Monday, October 24, 2011

For the Convenience of It

I am becoming increasingly irritated with the carelessness of consumers nowadays. Judging by the products available on the market, people have gotten lazier and lazier. Even though our lives have been greatly improved by machines that wash dishes and clothes for us, heat our food without supervision being necessary, etc, somehow there seems to still be room for improvement.
When I looked through the coupons the other day, I saw a new product being advertised that immediately caught my eye. It’s a liner for your pans that is foil on one side and parchment paper on the other. The idea behind it is for you to line your baking dishes, casseroles, etc. with this foil to avoid the strenuous cleanup after cooking. Are these people serious? Have they heard about a little pollution problem that we’ve had on this planet in recent years?
I had been under the impression that people were increasingly looking for ways to be more green and avoid unnecessary waste. Clearly, I was mistaken. As it turns out, people are still looking to improve (?!?) their own lives by making everything just a tad more convenient.
Another ad I have seen a lot lately is one for disposable hand towels. Instead of using a regular towel, the ad suggests that you should just have the easy dispenser in your bathroom for your hand-drying needs. The ad implies that conventional hand towels are full of nasty germs and filth.
Here’s a little suggestion for the target audience of both the above products: WASH THE DAMN THINGS!!! If your dishes get dirty, wash them! If they’re really dirty, soak them for a little bit and then wash them. If you fear that your towel might be full of bacteria and grime, take it off the hook in your bathroom and wash it! You may even want to develop a towel-washing routine that will help you eliminate the risk of nasty towels altogether by taking the proactive approach of washing the towels regularly.
I am just in utter disbelief when it comes to ridiculous products like this. Why would anyone go from good, reusable, cost efficient products to disposable garbage that costs them additional money? Why are these companies and the consumers of these products indifferent when it comes to the obvious environmental concerns?
The answer has to be laziness. People are attracted to products that promise to save them a bit of time, even if it is only a few seconds. They don’t want to have to wash their dishes or their towels. They would rather have that extra time to spend in front of the computer or TV.
I am trying to go the opposite way- I am gradually changing as much as I can within our household from disposable to reusable. I want to save money, I want to be greener. I also don’t want to be completely lazy anymore…

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Time Capsule Moment

Last night, as I was snuggling my little man and nursing him to sleep, he took my big hand into both of his little hands and held it tightly. His soft baby hands fit so perfectly on either side of my weathered adult hand. It was a moment so beautiful that it brought tears to my eyes. A moment in which I wished I had a time capsule that could hold all of the wonderful instances that I would love to relive over and over again, but that will never return.
I cried for the time that flies past us without stopping. I cried for the promise and uncertainty my baby’s young life holds. I cried because I won’t have a baby to hold and cuddle for too much longer. I cried because I wanted the time to stand still just once and it wouldn’t.
My greatest wish during those seconds was that we may have a moment like that together again some day. One in which his adult hands, bigger and stronger than my own, hold my hands in his just as tenderly and caringly. If I am lucky enough to experience that in my future, I will truly have had the perfect life.

Photo by Blue Silk Photography

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My USAversary

Today marks the four year anniversary of my arrival in the US. On this day in 2007, I boarded a plane in Frankfurt, Germany with my little dog Amy and flew all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to Atlanta, Georgia. When I arrived in Atlanta, my husband was already waiting for me- he had been in the US for a month while I waited for my visa to be approved.
My little dog, Amy

I was incredibly tired, but managed to stay awake for most of the four hour car ride to our new home. I remember the sun setting while we were driving and how beautiful it was. The house A had picked out for us was so lovely- it exceeded my expectations by a lot! I felt comfortable right away.
Four years later, we have had two children. We have adopted another dog and two cats, bought a house, two new cars, etc. My life has completely changed. It is absolutely fabulous now- much better than I could ever have imagined it. The house we bought has become a home for myself and the wonderful family I have.
Yet somehow, I still don’t feel 100% at ease. I am still a foreigner. While most things have become familiar to me, they tend to still make me marvel at them (some in positive, some in negative ways) I don’t feel like I’m on vacation anymore, like I felt the first year or so, but it still happens that I look around and wonder if I am in a movie or real life.
Like any place, there are things here that I love and things that I hate. There are lots of things I miss about my home town, above all others my family, and there are things that I don’t miss at all and I’m glad I got away from.
I haven’t been back to Europe in over 1 ½ years. I haven’t spent a Christmas at ‘home’ in five years. We are going to try to fly to Germany this Christmas season and I cannot wait! On the other hand, I know it will no longer feel like my home- too much time has passed. For now, South Carolina is where we live and because this is where my husband and children are, I can truly say that it is my home; it's where my heart is.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

De-sexualizing Breasts

Today, I am thinking about breasts. I keep reading comments from people who are offended when they see women breastfeeding in public, calling it indecent exposure, etc. These people are only able to see breasts in a sexual light.
Though breasts have been the center of male sexual attention for quite some time, in reality, all they are are collections of mammary glands, fat, and tissue- all made for breastfeeding. The fact that men like breasts is a pleasant side effect, but biologically, the breast has only one purpose, which is producing milk.
What about all the pictures that dominate our society’s media? There are so many sexy breasts around, popping out of bras specially designed to showcase them as appetizing treats for men. Doesn’t that mean that women’s breasts are part of their sexual organs? Well, no. Breasts are not part of the female reproductive system. A woman who does not have breasts can still have sexual intercourse and become pregnant. Breasts are erogenous zones for some women, but so are other non-sexual parts of the body.
Of course, breasts are body parts that are distinctly female, which attracts male attention. But they aren’t inherently sexual or dirty. Their main job is to nourish babies.
There are people who view breastfeeding in public as indecent exposure. Well, it isn’t! Some say that breastfeeding in public is acceptable as long as nobody sees the nipple. What kind of logic is that? Are nipples somehow evil? Is there something they can do that I am unaware of? As far as I know, human beings have nipples from birth on. Men have nipples and walk around topless all the time. Children have nipples. How are women’s nipples different?
My favorite are the people who get upset about the possibility of their children seeing a woman breastfeeding. But how will they explain this to their children?!? How about telling them the truth- that women have breasts that make milk for babies to drink. Just like every other mammal. How would these people explain it to their children of they saw an animal nursing at its mother’s breast? This is the way the world works! If you are unable to explain the basics of human behavior to your child, how is that the breastfeeding mother’s problem?
Unless we all start breastfeeding in public more, without shame, we won’t be able to reverse this trend of breastfeeding being seen as a sexual act. I try to nurse my son wherever we go now. I nursed him at the State Fair the other day. There was a family looking over and whispering to each other. It didn’t bother me in the least because I wasn’t doing anything wrong. Maybe I was even showing them the beauty of a mother breastfeeding her child…

Monday, October 17, 2011

Trying to Refocus

I am slowly discovering how to prioritize and make life easier for myself. There are still many things in my life that I could probably let go of, but I’m taking things slowly and really taking the time to evaluate what is important to me and what isn’t.
The things that are important to me are relatively few: my family, my friends, and helping other people in need.
I’m sure most of you understand the significance of family. I would be nothing without them. My husband and children mean the world to me! I also love the support of true friends. By true friends I do not mean people I occasionally see and talk to. I mean people who know me just the way I am and accept me that way. People I could call any time of day if I needed to talk. Genuine friends.
Helping people in need is a little more tricky. I have always had trouble distinguishing between the people who honestly need help and those who just use me. But I’m getting better.
 I am also learning that the more I free myself of things that burden me, the more energy I have to devote to the things that are important to me. My tendency to lie in bed awake at night, worrying about the state of the world and all its sadness, only knows one antidote: action! Only if I am able to change things for the better- be they ever so small- am I able to get a good night’s sleep.
The other night I had a revelation. No matter how awful the horrors of this world are, there really is no use in me dwelling on them, paralyzed by sadness. I am unable to change everything. I am unable to make everything and everyone good and everyone healthy and happy. However, I can instead focus my energy on the changes that I CAN make, and start making things better for people.
First, I have to think of my own needs, physically and emotionally. I have to recover and find my energy again. Then, on to greater things. At least that’s the plan…
"The power of one man or one woman doing the right thing for the right reason, and at the right time, is the greatest influence in our society."
---Jack Kemp

Friday, October 14, 2011

I love you, Friday!

My absolute favorite day of the week is Friday. I’m sure many of you share my views on this wonderful day that I get to repeat every week, but it may be for very different reasons.
What I love most about Fridays is the promise it brings. The weekend hasn’t yet begun and you still have all the wonderful things to look forward to. It’s like a miniature version of Christmas Eve that I get to have every seven days.
Before I became a mother, I worked full time. Fridays would always be the marker of the end of the work week. At the last office I worked in, casual dress was allowed on Fridays, which was always nice. Everybody’s mood would usually be just a little bit better, with my fellow employees day dreaming about what their weekends held in store.
Friday evenings used to be reserved for going out with friends and having a blast into the wee hours of the morning. If we chose not to go out, we would still get together and have a great time. Usually, it involved alcohol to some extent. Sometimes, it involved playing dirty charades and laughing until our faces hurt…

Both of my beautiful children were born on a Friday. A fact that I was always aware of, but the significance of which I only just realized. Fridays have brought me the greatest gifts I have ever been fortunate enough to receive.
Now that we have children, Fridays are still my favorite. The best moment of the week is when I pick my daughter up from her Moms Morning Out Program. It signifies the start of the weekend, with all the fun activities we have planned still ahead of us.
Fridays are the thresholds to our family time, where both the children and I get to be around my husband. There is the possibility that I may get to sleep an extra hour or two, that we will have lots of fun as a family, and that my husband and I may get to have a date night together- all of which I get took look forward to during my Fridays.
I love you, Friday! You make me feel optimistic. I look forward to you every day of the week. And I am so glad you’re here!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Mummy Tantrums

Something I have been increasingly noticing lately is that I get annoyed with my children the most when things aren’t going my way. Let’s say we have to be out of the house at a certain time and I took too long getting dressed. When I try to rush R, she doesn’t exactly cooperate because naturally she has no concept of time or urgency yet. Suddenly I find myself fuming, threatening R with timeouts if she doesn’t do what I want her to, and pretty much have a bit of a temper tantrum.
The funny thing is that the bulk of our frustration as parents comes from what the child wants to do clashing with what the parent wants. Our children aren’t too difficult when they are young- they want to do things that are fun and that make them happy. Oh wait, that description can be applied to everyone, even adults…
My point is that we are all humans and we all have the same agenda, more or less. If my child doesn’t get what she wants, she gets frustrated. If I don’t get what I want, I get frustrated. I have thirty more years of frustration-management experience than my daughter has, which should make me almost an expert, right? But no, I still occasionally lose my temper and yell or do other undesirable things.
I overheard a mother a few weeks ago, speaking to her son. She said: “Listen and obey!” This really didn’t sit well with me. The more I have thought about it, the clearer it has become what bothered me about it. Our children are human beings, just like we are, with the exact same feelings. We tend to overrule their wishes and desires because they don’t fit into our own wants. The only reason we are able to do this is because we are stronger than them.
I hear the protests now- ‘But we are their parents! It is our job to teach them certain things and some of those things cause frustration!’ I absolutely agree. However, I urge you all to critically examine your parenting behaviors. When I look at my own, I see that I try to stop any kind of behavior in my child that I don’t want- not just the kind that is dangerous or for some reason unacceptable, but anything that gets on my nerves. For example, R is playing nicely by herself, drumming on something. I ask her to stop. She was in her own world, minding her own business, and there I am butting in. Because what she wants is not what I want in that moment.
In the future, I want my children to have more freedom to express themselves without my interrupting them. I am trying to work towards double checking my motives when correcting their behavior. Are they really doing something wrong or is that just not what I want right now? Maybe I can find a compromise that will make us both happy? I don’t know about you, but I’m more of a lover than a fighter. I much prefer having a harmonious environment in our house. And I’m getting tired of throwing tantrums.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Dear Dr Pepper, What The?!?

So, I’m sitting at home, watching ESPN with my husband, when a commercial catches my eye. It is a commercial for Dr Pepper Ten. Have you seen this, dear ladies? Here is the plot: Some men are driving around an action movie in a Jeep-type vehicle, drinking a soda. The man with the soda is telling the camera about what men want, amongst these things is said ‘manly’ beverage. He mentions that women can keep their romantic comedies, etc. to themselves and then, the new slogan pops out of his mouth and onto the screen: “It’s not for women”
My jaw literally dropped. I had to re-watch the commercial to make sure I wasn’t imagining things. Have the people at the Dr Pepper Snapple Group lost their minds? Did they just honestly tell me that one of their drinks is made to be consumed solely by men? How is this ok with everyone?
Let’s look at this rationally. The product they are selling is a soft drink. A soda pop. A carbonated beverage. Water with some artificial flavors, colors, and caffeine mixed in. And somehow, it is more masculine than other drinks. You’re probably just as confused as I was at this point.
As I just found out, diet sodas are mainly consumed by women. Therefore, Dr Pepper had the brilliant idea to make a light soda that will appeal to male consumers as well. They did not decide to do this subtly, like their competition Coke Zero or Pepsi Max, through ads that are marginally sexist, but instead went full steam ahead and are blatantly saying that this particular drink was produced for the sole consumption by men. Not because there is anything in the soda that wouldn’t be suitable for females to drink, but because they are trying to target a new market.
Well, dear Dr Pepper people, I received your message loud and clear! I will never again purchase one of your beverages- the men of this world can have every single one of them. Please know that I will also not be buying the sodas for anyone else in my household, including the two males. Furthermore, I will let every woman I know not to purchase any more of your artificial crap drinks because clearly we women are not important consumers in your opinion.
My husband doesn’t quite understand why I’m upset. It’s just a joke, they’re just kidding. They’re not doing any harm by saying these things. A few years ago, I may have agreed with him. Because I consider myself a strong woman who is more than able to take a good joke. The problem is that this isn’t a good joke, or even a mediocre one. It’s not witty, it’s not imaginative, it’s just blatantly in bad taste.
When football is on TV, it is all testosterone on the set. There are countless other companies who make fun of women or feminine traits. I just watched a commercial for Miller Light in which one of the male beer drinkers is being accused of having done something ‘unmanly’. Again, my husband doesn’t understand my disgust with such tomfoolery, such 'innocent' banter.
What exactly does ‘unmanly’ mean? If something is not manly, it is womanly. So, if being ‘unmanly’ is undesirable that means that being womanly is undesirable. It means that being a woman or feminine is not as good. It is not worth as much.
I live in a world in which there is supposed equality, which of course is completely untrue. In my world, my church is controlled exclusively by men- women are not allowed to be priests or anything else of importance. In my world, I have never had a female as my highest boss- they have always been men. In my world, there are things that women ‘just don’t do’ because it is not socially acceptable. In my world, there has never been a female president of the USA. In my world, there has to be a Women’s History Month because every other month is reserved for men’s history. In my world, most sports on television are played by men, with women not even allowed to participate.
There is no equality. In my honest opinion, most men feel superior to us women. As you all know, we make up more than 50% of the world’s population! Why are we letting this happen? It is a mystery to me. Either way, in my world, there will no longer be any Dr Pepper. I hope you other ladies will follow suit.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Minding My Business

We went shopping for a few things today and I noticed once again how people will just blurt out anything to you without thinking twice about it. I’m sure you know who I’m talking about- the kind of people who say something to you without you having addressed them and without them knowing you at all.
First thing this morning, we went to buy a nursing bra. My son fell asleep in the car, so my husband stayed there with him while my daughter and I went into the store. We were the first customers of the day and the lady working there unlocked the door for us. She was around sixty years old and continued to eat her breakfast (yes, these are two completely unrelated facts) The lady asked what I was looking for. I told her, upon which she asked: “Have you had the baby yet?” Um, what?!? I realize you work in a maternity store, but really? If I may so myself, I DO NOT look pregnant! I informed her that I had in fact had the baby already, so she asks me how old the baby is. I tell her that he is eleven months. Her response to this is: “Oh…” What on earth does that mean? Either she thinks that I am too fat to have had my baby so many months ago OR she disapproves of my breastfeeding him for such a long (?!?) time.
At this point, I was still in a pretty good mood. I picked out a few bras to try on and went into the changing room with R. While I was in there, I wondered if I should tell the sales lady that I also still nursed my toddler (which is unfortunately not true), just to see how she would react. I decided not to say anything and just put the bra on the counter to pay for it. Of course she suggested I buy two more bras, so that I could get a fourth one free, but I declined. I did, however, have a look at their nursing tops that were on sale and found one in a size S that I really liked (take that, lady! I can fit into a size SMALL! I may have bought it just to demonstrate my non-fatness…) I took it over to the check out, where my bra laid waiting for me. My eyes wandered around my soon-to-be-purchases and were caught by some specks on my new bra that had not been there before. I touched them with my finger and immediately regretted it- I found a moist, creamy substance. I gave it a sniff: cream cheese and bagel. Not only had the lady not stopped eating her breakfast in front of a customer, she also drooled part of her food onto my new bra. Gluten food on top of everything! I thoroughly sanitized my hands after. I know I should have asked for a different bra, but I think it was the only one left in my size, so I didn’t say anything...
The more I think about my experience at the store this morning, the less I want to go back. I was considering telling some of the ladies I know about the sales deals that they have going on at the moment, but with the extremely odd ‘service’ I got there this morning I really rather feel like telling everyone to stay away.
Afterwards, we went to buy some art supplies for a project my husband and I are attempting this evening. We were looking at the art supplies and I noticed a line of paints that had a man’s picture on them. I asked A who the man was because the name didn’t seem familiar. He told me that the man was Bob Ross, upon which I told him that I had no idea who Bob Ross is. A says: “You don’t know who Bob Ross is?” A lady (again, around sixty years old) who is also shopping in the same aisle, turns to us and, in a very rude tone, says: “You’re too young to know who Bob Ross is.” A replies, very politely: “Oh, I know who Bob Ross is. I used to watch him on television all the time when I was a kid.” The woman says: “Well, those must have been reruns.” and walks a little further on.
Now, my husband took no offense to this. I, however, was angry. First of all because she was being rude- her tone of voice and manner were condescending. Secondly because we hadn’t been speaking to her and she butted into our conversation. Lastly because I hate it when someone tells me that I am too young for anything- I am always thought to be a lot younger than I actually am (you can read more about this here)
Of course, I didn’t say anything to her. Later in the car, I googled Bob Ross. When I saw his actual picture, I did recognize him. Then I read up on the TV show he had- it ran from 1983 to 1994. How young did this woman think we were?!? Stupid old bat! I should have told her that I was going to look him up on what we call ‘the Internet’, something she wouldn’t know about because she’s too old! Hmpf...
The point of my little anecdotes here is: why the hell can people not mind their own business? Why do we all have to be subjected to strangers who feel the need to comment on our affairs? I have no answer to this question, unfortunately. While I wouldn’t even dream of butting in when two people I don’t know are having a conversation, unfortunately, there are plenty of people who do not feel the same. To all of the past and future busy bodies, I say: “I am not pregnant, I know what I’m doing with my children, and I am a lot older than I look. Now piss off and leave me alone!” (Yes, you are more than welcome to quote me)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

When Boobies Don't Make It Better

Under normal circumstances, nursing is my one super tool that helps my baby feel better instantly. Unfortunately, this is not true when baby gets sick. Especially illnesses that make sucking painful, such as an ear infection, or that cause your baby to lose interest in eating, such as an upset stomach, are very difficult to deal with.
For baby, it is extremely important to keep him/her well hydrated. The younger the baby, the greater the risk of rapid dehydration. Especially babies who have diarrhea and vomiting in combination are in danger of losing too much of their body’s water supply. You can try feeding baby breast milk in a bottle, cup, or via syringe- anything that will make it easier for baby to drink the fluid. Even if you can only get him or her to take a few milliliters at a time, it may be enough to keep the hydration at an acceptable level. For older babies, you can also offer water, coconut water, diluted juices, or other liquids containing electrolytes.
Watch your baby for warning signs of severe dehydration, which include symptoms such as lethargy (baby does not respond to your voice or touch, is limp, does not make eye contact), a dry mouth and chapped lips, dry eyes that do not produce tears and are sunken in, no urination in 12-18 hours, excessive fussiness, paleness of the skin, etc. An additional symptom in young infants can be an extremely sunken in fontanelle. If you suspect dehydration in your baby, please seek medical attention immediately! While moderate dehydration can mostly be taken care of at home, severe dehydration requires a rapid supply of fluids via IV.
When baby is not feeling well, it is easy to overlook taking care of yourself. It is crucial for every nursing mother to stay well hydrated, so don’t forget to drink enough while caring for your little one. If baby isn’t nursing as much as usual or not at all, it is very important for you to empty your breasts sufficiently. Not only do you want to keep your supply up, you also want to avoid feeling engorged and risking getting a plugged milk duct or even mastitis.
Pumping or hand expressing with a sick baby around can be really challenging. Especially when you have more than one child, you may not feel as though you are able to sit down for the time it takes to express milk. However, you really must take the time to ensure that you will not encounter any breastfeeding related problems. Taking care of a sick child is hard enough- it is even worse if you have to do so while dealing with breast pain.
Make sure that your children are safe and occupied and express your milk. If you have help available, have someone else watch the kids for a few minutes. If you have to do it all by yourself, try to entertain older kids (turn on the TV, if nothing else works) and have baby in a comfy spot where you can watch him/her. Depending on your multitasking skills, you can also have baby in a carrier while you are expressing. It may help with the letdown and will surely avoid the stress for both baby and yourself of the little one screaming for you.
If you do not have a pump or if pumping isn’t very effective for you, hand expression can be priceless. There are several different ways you can try, my personal favorite being the Marmet technique.
Make sure that both you and baby get plenty of rest. Don’t worry about chores or other obligations- a sick baby is always the number one priority. It is hard not to be able to comfort our little ones the way we are used to. Most bugs are over in a matter of days, though, so keep your chin up!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Impressions of Germany

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Favorite Breastfeeding Memories

I was just asked what my favorite breastfeeding memory is. To be completely honest, I don’t know. I have been thinking about this for the past hour or so and still am unable to think of one specific moment that was more special than the others.
I think that the problem here lies in the nature of breastfeeding habits. While it is of course something wonderful and special, it is also absolutely routine behavior after the first few weeks. It never stays the same, evolving with your growing child. On the other hand, it is somehow a constant in your child’s rapidly changing world.
My favorite memories consist of the little moments. I remember how excited and relieved I was the first time I nursed my daughter without any pain. I was so proud of myself and of her for making it that far.
Who doesn’t love the milk coma babies fall into? This is a picture of R when she was just a month and a half old. Passed out after a good drinking session.
Breastfeeding was always such a huge form of comfort for both of my children. After an injury or an upsetting visit to the doctor’s office, a quick nursing session would quickly calm my babies right back down. I fondly look back on the soothing power that breastfeeding had with my daughter. I am so glad I still have that tool for my son now.
Part of my daughter’s bed time ritual used to be for her to run over to me after playing and breastfeed for a little bit before going upstairs to bed. I miss that so much! My daughter has always been a very active and busy child, so these moments were very important cuddle time.
With my son now, I enjoy our nursing sessions as much as I can because I know how fast our babies grow up. When E nurses during the day, we often play little games where he tries to stick his hand in my mouth, upon which I pretend to bite it, and he giggles hysterically. Every one of these moments is priceless!
Just a few minutes ago, I went upstairs to where my beautiful boy was stirring, and quickly nursed him back to sleep. He immediately snuggled into me and fell back into his dream land. I honestly treasure every single one of these sessions with him. I am very blessed to be able to breastfeed my son and have the relationship with him that I do. I try to enjoy every moment we get to spend together. I wish I could memorize each one and recall them all again some day.