17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Lessons From My Father, Part I: Money Harmony With Your Spouse

When my father passed away six years ago, my mom was left in a financial crisis. Not the kind of crisis you are probably envisioning. My father left her with plenty of money. Probably more money than her thrifty self will know what to do with for the rest of her lifetime. For her, the crisis was that she had no idea WHERE their money was kept. Aside from their checking account, the money could have been kept in a Swiss bank account for all that she knew.

My dad had a talent for investing money and ran his own finance-related company. Handling money was his strength, so my mom let him make all of their financial decisions. The months after my dad's death were a real-life treasure hunt to recover all of their accounts. It took over a year and a few expensive lawyers to track down all of the money. My mom felt grateful to be financially independent, but equally terrified at the prospect of managing this money for the first time. I think she also felt vulnerable and alone. And for good reason. She suddenly had lots of "friends" more than willing to help her with her finances. She didn't know who she could trust.

I am really proud of her. My mom took a financial management class and read lots of books on wealth management. She found a great financial management team using the knowledge she had acquired and learned to trust her instincts. For my mom, a 19-year old bride and a 44-year old widow, it was a great first lesson on learning to live independently.

I learned an important lesson through watching and supporting my mom through all of this.... it is REALLY important to keep a constant dialogue about money running in your relationship. Not just in case one of you dies unexpectedly, but for the sake of marital harmony.

I feel like DH and I are in a good place with our money. We're always wishing there was MORE of it... but we act as good stewards over what we have, communicate well and generally avoid money-related fights. Here are five rules we live by:

1. Define Financial Responsibilities. In our house, DH keeps the checkbook balanced and up-to-date and I handle our investments. I like to think strategy and he prefers details, so it works well for us. It doesn't matter who does what...but only that it is established, so the work gets done.

2. Keep Each Other In-The-Know. Being an MBA geek and a generally anal person, I instituted formal financial meetings in our house so that DH and I could stay on top of our finances. When I discovered that DH had tucked the sports page under my carefully prepared meeting agenda, I decided on a more informal approach to our financial discussions. Now we just have quick chats over dinner or before bed. The main principle here is to meet periodically and have an open discussion with your spouse about your finances. Such a meeting might include updating each other on changes to your accounts, setting and tracking specific financial goals, and making any other financial-related decisions TOGETHER.

3. Set and Track Financial Goals. Working together to reach financial goals is extremely rewarding in a marriage. I can still remember the feeling of sending off DH's final student loan payment and realizing that we were completely debt free. We did a happy dance in the streets of Queens that day!

Essentially, when you get married, you are entering into a financial partnership. You and your spouse can grow your very own empire through saving and investing your money. Obviously, this isn't the most important work you will do in your marriage, but having a financial plan will help you accomplish a lot of these more important things you will do together.

Sit down and make a list of short-term (within five years) and long-term financial goals with your spouse. Short-term goals may include buying a new car or home, starting a business, that post-baby boob job (sorry to tease, DH, I really meant to say lasik surgery), or a taking a big vacation. Long term goals might include sending kids to college and on missions, retirement and travel. Next, make a reasonable plan to reach these goals. Obviously, you aren't going to be able to save for everything at the same time, so prioritize.

Saving for your retirement, however, should be your first priority (I will cover this in more detail in Part II). This is because it is going to take a hell of a lot more money than people our age realize to have a comfortable retirement and also because you can take part of your tax-deferred retirement savings to help finance a first home or even your children's college education.

4. Understand Each Other's Relationship with Money. Are you a spender or a saver? What is your spouse? Really, any combination of spenders and savers can present problems in a marriage. Two spenders in a marriage can create out-of-control debt. Two savers may make life very boring. And having one of each in a marriage may create conflict. The key is to try and understand your spouse's relationship with money (it can usually be traced back to their childhood), openly communicate, and set limits/compromises with each other to avoid debt or conflict....or boredom.

DH and I are "Savers" with a couple of exceptions. He has a weakness for books and music. I love clothes and cool gadgets for my bike. Establishing personal allowances has help us minimize conflict in our own relationship. We get to spend a little cash on ourselves each month without guilt. It works for us. DH no longer has to hear me whine about a thing called the "LIBRARY" where books are "FREE" and I no longer have to hide shopping bags.

5. Set a Spending Limit. This will save you from countless fights over money. For big purchases, set a spending limit, such as $200. If you or your partner go over that limit, make it a rule that you need to discuss the purchase with your spouse before buying.

What other money rules have worked in your own relationships? I'd be eager to hear more ideas.

Coming soon:
Part 2: A Quick Primer to Financial Management and
Part 3: Helping your Children Become Financially Responsible Adults
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Friday, July 28, 2006

Do Bare Breasts and Lactivists Help the Situation?

Marian was nice enough to add a link to a headline from today on CNN.com to the comments of Kage's post on breastfeeding. The article, titled "Lactivists: Where is it OK to breastfeed?", discusses the different reactions people have had to the Babytalk Cover and then parallels it to what the divided nation feels about breastfeeding in public. I felt like we started to touch some of these subjects on Kage's thread, but after reading the article, I felt like we needed a new thread to dig a little deeper into the issues surrounding breastfeeding in public.

I want to be able to breastfeed wherever and whenever I need to or want to (well there may be a few exceptions but I can't think of them right now).

I also want everyone around me to feel comfortable with me feeding my child wherever and whenever I need/want.

Some people would say "Why do you care? It's their own problem if they feel uncomfortable." I agree to a point, but I also believe showing concern for the feelings of those around you is something that comes with being a member of a community, or city, or nation. This doesn't mean I have to accept their "uncomfortableness" completely. I do want to help more people feel comfortable with the idea of a woman breastfeeding in public, but I don't think it is my place to force someone to feel comfortable seeing a woman's breast in public, as a food source or otherwise.

This is partially the reason I am a very discreet public nurser. I also choose to be discreet for myself. I realize my breasts are not just sexual objects. But while they are a food source for my baby, I still want to protect them as my own sexual body parts because I don't like to view them as just feeding machines either. I wonder if some lactivists would believe that choosing discreet nursing in public is just letting those who are uncomfortable with breastfeeding force more women under the blanket. I hope not.

I believe in the goal of making public breastfeeding more acceptable, but I wonder if exposing a breast on the cover of a magazine or having "Lactivist sit-ins" is the best way to go about it. I think the women who choose to nurse publicly but discreetly will do just as much (or more?) for the cause than those women who choose a more "in your face approach."

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

The General Store

Do you think when the women got in their buggies (or walked) and came to town to pick up what they needed at the general store, that they ever got home, and put their paper (not plastic) bags on the counter, only to find they had gotten the wrong thing?

Am I THAT much in a hurry that I cannot even get the right groceries home? I think that I take time to make CERTAIN I have that right thing. I look at the Carnation Instant Breakfast on the shelf, identify the Milk Chocolate Pack, reach for it, put it in my cart, only to find once I get home that I really purchased the Variety pack (I do not enjoy, vanilla, mocha and strawberry thank you...only chocolate please).

I look at the Peppridge Farm Whole Wheat Cinnamon Swirl Bread (only available at Target of all places), and I put one in my cart and grab a second, because I really do love this stuff, and when I get home there is indeed that, but also a Cinnamon RAISIN variety. NO, I don't want raisins, I want two of the same....TWO OF THE SAME.

And why must I repeat this mistake a number of times? Does my brain see the beginning of a phrase: Carnation...and then fill it in with the rest...much like my phone or GPS system or computer...it is PREDICTING what I WANT...but not reading what it ACTUALLY is. Is this why I misspell words like Where/Wear There/Their Two/Too/To because I have become a victim of technology? I also start typing a word and then finish it with a different word. Like instead of typing this sentence, I might type this: Like instead of typical this sentimental. Honestly, I have done that before.

Did the women at the general store come home and find that they had bought golden delicious apples instead of red delicious? Is that the lamest example you have ever heard of? When they wrote letters with pen and ink in longhand, did they too experience these types of misspelling and mis-vocabulary?

Am I just having an early onset of some sort of dimentia?
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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Christmas in July

All you experienced mommies out there are probably already aware of what I discovered this weekend, but for all you new ones...here is a great trick this new mom learned. I can't get your baby to sleep through the night, walk at 6 months (not that that would even be a good trick) or be happy when they are teething, but I can tell you how to save a few bucks. My friend just took me shopping at Old Navy's summer clearance sale. Clearance being the key word. She said she buys all of her kids clothes for the next year when things are on sale. Why didn't I think of that? Forty dollars later - here is a list of my loot:
-4 very nice collared shirts (for church, weddings, and other nice occasions)

-9 every day shirts, T-shirts my little boy can play hard in

-2 pair of soft comfy shorts

-2 hats, one for the beach/pool and one cuz it was so cute

-1 swimming suit

-2 pair of shoes

-1 nice pair of shorts

SCORE! So go shop those sales ladies - do your duty as a mom to help this big retail chains move their inventory!
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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The man of my dreams...

I have always had vivid dreams...and I tend to remember them (for good or bad). It's actually something I like about myself. I learn about me and my relationships with others through my dreams. They also serve as some bizarre entertainment now and again.

And once in awhile...I have absolutely torrid, hot and kooky dreams about other men that I am not married to. Lots of times I never see their face, just what we're doing. It's almost better that way. 2 or 3 times these dreams have involved people I actually know or are friends with (husbands of friends pop up now and again - it's AWFUL. Seriously awful). And sometimes...a few famous men drop by.

My most recent "conquest" in my dreams? It's totally bizarro, I know. Anderson Cooper. Just typing his name makes me blush right now. Me and Anderson Cooper had a REALLY good time and shouldn't he be covering the crisis in the Middle East instead of me??? Oh, those eyes...Let me set the stage:

I am wearing an ill fitting bridesmaid dress with a black bow in my hair, standing in the middle of the desert. I appear to be around 20 but I can't be sure. I have that "I'm young and careless, dressed odd with lots of dark eye makeup" look. Mr. Cooper is off to the side of me, reporting on something or taking pictures of desert "locals" and our eyes met. He walks over. We never speak. And then...well...whoa mama. Can you do this kind of stuff in the desert? Is it adviseable? I can't stop thinking about him. Who knew Anderson Cooper could be so seductive out there in the sand?


There was another time a few years ago when Justin Timberlake made an appearance in my dreams. He tried everything he could think of to seduce me and nothing worked (under MOST circumstances I am very seducible) - I told him that I was happily married and we could never be together. So funny. He had cute hair...

All of this has caused me to wonder what dreams you girls have had...and if Anderson Cooper has shown up in any of them. Come on, spill it... You KNOW that you haven't been 100% faithful in your dreams...
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Monday, July 24, 2006

Trashy Paci

Its official. My DS who is rounding the corner on 2 yrs. is finally kicking the paci habit. We were doing well with his weening. I only allowed him one and only in his bed. Then we went on vacation for a month and he was left in the care of his well-meaning grandmother, who can't keep track of anything. Because of this she bought three more so she would have one in BOTH cars, one in his bed, and one in his backpack at all times. Ever since then, can we say JUNKY?!?! So I have tried to be patient considering it is a real shock to the system to be shuttled between three different states, 2 sides of the family and multiple caregivers. All in the absence of mom and dad. (bad parents!) When we got home it took a few weeks to get back into living our lives and the one thing that was still not normal was his paci habit. Until this week when my beloved son ground his teeth through the tip of the only, and last paci we will ever own.

He brought it too me, not in distress, just confused. I told him it was broken and "all gone" which he repeats as "AH" and holds up his empty hands with a sholder shrug. I cut the tip off and let him carry the rest around for a while. He tried it out and really knowing then that it was broken, never asked for it again and I finally threw it in the trash. The first 2 days were HEAVEN! no hunting for it, picking it up off the subway floors or feeling the panic when I realized I had forgotten it. And the best part was that DS had no problem sleeping....until, now.

All I can say is this must be what it is like for recovering crack addicts. And it is HELL. He is constantly screaming, high strung, and even twitchy at times. He now HATES his bed. He starts to wriggle in my arms when we get to the doorway of his room to sleep. He wants me to rub his belly, sing to him, hold him, rock him. Anything to help him soothe himself to sleep which for the last three days, has been taking hours. He is so tired from staying up screaming that he stares off during the day. His eyes are glossed over and red. This poor baby needs sleep and can't find out how to get it and even when he does fall asleep, that doesn't mean he stays asleep.

There have been countless times that I thought of getting another one, just to bring him relief. But I know it would only be temporary and he would have to do this all over again. So we continue on this path littered with blood curdling screams and tears shed by all. I curse the day I introduced him to a pacifier and will not with my next one. (I will go down fighting!)

I just hope I can stay strong and not replace this one soothing habit with so many others. How do I teach him to fall asleep (again!) without me, a pacifier or, heaven forbid, his thumb!? I am afraid the only answer is to let him cry, (yes, I know it is). But you will never know the pain and anquish of this mom until you come to my house and hear for yourself what it is like listening to the cries of an addict.
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Sunday, July 23, 2006

You've breastfed WHERE?

BabyTalk Magazine's most recent cover is a baby and a booby. I was really surprised by this choice, but think it is very cool and very bold of them. The whole issue has a lot of articles and tidbits about breastfeeding, and it brought back images of me breastfeeding about the town.

I said I would never do it on the subway, but alas I have, twice. And since it wasn't very crowded, it wasn't THAT big of a deal. I just covered myself with a blanket, placed the stroller directly in front of me, and did not make eye contact. I was not given a hard time. It wasn't like the lady that was just pulling up her shirt and letting her larger child go on and off the breast repeatedly, every time, totally exposing her breast. I had a difficult time keeping my jaw closed and eyes averted for that one, like a really bad car wreck.

And here is the list of other places that I have nursed that maybe some would be shocked to hear about: On a bench at Central Park, at Jones Beach (that was so easy and convenient with my swimsuit...just pop that booby right out), on a plane (sorry Barbara Walters), (nurse-in protesting Babs pictured above), in Borders bookstore, in the chapel at church during Sacrament Meeting (after a while that mother's room just reeks of poopy diapers), at a restaurant during a busy lunch hour, and at the movies.

Zinone likes hooter hiders for her public breastfeeding, but I pretty much don't care. I have never breastfed on top of the Empire State Building like Krista, but I was asked to the prom up there...does that count? Now I sort of want to have another baby so that I can breastfeed up there....what a great idea! Anyone else want to confess to their breastfeeding adventures?
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Friday, July 21, 2006

I'll Tell You Mine If You Tell Me Yours

I think it's fascinating to hear the history behind given names. I'll go first and then it's your turn, ok?

Me: Jen. My parents liked the popular name of Jennifer, but my father had an ex-girlfriend with that name, so my mom pretty much insisted that I be "Jenni". In a great act of rebellion, I boldly shortened my name to Jen when DH and I moved to New York. I had been wanting to make the change for many years, but I found it hard to do without starting over in a new place. New York was my shot. Most people come to the city to find fame on Broadway or fortune on Wall Street. Personally, I was content to move here in order to lose a couple of annoying letters off my name.

Today, everyone except for my family calls me Jen. When someone does call me "Jenni", I don't really mind, but I feel like my 13-year-old self in braces and a bad perm all over again.

DH: Edward. He was supposed to have the name "Eduardo" (he is first generation Mexican American), but the nurses in the Los Angeles hospital where he was born either misunderstood the request or decided to Americanize his name on his birth certificate paperwork. His parents didn't speak enough English to object, so the gringo name stuck. Most everyone calls him Ed. I only call him Edward when he leaves whiskers in our clean bathroom sink, or better yet, when he decides to turn on The Godfather while I lay in a hospital bed working hard to breathe through my contractions. Nothin' like seeing a horse's head in some dude's bed to keep you calm through labor!

DS #1: Noe. We were looking for something Hispanic and a little more original than "Juan" or "Pedro". When I was four months pregnant, we were shlepping around our New York neighborhood discussing names and Ed blurted out "How about Noe?" It was perfect. I still remember the corner we were standing on when he said his name for the first time (42th Street & 43rd Avenue, Queens). Noe is pronounced like you would say "No-way" in English and should have an accented e although I am usually too lazy to type it out that way. It is the Spanish equivalent of Noah.

DS #2:Asher. Asher is the main character in Chaim Potok's classic, My Name is Asher Lev, which also happens to be my all-time favorite piece of literature. Asher means "happy" or "blessed" in Hebrew, and in the Old Testament, Asher was one of Jacob's sons and Joseph's brothers. I really love the name and don't care that it is unusual unless you happen to be an orthodox Jew. Luckily, our extended family seems to like the name, although Asher's 18-month-old cousin calls him "Ashey" and Ed's parents have trouble pronouncing the "sh" which doesn't exist in Spanish and call him "Acher." Actually, they usually diminutize it and say "Achercito."

Gotta love America.... only here can a little boy have a white mama, a Jewish first name and a hispanic surname.

Ok, now it's your turn.... Note: You can tell the story of someone else's name if you feel the need to stay anonymous.

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Thank Heaven For Little Girls

We are pleased to announce that our very own Tales girl, Brandolyn has given birth to a beautiful, healthy, baby girl. We will have to wait to hear from the earth mother herself as to the the reality of this birth. We wish you peaceful days and restful nights as you celebrate this new addition to your family.
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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The 'Mazin' Met

I love NY even in the brutal July heat: everything green and sunny, occasional rain for a drop in temperatures, people outside on their stoops in the evening trying to catch some cooler air, ice cream on practically every corner, etc. But my tribute to NYC focuses on one specific place that stays cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It’s one of my favorite places on the whole earth: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is a world-class art museum that you can’t find anywhere else in the US, or the world for that matter (okay, the Louvre is very close), and it’s right here in our backyard.

Here are my top 10 reasons The Met is soooooo amazing (in order):

1) Pay what you wish. What a delight for those of us on a budget! It makes things so democratic, unlike other area museums, because everyone can afford to get in. Not that I suggest skimping on the cost—it takes a lot of money to provide the exhibits—it gives you wiggle room. JD and I bought a year pass for $55, very economical if you go as often as we do.

2) Collections. There’re an astounding variety of things to see. You can find tapestries of Buddahs and unicorns, armor from England and Japan, mummies from Egypt and Central America, furniture once used by anyone from an American president to a French Duke, Perseus killing Medea in statue and painting, and any other medium you can think of; in short: if it’s art, it’s there.

3) Cafeteria. This I found only in the past year, and it has made my museum visit complete. Adding food to anything is ALWAYS a good idea, and adding it to great art makes the whole experience better. I can especially recommend the panini sandwiches, antipasta (always an interesting variety), and the rocky road cupcakes. The prices aren’t cheap, but neither are they unreasonable for the area, plus there’s free water and (usually) plenty of room. This is a lovely place to take a break, especially with a baby (see below).

4) Guided Tours. Available everyday, several times a day, in multiple languages on the weekend, these “museum highlight” tours given by the docents are excellent every time. It gives you a chance to see things you might’ve walked by a dozen times before. The guides know their stuff and the information helps you appreciate all you see. I’ve never been on a tour where they showed you the same thing twice. There are also art programs for children, which we haven’t taken advantage of yet, but are looking forward to.
Here, I will also mention that the security guards, while sometimes less friendly than one would want, are always very helpful with directions to ANYthing. Which is a necessity in a vast, overwhelming building.

5) Stroller entrance. Off to the left side of the main entrance, this isn’t so spectacular, but it’s super convenient. And (dare I say) never crowded. The coat-check line has never had more than 4 people in it. That is the entrance where they have loads of school children congregate, but I’ve never found them out of control or otherwise invasive. Also, The Met is pretty stroller friendly. Occasionally, with temporary exhibits, they don’t allow strollers in. But they provide free backpack child carriers at the coat check for just such an event.

6) More is More. It’s not just that there are so many kinds of things to see, it’s that there’s so much of it! Not just one grandfather clock from early America, not just one Egyptian papyrus, not just one Monet watercolor, not just one Nambian fertility god, but dozens and dozens! Go to the Guggenheim if you want to see just one painting at a time. The Met will completely overload with more of everything! You cannot possibly see it all in one day—even if you spent the whole day there. Which leads me to . . .

7) Henry R. Luce Collection. A brilliant idea: put on display, in warehouse form, all the stuff you don’t have room for in regular display. Luce made this possible in many museums I’ve seen in NYC. In The Met it’s in the basement of the American Wing: a fascinating view. It lessens the chance that some great discovery get buried away to never be seen.

8) Location. My other favorite place in NYC is Central Park, so how perfect is it that The Met is in Central Park. So, not only is it in our backyard, it’s in such a beautiful location that it makes it easy to take a little nature stroll before or after your visit.

9) Late-night weekends. The Met is open every day except Monday with regular 9:30-5:30 hours. But on Friday and Saturday night, they stay open till 9pm! It’s a dream because very few people have figured this out, so you get to enjoy everything I’ve mentioned above with fewer people. In NYC, that’s always a rare treat.

10) Floor Arrangement—Flow. Things fit together nicely here. The rooms are usually painted in a way that complements the art. And there are nice “transition” rooms to help you connect early American art to both ancient Armor and ancient Egypt.

The one problem I find with The Met is that IT’S OVERWHELMING, as I’ve mentioned a few times above. While I love many things that lead to this overall impression, I’ve had to make adjustments so that it doesn’t, well, overwhelm. Here are some suggestions:

• Don’t try to see The Met in one day. You can’t, and you’ll just end up hating it and yourself if you try. If you only have one day, just do a quick walk through, getting an overall sense of it, stopping only when you must, and promising yourself you’ll come back.

• Don’t spend more than 2 hours looking around, and usually 1-1/2 hours is plenty of time. Not only will you get tired physically, but your mind cannot handle all that art in one place. It will all blur together and become meaningless, if you’re not careful.

• Do take a break ½ way through your trip in the cafeteria or out in Central Park or something.

• Do try to see parts of it at a time—the modern art section one day, the Far Eastern Art the next, etc.

• Do go on a highlights tour when you can. They only last an hour, which is just the right amount of time.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

SYTYCD and the Circle of Missionary Life

Summer reruns are only good in that they make room for awesome summer reality tv. Anyone else out there watching So You Think You Can Dance? I admit. I love it. For those who aren't reality show addicts, the main idea of the show is this: they take a group of really good dancers from all different dance backgrounds and challenge them with different genres of couple dancing every week. The rest is pretty typical: brutally honest judges, audience votes, people get voted off, tears are spilt while we watch a goodbye video montage.

The obvious crowd favorite is Benji who turns out to be a Mormon RM. It all came out in the first show. He told this heart wrenching story about how his girlfriend broke up with him while he was in Mexico serving a two-year mission for his church. The audience totally ate it up and he instantly became the favorite purely out of pity (now there are a million good reason to love him including his dancing, his personality, and his charity work). But my husband and I had to laugh out loud at all the pity he was receiving for what we all know is just a part of the "Mormon Missionary Circle of Life": go on mission, loose girlfriend to an RM, return from mission, marry a missionaries girlfriend.

I also had to laugh because Benji's first dance was a hip-hop number to "2 Much Booty In Da Pants". The crazy rump shaking dance was followed by a judge commenting "Does your church know you can dance like this?"

But anyway, back to the idea of "Mormon Missionary Circle of Life." My husband always says he feels like he didn't get the complete missionary experience because he didn't get a "Dear John" letter. But he did make his mark in the "Circle of Life" by marrying me, causing another Elder to receive a missionary experience complete with said "dear john" letter.

When I really start to think about it all, maybe the world has a better perception of the reality so many missionaries face. They go off committing to a life of service to the Lord for two years only to have the love of their life (at least at the time) not just break up with them but usually get married while they are away. Ouch! That does sound bad.

Should missionaries receive more pity when this happens? Should we be more angry at the girls who cast them aside for the missionary who just got home? (I couldn't be the first to cast stones on this one). Is loyalty undervalued? Or does the culture push some to become loyal too soon? Or maybe it's just a sacrifice that some missionaries have to make? Maybe it is just the "circle of life"?

For good or bad, it seems this "Circle of Life" has turned into somewhat of an accepted Mormon cultural "norm." What are your thoughts? What advice will you pass on to your children when they become of the "Circle" age (not that they will want to listen at that point)?

Or, just share a good "Dear John" story. Love those.

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Monday, July 17, 2006

The Pregnancy 20lb

I am currently pregnant with #2 and recently had my first visit with a new doc...
I searched for this new dr. because there are so many HORRIBLE ones in this city and I really wanted to have a great experience this time around. With #1 my hospital stay was horrendous, and in my opinion consisted of; torture, coersion, and basically the lose of any right I had previously enjoyed. (My birth story...another time.)

So determination lead me to the internet and friends to find out the BEST place to give birth in all of NYC. This search has lead me to St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital. A place that welcomes shortened stays, private rooms and respect of your personal choices (I hope). My desire to give birth at this hospital also is what lead me to this Dr. Due to insurance constraints I couldn't find ONE midwife that was covered by my plan and whom delivered at Roosevelt that was still in practice, so I went with an actual M.D. who supported midwife "methods" whatever that means.

My first meeting with her was great except she couldn't be any older than I am, which is a little creepy and seems like I'm having a friend check out all my "parts"... yikes.
The part that I really am writing about and taking forever to explain is what she referred to as the "prefered weight gain." This is currently being held at 20lbs.

Now I know what you are all thinking (cause i got an EAR full at playgroup the next day). 20 lbs!! Is this woman insane?
I gained 35 for my first and really have never met a single person to only gain 20 lbs for any pregnancy.
Now my dr. (I trust) isn't going to be overly strict and paddle me if I go over by a pound. She will only "alert me" if she feels there is a problem.
So now the debate is; am I crazy? Do i find another doc that will allow me to eat, or continue with "my friend" and possibly cause myself some mental and physical damage. (not that I would starve myself. COME ON PEOPLE I'm not stupid!)
And sadly I have come up with a justification, and that is that for my age and height, I technically was about 7-10lbs over weight to begin with. So that added that to my 20lbs I've been given permission to add puts me close to what I had with #1 right?
Ok, I think you're right...I AM insane.
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Dark Sky at Dawn: A Prepared Book Club Discussion

Author, L.C. Lewis prepared these book club discussion questions for her book, Dark Sky at Dawn:

1. In the prologue, Jonathan Pearson the First reveals that he has caused "bad magic" to fall upon two lodges. Have difficult family problems or responsibilities ever fallen upon you? How have you coped?

2. In addition to the bulk of his grandfather's estate, Jed Pearson inherits a troubled legacy. What burdens did this legacy inflict on him? What advice would you have given him to help him deal with these problems?

3. Jed Pearson loves Philadelphia because it inspires him. What city or place inspires you and why?

4. Compare Jed's feelings regarding the Founding Fathers and the Constitution to the patriotism of American citizens today. Which circumstances plaguing the US in 1810-1812 have a counterpart in our day? In your opinion, how do (or did) these elements affect each periods' citizenry?

5. Describe Hannah Stansbury, including her gifts and personality, and explain your feelings regarding her reaction to the challenges with which she is confronted. Would you describe her as weak or strong, and why? Why do you think we struggle to identify and trust the talents and answers we are given?

6. Identify a character whose motivation and struggles remind you of yourself or someone in your circle of friends and family. What elements of this character seem familiar and why?

7. Dark Sky at Dawn attempts to illustrate the struggles of individuals balancing intense personal concerns against their civic duties and responsibilities. What civic or political concerns are creating the greatest impact on your family today? How do they affect you?

8. Consider Jerome's story. What injustices have impacted your life and how have you survived and triumphed over them?

9. How would you characterize Beatrice and Myrna? Their meddling creates a chain of events that alters Hannah's future. Are there circumstances under which you could see yourself acting similarly? Under what conditions?

10. What similarities exist between the British's effort to weaken our nation in 1810-1812 and the tools employed by our enemies today? Consider 9-11.

11. As you read about the riot in Baltimore what side did you sympathize with and why? Is there ever a time when the rights of a free press should limited? When derogatory opinions about the government or military should be limited?

12. Anticipating that he would die in battle, Dudley Snowden wrote a final letter to his wife. To whom would you want to express your final thoughts and what would you say or request?

13. Describe Myrna's spiritual struggles and denials. Have you ever had a similar spiritual struggle? How did you find peace?


1. How many men signed the Declaration of Independence?
a) 13 b) 50 c) 56 d) 100

2. Which two presidents died on the same day historic day, July 4th, 1826, exactly fifty years after the adoption of the Declaration of Independence?
a) George Washington and John Adams b) Thomas Jefferson and John Adams
c) Thomas Jefferson and James Madison d) James Madison and James Monroe

3. Which President served as a general in the War of 1812, commanding American forces in the Battle of New Orleans?
a) Andrew Jackson b) James Monroe c) James Madison d) John Quincy Adams

4. Which president defended the mutineers on the slave ship Amistad before the US Supreme Court?
a) Martin Van Buren b) John Quincy Adams c) James Monroe d) John Tyler

5. Which president has the sole distinction of being elected unanimously by the electoral college?
a) George Washington b) Thomas Jefferson c) Abraham Lincoln d) Franklin D. Roosevelt

6) What danger did President Washington warn against in his farewell address?
a) Taxation without representation b) Westward expansion c) Maintaining a standing military d) Permanent alliances with foreign governments

7) Which president wrote his own edited version of the bible?
a) Thomas Jefferson b) Franklin Pierce c) Calvin Coolidge d) Jimmy Carter

8) He commanded the victorious American forces at Yorktown.
a) Andrew Jackson b) Lafayette c) George Washington d) Ulysses S. Grant

9) Who was the father of the US Constitution?
a) Alexander Hamilton b) Patrick Henry c) James Madison d) Benjamin Franklin

10) The source of the phrase, "Government of the people, by the people, for the people" is:
a) The Bill of Rights b) Gettysburg Address c) The Declaration of Independence
d)U.S. Constitution

1)c 2)b 3)a 4)b 5)a 6)d 7)a 8)c 9)c 10)b
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Saturday, July 15, 2006

Baby Bliss (sarcasm)

Dear Lil' Sis,

Here is a picture of my placenta. Yup, after the beautiful baby girl, this will follow. It's gorgeous isn't it?

As you begin to think about the bliss of motherhood, let me provide you with a reality check. The first month (at least) is a whirlwind of pain, both physical, emotional, and mental. It is a time of euphoria (sometimes). It is the path to restarting your sex life...anybody know where the brakes or on this thing? And it is the beginning of the rest of your life. Say goodbye to the good ole days, now the real fun starts.

Here is what you might need in your bag of tricks:

Lansinoh breast cream. You rub this on your nipples after a feeding and it is ok for the baby to ingest it. I did not use this with baby #2, but did with baby #1...just depends on your comfort. With baby #2 my nipples got pussy blisters....don't fuss with them, they are ok for you and baby, they will heal in about a week.

If your breasts are in a lot of pain and you feel fluish or have a fever, this is a breast infection called mastitis. You need to see a doctor. To avoid this, if the baby goes a long stretch without eating (b/c she's getting bigger, sleeping longer etc.) just massage your breasts in a warm shower to get some of the milk out...just enough to relieve your pain....you will feel little hard spots in places sometimes. Or if you are desperate, massage over your kitchen or bathroom sink...or the toilet (if you are in an airport and you haven't pumped or fed your baby for 8 hours and the pressure involved with landing in the plane caused an explosion from your bosoms such that you REEKED of that sweet succulent breast milk, and upon removing your bra over said toilet it was a fountain of breast milk like no one wants to see)!

If the baby has a milky white substance on the inside of her mouth, this is thrush, also treatable...consult your doctor.

Your milk will not be there right away. A few days after you come home you will wake up from a nap as Dolly Parton. Until then you and baby are practicing, getting ready and the baby is eating colostrum. I had colostrum at around 32 weeks, so if you want to try to massage something out for fun, it might be there ; )

Try out your breast pump before you give birth...nothing will come out, but you will learn the mechanics of breastfeeding. Your baby does not suck the nipple, she presses your breast an inch or two above the nipple, so that the milk just comes OUT of the nipple...you will see this when you try out the breast pump.

Remember, your nipple has SEVERAL wholes....so don't be surprised when it looks like a sprinkler, not a hose.

Lansinoh breast pads. You don't have to use the stickies on the back, just shove them in your NURSING bra. They even have new ultra soft ones.

Nursing Bras
You will need several of these b/c milk is milk....it gets nasty. My fave ones that are also affordable are found at motherwear.

This sleep bra is AMAZING. Love it...get a few of these.

This one is great for you to hide the pads and have a nice, smooth look on the outside, it is more difficult to nurse in, but this is your going-out bra. It's called the perfect shaper.

Cottony Smooth cup is good for every day, but probably doesn't off support for big busty breastfeeders.

Please PLEASE PLEASE buy these bras...they are a must. And be prepared to buy a new set in about 6 months when your boobs shrink again (if you continue nursing). Also, if you are unsure about size, call them at motherwear, they really are experts.

When I had baby #1 I would get up at night, sit in the chair, get the boppy, water, everything all set up and nurse while I watched tv. NEVER did with baby #2, just nursed her lying down on each side. I used a flashlight so that we could all remember it was night. But with baby #1 it took me 4 months before I knew how to nurse lying down...so do what you can....just remember to burp and change after every feeding, and swaddling works wonders...I swaddled both girls for at least 4 months solid....EVERYWHERE we went.

Have lots of water on hand....breastfeeding makes you thirsty. Also take calcium b/c you are losing a TON producing milk. You are also needing 500 more calories a day to produce milk, so don't start dieting yet.

Private Parts
Tucks. Get the 100 pack....you will LOVE these...just dab your cootchie every time you go the bathroom and after a shower and ESPECIALLY after you start having sex again.

Speaking of sex. The first time back is like giving birth...just breathe through it baby. Buy some ASTROGLIDE...it is your friend.

Speaking of sex, you might want to keep your bra on for a while....milk likes to leak EVERY WHERE.

As for peeing....it burns, and the toilet paper feels yucky....with baby #1 they gave me a spray bottle when I came home but not the second time...so just get a sports bottle top water bottle, and every time you pee fill it up with warm water, and then spray yourself clean ....

These pads look good. These look good too. Just stay with long cushy ones, and get a variety. With my first baby I was convinced I needed Depends...let's just say it is so not cool to wear diapers while you are also changing someone elses...just get lots of luxuriously pillowy pads, and tucks and you will be fine. If you are lucky, the hospital will give you the ice pack and pads in one.

Here are some good cootchie tips.

For Baby
Mylocin drops are good when they are gassy, or gripe water, if you can get your hands on some. If you have a collicky one or a baby that cries....start paying attention to what you are eating, b/c they could be reacting to your breastmilk.

Also have your baby meds bought ahead of time: motrin, tylenol, little colds, little noses...saline drops stuff like that.

Belly button
Lately the docs say to just leave it alone, baby #1's fell off within a week. baby #2 had to get hers cotterized 3 times at the doctor. This means the belly button did not heal all the way, so if the stub falls off and it is still pussing and bleeding, the doctor has to burn it shut, it doesn't hurt the baby.

In your bag: your own snacks (sneak them when the nurse is out), and some for DH. Books to read, music to listen to, remember between contractions you have down time. You need to relax and have something to do. I listened to an ipod for #2, and read with #1.

Bring your own sweet-smelling things; shampoo and lotion-whatever will make you feel relaxed and like you. Comfortable clothes, baby's take home outfit. A change of clothes for DH in case he never makes it home. Bring your own gown or nightgown (ask your doc about this).

Make sure the carseat is ready.

Try to refuse things like a routine heplock (where they would put an iv). Advocate to move around...you cannot just lie there for 20 plus hours in a bed. This is where having a midwife is so great.

When you go into labor, try to stay home as long as you possibly can. You should go to the hospital when you are starting to cry and freak out about the pain, not when you are giddy and excited that it has begun. If you are too happy when you get there, you'll just wait around a LOT.

You might want a tripod for your video camera. I regret that I don't have more of the birth....you can even point the camera away from you if you don't want the gory details, as long as you have the SOUND of birth, that makes for great background on a slideshow for a dvd later (thank you for this great idea Carrie).

On a lighter note:
A fun book for you to read this summer:

Girlfriends Guide to the First Year. It was a great read a few weeks before giving birth. I didn't read this, but would have if I didn't have a toddler, Belly Laughs.

Nightmare of giving birth
Remember the hormones are busting out of your body after birth. 2 days, 4 days and 2 weeks and 4 weeks after giving birth you will be a non-functional, emotional basket case...this is hormones.

Watch for signs of post partum depression. If in a month life is still looking bleak and you have bad thoughts about your baby...you MUST tell your doctor. This is a real thing, and there is help available....it is out of your control, just hormones.

Give yourself an entire 2 weeks to recover....your body will be happy about this at the 6 week mark.

Oh, and with each subsequent baby you have, the afterbirth cramps get worse and worse and worse. My midwife chose to tell me this about 8 and a half minutes after delivering number 2...thanks a lot.
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Friday, July 14, 2006

The Incompetent PT

That would be me.

When my 3 1/2 year old son, Noe, was diagnosed with autism a year ago, we quickly realized that he needed much more help than we could give him. So we hired a team of professionals: Behavioral therapists, a speech therapist and an occupational therapist to be exact. The neurologist who diagnosed my son also recommended physical therapy to address low muscle tone (a common side effect of autism) in Noe's back, neck, arms and hands. Because his muscle tone issues were relatively minor and because we couldn't really afford to pay bills from yet another therapist, I decided to train myself to be Noe's physical therapist.

My training involved reading a few books and putting Noe in physical therapy just long enough to learn what exercises he needed to build muscle tone. Basically, the physical therapist had him do modified sit-ups, push-ups and back lifts on an exercise ball. Noe tolerated the monotonous exercises because he also got to jump on the cool trampoline at the therapist's office. When we tried the exercises at home, he cried through each session. I could hardly blame him. Really, are two and three year olds meant to do push-ups and sit-ups?

I persevered for a couple of months, setting a timer for 20 minutes each day for us to workout. Noe never learned to like the exercises and I never learned how to make them fun for him. So gradually, our workouts were less and less consistent. It's been a good four months since our last workout.

I do not regret forgoing physical therapy. Noe's gross motor development is only slightly delayed and only noticable to the professional eye. But recently I find myself rubbing his back and touching bone where there should be lean muscle tissue and I feel guilty.

I'd like to recharge Noe's workouts, but I need help from more experienced moms. What kind of exercises do your kids enjoy that also help strengthen their arms, hands and back?

Here is what we are currently doing (and not doing):

* We go to the playground EVERYDAY and I make sure he is doing things that work his back and arms like climbing and swinging (not a problem...he LOVES both of these activities).

* I know that swimming is a great way to build muscle tone, but right now Noe is scared to go in the water. (Any suggestions on overcoming this fear are also welcome).

* I try and get him to lift and carry practical objects (his toys, big balls, groceries from the car). He doesn't particularly enjoy this activity, but will usually cooperate.

Short of putting the kid on steroids, I'm at a loss and your advice is greatly appreciated.
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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Words From Mom: Mothering Wisdom From the Aged

A while back we had our first in what we hope to be a series of guest posts written by our own mothers. We are now pleased to share the second post in this "Words From Mom" series. This one was sent to us by the woman who at the age of 44, without an epidural, pushed out a 10lb baby girl named Carrie:

I have been reading this blog with interst for a while now. What amazes me the most is that a group of moms with the same interests and values take the time and energy to support each other and share experiences and ideas about the awesome task of being a mother.

I’ve become aware that many of you have read at least some of the myriad of available parenting books or logged on to the multiple computer sites that offer information on every possible question you may have regarding raising children. And, by the way, there are some excellent new ideas and discoveries that are very useful and valid in raising children even though some may be contradictory. I wish so much knowledge had been available while I was raising my eight children. And just so you know, I am seventy-two years old, mother of eight (six girls and two boys), grandmother of thirty-seven, and great grandmother of twelve (number thirteen on the way).

I readily concede that many of the challenges you face today exceed those I had to deal with. But children’s basic needs have really not changed much over the years. What has changed so dramatically is the society and mores of the world in which you must raise those children...children we want to become responsible, dependable, hard working adults with values and standards, many of which are not in sync with the world in which they must live.

Having said all that, I would like to share several lessons I have learned over the years, which I consider to have been the most valuable in raising my nearly “perfect” children (I jest, of course.) You can use your own judgment as to whether or not the things I write are “wisdom from the aged” or “what does she know about raising children in our day?”

Here I go:

1. No two children are alike even though they may have the same genes, are raised in the same home under the same rules. (This gives me a strong testimony of the pre-existence). So you cannot treat them alike. What works for one will not work for another. You can’t raise all children “by the book”. And by the way, there is no one right way to raise children. There are many different “right” ways that will all be successful.

2. Parents do not have to be perfect or always make the right decisions to have our children turn our ok. I attended a parenting class when my children were young which was taught by a child psychologist. After several sessions it became clear that I was really “messing up” as a parent. In frustration I approached the instructor after class with, “How is it that our children turn out to be even close to normal with all the mistakes that parents make?” Then came this answer that was burned into my mind the rest of my life, “Because they do enough things right.” So do enough things right and your children will be just fine.

3. This same instructor taught us about what he called “Lollipop Love”…something that made my children less demanding of my time when I was truly busy. This is the philosophy of “lollypop love”. When your children are playing contentedly and are not making demands of you…you know, the time you try to tiptoe away so you can get something done …that is the time to take a few minutes, sit down and play with him, or just give him a hug and a kiss.(lollipop love) After a short while he will realize that he doesn’t have to misbehave or cry to get your attention. It worked for me!!

4. Now I will contradict somewhat what I said above. Once when I was really busy doing something that was really inconvenient for me to put down, my four- year- old son come running in all excited and said, “Come see! Come see! I really wanted to say, “Wait just a minute”, but resisted the impulse. (I’ll always be grateful for that.) I followed him to see the side hill of our yard covered with bright pink blossoms. The ice plant had bloomed for the first time that morning, and he was truly awed by the sight. If I had put him off, I would have missed sharing that very special moment of excitement with him. Be sensitive to things that important to your children, even if you can’t see that importance.

5. Be consistent! This is self explanatory, but critically important. Children need to know their boundaries and their consequences. And never say anything you can’t or won’t follow up on if the need arises. This gives them needed security.

6. Give choices, beginning at a young age. (This would take another whole page to describe what I mean and how it works, so I will just leave it at that.)

7. Trust yourself as a mother. You’ve heard the lament of many mothers, “I wish children came with a manual.” What they don’t realize is that they really do! It’s a God-given, internal manual found in all mothers. It is called INTUITION. Don’t be afraid to use it and trust it. It will work when all else fails.

8. Last of all I’d like to quote Marjorie Hinckley who said, “FIND JOY IN MOTHERING.” This is the best advice of all.

Keep up the good work, mothers! Because you care, you cannot fail.
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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I Love the Farmer's Market

I love going to the Farmer's Market. It doesn't matter where it is, Union Square, Santa Monica or New Dehli (wouldn't suggest actually eating any of the fresh food in India there unless you want to bring home a nasty parasite as a souvenir). I just love perusing through the piles of fruits, vegetables, flowers, cheese, fish, homemade jam, and homespun yarn. I love being able to easily trace back where the food came from, when it was picked, who it was packed by (it't not so easy with the food at the grocery store).

It boggles my mind to think about all the varieties of food out there in the world. I didn't even realize on of my most favorite foods existed until I reached adulthood. It makes me wonder what other "favorites" are out there that I just haven't found yet. The Farmers Market is a great place to start the search because it always has different varieties of foods and there are usually samples. I get to try stuff that I never heard of before. It is where I first tasted an asian pear and a donut peach (two of the most delicious fruits in my book).

Whenever I go to the Farmer's market, I never go with a list. I just like to see what looks good and more importantly what looks interesting. The photo is of the food I bought during my last trip to the FM:

One beautiful vine-ripened, summer tomato - Ate it with fresh mozzarella, basil and basalmic vinegar. AMAZING!

One giant artichoke - I had never seen such a huge artichoke. And don't you love that long stem! It makes me want to tie a ribbon around it and present it like a bouquet of flowers.

Two zuchinni's - Grated these up into the breakfast pancake batter for the girls. Love hidden nutrition. My mom was a pro at this.

Two avacados - How much do I love fresh guacamole? Here is my easy recipe: Smash together one avacado, some diced tomato and red onion, one clove of diced garlic. Add lime juice and salt to taste. If you like it a little spicy, add some hot peppers. I know it's not an exact recipe, but you'll have fun experimenting with the amounts.

Three sweet lemons - What is the difference between a regular lemon and a sweet lemon you ask? I didn't know either, but the farmer let me taste one at the market and I was sold. A sweet lemon tastes like lemonade without adding the sugar. It's awesome!

One cherimoya - I had never heard of this fruit before my trip to the FM but apparently it is considered one of the best tasting fruits in the whole world. This is exactly why I love the farmer's market! Who knows when or if I would have ever come upon this fruit if not at the FM. To think I could have missed out tasting one of the most delicious fruits in the world! And it was delicious.

I love going to the Farmer's Market. I always learn something new, whether it comes from speaking with the growers or trying something new. Maybe next time I'll pick up some purple brocolli and try this new recipe. Who knows, it could end up being my favorite vegetable in the world!

To find a Farmer's Market near you click here

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

My chest is flat and I'm ok with that.

Z and I were talking about plastic surgery today while we worked out and tried to make ourselves more appealing, the "natural" way.....not another set of 15 please! And it got me thinking about plastic surgery. I think it is safe to say that I will NEVER get plastic surgery. I know, I'm young, this could change, but I don't see it happening.

Carrie will say that I have been genetically blessed (face-wise) and I wouldn't understand if someone really wanted say a nose job and the difference that could make in their lives. True, I don't understand that, my mom gave me a good face. And if I am going to be swayed, I would be swayed in that direction, as long as it didn't become an addiction like some people we have seen. But do you think Ashlee Simpson has had some dramatic change in how she feels about herself because she got a little taken off the top? I liked her old nose.

I think it's a popular question posed to celebrities: "What are your thoughts on plastic surgery?" Here is the interviewer asking this slice of the population that are probably the MOST attractive in the entire country/world and they have the guts to suggest that this attractive, well-liked, successful, probably gotten where they are in part by their looks celebrity might need plastic surgery. I don't get it. If I were the person being asked that, celebrity or not, I would take offense! What are you suggesting? If you were me, where would you start first? Etc.

To me our bodies are a map of our life. It is a literal imprint of where we came from, the choices we made, the ones we didn't choose, and who we are. From the inside to the outside to the scars to the laugh lines, we should relish in what life has brought our way. If we were living one hundred years ago, would it even occur to us that our boobs should be bigger?

I know some of my tales girls disagree with me on this...so I want to know why. How many of you have plans to get something added, taken away, nipped or tucked? What are your reasons? I want some soulful answers here ladies...make me get it.
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Saturday, July 08, 2006

Never fear, the stroller goddess is here...

I am the resident stroller goddesss here at Tales. When I had my DS 3 1/2 years ago, I didn't know a thing about strollers (just typing that makes my skin crawl - how could I NOT know or care about strollers? Was there such a time?). After a few initial mistakes and oggling my friends strollers, I was hooked. Marian helped me count the number I have owned the other day - I think we came up with 9 or 10...but I have a feeling that number is higher. I believe it is my DUTY to help all of you with your stroller needs. Face it, if you're a mom, you'll probably need a stroller at some point. Navigating the baby gear market is daunting and mistakes can be costly if you don't know what you need or want.

What do I personally like in a stroller? I prefer umbrellas to all else. They are easier to collapse, take up less room in your car/house and depending on the brand will be tricked out with every feature you could possibly want short of a built in DVD player (I'm working on THAT design, by the way). I am a fan of extendable leg rests for babies 18 months and under - it is more comfortable for their little legs and can help them relax enough to lay back and sleep. I need a decent sized basket, comfortably high handlebars and an overall aestecially pleasing design (I AM a stroller whore, afterall).

What don't I like? These huge, overblown travel system situations put out by manufacturers such as Graco and Evenflo. WAY too much plastic stroller stuff. They take up too much room in the biggest SUV and can be a bear to collapse. New parents (myself included years ago) assume they need an all-in-one contraption, that the infant car seat MUST snap into the stroller. Not so, my friends. Let's roll up our sleeves and dig in.

A great lightweight umbrella stroller: You would be hard pressed to find a better, all purpose, run-it-into-the-ground umbrella stroller than the Maclaren Volo. Weighing a mere 9 pounds, it is suitable for infants 6 months - 40 pounds. You can collapse it easily and sling it over your shoulder, stuff it through the security X-ray at the airport or schlep it up 2 flights of stairs on a NYC subway, kid strapped inside. It doesn't recline or have an extendable leg rest but the seat is generous and comfortable. The handlebars are a comfy pushing height for a 5'4 mom or 6'2 dad, an improvement over cheaper umbrella strollers. You can't go wrong with this stroller. Prices range $100-$130 depending on retailer.

Other worthy umbrella candidates:
  • Silver Cross Micro Stroller. Nearly identical to the Volo but with a more comfortable, padded seat. Also has a pocket for a bottle/cell phone in the sun canopy. Wheels aren't as durable as the Maclaren. Prices range from about $100-$150.
  • Zooper Salsa. Has 2 recline positions, weighs 11 pounds. Nice stroller. Price about $120.

Lightweight-Midweight Strollers: I am torn between two for this title. Duking it out are the Maclaren Techno and the Peg Perego Pliko. Both are umbrella strollers, have extendable leg rests, 4 position reclining seats, good size baskets/pocket storage, sturdy easily turning wheels, adjustable handles and an attractive design. The Maclaren has a larger sunshade/canopy covering more of the baby and has reflective piping making it visible to cars at night. It also has street cred as THE stroller for urban moms.

The Peg Pliko has a padded front bumper that can accomodate most brands of infant car seats. This feature is HUGE in my opinion and one of the main reasons I recently purchased a Pliko over a Techno. The other great thing about the Pliko is the built-in footboard for a toddler to stand on while you push another child in the stroller. My son is too independent to ride in the seat but loves to stand on that footboard while I push his sister. It's awesome. Prices are about the same for both (about $300 at most retailers) but for a stroller that addresses all of your needs from a newborn in a carseat to a toddler, my money is on the Pliko.

Other worthy midweight contenders:

  • Maclaren Quest. Has nearly all the same features as the Techno but about $100 less - a great stroller and you still get the Maclaren name/quality.
  • Inglesina Zippy. Very similar to the Peg Pliko, has the padded armbar and toddler footbar. Also features a patented one-hand folding system that is quite sexy. About $300.
  • Chicco C5. Similar design to Maclaren Quest for half the price. The fabric is rough (in my opinion) and it doesn't turn as well as the Maclarens or Pegs. About $90.

Midweights to stay away from:

  • Fisher Price Infant to Toddler Stroller. It looks like a Bugaboo but soooo far off the mark. Don't be fooled by the pretty design - this stroller is only approved to hold infants up to 25 pounds (read the stroller carton not the store signage). The seat is very difficult to adjust, it turns poorly and at a price of $250 do you really want to spend money on a stroller your baby may outgrow before their first birthday? Nah...

Double Strollers: I owned the Peg Perego Aria Twin and Maclaren Twin Traveler and got rid of both when I discovered...drumroll please...The Safety First Transit Tandem. Based on the hugely successful British version (the Marco Sky), this is a double tandem stroller on a single umbrella frame. Weighing in at 27 pounds (and this is good for a double), it features a generous canopy, adjustable handles, a rear seat that reclines nearly flat for an infant and a front seat with extendable leg rests, padded arm bar and snack cup for a toddler. But the numero uno reason I LOVE this stroller? It's a breeze to push. It's a double that handles like a single, narrow enough to scoot through aisles and doorways and turns beautifully even when loaded with humanity. The only drawback is the storage basket - it's a joke. You could fit a bottle in there and that's about it, no kidding. But with SO many positives outweighing a piddly basket, this one is a no-brainer and my favorite double yet. I have even inspired several Tales girls to purchase this model. Retails for between $120-$150.

Doubles to stay away from:

  • Peg Perego Aria Twin. Though marketed as a lightweight double stroller, it just feels flimsy and has a terrible turning radius. The canopy is a joke (it covers about 1/2 of your baby's head) and becomes impossible to push if your kids are more than 5 pounds apart (mine were about 20 pounds difference, so forget it - the stroller will pull to the side of your bigger child regardless of what you do). I ditched this stroller after 8 months.
  • Compass Tandem Umbrella Stroller. This one is trying to be like the Safety 1st Transit Tandem and fails miserably. It is much bulkier than the Safety 1st, the seats are lumpy and uncomfortable (you can really feel the bars of the stroller in the rear seat) and while I was testing the stroller it kept collapsing - YIKES. I have yet to see consistent good reviews for this stroller. Pass it up for sure.

Plush (ie: money isn't really an object here...) If you don't mind hauling some of these out of your SUV (size and weight are factors for some of these listed here) and you don't mind parting with some serious cash (come ON, these are strollers) than one of these may be for you. Here are a few favorites that always have me drooling when I see them on the street.

  • Bumbleride. Oh, just so pretty. HEAVY...but so pretty. Loaded with features and because not too many people have it, you'll stand out at the playground. This will set you back almost $400.
  • Valco. A plush carriage on a jogger stroller frame with an independly turning front wheel. One of the ultimate urban-sometimes-I-go-offroading- strollers. Between $400-800 depending on model.
  • Stroll-Air. Same idea as the Bumbleride but even MORE plush. These strollers come with everything but the kitchen sink...but you'll pay for it. Again, oh so pretty...droooool. These will set you back from between $600-$800.
  • Bugaboo. Our list wouldn't be complete without listing Bugaboo. It's nice and comfortable, and the base will accomodate and infant car seat. Plus you'll look like all the other stylish celeb moms out there. But starting at $800, make sure you REALLY want it...

Jogger Strollers. I have no expertise with these and so I don't feel comfortable passing judgement on what works and what doesn't. If you've found the greatest jogging stroller ever, fess up and let's hear it!

There are TONS of strollers and systems out there (the bulk of the uber cool ones are made in Europe - those people know how to make strollers), and although I have owned nearly a dozen, I haven't even scratched the surface. This guide is only as helpful as your comments, ideas and experiences. So feel free to throw your stroller expert hat into the ring - let's find the best stroller for everyone.

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Friday, July 07, 2006

A Missionary Tragedy

As many of you know, the Church and its missionary efforts just suffered a horrible tragedy. At least in my eyes. I wrestled with the idea of posting about this subject because my writing ability will not do it justice. However, since my words are not eloquent, I am hoping my sincere feelings and concern for these Sisters are conveyed.

When I read about this horrific event, I got physically sick. My initial reaction was disbelief. How could the Lord let something like this happen to two of his daughters who were serving Him faithfully? The response I got was "Bad things happen to good people". Sorry, no comfort there.

I have to admit (and commenters, please do not dwell on the strength of my testimony) that if something like this happened to my daughter, my testimony and faith would be shaken. Would yours? It's just too horrible. It may sound morbid, but I told my husband that I would possibly rather my daughter get killed then go through that kind of abuse for hours. I was really struggling with this and what my response will be to my daughter if she decides to serve a mission. Will I have forgotten this by then? I don't think so.

In a discussion among friends, I was told that Elizabeth Smart received a blessing from the Prophet that she would not be tortured by the memories of her past. Instantly, I was comforted. I'm not over the pain, fear, and questions, but I am comforted. I am sure the Lord is blessing these two Sisters with the same promise and I have complete faith that they will be healed. For now, I can rely on my faith in the Lord's power to heal our wounds, however deep they may be. I will keep these two faithful Sisters in my prayers, as well as all the other missionaries out there who not only give up 2 years of their life, but put themselves in danger, so that they can serve the Lord and share the true gospel.
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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Have Some Fun Today

Okay, if you haven't discovered this yet, you are in for some fun. I received a monkeeemail from my good friend Carrie, and it made my day. Try the Simon voice...it's the best.
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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A Child's First Chapter Book

"Once Upon a Time" is not how my first chapter book reading began. When I was three years old my Dad read The Hobbit to me–an unlikely beginning chapter book for a child, I know. But nonetheless it did it’s job. I was hooked. My Dad read to me each night. He sat next to me on the bed, his back propped up with pillows while I snuggled under the covers Dad wore his slippers and maroon bathrobe, and his voice filled my room as my mind conjured pictures of elves, wizards, and dragons. Suddenly my Dad and I had lots to talk about. We discussed the book and characters at dinner time and when we drove together in the car. As soon as we finished The Hobbit we began the Lord of the Rings trilogy. By the time I was five I had heard the entire series. Dad bought a "Middle-Earth" calendar for me for Christmas and commissioned a friend to draw a sketch of me sitting at a campfire with Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf, and Legolas. These are precious memories for me. I have very sentimental feelings about Tolkien’s work–even now–because it is associated with my first bedtime stories, and it created an early bond between my Dad and I.

Now that I have four young children, I find chapter book reading one of the most rewarding times of the day. I read to the girls while they lie in their bunk beds. Madilyn, age six, rests her head on her pillow and while looking up at the ceiling, asks lots of questions about the story and the characters. She never fails to plead, "Read one more chapter...PLEEEEEEASE!" Elise, age four, likes to see the book, even though Madilyn reminds her that there aren't any pictures to see. Elise is quick to laugh at the funniest parts of the story, and she is almost as quick to fall asleep. Her eyes close long before the chapter is finished. But Madilyn enjoys telling her what happened in the story during breakfast. I confess, bedtime story reading is my favorite activity to share with my children.

Perhaps reading chapter books is a little selfish: I enjoy the stories as much, if not more, than they do. Perhaps it's tradition: a wonderful habit instilled in me after years of reading books and novels. Or perhaps it's simply love--wanting to share something with my children that was shared so specially with me. And so it is safe to say, though rarely do great chapter books end with the words "happily ever after," simply reading them has made our lives just so.

Here are my top ten beginning chapter books for children. I’ll admit that we’ve crashed and burned on a few chapter books. I think it’s totally alright to leave a chapter book unfinished and find one that really interests your child. The goal of chapter book reading is to spark our children’s imagination, make a memory, and hopefully begin their love affair with reading.

1. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien.

I can personally attest that there is no other book I’ve come across that opens a child’s imagination to a completely new world (Harry Potter comes close). Tolkien is very long-winded in sections, so parental abridgements are probably needed for the very young!

2. Charlottes Web by E. B. White

This classic book moves quickly and is filled with such endearing characters that my girls just loved it. We’ve read it at least three times. It also helps that there’s a wonderful movie - but don’t let them see it until after you’ve finished the book!

3. Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Look for a version that is abridged and has good illustrations. Our favorite version is published by Walker Books with illustrations by Inga Moore. This was Madilyn’s favorite book when she was three years old. She looked at the pictures by herself long after we finished reading.

4. Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

OK, I know this isn’t technically a chapter book. But if you can find the collection of stories with the originally drawings they work well as a chapter book. Our favorite stories (in addition to Peter Rabbit) are The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, the Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies, and the Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck.

5. The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

This is an amazingly beautiful story. It is one that I guarantee you’ll love as much or more than your children.

6. Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

We laughed and cried together while reading this one.

7. The Secret Garden by Frances Burnett

Again, look for an abridged version with beautiful illustrations. I recommend the Young Reader’s Edition illustrated by Robert Sauber. We’ve read this more times than any of our other chapter books.

8. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH By Robert C. O’Brien

We struggled through this one a little. We got bogged down in the chapters about the rat’s escape from NIHM. But I had surprisingly engaging conversations comparing the book and the movie.

9. Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborn.

Of all the chapter books we’ve read, this series incites the most "one more chapter please!" requests. Osborn is the master of chapter ending cliff hangers. We’re currently on book #13.

10. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

This is the chapter book we’re reading this summer. I still remember my Dad reading it to me. It was the first time I remember seeing my Dad cry.

**About our guest contributor: Holly teaches writing and literature classes part-time at Northern Virginia Community College and George Mason University. She is a full-time mother of four children (her oldest just finished Kindergarten). And although most of the time she is up to her elbows in messes and chaos at home, her favorite job title is "Mom."
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Monday, July 03, 2006

Celebrating the Fourth of July Better

When it comes to holidays like Christmas and Easter, I am very aware of the commercialization that surrounds them. Because of this, I make an extra effort to strip away that commercialism (at least for a time) and focus on the real meaning of the holiday. It didn’t strike me until I was sitting in church on Sunday that The Fourth of July has fallen into the very same trap where it’s original meaning has become overshadowed by BBQ’s, Fireworks and Old Navy Flag Tees.

While a few peoples' testimonies had patriotic themes, what struck me most, was standing and singing our national anthem for the opening hymn. We all know the first verse very well, but rarely do we get the opportunity to get to the last verse:

    Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
    Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
    Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
    Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
    Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
    And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
    And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
    O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

I was taken back at the emotion that came bubbling up from within my body and escaped as tears from my eyes and a crack in my voice. Fourth of July is a time to reflect upon the history of America and offer a prayer of thanks for this country which was originally built by people who knew God, sought after his guidance and acknowledged His hand.

This fourth of July, I hope to place more focus on the birth of this country and better “praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.”

Here are a few of my ideas on how I might accomplish this:

  • Make a collection of patriotic music and play it leading up to the 4th and throughout the day. This list includes some non-traditional "patriotic" songs to add to the ipod.

  • Take time to read through the Declaration of Independence and Washington's First Inaugural Address.

  • Take a refresher course on flag etiquette.

  • I would love to find a book to read to Princess (almost 4) about the birth of America or about one of the founding fathers. Any suggestions?

  • Get the hardware needed to be able to fly the American Flag (I already own) outside my home. And fly it with a spirit of thanksgiving.

I found an article on Deseret Book that gave lots more ideas. Here are synopses of my favorites (with added links):

I guess the reality is that these ideas are a little late in coming this year and I probably won't get around to doing all I want (I still have to grocery shop for the bbq, clean the house for our guests and figure out where is the best place to watch the local fireworks) but at least I'll be ahead of the game for next year.

I would love to hear any other ideas of bringing meaning back into Fourth of July celebrations.
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Sunday, July 02, 2006

Family Prayer

Today my little family gathered together on our bench in the "hallway" of our 700 square foot apt. DH and I were sitting, Poopy on his lap. Pukey was standing. We folded our arms and bowed our heads and said a quick prayer like we do every morning, and most every night. But this morning was different.

13-month-old Poopy took the palms of her hands and placed them on her chest in a very deliberate way. She bowed her head and scrunched her eyes and held this position as long as she could. When the prayer was over and DH said AMEN, she said: "Yeah!" I was so humbled by her. This little baby was practicing prayer, already.

We didn't even start family prayer with our first until she was probably at least 2, thinking that she wouldn't really catch on and it wouldn't really matter. And today I know that it does matter, and they do catch on. And I am so glad that we take just a wee second every day to gather as a family and Thank God for each other and for this life. Yeah!
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Saturday, July 01, 2006

Essential Reads for the Mom-to-Be

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