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.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Harry Potter Challenge: Book 1

Those of you participating in the Harry Potter Challenge, bourne out of Michelle's post on her Harry Potter Experiences, here is the first post.

The Harry Potter Challenge:
To read the 6 Harry Potter Books before the 7th is released. The idea is to read one per month. The month of February is Book 1... Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

If you have never heard of Harry Potter, that is surprising. It has changed history.

During this challenge, I am looking for clues about Snape, since his state/fate was the culminating question of Book 6. Borders sent me an email with free stickers (with purchase) that indicated whether or not you could trust Snape. They also have a counter that you can add to your blog or myspace page...check it out here. You can get the html for your own blog when you scroll over the graphic.

In Book 1, when Harry Potter sees Snape for the first time, it is at the first-day-of-school dinner at Hogwarts. On Page 126 it says:
"It happened very suddenly. The hook-nosed teacher looked past Quirrell's turban straight into Harry's eyes - and a sharp, hot pain shot across the scar on Harry's forehead....

"The pain had gone as quickly as it had come. Harder to shake off was the feeling Harry had gotten from the teacher's look - a feeling that he didn't like Harry at all."

Is the pain on his scar brought on my Harry...much like flushing of the cheeks when you feel embarrassed or scared...or does some outer presence force the pain...like evil or anything associated with Voldemort? If this is the case, was the pain caused by Snape or Snape looking THROUGH Quirrell's turban, which we know is covering up Voldemort's face/soul.

This is my biggest question from book 1.

At the end of Book 6, I was surprised at Snape, but I also want to trust him, because Dumbledore does, but you cannot deny the FIRST time we meet Snape, there is an association with pain in the scar. And the only other time in the book that he feels the pain is in the forest when he sees Voldemort/Quirrell drinking the unicorn blood, and when he confronts them at the end of the book.

Thoughts anyone?

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Is there still Magic at Disneyland?

Well, I suppose there is a different kind of magic for different ages and personalities. We spent 3 days in February at Disneyland/California Adventure, with great weather and low crowds and had what I would call a magical/succesful experience.

I remember Disneyland as a place of awe and giddy excitement. I went several times as I was growing up. I wondered if we had waited too long to take our children (it has always seemed like more than I could handle). We recently took our children to Disneyland for their first time. Our oldest is 10, then 8, 6, 4, and twins under 2. Before we left I heard my 8 year old daughter say that she would rather go to grandma's house. I thought maybe they were too old for Disneyland and since we have never talked about it and nurtured excitement for what they could experience, it would not be magical.

My 4 year old boy, W, sat next to me on the "Tower of Terror". His eyes were wide and as we got off the ride and walked outside he looked to the left and to the right and thoughtfully asked me " Mom, are we back on our world?" Oh, Thank You Disney (California Adventure) for a precious memory. He insists that "Tower of Terror" is his favorite ride, but he wouldn't go on it more than once. There was his magic.

My 8 year old girl, H, loves to sing and act. We visited the Disney Animation, Sorcerer's Workshop (in California Adventure)...mostly to let the twins run around in an uncrowded area. They have many computers you can do fun things on. H got to tape her voice singing and talking as Ariel and then listen to herself as part of the movie...that was so cool! It is a magical thing to actually be in a movie. Thank you Disney!

Another really neat experience happened at the Jedi Training Academy in Tommorowland, in Disneyland. Several times a day A Jedi Master Arrives on stage and picks out several younglings to become Padawans and train them as Jedi's. Well, W, really wanted to do this and waited in the designated area for the show to start. All my children were waiting with him. When they started picking kids--so few, from so many. My oldest daughter, S, picked up her little brother as high as she could until he was seen and got picked. (I found this moment quite magical ). W got to fight the real Darth Vader (way cool) and Darth Maul and several storm troopers. Thank you Disney...and yes, W's souvenir from Disneyland is his Certificate from Jedi Training Academy and a Light saber.

Well, Disneyland has changed over the years and I'm happy to say that it was still magical for me (25 years later). My favorite ride has always been Space Mountain... It still is. Except now you rock with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. One of my childrens favorite quotes from Disneyland has become "No matter what planet you are from, get ready to ROCK... in 5...4...3...2...1 AAAHHH" Thank you Disney for making this ride Rock for me and my children.

Because of Stroller passes, DH and I both got to ride everything. The twins were terrified, yet fascinated by the characters that were walking around Disneyland. I also really liked the Aladin show at the Hollywood Pictures Backlot.

6 year old daughter, R, took the Pirate Oath while we were going through New Orleans Square "I swear to run from any fight I cannot win and win any fight I cannot run from". R also wondered why Cruella De Ville asked me "Are all these from the same litter" when we went to take our picture next to her. The ride R picked first, when it came her turn, was the Haunted Mansion. We had told her that a ghost would try and sit next to her so the ghost could come out of the ride with her and leave the Haunted Mansion. She really wanted to see if ghosts were real (there was a hint of possibility). I think R is at the age of unbelieving. Not quite the 4 year old who really thinks its possible that we could be on another world. But not quite the 8 and 10 year old who are excited to be a part of the whole experience and make it good for others.

I can say that it's never too late to go to Disneyland. But the experience is different for children of all ages (as they say). I haven't asked my 8 year old if she would still rather go to Grandma's house than Disneyland. I wonder what she would answer? I'm glad we finally did it. We will go again...soon.
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Money money money

My husband always figured when he was 30 he'd get life insurance. Well, it's that magical year.

So, we've been figuring out what kind of insurance, how much, who with, and for whom. Definitely for him. But then the agent suggests if I were to die (and yes, when dealing with life insurance you have to be very matter-of-fact about death) that insurance for me would help cover childcare costs and such. Then she suggests insurance for the children--a lump sum to cover funeral costs if any child were to die.

I don't know what to think. Is she just milking it, trying to sell insurance for me and my kids? It's not a huge amount per month, so is it worth it to pay? And the chances of my kids or I dying in a freak accident...in HARLAN? Slim to none!

Sigh. I get annoyed with insurance because I'm a low risk person and feel like I'm often paying for nothing. But, to leave dh with no money if any of us die would leave him somewhat financially strapped--perhaps that's not fair.

So, I'm curious your take on it. Do you cover more than the person with the main income? Why or why not? Don't feel like you have to get specific in numbers--I'm interested in any general take on the issue.
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Monday, February 26, 2007

Is it ok to want to go back?

On Sundays, I don’t let my kids watch television. They are only allowed to watch the made-by-the-church videos (Joy to the World, Restoration etc.), or home videos.

Since Poopy is turning two in a few months, the last two Sundays we have been watching the videos of when Pukey was 2, just to see the similarities and differences between them, and what we have to look forward to (or not).

So, last week I found a group of videos that were of Pukey (my firstborn) at about 18 months to 2 years. I watched those videos and even though I don’t look very different 3 years later, I didn’t recognize myself. I feel like a completely different person now. I feel older, more experienced, more tired, slightly more mature. I feel challenged, extended, like I have been through the ringer.

This week we found the videos of Pukey when she was two to almost three years old. There was one video in particular of the two of us just being us. We were cuddling, singing, teasing, kissing, and you could just see our relationship so clearly. It was totally beautiful. I did recognize those feelings and they are still very real and very raw.

Then I realized that time has made those moments fewer and far between. One might blame it on the fact that she will be 5 in just a few weeks. However, in watching and reflecting, I blame it completely on the birth of my second child. Disclaimer: I love my second child. It’s just, that having Poopy complicated everything. She took away my attention from Pukey. She is demanding and energetic and bright and vivacious, and a lot of work.

When I sat down to watch Pukey at 2, when it was just a family of three, I expected to have these feelings:

“Oh, our family just doesn’t seem complete without Poopy.”

Instead I felt: “Man, I wish we could go back to just the three of us.”

This was unexpected. And of course, what follows is the guilt. Does anyone relate?
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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Life According to Asher (age 2)

My little guy seems to have his own set of rules for life (as do most all 2-year olds, I think). Here are a few of life's rules, according to Asher:

1. Always prepare for the unexpected (On a recent outing, he balanced two matchbox cars, a plastic spoon and knife, his toothbrush and a small stick in his chubby little hands. We think he might be the next MacGyver.)

2. Food tastes better when announced ("Yuuumm....apple....yummy yummy yummy...hot dog...")

3. Sharing is for losers (We need to work on that one.)

4. All I really need to know in life I am learning on Sesame Street (He religiously tunes in to hear the letter and number of the day...as announced by Cookie Monster and the Count...and the rest of his day is mere fluff.)

5. A hug and a kiss will forgive any misdeed. (Yeah...when you are 2-years-old it works anyways...)

6. When in doubt, pass the blame. (Asher's first complete sentence was "Noe [his big brother] did it.")

7. To be dirty is godly.

8. If I close my eyes, no one can see me. (Hide-and-go-seek at our house is a little lame.)

9. Don't forget to stop and smell the roses. (And then pick them...and then crumble them up with your hands and pretend you are the Cookie Monster eating cookies...and then stomp on them with your feet.)

PLEASE tell me this all sounds a little familiar....I hate to think I am raising a little anarchist.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Freebies from the Crib: Sisterz in Zion Winner!

And the winner of our February Freebie provided by Melissa Puente, Director of Sisterz in Zion is....

...normal mom whose comment read: The BYU film program has advanced a lot since Johnny Lingo, can't wait to see this.

Congrats! Please e-mail us your name and shipping address to talesfromthecrib (at) gmail (dot) com so we can send you this awesome DVD.

For those of you who didn't win, I hope you all still find a way to see this amazing documentary in the near future. It isn't scheduled to be shown on BYUtv anytime soon, so either figure out how to watch it on the byutv website or go over and buy your own copy today (the soundtrack is also now on sale)!

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

This I Believe

My extended family recently held an FHE where we listened to a few essays from the NPR "This I Believe" series. After, we each shared a few things we believed. I thought it might be fun for us to share here on Tales.

Here are a few of mine:

I believe in traveling to new places, meeting new people, and learning about different cultures.

I believe in service.

I believe in the power of laughter and having fun.

What do you believe? Feel free to expound on of your beliefs.
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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Freebies from the Crib: Sisterz in Zion

The feature length documentary, Sisterz in Zion, was truly a labor of love for director (and mother of new twin boys) Melissa Puente. While living in Manhattan, she served as Young Women's President.
"My girls never failed to amaze me. They had to do things I would have never imagined doing when I was their age just to get to church each Sunday. I admired their courage because they were almost completely alone in their faith- as new converts, they were the only members in their families, in their schools, and even the wards and stake offered little in the way of other LDS kids. I found myself constantly wanting to document their courage and bravery on film."
So that's exactly what this BYU film school graduate decided to do. The documentary follows this group of girls from NYC as they travel west to attend EFY in Provo, UT. That's right NYC to PROVO. The culture shock that ensues is so completely entertaining. Yet the story is incredibly inspiring as the girls face the challenges and find their own faith. The greatness of this film in no way ends at the story it tells. The editing, graphics and music are also amazing and unlike anything you might expect from a "mormon documentary".

I am so excited that the February freebie is a copy of this wonderful documentary, Sisterz in Zion, on DVD. Go on over and check out the trailer of this truly inspiring film. If you haven't seen it already and don't win your own copy, make sure to catch it on BYUTV, byutv.org streaming video or order a DVD for your home--it's totally worth it.

While seeing this film could be especially impactful for all young women in the church, I highly recommend it for everyone. I could be a little biased because I served with Melissa in Young Women's years ago in Manhattan and have a deep love and respect for many of the girls in the video. But I am not the only one singing the praises of this film. So please pass on the good freebie news!

How to win this Freebie:
-You have until Thursday (2/22), midnight EST to enter.
-Make a comment (any comment) on the post
-Please don't post under Anonymous - use a Blogger login or the "other" category.
-Winner will be randomly picked and announced Friday (2/23) morning.
-Please only enter (comment) once.
-Tales contributors are excluded from winning the freebies--sorry :(
-Freebies can only be shipped to US addresses.

What's with the Freebie?

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Monday, February 19, 2007

In Pursuit of Happiness - Helping the Homeless

I grew up in an affluent town 20 minutes outside of Washington DC. My formative years were fairly sheltered and I can honestly say I never wanted for anything. I remember seeing my first homeless person in the city when I was about 11 years old, looking out the window of my warm comfortable car. For me, the homeless were people on the news, extras in movies - I knew little about them and didn't care to learn more.

Fast forward to my early 20's. My husband and I moved to NYC and lived there nearly 7 years. There were so many homeless that in time they simply faded into the background. We had one homeless man who took to laying spread eagle on the sidewalk outside our 25th Street Grammercy park apartment - we simply walked around him. I would occasionally give money to people on the subway and one Christmas we brought a bag full of blankets and food to some homeless people that lived in the bank lobby on our corner.

Fast forward to now. We moved to the Bay Area 2 1/2 years ago and again, were confronted with homelessness. San Francisco is well known for its homeless problem..but I was completely unprepared for all of the homeless in the suburbs. In my sheltered naivitee I assumed it was a city problem but of course it is not. The town we live in is the county seat...which we later found out means all of the homeless shelters, rehab programs and food banks are right HERE. As had happened many times before, however, I eventually stopped noticing and these men and women without homes simply faded into my background.

About a month ago I saw the new Will Smith movie, The Pursuit of Happyness. It's a good movie, a true story but for some reason it struck me to my core. I cried and cried so hard in the theater that I had a headache afterwards. What hit me for the first time was that there are families living on the street, young children, mothers and fathers who are doing their best but have been dealt a series of hardships and heartaches...and they have become homeless. I remember closing my eyes at the credits and vowing to do something...

A week or so after the movie, I was driving down the main street in our town on the way to Target with my two kids. As we drove past a strip mall with a large parking lot I noticed a man and a woman, the man standing holding a sign, the woman bent over holding something. I immediately assumed they were homeless. Then I noticed the stroller next to the woman. My first thought was, Well they're probably using it to haul stuff, there's no WAY there's a baby with them. I looked back over my shoulder as we drove past...and saw that the woman was holding a baby.

A homeless woman holding a beautiful baby.

My heart started racing and I said outloud "There's a baby. There's a baby." I immediately felt prompted to turn the car around, go back and ask them what they need. I started arguing with myself. "That's crazy! I have two little kids in the car. What if they're junkies? I've never done this before! What do I say? What can I possibly do?"

I turned the car around. I pulled into the parking lot, drove up to them, rolled down the window and said, "Hi. What do you need for you and your baby? I'm going to Target right now." The man and woman looked at each other and the woman said without hesitation, "Diapers. And some baby food". I asked what size diapers and what kind of food the baby liked, how old she was. Then I asked what I could get for them and they asked for food. They looked to be in their late 40's and were clearly beaten down and hammered from living on the streets. But the baby...she was beautiful. She looked so much like Carrie's daughter Pumpkin that I could feel my eyes welling up with tears. I told the family I would be back in one hour with everything they needed and to please stay put.

I raced to Target feeling like it was Christmas morning. I abandoned my other errands and went crazy with assembling things for the family. My 4 year old son even helped: "The baby would like this blanket, mom". Toss it in the cart. I bought a large backpack and crammed as much in there as I could. Getting ready to check out I felt prompted to by infant Motrin for the baby - again, my eyes welled up.

Driving up and giving them those bags was a high. They kept saying "God bless you" over and over. A few days later I saw the woman, wearing the backpack, pushing the stroller with the baby wrapped up in the blanket. I thought my heart was going to burst out of my chest. I was SO happy.

Over the last month I have met with them half a dozen times. Usually I bring diapers and things for the baby, always food. I have gotten to know Dana, Cherrie and baby Ajianna (who is 14 months) and their story. They are a family in a terrible situation, down on their luck, doing their best to take care of this baby, who is their granddaughter. I told them one day that they are doing such a good job with the baby because she is happy, smilely, healthy and always dressed warmly. They are doing everything they can for this little girl. They are not junkies or criminals - they are people, a family, with few options and no place to call home.

I wish that there was more I could do for them but I know that I am doing exactly what I should be doing right now. I've started keeping extra snacks in my car to hand out to the guys standing at intersections holding signs - they just want food, never ask for money. After years and years of not doing enough, I'm now trying to do my part. By doing my part, I have also created amazing teaching opportunities for my kids. My son asked me one day why I am always taking bags to those people in the parking lot. I told him that we are very lucky, very blessed and so it is our job to help other people who are not as fortunate. He sat quietly for awhile and then said, "I like to help other people, mom". I am learning...and they are learning.

I'm writing this post to encourage all of you to take a look around your street corner, your neighborhood, your town. Take 5 extra minutes and see if there's something you can do to help out, bridge the gap a little. As much as I'd love to take these people into my home, adopt that baby I can't...but I can bring them diapers and food and get them in contact with the shelter down the street. I can do my part. We can all do our part.
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Friday, February 16, 2007

From the Tales Inbox: Moving Outside the Bubble

Our regular reader and commentor, Cheryl is moving to California. While she has already printed out some useful moving tips found here on Tales, she has a few more questions to pose to you, our very helpful readers.

"To whomever has lived or does live in the Bay Area (specifically Contra Costa County), what is it like? Where are the best schools? What is a good city to live in? Any advice for a Republican Idaho girl who has lived in Happy Valley (Provo) for the last 10 years on moving to SF? I'm a little nervous because I've never been outside "the bubble", so to speak. (PLEASE do not turn this into a Utah versus the "world" debate; I've heard enough of that one!)"

All you past and present San Francisco area dwellers, can you help her out?
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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Bicycle Skeelz

A little post over at MMW mentioning a preschoolers use of the word octogon reminded me of this little ditty:

DH took Princess out to ride her bike a few days ago. She got a new "big-girl bike" for Christmas. He has been raising the training wheels slowly while helping her hone her riding skills. This particular day he was working with her on steering. This mostly consists of getting her to pay attention to the road. Sounds simple, but to a four year old, the stuffed animal she carries in the bike's front basket and the neighbors she must wave to while riding by are far more interesting than the blacktop.

So the father-daughter bicycle lesson begins:

DH: Let's try riding in a circle.

Princess: No, I want to try riding in a HEXAGON.

DH: Um, okay.

Next, DH showed her how to do a "Figure Eight". Then Princess (manuevering her bike in a long series of twists and turns) showed daddy how to do a "Figure 9" a "Figure 5" and a "Figure Rose".

What can I say, the girl's got skeelz.
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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Valentine

The first time my DH took care of Noe (now 4) by himself, I returned to find my precious newborn wrapped in a bath towel, with his diaper and onesie on backwards. It took every ounce of willpower to stay quiet. I clenched my teeth, grinned tight, and asked how his night had gone. And decided that I could never leave him alone with our baby again.

When I related the experience to my mom, she pointed out that Noe had been clean, changed and warm when I arrived home....did anything else really matter?

Of course she was right. An only child, my DH had no experience with babies and young children before he became a father. But he was determined to be an involved father and have a strong relationship with each of our children from the very start.

Four years and another child later, I have learned that when it comes to our boys MY WAY isn't the ONLY way, or always even the BEST way. Maybe when I come home from my part-time job (he watches the kids on those evenings), the boys are asleep in their play clothes. But I know they've gone to bed on time. Maybe their toys are still spread across the play room. But I know that he's been playing with them rather than watching TV.

He has a gentleness and patience with the boys that I envy. He wrangles the two of them on shopping trips much better than I do. The boys obey him when they often ignore me. He almost singlehandedly potty trained Noe in a matter of weeks....and trust me...it is no small feat potty training a 3-year-old with autism!

With all of my rants about "giving up a career for motherhood...", most of the time, I think I am the lucky one. I get to set my own schedule. I get to choose when and in what capacity I return to the workforce. I get the morning cuddles and goodnight kisses, while DH is either working or recovering from long nights in the newsroom. His time is not his own. When he isn't at work, he is expected to be helping with the kids, and he does so gladly, without resentment.

I can't remember the last time he picked up his guitar or called an old friend to chat. One of my New Year's Resolutions was to give DH more of the ME time I demand for myself. Just like a lot of my resolutions, this one has fallen to the wayside a bit. But on this Valentine's Day, this cheesy Hallmark holiday, I hope he knows how much I love and appreciate him. And what an amazing father he is to his two little boys!

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

1 Piece of Advice...just 1

If you could give the soon-to-be-mother 1 piece of advice, only 1....what would it be. Only 1.

Here's mine. Carrie gave it to me...so sorry Carrie if I am stealing yours:
Eat, Awake/Activity, Sleep, YOU

The baby eats, is awake for a while, goes to sleep and then you have YOU time. Repeat this cycle as many times as necessary throughout the day.

Remember...only 1 piece of advice...your life depends on it.
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Sunday, February 11, 2007

From the Tales Inbox: How Long is Too Long to Wear it Long?

I am having a hair dilemma. Please help me. I have long, straight (at least when I blow dry out all the wierd kinks I inherited when I got pregnant the first time), ugly brown hair with large-layers. I will turn 30 this year. My husband likes it long, but I know there comes a time when you just can't get away with it anymore. I don't think I need to go too drastic and go MoTab lady or anything. But we have all noticed women before and thought to ourselves "She is way too old to pull that off". I don't want that to be me! What should I do?
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I just wanted to share this skit for anyone out there who might have to work on a Visiting Teaching Conference/Lesson someday. I put it together a few years back as an "attention getter" for the beggining of our Branch Visiting Teaching Conference (which was held during on a Sunday during R.S. in the chapel perhaps making the frivolity of this skit a little inappropriate?). Anyway, it was a fun way to introduce basic VT principles to a branch with many new converts and also remind the "old timers" of the VT traps to which we often fall prey (in an oversimplified and humorous way).

To make the skit a huge success, I highly recommend casting the ward/branch "ham" in the part of SuperVIsitingTeachingWoman and making sure she has a simple costume to help her get into character (see picture--there was also a mask involved). Once you have that taken care of, the rest will really just fall into place. You can easily rewrite the script to address problems and convey a messafe that is specific to your own ward/branch.

P.S. I can't remember if/or what I was inspired by to write this, but rarely are my ideas completely original. Apologies for not crediting anyone.

February 2, 2003

Narrator: 2003….Queens, NY. The Astoria Ward Relief Society has a vision of making sure no sister is left behind. But, we cannot do it without the help of one crusader of charity and love: SuperVisitingTeachingWoman.

Make appointments for early in the month

Narrator: Our story begins at the Woodside chapel one Sunday after church. It’s not just any Sunday, it’s the last Sunday of the month. Duh, Duh, Duh, Duh (looming music).

VT 1: Hey, so we want to catch you this month and there are only a few days left---do you have any free time this week?

Teachee: Well…..

(enter SVT)

SVT: Wait! Stop! Don't you see what you're doing?

VT1: Wow!! It’s SuperVisitingTeachingWoman!

VT2: We’re making a Visiting Teaching appointment. That’s good right?

SVT: Well yes, making appointments is great, but it is the last week of the month!!

VT1: But, the last week in the month is still in the month… Isn’t it?

SVT: Of course it is, but by waiting until the last week of the month to set-up an appointment, you run the risk of not being able to find a SUPER time to visit before the month is over. And more importantly, it might make your sisters feel like you you’re just getting around to them as the last thing on your “to do” list for the month.

All three sisters: Thanks, SuperVisitingTeachingWoman!

Be Prepared

Narrator: Somewhere in Astoria early the next month.

(VTers knock on door and are invited in and sit down. They commence with some small talk until VT1 introduces the lesson.)

VT1: So have you had a chance to read this month’s message?

Teachee: No I haven’t had time.

VT1: (with a little laugh) Neither have I! But I did print it out right before I came. (VT1 pulls out a crumpled paper out of her purse) Let’s see here…it’s about being prepared…..

(enter SVT) (all three sister look surprised)

SVT: How appropriate!!!

VT1: What do you mean SuperVisitingTeachingWoman?

SVT: You need to be prepared before coming to your visiting teaching appointments! That means that both companions should spend time studying the lesson before hand. And next time, try to have a prayer with your companion before the visit. I guarantee that having the spirit on your side will result in a SUPER visit.

All three sisters: Thanks, SuperVisitingTeachingWoman!

Be sensitive to time and conversation

Narrator: Somewhere in Long Island City the visiting teachers make another visit…..

Teachee: Thanks so much for the beautiful lesson. I really needed the spitiual lift.

VT1: Speaking of lift. Did you know (continues to go on and on about nothing)

Narrator: 2 hours later….

VT1: (continues on about her family, her mom, her job).

(enter SVT)

SVT: Gadzooks! Stop! Do you realize how long you have been here? Visiting teaching is definitely a SUPER place to build friendships, but make sure you are not hogging the conversation or overstaying your welcome.

All three sisters: Thanks, SuperVisitingTeachingWoman!

Be sensitive to sisters needs

Narrator: Later that day another Visiting Teaching companionship discusses the sisters they visit.

VT1: Visiting teaching Sister Grumble is so hard. All she does is talk about her aches and pains and how horrible her life is. I can’t even get a word in, let alone the visiting teaching lesson. That’s why I don’t like to visit her.

VT2: I know! And can you believe how unruly Sister Brood’s children are. I don’t have any kids yet, but I know that mine will never act like that! And her house! It is always such a mess! I feel like when we are there, we just add more chaos to her life.

(enter SVT)

VT1: Hey it’s SuperVisitingTeachingWoman!

SVT: That’s right! And I am here to keep you from making a horrible mistake! Compassionate visiting teachers are exactly what these two sisters need! And don’t get discouraged if you don’t end up sharing the prepared lesson at every visit. SuperVisitingTeachers are sensitive of each sisters needs. It sounds to me like Sister Grumble could use a listening ear and Sister Brood might like some volunteer babysitting.

Both sisters: Thanks SuperVisitingTeachingWoman!

Show love

Narrator: Somewhere in Woodside, a visiting teacher tries to set-up visiting teaching appointments.

VT: Well Sister Hectic, we’d love to come visit you this week. (pause) Well how about the week after that? (pause) and the week after that? (pause) A business trip? I see. Well okay, maybe we’ll catch you next month.

(hangs up phone and calls another number)

VT: Hi Sister Dormant, this is sister _______ (pause). I am your visiting teacher.
(pause) Your visiting teacher….from the church. (pause) Oh, you haven’t been to church in a while? (pause) Well can I come over with Sister _______and visit? (pause) No? Oh, okay. Well, talk to you later I guess. Bye.

(hangs up the phone with a look of discouragement).

(enter SVT)

SVT: Never fear! SuperVisiting TeachingWoman is here!

VT: SuperVisitingTeachingWoman , how am I supposed to be a SUPER visiting teacher
if the sisters won’t let me visit?

SVT: I know it’s easy to get discouraged sometimes, but don’t give up, get creative! If
a visit isn’t possible, try to think of another way of expressing your love and concern. With her busy schedule, an e-mail message might be a good way to stay in touch with Sister Hectic. And Sister Dormant might appreciate a nice card, or baked goods! Homemade brownies with delicious buttercream frosting and walnuts (SVTW gets caught up in the vision of this) always says "I’m here if you need anything.”

At the end of the month if you can answer “yes” to this question: “Do my sisters know that I love them” ….then you are a SuperVisitingTeacher!

VT: Thanks SuperVisitingTeachingWoman!

SVT: (looking at Audience) No, Thank you!
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Friday, February 09, 2007

I Had a Dance in Draper

My birthday this year came as it does every year, on the day after Christmas. Such an unfortunate birth-date in many respects. There is a natural let down after Christmas and people want to hibernate for a day or two. Sometimes the materialism of the season has beaten people down and the thought of giving another gift is just too much. I never expect much on my birthday because people just seem a bit out of sorts. It's a low energy day (unless you are inspired to shop).

But this year was different. I wanted to have a dance and voiced this desire and things came together. We got a room at a dance studio with speakers and mirrors and a wood floor. I invited everyone...friends and family, children and adults. We danced for the pure joy of dancing. Children laid down on the floor from exhaustion. Adults moved in ways that made them sore the next day. It was sublime. We passed the point where the dancers were feeling self-conscious and new moves were created.

As we left the studio, the snowballs began to fly. Everyone felt so hot that it was a relief to have some snow on our faces. We all got in our mini-vans (30 children, 12 adults) and went home to an exhausted sleep. Now I know what to do for my birthday every year...It will be a tradition. If you find yourself doing nothing of any lasting value on the day after Christmas, then your invited too...next year, to my dance in Draper.
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Thursday, February 08, 2007

It's love

I kissed their cheeks, first Pukey. She complained of her head hurting in her early-morning state, and I suggested removing the plastic headband she had been sleeping with all night. Next I kissed my DH and told him I loved him and thanked him for being so supportive, as I was leaving him alone with the two children, and knew he would have to travel a far far distant with the two crazy little ones. Then I kissed Poopy, who cried when I disturbed her perfectly choreographed fetal position.

As soon as I closed the door I missed them. I missed them the entire two days that I was separated from them, until they got back. I looked at their little toys, little kitchen set, little beds, and couldn't wait for them to get back. I looked at his pillow, his shoes, his dresser top and couldn't wait to hug him.

I love them. Sometimes I don't remember that, but in this moment, on this trip it was overwhelming, and even though the separation was a little painful, I was glad for it, because it reminded me once again why I wake up in the morning and make pancakes, empty the dishwasher, do the laundry in the rain, take her to the doctor, clean up the puke, wipe the poop, play the music, clean up twice a day, read scriptures together, try to be the best I can be. It's because of love.
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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Part II, Managing Your Finances

I love this time of year!

The anticipation of W2s in my mailbox, new tax software to download, receipts to organize, quarterly brokerage statements to analyze.....

It's officially tax season BA-BY and time for the oh-so eagerly anticipated Part II of my financial management series (click here if you missed Part I).

It's not so much the PAYING of the taxes that I enjoy, but rather the chance to reevaluate our family's finances, and recommit to better saving and investing habits. All in the hopes that we keep more of our hard-earned money and give less of it away to THE MAN or THE OTHER MAN.

Some quick disclosures: I am definitely not a financial expert, but I do a lot of reading and I have a business background. There are much better financial management resources on the web, but maybe this will be a starting point for some of you....

So here goes my 10 Best Financial Management Tips:

1. Track Your Spending for Two Months. Sort receipts into categories to see what you are spending on food, clothing, utilities, entertainment, etc. This is such an eye-opening exercise and will allow you to understand your spending habits, prioritize your expenses and find areas to save. For example, maybe you don't want to give up your monthly pedicure, but the cable tv just isn't being watched..BAM...That's $70 or so a month you can redirect towards savings!

2. Find A Budget You can Live By. There are basically two types of budgeting: A formal budget, written by hand or by way of a computer software program such as Quicken, or the "Pay Yourself First" method. A formal budget is really helpful in tracking your expenses and maintaining financial discipline... if you can stick to it. I can't.

"Pay Yourself First" means putting your monthly savings in the bank BEFORE paying the rest of your bills. The good thing about this method is that it forces you to meet your savings goals but the downside is that if these goals are too lofty, you may not have electricity or water at your house. But seriously, I like this method because it forces discipline without having to constantly manage a formal budget.

3. Eliminate Bad Debt and Minimize Good Debt. Bad debt is any debt that does not go towards an investment (ie) credit card debt, car loans. Good debt helps finance an investment (ie) a mortgage, student loans. The rule of thumb is to pay off bad debt with the highest interest rate first, and then work down from there.

You also may be able to negotiate a lower interest rate on your credit card debt if you think your rate is excessively high. Remember, YOU are the consumer and THEY want your business. You can call them and threaten to switch credit card companies unless they give you a lower rate. They can say no, but, hey...it's worth a try. Do this quickly as interest rates are probably on their way up!

4. Make an emergency fund (3-6 months of living expenses). Put the money in a savings or money market account where you can easily access it if needed.

5. Open a Roth IRA (especially if you are a SAHM). Unfortunately, staying home with your kids doesn't come with retirement benefits. In fact, not having an income will lower your social security payments when you reach retirement age.

A Roth IRA, however, is a tax-free retirement vehicle available to you now. You can open an account through just about any brokerage company (i.e. Vanguard, T. Rowe Price) and contribute up to $4000 for 2006 tax year (there are some income limits, however). A relatively painless way to contribute is to throw your tax refund into your IRA every year. The money you contribute will be available to you tax-free come retirement. Also, if you can afford to do so, encourage your spouse to maximize their 401(k) contributions. Make sure your retirement is your biggest savings priority!

6. Understand the Basics of Investing: Diversification and the Power of Compounding Interest. Diversify your wealth between a mix of real estate, stocks, bonds and cash. In other words, avoid putting all of your savings in one stock a la Enron. The Power of Compounding Interest says that the earlier you start saving, the more time your money will have to accrue interest, and the more wealth you can accumulate.

7. Follow the Prophet's Words....Buy a Modest Home and Make it Beautiful. Wow...there are a lot of church members who mistake "Modest" for "McMansion." Anyways, the general rule is that you shouldn't spend more than 3X your annual income on a home. I'm not sure how well this rule holds up in today's real estate market...especially in areas like SoCal, Bay Area, and NYC. We somehow barely managed to stay within these perameters when we recently bought a home in the DC area (thank you slumping housing market), and I do have to say that although I would have loved an extra bedroom or more updates, I love my affordable monthly payment more.

8. Consider a 529 College Savings Plan. You can save money for your children's education in a 529 without it counting against your child's chances for financial aid. This is a new rule and has made me a 529 believer after initial skepticism. Many experts recommend you try and save 1/3 of your kid's college bill before they are ready to go. Or you can just make them go to BYU. Also, if your kid chooses not to attend college, you get your money back and it is surely to have appreciated tax-free nicely.

9. Educate yourself. If I can understand this stuff, trust me, anyone can. Here are a few easy resources to get you started:

Personal Finance for Dummies, by Eric Tyson. Really great resource on a wide range of financial topics. Make sure you buy the latest edition. I gave it to my little sis and her new husband last year...sorry Kelli....I know you were really hoping for the George Foreman grill!

The Millionaire Next Door, Stanley and Danko. Do you have what it takes to be a millionaire? Interesting read about what most millionaires are really like....take away the images in your head of champagne and limos.

9 Steps to Financial Freedom, Suze Orman. This woman seriously annoys me, but her advice is sound.

I also read CNNmoney.com and use bankrate.com to compare interest rates.

10. Give Generously to Worthy Causes. This will make you feel wealthy and powerful in far more important ways!

Don't worry about doing everything at once....take it a little bit at a time (start with eliminating bad debt and building an emergency fund) and pretty soon you will start seeing big differences in your bottom line! Good luck!

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Celebrating Valentines Day with the Family

These last few days I have been thinking of ways to celebrate Valentines Day with my family. DH is not big into Valentines Day and through the years I have come to appreciate his reasons and accept the absence of chocolates and flowers on February the 14th. But that doesn't mean I can't have some fun celebrating the day. My mom always did something special for us kids on Valentines Day. There would be a nice handwritten card in our lunchbox, a little piece of candy and pink cream cheese in our bagel. Nothing big, but it was obviously memorable. She even did it when I was in high school. I acted embarrassed in front of my friends, but secretly I loved it.

Just as I was having these thoughts, I got two guest posts in the Tales inbox with some fun ideas that need to be shared. And make sure you get down to the last one - it's a fun idea but it's time sensitive!
The first three ideas came from Corinne:

I've always had a soft spot for Valentines Day - of course as a teenager it was either angst-filled or absolutely heaven on earth, depending on if I had a boyfriend or not. Getting Valentines at school was such fun for me and I am such a sucker for candy. But my mother always made the day special for me by having a little bag of Valentine treats (red chewy hearts etc) and a small present (small, like, $5 or less - a My Little Pony or a cassette tape or something) waiting for us on the kitchen table when we woke up in the morning. Next to our presents was always a card that my grandparents sent from Chicago. She did this for me until I moved out and now she and I do it for my three children.

A couple years ago my friend shared a tradition with me: she makes a fancy candle-lit dinner for her family on Valentines Day. She uses her best dishes and has little treat baskets on the table and makes a meal everyone enjoys. I did this last year for the first time and it was such fun. The candles thrilled my children and I loved that it was a way for me to make the day special for my family. I'm already planning this year's dinner.

A new tradition I am going to start this year is a Valentine's Day tree - I think I got the idea from some Family Fun book. Today my children and I cut a bunch of colored hearts out of paper, punched holes in them and strung them with ribbon. For family night on Monday we're going to write down all the things that we love about each other as well as things that we love about our life. Then we'll hang them on our tiny tabletop tree - if we didn't have a tiny tree, I'd probably past them on a door or window, somewhere visible.

You send your Valentine cards to romantic cities and they postmark your letter and send it back. All you have to do is send a self stamped envelope in another envelope (also stamped) to the postmaster of the city. It's really fun, and usually each city has it's own special stamp they put on it, because they are proud of their romantic name. The sooner you do it the better, it has to travel all the way there and back, so I think there's still time if you do it within the next couple of days. The worst thing that could happen is that you don't get back on or before Valentine's Day, so it's worth a try. Good Luck!

To participate: address the valentine card or letter, put a stamp on it, and put it in a larger envelope, also with a stamp on it, addressed to ``Postmaster, (Town Name), Valentine Re-Mailing, (City, State, ZIP Code). Postage is 39 cents for letters, 24 cents for small postcards. Post offices offering the special service are:

Bliss, N.Y. 14024
Heart Butte, Mont. 59448
Juliette, Ga. 31046
Loveland, Colo. 80538
Loveville, Md. 20656
Loving, N.M. 88256
Romance, Ark. 72136
Romeo, Mich. 48065
Sugar City, Colo. 81076
Valentine, Neb. 69201
Valentine, Texas 79854
Valentines, Va. 23887

Anyone else have any fun things they do to make Valentines Day special for their families?
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Virgin Kagey

On my honeymoon, I lost my virginity

to "Saving Private Ryan" and "There's Something About Mary". See, my DH had been an R-rated movie watcher, and I had not, so our honeymoon became our first and last viewings. It was our first official compromise. I said I would watch them with him, if he came over to my side.

I think he was secretly hoping I would cross over, but after viewing the two movies, I didn't see myself as missing much. [Disclaimer: I don't pretend to be completely R-rated movie-free. I have seen a few on TV, and accidentally rented a few by Christopher Guest, but I had never deliberately seen one in theaters at that point in my life.]

Last spring, a friend of mine, knowing that I am a non-watcher, recommended one to me that I just HAD to see for the acting. I let it sit in my house for almost 6 months. I took it with me on a business trip and finally watched it in my hotel room, alone. It was the first one I had seen in about 4 years (remember the Christopher Guest one? That was about 4 years ago). The acting was really great, and overall it was a clean movie by way of drugs, language, and sexual content...but the plot itself was definitely rated R, and it bugged me a little.

Cut to this past month. This year is the first in which I have been able to vote for the SAG awards. I did not know this, but films start campaigning for votes. All of a sudden I was flooded with free movie tickets in the mail, and then I was sent 3 DVDs...which brings us to my latest Rated-R experience.

Little Miss Sunshine. Ever since I first read about it I wanted to see it SO much...not only because of the cast (yea, they won!), but also because the story and the main character seemed so great. I saw that it was rated R, and did what I always do: forgot about it.

Then it showed up in the mail with it's bright, shiny yellow cover and it's VW bus.

And I watched it.

And I LOVED it.

And I didn't appreciate the swears. And neither did my DH. When I beckoned him to come join me, he complained about it having too many swears. (The next day, THE DEPARTED arrived in our mailbox, and he really wanted to watch that...think there might be a swear or two in that one?)

I cried when I told my mom about the movie and that she should watch it if it ever comes on tv.

So now I don't know where that leaves me.

I want to follow the curch's advice to not view Rated R movies. However, in the past I think I have just let the rating guide me completely...meaning I haven't shown much discretion in the PG-13 (on down) movies I have watched, and instead just assumed they were ok because of the rating. Um hi, ever seen Anchorman? It's pretty raunchy and I did not find it uplifting (it comes to mind b/c I saw it was on tv tonight). Little Miss Sunshine, despite it's language was totally uplifting and had a great message.

I know that there are all sorts of views out there on this subject...from my Dad (only watches G and PG) to some of my friends (are open to watching most films, regardless of ratings). How do you decide what movies to watch, and how will you decide how to guide your children on this topic?

Your friend, Kage

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

No More "Babies in Utero"

Unless anyone has an announcement to make, we have no more babies in utero here at Tales. Ksl, who survived her first trimester despite the awful NYC smells, had a beautiful baby boy this week (and I can say that honestly -- I've seen the pictures). They are both happy, healthy and glad to be home from the hospital already. We can't wait to hear the story of her all natural birth which she has described as "the most terrifying, painful and actually energizing thing I have done so far in my life."
Congratulations KSL!
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Friday, February 02, 2007

July 21, 2007

Yesterday, I received emails from Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and Borders all informing me that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will be released for sale on July 21, 2007. Yipee! I am very excited for the final installment. Although, I think it will be sad too--no more books to look forward to. And no more speculation on what will happen next. For the record, I think Snape will redeem himself in this book. I believe this for the simple reason that Dumbledore always had reason to trust him. We never found out why, but I suspect that we will in Deathly Hallows.

With the three emails, each imploring me to pre-order from them, with a guaranteed delivery on the 21st, I thought back to the way we have gotten the last three books.

Book 4 was released in the summer of 2000. We were staying overnight with two kids from a ward family. J was 7 (I think), but was quite the boy wonder reader, and he had already read books 1-3. So, AJ took him to the Barnes and Noble in Princeton and they waited in line until midnight, coming home with a book each.

Book 5 was released in the summer of 2003 when we were living in NYC. We must have had a babysitter staying with MJ, but I can't remember who it was. We went to a Barnes and Noble on the upper west side to also try to obtain a just past midnight copy, but by the time we got there, the line stretched from the top floor of the store, down the stairs, and out the door, all the way up the block. It seemed it would be quite a wait, and dubious whether we would ever be able to lay our hands on our own copy, so we gave up and went home. I was so mad. The next day, I went to a Barnes and Noble on the east side, and they had scads, so I got one there. It was raining, and I walked up the street, found a Subway, and camped out there reading the first few chapters while eating a sandwich. Later, I heard from a lot of friends that they had gotten their copies from Amazon or B&N the first thing the morning it was released, and I kicked myself for not going that route.

Fast forward to the summer of 2005. We were in Pittsburgh, and I had decided to order a copy rather than battle crowds. I watched and watched for the UPS truck that morning, but it didn't come. When I was at the post office in my neighborhood in Squirrel Hill, I jealously looked at a woman in line reading a copy of the Half Blood Prince, then walked up the street to the B&N there. There was a huge stack of books, and the crowds were thin! Ugh--Foiled again. I think the delivered copy arrived at 4 or so that afternoon.

We are in another place now, so I have no idea what it will be like here at the B&N at midnight. I don't know when I can expect a package delivered, if in the morning, the afternoon, or when. Yes, those extra few hours matter to me! I know it's silly, but oh, how I love laying hands on a new volume of Harry Potter and devouring it in short order. I want to be one of those who is reading it the first moment it is available.

This summer, in a long distance move and with lots of painting to do , I discovered the audio recordings by Jim Dale. I listened books 1-6 and I adore them. When we were in NYC, we could have gone to a B&N to hear him read Chapter 1 of The Order of the Phoenix. We didn't, and I now regret it.

While there are already 1701 people with their names on a waiting list at the library for the book, they haven't opened up a file for the audiobook. Should I read the book, and then just wait for a while to listen to the audio? Should I try to read and then listen directly after? Or...hmm. What about listening first??? That would take me back to my childhood when I eagerly awaited the next chapter of the book my mom was reading out loud to us first. I would almost certainly have to fork over the $50 or so bucks to get it on CD, because I know I wouldn't be able to wait to get a copy from the library. It would be awesome, though, to be the first one to check out a library copy of the audio book. But, how could I finagle that? Ahh! The sweet anticipation.
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Cleaning House Part 2

After I posted about cleaning house this past month, I got so upset when I realized that I had left out my most favorite cleaning tip of all time. I had already missed my chance to comment on the thread, and yet I thought it silly to just write a post with one tip. So I invited our posters (listed to the right) to give me their one piece of cleaning advice that they just cannot live without. Here they are:

1. Mine: DAILY SHOWER SPRAY. Seriously, it works. Just keep it in the shower, and do a light mist after every use. In 8 years I have never had to scrub my shower, and my shower of 4 years, that was brand new when I moved in, still looks pretty dang new. I have little preference for which brand. I usually buy the cheapest one. Some are stronger smelling than others, but I think they work a little better. Also, the main thing that I notice different is the spray nozzle....but it doesn't deter me from buying cheap.

2. ksl: keep rags under each bathroom sink for a quick and painless wipedown inbetween actual cleaning jobs. My dad also swears by wiping down the shower fixtures after each shower. cuts the water spots out and you never have buildup

3. TFTCarrie: To make cleaning up food messes under the high chair much easier, get a dog.

Here's my real one -- Use the time while the kids are taking a bath to straighten up the bathroom. I like to keep Method Cleaning Wipes in the bathroom especially for this purpose.

4. happy nanny: Having the carpets and furniture scotch guarded can avoid annoying stain removal.

5. Beth & Jen (almost verbatim of each other): Clorox wipes (or any kind of wipes) in every room (well.... at least in the bathrooms and kitchen). Makes for very easy clean-up.

6. Michelle wanted to remind us of her comment on the last cleaning house post which was to listen to your ipod while cleaning: especially podcasts and audiobooks.

7. Chloe: I was a daily swifferer. I now have the Swiffer Wet Jet so I can go every few days.

I vacuum the main living areas and kids rooms every day, usually before bedtime. A bit excessive but it gets up all the crumbs/art project messes/general living with children grub EVERY day...and when I wake up my floors are all clean.

Also, I simply must have a clean kitchen sink when I go to bed. Again, I am a freak.
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Thursday, February 01, 2007

From the Tales Inbox: Dwindling Milk Supply

I'm a first-time mom with a five month old son. I planned to breastfeed him exclusively. However, at his two-month checkup, he hadn't gained much weight. That made me suspicious about his fussy evenings. He would typically try and nurse for an hour and half to two hours in the evenings, and then fuss when I ended the feeding. He'd suck for a bit, then spit out my nipple and wail, then latch back on for a bit, then spit it out and wail again. After that check-up, I gave him formula in the evening *after* he'd nursed for more than an hour. He sucked it down like he hadn't eaten all day. Suddenly we had a happy baby in the evenings instead of a fussy baby.

So that was fine - I could give him a bottle in the evenings and nurse him the rest of the day. I typically nursed him before he got the bottle. I also nursed him just before he went to sleep. I didn't hear much swallowing during the evening feedings, but I nursed him for comfort and because I didn't want my milk supply to decrease due to lack of stimulation.

Lately he's been nursing for more than an hour and crying shortly after his feedings for his afternoon and sometimes even his morning feedings. My breasts don't feel as full in the mornings as they used to. They used to be so full they were rock solid and hurt - now they're a bit soft although I can still tell there's milk in there.

I've always spent longer in the mother's room at church than the other moms who had babies at the same time I did. I'd be in there for 45 minutes to an hour, and they'd be in and out in less than half an hour. I just thought I had a slow eater, but maybe it takes him that long to find enough milk.

Why would my milk be drying up at five months? I drink plenty of water, I'm not dieting, I don't exercise excessively, I'm not stressed out, I haven't been sick, and I'm not pregnant again.

Has anyone else had a problem with their milk supply? How can I increase my milk supply? I do plan to start him on solids in the next week or so, but I've heard the baby is supposed to still get as much liquid as before he started solids so I either have to produce more milk or give him more formula in addition to the solids.

I haven't called a lactation consultant because I figure they'd tell me it's my fault because I've been giving him formula in the evenings for a couple months now.

Thank you for any advice you can give me!

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