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.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Sabbath Day Litmus Test

When I was little, I remember begging my mom to let me play outside on Sunday afternoon after church. As part of my persuasive argument as to why she should grant my request, I promised I would "think about Jesus the WHOLE time" and once I think I even said I would name the books of the Book of Mormon with every pump of my legs on our swingset. I don't think my argument always worked with my mom, but sometimes it did, because I do remember playing outside on the Sabbath (even if it was in my dress because our family did not change from our Sunday clothes).

I have been thinking today about appropriate Sunday activities. Mostly because I found out today that, despite my best efforts, Princess' ballet recital will be held on Sunday. I mean, I would rather her not be in a ballet recital on Sunday, but when it comes down to it, is a ballet recital really inappropriate? I remember playing in piano recitals on Sunday. Was that appropriate? I remember going to many music based firesides on Sunday. Maybe when it comes to the arts just gospel singing and instrumental music is good for Sunday. How about a lyrical dance concerts to church? What if the songs are by Afterglow?

I don't want my kids playing soccer on Sunday. Does the level of physical exertion make the difference? What if they are exceptionally good at their sport (the Steve Young exception)? What if the activity is a once a year Sunday event? What if their absence lets their team down? Do you make an exception? Or is this the slippery slope down to hell?

I have seen a lot of posts about birthday parties on Sundays. Most people have come to the conclusion of a blanket "no". Before I came to a blanket conclusion of my own, I was faced with a Sunday birthday party invite for Princess. We decided to go. In the end, I feel (through circumstances that were unknown to me beforehand) that it was indeed the right (or at least an okay) thing to do on Sunday. Then I think about all the times we have had people over on Sunday to eat and visit - family and friends (especially at the times when we had no family close). The kids play (while thinking about Jesus of course). We sometimes even break out a boardgame or two. Some people might even call it a "party". And I don't feel inappropriate (maybe I should?) Is it the cake and invitations that make a difference? Or maybe the magician and the bounce house? But what if the birthday party doesn't have a bounce house? Or is it because the families who have their parties on Sundays are non-members? Is it more appropriate to associate with members on Sunday than non? Doesn't seem like it should matter, but my past activities and the culturally accepted sabbath activities make it seem otherwise.

There are the obvious activities that add to the "holiness" of the day like scripture reading and service (though I know some people who would feel uncomfortable helping in a soup kitchen on a sunday but would be fine with spending an hour fixing a nice Sunday dinner for their own family). Family bonding seems to open the door for more interpretation. How about a Sunday drive? No, gas is too expensive these days :). How about a family bike ride? What if your "family" happens to be made up of friends at the moment?

I know there are a ton of questions in this post. They are mostly rhetorical. My question is not where you draw the line, but why you have decided to draw the line where you do? Have you come up with a litmus test that seems to be working for your family when it comes to deciding on Sabbath day activities? Do you think your litmus test will always hold true? Do you think it might change as your children grow older? Or if they turn out to be really good at soccer :)?
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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

How long is too long?

Since Kage did her post about a getaway for her anniversary next year, I've been doing some pondering about our own getaway that we're planning for this fall. We're possibly going AWAY away, as in far far away, and my question is, how long is too long to go for?

No, I don't mean at which point will my husband and I kill each other. And I'm not even asking at what point our son (age 4) will miss us. What I'm asking is, at what point will it officially make me a Bad Parent to have been gone that long?

The little guy would be left in the care of family members who he knows well and who know him well, so I'm confident he'd be comfortable with it. He'll be in preschool three mornings a week, so that will keep his routine pretty set while we're gone. But when you're talking about going to the other side of the world, a week just doesn't do it. So, will going away for 3 weeks permanently light that big "BAD PARENT" neon sign that right now only flashes intermittently above my head? Because the rational mom and the guilty mom who live in my brain are fighting World War III over this one.

I suppose the question is this: how long have you left / would you leave your offspring? And (come on, let that judgmental part of you out!) at what point would you think someone was making a mistake to leave their children that long? Because the battle in my head isn't ending on its own, so apparently I need some MORE people to fight it with me!
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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Freebies from the Crib: Tender Cargo Winner

The winner of our May Freebie, an awesome Zolowear Baby Pouch from Tender Cargo is:

ash, who commented "Oooh, exciting! I hope I win - I could use it with #2 and then pass it on to my little sis expecting in Sept.!" Sounds like the pouch will get a lot of good use! Congrats!

Please e-mail us at talesfromthecrib at gmail dot com and state which print you love. And don't forget to include your shipping information!

Thanks to everyone who commented and to cchrissyy for the great freebie!
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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Mormon Wedding Dress Tips

Brides have been on my mind lately and not just because June is upon us. I have once again agreed to make a wedding dress for one of my nieces who will be getting married at the end of the summer.

This will be my seventh wedding dress. It may not seem like a lot to a professional seamstress, but a professional seamstress I am not. I love to design, but the reality is I would much rather pay someone else to do the sewing to see my designs come to fruition. But I don't have that kind of cash so I sew as a means to an end. These wedding dresses are gifts of pure love because out of all the things I sew, I think wedding dresses are my least favorite project. They are usually large and cumbersome to cut out and get under the sewing machine. And brides tend to have a very clear idea about what they want and unusually high expectations about how it should turn out. I don't blame them. It is their wedding - a once in a lifetime event (hopefully). But this takes pretty much all the fun out of the process for this designer making it just a stressful sewing project instead of a inspiring, creative journey (I will say though, that these last three projects have all been really fun to do).

Over the years though, I have come to enjoy being part wedding dress sewer and part wedding dress consultant. Here are some of the tips I like to share with the mormon brides-to-be. I realize our core readership is far from the newly engaged girl, but I figure with google and word of mouth, the info will get into the right hands (I think this post did). And girls, feel free to add your own wedding dress advice from your own experiences.

General advice

1. Think about wearing wearing a temple dress for the temple ceremony instead of your wedding dress. This is something I wished someone would have suggested to me. And here's why:
  • No one really sees it anyway under the layers of temple clothing.
  • Depending on the style of your wedding dress, it can be less cumbersome to deal with at the altar.
  • You won't have to worry about wearing a "dickie" or sleeve extensions (which is not a huge deal, but something to consider).
  • There are already a bunch of other guidelines you're trying to follow when you are a mormon bride, so freeing up the options of color and length is nice.
2. Don't be afraid to think outside the box to make sure the dress fits your own personal style and tastes:

3. Consider the location, feel (and theme?) of your wedding reception when deciding on your dress.
  • Is it formal? casual? beachy? fun? elegant? sophisticated? modern? traditional?
  • Or, if you have your hear set on a specific style of dress, consider this style when planning the feel of your reception.

If you plan on getting a dress made:

  • Go try on dresses anyway. See what necklines, sleeve length, and dress style looks best on your body type. Don't just consult magazines. Otherwise, you might try on your "dream dress" at the end of the process and realize your dream dress looks horrible on you. And then, it's too late.
  • This "faux wedding dress shopping trip" is also a good time to see what kind of white looks better with your skin tone. Yes, there are many kinds of white. "Off-whites" come in blue tones, pink tones and yellow tones. And don't worry, the old connection of a pure white wedding dress to purity is a thing of the past. Even so, you will actually be getting married in pure white. You can think of the wedding dress as your party dress.
  • Buy your wedding underwear before your first fitting. Not the wedding night underwear -- you can keep that to yourself. But pick out the bra you are going to wear on your special day and wear the same one to every fitting. It might even be a good time to get a real bra fitting if you haven't done it before. If you plan on wearing a slimming/smoothing underpinning, find it and wear it to every fitting as well. These things make a huge difference in how a dress will fit (and be fitted).
  • The next thing you are going to need to get is your shoes. Having these before the dress is done (and even before it is cut) is vital in making sure the dress is the perfect length.
  • If you plan on losing weight (or gaining weight before the wedding), do your dressmaker a favor and try to do it all before you start in the dressmaking process or be prepared to pay extra for more fittings (and for a grumpy sewer).

If you buy a dress:

  • Don't buy a dress that is 4 sizes too big for you because it was such a "great deal" and then expect that a sewer will be able to alter it to fit you perfectly. We can do some amazing things, but we cannot perform miracles.
  • Don't buy a strapless or sleeveless dress and figure someone will be able to just slap sleeves right onto it without it looking strange at all. It can be done in some instances with a flawless result, but not always. Please realize that you are taking a chance here at not being please at the final result. And don't be a bridezilla when it doesn't turn out exactly the way you think it should.
  • If you are able to shop with a sewer, do it. They will be able to tell you what is possible and impossible when it comes to altering a dress.
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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Freebies from the Crib: Tender Cargo

May's freebie comes from a frequent visitor and commentor around these here blogs, cchrissyy. Once the dust settled from working to put her husband through school (using ebay sales a half.com bookstore and secret shopping) and at the same time having three children very close together, this natural born momtreprenuer and baby product expert decided to start Tender Cargo, a web-based store filled with hand-picked pregnancy, baby, and child related products.

With three children, cchrissyy has had her share of infant shoes that wear out too fast, carriers and slings that hurt her back or were outgrown too fast to be worth what she paid. She also has a passionate dislike for noisy plastic toys covered with media characters (amen sister!). Put all those things together, and you get a site filled with quality products (and many natural products) that will last for baby #2 and #3.
I especially like the way she shares her knowledge of the products with her customers like her sling FAQs page, or the description of the leather shoes she carries here. BTW, these little shoes just make my heart melt. And she has a great selection of wooden toys and puzzles. I know my girls would love this little "paperdoll" puzzle and it's priced right at less than $5.

Another product I love is the Belly Hugger. I think it was originally designed to be worn while breastfeeding so your stomach (or g's) are not exposed without having to wear a special nursing shirt or a blanket. But, these bands are also great during pregnancy to extend the wear of too small pants (covers an undone top button) or too short top (adds length like a "layer" without having to actually wear another layer). Good stuff. I could go on and on. Tender Cargo is filled with good stuff around every corner. Go on over and check it out for yourself.

Okay, now I guess I will get to the fantastic freebie from cchrissyy at Tender Cargo. She has to graciously put up for grabs a fabulous Zolowear Baby Pouch in your choice of print. I don't know how you will choose! The Jetson dot is so cute, the Metro black is perfectly unisex and the Sable hemp is so awesomely sustainable. If you are asking yourself "How will I use a baby pouch?", don't worry! The pouch also comes with an inspirational and instructional DVD (and you can also go read her aforementioned pouch and sling FAQ's page). I love these types of carriers because you can use them longer (and more comfortably) than a traditional frontpack.

And remember, if you personally don't have a need for this freebie, please pass the info along to someone who does! Or, go ahead and put your name into the hat and save the pouch for an amazing baby shower gift!

How to win this Freebie:
-You have until Friday (5/25) 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 Saturday (5/26) 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, May 21, 2007

It's a year away...but

Ok, it's actually MORE than a year away, but my 10th wedding anniversary will be here before I know it. I want to go on a trip. I plan on going on a trip. I need help.

Here are my issues:

1. My honeymoon was to Boston. I love that city, but it's not that honeymooney right? We were poor so we stayed in a crappy hotel, and it just wasn't ideal. We have since been back 3 or 4 times and had a blast and stayed in nice hotels, so we are in a good place with Boston, and don't want to go there for our 10th.

2. I am not a beach or sun or pool person, but the beach kind of sounds appealing if I can just wear layers and layers of sunscreen, a sun hat, and lay on a chair and read and sleep in and spend time with my husband. But I don't want to go in the ocean or get sand in my places that I don't like sand, and my husband doesn't love to read.

3. I am interested in travel. BUT traveling is EXHAUSTING....and how will I know that I will like it once I get there? I enjoyed Austria, but all in all, that was a difficult trip for me. I also get bad jetlag. I have been to CA twice in the past year and I just never feel myself while I am there, I am dizzy, tired and sinusy. "Traveling" might be tough. And I can't poop.

4. My DH and I have been on one cruise and it was rocky and cold and not ideal. I don't know if we are ready to give a cruise another chance.

5. We would be dropping the kids off in Chicago, so keep in mind that we would be flying from there.

I guess the moral of these issues is despite our best efforts, we really have had some less-than-ideal times on vacation. I DON'T want to mess up this trip....I need good ideas of where we could go and have fun and relax and celebrate and reconnect (WITHOUT OUR CHILDREN YIPPEE!). Maybe we will just drop them off at the grandparents, and come right back home....

Some ideas that have been floating around for us so far:
Bermuda (it's close to NYC at least)
French Riveria (I have no idea what that even means)

And that's it....

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

No Deodorant Miracles, Just a Lot of Sweat and Tears

A couple weeks ago I dreamed that my four-year-old autistic son, Noe, was strapped down to a hospital bed while being examined by Dr. House. If you haven't seen the television show, House is an eccentric curmudgeonly genius who solves impossible medical cases in an hour. While House was examining Noe, something caught his attention and he started sniffing around the room until his nose landed under my armpit.

"What kind of deodorant do you use?" he asked.

"Secret, I think," I replied with a puzzled look.

"Switch to Dove and your son will be fine," he instructed in his irritated, know-it-all voice. And then he turned to leave, off to solve his next case.

Of course...my deodorant was causing Noe's autism! Why hadn't I thought of that in the first place? It all made perfect sense....until I woke up.

It has been two years since Noe's diagnosis. Two years full of anxiety and research and therapies and more anxiety and lots of medical bills followed by even more anxiety. We have attacked his autism using a variety of approaches. We are treating him biomedically, taking advantage of supplements and keeping his diet free from gluten and casein, which often exacerbate autism symptoms. We have a private ABA program, which relies heavily on behaviorist theory to teach him new skills. He has speech therapy to increase his language. He attends a special ed preschool program, which is preparing him to be integrated into a regular elementary school.

Every time we start a new therapy, I try to be realistic. I tell myself he will make progress, but it will take time and patience and hard work. But a small part of me still holds hope for a "deodorant cure"....that a particular therapy will click with Noe and rid him of his autism forever.

It is possible. More and more kids are recovering from their autism. One of our ABA therapists has a son who was diagnosed with autism at age 2 and today, at age 5, he is completely free of his symptoms. Some kids respond amazingly well to certain biomedical treatments, and other kids, if they start young enough, can essentially be cured of their autism through hours and hours of behavioral therapy. Noe has hit a lot of developmental milestones in the last couple of years, thanks largely to his therapies, but he is far from cured.

Most days, I am ok with it all. I know that even if we never find that quick cure, Noe will still find his niche in life and be happy and productive. Most days I feel lucky to have Noe in our family. He is a sweet, affectionate, beautiful child who does a lot of normal 4-year old stuff: He rides his bike like a maniac, loves to swim and hang from the monkey bars, he whines about eating his fruits and vegetables and fights with his younger brother. Most days I say to myself that if this is our family's cross to bear, I consider myself blessed.

And then there are the other days. Days I spend on the phone with our health insurance, trying to figure out why they won't pay Noe's claims. Days I spend looking for qualified therapists for our ABA program, or trying to convince the ones we have to stick around even though we can't pay them what they're worth and they have no health insurance. There are evenings when I spend 4 hours getting Noe to settle down for bed, only to have him wake up every hour during the night. On his worst days, Noe can't focus enough to play or learn and reverts to his own world where he spins his toys or claps his hands or laughs hysterically at nothing in a corner by himself . On those days, when no amount of coaxing or bribing will bring him back, I go to my bedroom and scream into my pillow. I curse his autism and ask God, in all of His power, why He won't bring Noe back to us.

I am learning that some miracles come fast, others slow, and I'm redefining what Noe's miracle will entail. It will be the sum of the resources, energy and time we put into his therapy regiment over many years. It will encapsule all of the hard work Noe puts into his own therapy sessions. It will be amazing teachers and therapists along the way that find ways to motivate him to learn.

That said, I still wish all I had to do was change deodarant brands.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Little Traditions

The other night, as I was slathering cream on my-getting-a-little-older feet, vowing to make it a nightly ritual, my thoughts turned to the scene in Funny Lady, when Barbra Streisand, as Fanny Brice, is going through her nightly beauty ritual, which included rubbing lemons on her elbows and knees.

Stay with me here.

My thoughts then wandered to Funny Girl, because Funny Girl was WAY better than Funny Lady, and Funny Girl happens to be me favorite movie. Then I thought about sharing that with my daughters. What will that day be like? How old will they be? Will they embrace Funny Girl? Will they become die-hard Barbra Fans too?

Then I started thinking about my own mother and what she tried to indoctrinate in me. The list: Madame Alexander Dolls, Olivia Newton John, Aerobics, Crosstitching, Make up, Haley Mills Movies (Summer Magic, Pollyanna, The Parent Trap), White Christmas, Dachshunds, Talbots, Lladros.

She didn't force anything on me, these were just things that she really enjoyed and introduced us to, and we clinged to those things as well. She grew up with a Dachshund named Schatze, so growing up we had two: Barney and Chloe. She collected dolls growing up, so she gave her daughters a doll on special occasions. She worked out, so we worked out.

I thought about what I have held on to, from that list, and what I will pass along to my daughters. I have already bought Summer Magic to show my daughters, I have in my possession I think 3 of quite a few MA Dolls, the rest of which are stored at my mother's house and I have no particular attachment to. And my girls have a few MA baby dolls. I no longer cross stitch. If I cross stitch again, it will probably to make a stocking if I have another child, I am just NOT into it like my mother is. I do enjoy watching White Christmas. If I was to get a dog, it would not be a dachshund. I love make up. I think it is safe to say that I will not purchase anything at Talbots, for at least the next 15 years...maybe more, it's just not my style. My mother gave me a lladro when I graduated college. I really appreciate the gift, and it is in a special place right now: protected in my closet, until one day I have a more formal room to display it in, and no little hands to destroy it.

As for what I will pass on to my children?
Barbra (of course), Books (my favorites), music, rollerblading, and probably makeup...

It's also fun to find what they love just as much as you do (or did), on that list is My Little Ponies, Barbies, the movie Peter Pan and chocolate.

So what about you?
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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day!

... a little late in the day, but you'll have to forgive me. I spent my mother's day hiking through many of our great nation's airports on my way home from a visit to Chloe's. How did you celebrate YOUR mother's day?
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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Perks of the Job

SJ was itching to get outside by 7:30 this morning. She sat in front of the door, with her arm and hand extended toward it, making that ascending-pitched sound that is obviously her way of asking for something. When I opened the door to let her walk in the hallway, she immediately walked to the elevator and did the same thing, begging to go outside. So I put her in the stroller and we walked to work with dh. I haven’t been out walking much at that hour of the morning. When we turned around to go back home, I discovered that we were walking against very heavy foot traffic: hoards of people dressed in dark business clothes headed to work. We stopped at a traffic light and the crowd on the other side of the street kept getting bigger and bigger, until the light changed and walking against the oncoming traffic felt like dividing a sea of black-haired, darkly dressed figures all marching to the drudgery of work.

It reminded me of the opening scene to Joe Versus the Volcano, the first movie Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan (boy, she’s aged better than he has!) made together. But instead of heading to a gray, steaming factory, everyone here in Tokyo was headed to a harshly lit, cubicle-studded office. But the feeling was the same. Such monotony. Such repetition. Such mind-numbing work. Of course, I’m making the assumption that every person in those waves of workers has a job they don’t look forward to. But it quickly made me grateful to be headed home in the opposite direction, wearing my worn cords and pale-blue fleece jacket, pushing SJ, dressed in pink, in her bright yellow and navy blue Maclaren (um, yeah, we stuck out). I felt free and light in comparison with these slaves to full-time paid work. Granted I have full-time, and plenty of over-time, work at home (for which I don’t get paid). But at least my work allows me to get outside and choose (in those few hours that napping, feeding, diaper changing, or bathing aren’t required) whether I’m going to take SJ to the playground, or go shopping, or clean the floor, or study Japanese, or work on publicity for my book, or call a friend, or invite people over for playgroup, or do some ironing. Of course, whatever I choose to do will be interrupted over and over and most likely won’t get done until three days from now. But at least, I can choose, and there’s no boss or colleagues needing the work done by a certain time, and I can wear whatever I want, and I’m not stuck inside an office all day long.

Despite getting up at 5:30 to a hungry one-year-old every morning, I’m glad—for the moment—to be a stay at home mom.

Any other perks worth sharing as we near Mother's Day?
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Monday, May 07, 2007

What do you do?

What do you do?
And maybe I should rephrase the question, but it just IS that universal question.

What do you do?
The response: HO HUM. I just stay at home with my kids. Sigh.
I just watch my kids all day (fake happy eyebrows).

There seems to be an undertone or shame or a longing for something different. The response I often get, bugs me.

If I were a SAHM, and I practically am, and didn't have my career or hobbies or whatever to talk about, if ALL I did was raise my two children, I would be campaigning for the SAHM's.

If someone said to me:
What do you do?

I hope that I would respond NOT in a ho-hum, shameful, longing-for-something-else way at all. I hope (expect) that I would say in response to that question: What do you do?

I am so glad you asked. I am currently experiencing one of the greatest of life's challenges, as I rear two demanding and energetic girls. Right now I am feeling overwhelmed by teaching my 5-year-old to read and my 2-year-old to pee in the toilet. It is really trying my patience on so many levels. What do you do?

I hope that if I wasn't feeling fulfilled or happy or complete, that I would be honest and authentic about it.

What do you do?
Well, I am embroiled in motherhood right now. I don't know where I am or who I am, but I am pretty sure all that I am sacrificing for my two children is worth it. And I have seen glimpses of that, but right now is particularly trying, and I have hope that they will read and pee one day.

Obviously we all have that moment when we feel ho-hum about our life and we feel overwhelmed and like: How the hell did I get HERE?, but in general, I think that us SAHM's could really RALLY and give a better name to the SAHMS out there. I think the key is in how we respond, and how we educate people through that response.

What do you do?
I wrack my brain for creative ways to teach my children. I try to come up with new foods to try....last week we did Brussel Sprouts, and they actually liked them. I do a lot of laundry, and find great satisfaction when I get THAT STAIN out. I am currently investing in rollerblades for the kids and me, so that we can start (a hopefully life-long) hobby of fun and exercise. What do you do?

Oh, you're JUST a CEO. Cool.
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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Last Minute Mother's Day Gift Ideas

Still searching for that perfect gift for Mom? Consider making a donation to a charitable cause in her name.

Here are some ideas:

- Is your mom active in the outdoors or a nature lover? Donate in her name to the Conservation Fund,"dedicated to protecting landscapes and waterways for future generations," the Sierra Club, which is doing a lot to fight global warming, or to her local nature center.

- Does your mom love to read? Consider a donation to Room to Read. Room To Read builds libraries in developing countries in hopes of increasing literacy rates and was recently featured on Oprah. A unique mission of this nonprofit is that it prints children's books in native languages. My own mother, a former school teacher and book lover, will be receiving this gift from me.

- Does your mom have a special place in her heart for kids? How about a gift to one of these charities: Ronald McDonald House, Save The Children, or Children's Defense Fund. There are a lot of great children's charities, I chose these as examples because they received the highest ratings from www.charitywatch.org.

- Does your mom own her own business or have an interest in international development? She will fall in LOVE with KIVA just as I have. KIVA is a microloan program where you can loan money to women around the world in order to jumpstart their businesses. The fun part of this program is that you get to pick who gets your loan. The website has photo profiles of each woman in need of a loan. I love to go through the profiles and imagine the lives of these women and the possibilities these loans will give them. Another fun thing is that there is an excellent chance (greater than 90%) that you will get your money back because it is a loan. Now that is my kind of charitable giving! Frankly, I believe in the power of microloans and KIVA is my best shot at being involved with this movement while my kids are young and in need of a mother who lives in the same country as they do.

Another microfinance program you should consider donating to is Unitus. tftCarrie introduced Unitus to me (by way of Daring Young Mom) and I am liking their work. Instead of making direct loans, they take a business approach and work directly with microlenders, much like a venture capitalist might work with a startup, to ensure their success. The idea is that microloans successfully eleviate poverty but they aren't reaching enough people. Making microlenders more effective operating businesses will help them serve more people, make more loans, and thus make greater strides in poverty reduction. Good stuff.

Now that you've chosen a charity for your mom, you might consider adding an extra personal touch by accompanying a small gift with your donation. Your nature-loving Mom, for example, might receive a trail guide or a potted plant. Buy your bookworm Mom personalized name plates for her book collection. Give your entrepreneur mom a new PDA (ok, that's not really a small gift) or a magazine subscription to Entrepreneur or (my fav) The Economist.

For my own gift to my mother, I bought a traditional Mother's Day card and enclosed printed information on her charity and a brief explanation to why I chose that particular charity for her. I'm a little nervous about it....my mom is an extremely generous woman...but I am a little afraid that she will feel like I am imposing my world and my value system on her. After she reads my card, however, I think she will understand and accept my gift with love and appreciation.

Here's to putting FTD out of business this Mother's Day!

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Friday, May 04, 2007

A Celebration of Mexican Heritage

If you are lucky enough to attend a reunion thrown by my father's side of the family, the phrase you are sure to hear shouted repeatedly is not the popular, "Be quiet, we're saying the prayer!" but a less prominent phrase of most Utah-held reuions, "Viva Mexico!" You see, even though my pasty white skin, thin brown hair, and Danish surname won't give you any clues, I am part Mexican. My father (who actually looks more the part with his thick black hair and dark skin) was born in Mexico and lived there until his early teens before he emigrated with his brothers and sister to Utah.

With that said, my immediate family doesn't have a close connection with our Mexican heritage. The only Spanish I know was learned in one semester of high school Spanish (oh, and Dora the Explorer). My mom cooked Mexican food for us once in a while and I do admit having a soft spot in my heart for Taco Bell. I vaguely remember taking cajeta to a school "culture day" and I think I have tasted flan but I don't think I liked it. I do like churros though--they're Mexican. But I have only had them at Disneyland--not so Mexican. There is not much more to my experience with Mexican culture than most "white-bread" Americans. But at my extended family reunions, I am reminded of a truly rich culture that is part of my heritage. It makes me sad that I do not know more about it. It makes me sad that I don't feel a part of it. My family has received the deserved yet lovingly given label of "gringo". Since the last family reunion which occurred this past Thanksgiving, I have been trying to do little things to remedy the situation.

-I picked out a traditional dress in the colors of Mexico's flag for Princess to wear to her preschools Cinco de Mayo celebration. As a child, I remember envying my cousins at the family reunions when they wore such dresses and performed folklorico dancing. I also found a little one for Pumpkin at the thrift store.

-I have visited the Famous Olvera Street a number of times. Last time there was an art exhibit of painted tortillas - not sure if this is a regular part of Mexican culture, but it sure looked fun! We also picked up a sombrero so we can practice the Mexican Hat Dance which happens to be the "national dance of Mexico".

-I learned how to make traditional Mexican tamales from a woman in my ward.

-I read a little more about Cinco de Mayo and felt stupid when I realized that it is not Mexico's Independence Day (which is what I always thought). I then felt better when the article stated the day is used in North America to "celebrate the culture and experiences of Americans of Mexican descent". Hey, that's me! Let's celebrate!

So here is how we are going to celebrate Cinco de Mayo this year:

-The girls are excited to wear their traditional Mexican Dresses all day.
-I planned on attending a Cinco de Mayo community celebration, but I just found out our local one has been canceled.
-So, we'll probably just turn on a Spanish Radio Station and perform our "Mexican Hat dance" at home.
-We are going to eat Mexican Food for dinner and because I don't trust my skills to make it authentic, we'll probably go out.
-Finally, I want to sit down with my daughters and tell them about their great-grandmother, Maria. I don't really know that much about her because she passed away when my father was young, but we will talk about what it was like for her to live in Mexico back then. We'll look at pictures and admire her thick, long, dark hair and I'll tell my girls that we all have her same dark brown eyes.

I know many of these things seem pretty shallow. They really just skim the surface of what it means to really celebrate your heritage, but I figure becoming familiar with the heritage is the first step. And the more I learn about and experience the Mexican culture the more I am ready to join with my extended family and shout "Viva Mexico!".
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From the Tales Inbox: Miss Poppins is in Trouble

Now that I am a college student, summertime has become work-your-butt-off time. This summer I am a nanny or better phrased as "mother's assistant." I didn't babysit at all in high school except my own younger siblings. I have never been that fond of children and actually have a dying fear of giving birth/mothering etc (not good when you are an LDS young woman!). Anyhow, when I heard about a family in our stake who was in desperate need for someone to care for their two year old boy while the pregnant mother was on bed rest, I rose up to the challenge to face my fears. It's been a week since I started and things have gone pretty well except for a few things...

When I first met the parents I knew right away that they were very free-style in their parenting. They told me he didn't really have a schedule. He was allowed to sleep and eat when he wanted to. They told me they didn't believe in spanking or yelling and would really like me to "parent" him like they do. Sounded good to me, until I had to deal with him myself.

Problem #1: He literally is allowed to eat whatever he wants. This morning when I asked the mom what he had for breakfast she told me he had ice cream. Sometimes he eats sour cream for breakfast. It's pretty much take him to the kitchen and have him point out what he wants.

Problem #2: He is allowed to eat unlimited amounts. After seeing his mom eat chips he wanted some so of course she gave some to him. When he ran out she gave him more and more and more....

Problem #3: He doesn't have an eating schedule. I don't think he ever really eats meals. He grazes. It's hard for me because I never know when to feed him. If I hand him food he won't eat it unless it's something he wants and he hardly ever tells me he's hungry.

Problem #4: He doesn't have a sleeping schedule. He used to take two naps a day but his mom is trying to transition him to only one. She breastfed him to sleep (yeah, crazy, the kid is flippin' two!) until about a month ago when she was put on medication that made her breast milk bad. Now, he doesn't know how to fall asleep on his own. His bed is still in his parents room so I can't fuss with him in there
because his mom is sleeping. All I can do take him on drives or put on a movie until he finally crashes. It's frustrating because I fight with him for like 2 hours a day trying to get him to sleep.

Problem #5: He doesn't talk, he points. He can talk though. The parents just don't push it because they said that "he'll talk when he's ready." That's cool but the problem is why not encourage him to talk when he can? It makes things a lot easier when he uses words to communicate. I already taught him how to count to three and his parents were amazed. I didn't tie him down and force him to read flashcards, he simply just followed my example.

I respect the parents. I think they are good well meaning people who really love their child, I just think I'll go crazy if he isn't on some schedule. I think he would be much happier and healthier (or at least I would be) if he were at least on an eating and sleeping schedule. I also think he would turn out to be a better kid if he learned that sometimes he can't have what he wants. How do I "parent" him differently when his mom is in the house? How do I even begin to get him on a sleeping or eating schedule? I've thought of discussing this with the parents but I'm not sure what to say without sounding like I'm criticizing their parenting skills. I know that I'm trying really hard to be a super nanny so is it even my place to try to change things? Am I even right that these are problems? Help me

Miss Poppins Wannabe
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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Blemishes, Pimples, and Zits...OH MY!

I have, what I consider to be, mild acne. I am looking for a solution, if any really exists. If talking about zits grosses you out, don't click "read more".

When I was a teenager I got plenty of t-zone pimples. Now I am 28 and I get those annoying deep pimples right in my cheeks. Yick. Sometimes the stubborn ones in the middle of my forehead. And unpleasant as it is, I'm a picker, poker, popper.

I don't always have them. But I can't say if it's the same time of the month that they appear. Just not sure if it's consistent.

I took some antibacterial medication that really took care of zits the year before my marriage. But, they compromise the effectiveness of "the pill" so I went off it. That was the best year for my face...hey...is that how I nailed that engagement? Gasp! I currently use "spot remover" by origins, but I don't know, it's not as magical as I'd hoped.

I've been using drugstore soap and face lotion for a long time and I'm ready for something new.

Here's what I'd like: Either

1) just a plain good-for-me cleanser and lotion so I know I'm not doing anything bad for my face. The pimples may come, but at least I'm not adding to them by using mediocre products.


2) a great anti-acne something. I'm really not interested in a 4-step $60 a month program. Unless everyone and their dog swears by it. I looked at Proactive. I almost went for it until I noticed a website with testimonials AGAINST it. It was scary! Definitley not going there.

Do any of you have good cleansers you trust? Lotions? Potions? Other techniques to fight the little bad boys? I'd much rather hear it from people I trust than people trying to sell me something!
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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

This Mom Appreciates Good Customer Service

My dh and I constantly complain about the lack of good customer service these days. It could be our increasing age that has made us more grumpy when things don't go our way as we deal with various businesses. Whatever the case, I really feel like most companies don't care much about pleasing their customers. I can't imagine this being a good business practice, so maybe they aren't able to motivate their employees to care about pleasing the customers. Who knows.

What I do know is that as a mother of two children, they are the new customers. Because when they are happy, mom is happy. And when mom is happy, mom can continue to shop without dragging a screaming child out of a grocery store, leaving her full cart in the frozen food aisle (not that this has ever happened).

If you make me feel like my children are not welcome at your place of business, it is most likely I will never return. And I will probably talk bad about you to all my friends. And I have a lot of friends so this should scare you.

If you feel you must follow my baby and I around to make sure she doesn't brake anything in your $1 store, I might throw wrapping paper at you and slam the contents of my coin purse on your counter while yelling like a crazy person that while my baby did not ruin your $1 roll of wrapping paper, I will pay you for it anyway just so you will leave me alone! (not that this ever happened and even if it did, there are no witnesses, especially no friend on the other end of the cell phone wondering what in the heck is going on).

Anyhoo, for the companies that have gone above and beyond in making me and my children feel welcome, I salute you. I would like to give shout out to a few specific businesses who have shown an excellence in customer service to this mom (and her children) in the past month:

Old Navy in Concord, CA - They have put together a kids play area in their fitting room that occupies children so mom can actually try on a few things.

Mimi's Cafe in Chino CA - I have since heard this kind of service is chain-wide, but I have only been to this one Mimi's and here is what I found. They bring out a snack plate for the kids right after you sit down -cheerios, little bits of fruit. Perfect to keep them calm until their food arrives. We also told our waiter it was our first time to Mimi's and he gave us four complimentary muffins to take home at the end of our meal. So Yummy!

Trader Joes, CA - While I can't even begin to count the ways in which I love Trader Joe's, I will say that the bribes they provide for my children (in the form of stickers, balloons, food and juice) make grocery shopping with my kids an enjoyable experience.

Westfield Mall, Santa Anita - I love the family lounge you have created with the excellent changing area and tiny toilets for my kids. And the free car strollers for rent allow me to shop a little longer (which is why you probably make them available--more shopping=more money) before my kids freak out and want to go to the mall playground or start screaming for a Happy Meal "Pleeeeeeasssssssse!".

My Chiropractic Office
, CA - I showed up one day for an adjustment and the woman who ran the front desk (who was really great with kids) told me that today she was going to take care of them for the next 1/2 hour so I could have a massage. God bless you.

T Mobile
- I just changed cell phone providers and cell phones. I had my two kids with me and as I pulled my pristine new phone out of it's box in front of the salesperson. I turned to my 18 month old daughter "This is mommy's. You can't ruin this one with your spit like you did my 2 previous phones". Right then the salesperson said, "I know exactly what you mean. I have a little boy." He told me to hold on a second while he ran to the back. He came back holding two "dummy" cellphones (the ones that looks like real ones, but they use them for displays). He handed one to each of my daughters and said "These are for you". The one he handed my 18 month old was the EXACT model as my new phone. BRILLIANT! It has been over a month and she hasn't touched mine yet.

Any other stories out there for excellence in customer service for moms? I would love to give them my business.
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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Helping the Poor and Needy

April's visiting teaching message was different than it's been in a while. At the end of last year, I felt like we were talking about the benefits of membership in the Relief Society ad nauseum. This year, we've focused on personal testimony, faith, and other individually meaningful aspects of spiritual development. This message, though, was about helping the poor and needy. I glanced at the title and was excited about it. Finally, something about reaching outside my social and church circles, a focus on a major problem in the world.

So, my partner and I went visiting teaching last week. We sat outside on a beautiful spring day--spring is finally here!--and talked with a new sister in our ward who just gave birth to her first child. My partner is a wonderful woman and I see her quite a bit. She lives near me and we often trade kids back and forth. She is always cheerful, despite the demands of a large family.

She started the lesson by recounting a story found in April's New Era. The author writes of her patriarchal blessing, which stated "You may help the needy with your time, effort, and means.” This young teen-ager feels drawn to help the poor in her area, but her first two efforts are unsuccesful. She goes home, depressed. How can she fulfill her calling as described in her blessing? How can she help the needy? She walks into her home, and her younger brother is crying, upset from being teased at school. The words from her patriarchal blessing come back to her, and she concludes that "the poor are just as likely to be in your home as on the streets." My partner then talked about how that message really resonated for her. With 5 young children, she has little time to do other things. I understand this, and can empathize with her. "To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven."

The deeper implications, though, of the New Era article bother me. If I equate the poor and needy only with my family, then I am not forced to personally confront the poor and needy in the streets and in my community. I have given up my responsibility to help them. I am not required to look beyond my comfort zone to those who may be in need.

On another level, I was upset by this thought. Here is another way that my children can prevent me from having an impact on the world at large. I don't want my influence to be felt only within the walls of my home, no matter how important that work may be. I want to reach beyond my family to help others.

I've been thinking about this all week. I've been wondering what kind of contribution I can make, where I can use my talents, and how I can make a difference. Later, after I was thinking about this experience again, I had a flash of inspiration. I'm the enrichment leader in my ward. The flexible enrichment groups seem like the perfect vehicle to make a regular committment to a local non-profit organization. As beneficial as tying quilts and putting together hygeine kits are, there is something particularly valuable about meeting people face-to-face who need our help, as Chole so eloquently described.

Have you been in wards that have successful at working with a non-profit? What seems to work? What hasn't worked? And what kinds of services--soup kitchen, women's shelter?? Or have you seen a particularly effective one-time service project performed in a ward? And what about in your own lives? Has there been a time when you've been able to devote energy to a cause?
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