Monday, November 22, 2010

Pulling My Hair Out... Literally

Last week I noticed Fiona scratching her head. I took note, but tried not to worry about it too much. Then, the very next day I noticed her scratching her head again. I had a feeling of dread. That same feeling of dread that I have had before that some minor health issue was going to keep Fiona out of school and me out of work. And then I feel guilty because my daughter has a health issue and my bigger concern is that I'm missing work. But if the health issue was serious, of course my biggest concern would be my daughter. As a working parent, my biggest beef is that daycares keep kids home for every minor ailment - but that is a topic for another blog.

For now, let's redirect to the original topic, my daughter's scratching. A part of me almost wanted to keep it to myself, but I decided to do the right thing. When I dropped her off last Thursday I mentioned to the teacher that Fiona was scratching her head. The teacher didn't seem too concerned and told me they would check her. I hadn't even made it to work when my cell phone rang. I picked it up and got the horrifying news:

My daughter had head lice... Ick... Head lice... Ick...

When I was in school there was a stigma with head lice. Only the dirty kids got head lice... or so I thought. And truthfully, while I keep my kid's bodies and clothes clean, and I do clean their bed sheets frequently, honestly out of necessity because both of them, even Fiona at 3 1/2, make frequent messes in their sheets, the rest of my house is not all that clean. I am lucky if I manage to vacuum once every couple of weeks - and most people would be horrified that I let my 8 month old roll around on our carpet. But I'm keeping it real. Knowing about my aversion to vacuuming, I had to ask the teacher,

"Is there anything I could have done to prevent this?" Really, I didn't think I would have to deal with head lice until my kids got to the public school. I didn't think 3 1/2 year-olds got head lice.

"Lice doesn't mean she's dirty or anything," the teacher reassured me, "Lice is spread through head to head contact."

I was somewhat relieved, but still had the mortifying task of calling my boss to explain that I would miss work because of Fiona's head lice of all things.

To be continued...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

From the Mouth of My Babe...

My daughter has inherited my perfectionist tendencies. Yesterday, she announced, "I am going to draw a picture of me and Gianna Trick or Treating. Can I have some paper?"

I gave her the paper and she got to work.

A few minutes later, I heard, "Gianna doesn't look right. Can I have another piece of paper, please?"

As I handed her the paper, I thought, Of course Gianna doesn't look right. You're three. Your people look like Terrance and Philip from South Park, which is good for a three year old, but not exactly true to life.

I just get a kick out of some of the things that come out of that kid's mouth.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Former Fashionista

Fiona picked this out herself in the store.
 Yet another confession: pre-kids I loved fashion. I do not know if I would be considered a fashionista, but I enjoyed going to the outlets on the weekends, usually by myself so that my friends' style wouldn't influence mine, and picking up the latest deals. In my 20's for the first time I had the ability to go to the store on my own when I wanted, and if I didn't see anything I liked, I didn't buy, knowing that I would be back another time. For the first time I had a respectable wardrobe, and I loved to accessorize.

When I was a teenager, I didn't have the best style, mostly because I had to pick out clothes when my Mom had the time and money to bring me to the store and I had to pick what was there, even if I didn't really love the selection, and had to settle for something that I didn't hate. I had to settle because I didn't know when my Mom would bring me back to the store. My Mom's style, while respectable for her age, was not appropriate for me, and she ended up influencing me and I also fell victim to the many trends of the time-remember penny loafers?

Now I'm almost back in the same place because I find I don't have a lot of "me time" to go off to the store and shop. The few times I did shop in the last 3 years, it was usually a family affair with the hubs influencing my style this time, and I always felt rushed. My wardrobe has slowly deteriorated to the point where I wouldn't be surprised if one of my friends nominated me for "What Not To Wear." I probably wouldn't be picked however, because I wouldn't challenge Clinton and Stacy's advice. Unlike the typical contestant who seems to challenge the hosts, I would say, "Sure do what you gotta do." Clinton and Stacy clearly look better than me, and I can't understand why the slutty / unkempt contestants can't accept Clinton and Stacy are the experts. I would be too agreeable, making for very boring TV.

All the energy I put into dressing myself is now directed towards my 3 year old. For some reason, it seems easier to dress her because she gets cute clothes as gifts from relatives, and young kids can get away with wearing stuff, such as crazy tights, that I cannot get away with anymore since I have, ahem, hit an age where such things look ridiculous aren't appropriate.

There are limitations, however. First of all, she is [gasp] getting a mind of her own, and I know I should encourage that, but it reminds me that I won't be able to dress her like my little doll forever. Second of all, there aren't many practical places where I can dress her in her cutest outfits. At school, for safety reasons, she must wear leggings or shorts under skirts and cannot wear sandals, crocks, or any open toe shoe. She can't wear a lot of jewelry either. I have invested in leggings, sneakers, and Mary Jane's.

I always said when I had kids I wouldn't become one of those Moms on the make-over shows who had let their look go in favor of making their kids look cute. I did what I said I would never do and have adopted the "Mom look." But what's a time-strapped (and cash-strapped) Mom to do?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Grocery Shopping Like A Champ

Alright, here's a confession: I am what Coupon Mom would call a "rookie shopper," meaning I manage to combine coupons and sales to save around 30-50% on my grocery bills, but I have yet to reach the level of a "professional shopper" who can save 80-90% on grocery bills:

She makes it look so easy, doesn't she?

I think I need to get around to doing the following to reach this level of savings:
1. Create my price list
2. Get my hands on multiple copies of coupons
3. Get a better organizational system for my coupons - currently the circulars from my Sunday papers are stashed in a draw of my computer desk in no particular order, causing me to spend triple the time to find coupons.

However, what I really want to emphasis here is while it may be difficult to reach the 80-90% savings level of professional shoppers, the ones who create their own money saving blogs such as Money Saving Mom (my favorite), avoiding full retail price is really not all that difficult. I would say, with the exception of certain items like produce, anyone who pays full price is either: A. Independently Wealthy or B. Lazy.

Even if you are too busy to scout for coupons and promotions, you can pick-up the store circular at the front of the grocery store before shopping, and find something you could use on sale. You just need to be open minded about brands, and maybe decide you will eat chicken on sales this week instead of the beef you had planned.

Today I got $106.43 worth of groceries for $48.02 after a 7% sales tax at my local Big Y. While the 55% savings doesn't qualify me to write my own money saving blog, I am pretty satisfied with that. I got a grocery cart full of goodies.

Some of my favorite deals include the 99 cent Gold Medal Flower. I got 2 bags, which was the limit. I also got a dozen eggs for 99 cents - sweet. While I don't have a price list committed to paper, I do remember the price for some items, and I have a buy price-point that I rarely go over. For example, I know I can get a dozen eggs for $1.50 at BJ's. I have to buy 2 dozen, and I have no problem with that since Rob eats a lot of eggs. Since I don't like to stock up too much on eggs that are perishable, and the $1.50 price is constant, not dependant on some sale cycle I must follow, I consider that reasonable, but when I see eggs for cheaper than $1.50, I jump on the deal. I don't expect to always get eggs at 99 cents. I just haven't figured out how to do that.

I was also very excited to see 3 store coupons in my Big Y circular that allowed me to double any manufacturer's coupons that was valued at a $1 (no more or no less). In other parts of the country, doubling coupons over 99 cents might be commonplace, but where I live, most grocery stores will only double up to 99 cents. Luckily all of my coupons were for a $1. Basically, I considered these coupons $1 off store coupons. I was able to use all 3 of them, which was the limit.

I saved $8 in coupons. I know I could do better, but Rob was proud of me.

All in all, this week was actually an expensive grocery week for us. We went to CVS, BJ's and Big Y. I spent approximately $6 at CVS, and I am mad that I lost the receipt because it had $2 in Extra Care Bucks. At CVS I got 2 boxes of Quaker Chewy granola bars (mfg coupon + sale + ECB), 2 small bottles of  Xtra Laundry detergent (store coupon + sale), and 3 greeting cards I paid full price on (I needed to get them - can't skip out on Mom's birthday). I used $10 in ECB to help pay for the purchase.

At BJ's Rob spent approximately $106. He got our milk for the next 2 weeks there, which is a staple we usually get at BJ's, along with eggs. My max buy price for milk is $2.06 a gallon. When I saw milk for 98 cents a half-gallon with a silver coin at Big Y last week, I jumped on that. He also got bananas at 49 cents a pound. I know professional shoppers can get them at 18 cents a pound, but I haven't figured out how to do that, and 49 cents a pound is my max price for bananas. He did go off the list when he picked up Dove for Men.

I don't mind that he did that, I just wish he would have told me he planned to buy the Dove for Men because we have coupons. I discovered I could get free samples for many things, one of them being Dove for Men, and now Rob's hooked. I guess that's why the manufactures give out the samples. Congratulations Dove - your ploy worked on us. That's OK. The hubs deserves his little luxuries now and then.

The total for the week was $160. That amount used to be typical for us, but now we typically spend about $80 a week - that includes diapers, toiletries, and paper products. But our pantry and freezer needed replenishing. Next week we will only buy about $10 of produce at our local produce store, and pick up some bread, hopefully for no more than $1.50 a loaf at our local Freihofer's outlet.

Paul is getting really low on diapers, but I do have an emergency box in the next size I could break into (there were none left at CVS in his current size when I got those diapers on sale). It seems the diaper deals at CVS are slowing down. I thought I could ride that gravy train forever. Now I may have to settle for Wal-Mart brand.

There is a promotion at Babies R Us on Pampers and I have coupons. I might do that, but it is one of those deals where you buy 2 value boxes of diapers or a value box of diapers + a value box of wipes and you get a $15 gift card. The good news is I can turn around and use the $15 gift card on some Carter's sale items for friends who are soon expecting babies. The bad news is the sale flyer doesn't say how much the value box of Pampers costs at Babies R Us. I suspect the price is inflated. I hate that. I will see sales for buy 1 get 1, but how can I plan my spending when I don't know how much the one item costs?

Oh well, I can't complain. We are spending much less on groceries than we used to, and I'm learning along the way.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Perfect Name Will Find Your Baby - Continued

I had been away for the Labor Day weekend, and then I got sick, but as promised now that I'm back, I'm going to pick up on the story behind my son's name.

Had Fiona been a boy, she would have been named Max for Maxwell. That was the name I mentally filed away for a future son when I was a teenager. You know, I liked Max, mostly because I knew a cute boy at school named Max, back when it was edgy and sporty, but I was never completely satisfied with Max like I was with Felicity, the name I filed away for a future daughter. Within the context of the newest generation of kids, Max never felt quite edgy enough for me. But truthfully I wasn't as excited about picking a boy's name and I figured if my son's name was somewhat mainstream that was OK.

Unlike Felicity however, my hubs just loved Max. I didn't like how Max went with our last name that also begins with an M. But Rob really loved it, and when I was pregnant with Fiona, Rob was convinced she was a boy and was already thinking of her as "Max" so the discussion was ended, Max she would be, until we found out she was a she.

When I got pregnant for the second time, I was long over Max. I had discovered between all the boys named Maxwell, Maximilian, Maximus who went by Max combined with all the boy who were just named Max, that equaled a lot of Max's. I said I didn't care if my son's name was somewhat mainstream, but somewhat mainstream is not the same as completely mainstream, and Max had become completely mainstream. And then there's the alliteration with my last name. Surprisingly Rob was OK with abandoning Max, especially when I told him I didn't like the alliteration. I knew not to bring up the popularity argument because that didn't matter to Rob. If anything, the popularity probably would have convinced Rob to stick with the name.

When Fiona was about a year old, I discovered the name Linus. This was it. I had the eureka moment I had with Felicity. For the first time, I found a boy's name that truly inspired me. But did Linus inspire Rob? At this point, if you read the story behind Fiona's name (and you are still with me), you probably can guess the answer to that question. Here's our conversation we had while I was pregnant with Paul with me trying in vain to convince Rob to go with Linus:

Rob: Linus? Are you serious? He's Charlie Brown's friend with the blanket.

Me: Linus is a classic in Sweden.

Rob: We don't live in Sweden.

Me: Linus is also a Greek god, who was Apollo's son. He was a gifted musician who taught music to the gods.

Rob: Do you really think our son is going to walk around bragging about being named after some Greek god!?!?!?!

Rob's stubbornness was true to form. I didn't expect Rob to like Linus but I was very surprised that he vetoed all of my other suggestions: Louis, Stuart, Oscar, Calvin. Rob didn't like any of them. I thought he would at least go along with Louis, Stuart or Calvin. I wasn't surprised that he didn't like Oscar. I didn't seriously consider my second favorite boy's name, Hugh, because it sounds very British and I don't like it with our very Italian last name. I asked him for suggestions and the only name he could come up with was Samuel. Samuel was not only way too popular, but Sam, which I find ugly with our last name because the M's would run together, was unavoidable IMO.

Paul is a name that is on a lot of birth certificates in my family but no one ever used it. My Great Grandfather was Raymond Paul, my Grandfather is Paul Donald, but he was supposed to be Donald Paul and goes by Don or P. Donald on formal documents (long story), and my brother is Anthony Paul. 

As a kid, Paul is one of those names I would have written off as boring, but over the last couple of years I began to think about Paul. I wondered why it was always a middle name in my family and never seen as good enough for a first name. I thought how my brother's name would be more interesting if it was reversed: Paul Anthony. I thought of all of the great Paul namesakes through history, Paul Revere, Paul McCartney, Paul Newman, and to a lesser extent, but as a modern (and gorgeous) example, Paul Walker. All of the famous Paul's seemed to be decent, handsome men.

Being a big-time name fanatic I started to realize that the trend was towards more exotic names, and suddenly white bread names like John, Mark, Peter, and Paul, my generation's parents' and grandparents' names, begun to stand out. I found myself suggesting Paul to certain parents on name blogs (the ones who liked names like Joeseph, Benjamin, and Jack, but couldn't use them for whatever reason), but I don't think any one ever took my suggestion.

Basically while it started off near the bottom of my list, as a name I would have loved to see on more modern babies, but not a name I considered seriously for one of my own, Paul became our front-runner. Rob wasn't excited about it, but he agreed to it due to the family connections. We always though our son's middle name would be Rob's middle name, which happens to be my Father-in-Law's middle name, James. That way both of our children would be the third generation heir to their middle names. But I wanted to avoid PJ like the plague, and we ended up using Robert for the middle name, which is not only my husband's name, but was his Great Grandfather's name. Somehow I managed to name both of my children after both sides of the family while still giving them their own unique first name within the family. (Fiona's middle name is not only my middle name and my Mom's middle name, but my sister-in-law's first name.)

I'll be honest. I wasn't excited to put Paul Robert on the birth announcement, but the solid manly classic grows on me more each day. And while Fiona has been, admittedly, a little disappointing in it's uniqueness, I have yet to run into another Paul under the age of 5. While anecdotal, I was convinced of Paul's relative uniqueness, when I was at a party and a 7 or 8 year-old girl ask me my son's name. When I said, Paul, she smiled and said, "That's different. I like that."

More importantly, my son was named for both sides of my family. When I was in the hospital, shortly after giving birth to Paul, my Grandmother said, "Thank you." And I couldn't figure out why she was thanking me except for maybe giving them a great grandson. Seeing what must have been my puzzled expression, she said, "For the name. Thank you for the name."

In conclusion, nether one of my kids got my first choice name, and that's a good thing.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Perfect Name Will Find Your Baby

Perhaps naming my kids was a bit of an ego trip for me. I admit it. I had to keep reminding myself that my kids are human beings, not fashion accessories. But why not have some fun naming your kids as long as you don't straddle your kids with a name that's difficult to bear? What's considered "difficult to bear" varies from person to person of course.

As for me, my tastes are mildly fanciful, maybe a bit of what some baby name "experts" call, "hipster." I will say that neither of my kids got my first choice name. My hubs hates most of my names, and has toned down my "craziness" a bit. Maybe my kids will thank him or in 15 years they'll tell him, "Hey Dad, why did you have to rain on Mom's naming parade? I could have had a cool name."

In an ideal world I would have five kids named: Felicity, Sylvie, Ione, Linus and Hugh.  I also really love Cecily, but feel it is too similar to both Felicity and Sylvie to be in the same sibling set. There's my little make-believe family with perfectly harmonious, fashion-forward names. But with me real-life rarely imitates my fantasy.

Felicity was the name I mentally filed away as a teenager for my hypothetical future daughter. I was hesitant to initially commit to it (in my someday future) because I knew a girl in high school named Felicity. But then at graduation I learned she had my same middle name, the middle name I hoped to pass on to my future daughter. I had a eureka moment! Someone thought Felicity flowed well enough with my middle name. Plus, I realized by the time I had a daughter, many years would go by without any contact with this Felicity from high school. I got a little nervous when the show Felicity hit the air, concerned the name would get trendy. But that never happened! I became more convinced Felicity was the name for my daughter!

Until... I mentioned Felicity to Rob before I even became pregnant. I'm not even sure we were married yet when I told him our daughter would be Felicity. His reaction was, "Yuck. Oh no she won't..." I considered holding my ground and then I said Felicity with our 12-letter, 5-syllable last name and began to think maybe Felicity wasn't the name of our daughter. Oh sad day... People suggested Felicia and Felice as alternatives, but they weren't the same. The "Fel" part of the name wasn't what appealed to me, but rather the rhythm of the "icity" part.

We named our daughter Fiona which was very loosely inspired by Felicity. I was surprised Rob agreed to it and I'm not sure he would have if he hadn't known a real-life Fiona when he was a kid, back when the name was truly rare. I picked Fiona thinking I was picking something artsy and exotic, but still wearable for a little girl or a grown woman. After I picked the name, I started hearing it everywhere and was a little concerned it might be an up-and-coming name.

I realize there are more important things to worry about than the fear that you may have inadvertently named your daughter the next Jennifer, but I'm weird like that. I have resigned myself to the fact that my daughter's name is only 5-10 years ahead of its time instead of 20-30 years ahead of its time. Yes, I really am a name snob. I would love to be a 35 year old Ava, but a 5 year old Ava? Not so much. I have to keep reminding myself that Fiona is not me and probably won't care whether or not her name is exciting. She seems to like her name. Fiona also goes well enough with my middle name and our last name. At least my daughter got my middle name which is also my Mom's middle name. And my own Mom said she likes the name Felicity, but Fiona doesn't look like a Felicity, she looks like a Fiona.

I was going to go on and tell the story behind Paul's name, but saw that this post was getting on the longish side. When it comes to names, I can get diarrhea of the keyboard. But my point is that while Fiona may not be my dream name, I have no doubts Fiona was the name meant for my daughter. Naming my daughter didn't have anything at all to do with me, and everything to do with my daughter. The perfect name had found my baby!

I will continue to share the story behind Paul's name in the next post, because it is half-written, and the story behind his name is equally, and maybe even more amusing. The conclusion to Paul's naming story is basically the same: The perfect name had found my baby again, even though it wasn't my first choice. Until next time...

Monday, August 30, 2010

Blogging Out Loud

I have been considering taking my blogging hobby to the next step, like so many others out there. I like to blog, and maybe if I could capitalize on it I would feel a little less guilty spending a couple of hours in front of the computer instead of cleaning my house or playing with my kids.

I like to write, and if I do it often enough, I figure I will become respectable at it. Due to my job I have some knowledge of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), although admittedly I don't have a lot of hands-on SEO experience. However, I'm fascinated by the topic. I also have some web design experience due to the 2 years I did free-lance web design prior to getting hired by my current employer.

Somethings holding me back however. Primarily I'm concerned about my level of commitment. I have become better at updating this blog recently, but I still find devoting time to update it every day very difficult. If I am going to monetize a blog, I know I must update it daily, Monday - Sunday.

Secondly, I am concerned about finding a niche. I don't expect to make money off of this blog because it really isn't that focused. I also feel I must purchase my own hosting, hire a designer instead of using the free blogger software if I am to be taken seriously. However, this particular blog seems to break the specific niche rule. When I go to this blog, Scoutie Girl, my first question was, "Is this about 'Living Outside the Box,' 'Creative Living,' or 'Mindful Spending'?" My second question was, "How do all three of those topics relate enough to belong in one blog?" and my last question was, "How does she sell such a broad blog to her advertisers?"

And there is one more concern that actually ties for number one along with my fear of commitment: the low earning potential. I was very disappointed to learn that many bloggers make only about $100-300 a month. That doesn't seem like much for the 2-6 hours most of these bloggers claim to spend on their blogs every day. If the minimum time commitment (62 hours a month) is divided into the maximum return ($300) it works out to less than minimum wage ($4.84 an hour). I don't expect to get rich quick, but as much as I love blogging, those earnings don't exactly inspire. If I'm going to have my own business, I want to at least be able to make a living if my family should lose my husband's income.

And then I started to reassess my objections, and realized something. The blogger that breaks the rules, Scoutie Girl, seems to make more than the bloggers at this blog. At least based on what the owner of Scoutie Girl, Tara Gentile, claims.

This is when I realized I mustn't let my objections stop me but rather prepare me. What makes Tara Gentile different from other bloggers?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

For the Older Kids - Part 2 in a Series

A selection of movies, books, and other cultural events I, as a Mom, recommend for the 10+ crowd.
This image is from
Since Fiona already had quite a few age appropriate books, I suggested to friends and relatives who wished to buy her books for birthdays / holidays to buy older kids' books to save for later. I don't like to limit kids to suggested ages anyway, as long as safety is not an issue. This prompted my Mom and Dad to buy The Story of the Orchestra, by Robert Levine. The book is divided into two main parts. The first part goes over the composers and eras in classical music from the Baroque Period to the Modern Era and the second part reviews the instruments in each section of the orchestra.

I can't claim to be an expert on child development, but this book appears to be written for the 8-12 crowd, however, I feel the book can be adapted to any age. I read the captions on the pictures to my 3 year old. She can already name many of the instruments. Plus the book comes with a CD, and there are places in the book that indicate which track to play, which is appropriate for any age. Even as an adult, I enjoyed this book. I'll admit, while I was in the high school band, through this book I learned a lot I hadn't known before or remembered a bunch of stuff I had forgotten.

Music appreciation is so important for children. One hope I have for my children is that they both at least try to learn an instrument. Hopefully this book will inspire them. I have found many former high school band mates through Facebook, and all of them are productive, happy members of society, and I attribute both to active participation in a music program. This book would make a nice addition to any family's library.

Nursing Musing - Part 1

When I started nursing my first child 3.5 years ago, I hated it. Now I dread the day I wean my youngest. What began as simply a way to feed my baby is now one of my proudest accomplishments. Here is my journey.

According to my paternal Grandmother, her pediatrician actually discouraged her from nursing. My Dad dined on a concoction of evaporated milk, water, and Karo Syrup as a baby.

When I was born, my Mom attempted to nurse me at a time when moms weren't encouraged to nurse. Unfortunately, I was born a month premature, was tongue-tied and couldn't suck. Desperate to get food in me, my Mom fed me with an eye dropper. By the time the problem was discovered and fixed, my Mom's milk dried up. Frustrated with the experience, she didn't attempt to nurse my younger brothers. And I probably would have made the same decision if I had that experience at that time.

Growing up in the 80's/90's I remember a massive public service campaign, I guess on TV, on the benefits of nursing babies. Breast is Best, was the slogan. As a teen, without hesitation, I thought I would nurse my children if I had any. And then I went about my business, and didn't really think about it much anymore.

When I became pregnant with my first child, one of the first questions I was asked was if I wanted to "breast or bottle feed" my baby. I was surprised to realize in the whirlwind of coming to terms with the fact I was really pregnant, I hadn't really thought about it.

Since "breast is best," I decided to try nursing. Being the researcher I am, I did what I do best, and read up on nursing. What I gathered was ensuring a milk supply was all about the proper latch as determined by how the baby was positioned at the breast. Suddenly, I became nervous about achieving this proper latch.

My high school and college days were relived as I dutifully memorized the 4 different holds: 1. cradle, 2. cross-over, 3. football, and 4. side-laying hold. One of my nursing books used these 4 terms to describe the different holds, complete with illustrations. I went through the motions with a doll. Imagine my frustration when a few pages into the same book, the author referred to something called the "cuddle hold." I went back to the pages describing the 4 holds and thought, "Wait a minute. There's no cuddle hold. What's this about a cuddle hold?" I was tempted to throw the book in the trash and probably should have.

When it came time to nurse my first baby, my initial problems stemmed from late milk production, probably due to my difficult labor and subsequent emergency c-section. My milk didn’t come in until the 5th day. Seeing my daughter, who entered this world at 9 lbs; get below 8, broke my heart. She hit the 10% weight loss mark and I had to supplement with formula. One thing I should get out of the way: formula is not the devil. There... that's better... moving on. My books did somewhat prepare me for late-milk and I was careful to only give formula after a complete nursing session, and give no more than the 1 oz. my pediatrician recommended. After a day or two of formula supplementing, my milk came in, and my daughter started gaining steadily, regaining her birth weight right on time. I stopped the formula supplementing, but my challenges weren’t over.

None of my books could prepare me for how much time nursing would take. And my daughter was a slow nurser, taking 20 minutes on each side and sometimes needing to nurse every 90 minutes, from the beginning of one session to the next. I would nurse her; change her and 15-20 minutes later need to start the process all over again. I remembered a friend, whose children are slightly older than mine, who stopped nursing after a few weeks; explain that she got tired of her baby constantly hanging off her. I didn’t sympathize at the time, but suddenly knew exactly what she meant. I began to wonder if breast really was best, if it caused me to resent my baby for invading my physical space almost 24-7. I had no desire to cuddle or hold my baby because I felt she was on me often enough. Rob didn’t understand why I didn’t just throw in the towel, and I considered it so many times.

What kept me going? This sinking feeling that I would regret giving up too soon, giving up wouldn’t make my life as easy as I imagined, and I would be left always wondering if nursing would have gotten easier. And it did get easier. After about 8 weeks there was a turning point. It was a long road, but after 8 weeks, nursing seemed easier in some ways than the alternative, although there were still challenges which I will describe in the next part in the series. Until next time.

Friday, August 20, 2010

For the Older Kids - Part 1 in a Series

A selection of movies, books, and other cultural events I, as a Mom, recommend for the 10+ crowd.

I'm in no hurry to see my little ones grow up, but every once in a while I will see, hear or read something that I wish to mentally file away because I feel it is important for my kids to experience, but not at their age. Granted, there are not many shows, movies, books, websites, that fit into this category, but the ones that do deserve some acknowledgement, I believe.

One such movie is The Final Days of Sophie Scholl. While she is a household name in Germany, I live in the US, I'm in my 30's and I never heard of her until about two years ago. I don't understand why she hasn't been a household name in the US for at least a few decades because, while she was German, she embodied American ideals, and ended up paying the ultimate price for it. She, along with her older brother Hans, a few other German college students, and one professor were members of The White Rose, a resistance movement during World War II who expressed anti-nazi sentiments.

Because she exercised American ideals in a place and time when it was dangerous to do so, I don't want my kids, as Americans, to walk around on this earth for 30+ years without knowing the courageous story of Sophie Scholl, her older brother Hans, and others in the White Rose resistance movement.

The average child may not be ready for The Final Days of Sophie Scholl until around 14-15, however, it might be worthwhile for an exceptionally bright, mature 12 year old. Be prepared to talk with your child following the movie, as it is disturbing. Your child may even be depressed for a couple of days after watching it, if he or she is sensitive. But I feel the lesson is worth a couple of depressing days, and we do our kids no favors by shielding them from realities of tyrannical governments and the gruesome lessons from history. You may want to stress how apathy leads to tyrannical regimes and the people must maintain diligence.  

If you know your history, you won't consider this a spoiler when I tell you this movie, based on a true story, doesn't end well. There is no gory violence so to speak, but the viewer is left to imagine the gore for themselves, which may make the movie more terrifying for some. This is the first, and to date, only subtitled movie I have ever seen. Subtitles may elicit a collective groan from most teens, but I feel the real-life characters are likable and will make the subtitled movie watchable. Most gripping is the realization as the movie unfolds that these weren't just a bunch of bored teens and twenty somethings looking for a cause of the week, but rather serious resisters who knew the risks and were quite stoic in the face of their inevitable fate.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

That Sinking Feeling That I'm Not Living My Principles

This is a hard admission to make as a parent. The evidence is all around me. My chaotic home. My dwindling bank account. My 3.5 year old embarking on her second hour of TV watching. Me sitting in my pajamas still at nearly 8:30 on a Tuesday morning.

I have other Mom friends I much admire who keep nice homes. I replay the conversations with these friends in my head and realize the conversations are one-sided for one thing, and full of me rationalizing and blaming others for my problems.

Me rationalizing: "It's hard to believe this by looking at my place now, but in college I was really neat. My dorm room was really immaculate. And when I was single and living in my studio apartment, there were moments when I might have left some books out on the table sometimes, and I slacked on the vacuuming, but I mostly took pride in my home." But who cares about what I did right 10-15 years ago, when all that matters is today.

Me blaming: "I am good at cleaning up after myself, but not other people. Rob leaves his clothes on the floor and Fiona leaves her toys on the floor."

Then I really start to feel bad, because for all his faults, Rob is a good hearted person, and I realize what a crappy wife I am for bashing her hubby to friends. And as far as Fiona is concerned, it IS my job to teach her how to cleanup after herself. Then I start to feel like I must be coming across as a bore.

My Mom too, bears the brunt of my rambling. Bless her she doesn't say much, but I know what she is thinking, "Stop rambling and do something about it already!"

I came to the realization that I have only been giving lip service to most of my principles lately. This is a disheartening feeling. I'm not my parents' daughter - that's how it feels. I was raised by two moral, hard-working, type A people.

And the reoccurring theme is that I know the solutions are simple, but hard.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Never Felt I Was Qualified to Homeschool but...

...if my public school isn't smart enough to budget for something as basic as Toilet Paper, then how can I rely on them to properly educate my kids? When I saw this article, my reaction was, "Seriously?"

Retail - Back to School? Bring Your Own Toilet Paper - CNBC#comments_top

Then my second thought was, if I was living in a town that required kids to BYOTP (Buy Your Own Toilet Paper for those not familiar with acronyms), I would want to see the school district's financial statements for the past 5 years and get a look at the revised budet for the 2010-2011 school year. I suspect the budget is available, but not the financial statements or if the financial statements are available, they are probably fudged in some way. And for all I know, my town might be a BYOTP town, since my kids aren't in the public school system yet.

Of course I know we are in a recession, likely one of the worst of my lifetime. But I'm not going to ask my employer to buy my toilet paper. That is ridiculous. My employer pays me what they pay me, and I budget for toilet paper, and that may mean I need to cut out the beer or find a way to earn more money. I don't want to hear any whining about how difficult that would be in this economy either. If everyone just gives up, the economy certainly won't get better. It's as simple as that. Not easy, but simple.

I wouldn't expect my school district to supply everything. The article mentions kids being required to bring hand sanitizer. Well, I used good ol' fashioned soap and water at school and remained reasonably healthy. I see hand sanitizer as a personal item that is not necessary, and therefore I would not expect my school system to supply it or require it. The article also mentioned disinfectant wipes (Clorox or Lysol wipes), which I see as a convenience item. Schools can use disinfectant spray to kill germs and remove grime stuck to surfaces with dampened paper towels - the brown, rough industrial grade paper towels found in most public restrooms. The school can reduce the number of paper towels used, by installing those annoying hand dryers in the restrooms. This might cost more in the short-term but save money in the long-term.

And don't large organizations, public or private, get bulk discounts on consumable items?

Anywho, based on the article, these decisions are made by local governments at least, which gives parents options such as, moving to a different town, taking their dissatisfaction up with the local governments face-to-face or voluntarily making personal donations. Again, I can hear all the whining, "But Frazzled, these solutions are hard for many people." The solutions are hard but simple.

Honestly, I was hesitant to post this because I try to avoid any topic that is even remotely political. But this is a parenting blog and this topic effects parents. And no matter where you sit on the political fence, I feel most reasonable people can agree when schools, public or private, can't afford something as basic as toilet paper, this is a problem. Where we disagree may be in the solutions - none of which are easy, but most of which are simple.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Three Tomatos, Half an Onion, Half a Pepper and One and a Half Bags of Salad...

...are the contents of my produce inventory last week, two days after a shopping trip. These are the results of our efforts to keep our grocery budget down to $50 a week. Stop snickering. I know that's an ambitious goal for a family of four, but Coupon Mom does it. And I want to stay in the black with two children without having to go back to work full-time. Our savings, to which we used to contribute monthly, had been hit hard with medical bills, and personal expenses we covered while I was out on the unpaid portion of my maternity leave. I feel much better having the savings. I feel it gives our family more freedom.

We haven't quite mastered the Coupon Mom method, however, and the results are less than satisfying. While we kept to our budget, we will not be able to stick to it long-term if it means constantly compromising the taste and nutritional value of our diet. We were paying about $130 a week on groceries, which may seem steep to some people. The upside is we always had plenty of produce and a well-stocked pantry. Now we have "shopped our pantry" to the point where it is dwindling. Fiona also really likes yogurt which is one of the few healthy foods she will eat. Rob insists we stop buying yogurt because we were spending about $10 a week on yogurt. I would like to keep within our budget and still buy things like produce and yogurt.

I'm not saying it can't be done, what I am saying is that we haven't mastered it yet. What I have been learning quite well is the art of getting good deals on diapers using a combination of sales / coupons / Extra Care Bucks at CVS. By purchasing diapers when I see a deal and stocking up, I have been spending the same to diaper Paul in Pampers and Huggies as I did to diaper Fiona in Costco and Walmart brand diapers. I have a good diaper stockpile, and have now focused on tracking the diaper sales, hoping to roll-over my Extra Care bucks that I earned on my last diaper purchase to earn more Extra Care bucks on my next. I don't want to overstock my diapers since he could outgrow them. This is all an art.

Now, I am starting to track other grocery items in an attempt to master the Coupon Mom system. This week we are still within budget, but the only fruit we have in the house are bananas, and I plan to make a trip to a produce store this week to get about $10 worth of fruit and vegetables, which will bring us about $8 over budget. It is a work in progress.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

About Girls and Boys

When I was pregnant the first time, the hubs was so convinced we were having a boy that he convinced me we were having a boy. At around 18 weeks, imagine my surprise when I found out we were having a girl. It was a pleasant surprise for me because, while I know I shouldn't care, I secretly wanted a girl. As time went on, the hubs, who was so eager to have a son, really bonded with his daughter. And like most little girls, she had my 6'2", 250+ lb. hubs wrapped around her tiny little pinkie finger.

I mean, how could you not fall in love with this:

Fast forward 3 years and I'm pregnant again. This time I really didn't have a gender preference either way. I was truly at a point where I could honestly say I was just happy for another child. I don't think my hubs had a preference either. When I found out I was having a boy this time, I remember the excitement from my friend who also had a girl and a boy, who told me, "The bond you have with your son will be different."

And now that my boy is nearly 5 months old, I think I know what she means. While I love both my kids equally, I definitely love them differently. Articulating the difference is very difficult. The best way I know how to describe it, is to say that I feel a little more vulnerable around my son. I tried to explain this to the hubs and he didn't understand. He said, "Be quiet, she (Fiona) will hear you." He thought I was saying I loved my son more. But I don't love my son more; he just happens to be my baby, and he will always be my baby even when he is 30. In some ways I fear I am actually being more fair to my girl because I expect her to grow up and therefore expect more from her. I really don't want to come across as thinking more highly of either one of my kids because I was blessed with two wonderful kids.

With my son, I just want to mother him a little more. Maybe this has nothing to do with his gender, and more to do with the fact that he will probably remain the youngest. Or maybe this is due to the fact that he looks so much like my dear hubs, when I look into his eyes, I can't help but melt.

How can you not melt when you see this:

It's My Blog and I'll Post When I Want To

Hello everyone,

I'm so impressed by people who update their blogs regularly - like everyday. Some people even manage to make money from their blogs.

Me, I was about the throw in the towel. I had such high hopes for this blog. I imagined it could be a springboard into other blogs, maybe with more of a focus.

I decided to pick up this blog again, when I came across some other blogs that weren't updated regularly either. And a lot of these blogs also had the dreaded "0 Comments" after most posts. But what really inspired me were the blogs I found that had been updated daily and still had the "0 Comments" after most posts, but that didn't deter the blogger. Blogging is for fun!

I managed to stumble across some snazzy free blog backgrounds too! Once I gave my blog a face lift, I was invigorated. Let's get blogging!