Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Wordless Wendesday (Linky): Historic Camden, SC


Children Are People

I have been thinking a lot about what I feel most passionately about. I have come to the conclusion that children are more important to me than anything. I wish above all else that all the children of this world could feel safe and happy, be healthy and loved, and get to enjoy their childhood. Not only do I feel this way because children are vulnerable and innocent, but because they hold our future- the future of humanity- in their hands. Children who are treated well usually go on to become adults who treat others well.
Many things are a mystery to me in this world. Above all other things, I will never understand how people abuse and mistreat children. And yet, it happens everywhere every day- parents who abuse their own children, abusers who are foster parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, teachers, etc. I think if we were all fully aware of the extent of abuse in our world we couldn’t stand to live in it.
To counteract the mistreatment of children all over the world, an international treaty assembled for the Convention on the Rights of the Child and passed a universal law to protect the human rights of every child. Not only did the people involved in drafting this law examine what rights children should have, regardless of where they lived, they also tried to redefine how children are seen in society:

Children are neither the property of their parents nor are they helpless objects of charity. They are human beings and are the subject of their own rights. The Convention offers a vision of the child as an individual and a member of a family and a community, with rights and responsibilities appropriate to his or her age and stage of development. Recognizing children's rights in this way firmly sets a focus on the whole child. Previously seen as negotiable, the child's needs have become legally binding rights. No longer the passive recipient of benefits, the child has become the subject or holder of rights.
Excerpt taken from http://www.unicef.org/crc/index_30229.html

The law covers all kinds of human rights and makes them applicable to children, such as the right to protection; the right to health care and education; the right to “happiness, love, and understanding”. Basically, it specifies that the existing human rights are not just for adult humans, but for the young ones without a voice, too. Children are humans.
I got so excited reading about this today. Then I saw how many countries have ratified this treaty- 192!!! What an amazing number! Only two countries in the whole world haven’t ratified it yet. The first is Somalia. Somalia has a few issues at the moment, as you are surely aware, and has no recognized government that could ratify the treaty. The second country is... drum roll... the USA!
I was so shocked by this and also disappointed. The US government signed the treaty, but has not yet ratified it, which means that they are not yet bound to comply with the laws it includes. The treaty has been ratified in other countries since 2005, so this isn’t a recent development. It just hasn’t taken priority here.
My hope is that people will gradually change their view of children and see that they are full human beings, even if they are weaker and smaller. They have emotions that are just as valid and strong as those of adults. They have a right to be protected and should be the most sacred part of any society.
When the founding fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence, they surely did not have children in mind. “... all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." However, they also were not thinking of women, or people of other races, or men without property, or most of the humans we have included in these rights today. It's time to change our thinking. Human rights are children's rights because children are people, just like us.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Diaper Surpises

If you are a regular diaper changer, you have experienced it at least once: the surprise poop. That sneaky little mess in your child’s pants that didn’t even give you a warning.
You decide to change your baby’s diaper because it’s been a few hours. You grab a fresh diaper and one wipe and chase down your running baby, who has no intention of cooperating with you. However, you feel confident because it’s nothing big to change, just a little pee.
You wrestle the baby to the ground and give him something entertaining to keep him still for 30 seconds. You open the diaper and gasp- what is that?!? That wasn’t supposed to be there! There was no smell! This cannot be!
Since you have wrestled your child down in the dining room, you have no access to additional wipes. The clock is ticking- you must act quickly. You utilize the lone wipe as best you can before the child loses interest in the distractive object you gave him. In despair, you ask your preschooler to help- more wipes! A different toy! Anything that will contain the mess!
Of course, the children have no interest in making this easier. In a ninja-type roll, your baby escapes your clutches and waddles off, while your other child has realized that she can destroy the house because you are way too busy dealing with the diaper situation to intervene in any way.
You quickly gather up the diaper off the floor and try to hurry to get additional wipes before the baby sits down anywhere. While you are striding towards the wipes, you see something falling out of the corner of your eye. You have lost some of the diaper contents, which immediately takes priority over all other matters. The escapee must be retrieved at once to avoid it being stepped on, picked up, eaten, or misused in any other fashion.
Trying to keep calm, you clean up the mess from the floor. Armed with more wipes than are now necessary, you find your baby and finish the job. In the kindest of tones, you try to convince your toddler/preschooler that helping mummy is actually a great thing. And you vow to never make the same mistake again- never open a diaper without checking for surprises.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

I Don't Have an Accent

First of all, I am so glad to be able to write whatever I want again. I have had almost a brain blockage because all my weird thoughts had no way to come out. Also, I have learned my lesson and won’t be trying to create a blog hop again any time soon, as my attempt was incredibly unsuccessful.
I had a strange realization yesterday: I don’t have a noticeable accent anymore. The problem with that is that I never had a noticeable accent in the first place. I used to have my mother’s Irish accent, the one I grew up with. Then, I hung around with some English people for a while and tried to perfect an English accent. When I was going out with my boyfriend from Donegal, my mother made fun of me for sounding like I was from Donegal myself. Now I sound just like an American- people cannot tell where I’m from.
Most of you might not think of this as a problem. However, consider this: most people who move to another country in which the same language is spoken do not lose their accents. Irish people who move to England or Scotland or Australia or wherever, really, still mostly sound Irish, even after living in another country for decades. Why is it different with me?
I purposely try to perfect other accents because I enjoy it. However, I also like to just fit in, to not necessarily be the odd one out. I guess I have a really strong desire to be accepted and liked. And actually, that is quite pathetic! Now here I am, with an American accent, but actually Irish/German and not fully belonging anywhere.
Which I can in turn project on my whole life- I love harmony and try to have an amicable relationship with everyone I am in contact with. It kills me when someone doesn’t like me, even if I don’t like the person. So ridiculous! Especially considering my radical opinions on certain topics, such as politics.
All my life, I have had strong opinions and always openly expressed them. However, it really bothered me when people judged or disliked me because of these opinions. And so I often felt unhappy because there were people who didn’t like me.
I’m trying to change that. I want to be more like my husband who couldn’t care less about what people think about him- he is what he is, take it or leave it.
Especially when writing this blog I am exposing a lot of myself and my need to please makes me extremely vulnerable. So, I either have to stop blogging and openly expressing my opinions, or I have to learn to be who I am despite what people may think of me.
Time for me to have an accent!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Seven Baby B's: (7) Balance

The final Baby B is Balance. I am so happy that Dr. Sears included this in his list! As in every area of our lives, maintaining good balance is key. Too much of anything can be harmful and the same is true for ‘overdoing’ things when it comes to our parenting.
A baby’s needs must be met, there can be no doubt about this. However, parents should always remember to meet their own needs as well, be they emotional or physical. It is easy for a new mother or father to forget to take care of him or herself and end up completely burned out, which is not desirable for anyone.
Parents need to make sure that they take care of themselves, their partners, and their marriage. If either partner really needs sleep, for example, it is crucial for this need to be met. There are ways in which to meet everyone’s needs without neglecting the others- in this case, the sleep deprived parent could spend an entire day in bed, only being interrupted if it were really necessary. Or there could be a regular arrangement for each parent to sleep in on one day per week.
Balance is important in every part of our lives, but especially in the difficult journey that is parenting. Parents who feel balanced will be better able to handle the stresses of everyday life with kids. Well-adjusted individuals create a family entity that is also balanced.
If you have a post you would like to share, please link up!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Seven Baby B's: (6) Beware of Baby Trainers

The sixth Baby B cautions parents:  Beware of baby trainers. What Dr. Sears means are the ‘experts’- and there are too many of them out there to count- who try to make parents believe that their babies should be on some sort of fixed schedule from the time they are born. Frequently, these baby trainers are also in favor of sleep training, via letting the baby cry it our or other methods.
The whole point of Attachment Parenting is to understand our baby’s needs and to respond to those needs as best we can. Trying to make babies fit into a set of rules designed by a total stranger who has never met your baby may bring short term benefits, but could cause many problems in the long run.
For example, there are baby trainers who insist on keeping babies on a feeding schedule. Regardless of whether they are breast or formula fed, these trainers believe babies should be eating at certain times and not at others. Such scheduling methods can be detrimental to a breastfeeding relationship, causing terrible issues such as dehydration and failure to thrive in the infant, as well as problems such as low milk supply and even mastitis in the mother. The problem with schedules is that they do not take into consideration that a growing baby has changing needs and while eating every two to three hours may be the norm on most days, it ignores the fact that babies have growth spurts, for example, during which they need to eat more frequently. (The AAP does not recommend baby training methods, such as the ‘Babywise’ method, and warns parents of the negative effects they can have on the breastfeeding relationship!)
I just spoke to a friend of mine in Germany a week or so ago. She has a newborn and I was quite anxious to hear how their breastfeeding is going. She told me that her midwife had advised her to feed the baby according to the clock- not more often than every two hours, but also not less frequently than every three hours. The midwife’s reasoning behind this was that babies need to learn discipline from birth on. Thankfully, my friend told me that she quickly discarded her midwife’s advice and listened to her baby, feeding her on demand (the recommended way to breastfeed a baby)
Always take baby advice with a grain of salt. Inform yourself about who the person is giving the advice as well as what qualifications he/she has. Pediatricians, for example, are often quick to give parenting advice that has nothing to do with their medical training and is not necessarily research based. As I have sad in many posts before: Trust your instincts and question everything!
Tomorrow: Balance!
If you have a post you would like to share, please link up below!

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Seven Baby B's: (5) Belief in the Language Value of Your Baby's Cry

The fifth Baby B focuses on the Belief in the language value of your baby’s cry. Simply put, Dr. Sears wants parents to know that their babies are not crying without a reason, they are trying to communicate with their parents via the only means they have. Infants have not yet developed any verbal skills and are dependent on their cries as a way to signal that they have a need that they are unable to meet themselves.
I know many parents who believe that infants try to manipulate them and use them. Somehow these parents see their own children in a negative light from birth and are determined not to surrender ‘control’ to them. By crying, they are expressing a want instead of a need and they should learn that they can’t have everything they want.
In my opinion, children are inherently good. The idea that an infant, who is unaware that he/she has hands, cannot sit up by him/herself, etc. is a master of the art of manipulation is just ridiculous to me. For an infant, a want and a need are one and the same thing.
Not only have I always believed that a baby’s cries need to be responded to, I also think that I would be incapable of not responding to them because I cannot stand to hear my baby be unhappy. Have you ever thought about why a baby’s cries are so hard for us to listen to? Maybe nature made it that way so that parents would do everything possible to keep their baby happy…
I can’t think of too much to write about this subject other than: listen to your baby! Don’t let your baby cry! Babies should always be able to trust that their parents will be there for them, no matter what- be it in the middle of the night, during an inopportune time, etc.- it shouldn’t make a difference. Thinking of babies who are left to cry makes my heart ache and my stomach knot up.
Tomorrow: Beware of baby trainers.
If you have a post you would like to share, please link up!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Seven Baby B's: (4) Bedding Close to Baby

A slightly controversial topic, the fourth Baby B is Bedding close to baby. Unfortunately, co-sleeping has gotten a bit of a bad reputation and many parents are terrified when they so much as hear about it.
A necessary distinction that must be made is between bed sharing and room sharing, both of which are considered co-sleeping. Bed sharing involves the obvious- parents sleeping on the same surface as their children. Room sharing, on the other hand, has baby sleeping in the same room as the parents, but on separate sleeping surfaces.
Both of the above mentioned ways of sleeping have great benefits for the relationship between the parents and the child. Attachment Parenting followers believe that parenting duties do not end when the day is over and that the easiest way to respond to their child’s night time needs is to have him/her sleeping close by. However, close sleeping arrangements shouldn’t only be of interest to Attachment Parenting enthusiasts, as research has proven that babies who sleep in the same room as their parents have a lower risk of SIDS.
Somehow in the last decades, co-sleeping has gotten to be a practice that is not only widely unpopular in the Western World, but also often frowned upon. I wish people would take a minute to think about what human sleeping arrangements used to look like just a century or two ago. Having a separate room for every family member was an unthinkable luxury for most, and beds were often shared by many family members. Humans are certainly the only mammal that chooses to sleep away from their young. Most mothers do not feel comfortable having their baby far away from them, especially at night.
Since our modern adult beds are not designed for babies, bed sharing does have certain risks, especially when sleeping with a very young infant. However, there are several ways in which to co-sleep safely while ensuring that all parties are still comfortable, e.g. by using a co-sleeper, side-caring the baby’s crib, etc . For a list of safety precautions, please click here.
With my daughter, we room shared for about six months and then attempted to move her to her own room, mostly because my husband’s snoring would wake her up occasionally. However, when she started waking up every one to two hours a night to nurse, she quickly ended up being a constant occupant of our bed. When I found out I was expecting our second child, we decided that a king sized bed would be a wise investment…
With my son, we had a co-sleeper attached to our bed from the start. Slowly but surely, he ended up staying in our bed snuggled up to me. I especially loved this cuddle time because it was an occasion for us to just be together one-on-one (my husband was mostly passed out on the other side of the bed…)
For about a year now, we have had a great arrangement where R starts off in her own bed and then joins us in the big bed whenever she awakens- sometimes around midnight, rarely around five or six, most of the time somewhere in between. She comes in quietly, shuts the door behind herself, and squeezes in where she can find a spot. It is a lovely way to sleep together and I particularly love the extra snuggle time I get with my daughter, who is a busy toddler and not very interested in cuddling with me very much.
What I love most about co-sleeping is the extra sleep I have been able to get! Having a newborn was so much easier when he was right beside me and I could nurse him while dozing.
Tomorrow: Belief in the language value of your baby’s cry.
If you have a co-sleeping post you would like to share, please link up!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Seven Baby B's: (3) Babywearing

Babies are meant to be carried. Which bring us to our third Baby B: Babywearing. Since infants are quite immobile during most of their first year, parents have been forced to find efficient ways of carrying babies around. Unfortunately, humans don’t have much hair for the little ones to grab onto, so the work must be done almost exclusively by the parents.
Thankfully, humans are very creative and have found many different ways of carrying their babies while still having the full use of both of their hands. How, you may ask? By using different materials, such as leather, plant fibers, cloth, etc. to securely tie their babies to them.
Babywearing aides the bonding process by allowing mother and child to be close to each other, both creating physical contact as well as helping the mother-baby pair to become more familiar with each other. Babywearing also allows time to have skin to skin contact with your baby while still being able to stay mobile. Research has shown that babies who are worn often are much less fussy and do not cry as much. And you can nurse your baby in a carrier without anyone even knowing...
When I was pregnant with my first child, a baby carrier was on my baby registry. Not knowing anything about them at the time, I relied on the ratings the product had received online and thought I was purchasing a great carrier. Unfortunately, soon after having my baby, I learned that my carrier belonged to the category of carriers that babywearers like to refer to as ‘crotch danglers’. After some research, I came to find out that baby carriers in which the baby is basically dangling on a narrow piece of fabric by their crotch are not only uncomfortable (for all involved- my back was killing me and I was carrying a newborn…), they can actually cause damage to the baby’s hips and spine.
Wearing my sick baby boy in December 2011

Thankfully, there are so many wonderful carriers out there that I didn’t have a hard time finding a good alternative. There is such a huge selection available and you can choose from so many beautiful fabrics and designs. If you are interested in the subject, www.thebabywearer.com is a fantastic resource.
I still wear my 28 lb son regularly! Tomorrow: Bedding Close to Baby
If you have a babywearing post you would like to share, please link up!

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Seven Baby B's: (2) Breastfeeding

Definitely one of my favorite subjects, the second Baby B is Breastfeeding. In case you haven’t read my blog before, this is a subject I am very passionate about and I could write a lot about. However, I won’t go into the many, many benefits of breast milk and breastfeeding for both mother and child, such as immune benefits, lower rates of allergies, diabetes, and obesity, etc., but will instead be focusing on how breastfeeding influences the mother-baby bond.
From a strictly biological point of view, the hormones that are released throughout the breastfeeding relationship, especially during actual nursing sessions, help the mother and baby feel more attached to each other.
But breastfeeding can do much more for the bond than 'just' the release of hormones! The frequent demand of infants to nurse makes the mothers stay close to their babies. During each nursing session, mother and child are in close physical contact, with at least some parts of their bodies being skin to skin. This physical closeness strengthens the bond and is (usually) highly enjoyable for both mother and child.
The breastfeeding relationship is one that has to gradually be established, just like any other relationship. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding uses an analogy that I just find perfectly suited: it’s like two people who are learning to dance. At first, the two people have to pay close attention to each other and learn the other’s cues and movements. After a while, things are able to go a little more smoothly, but both partners still have to be aware of what the other is doing so as not to step on any toes. Once the breastfeeding relationship is well established, it is smooth sailing and nursing sessions just happen without much thought having to be put in them. Breastfeeding your baby will help to get to know your baby and his/her needs, as well as help the baby to get to know you!
Of course, not everybody can or wants to breastfeed. That does not mean that your bond has to suffer. Always maintaining close physical contact while feeding the bottle will create much of the same close attachment. It can be particularly helpful to make sure that you get a lot of skin to skin time. Propping a bottle for the baby to self feed is not recommended.
I breastfed my daughter for 15 months, until my milk dried up due to my second pregnancy. I was very sad that our nursing relationship ended as soon as it did. I have been breastfeeding my son for almost 19 months and we are still going strong. I have no intention of weaning any time soon and hope to let him self-wean when he is ready.
Extended breastfeeding is definitely a great way to maintain the close relationship to your child. Toddlers become so busy with playing and exploring that there is little time in the day to be close to each other and snuggle. A breastfed toddler, however, will have at least a few moments in the day that are reserved just for him/her and the mother, in which they can reconnect and cuddle.
I cannot tell you how much I love breastfeeding! Tomorrow: Babywearing
 If you have a breastfeeding post that you would like to add, please link up!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Seven Baby B's: (1) Birth Bonding

The first of the seven Baby B’s focuses on the beginning of your baby’s life and of your parenting journey. The ways in which a mother (and, of course, father) and baby interact during the first few days and weeks of its life shape the foundation of their relationship. The better mother and child are able to bond after birth, the stronger their initial attachment will be.
However, this important bonding time should not be seen as a window of opportunity that can be missed for good, should circumstances not be favorable. There are so many situations in which the bonding process cannot begin directly after birth, such as medical complications for mother and/or baby, or even adoption, etc. Dr. Sears is very clear in saying that the bonding process can start at any time in a baby’s life, which he then calls “catch-up bonding”. The time immediately after birth is not an all-or-nothing bonding chance, but more of a time in which the parent-infant relationship can get a “headstart”.
As a birth doula, I am painfully aware of the many medical interventions- some necessary, most not- that can have a negative influence on the mother and baby after birth. Some mothers feel so detached from their babies after a traumatic birth experience that the bonding process is very slow starting.
Thankfully, it is never too late to get the bond stronger. Mothers can take a number of steps that will help them feel more connected to their baby and will make the mutual love grow stronger. The most simple and essential method is bodily contact, preferably skin to skin. A wonderful way to get mother and baby to bond is to have them spend an entire day together, just by themselves, snuggled up skin to skin (this is also wonderful for the breastfeeding relationship) The scent and physical touch work wonders! Mother and baby should spend as much time together as possible- after all, they are just getting to know each other. Babywearing (which I will be writing about in a few days) makes spending extra time together especially easy. And if all else fails, the mother can revert back to her primal instincts and try licking her baby.
I had an unpleasant birth experience with my first child. I can honestly say that I felt detached from her for the first few weeks, especially due to the extreme pain I experienced while breastfeeding her and from a tear that was overlooked and not treated. None of this was her fault, of course- I had no idea what I was doing, neither when I was giving birth nor when I was handling my baby. Looking back on things three years later, I wish I had known what I know now because I still feel guilty about the lack of a bond between us in the first few weeks. Some days, it seems as though I am still trying to catch up. R and I do not have a consistent connection and I frequently struggle to keep our attachment strong…
Even though my son was born via c-section, our bond was immediate. I knew what to do, I knew what babies were like, and things just fell into place for us, even though I was recovering from major surgery while also trying to care for my almost 20 month old. I feel very attached to my son and I have so far never feared that our connection may not be strong enough. Here’s hoping I can keep it that way!
Tomorrow: Breastfeeding! If you have a post about Birth Bonding, please link up!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Extremists AKA Attachment Parents

The latest cover of TIME magazine didn’t shock me. I was surprised that they devoted their number one story to Attachment Parenting, but it was not surprising that they would use such a provocative breastfeeding photo to do it. After all, a magazine’s main purpose is to make money (no, I don’t believe that they are more interested in real journalism and the greater good) and that photo definitely got everyone’s attention!
What has been surprising to me is the hatred that has been spewed in the direction of mothers who nurse their children beyond infancy and towards Attachment Parenting followers as a whole. Because I just had to see it, I recorded the episode of The View that featured Dr. Sears the other day. I just cannot get the whole train wreck of an interview out of my head. Most of the women there looked at that poor man as if he had suggested administering heroin to your babies! The utter disgust and disrespect on their faces made me hurt all over. Not to mention the fact that they hardly let him finish half a sentence.
Most of all, I remember Barbara Walters looking completely indignant, accusing Dr. Sears of making all working mothers feel guilty. Dr. Sears tried to explain that his ideas about parenting actually had nothing to do with whether a woman works or not- they can be practiced in any situation. And at the very end of the interview I finally realized what was behind all this animosity when Barbara exclaimed that it was making HER feel guilty. All the ‘ladies’ nastiness probably stemmed from their own parenting insecurities…
As a general response to all the bad press, putting down Attachment Parenting followers and their beliefs, I can only say: You’re all being ridiculous! Attachment Parenting has been made to look like this extremist form of parenting, this unattainable model of perfection, when all it is, in the tiniest of nutshells, is this: Responding to your baby’s needs.
Attachment Parenting is not something that has to be learned or studied. It is not a new idea. It is not radical or unusual and we are not extremists. Attachment Parenting is exactly what we would all do if we didn’t have the advice of family members, books and other media, pediatricians, OB/GYNs, countless other ‘professionals’, friends, neighbors, strangers at the grocery store, etc. If a woman were to end up on an island by herself, she would handle her baby exactly the way Attachment Parenting suggests- it is instinctive parenting that can be found in each and every one of us.
I didn’t start my parenting journey as an informed mother. I had no clue what I was doing. And the advice poured in from every angle possible, tearing me in opposite directions. Everyone knew best- after all, they had all done it before and been somewhat successful. Thankfully, I was given an Attachment Parenting book and immediately a light bulb went off in my head- Yes! This is it! This is what my inner most gut feeling has been telling me to do.
As soon as I had been enlightened, as soon as someone had given me the reassurance to listen to my inner voice, I knew that it was right. My baby knew what she wanted/needed from me and she was able to tell me beautifully. Finally, I was able to give her what she had been asking me for all along!
I am passionate about Attachment Parenting and all that it includes. However, I am not an extremist nor am I some sort of radical parent. I do what I feel is right, as does everyone else in the parenting world. I write about it a lot, but I never suggest that this is the right way for everyone, nor do I say that all other ways are wrong. I wish that respect and tolerance was given to parents like myself who have chosen a different way of doing things…
Therefore, in honor and support of Dr. Sears and his wonderful concept of Attachment Parenting, I will be writing a blog post every day for the next seven days, introducing you to the seven ‘B’s of the AP style of parenting. Just to clarify: this is not meant as some sort of criticism of other parenting styles, or a how-to guide, etc. I will just be writing about what the seven ‘B’s are and what they mean to me as a parent.
Tomorrow will be the first post- all about ‘Birth Bonding’. Fellow bloggers, won’t you join me? I will have a linky underneath my post for you to submit your own blog posts on the subject.
Let’s make it a carnival in celebration of Attachment Parenting!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Wordless Wednesday (Linky): Missing My Family

R with her uncle B, almost one year ago...

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Do Mommy Wars Exist IRL?

In light of the recent media hype surrounding the latest issue of TIME magazine and its provocative cover photo, I have been involved in many an online discussion. While I often have a hard time taking the ‘high-road’ and just letting things go that I read online, I am actually very different in real life. Which made me think: are there really mommy wars amongst mothers?
I spend way too much time on the Internet. My iPhone has been part of my demise and I have a serious addiction to social networking sites. If I’m not on FB, I’m checking out Twitter or finding something new and fun on Pinterest. This ‘social time’ I spend on various sites is now a big part of my life. I have really good friends that I know a lot about, but have never actually met in person.
After some reflection I have come to realize that I behave very differently online than I do in person. I am actually rather non-confrontational in real life- my husband and I rarely argue and I can count the number of times I have had a fight with any of my friends on two hands. However, when it comes to the Internet, I am involved in fights daily. If it’s not about parenting, it’s about politics, or religion, or anything, really. I am a very opinionated person and my opinions are often rather extreme, so I disagree with a lot of common view points.
The thing is, the arguments I have online actually weigh heavily on me as well. I am not able to just not care about certain things that people say (unlike my husband, who couldn’t care less…) This realization made me see that my life was a lot more peaceful before I spent all this time on social networking sites. It also brought me to the issue of mommy wars.
I have had one argument with a mother about a parenting choice that has resulted in us no longer being friends. Other than that, I am not aware that these mommy wars really exist. Of course we have disagreements and differing opinions, but most mothers I know would never stop being friends because their parenting styles are different.
In the mom-groups I have been a member of, I don’t recall there ever being a ‘mommy war’. Sure, there were ladies who didn’t get along, but that had nothing specifically to do with their parenting. Not everyone gets along. Not everyone has to be friends. That applies to mothers as well as any other human being.
And so I have come to the conclusion that mommy wars actually are something the media has made up. We may quarrel online with strangers and judge them, but in real life we widely manage to get along, regardless of whether we breastfeed or formula feed, work or stay at home, cosleep or sleep separately, etc. The women I knew before I had children are still my friends, even though their parenting styles are a lot different than my own.

Have you ever experienced mommy wars?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Prepare to Get Offended

I’m sick of people being offended by everything. You can’t use foul language, you can’t talk about sex, you can’t breastfeed in public, you can’t talk about religion, etc. all because SOMEBODY might get offended. Here’s a newsflash, people: If you’re alive, you’re going to be offended by things. Just get the fuck over it!
Please don’t think I’m referring to insults, direct attacks, inappropriate actions, racism, sexism, etc. This is not about political correctness. This is about people demanding to never feel a little uncomfortable.
The truth is that we are all in charge of our own feelings. If something offends you even though it has nothing in the slightest to do with you, e.g. seeing a woman breastfeed her child in public, then that is not her problem, it is yours! You are the one who has the negative feelings and you are the one who has to deal with them.
Don’t think that because of your own discomfort about something that things need to change to make you more comfortable. That’s not how the world works! And while there are many human rights protected by various laws and regulations, a personal right to remain unoffended is not one of them. Do you know why? Because there are people who are offended by every single thing under the sun- skinny people, fat people, blonde people, dark haired people, body hair, perfume, make-up, clothing styles, … The list is endless.
Therefore, the only thing to do is to put on your big girl/boy panties and GET OVER IT! If you don’t like looking at something, don’t look. If you don’t like smelling something, leave the room. It is nobody else’s responsibility but your own to ensure your comfort. Maybe if you educate yourself on things that make you uncomfortable you could lessen your own negative feelings.
I, for one, am done with it. If my blog offends you, don’t read it. If my words make you feel uncomfortable, you might want to look inside yourself to see why that is the case. And if you don’t want to see me nursing my child, go look somewhere else! While there is no law to protect you, there are plenty of laws to protect me and my nursing child. After all, eating is a basic human right. Spending your life in a state of never feeling offended is not.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Andy's Corner: Is It All in Vain?

My husband is not a man who is fond of communication. So I was really surprised when he sent me a Word document and told me that he had a guest post for my blog! My husband is an amazing man and I am very lucky to have him- we will be celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary tomorrow. Please leave a comment and let him know what you think.

I am not a writer, this will become more obvious as you continue to read, but something happened the other day that made me question something and I needed to write about it in order to get it off of my chest. Before I get into the event that encouraged me to write this let me tell you a little bit about myself. I joined the Army when I was 17 and I am due to retire after 20 years of service this September. The job that I performed in the Army is that of an Infantryman. I have served in every leadership position from Infantry Team Leader up to Company First Sergeant. In case you do not know, the Infantry is an all-male force, most of whom are very conservative people. I am not one of those conservative people, not even close. I guess you could say I am an outlier, an observation that is numerically distant from the rest of the data.

 When the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was being debated I supported it because I feel that it is no one’s business what anyone does in their own bedroom. I believe in God, but I do not agree with organized religion, the reason why will become clear as you continue reading. I have served in a combat zone and I have had a Soldier that was under my charge not return home with the rest of us. That Soldier was truly one of the greatest people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. He was not even supposed to be in the Army when he was killed. He was a stop-loss Soldier, basically someone who was not allowed to leave the Army because the unit he was in was supposed to deploy. When he died he left behind a three year old son whom he loved dearly. I tell you about him because of something that happened Tuesday May 8th, 2012 and it makes me wonder: Did he die in vain? It is the passing of Amendment One to the Constitution of the state of North Carolina, the state where I grew up. People ask me why I do not want to live in the south when I retire, even though I grew up there, this is one of the major reasons. Not the Amendment itself, but the mentality that it is ok for me to deny other people their rights because my religion says so.

I have always been a very tolerant person and not super conservative like some members of my family. I believe that every American, regardless of sex, age, skin color, height, weight, or sexual orientation, should have the same rights. Obviously the people of North Carolina do not agree with my point of view, which is fine. I think that the world would be a very boring place if everyone thought the same way, but when a group of people force their religious beliefs on every member of a state I just cannot understand it. The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America states “…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Does this new amendment not do the exact opposite of this oft quoted line of the Declaration of Independence? Did my Soldier die so that one group of people could force their religious beliefs on another group of people that denies them their unalienable rights? I think that he did not die so that this could happen. I think that as long as there are people out there who will fight for everyone’s rights then he did not die in vain. The United States prides itself on having a separation of church and state; this is obviously not the case. I hope that one day every American will have the same rights. I am sure that it will happen one day. When? I do not know. But I know that as long as people are still fighting for equal rights for everyone then my Soldier, and every other Soldier who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country, did not die in vain.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Wordless Wednesday (Linky): Photo Workshop

I participated in a beginner's photo workshop last weekend and it was such an eye-opener! The following images were all shot manually and the rose was even photographed as a raw file, then worked on.

I know, it's nothing super impressive, but it's a start. Happy Wednesday!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Let's Go Back to the Start

Do you ever feel as though you would like to do certain parts of your life over again? I actually usually don’t. I have made a lot of mistakes in my life, but most of them I have embraced as a part of me. However, there are a few regrets that I have that weigh heavily on me. They sneak up on me when I’m least expecting it and tug at me, trying to pull me down.
I belonged to a group of friends back home that used to hang out together all the time. As the years went on, I separated from them a bit, but they always stayed my friends. One of these friends was a boy named O. He was tall, had longer dark hair, and wore glasses sometimes. He liked to talk a lot. Everyone was slightly envious of him because he had managed to get into a great school, get a really high GPA and continue his education at law school. He liked to sing. He was really great with computers and electronics. He liked getting drunk, but not noticeably more than any of the others. He was intelligent and sometimes a bit of a know-it-all.
One morning in August of 2003 I awoke to the sound of the phone ringing. I had a bad feeling about the call, though I don’t know why. My friend left me a message. She sounded terribly upset, telling me that something was wrong with O. I was so scared to call her back that I got dressed, walked the dog, and didn’t call her back till I was at my parents’ house where I wasn’t alone. My father thought I was being ridiculous. I was told that O had killed himself.
A few days prior he had called me. We chatted for a long time, which was really unusual. We were good friends, but didn’t have the kind of relationship that involved long phone conversations. He was really super nice and sensitive that day. He wanted to know exactly how I was doing and listened to me complain about my life. I had left my then husband over a year prior, but I was still an utter mess. O listened to me patiently and gave me advice, both emotionally and regarding the upcoming divorce. After all, he was almost a lawyer…
After receiving the news, the few pieces that were holding me together fell apart. I remember exactly how devastated I was. I never raised the shutters in my apartment that day. I got extremely drunk.
Our group of friends was left with the question that many people are left with after a suicide: WHY??? However, the pieces came together very quickly for us. O had made his entire life up. It wasn’t true, it wasn’t real. He never graduated high school. The great school he claimed to have graduated from had never had him as a student. There was no law school, none of it was true. In the end, the man without an education or job perspectives had gone bankrupt, was being evicted from his apartment and had no other place to go than suicide.
We were so confused, so upset. Who was this person who had been our childhood friend? Who was this man who had grown up on the same street as the other men in the group? How did he lie like this and why? Unfortunately, almost nine years later, I still don’t have any answers. I still have no idea how nobody ever caught him in one of the lies. How he was able to lead us on for so many years. How, even when he was completely wasted, out of his mind drunk, he didn’t tell a soul.
I was angry. I was so very, very sad. But more than that, I was livid. How could he do this to himself and to us? Over something that was so ridiculous! Nobody cared about his stupid GPA or what school he went to or what his profession was. All he would have had to do was say the word and we would have helped him- we would have given him everything we had if he had just given us the chance. Instead, he saw no other way than to leave the world. What a waste.
His funeral was relatively small. It was so hot- a sweltering day in August. Wearing black was torture. The whole day was torture. His family didn’t have any money, so he was in the plainest coffin there was. Sitting in the funeral hall, I just couldn’t believe that this huge man could fit into that small box. We all cried. We held each other. We sat by the newly covered grave and exchanged stories. We tried to put the confusing puzzle pieces together.
That day I had received the phone call from him was the last day he lived. He called each of us to say good-bye, us having had no idea that that’s what he was doing. That evening, he went down into the basement of his mother’s apartment complex and took as many prescription pills as he could in record time. I believe he took over 100, though I cannot recall the exact number. I do remember how the medical examiner was impressed. O had taken the pills so fast that his body didn’t even attempt to vomit anything up, it just stopped functioning. He was determined and got the job done. He was found a few days later.
Still, I am left with the ‘if’s. What if our phone conversation had gone differently? Was there something- anything- I could have said to change his mind? What if he had trusted me more? If only he had said something or even hinted at something. If only one of us had been more persistent and gone to class with him one day. If only everything had been different.
I am also left with many memories. He gave the biggest hugs, like I imagine a bear would. He used to tell me that I sounded too throaty when I sang (which made me angry, of course) He could be a pain to have around sometimes. He could be so great to have around sometimes. One year he spent Christmas Eve with me and my family. We went to church together, he had dinner at our house. My parents loved him because he was so well mannered and a great conversationalist. Such an intelligent young man.
I used to go to his grave at least once a week. The family couldn’t pay for a tomb stone, so our group of friends got together and bought one. Going there helped me get over the anger, but the sadness and questions remained.
Life is like that. We don’t get to do things over. The day I heard about his death, Coldplay’s song ‘The Scientist’ was playing. It was the perfect song for that day and I played it over and over. Any time it comes on the radio or my iPod the memories all come back. It is his song now. Even after almost nine years, I remember it all as if it were yesterday.

Nobody said it was easy
Oh, it’s such a shame for us to part
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be so hard
I’m going back to the start

Excerpt from ‘The Scientist’ by Coldplay

Thursday, May 3, 2012

My Poopy Job

Some days, I really feel as though my life revolves around excrement just a little too much. I understand that every creature has to poop, but I really wish they could do it somewhere where I am not present and where I am not responsible for cleaning it up.
We have two children in diapers, two dogs, and two cats. You can imagine what this means for me. My day usually starts out cleaning the litter box. On a good day, they have done all their business in the box. On a not-so-good day, I look in the bathtub and find that they have pooped in there, just for the fun of it. My dogs are not much better. They poop all over the yard and we have to go out in the heat and pick up the stinky piles. My stupid dog Amy sometimes starts running away with poop still stuck to her, then sits in it or steps in it or does something else fun to make herself disgustingly messy and my day miserable.
As the day goes on, my children usually take care of their stinkies. R is in disposable diapers (she refuses to wear cloth- so fun…) so it’s mostly relatively easy to change her. However, I always somehow end up with poop on my hand… E is in cloth diapers. Most days, the diaper changes are even easier than with R and I don’t mind them at all. But on very rare and special occasions, the mess is a little harder to deal with and I have to get creative. Let’s just say that I spent the last ten minutes with my hand in the toilet, swishing a diaper around…
I should really be used to it by now. I feel like I shouldn’t even mind anymore. But I do! I really, really do! Though I much prefer poop to certain other bodily excretions, e.g. vomit, I would much rather not have to deal with it anymore. It’s not what I thought I was signing up for. 
I’m a bit of a germaphobe. And sometimes, when there is poop coming out of the top of one of the children’s diaper and it’s on their clothes and on the floor and on their hands and on the toy they just touched and on my hands and just everywhere, I have a little anxiety attack and feel like crying. Not sure if this is normal, but it happens to me occasionally.
Thankfully, then there are days where you just have to laugh about it. Like when my daughter was a baby and I gave her some prunes to help her digestion. She was playing happily in her Excersaucer when I looked over and saw something running down her legs. At first, I didn’t even understand what it was. When I did, I just had to take a picture and have a good laugh

If you like laughing at stories about poop, check out this fabulously funny page: http://nakedpoop.com/