Wednesday, August 27, 2014

5 Tips for Moms Breastfeeding in Public

I’m about eight years removed from breastfeeding, so although some things may have changed (those much cuter cover-ups that are now out), the basics have stayed the same.
  • Some folks get breastfeeding, some don’t.  There are people who are pro-breastfeeding/it’s the only way, there’s formula is best folks, and there’s others who haven’t given it any thought until they saw your boobs at the store.
  • Breastfeeding is natural, but that doesn’t mean everyone wants to see you do it. Insert any other natural function in place of “breastfeeding” for emphasis.
  • You do have the right to choose how you want to feed your kid.
  • You do not need to be fully exposed for your child to get the full nutritional value of your breastmilk.

So, while you can do whatever you want at home – nurse naked doing a headstand in your living room if you want to - here’s a few tips that hopefully will make your public breastfeeding days a bit easier.

  • Dress for the occasion and the task.  When my first daughter was born, nursing-wear was limited to what amounted to super-large t-shirts with a slit cut across the middle. I had two and hated them both.  But nursing-wear has progressively gotten less ugly and more like “normal” clothes.  But if you don’t want to go through the expense of buying clothing specifically for nursing, then wear clothes that make the task easier. Button down shirts, shirts that can comfortably lifted up from the waist, even a spaghetti-strap sundress or a stretchy v-neck t-shirt. It depends on your comfort and to an extent, your body and breast size. Do not, as I made the hurried mistake with my first-born, wear a full dress in which the only way you can nurse your child is to either unzip the dress and disrobe from the shoulders down or pull up the entire length of the skirt to your breasts.
  • Be discreet.  See tip #1 and/or get yourself one of those pretty little coverups or baby blankets.  As much as we want to scream that people shouldn’t look at breasts as sexual appendages, exposed nude body parts do make some people nervous, anxious, annoyed, and even feel as if they are invading your privacy.  That quickly turned head isn’t always a “yuck, how dare she nurse in public” sometimes it’s a “oh my goodness, I probably embarrassed that mom by looking at her breast.”  Now, if you want to have both boobs hanging out, then face it – you might get ogled or folks might roll their eyes and make rude comments.  But if you want to avoid all that, be discreet. 

  • Find a private place.  My babies weren’t always so great at being discreet or even focusing on nursing when there was a lot going on. They may have been hungry, but they wanted to observe the world while enjoying their meal, like many of us do.  Or they were so terribly cranky hungry that it took a while to settle and soothe them to nurse. I found a (relatively) quiet and private place worked better in both of these situations rather than a chair in the middle of a department store or a busy restaurant.  Dressing rooms, the lounge area of a ladies room (I’m not mentioning any names, but some of those upscale department stores are kinda nice), even a tucked away alcove in your favorite restaurant.  It’s not to hide your nursing, but to make your child more comfortable.
  • Say “No, thank you.” When the store clerk comes to offer you a more private place in the bathroom, give her the benefit of the doubt – if she hasn’t breastfed, she may not be thinking “eww, she should go sit on the toilet and feed her baby,” she might be thinking “maybe she wants some privacy and the bathroom is the best option I can offer her.”  Just say “I appreciate your concern, I’m fine right here” and stay seated on your chair in the back of the store.  If the waitress says you and your baby got to go, kindly say, “Thank you, as soon as we are done our meal, we’ll be on our way.” And if they really really insist that you move? Really, I’m always of the mindset that if you don’t want me here, I don’t want to be here either. So your other option is to pack up your stuff, leave behind any items you would’ve purchased and be satisfied with the extra money in your pocket and find a new spot.
  • Educate people. This is a big picture task.  Everybody is not pro-breastfeeding. That’s that. Some don’t get it, don’t understand why you would do it, tout the health benefits of formula or soymilk or goat’s milk or whatever. Whether it’s your own mother, your girlfriend, your baby’s daddy, the nosy neighbor, or the lady staring at you at the store - take a minute and let them know why you’ve chosen breastfeeding. 
And one more thing – Make eye contact only with your baby. Don’t look at those people rolling their eyes at you, tsk-tsk-ing your breastfeeding.  Look away from the store manager who is about to break her neck shaking her head at you to make your go away. Lean back in your seat and close your eyes to your mother holding out a bottle.  Just look into the getting-sleepy eyes of your happy baby and ignore everyone else.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Getting Back into the School Routine (for Moms)

It's going to take a couple days to get back into the school routine.  Waking up, getting out the door - with lunch and homework. Doing homework.

Yesterday was the first day of school and we did well getting going in the morning. But the first day usually is a good one - the excitement of the new year, the new outfit, seeing friends again. Even getting up early is kinda easy for one day.  But, getting through that day and having to do it all over again the next day? How exhausting.  Even for the kids.

Back-to-school is a mom adjustment, too. At least it is for me. After months of only having to get two kids to the pool in the morning and one kid to basketball in the afternoon, each for a couple hours, and then a relatively open (lazy) schedule after that, the school year routine takes getting used to again.  Now, I have to return to - or reinvent - a productive day schedule.  While the kids are gone and the house is relatively empty (just me and the dog, sometimes my work-at-home husband), I like to get some writing done in the quiet.  But I also need to do my housekeeping, get some groceries, follow up on my sorority and PTA tasks, and - oh, yeah - that dinner before 7:30 p.m. thing. And back to an exercise routine (read about our vacation ice cream tour on to understand why.)

I estimate it will take me this week to get myself settled.  Catch up on laundry. Restock the pantry and fridge with lunch stuff.  Dust off the crock-pot. Clean the house without people in it.  Then next week, I'll be ready to get back into a productive routine.

How do you readjust to the school year?

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

5 Reasons to Encourage Girls about Diet and Exercise

Girls aren’t supposed to want to be pretty and attractive. At least that’s the new message that seems to be out.  There's a hashtag movement to shy away from telling our girls that they are pretty, only smart - but why not both?  There’s a social message that we don't want our girls to think that exercising is for our own self-image, but only strictly to be healthy and because we enjoy it. More girl-focused campaigns are trying to downplay the truth of wanting to look good and be attractive.  And yes, as a woman and mom of three beautiful girls, I get that there's a lot of over-sexualization in girl-targeted ads and media and clothing; trust me, I struggle with that when clothes shopping, pushing my girls past the make-up counter and push-up bras in the junior sections.  But part of teaching them to walk past all of that superficial-ness and not be too grown, is to teach them to love their own image.

I workout, in a good week, three to four times.  Running, swimming, weightlifting, playing tennis – some combination of those.  And in a real good week, I limit the amount of ice cream and chocolate cake I eat to only 1 or 2 servings.  Like most women, I have a goal weight and a preferred dress size.

This all goes hand-in-hand, doesn’t it?  Exercise, diet, body size. Along with body image and satisfaction with that image. It's an important balance, aligning a workout schedule, a proper diet, and a reasonable desired body image.

So, it's not a secret that I workout and sometimes watch what I eat, partly (mainly) because of self-image. My daughters (and my son, too) know that I try to balance all of this to look how I want to look, or at least something close to it.  And here's why I've never really thought of this as something to deny because there’s a few things I want my kids to understand.

Physical fitness and good health is a choice. Exercise is something that fits into a lifestyle, it’s not just about going to the gym at a scheduled time to jump around, especially for children.  We can decide to sit on the couch and watch TV for 10 hours a day or go out and ride bikes or run around with the dog and be active.  It’s a choice and that choice will affect your health.

Your diet is a choice. And I don’t mean diet as in the all-grapefruit kind of diet, but “diet” in the sense of everything you eat.  We can eat pizza and fries for breakfast, lunch, and dinner 7 days a week (not good) or for one meal of the week, balanced with a salad and fruit, and other healthy meals.  We can’t eat ice cream three times every day, but we can enjoy a sweet scoop on a Saturday afternoon.  We can always enjoy the good things in life.

You should love who you are and what you look like.  There is nothing wrong with looking at yourself in the mirror and liking what you see.  There is also nothing wrong with wanting to be a better you and figuring out how to be that better self.  With proper nurturing and encouragement, that can result into healthier eating and exercise rather than quick weight-reduction tactics, starving oneself, and artificial beauty.  Maybe it will translate into appreciating their intelligence and talents, building their confidence.  We want our children to love their own natural selves.

You have some control over your life and your health.  Granted, there are some health-issues that we have no control over.  But the complications of being over-weight and not having a proper diet – that is within our own decision making power.  Along with that, hopefully the kids will begin to understand that who they are as people is also up to them – how they act, how they present themselves, what they become.  They have to decide who they want to be and be proud of that person.

It’s all about balance and moderation. Yes, you can exercise too little, as well as too much. You can overeat, undereat, consume the proper amount of calories but they might not be all “healthy.” It’s not about being rail thin to show off your ribs, but being a good correlation of height (which you can’t control) and weight (which you can) and eventually, age.  Like a lot of things in life, you have to find the proper balance of “enough” and moderate your intake and output.

And I will admit, it is a fine line between making children conscious of a healthy body size and being overly concerned about it, but that’s all part of the learning process – for all of us.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ice, Ice, Baby... and a Check #IceBucketChallenge

My first thoughts about this #icebucketchallenge phenomenon was "the what? for why?"  I just was not getting it. Why were people dumping ice on their heads? And then I heard the rumblings of it being for charity, for the ALS foundation, which does research about ALS (also, or perhaps, better known as Lou Gehrig's disease) and supports families of those who suffer from this debilitating disease.  Got it. But how does dumping ice on one's head help?  I figured, the folks at ALS would probably rather you not dump the ice and instead make a donation.  Or if you really wanted to be freezing cold, still write them a check.  Either way, had nothing to do with me. None of my friends were doing it so surely, this craze would pass before it showed up on my Facebook page.

Then I got that "ping" that someone mentioned me on Facebook.  Right above a picture of my soaking wet friend.  Met by the full amusement of my family.

First, let me say how much I dislike being cold.  Summer is my favorite season.  The only good thing that comes from winter is really cute boots and excuses to crochet and knit lots of fun scarves and hats.  And my birthday.  And Christmas.  That's about it.  Okay, and the surprise of snow cream. But that's it.

A couple weeks ago, we were on vacation and went up to Portland. I tipped a foot into the water and nearly screamed it was so cold! to be the middle of August. But we were in public on a full-of-people beach.  That was my entire Maine water experience, I spent the rest of the afternoon happily sitting in the sand.  And in a moment of tourism-craziness, we also went to the Frost Bar in Boston, pretty much because it was named "Frost"- how could we pass it up?  I lasted about 30 minutes in the below-freezing bar and then I was aching to get out.  So, yeah, I don't like the cold.

But while all this ice dumping was going on, I looked at the website a bit to find out more. What was ALS, and, ahem, who is Lou Gehrig?  I had heard of him, was pretty sure he was a baseball player and knew this disease lead to terrible, life-ending effects, but honestly, didn't know much more than that.  I read a little bit and gained more understanding of how it slowly degenerates your nerve cells.  I think this blog post on about what a family thinks of the challenge really explains the effects quite clearly.

So, in the middle of my day, my kids filled up a cooler with ice water (note to self - next vacation, be sure to put everything away), gathered another neighbor child to laugh along with them, and insisted that I stay in my dress because my friend who had challenged me, also wore a dress.  You'd think peer pressure would've worn off at my age, right?  They really enjoyed pouring that ice over me; I did what one does when being doused with freezing water - screamed in my drenched hair and dressed. And made a donation to

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Sweet Road Continues - More Ice Cream in New England

The family that eats ice cream together, stays together.  At least until the next scoop.  Our recent vacation road trip could've been dubbed the "Ice Cream Tour" for all that we ate.  We started in New York and moved up through the New England states.  Catch up on the New York and Boston flavors in this previous post (part 1 of the ice cream tour) and continue on to New Hampshire and Vermont here.

To remind you of the rules of our ice cream stops:
  • We’re looking for fresh, home-/hand-made ice cream at independent shops, or at least ones don’t seem to be big-name chains.
  • Scoops have to be less than $4, as close to or below $3, if possible.  I’ve noticed some places now charge $4, $5, even $6 a scoop!  For us, that’s $30+ for dessert.  So we did pass up shops that may have fit the independent shop rule, but were too pricey.  I’d like to not break a $20 if possible.
  • Good flavors, creative mixes.  Give me a scoop of coffee or chocolate ice cream and I’m pretty happy.  But I’ll definitely try one of those with some nuts or chocolate ripple mixed in.  The kids are cookie dough, birthday cake, mint connoisseurs.
  • Exceptions can be made to these rules, as needed. 

Annabelle’s - Portsmouth, NH
This was our one stop in New Hampshire as we passed through on our way from Boston to Portland, Maine.  And if you are ever just driving through, it's an easy 5-minutes or so off of I-95.  It’s located on a small alley street on the water.  The whole little area is a pleasant, walkable tour-book portside shopping area.  I got the Kahlua chocolate chip, which was really more like Kahlua & cream & chocolate chip. My son got the mint chocolate (his favorite flavor), but unlike most mint ice cream, it was not green, or even white with mint flavor, it was chocolate with mint flavor.  It was really good, like an Andes mint.  Price?  $3.65 for a single, which was actually 2 scoops; and there was a smaller, cheaper kid size.

Ben and Jerry’s, Waterbury, VT
Waterbury is up in the mountains of Vermont. A pretty, natural drive.  There was a decent sized crowd when we got there, which continued during our visit.  You have to get a ticket for the factory tour, which lasts a little less than 30 minutes. We had to wait about an hour for our time slot, but not standing in line; you get a ticket then can wander off until the assigned time.  We checked out the flavors at the Flavor Graveyard (all the flavors that have been retired), ate lunch at one of the food trucks parked on the grounds, and – what else – ate ice cream.  I got my one of my favorites, Coffee Coffee BuzzBuzzBuzz, and tried a new flavors, Hazed and Confused, a hazelnut and chocolate mix.

The factory tour consists of a short film about the history of Ben & Jerry’s, which was pretty interesting, and then an explanation of the ice cream making process from a viewing room above the manufacturing floor.  Since most of the process seems to be in huge heating and cooling vats, it’s actually not a whole lot to see until the ice cream is filled into the pint containers. The day we were there, there was some malfunction with a few lids so ice cream was spilling out across the conveyor belts which amused the kids.  The other highlight of the tour is the exclusive factory-only flavor sample served at the end.  Our day was Meet Me at the ChocoBanana flavor – a banana ice cream with chocolate and nuts.  It definitely needs to go through whatever approval process to get into a store near me.

Of the 12 days we were on vacation, I think we had ice cream at least 8 or 9 of those days (all of our scoops aren’t listed since some were end-of-dinner restaurant served scoops.)  We unfortunately got rained out in Maine and never made it to Gifford’s which is supposed to be really good. But I see that their truck is rolling around our home city every now and then, so maybe we’ll get a taste eventually.  But 9 out of 12’s not bad, right?

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