Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Convergence of Conservative Values and Feminists in the Natural Parenting Movement

I think it's interesting to see mamas on both ends of the political spectrum embracing the cloth diaper, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby-wearing, baby-food-making, and sadly, often, anti-vaxxing. I never thought some of my dreadlocked hippy friends from college would have so much in common with some of my super conservative Christian friends from high school! What gives??

One of my favorite feminist authors, Valenti, said in an interview ((about how the natural parenting movement can be the point of convergence for conservative values and anti-consumerist feminism)),

"At the core of it, I think, is a distrust of institutions – which for women, makes a lot of sense to me. The feminism at the heart of the homebirth movement, for example, is women being fed up with their bodies being pathologized and being told that they need all of these medical interventions to give birth. I get that. The medical establishment – and the government – has spent forever telling women they don’t know what is up with their own bodies, so it’s understandable that there’s a backlash against that. But there’s a difference between having a healthy skepticism of traditionally sexist institutions and believing that your “instinct” trumps science and established fact – which is what the anti-vaccination movement is very much about...." -Jessica Valenti

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This recent post circulating my FB minifeed caught my attention, and just as I was starting to "share" it as a status, I realized my commentary evolved from a status update to a blogpost. So here goes.

In 2011, when the US saw the largest measles outbreak in 15 years, the CDC attributed it to small groups of unvaccinated children.

Typically, the pockets of outbreaks occur in either upper-middle-class, white neighborhoods, or extremely religious communities.

An alternative private school in Floyd County, Virginia, had to shut down because half of its students got whooping cough in April 2011. ALL of the students who contracted the virus were unvaccinated. A resurgence of pertussis also cropped up in California in 2010 because of unvaccinated kids-it was the worst outbreak in over 60 years. Rich kids. Hippie kids. Religious kids. So what's the common denominator?

Is it the need to feel validation? Is it the need to reject "Big Brother"? Is it rebellion? Mother's intuition? What is it???

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In Why Have Kids, author Jessica Valenti explains the reason Jenny McCarthy had so much success establishing a following of moms against vaccines ((out of fear of autism)):

"When McCarthy was confronted with a statement from the CDC during her 2007 Oprah appearance that pointed out the overwhelming scientific evidence against her, her response perfectly captured the sentiment of moms across the country, 

"My science is Evan. He's at home. That's my science."
-Jenny McCarthy

So for a generation of parents-mothers especially-who are extremely uncomfortable with not feeling in control and increasingly more interested in trusting their own knowledge over experts, the anti-vaccination movement is perfect. 

When a cause comes along that says: "You do the research, trust yourself, Big Pharma is trying to get one over on you," that's a very seductive message to a population that is sick and tired of not being respected. That's why, in part, women tend to be more anti-vaccination than men. They're more vocal not only because they tend to be the ones that are making decision about children, but they're also the ones who are more invested in the idea of their own knowledge as expertise....

What many parents don't realize is the way in which Internet searches are based. Google, for example, learns what you're interested in and will give you search results according to those interests. So let's say you search for 'vaccine autism' and you click on a website that claims to show a connection between the disorder and vaccinations, the next time you do a similar search, Google will remember what you clicked on and show you like-minded results in your follow-up searches....

Doing research on Google does not put us on par with an inoculation researcher, and staying on top of the minutiae of our children's lives does not mean that we don't need help and support from actual experts." 
-Jessica Valenti

To function healthily as a society, we have to think about the community, not just ourselves. Assuming the anti-vaxxers truly believe that vaccines are poisonous//dangerous, despite the experts saying otherwise, how does not vaccinating your kid help your community? It doesn't. Where as, on the other side of the argument, pro-vaxxers not only see themselves as protecting their child, but also their community. I know that by vaccinating Lilah Grace, I've not only done my part to keep her safe, but I also have eliminated the risk of her being a threat to the immunocompromised population in my community.

Another example of natural parenting sometimes going to an extreme...opting out of public school because you don't like the education system, and you think your kid deserves better. I know how important education is. Arguably, the most important and modifiable factor in a child's future. So while I understand the desire to home school, or even send to private school, the bleeding heart in me just has to ask...

Why not volunteer in the PTA? Offer help to your child's teacher? Make suggestions to the principal that improve the school as a whole! Why not make your public school better?

What good is it if you raise this "perfectly educated child" at home, or at an expensive private school ((per your individualized, unique standards)) if when they enter the "real world," everybody else has been in the shitty school system? Do you think your one kid is going to trump the majority? IMPROVE THE MAJORITY!!
*obligatory disclaimer...I withdraw these statements for kids with special needs. I'm talking about the average kid, at the average public school. If you have a child with special needs, and you're fortunate enough to be able to provide them with a specialized education to help them have an equal opportunity in life, I get it. 100%.

I wish more people had the desire to improve their tribe, community, and even the world, instead of just their kid.

"I believe that the community - in the fullest sense: a place and all its creatures - is the smallest unit of health and that to speak of the health of an isolated individual is a contradiction in terms." -Wendell Berry

We live online now. I am acutely aware of the time I spend consuming social media. And I don't think it's going anywhere! One of my favorite functions of Instagram is feeling like I'm constantly in contact with other moms, doing the same thing as me. I have to say, I often feel like social media is a positive outlet for me, because I am inspired by other women, and feel a connection to other women. When my mom used to stay home with me, she was alone. Completely alone. All day, with a baby. Then, all day, with a 3 year old and a baby. I feel plugged in with other moms, and I feel this sense of feminine community. I don't want to disconnect from that. But, I also see how some people don't use social media in the same way that I do. Some people get really stressed out!

What's worse, some people think that by clicking on a certain number of hashtags, or googling a phrase enough times, they have more knowledge than somebody who actually received a degree in the subject matter. That is when social media becomes not just a nuisance, but actually dangerous. We are now living in a time when people make life-altering decisions based on information they found online, rather than trusting professionals.

Photo Source: @aquarian_dawn

I know that you can find "scientific posts" ((via Google...hehe)) that back up the anti-vaxx stance. I know that this is a heated topic, and people take it personally, because in the end, we all want to be good parents. I want to be clear, I don't think anti-vaxxers are bad parents. I think they want what's best for their kids, and they think they know what's best for their kids. My objection to the stance, is maybe they don't know what's best. Maybe the experts do. And maybe it's okay to defer to experts; it doesn't make intuition flawed, and it doesn't mean parents are naive to trust the experts.

On that note, I find myself feeling way less smug and judgmental when an expert has an opinion that goes against mainstream. For example, if I were to meet a medical doctor ((I have worked alongside them daily for 6 years now, and have yet to find one, but I remain open minded!)) who was anti-vaxx, I would be very interested in hearing their perspective. They have knowledge that I don't. The same argument would apply for a teacher who decides to home school her children. In short, I respect the professionals, and I defer to the experts.

While I am completely aware that this blogpost isn't likely to sway any opinions, or change anybody's mind, I do hope to expand the conversation.

I want the conversation to include what is best for the community, because it DOES matter. If we can't agree on that, I don't think the conversation is worth being had in the first place.


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Lilah Communicating with my ((late)) Grandparents

On multiple occasions, I know Lilah Grace has seen my late grandfather.

Months ago, she said "Baba" (she doesn't call ANYBODY else Baba) and pointed to nothing...

...and just this week, my mom was watching an old home video and a pic of her late father popped up, and my mom explained to Lilah, "that's Binky's dada" and instead of parroting "dada" which is a word she knows, or "Binky," another word she knows, she replied to my mom, "Baba." (This was what I called him). Within minutes, she also identified my mom's late mother, "Ma," which is what I called her (another abnormality, since Lilah only regularly says "Mama" or "Mommy"). Baba loved babies, and I think he visits LG. It might not seem like much, but in the moment, it was absolutely incredible.

My point isn't to say I think my kid is some genius psychic medium...I think all babies have this gift, and we either ignore it or stifle it. Some people might even fear it. Society will shut it out entirely (or at least try) in time. I'm encouraging it for as long as I can! Anybody out there have interesting//heartwarming stories about their babies seeing their late loved ones?


Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Way I ((try to)) Communicate With Lilah Grace at 1 1/2

Lilah Grace has been charming me to no end with her cute new antics. She's between 17-18 months, so basically a year and a half. LOVING this phase. She sleeps solidly from 7:45 or 8pm until 7 am, and takes either 2 naps or 1 long nap each day. She eats normal foods that we do ((the only foods she hasn't tried are honey and shellfish)), and is running around in our backyard MULTIPLE times each day. She loves sidewalk chalk (("tok-EE")), markers (("MAH-kuh")), and every single book she can get her hands on.

Usually, our evening routine consists of a bath, then reading a couple books, followed by "rock-EE rock-EE" in the rocking chair ((the same one my mom used to rock me in!)), then putting her in bed with her favorite stuffed animals. She is OBSESSED with bunnies (("BUH-ee")) and Jingles (("JEEK-uhl")), the jingly stuffed dog that George used to cuddle as a baby. The pink jingly bunny was from Mimi and GrandDad, and the brown bunny was from Cousins Molly and Lucas in Cape May. She also has a white bunny puppet from Grandmama that she loves ((especially when Grandmama personifies the puppet and asks LG for a high five!)). Cousin Allie gave her a beanie baby bunny at my sister's wedding last weekend, and that has quickly become one of her favs as well. ALL OF THE BUNNIES.

When we rock, I usually sing the same songs to her...

"When You Come Back Down"

((^I usually cry while singing those two songs...lullaby time is cathartic for me; it is not only a gift to my daughter, it's also a gift to myself))

"You Are My Sunshine"

She recently started lifting up my shirt, pointing out my bellybutton, then her bellybutton, then laying her head right on my bare chest, with my shirt pulled taut over her. She'll sometimes sneak her head out the collar and look at me real quick, then rush back to her comfortable little nook.

Last night after I sang "Blackbird," while she was snuggled tight against my heart, then she did her sign language for "more" and then adorably said "BAK-bur".


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Not only that, she sang along in her own little way. She would repeat "blackbird" and "broken" (("take these broken wings")) while I was singing. She asked for it over and over. She has a favorite lullaby! I love discovering her preferences. Her personality is truly emerging before our very eyes.

This morning, she woke up a little earlier than usual, and for some reason I was already up...just scrolling through Instagram in bed. I made my own coffee, scooped her out of bed, and took her for a sunrise walk. No stroller, no burley, just the two of us. I pointed to the sky and showed her how it was darker in the west, and starting to become orange and pink in the east. I told her the sun was rising now, and will continue to rise every single day ((I saved the global warming and//or nuclear weapons talk for another day)). We collected leaves, and admired the trees, birds, crickets, and ducks. She was mesmerized while patting the trunk of one particular tree, then said "boo boo" when her fingers came upon a piece of missing bark. I told her that "yes, the tree has a boo boo, why don't you kiss it and make it feel better?" and she did. She is such a special, loving angel baby.

I'm trying ((operative word: in, maybe 25% of the time with a goal of "more often"...full disclosure, I'm writing about my "best parenting moments," but I fall short a lot and there are definitely moments where I'm not so present! They just aren't as fun to look back on!!))...I digress. I'm TRYING to be more conscious with my vocabulary and my presence. Subtle changes in the way I present the world to her might not even be noticed by some ((including her)) but on an energetic level I think I'm helping her to retain as much of that pure spiritual energy she brought down with her when she was born. I know that every human is born perfect, just a little ball of pure divine energy... and as we learn language and begin to limit objects with labels, and learn prejudice, hate, fear, and judgment, we eventually become jaded. Since Lilah Grace's vocabulary is exploding right now, I'm trying to be very aware of the way I speak to her.

That sounds very theoretical. Here are some real life examples:

"That is a tree" teaches Lilah the label, "tree." That's fine if my goal is to teach her labels for objects. I think that's the status quo for parenting. Nothing wrong with it, but nothing spiritual about it, either.

"We call that a tree" teaches her that the word "tree" is just a word; the actual living, growing, majestic creature coming from the ground and reaching toward the sky is MUCH greater than the word, but that's just what we call it.

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These are teachings from my all time favorite book, "A New Earth" by Eckhart Tolle. I have found that motherhood is taking me to deeper spiritual levels than I've ever gone, and I'm loving it. I read this book in 2008 and am re-reading it now, and am learning completely new lessons.

Another example I realized last night...

I think she is getting very close to being able to say "I love you." That will be such an exciting day!!! But I don't want her to be a parrot just repeating what I tell her. I want her to know what love feels like. I don't want her to just say it because I said it! That would definitely be cute, but meaningless.

So, last night, I asked her for the first time,

"Lilah, what does love feel like?"

This could be coincidence ((even though I don't believe in coincidences)), but her response melted me like a stick of hot butter.


OMG. She's a daddy's girl just like me.

With tears in my eyes, I told her, "Yes! Dada loves you. So does Mama. And Binky, and Papa, and Grandmama, and GrandDad," blah blah.

Then, I said,
"This is what love feels like" and squeezed her while kissing her.

I want her to know what love feels like before she says "I love you."
That goes for me, and for future romantic partners!

I think one spiritual lesson I'm learning now, and will probably be learning for a couple decades at least, is not to idolize our baby. Umm, I totally do. I worship her like the goddess that she is! But I know inevitably she is human and will at some point disappoint me, and I don't want her to fall 500,000 feet off her pedestal when she does. I'm not too hard on myself for this; I'm just aware of it, and I think that's enough for now.

For all the parents out there, were there subtle shifts in your language that you noticed when you began conversing with your kids ((other than cleaning up the 'ol potty mouth))? Have you felt a spiritual growth while parenting? If you don't have kids, do you remember being a child, before you felt the limitations of language? Feel free to respond privately! You can contact me by clicking "contact" at the very top of this page.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Chalkboard Paint...a wonderful $3.76 investment

This post requires zero explanation...hopefully just motivates! I'm all about those cheap DIY's! Chalkboard spray paint FTW!!!!

A piece of trash has turned into a cute storage container!

Now her little dog figurines have a home!

I also spraypainted just the regular white//clear plastic storage bins. Now I can change the labels whenever we reorganize her playroom! And it looks much cuter, too!

The cleanest this room has ever looked.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

"Are You Working IN or OUT Of The Home Today?"-My Super Sweet Feminist Husband.

A few months ago, on any given morning, George would ask, "Are you workin' today?" and without hesitation, I would tell him "yes" or "no" and then flash him a smile. I never thought twice about it, but apparently, he did.

One particular morning, I noticed a shift in the way he asked the question. "Are you working in or out of the home today?"

I smiled first.

Then answered, "in the home today."

It was a moment that I will always remember. Of course, it doesn't compare to events like our wedding, or the birth of our daughter, but I honestly will treasure that day, and that conscious shift, which I didn't even request.

I am one of the luckiest girls on the planet, because most of my days begin with my hard-working husband getting out of bed, and bringing me a cup of coffee and our daughter. We all snuggle, and then while she eats breakfast and watches one of her shows, I get some quiet time in.

On days when I work "outside of the home," I get up around 5 or 5:15, and don't see our baby. I still have my quiet time, and still enjoy my coffee. Then, I typically enjoy my work shift, with my fun co-workers, executing RN duties, and feeling grateful for my education which allows me to work part-time and still make a substantial income.

I work part-time as an operating room nurse for one surgeon. When he is out of town, or operating at a hospital other than our office, I don't get hours. That means I get to enjoy the time off, but it also means my hourly paychecks suffer. Fortunately, George's job spots me, and while we don't live anywhere near the realm of excess, we get by comfortably when we focus on what makes us happy. Feeding the ducks with LG, riding our bikes//Burley, binging on Netflix in our bed, or sometimes just good heart-to-heart conversations. Those are the best.


When I have weeks with 0 or 1 shift, I feel conflicted, but am trying to feel satisfied. The first week that went by with zero hours, I loved it. I even thought I could do the whole stay-at-home mom bit. But we pay for the nanny whether or not we use her, so after week 2, when I realized I was a stay-at-home "wife," I started to feel like I wasn't contributing enough.

I told George, I wanted to do home improvement projects to feel productive, but so often those cost money, which I'm not currently making. So, I added bead-board to our kitchen wall. Then, I painted a wall. I made a couple hanging plants on firewood. I painted shelves that have never matched our living room. I felt really happy and fulfilled on those days.

Even something as simple as spray-painting the red shelves black make me feel productive. Small victories. Hehe.

What made me feel the best, more than any home improvement project, or yoga class, or even solitary shower ((mamas out there know that a solitary shower without a time restraint is a total luxury))...was George's warm embrace, kind eyes, and encouraging words. He reiterated that he couldn't pursue his career without my support. I handle all the finances, bills, mail, home organization, laundry, groceries, etc...and he appreciates it. Truly! And he tells me all the time! I feel really grateful to be with a man who goes out and makes the bacon, loves what he does, and still thanks me for what I do...even when it's not making money.

I have to remind myself that it's okay to be really happy. I think throughout the pregnancy, I was so worried about how we were going to make it, I still feel residual anxiety when I look around at our house, and realize I've made no money on that given day. I try to compensate by making something. If not money, allowing my artistic side to create something. But if a day goes by where I've made nothing, my ego starts chipping away at my self-esteem.

But, I won't let my ego get the best of me. For the longest time, I felt afraid of how happy I was. Like at the drop of a hat, it could all go away and be taken from me. I think the idea is pure + stems from the notion "don't take anything for granted." I still think like that. But if I let that worry become more powerful than the present gratitude and happiness, it rips my current moment away.

I also have had to tell the rebellious feminist in me to pipe down at times. For so long, I made more money than George, and I felt power in that position. I still want women to make equal pay for equal work. So I guess, there's a subconscious ((now becoming more conscious)) part of me that feels like I'm the "beta" partner now, or the "submissive" partner now, or the "traditional female role" now, or I don't's different. But if I get real, I can admit, I've NEVER BEEN HAPPIER. And fortunately, I have a feminist husband who asks me if I'm working "in or out of the home." I mean, I should seriously just count my freakin' blessings. At times I feel like I have it all, and then that part of me starts to worry it could all be taken away in a second.

So, self-talk.

Today was a great day, and I don't take it for granted. Yesterday was awesome, and I think tomorrow will be really great, too. I just really love life right now. 

I have a great family ((the one I was born in to, and the one I's lookin' at you, Papa G...)) They make my life sweet.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Adult Acne Post-Breastfeeding...My ((No Longer)) Secret Weapons

I've been wanting to write this post for a long time. I'm hoping it can help out some women out there.

In high school, I went on Accutane, which is arguably the most aggressive form of acne treatment. You pretty much sign your life and your future-unborn-children's life away. After 7 months of an intense pharmacological regimen, my acne cleared up.

I had occasional break outs in my 20's, but when I quit nursing LG, my face looked worse than you could possibly imagine. I was so mortified, I truly hated leaving the house. I couldn't go anywhere without putting on makeup, which made for quite the conundrum since I knew make up made it worse.

I tried natural first, obviously. Altering my diet. Not eating processed foods, not eating dairy. These methods really frustrated me because they did not work, and meanwhile I became even more grumpy giving up foods I liked. I also found myself irritated because when I wasn't eating some of these foods, people assumed it was to lose weight, and reassured me that I looked fine. I wasn't eating like that to lose weight, I was trying to clear up my face! And it wasn't working.

THE MOST AGGRAVATING COMMENTS that I heard multiple times were...

"Do you wash your face every night?"

"Do you sleep with your make up on?"

OMG. Rude. So rude. If they only knew, I washed my make up off FIRST, with a Clarisonic brush, then washed my face with an acne cleanser, then used various topical ointments. I tried using a sunlamp to dry out my skin. I have the best access to skin care products working in plastic surgery, and I used everything I knew.

But my skin had never looked, or felt, worse. The deep, cystic acne was humiliating and painful.

FINALLY, I saw a dermatologist. Dr. Kodali in Colleyville. She changed my world.

She put me on two oral prescriptions and two topical prescriptions. My hormones were completely out of whack. Pregnancy, especially the third trimester, and nursing, overload your body with estrogen, which was actually great for my skin, hair, and nails. When I stopped breastfeeding, and the estrogen depleted, I had entirely too much testosterone.

ALDACTONE. That drug was a miracle worker for me. 50mg is a common dose, and the dose I started on. I got up to 200mg/day. I'm now happy to say I'm off the drug completely. The only side effect I had was dizziness when I stood up, because it actually lowers your blood pressure a bit. I wasn't bothered by this at all. TAKING BIRTH CONTROL on time, every day, is extremely important while on this medication because not only does it enhance the acne-clearing results, but if you become pregnant, this drug will feminize a male fetus. It's an anti-androgen, so it blocks androgen ((ie: testosterone)) receptors. If your acne is not hormonally-based, this will not help you.

DOXYCYCLINE. This drug is an antibiotic. I took 100mg/day. It did make my stomach a little queasy, but it was fine as long as I ate food with it. Again, not a major side effect. I didn't like the idea of being on antibiotics for a long time, and neither did Dr. Kodali. I was off the antibiotic within a couple months.

ACZONE + ZIANA. These two creams I still use at night. Aczone is amazing because it doesn't dry my skin, like so many other products have in the past.

The oral pills are super cheap because generic is available. The topical creams I purchased from DFW Wellness Pharmacy, and they hook it up with coupon upon coupon, so my total was $25 each, and each tube lasts 3 months.

For somebody who has been there, with this horrible hormonal acne, you know that diet, hygiene, and various OTC acne regimens just do not work. Acne took a major toll on my self esteem. IT'S MY FACE! I found myself looking down, avoiding eye contact, and avoiding social situations out of embarrassment. I hated caking on the make-up before leaving the house.

I'm thrilled to say that for the past couple months my face has been 100% clear, and I feel like myself again.

If you live in the DFW area, I recommend Dr. Kodali! If not, ask your primary care or dermatologist about these 4 meds and hopefully you will see improvement, too.

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Baby Blessing

We received the sweetest book from our Aunt Mary when Lilah Grace was born, and we read it to her often. I absolutely love the words, and the timeless images. I wanted to share these words, with credit given to Welleran Poltarnees, as the words are not mine. They are so perfectly expressed, I just want to share them with the world. I find that reading this book while holding my baby give me more peace than I've ever known. It's a wonderful prayer!

((The only change I have made is "it" to "her," as the book is gender-neutral.))

I here bless this baby, newly arrived, wishing for her all the good things I here invoke, and others beyond my imaginings. 

May the spirits of grace attend her coming, and may angels guide her flowering.

Let this child be held and warmed, made secure in this strange new world.

When this baby first opens her eyes, may the face she first looks upon be filled with love.

I pray that she be welcomed by many, loved by many, and known by a myriad of private and gentle names.

When this baby looks beyond the faces of her family, let her look upon a room where beauty reigns. Let there be shapely toys waiting to be touched into life, and a window with a view of the world outside.

I wish for this child to know early in life the hugeness of trees, the cold kiss of snowflakes, and the softness of rain.


May this small life be made rich with music. Let there be songs on waking, happy songs at play, and gentle songs at night.

Let this baby's sleep be peaceful, and may she sail back each morning filled with the memory of sweet dreams.

May play fill this young life as she blossoms, so that she may come to enjoy solitude as much as shared joy.

I hope that there are many animal companions, each teaching gentleness, playfulness, and kinship.

May this young body grow fully, move freely, breathe deeply, and see clearly.

I hope as this baby grows into childhood, that those she meets praise her freely, encouraging her fragile mystery to bloom into radiant self.

When this child grows up and has children of her own, let her never forget what it was like to be first alive and richly welcomed.

Let all those who share in this baby's growing learn from her laughter and joy.

I love you Lilah Grace. This is my prayer for you!


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