that you cannot even believe. I would walk out my front door and be either be suffocated by humidity + 120 degree heat, sand or the scent of oil coming off the sea. The city reeked of exhaust every day and without many places to walk safely (due to lack of sidewalk and reckless driving) we were often confined to one stretch along the water (which mind you, reeked of oil) or each other's compounds. Now it is possible the city didn't smell as much as I seem to remember, but I was pregnant for 18 months of it so my sense of smell might have been a bit more sensitive. I digress.

My point in this is that even in this wasteland of a city (the only real city in the country) I managed to find an amazing group of women.

These new moms taught me valuable lessons like:
--How to breastfeed at the local Starbucks, even with men in thobes (aka dishdashes) right next to us.
--How not to stress about what solid food your child eats as a baby. In place where limited jarred baby food is available, you make most of it and move on from there.
--A little sand in your food never hurt anyone.
--Trial and error is really the key to raising kids. No child is the same.
--You need to understand and research vaccines, medications and what diagnosis your doctors give you.
--Taking your four-month old swimming may be the only way for everyone to stay sane.
--Babies can stand the heat, even over 100 degrees.
--The American way is most certainly not the only way and sometimes may not be the best way.

In a phone conversation with my friend Nicole a few weeks back, we threw around the idea of a reunion in London, where she is currently living with her three boys. The other people are scattered now in Malaysia, Vietnam, Canada, Australia, Qatar and the US. We figured London was the most central location. So talk has begun of a reunion of our Itsy Bitsy Baby Group. Since I last saw them all, each one has had either one or even two more babies. (Life overseas can be great for having babies.)

I can't wait to see them all again. The question is: should I drag my kids along with me?


A Most Memorable Day

Happy Birthday to my boy! I can't even believe he is four. Last night after we said goodnight to the three-year old, Andrew and I sat down to look at the scrapbooks (can you believe there is more than one!) of his first year. We can't believe how grown up he is. Now he is four!

When he started to fuss about something today, he stopped himself and said, "No I'm not going to get upset about silly things anymore because I'm four." And what self knowledge and awareness....the day of his birthday he was so tired after a long trip to the doctor, he decided he was tired and took a nap. Then later that evening when he still had more presents to open, he decided he would open one more and then open the rest in the morning because he was tired. Man, he's better than I would be.

After a most awesome birthday party (the weather did hold out for us), we chanced a trip to our favorite restaurant Euro Bistro with my parents and brother/sister in law. The kids were angels through the late dinner and even slept in for us this morning.


Thursday's Dish: Safe Cupcakes

It's been a long time since I've done a recipe post. Today was the day to bring in cupcakes for Alex's birthday celebration at school. We were instructed at the beginning of the year to keep in mind of the peanut/milk allergies in the class. I have learned a lot about food allergies, as well as what it can do emotionally to the kids, from my friend Kari over at Everyday with Food Allergies. So I wanted to do my best to meet everyone's needs as best as possible.

I was all set to make my cupcakes and ran to Safeway to get the Duncan Hines yellow cake mix that is apparently free of milk and peanuts. I stood there looking at all the cake mixes. They were cheap at $1 a box. So what was the hestitation. I have my own food issues. My husband has conditioned me after 12 years to not buy things with partially hydrogenated oils. These are all around bad for you in every possible way. You can read more here if you like. Every cake mixed had it listed as one of the top ingredients and Duncan Hines had it listed twice!

I could not bring myself to buy the mix. So I left. I was sure that I could find a recipe online that would be safe and easy to make. I mean cake has been around a long time before the days of milk and butter. Surely, I could find something suitable.

Here is the recipe I found--amazed at how utterly simple it was to make.

For Cupcakes:
3 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups cold water
1 cup corn oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (check for ingredients)

On top:
I just sprinkled powdered sugar on top.

Make cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lined muffin tins with paper muffin thingys. Mixed first 5 ingredients into medium bowl. Mix water, oil and vanilla in large bowl. Whisk in dry ingredients. Divide batter among tins. Sprinkle cup chocolate chips over batter in each pan.
Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. Made about 20.

So proud to have made safe cupcakes for everyone today!

The Mommy Docs Are In

In times of uncertainty regarding children's medical issues such as vaccines, differing opinions on antibiotics for sinus or ear infections, cold medicine recalls and even affordable healthcare for some, we can often be confused about the right thing to do for our children. While most of us probably trust our doctors, many times we hear that mommy intuition call out to us, "Who knows my kids more--the doctor or me?" Sometimes we need a second opinion, sometimes it's as simple as doing a bit of research so we can fully understand the problem and possible solutions.

Differing doctors may have differing opinions. Two different moms may have different experiences with a similar medical conditions. Every year we hear new things about vaccinations, food, allergies, breastfeeding, sleep that may make a mom's head just overflow with information.

I always thought it would be so awesome to have a mommy friend who was a pediatrician. I know my kids' pediatrician--who is often in my kickboxing class--it probably tired of me asking her questions about random things. But in these busy times, it's hard to know when to take your child to the doctor, let alone drag two kids, if they're just going to send you home with a viral infection diagnosis and tell you to give him Motrin.

Today I was informed about a new site called MommyDocs, the first pediatric informational site by moms, for moms. The site was launched by Dr. Jamie A. Freishtat, a board certified pediatrician and pediatric associate physician at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, DC, and Dr. Rachel L. Schreiber, a board certified allergist/immunologist, internist and Medical Director of Family HealthCare Allergy & Asthma Specialists in Germantown, Maryland. I love that these ladies are local!

What a great idea. Jamie and Rachel conceived MommyDocs in the preschool carpool line, where they faced a daily barrage of parents' questions about everything from eczema to ear infections. This makes me laugh because that would be me--totally jumping out of the car to quickly ask about the rash on my kid's tummy. This could be a useful tool to do your research before you call the doctor or make that visit.

The site provides a regular Q&A on various topics, podcasts and a blog about their own family issues. I'm glad to have another resource for information on general pediatric topics or one to be able to reference during off hours. My immediate needs for info on fevers, rashes, eye goop, croup, etc. is waning, but I imagine I will have a whole new crop of issues to research now with preschoolers. Check out the site. I'm looking forward to seeing more from the doctors.


I Can't Get Rid of the Guns

As I stood on the playground today watching my almost-four-year old run around with a stick pretending to shoot trees and air (as I have asked him please not to shoot his friends), I had two parents come up to ask when the gun nonsense started. With a quick eye roll, my answer is, as always....who the hell knows?

I'm convinced this is some inherent trait of the Y chromosome. I mean look at the letter--a Y is shaped like a sling shot! My son doesn't have toy guns. Nor do we let him watch violent TV; in fact, we don't even have TV. But from the first time my son chewed his PB and J into an 'L' shape and then looked at me and said, 'hey mom, it looks like a gun!' I knew I was doomed.

I'm not unfamiliar with this scene. From a very early age my brother played army men, cops and robbers, Star Wars, GI Joe, all with 'pchew pchew' in the background. This was, of course, before the days of school shootings. Now every mother cowers when her son starts pretending to shoot birds and squirrels in the trees.

Based on what I saw today at the playground, I would say the gun infatuation does not actually indicate any violent tendencies. All the boys were doing it. Moms of girls are often horrified by this asking, 'where did he learn that?' or 'what are you going to do about it?' Obviously they didn't have brothers who did this either.

At the end of the day, it doesn't matter that we don't have toy guns in the house because the sticks outside, markers, pens, chopsticks, bread, toy shovels/rakes, crackers, lollipops, etc. all have become some kind of "weapon." So I've given up trying to deprogram him and instead am just trying to get him to tone it down. It makes many people uncomfortable--mostly those with girls--and quite frankly it just gets to be annoying after a while. It's the flip side to my Disney-Princess-wearing daughter.

Soon to be cross posted on DC Metro Moms.


Potty Training: I Think We Often Forget the Training Part

Recently the topic of potty training resurfaced amongst my mommy friends because nary a month goes by where someone isn't struggling with this issue. With both my kids now fully potty-trained both day and night, I thought I'd offer up some tips. Here are a few of the questions I get pretty regularly from friends and my usual responses. (Note: These are not meant to be anything more than tips. I don't boast to be an expert in this area because if you've been reading this blog, you know I HATE to potty train.)

At what age did you potty train your two children?

Both my kids (boy and girl) were fully potty trained around two and a half. I don't believe all the stuff you read about kids showing readiness when they are interested in the potty or stay dry during the night. My kids were interested in the potty at a year. By 16 months I probably could have started the process. By two they were experts in defiance so I passed on it all. Never were they dry overnight! With both, they were "ready" when I found them changing their own diapers.

How long did it take you to potty train?

My son reacts to bribes so I had him fully trained (for daytime) in seven days. But after about the third day, we were more than halfway there. My daughter was a bit more difficult. Turns out my son really helped the process by teacher her to potty. She was fully trained (for daytime) in less than a week.

How did you do it so quickly?

This is where the training comes in. Potty training is no part-time gig. I'm sure it's different for different kids and different households, but when a family makes a decision to potty train, for several days it needs to be a full-time gig for child and trainer (mom, dad, nanny, daycare, etc.) Training is the key word. It's a lot of work. Think about training for a marathon or the Olympics. These are full body, mind and soul experiences for an athlete. Potty training should be the same.

When I potty trained both my kids, I did it over a weekend when I had extra hands around to help. We lived in the bathroom and life was, well, miserable for two to three full days. But then the bulk of the work was over.

Do you use pullups?

No! Once you start potty training. Pullups send a mixed signal to kids. If you don't want them to have an accident while you're out and you need the Pullups, consider underwear THEN put the Pullups over the underwear. This lets them know when they have wet (since they'll feel it) but it will keep your car seat, friend's furniture, etc. protected.

When did you nighttime potty train?

With my first, I waited a few months before we tackled nighttime. I was scared and not wanting to get up in the middle of the night. If you have a newborn baby or if you're pregnant or if you're just not mentally ready to tackle this (since it means loss of sleep) then don't. But I wouldn't recommend you go too long on this road. Again, the Pullups/diapers at night send a mixed signal. With my second child, once we told her the diapers were for big girls, she didn't want the diapers even at night or naps, so we just pitched them and went for the full on potty training.

How did you night time potty train?

Night time potty training, like daytime, is full on training--for both parent and child. I think this one may be more for us though. It's hard to get up at night once, twice or four times and change sheets. To make it easier, layer the sheets and a waterproof sheet so you just have to strip it off and not actually change it. Because as any mom knows, you can't turn on the light so you have to be able to do it in the dark. Have new PJs and undies ready to go each night so you don't have to hunt for them. Walk child to the toilet even though they have already gone. And for goodness sakes, don't give them drinks before bed!!!

Get rid of the Pullups when you do this. It's a crutch for you and even if it takes some time, you'll be diaper free sooner than you think. Pullups are expensive and the longer your kids go in them, the harder I would assume it is to break the habit.

Don't some kids have trouble with this? Aren't there kids peeing in beds until age 5?

Yes. There was an article about this a friend sent me. I'm sure there are kids with physiological issues with wetting the bed. I can't speak to this issue.

On the whole, I have to say that potty training is not for the weak of heart--though at some point, we all must be part of it. It takes some sweat and maybe even some tears (often from mom). Sure, if you want to go the route where child does it when he/she is ready and that works for you, then go for it. I'm speaking only about those wanting to get it done and over with. I know it can be done. Kids around the world learn to do this at a young age because in most countries diapers are expensive so they pitch the diapers long before we do.

Good luck and remember it's called 'training' for a reason.


Easter Wants Its Own Traditions

Easter is a difficult one for me. Back in my more Catholic days--can you believe I taught CCD classes once upon a time--Easter trumped Christmas, by far. But since it falls during different months and doesn't have the whole commercial build up, it often gets left behind in the dust as a real holiday. But I love Easter. Easter means daffodils and the reemergence of pastels for spring couture (as if anyone in this house uses the word couture). Easter means an excuse to eat lots of ham and eggs. Oh, so many eggs!

But it's been hard to establish some family traditions with Easter. My husband and I have been married for almost eight years, this May. I have celebrated Easter in three different countries, one of them that didn't celebrate Easter and one which celebrated it with witches. The second year we were married, Easter was part of my own mourning of a lost pregnancy and the fourth year we were married with was a week after the birth of our first child. Some years we have been with family and others all alone. We have hunted real eggs and fake eggs. Bunnies have been part of the gig some years and not others. Some years I make the traditional Easter bread and some years, like this one, I just don't have it in me. Some times I crave Swedish Easter treats and others I want ham--but when you're in a Muslim country....there is no ham. Oh, except for the ham we smuggled in. We had 12 people over for that Easter all begging for more more more ham!

Sometimes the Easter bunny brings chocolate, sometimes he brings toys, sometimes he brings things my kids need.

Sometimes we dye eggs, except the year Alex was born and even one year I used onion skins and natural ingredients--like red cabbage to dye the eggs. On Easter anything seems to go.

But I really think Easter, in our house, needs its own traditions. I just haven't gotten there yet.

Happy Easter! Cross posted on DC Metro Moms.


A Lesson for Home Depot

I took the kids for a quick Home Depot visit yesterday to make a return and buy some paint for our bedroom. I'm tired of sleeping in Creme Brulee and need a bit of blue. My kids do pretty well at Home Depot if we do it quickly. They love the paint swatches and the paint sticks (aka swords). So I'm standing there quickly trying to pick out a paint color. My kids are slowly losing patience and climbing up the display. When I turn to tell them to stop, this man and woman approach me.

The man smiles and says: Have you heard about the special offering Home Depot has for you today?

I look at him, the woman, my kids (who are still climbing around). I smile and say: Babysitting?

He laughs, she laughs and I laugh. He has a hard time collecting himself, actually. He says: No, today we're giving our customers a chance to redesign . . .

I cut him off and say: Unless you're offering babysitting than I don't have time to hear what special offers you have. (I am laughing this whole time.)

He laughs, turns away, speechless and I hear the lady say to him: That was pretty funny.

I'm so glad I could provide some humor. Perhaps I provided a bit of insight as well. Don't bother moms with rambunctious children and ask them if they want a massage (we do, but unless it comes with childcare the answer is no), lotion, free samples (unless it's food or stickers), a cell phone, better interest rates or to fill out a survey. The answer is no, no, no.

I will give a big thumbs up for the paint guys who gave my kids the Disney stickers and extra paint sticks. Those were ALL a big hit.


No Target for Too Long

My friend Allison likes to torture me regularly about her frequent visits to Target. For those that don't know, I gave up Target for Lent. I think it was more of a game for myself than a sacrifice. Could I still find what I needed at the other stores? Could I refrain from just buying just to buy?

Well, here we are six days until Easter, and now I am needing Target. I have lots to do to get ready for Easter and Alex's party and I'm quite tired of stopping at every store for what I need. Target really is one-stop shopping. I think by this whole Lenten sacrifice I was hoping to prove to myself that I don't need Target. And no, I don't. I can still get detegent and shaving cream at the grocery store. I can find party items....at the party store. But with kids, I need to find a way to get everyone in and out quickly.

So now I'm starting to feel the pain a bit. I'm starting to need a "Target Run." The good news is my kids haven't had to endure this store--which they hate, and my credit card should be smaller as a result of six weeks sans Target.

Spring Break: Who Gets the Break?

OK, back in the day Spring Break was 'it.' The official beginning of Spring and the official beginning to the-almost-end of school. I can't admit to ever doing anything super fabulous over most spring breaks, although my parents did allow me a senior class trip to Europe one year and during college I did manage a trip to Galveston beach (in Texas). (That is nothing like the rockin' beach parties you see on MTV.)

So here we are. It's spring break. The weather is warming up a bit, the kids get to play outside, my husband is out of town, the kids are out of school--did I mention my husband's out of town?--and I am in SO need of a spring break. I have Easter errands to run and can't go to Target and a birthday party to get ready for.

Who gets the break here? So here's my plan. Next spring break, I'm going to enlist all the moms who want kids in school over the "break" and we'll teach the classes. This way the teachers get their break (because that's only fair), I get a break from my OWN kids--who make me batty when they don't have some structure during the day, my kids get to play with their friends, get tired, take a nap and then my afternoons are happier for all. Then we all rotate/co-op during the week so every mom gets one day to have a break. Ahhhhh.... it's almost like being at the beach.

I'm certainly open to other suggestions on this plan. It's a work in progress.


Birthday Party Politics: Part 2

So I had meant to come back and write a follow up post on birthday party favors, but I was sidetracked this week by this controversial blog posting. In fact, for 24 hours it was almost all I thought about and talked about until my husband finally told me 'enough' and to get over it.

But I started thinking about children's parties and how ridiculous they can become for the mom and the invited moms. How I long for the day when we can just drop kids off at the party and come back in two hours!

I chose to have Alex's party on a weekday for many reasons. I won't bore you with those details. So I decided to have the party on a Friday afternoon, which might be odd for some, I know. Since it was at a playground I knew that hosting the siblings would be OK since space wasn't an issue.

Then the guest list started to eat at me. This was the first year Alex had an opinion. I asked about his class and who he wanted to invite. He gave me the names and left out quite a few. Would that get me in trouble later on? Would those moms feel left out? If I were to invited them, it would mean double since they all came with siblings.

Then my mind moved onto the goody bags. I had planned to have all these kids, but now they came in pairs (aka younger brother or sister). Was I expected to give them goody bags too? Wow, that's a lot of people then. Luckily, I found a solution that saved me, but man, so much to think about. That's why next year, I'm inviting 5 of his closest friends and calling it good.


Disney Princesses Subliminally Beckon My Girl

Can you tell me what is is about Disney Princesses that gets little girls all excited? Is it sublminal? Am I missing it? Around 20 months, Anna made it clear she loved princesses. She couldn't say it, but we knew it. And now we have to hear it every day, many times a day.

Yesterday at Toys R Us, Anna wandered into the "girls section"--as she calls the part of every toy store which looks like it has vomited pink--and says, "Oh My Gosh....Look Mommy it's princesses. I Looooooove Princess." She'll tell you her favorite color is princess. She'll ask for a princess car or princess plane or princess sword. (Don't forget she has an older brother.) She wants a princess party and has a princess bedspread, and no, it's not Disney. As much as I try to keep this crap out of my house, she is still so drawn to it.

She'll spend eons at Barnes and Noble flipping through every Disney Princess book squealing about all the beautiful princesses.

Please someone tell me what is about princesses?


Simplifing Birthdays: Part 1

I'm never sure why kids' birthday parties always have to be such a big deal. The kids are little and all they really want is cake and presents. We were fortunate enough to be overseas for the first half of Alex's life and therefore weren't sucked into the American birthday craziness. This first birthday was held at a little park in Qatar. He was really too young for the playground, but we had older kids coming and they had nice big field to roam free on. For his second, we had it at home in Sweden with playground and neighbor moms and kids. It was perfect, crazy, but perfect. Anna is fortnate to have a summer birthday so both of hers were outside. Her first party was my pride and joy. It was a pink party. Everything was pink, the food, the invitations, the drinks and everyone even wore pink to celebrate.

Then we moved back to the USA, where birthdays cost more than a dinner party. Moonbounces, gyms, party planners, clowns....what is this madness? It's for a three-year old? So we went back to having Alex's at home. It was chaotic and too many people, but he loved it.

In two weeks, Alex will turn four. Last year he chose the theme and this year, I asked him to do the same. He wanted a Halloween party since my kids LOVE Halloween and costumes. I agree he could do costumes. Ok, done. Now I had to find a venue. When I asked for the guest list, it was long. And after last year, I was certain we weren't doing home.

We finally settled on a playground party. Cake, playground, costumes, done! Now, March can be iffy in terms of weather here in Northern Virginia. My genious husband recommended doing a rain date two days later. So, we have the party scheduled, the invites sent out and a raindate scheduled as back up. I even have a friend making the cake.

Now I wasn't able to pick just any playground. I had to pick one that was close enough to a bathroom, one that had some covering in case it started to rain, one that was old enough to keep the older kids busy and one with some little kid areas as well. See, when you invited four-year olds, almost all come with their younger siblings so you have to include them in your numbers and activities.

More to come on party favors.....


A Little 'Dacation' From it All

As luck would have it, my favorite aunt decided not to use her timeshare condo in the Shenandoah Mountains this weekend so we snatched it up for a one-night getaway. Woo hoo, thanks! All our kids knew was that we were going on vacation (or as Anna says 'dacation') to the mountains. We had no expectations and no plans other than to just do whatever and relax.

I wasn't sure how possible that would be with an almost-four and two-year old. But I think both husband and I were pleasantly surprised. To start off, I should tell you the weather yesterday was horrible--cold and rainy. But the condo, complete with a loft seemed to amuse the kids for most of the time. Between hide and seek, hanging from the steps, playing "bedtime" in one of the three beds, and flying paper airplanes from the loft, we were able to occupy almost an entire day inside. If that's not cool enough, we were able to actually read while they did this!

Then when the fun ran out on this, we let them . . . watch TV. And as you know, we don't have TV in our house (only a DVD player) for many reasons. Mainly, because of the crap on TV and my inability to harbor any self control. Seriously, I would be a total couch potato, as my children witnessed this weekend, if we had TV/cable hook up in our house. So they enjoyed the luxury of channel surfing with mom, yet quite confused why we couldn't "skip to the good part." How sad when I had to explain that we had to watch the commercials.

Then on the way home, we stopped at the Skyline Caverns. I wasn't sure how the kids would enjoy this--I think we were more impressed than they were--but they were troopers to walk through the hour-long tour of stalactites and stalagmites with mom and dad oohing and aahing. Alex and Anna just looked for bats and made spooking scary cave noises.

All in all, we discovered a little time away from the phone, computer, chores and errands was good for all four of us. We were equally pleased to discover our kids are now a little better about traveling, since Anna is sans crib and diapers.

Mama Knows Breast

I have a flood of friends expecting babies this spring, hence the reason for some reflective moments back to the past. Most of my friends are having their second, third or even fourth babies so breastfeeding might not be as big of an issue. Once you've done it once, even if you had trouble before, your confidence is still higher than the first go round.

I recently ordered a book, Mama Knows Breast, for my friend Katey who will be having her first baby this spring. This was the cutest reference book I've seen so far on breastfeeding. Just as the picture shows you can totally read it while you feed. You can read it in the hospital while they are coming to take your vitals all day or read it in the bathtub while trying to catch five minutes of alone time. It's a great reference book for first-time breastfeeding moms. If you're struggling with breastfeeding on a second baby, you probably would find this to be a good resource, as well as some much needed comfort.

Andi Silverman, who is mom to two kids (under two, I might add), did a great job writing this book and I would highly recommend it for new moms. It's not the normal breastfeeding book about the types of holds, but includes practical advice about fashion, where it is deemed acceptable to breastfeed and the necessary nursing props (which includes the TV remote and food).

My other personal favorite in the breastfeeding book category was So That's What They're For. It's more of a Girlfriend's Guide to Breastfeeding and definitely something to get you revved up for nursing, should to choose to go that route.


Spoken in True Cuteness

Ok, so enough of the commentary this week. Here are a few about my monkeys.

We'll start with Anna, queen of cuteness. When I asked how school was and what she did here is the conversation.

A: I played dress up.
Mom: Did X play dress up too?
A: Yep.
Mom: Did Y play dress up?
A: Hee hee..no mommy, he not want to play dress up.
Mom: Why?
A: Because I dress up like a princess and we don't have a costume for boys. It's a problem.


This evening after dinner Alex was wanting to watch a DVD. As I'm cleaning up the dishes, he announces that he has something to say:

A: Mommy, I want you to know that dinner was very yummy. I very much enjoyed it. Can you make it again? I want you to know how much I appreciate it.

Needless to say he got dessert, a hug and a DVD.


After bath the other night Alex is lying on his beanbag. When I ask what's wrong he says:

A: The bath made me tired.
Mom: Yeah, I know that feeling. Sometimes you guys make me tired.
A: Do you know what would REALLY making you tired? Building a building.
Mom: (Silenced by this statement.)

In Need of Some Spring Cleaning

My house is totally out of control, and you'd be surprised by how small my house really is. My basement continues to look like we've just moved in and the kids' rooms are full of toys they never play with.

While picking up our bedroom the other day, I asked my husband if it was necessary to have every business card from every person he's ever met on our dresser. Well, not all of them. Another couple thousand are in a Zploc bag in the basement. Ever hear of a Rolodex? God, I've been out of the office world for so long that might date me right there.

So he made a deal with me. If I could keep the hope chest at the end of our bed--which is usually topped with clothes (both clean and dirty), books, belts, laundry basket, shoes, etc.--than he would find some other place to put all 1 million business cards. The clincher was I had to keep the hope chest free from crap for three whole days. I can't seem to do it. My thinking is this is a perfectly fine piece of furniture. Why shouldn't there be something on it?

I have been inspired by my mommy blogging buddy Jean over at Stimeyland who just started a whole other site (Junk Pyramid) about decluttering her house. This is so much better than FlyLady, which I might add I try every week for about 1 day, because it's real.

My main level of our 3-story townhouse is pretty organized, mainly because there's hardly any furniture or storage. But the other two levels are making me nuts. There's just so much clutter I can't get my arms around it all and find the time to prune, prune, prune. And, dammit, I can't get to Target to buy anymore bins.


Mommies In the After Hours

Moms want to have fun too. Stay-at-home moms have their former lives they may cling to in the hopes of someday resurrecting their career or possibly just using the skills for another job. Those who work outside the home have it even tougher as they have to come home to the same nonsense we SAHMs deal with all day only after a long day of dealing with work nonsense. (I don't miss that!) When do moms get to be themselves and do what they love?

I'd like to think we all once had some interests and hobbies before we had children. But how do you continue to enjoy them when you have work and home responsibilities? Back in the day I use to play the flute--with a wind ensemble. It wasn't much but it forced me to play. Then I went on to take private lessons from a graduate music student. Unfortunately, I haven't found a venue since having kids--that meets with my own schedule--to continue this interest.

But I was very fortunate to hear my friend Jenn sing last week with her a capella group Kismet at Jammin Java. There she was a full-time mom and four months pregnant with her second baby belting out La Isla Bonita and clearly channeling her inner Madonna. How does she find the energy for this?

Another friend of mine takes guitar lessons as a nearby music school. And still another mommy friend will be part of the cast of Urinetown. I have another friend who quilts regularly with her quilting group. Suddenly I'm thinking I should stop using mommyhood as an excuse not to pick up my flute anymore. Although, then I realized that my after hours are spent writing this blog and/or trying to finish our book. Perhaps the music will have to wait.


Thank God I Am American

With the primaries in two major states tomorrow and the banter back and forth between the Democratic candidates, I was humbled by the Russian "elections" on Sunday. How lucky to live in a country where we have three viable candidates for president. How lucky that our current president didn't pick those candidates. How lucky that if you want to be a candidate, you can run.

I think we get mixed up in our little world over here and forget that people in other places--as democratic as they say they are--are not. I feel so blessed that I can have this blog and say whatever I want without worrying about my own safety or that of my family. I feel blessed that we have a ballot filled with competant people who are somewhat, on some level, interested in the good of the country.

We should remember that this week as the primaries continue.


The World Needs Us Silly Women

I'm quite certain many women found this week's front page of the Washington Post Opinion page story to be offensive. I knew the minute I read it that women around the area would be steaming in their morning coffee. However, I found this editorial to be quite humorous and even a bit true.

Women are silly. We do sometimes read silly books. We eat up drama of who in Hollywood had a new baby. We gossip about our friends and what we saw on TV. It's nothing new. I realized this last night as I was watching Pride and Prejudice, one of my all-time favorite movies and a perfect example of silly women giggling trying to get men to marry them. We are silly.

Women do silly things. Yes some of us read funny chick lit, some of us enjoy shopping just as a hobby, some of us swoon at politicos (I'm convinced that's how Bill Clinton was elected in 1992), some of us find Target to be the only store in the world to shop, some of us don't miss episodes of Grey's Anatomy. So what? We're silly and it's who we are. We're even so silly as to find offense to an article--in the opinion section--about silliness.

The purpose of the article some might wonder? What's the purpose of many of the articles in the paper--to inform, persuade, to make you think, make you angry, make to you take action or just make you laugh. It was a silly story, some form of satire, that made me think, yes, we women are silly at time. It was silly of Hillary to cry to get votes. She's a woman and she can work that angle. Hell, I cried to get out of traffic ticket.

Thank God I am a woman who can raise children, keep a household, write a book, keep up with a blog, work if I wanted to, laugh with my girlfriends, read a good chicky novel, watch Oprah and still finish off the day with a great political discussion and a glass of wine. Women really do have it all.

We are the yin for the yang of the world. I don't believe women should be just like men (yang) because men, quite honestly, are boring sometimes and not nearly silly enough.


The Business of Being Born: For Every Mom

I never gave much thought to giving birth until I was pregnant with my first. In my preparation, I read many books on natural childbirth and was confident I could go this route. I fortunately was living overseas and my Libyan doctor, who was a private doctor outside the socialized medicine of Qatar, was open to following the lead of those willing to pay. So she and I had an agreement on the pitocin and epidural from the beginning.

On my due date at 8 p.m., I found myself at the hospital with-- what I now know to be--light contractions, but about 10 minutes after my arrival, my water spontaneously broke. The only bad part was I was no where near ready to have the baby in terms of dilation. So I waited, but I knew the clock was ticking. Moms know you have about 24 hours from the time your water breaks until doctors start to worry about infection if baby hasn't surfaced. But I was happy to wait. The contractions weren't bad and I thought this would be a easy ride. After hours of waiting, they decided I needed the pitocin. And then we went hours on pitocin and no epidural. Ummmm....painful, for those that haven't tried that. I finally begged for the epidural and they relented. Within an hour I was ready to push and 45 minutes later, Alex was born sunny side up.

My birth experience was nothing like I had wanted, but on the flip side, I felt my doctor overseas was more thing willing to oblige in whatever I asked and take it well past what a doctor here in the U.S. would allow. My second birth experience turned the tables at bit in my favor since I'm convinced doctors treat moms delivering their subsequent children differently. They've all 'been there done that' and they are more willing to trust the patient who's already gone that route. I lucked out with baby #2 and came in fully armed with the minutiae of what happened in my first, and my doctor took me seriously.

So after all my research and my own personal births why would a mom want to see the latest documentary The Business of Being Born? Well, I think every mom (and dad) should be armed with all the facts. While this movie is certainly geared toward the natural birth, specifically home birth, I think women should understand that a hospital is a business. Most doctors--not all--are there to make a livlihood and are ready to go home at the end of a long day too. Hence the reason many C-sections happen at 4 p.m. and 10 p.m., according to this flick. (I haven't done the research to verify it. I'm assuming it's true.)

This movie is a must see for every mom-to-be. Not because I think the natural method is for everyone, but because I think moms need to be informed about their choices in childbirth and what the doctors' and hospitals' responsibility are to their patients.
I think being attuned to one's body even during a hospital birth is important. A doctor certainly can save the life of a mom or baby when necessary, but a doctor isn't able to feel what a mom-to-be is feeling. Doctors in general need to do a better job and listening to their patients. But that is an entirely different post.

So based on this movie, what would I have done differently about my own two births? Well, my second birth was pretty smooth. I ended up with the epidural towards the end for an entirely different reason than pain management, but had a much easier go with contractions the second time through. I am certain I could have done it naturally. If I go for a third, would I try and go it naturally? You bet. In fact, I would throw in some acupuncture for the pain management. (Another post to come on that.)