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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

You Just Can't Make This Stuff Up

When I started this blog, it was to be able to talk about what it was like to formula feed a baby. However, I quickly realized that it also was a great way to let family and friends know what was going on with us. This is a post for them.

Today started out like a pretty regular Wednesday. I headed out to the gym and got home at my usual time. My routine is to walk in the door, wash my hands and sit down at the computer with a cup of coffee for about ten minutes before waking up the kids. You can imagine my surprise when I walked in and saw the contents from our junk drawer spread all over the kitchen floor. This was quickly followed by the pitter patter of little feet and an exclamation of "Hi, Mommy!" from my younger son (YS). He was wearing only a pajama shirt and eating Oreo cookies while scratching "himself." He's never gone downstairs by himself before today. Guess who's getting the safety doorknob put back on his doorknob?

I woke up my older son (OS), got both boys ready and had them sit down for breakfast. That's when I noticed that there was a bloody, pus and wax discharge coming out of OS's ear. It reeked. Seriously, it's been years since he's had an ear infection. After he finished picking at his breakfast, I put both boys in front of a movie as a special treat and went to call the doctor.

Our kitchen opens up into our living room. While I can see most of the room, I can see neither a large chair in the corner nor the kid's chair behind it where YS likes to sit when he watches TV. You can imagine my surprise when I turned around while on hold with the doctor's office and saw YS grinning proudly and announcing that he was a cat. I should clarify that he used my makeup to make himself a cat! Yes, he had used my mascara to draw whiskers, my eyeshadow for the nose, and my eyeliner I believe to draw the whiskers cats have above their eyes on his forehead. When I went upstairs I found that I had accidentaly left my makeup out in the bathroom. The mascara wand was in the concealer tube, and the concealor wand was in the mascara tube.

Y'S the cat than went off to watch the movie. I finally got through to the the doctor's office and was able to make an appointment. Then I scrubbed YS's face and, oddly enough, his arms which he had also done up (fur maybe?) and informed him that I needed to be able to see him for the rest of the day.

We went to the doctor's office. The nurse practitioner confirmed that OS had an ear infection and informed me that same infection likely caused OS's vomitting the other night. It's been years since he's had one. However, the eartubes that he got when he was 20 months old fell out, and she believes that there was a tiny hold left behind. This is apparently pretty common, and it tends to just heal on its own. OS was given the green light to not wear ear plugs anymore. Perhaps a little bath water got in there and caused the infection. OS doesn't ever run fevers with ear infections, and they never seem to bother him. In fact, even though his ear was weeping, it didn't hurt him at all.

The kids and I went to CVS where they insisted on playing musical chairs to a tune that was apparently in their own heads while the prescription was being filled. Since the store was empty, I just did the reasonable thing and pretended I had no idea who they were. We headed back home. The afternoon was fine except that YS commented a few times that he was cold.

I had planned on riding my bike this evening. I haven't been on it much this year, and my first triathlon of the season is on Sunday. The other night, I was pedaling up a hill past a parked car, when the chain popped off. I lost all momentum and barely got one foot out of the clipless pedals in time to avoid a fall. That's when I noticed my audience. Two teenagers in the parked car were making out.

When I took my bike in to the place where I had bought it for repairs, the store owner told me I wouldn't have any more problems with it. I was anxious to get out the door, but just when everything was ready, YS suddenly got sick everywhere. Guess OS had a bug after all. The Big Giraffe and I got him cleaned off and settled. Then I hit the streets to do a quick test of my fixed bike. You can imagine my surprise when I was going up a hill again, and all of a sudden the chain popped off again. Deja-vu. At least this time I didn't have an audience.

I'm sure you have a couple of questions. Let me answer them. Yes, I did take a picture of YS the cat. Yes, I did throw out the one remaining Oreo cookie. Yes, my kids did fight over the fact that I gave YS OS's custom designed barf bowl from yesterday since I was too tired to go downstairs to grab another container. Yes, I do have a fear that on Sunday my chain will pop off at the same time that I come down with the stomach flu. No, I'm not too worried about it happening in front of two teenagers making out. I'm worried about it happening in front of a couple hundred people!

A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: Real life sometimes is better than fiction; particularly when it happens to someone you know in real life and not yourself!

* I wrote this a couple days ago but didn't get to publish it before I came down with a horrible case of the stomach flu that involved my doctor calling in a prescription for me.

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posted by Alex Elliot @ 8:19 PM   4 comments
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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Barf Bowls

I can already see the Big Giraffe rolling his eyes when he reads the title of this post. You can just file it under "things you like to talk about with your friends." Plus being able to talk freely about bodily fluids seems to be like the stamp of parenthood.

Last night our older son complained of having a stomach ache. As usual I didn't take him too seriously because his complaint didn't start until it was time for bedtime rituals. OS was tucked into bed, and the Big Giraffe and I finally were able to start catching up on each other's weekends. Yes, we hadn't really had a chance to talk about them.

A short while later, we heard OS cry out that his stomach hurt. This time we knew he was serious and BG took him to the bathroom where he promptly threw up everywhere except for the toilet. After a little while, he felt better and went back to bed only to wake up a short while later and vomit again.

I have to confess that under the guise of joke, I grabbed the handouts I had received from EI on the Swine Flu to double check. OS looked like he felt better and after a little bit was ready to go back upstairs. However, I had a feeling that he wasn't "finished" for the evening. I looked around to try and find something for him to throw up into just in case. I have heard of parents using the pot of a potty chair for the purpose. Honestly just thinking about that makes me queasy. I didn't want to use one of our regular pots because I knew that I would always know that vomit had been in it. That's when I came up with a different idea. Seeing as most of my brilliant ideas flop and this one actually worked I thought I would share it. I took an old Gladware container. I figured that at best it could be recycled and at worst it could be tossed. OS looked skeptical, and I could see him thinking that it was a lot easier to just throw up on the floor. I then took out a blue Sharpie and wrote his name on it in big letters and drew a pictures of our dog and two cats. Alright my idea of a drawing basically consists of stick figures, but OS was delighted with it. Unfortunately he had the opportunity to use it later.

This morning I kept him home from school and canceled our afternoon playdate. I figured it would be a low key TV day. Guess I shouldn't be complaining that OS felt totally fine. Yes, he was practically bouncing off the walls. The rest of us are doing fine (knock on wood). I'm wondering if maybe it was just from the heat because it was really hot upstairs.

A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: Take an old Gladware container and with a few strokes of a pen, you'll have a personalized vomit container for your child.

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posted by Alex Elliot @ 4:08 PM   2 comments
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Monday, April 27, 2009


A bunch of you have asked if I'm going to BlogHer Chicago this year. The short answer is unfortunately no.

I really wanted to be able to attend. In fact I even voted for Chicago in the BlogHer location poll shortly after BlogHer San Francisco last year. I had a great time last year and I had a great time the year before when it was also in Chicago. Plus I'm from the suburbs of Chicago so it's nice to be able to go back and visit.

This winter, though was hectic. The Big Giraffe and I had a lot going on and when it came time to buy the early BlogHer ticket, I just had no idea what our summer plans were going to be. Looking back, I should have just gone ahead an bought a ticket.

A few weeks ago, I decided that I really did want to attend it again, so I went to purchase my tickets. I guess I should say I wasn't that surprised to see that it had already sold out because I knew it sold out last year. What did surprise me was that it was only April. Anyhow, I signed up to be on the waitlist. I was hopeful because I've always had good luck with waitlists. I emailed the woman in charge to ask where I was the waitlist. Oh yeah number 417, baby. Guess who's not going to BlogHer? That's why I wished I had just bought the tickets. If something had come up and I wouldn't have been able to attend, I now know there are at least 416 people who would have bought my ticket! Next year I'm just going to go ahead and buy it.

Last Saturday as I was excited to receive a letter in the mall saying that my son had been waitlisted for full day kindergarten. Awesome! Apparently they had just opened another section. I should also mention that there is a separate lottery for boys and girls so that there are the same number of boys and girls in each class. People who got acceptance letters had until today to let the school know if they wanted the spot. I just called to find out where my son is on the waitlist. He's number 6. Guess who's going to half day kindergarten next year? It's pretty unlikely that five other boys will turn down their spots particularly when we're talking just one class. However, better to be number 6 than number 417, right? Plus, I've always had good luck with waitlists....

A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: If you think there's a possibility that you might attend BlogHer buy your ticket early.
posted by Alex Elliot @ 12:10 PM   4 comments
  • At 4/27/2009 8:07 PM, Blogger Heather said…

    I would have liked to go but I just can't justify spending that much money on what is really a hobby. If I won the lottery I'd go though. For sure. Of course I'd need to play the lottery to win. So.

  • At 4/28/2009 8:19 PM, Blogger jodifur said…

    I'd watch twitter. People are selling their ticket all the time.

    We are about to put our house on the market so if for some reason I can't go b/c of that you are the 1st person I will offer mine too.

    I so want to meet you!

  • At 5/03/2009 8:16 PM, Anonymous selfmademom said…

    bummer! I'm going for a day this year and I would have loved to meet you. I was lucky and bought it the day before they sold out. it was all those reminders.

  • At 5/03/2009 11:23 PM, Blogger Suzanne said…

    People sell their tickets on twitter? Interesting. This is especially bumming me out since I nominated one of your posts for the community reading, but you can only win if you get off the waitlist. Bah.

    Selfmademom, I hope that I can meet you there.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Note To My Husband

Dear Big Giraffe,

I hope you are having a great time with your friends. I really am glad that you're getting some time to yourself. I know your Blackberry died and so we've been playing phone tag today. I thought I would let you know what's been going on with the boys for the past 24 hours.

Yesterday we went to an egg hunt. The boys loved it. Unfortunately, our younger son (YS) left his purple Super Ball (did you have those back in the 80's?) at the egg hunt and proceeded to pitch a fit for the next couple hours. Not surprisingly, after I had made arrangements to pick up the Super Ball after our older son's (OS) Tae Kwon Do, he promptly forgot all about it.

The temper tantrum must have tired him out because he fell asleep on the way to Tae Kwon Do and slept through the entire class in my arms, transferred back to his carseat, and then slept the whole way home. It was truly the best Tae Kwon Do class I have ever observed because I actually got to watch OS instead of threatening persuading YS not to leap off the bleacher steps every 3 minutes.

During YS's sleep on the drive back, OS talked all about his playdate with his friend John last weekend and commented on the fact that John had two moms. We talked about what makes a family. Then he asked where the sperm comes from when two mommies have a baby. I wrote about this on my Facebook status and apparently your brother has some questions about it so we should plan on bringing along Amazing You when we visit him this summer.

Today was a good day. We headed off to OS's soccer game after lunch. I was pleased with new spectator chair that you purchased. YS particularly liked the cup holder. I was even able to pass as a veteran soccer mom! Half way through the game, YS announced he had to pee. Note for future solo parenting soccer games: do not fill YS's entire orange water bottle or you will have exactly 25 minutes until he's about to burst. Yes, he will guzzle the whole bottle in about a minute flat. We proceeded to head off to the world's scariest Port-A-Potty. At first I was confused by the lack of a lock. I was quickly distracted though when YS stuck his hand down the urinal shoot and declared it was a marble shoot. Gross!!!! After he peed, I turned around to grab some hand sanitizer and saw that one of the walls was covered in ants. No wonder there was no lock on that door; it must have been ripped off when someone bolted out of there after seeing the ants! I santized his arms outside.

I wish I could tell you more about the game, but seeing as I spent a lot of it dealing with the Port-A-Potty all I can say is that OS did great, but I have no idea which team won. After the game, we went to see our friends who just had a baby. We had a great time. The boys particularly liked playing with their dog. On the way back, YS guzzled down his water bottle and we barely made it in the house.

Later on we met up with Linda and John for dinner at Friendly's. YS managed to get a blue birthday cake Friend-Z all over me. I heard him announce something and he looked at me with a big grin on his face and pointed at his nose. Then he started squawking like crazy followed by a lot of sneezing followed by a lot of snot which of course ended up all over both of us. I couldn't figure out what was going on with him other than for reasons I didn't understand he appeared to have put a sprinkle up his nose. Being the good mother that I am, I just couldn't help but laugh until I practically I practically had tears dripping down my face. Turns out the tip of a Friendly's crayon came out of his nose. Last week I found the arm to a toy lizard poking out of his ears. He told me it was sleeping there. A couple days ago he put a raisin up his nose. Am I losing my mind because seriously I don't remember OS doing any of this!

On the bright side, Linda told me a hilarious about the time in grad school she was drunk and snorted red pepper flakes up her nose on accident. Then she decided that the best way to stop the burning would be to snort up water using a straw. Just in case you were ever thinking about trying this, it doesn't work!

After the crayon was taken away, he again said he had to pee. This time there was no water bottle involved. I took him into the bathroom where apparently a monsoon had occurred in the only available stall. He insisted that he really had to go and couldn't wait until the other stall opened. I picked him up and waded through the water. Did I mention I was wearing sandals? Sick.

We had a successful bathroom visit and then made it back to the table where YS insisted and manhandling his shoes which as much as I would like to believe had been toilet water free, probably weren't. Needless to say, baths for all were in order when we got home.

I'd wait up to tell you all of this, but I'm too tired. I hope you're having a great time. Again, I'm glad that you're finally getting a break. You're a terrific dad and you deserve it. My lesson learned though is specifically for you for when you're the solo parent for the weekend.

A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: Don't fill YS's orange water bottle more than a quarter full unless you will be around a bathroom in 25 minutes.

PS The cat also peed on our bed.


posted by Alex Elliot @ 8:35 PM   3 comments
  • At 4/26/2009 8:49 AM, Blogger Goofball said…

    man I have to pee from all those peeing stories :p

    silly question: since YS is a son ...why can't he pee next to the soccer field somewhere rather than an obnoxious port-a-potty? At least that is the advantage for sons. Or doesn't he stand yet for peeing?

  • At 4/26/2009 2:13 PM, Blogger Heather said…

    Peeing outside was a big thrill for my son when he was toilet training. I hate port-a-potties. Yuck.

  • At 4/28/2009 1:49 PM, Blogger Blackbeltmama said…

    It sounds to me like YOU need a night out with friends!

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Just Call Me Speechless

So far my older son's (OS) spring break has been a lot of fun. Yesterday the boys and I met up with some friends and saw Monsters vs. Aliens. Today we went to the zoo. The boys were all excited about it.

About a half hour into our zoo trip, we visited the indoor elephant and giraffe house. OS and his friends were particularly excited to watch the zookeepers give the elephants baths. Alright, I also was particularly excited to see it. For whatever reason, my younger son (YS) was not. In fact, he was pretty mad. I tuned out his whining to watch them use street brooms to scrub down the elephants. YS began to demand more loudly that he wanted to leave. I turned around to tell him for the hundreth time that we would leave in a few minutes. He looked me straight in the eye, squatted down and peed on the floor! Did I mention it was an indoor building? I would like to believe that he was telling me in this whining that he needed to use the bathroom, but I have a feeling that wasn't the case. I went to change YS and let zoo employees know about the mess. My plan was to inform them that somehow an elephant had lept over the rope and peed in the spectator section. Given the size of the puddle, I think it was plausible.

Since this morning, I have heard numerous stories of this happening to other parents.

A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: Parenting books don't warn you that your children may pee on the floor in public as an act of defiance.

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posted by Alex Elliot @ 3:44 PM   3 comments
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Monday, April 20, 2009

A Fun Weekend

We here in the Giraffe household had a good but busy weekend. Friday night was our older son's (OS) testing for his yellow belt in Tae Kwon Do. I'm pleased to say that he not only passed but did an excellent job. Actually the testing itself was really nice to watch. It sort of reminded me of a ballet recital for little kids in that they went through all the different moves they had learned and did board breaking so that the parents had a chance to see everything. The Big Giraffe hadn't been able to make any of OS's board breaking before so he was glad that he got to watch OS in action. Because this is the first belt testing for the kids going from white belt, they all got trophies. Back when I was the perfect mom (which of course was well before I had children), I wasn't a big fan of trophies for everyone. However, all the kids were so excited over them and so proud of themselves that I actually now support it.

Saturday was OS's first soccer game. Yes, it was a bit like herding cats. OS and his teammates were quite proud of themselves for scoring goals. Unfortunately they scored goals against their team, but they were happy and had a good time and that's all that counts! OS is suddenly completely into soccer. In fact, when the Big Giraffe took OS shopping for clothing at Old Navy later that day, OS refused to take off his uniform. He was happy though when the Big Giraffe bought him some additional soccer shorts there. Suddenly the boy who would only wear sweatpants wanted nothing but soccer shorts. For the past few days, he's continuously worn his new soccer shorts, even when it is cold and gray. Right before OS started soccer, the Big Giraffe told me that he and OS ran into a kid who not only wore his uniform shirt and shorts to the grocery store, but wore his cleats. I wonder how long it will be until OS is the kid in the soccer gear in the grocery store.

Our younger son (YS) was most disappointed that he wasn't allowed to play soccer. However, the mom who brought oranges let YS have some with the team during the breaks between the quarters, so he was mollified. I was more distressed with still needing to sit on the grass, but on Sunday the Big Giraffe did buy our spectator chairs, so next week we will be hip and with the program.

Even if we had spectator chairs for the first game, we still wouldn't have been cool because we were sitting in the wrong section of the field. The younger kids in our town play two simultaneous games on adjacent fields. Experienced parents sit outside of the field so that the kids who aren't on the field at any given time can sit together as teams. The Big Giraffe and I were between the fields with the other newbie parents. A veteran mom told me that none of us had fooled her into thinking we had done this before.

Sunday was an impromptu playdate. My friend's car battery died and I went over to jump her car. I ended up driving back to pick the boys so they could play with her son and their brand-new puppy. Then I had a baby shower, followed by a very fun birthday dinner for a friend. Whew! Needless to say I was tired when I woke up this morning...too late to get OS to preschool. Then I remembered: today is the beginning of that weird MA second spring break!!!! It's like this weekend is a full week long. OS requested a PJ day, although he quickly changed into one of the new t-shirts and pairs of soccer shorts he got with the Big Giraffe. so we just lounged around the house. I have some fun activities lined up for the rest of the week. Well, at least I think they're fun. Well, at least right now. You'll have to check with me on Sunday to be sure!

A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: Parents of soccer players need spectator chairs placed outside of the fields.


posted by Alex Elliot @ 7:42 PM   0 comments
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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The End of Ear Plugs Means the End of an Era

Yesterday my younger son (YS) had a ENT appointment. I was a little skeptical because we were just there a few weeks ago and have another appointment for July. I pointed out that I had never been able to schedule more than one appointment at a time because the ENT typically decides when I should schedule YS's next appointment based on what he sees in the current appointment. However, they had all of the appointments in their computer. I wasn't surprised when the doctor came to examine him and remarked that he had just seen us and that YS wasn't supposed to come in again until July. I wonder whose appointment we got?

It turns out though that the suprise appointment was a good thing because I found out that YS's second ear tube had fallen out! Because he never had even one ear infection with the tubes, he doesn't need another set. I know I should remember exactly when he got his ear tubes, but of course I only recall that he was slightly over a year. I did write a post about it somewhere though, and I know he had his tubes for almost 2 years.

One surprise doctor's appointment was not enough for me. I ended up having to take my older son (OS) to see the pediatrician to check out some phantom stomach pains. $25 copay later, my instinct that OS needed to see the doctor because he was jealous of his brother's frequent doctor's visits was confirmed. I think that makes him one lucky kid, but he unfortunately disagrees.

Even though the appointment was scheduled under false pretenses, it turned out to be a good thing too because I found out that OS's other ear tube had fallen out! This one I know for sure. He got his ear tubes in at 20 months. He's now 5 years and 8 months old. Most ear tubes last between 6 months and 2 years. We were actually told if they weren't out by this spring that the ENT would schedule surgery to remove them. He's only had one ear infection in all those years so he doesn't need another set either.

It's official: we are earplug-free!!! That probably sounds a lot more exciting than it actually is. The truth of the matter is that I never really found the earplugs to be a big deal. I stash a set of the Mac's Children's Earplugs (they're great because they're bright orange so you can see from across the pool if one of them has fallen out (which they almost never do) in the diaper bag, bathroom with tub and, during the summer, in the car. Since OS was in diapers when I started carrying them around, I never found them inconvenient. However, I know I have been enjoying no longer carrying diapers around, so I imagine I will feel the same way about the ear plugs.

This has all come at a good time too and not just because summer is approaching. The Big Giraffe and I realized earlier today that there were new things to carry. That realization came after we looked around OS's soccer practice to identify the first time soccer parents this evening. Yes, we identified ourselves. How could we tell? We were one of the few sets of parents who didn't have those fold up chairs with us. We were so uncool! And more importantly, I would rather sit in a somewhat comfy chair for an hour than on cold grass. Why weren't these chairs on the kids' soccer practice equipment list between cleats and the ball? Thankfully OS is too young to be embarrassed by us! Those of you who haven't ventured into the world of soccer yet take note so that you can too can be in the know and part of the popular crowd.

At the end of the day, I am now left with two mysteries. Where did the no longer needed ear plugs actually go, and why does the Big Giraffe suddenly seem incapable of hearing anything I say to him?

A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: Just when you think you have less to carry because you no longer need ear plugs, you suddenly have to carry around chairs.

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posted by Alex Elliot @ 6:35 PM   2 comments
  • At 4/16/2009 2:32 PM, Blogger skiplovey said…

    Congrats! Yay ear plug free!

  • At 4/16/2009 8:31 PM, Blogger Heather said…

    Wow I'm amazed they let your OS's tubes stay in that long. They surgically removed my son's one remaining tube after 2 years...said they don't like to leave them in any longer than that.

    I'm sure I commented before too, that we never had to use ear plugs either. Strange how different doctors are.

    Congrats on the end of that era!

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Heaven Preserve Us from Runner's Gut

I can't believe my first season 2 triathlon is in a few weeks! I get excited thinking about how much fun it will be. The thrill of the adrenaline pumping through my body. The feeling of triumph as I cross the finish line. There's one feeling I'm hoping not to experience this season: the feeling that a pack of aliens is trying to break out of my intestines. Yes, that would be Runner's Gut. That little hidden "gem" that I didn't know about before my first triathlon. The shame of the running world. Fortunately I only experienced it after triathlons and two long runs when it was hot outside.

Last month I was over at a friend's house for lunch. She made some delicious butternut squash bisque. As my other friends and I exclaimed over the taste, she listed the ingredients. One of them was cream. I rarely make recipes requiring cream and when I do, I substitute fat free half and half, so it didn't register when I had my first bowl that it was real cream. Or later when I ate a second bowl. About 15 minutes later, I packed up my younger son (YS) and headed out to pick up my older son (OS). That's when I could feel the rumbling. Fortunately, I was able to keep it at bay until I was safely at home. I mess up on enough things with my kids as it is. The last thing I want is for OS to be forever teased about having the mom who locked herself in the preschool bathroom to confront a massive diarrhea attack. Pass that award onto someone else!

Pledging loyalty to the porcelin throne reminded me of other things that cause intestinal disturbance. Sometimes after a particularly intense run or spinning class, it feels like I have a baby turning over inside of me...except I know that it's not a baby, but rather something with the potential to alienate every other gym member in the class for the next 20 years. My doctor told me that I have Runner's Gut, and I am fortunte that it is not severe.

With my triathlons coming up soon, I decided to do a little more research on Runner's Gut. I found an amazing article in Runner's Digest. In addition to refreshing me on what I had learned in anatomy and physiology long before my mornings consisted of hunting through the house for the bottoms to a Tae Kwon Do uniform and before my afternoons consisted of giving up and shelling out $40 for a new uniform. The article explained that people who are lactose intolerant are more prone to Runner's Gut, and it also encouraged those affected to avoid dairy and curb high fiber foods for 24 hours before a race.

Well, that advice didn't exactly fit in with the way I had been preparing for my triathlons. In addition to using a cup of java with a splash of milk to wake up on the day of each race, I typically broke my fast with some sort of Kashi cereal that was soaked in milk. Yes, I do love my dairy products. It's amazing to me that I only had alien birth feelings instead of locking myself in a portapotty or squatting behind a bush for that matter. Oh, and I eat a lot of yogurt. While some people who are lactose intolerant are ok with yogurt, others, like my father, are not. In fact reflecting back, my mother who's a nurse always said that cream is the true lactose intolerance test for people who have the mildest of cases. Obviously my own unintentional experiment with the soup taught me that I could pass that test!

I switched over to Silk Light (or some generic version of it) for the splash of milk in my morning coffee. On days that I run, I eat soy yogurt instead of regular yogurt when I get home after my workout. I also asked someone from my spinning class whose intestinal aliens I had overheard if she knew anything about Runner's Gut. She quietly told me about a product called Ezekial bread. Why Ezekial? Apparently the ingredients and the recipe are inspired by what is written in the Bible. If you're looking for some laughs, do a Google search and read some blog posts about it. To sum it up, there are some hilarious descriptions of how truly disgusting this bread is. Few things could be as disgusting's say alien afterbirth, so took my friend's suggestion to get the bread (and the English muffins), toast them, and cut the taste with almond butter.

I had walked past this bread every week without realizing it. In Trader Joe's, it's shelved with other bread. In other grocery stores it's with the frozen Kashi entrees. Unfortunately the store closest to us doesn't carry it. It reminds me of my recent purchase of a neti pot after a conversation at book club convinced me of it's magical powers (or really intrigued me enough to want to experience it for myself). I had walked by that many times too without realizing it.

I have been pleasantly surprised by the results. Not even a "baby" kick when I run. Plus, and this is the true miracle, after I eat the English muffins, I am actually full for hours! Of course, nothing lasts forever, and often end up feeling extremely hungry a few hours later with no warning. I will still eat dairy within 24 hours of a run, but I don't plan to before any future races.

I'll have the true test in a couple of weeks. However, if I can even tone down the feeling of a pack of bulls leaping out of my gut, I'll feel that I have been somewhat successful.

A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: Toasting Ezekial bread and slathering it with almond butter disguises the taste.

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posted by Alex Elliot @ 5:05 PM   0 comments
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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Oprah: Supporting Depressed Women whom Bloggers Leave Behind

Why on earth would I be writing another post about the Oprah show on mom confessions? After a commenter described enjoying reading the mommy blogger discussion about Oprah's show, I was intrigued about what others were saying. Plus, my Google Alerts notified me that I had been discussed on another blog. I now find myself in the unusual position of disagreeing with two fellow bloggers for whom I have the utmost respect, Jodifur and Pundit Mom. I would like to raise two major points.
  1. I see a value in sharing the challenges of being a mommy through as many media as possible.
  2. I do not understand why we need to pit the problems faced by moms against each other.
Let's put Oprah aside for a moment. Sometimes I have to remind myself that a large part of the support I receive as a mother is from the blogging community. I love feeling like I'm not alone in the parenting world. I like that I can laugh and cry along with other bloggers. It gives me the feeling that I'm not alone on this crazy parenting journey.

Why do I need this reminder? Because I don't feel like this a lot in my real life. Sure, I'm in a couple of different moms groups, I just finished a parenting class, and I participate in many activities with my kids. I was even surprised to realize that I actually knew many of my neighbors when I saw familiar faces at the town kindergarten information meeting a couple of weeks ago. As important as these activities are to me, I can't think of a time that I've had a truly honest discussion with another mom at swim lessons about feeling overwhelmed. None of my friends have turned to me at a moms group meeting to say they have trouble mustering up the energy to give their children a bath. Certainly if a mom has said it, it would have been with laughter in her voice and she would have claimed it had been a few days (laugh, laugh, laugh). A close friend who lives far away from me, confessed to me only after watching Oprah's show that she too had gone for a few weeks without bathing her child. There was no laughter in that conversation. Why? This is not just about whining because one of us has a tough day. It is about depression, loneliness, and shame around believing that we are failing to perform what we are taught by society to believe are simple responsibilities that are basic to who we are as women. That depression, loneliness, and shame is psychologically destructive, unless we can find support to help address it.

Those types of conversations rarely happen outside of relatives or really close friends. How many of us had kids though and didn't really know any other moms? Not all of us had those close friends immediately. For me the answer has been blogs. My blog has been the only place where I have been consistently comfortable sharing these sorts of parenting challenges, and the the URLs of my blogging friends are the only places where I have consistently heard about these sorts of parenting challenges.

Since blogs are out on the internet, shouldn't every mom feel the same sort of support that I enjoy? Ideally yes, but realistically no. Many of us did not know about blogs for a long time. There are many parents out there who still don't understand what a blog is. Even some who know about blogs choose not to read them, and they should not be expected to read them. How many new parents are "born" every day? Blogging is only one particular medium for receiving support. It's been a great support for me, and I often encourage others to read blogs. However, blogging isn't for everyone. Some people prefer parenting magazines, some people prefer parenting books, some people like reality TV shows about parents, and some folks even like Oprah. Many less fortunate people are unaware of or unable to take advantage of any of these supports. They assume they are bad parents and suffer alone.

I just finished a parenting class with someone whose six month-old first computer has never left its box. There is just no way she's reading blogs, and it took her several weeks to feel comfortable enough to share honestly about her own experiences. After all, it is a lot easier to admit on-line that one of your children may not be bathed as often as they should be than it is to admit that to people who will see (and smell) them and you at the grocery store. If you admit it on-line, it stays on-line (with the exception of people you know in the real world who read your blog). If you admit it in person, the next time you show up at that swim lesson, well you just don't know who has been discussing you and possibly passing judgment.

I wasn't shocked by anything that Oprah said. I've read about most of those challenges on mommy blogs, but I haven't heard most people say things like that in real life. We know that a lot of moms are depressed, lonely and isolated, and we also know that there are no easy solutions to those problems. In fact, the only solution that I can think of is to talk about it so that women do not feel alone. The fact that these issues are described on so many blogs does not invalidate the challenges faced by non-blogging moms or other new parents.

That leads me to my bigger disagreement with Jodifur's and Pundit Mom's posts (again I think that these women are wonderful bloggers and encourage you to read their blogs, and in their Oprah posts suggest some very important topics of discussion). They both suggested that Oprah misused her power and platform by focusing her "mommy issues" episode on parenting challenges rather than other issues, such as breastfeeding laws or maternity leave. I don't understand the either/or. Nothing prevents Oprah from having one of those shows next week and one the week after. On the one hand, one could argue that Oprah should identify the single biggest crisis on the planet and spend every single show discussing it. Is global warming more important than breastfeeding?

Of course, I have never heard anyone argue that Oprah should only cover a single issue. Rather, there appears to be a perception that she should only cover one "mommy issue." I have yet to hear protests that Oprah had James Taylor on her show last week, when she could have been using her power to bring attention to inadequate protection for breastfeeders and inadequate maternity leave. She should do both. She should bring attention and support to the lonely and depressed and raise opposition to laws that harm the health and welfare of our families. And sure, she can continue to provide entertainment through music and celebrities in other shows. We as mothers need to find ways to widen the amount of attention given to the challenges we face, rather than to pit them against each other.

A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: Even if Oprah's words were not new, they deserve repeating as long as they help one more person receive support.

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posted by Alex Elliot @ 4:09 PM   9 comments
  • At 4/12/2009 6:48 PM, Blogger Goddess in Progress said…

    Well said. I've been working on being more honest about the challenges when I write, because sometimes I simply have a tendency not to want to write too much about the hard parts. But it really needs to be said. We all need to know we aren't the only ones getting our asses kicked by parenting.

    As for the Oprah thing, I agree with your take. This was just one show, one angle. You can't address every important issue on every show.

  • At 4/12/2009 6:48 PM, Blogger jodifur said…

    I didn't mean to suggest Oprah misused her power. Oprah can say whatever she wants. My personal opinion is I found it whiny, and boring. That's my opinion. I think the time could have been better spent. That doesn't mean anyone else's opinion is wrong or my opinion is right.

    (My opinion is a little bit more right :))

  • At 4/13/2009 11:30 AM, Blogger Heather said…

    I also find much of my parenting support from blogs. I am also fortunate to have other supports IRL as well, but like you said, some things are not so easy to bring up in a face-to-face conversation.

    I do think that TV shows tend to make mothers look very silly when they portray the challenges, like we're a bunch of air-headed women who can't get our laundry done. I suppose that is the nature of TV though. Most people watch it to be entertained, not to see how things really are.

  • At 4/13/2009 1:46 PM, Blogger PunditMom said…

    You make excellent points about the need for mothers to be able to find support for the isolation, depression and other challenges we face at different times in our parenting experiences. I thought the Oprah show was somewhat superficial in how the issues were talked about and that it was really more a way to promote products. If she really wanted to show these women bloggers as resources for other women, why didn't she share their blog names or urls? She only did it for Dooce.

    You make a wonderful point that I hadn't thought about -- that there are so many moms not plugged into the online community and the need for those moms to have places to share and find community.

    I would applaud Oprah if she would address that seriously, as well as the other issues. I think the show gave short shrift to the main issue. I'm not holding my breath that there will be any Oprah shows on FMLA or fair pay for moms. I don't think that's what the advertisers will pay for.

  • At 4/13/2009 2:51 PM, Anonymous Alison said…

    I made a comment a couple of posts ago...but again, I'm a mom of 14 month old twins. Did I mention I'm an American living in France with my french hubby? Not only did I get my butt kicked by having twins, but I felt like I had no support and/or friends here in France. I SERIOUSLY do not know if I would have made it w/o the internet. A lot of twin mom sites practically saved my life. I think we would all literally give our lives for our children, but I do think it's healthy for us all to be able to talk about how friggin' hard the road of mommyhood can be sometimes!

  • At 4/13/2009 4:06 PM, Blogger Jen of A2eatwrite said…

    I think some of this is cultural/geographical, as well. This is no slight to MA, just my experience, but my years living in MA were the loneliest I've ever experienced - it seemed very, very hard to break in to your community, and I lived in Cambridge and Amherst and had dealings with Framingham, so I was somewhat geographically spread out.

    I find that moms in MI are much more forthcoming. I have much deeper mom conversations with my friends here, although I've had some deep "off-blog" conversations with bloggy buddies. The main thing, though, I think is to get support and if you can't get support where you are, then blogging is even more fabulous than it is for all the other reasons it's fabulous (cross-cultural experiences, humor, beauty, truth, etc., etc.)

  • At 4/13/2009 9:00 PM, Blogger Kate said…

    I, too think it is great that there is the outlet of blogging for women/mothers to express themselves and share their experiences, etc. However, I do sometimes feel there is a scent of self-pity going on in mothers sometimes. Lots of "woe is me" going on in the blog world, when these stay at home, upper class moms really shouldn't be complaining. Surely our mothers before us had it much worse. I mean, c'mon, they didn't have even television to help babysit their kids!

    Seriously, women were much more oppressed decades back, and I think sometimes we need to be a little more thankful for what we've got and where we are in this world because while there is still ridiculousness (if that's even a word!) going on out there with people having issues with breastfeeding in public, we are still very fortunate as women living in America. I guess I'm just sick of hearing the complaining.

  • At 4/14/2009 7:53 AM, Blogger Jenn in Holland said…

    But wait, if Oprah has had James Taylor on recently, when is she going to give equal time to Jason Mraz? Cheryl Crow?
    Honestly, that you felt that you needed to defend your position is a shame. It's a great position you've taken and obviously one that has struck a chord with many, many of the fellow mommy bloggers out there. Support is definitely what we need, and support is important on so many levels. Again, well spoken, well said, well done!!

  • At 4/15/2009 7:17 AM, Blogger Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog said…

    Ah, the Mommy Issues... It's never-ending, isn't it?

    I didn't see the show. I can imagine where it went, though... All I can say is that everyone's experiences are different. I have had many close friends IRL and many online. There are definitely advantages to both. I may not be able to edit my sentences and thoughts with an IRL friend, and I also have to pause, mid-sentence, to hear their opinion (so annoying!). But an online friend can't hug me or go get coffee with me. My online friends don't call to chit-chat and kill the time with me as I'm washing dishes. (Though they could. Want my number?!?)


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Thursday, April 09, 2009

Dr. Berman on Oprah

I enjoy watching Oprah, but I rarely have a chance to watch it. I do read the slides on the website frequently. However, today was our last parenting journey class so I didn't have to cook dinner thus giving me a free hour while the kids were actually playing nicely together. I settled down to watch Oprah.

Today's topic was on talking to your kids about sex. They actually already had the slides up on the website so I knew all about Dr. Berman's controversial advice before watching it. Unfortunately she didn't have much to say about raising boys, but she did give me a lot to think about. She recommends starting out by giving your kids the basic anatomy information, baby making information and then information about feeling good about their genitals. Before I became the mother of boys, I might have felt embarrassed about that last advice, but they learned it quite quickly on their own. We are constantly reminding the boys that it's fine and normal to touch themselves, but they have to do it in private. We've already had the birds and bees conversations with our older son (OS) many times and since our younger son (YS) was along for the ride as usual, he has heard it all too. As for the anatomy? Well, during YS's EI speech screening a couple weeks ago, an evaluator showed YS a picture of two clothed children and asked if he knew the difference between boys and girls. Without looking at the pictures, YS proudly announced that boys have penises and girls have "ginas". They were expecting him to point to the boy picture and say, "boy".

The show talked about a study that O Magazine and Seventeen had done where they found that parents aren't talking to their kids enough about sex. Basically you want to talk to your kids about sex and sexual situations before they happen, hence beginning sex talks very early and giving more and more information as it becomes appropriate. On the show, Dr. Berman also talked with a group of girls. Basically the girls talked about how common oral sex is these days and one of them said it was like the new goodnight kiss. Yes, I have heard that before...well not the kiss part, but every time I hear it still surprises me; the part that surprises me every time I hear it is that this is happening in junior high.

Dr. Berman again talked about the importance of self-pleasuring and how if a girl is taught that this is OK to do, then she won't be dependent on a boy to do it for her; it could actually delay her having sex. I think it is important to teach girls to feel good about their bodies in general but also specifically so that when the time is appropriate she can have a healthy and fulfilling sex life. It doesn't take a sexologist to know that the idea of boys touching themselves is more accepted than the idea of girls doing it. I can talk at a parent group about my kids' bath time explorations and get a few chuckles but if someone mentions her daughter doing the same thing, more times than not it seems that there are uncomfortable chuckles.

I haven't gotten to the big "shocker" yet. Dr. Berman suggested that parents might want to get their 15, 16, or 17 year-old daughters a clitoral vibrator, both to further the understanding that they don't need another person for fulfillment and because many females have trouble achieving orgasms. There were a lot of shocked looks in the audience. I was surprised too. Since Dr. Berman had talked about empowering girls to explore their sexuality and to not feel ashamed about making themselves feel good, I thought she would have said along those lines not to be surprised to if the daughter purchases a vibrator. I hadn't considered that she might advise parents to actually get the vibrators for them. I tried to think about how I would feel if I had a daughter. I would like to think that I would be totally open and honest with her, including discussing vibrators. I think it's great when women take charge of their sexuality or perhaps I should say when they take sexuality into their own hands. I think that I would be alright with my hypothetical daughter having a vibrator in theory, but I'm not sure that I would want to be the one to buy it for her or even to know about it. Then again, maybe after being so open and honest for years, I would be at the point where I would feel comfortable. Given as merely a suggestion, I could see Dr. Berman's reasoning behind it. It's kind of like the way I know what the boys are doing when they stand around in the bathroom for a while, but I try not to think about it.

I wondered why Dr. Berman and Oprah didn't talk about the "safe adult" who is a person designated by the parent as a safe person with whom their child may talk about any concerns or questions if they feel like they can't go to you. The kids and the safe person know that you have their permission to be helping your child and that the safe person would encourage the child to talk with you unless of course the child is in danger of harming themselves or others in which case the safe person would tell you; basically like a therapist. I got the idea when babysitting for a mom who was her best friend's daughter's safe person. In that role, she discussed with the girl the pros and cons of sleeping with her boyfriend and birth control. The daughter decided not to have sex.

I've heard from other people that Oprah did a show on safe adults a couple years ago. Suzanne is our kids' safe person, and I think if I had a daughter, Suzanne might be a good person to have that specific conversation. While the Big Giraffe and I hope that our sons will come to us first with any questions or concerns, we are more concerned about them making safe, healthy decisions and we trust Suzanne.

I did wonder how many parents in the audience who were shocked by Dr. Berman's advice would support handing out condoms to kids who want to have sex. I hope that my kids wait until they are in loving relationships to have sex. I hope that they wait until they're older, but if they do decide to have sex, then I certainly hope that they will be safe. Along those same lines, if I had a daughter and it was a choice between sex and using a clitoral vibrator, I would certainly choose the latter.

I was also surprised by something else left out the show. Again, the Big Giraffe and I are very open with our kids. One of the many benefits to us about beginning our talks with our kids at this age is that it's allowing us to come more and more comfortable with talking about it with them. As open as we are, I have to admit it felt a little strange the first time we read them a How Babies are Made book. Now it's no different than Goodnight Moon.


posted by Alex Elliot @ 7:57 PM   4 comments
  • At 4/10/2009 2:49 PM, Blogger Goofball said…

    Wow, I definately did not have such an open and liberal sexual education and still wouldn't feel comfortable having such conversations with my parents about this topic.

    I believe it's very important to be open as i don't want to have the same attitude towards my children as my parents had to me....yet I'm not sure if I am ready yet to these suggestions.
    Oh well, I don't have to be yet ;)

  • At 4/10/2009 3:17 PM, Blogger Alex Elliot said…

    Hi Goofball,
    I completely understand what you're saying. Like I said, I was surprised by her advice but could see her reasoning. Then again, I don't have a daughter so I don't have to worry about that specific aspect. Thanks for commenting!

  • At 4/11/2009 11:35 AM, Blogger Count Mockula said…

    My mom was very comfortable talking about sex with me, and I still made bad decisions. Hell, I'll try the vibe if it keeps punkin pie from having sex too young!

  • At 4/13/2009 3:02 PM, Blogger soccer mom in denial said…

    SOOOOOO glad to be teaching OWL and having honest conversations with the kids. I'm just not as fearful about this as other parents are.

    Although the vibrator idea is new to me.....

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I Know I Shouldn't Laugh

I really shouldn't laugh but this is what I found on the counter yesterday accompanied by two small solemn looking boys. My younger son informed me that he had given "Bubbles" a bath. Nothing like comforting kids over the "loss" of their free plastic pet without laughing. What was even funnier was watching the Big Giraffe doing the same thing later while trying not to crack a smile.


posted by Alex Elliot @ 6:50 AM   1 comments
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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

My True Mom Confession

Yesterday I watched a really good episode of Oprah on mom confessions. She even had Dooce (famous mommy blogger) on there which is what caught my attention in the previews and made me set my Tivo for it. The show had, well true confessions from moms and what motherhood is really like; what no one ever really tells you about it. And no, it wasn't the whole "no one ever told me how much I would truly love my children" aspect of it either.

Seeing it made me reflect on what those first few years were really like for me; what I truly thought about them. So while feelings like "I can't believe I can love another person this much" were definitely there, I also had a bunch of "how did I get myself into this?" moments. I don't tend to get very personal on my blog, so be prepared for the mother load here.

I knew that motherhood would be challenging. Hadn't I, especially as a feminist, heard over and over again how hard it was to raise children? There was a part of me that just didn't believe it. Surely "they" were doing something wrong. I would do it right. Except that I didn't.

Those first few months, I would look back on my day and wonder where time had gone. It was already the evening and my biggest non-baby accomplishment would be loading dishwasher. Sometimes. Many times I didn't even have that accomplishment. Yet at the same time, I remember looking at the time and wondering how it could be 10 am when it felt like three whole days had already occurred in the span of the morning. When would the day end? I would look at it intellectually and be disgusted with myself that I had accomplished nothing. How hard was it to change a baby and give him a bottle? What was I doing with my time? What was I doing wrong?

I was very lonely at the beginning. I didn't know anyone else who had babies who lived close by and my family lived far away. When I thought about being a SAHM before kids, I assumed I would be like those moms I saw at the mall who were there with a friend sipping coffee while their kids play. I would say "park" but honestly before I had kids it had been probably over a decade since I had set foot in the park. I love to talk and I felt just plain isolated. I tried really hard to sign up for all sorts of baby classes not for my older son (OS) but for me. I needed it. I remember being at a new moms group and one of the mothers said she hadn't been there the week before because she child had been napping. I remember thinking so had OS but that's what those awesome bucket carseats were for and OS could sleep just in fine in that. I just couldn't afford not to go to my once a week parenting group because of nap; particularly since at that point it was the only baby class I was doing and that would have put me out from interacting with people during the day for two weeks.

Some of the classes were good, some of them were terrible and within a few months, I started to begin to get my feet a tiny bit more back on the ground. However, then came phase two, the competitiveness; unfortunately, the negative aspects of doing baby classes. All of the sudden I felt like I was in competition to be the best mom and it was a game in which I didn't even to participate. Obviously there was the whole breastfeeding issue, but there were also subtle little things like making sure OS had a nap at all costs or had a bedtime at all costs because torrential rains and storms of epic proportions would be upon the mother who did not take this aspect of parenting seriously. After all, that's what all good moms did. Good thing I wasn't in my new parenting class at this time or there's no way I would have put a sleeping OS into his carseat to leave.

There were other little things like making my own playdough, doing crafts, having a craft cabinet, going to parks, etc that I really disliked. At the same time though I felt like I was a bad mother if I didn't do those things. I remember thinking particularly parks and walks were the worst. We don't have sidewalks by us and so to go for a walk or to a park required packing up a diaper bag with every item known to mankind and lugging around the stroller in my car. Then there was bundling up OS or applying sunscreen during the summer, and seriously by the time I got to said park or for a walk I wanted a nap. You can probably guess how many times those trips happened.

We have an expression in my house that the Big Giraffe and I will say to each other. It goes as following: "Is this like frozen diced cooked chicken?" That was from my cooking phase where I felt like I needed to not only have homemade meals, but always have a well stocked freezer at the same time. The irony is, I'm actually a pretty good cook if I do say so myself. At this point in my life, I make all my own marinades, sauces and rubs. I cook simply, but everything is pretty much well seasoned and from scratch. I just couldn't do that though when I first had OS. One day the Big Giraffe came home to my find me crying. I had asked him to pick up dinner for us on the way home because no big surprise, I hadn't made dinner. He was alarmed that I was upset. All I could say was that I didn't have any frozen diced chicken (by which I meant chicken that I had cooked, diced and frozen myself). He was speechless. Why would we have that? I answered that I had been to a moms group meeting the night before where everyone said that you had to have it. Again with the torrential rains and storms. It was practically a necessity of parenthood like cases of diapers and wipes in your basement so that you'll never by left without a diaper and a child that has diarrhea.

To me though, cooked chicken breast was a meal. Why would I want to make another meal on top of it? After a few minutes, of crying I realized that it was ridiculous to be crying over diced cooked chicken and we got a good laugh out of it. Now that's our way of saying "Are you pretending to be someone that you're not?". For the record, the Big Giraffe told me that the day he found diced cooked chicken in our freezer was the day that he would insist on counseling because frozen diced cooked chicken is just not me.

I could go on and on about all the ways I've been surprised by motherhood. One of the authors of a book for moms on the show talked about realizing that she was over-scheduled in her effort to fit in with what everyone else was doing. At some point I realized that too and that I wasn't happy with the way I was choosing to spend my time.

It was definitely easier with my younger son. There is a reason my kids are 3 years apart and it's because I knew that I needed to have OS in preschool when YS was a baby. I won't lie and say it was easy. It wasn't. Sometimes I resented having to drive OS to preschool as much as I valued that one and one time with YS and to be really honest there was a part of me that really wished I could drop YS off with OS so I could take a nap. As much as I've loved that the biggest disappointment in our life is that one of my kids gets sick and we have to cancel a playdate, there is a part of me that feels guilty that part of what I enjoy about being a SAHM is not just the chance to be with my kids, but the fact that I don't have any deadlines or papers due. This is the first time in my life I haven't had that.

It has gotten better. My kids are a little more independent now. I realized I don't need to lug a huge diaper bag with me to the park. My kids aren't going to starve if they don't have a snack there and if the worst were to happen and they peed, popped or puked on themselves, it would be a stinky ride home, but we're talking 10 minutes not three hours. If the worst that happens is a naked kid car ride home, that's actually pretty good. Naked mom car ride is not so good at this point, but give me another few years! We also don't need a stroller at the park anymore and my kids are better able to understand that we can go to a park for a short period of time and know that we'll come back another time; better, not great. I can also sit on the bench at the park if I want while they run around and go down the slides. I still don't have a craft cabinet. I decided preschool was for crafts. It works well for us. Sometimes we do them, but more often than not we don't. A couple months ago I roasted a chicken and diced up the leftovers and froze them. It was nice to have, but so is just eating the roasted chicken leftovers the next day.

I yell at my kids way more than I would like and every morning I start the day off with the goal that I won't yell. More days than not, I make it, but sometimes I don't. I joke that at least my kids and the Big Giraffe will never have to look back and wonder what I was thinking when I was mad; they know. These past two years have been wonderful in so many ways. Aside from the " I can't believe I can love my sons so much" feelings and actually enjoying spending time with them, I've finally started to find myself again and I've taking a lot of pride with my triathlons, the books I read for myself, my blog and my more recent knitting. This is the happiest I've ever been. Yet that doesn't take away from the fact that in a fit of tiredness and PMS a few weeks ago I told the Big Giraffe that literally my biggest accomplishment since becoming a parent has been getting fat. Yes, I'm just about back to my pre-pregnancy weight but when push came to shove on my reflection of motherhood that was what came into my mind. Even I realized how ridiculously that was and started laughing right after the statement left my mouth and you know what came to both of our minds, "frozen diced cooked chicken".

Last week I was at McDonald's with my kids (yet another true mom confession) and YS hurt his finger. OS said, "Come here, honey and let me see it." Then he gave YS's finger a kiss. In the moment I saw myself since that's what I always say to the kids. He took my good parts. If I could give one piece of advice to new parents it would be that. No matter how badly you feel you're doing as a parent, you're doing something right too and you're kids will take that with them.

Picture of kids


posted by Alex Elliot @ 8:30 AM   9 comments
  • At 4/07/2009 1:45 PM, Blogger Rima said…

    I adored this post! I think that, except for the knitting part, you could be my soul sister! I don't have a craft cabinet, either, and the last time I tried to bond with my five-year-old by making pancakes together, I burned them and blamed it on her.

    But I love what you said about them remembering the good parts, and I really hope it's true. When I told my mom about the pancake disaster, she reminded me of the great Easter Egg Coloring Debacle of 1978, during which my brothers and I had her so agitated, she required a stiff drink immediately afterwards. Except I don't remember that part at all.

  • At 4/07/2009 1:53 PM, Blogger jodifur said…

    I hate to be a naysayer, but i hated that Oprah. I thought it was a whole bunch of whinnying with nothing of constructive. Of course parenthood is hard! But what can we do to make it easier. Don't you a a minivan? Don't get one!

    Ok, vent over.

  • At 4/07/2009 2:34 PM, Blogger Suzanne said…

    Good post. I think it is good to acknowledge the weird competitiveness that can come out of parenthood. next time I'm over, though, I expect some frozen diced cooked chicken!

  • At 4/07/2009 6:22 PM, Blogger jodifur said…

    that comment should read, don't want a mini van, don't get one. Typing too fast.

  • At 4/07/2009 9:15 PM, Blogger Heather said…

    I'm loving reading different perspectives on that show. I actually was able to watch Oprah for the first time (Literally) in years.

    My goal is to not yell too. I fear I don't do as well with that goal though.

  • At 4/11/2009 2:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I started reading your blog a few months ago, but first time comment. Great post. I have 14 month old twin boys. Let's just say that A LOT of this rung true for me. By the way - I used to run. And your blog has helped my inspiration to start training for a marathon. Keep up the good work!

  • At 4/13/2009 2:54 PM, Blogger soccer mom in denial said…

    I didn't see the show. However, you captured much of how I felt about being a mom in the beginning and the competitiveness is INSANE.

    Great read.

  • At 4/14/2009 7:32 AM, Blogger Jenn in Holland said…

    It is a lovely post, Alex, my dear. I am impressed with how very well you've expressed my own experience. I think it's another of those universal experiences really, but while we are in the midst of it (and actually, it never ends) we feel like we are the only ones to face it.
    Well spoken, well said, well done!

  • At 4/14/2009 7:21 PM, Blogger Alex Elliot said…

    Thanks for all your comments! Anonymous, I'm very impressed that you're thinking of doing a marathon. I would love to be able to do one at some point.

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

Feeling Old

I've always been proud of my age. I never wanted to be one of those people who are ashamed of it or lie about it. Each year older makes you one year wiser, right?

Yesterday my college club threw a tea for the admitted students in our area. Because the Big Giraffe was away in Atlantic City for a bachelor party, my friend Sally HP watched my boys. I was telling her about the tea and mentioned that there would be a panel of current students and young alum. They would be speaking about their experiences at Wellesley and answer any questions that students or parents had. Sally asked me if I was going to be on the panel. I paused for a second or two to think that through. Why wasn't I asked to be on the panel? I helped organize the tea after all. Why did no one think to ask me particularly since I love to talk!

Then I remembered the reason. I'm no longer considered a young alum. It's been almost exactly 11 years since I graduated from college. In fact young alums are usually considered to have graduated within the past 5 years. Not only am I not a young alum, but I've been out of college for over double that time!

The tea went well and I enjoyed talking to the admitted students and the other alumnae. At one point one of the parents started to ask a question about a current college policy that was instituted in the past couple years. She wanted to know how the students felt about it. She stopped short in her question, glanced at my graduation year on my name tag, and asked if there were any recent grads. I pulled over a woman who had graduated in '08 into the conversation and listened as they talked about this policy that I didn't existed.

Later, a couple students asked me about registration. When would they be able to do it on-line for their fall classes? This time I began to explain my experience (um paper, pencil and USPS) and then referred them over to that young alum. I explained, and I swear this is true, when I first started college not all my friends from high school had email accounts. I remember my first year writing letters back and forth to friends. By sophomore year, everyone was on email. The admitted students looked shocked. I guess it's deceiving because only a month ago, I was mistaken for my friend's teenage daughter!

Anyhow, I had a good time. While I may not have had the attention of the admitted students due to my "advanced age", the parents perked up when I talked about my current experience using the career services as I begin to prepare for going back to school in a few years.

Actually, my own reaction to all this surprised me. In fact I even looked back over my past few posts and noticed my age has come up quite a few times. After reflecting on it for a little bit (alright when I was pumping gas for my car while my kids were poking each other and screaming inside) I realized that I think it's because my older son is about to start kindergarten and my younger one is about to start preschool. Suddenly I don't have babies anymore. While, I can honestly say that each year away from babyhood has been better, I didn't realize how much I identified as a mom of babies. It's not just that I'll have two kids in school (pause here to let out a shout of joy) because I'm counting down the days until school starts in the fall because I'm happy about it. It's that as quickly as my kids have grown, my parental identity has shifted. For example, now I don't receive emails from Parent Blogger Network and Mom Central about baby and toddler campaigns and one of my parenting magazines switched me over automatically to a subscription for parents of school age children. While I actually enjoy that magazine a lot more, at first when it arrived I assumed it was the neighbor's mail. After all, I was the mom of two babies.

Now because I'm an "old lady", here is a photo of the first socks I knitted on two sets of double circular needles. They're a little wonky, but I'm pleased with them.

A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: You're only as old as you feel, right?
posted by Alex Elliot @ 2:38 PM   4 comments
  • At 4/05/2009 5:03 PM, Blogger Goddess in Progress said…

    I had a similar experience, being only two years closer to graduation than you. I do a lot of the admissions-related stuff here in the area, and because I've been doing it ever since I graduated, I perpetually think of myself as the "young alum." Oh, wait... that was NINE years ago?! They've built like three new dorms since then?! They've renamed one of the schools and several big majors? Huh.

    Funny how your perception of yourself and your relative age changes over time. I think similar things with my kids... in my mind, they're always the "youngest." Oh wait... you mean people I met when they were pregnant (and my kids were babies) now have ONE year olds?! Man, where does the time go?

  • At 4/06/2009 5:46 AM, Blogger Goofball said…

    Did you know we only have one year of age difference? My graduation was nine years ago and not all my friends had e-mail either when starting university. In this time of blogging/FB/twitter/e-mail/... that's hard to remember right?

    I am often suprised when I am reading "mommy blogs" that I am as a matter of fact older than some of the authors. Somehow I always think of the mommies as being older than me, because I am not yet in that phase of having children yet (but I do believe it'll come). I don't see the mommies as "old", but somehow they seem to show so much more wisdom and maturity and talk about things that are truly important such as parenting and values whereas I 'm still floating around through life blogging about "oh I went to a music concert and blablablaaa". Then I think "geeez, it's time you settle in girl and grow up" :p

    But I am growing my speed.

  • At 4/11/2009 11:17 AM, Blogger Sally HP said…

    Dude, knitting is not for old ladies anymore...although you are an old lady and you do knit, so....

  • At 4/11/2009 2:31 PM, Blogger Alison said…

    I also didn't enjoy being kicked out of Wellesley's young alum category! And I knit! and I have boys! Nice blog.

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

How to Take Your Kids to the Museum and Enjoy It

After looking back on the last few posts I've done, I realized that the Giraffe family has had quite a few family outings. Between the Maple Sugar Farm tour, Woolapalooza, the New England Air Museum and a few other events here and there, we've really been on the go. Part of it is because most of these events were organized by my outdoorsy parenting group and part of it's the shocker if you knew me before kids...I've actually been enjoying going to museums and events. I'll give my friends "before kids" a minute for that one!

Before the Big Giraffe and I got married, we lived in NYC. My secret confession is, I really disliked going to museums. Sure I would go: when friends from out of town would visit. After all they were the guests and they got decide. However, I was always bothered my own attitude and definitely did not want my kids to pick up that trait! After a lot of brainstorming by both myself and the Big Giraffe on how to make family outings more fun, I came up with some key factors. Of course like anything else with parenting, this is subject to change within the next weeks if not few hours! However, in all seriousness it's been working well for about 5.5 years now since we had OS.
  • By honest about why you're going on the outing. Is it an exhibit that you've been just dying to see? Are you going to want to absorb every detail? If so, get a sitter. There's nothing wrong with that. There's plenty of museums and outings you can take your kids to where you can enjoy the museum but also make sure they're getting the most out of their fun experience and no, that doesn't necessarily go hand in hand. Get a sitter for this exhibit and make plans to take your child to another museum in the next few weeks or even the same museum now that you've already seen it. This way you'll be able to focus more time on making sure that your kids don't go under the velvet ropes (something that Balex Melliot may have experience with her two year old this past weekend) without getting frustrated. Alright, you may still be frustrated but part of that frustration wouldn't be missing out on the exhibit details that you have been waiting 6 months to see.

  • I got slammed for talking about a children's museum in a blog post I did for the New England Mamas last year. I do agree with what the commenter wrote though. Her point was that children's museums tend to be more like indoor playgrounds and thus were misnamed; they send the wrong messages to kids about appropriate behavior in a museum. That being said, I think children's museums are important for one big reason: you. They allow you to experience what it's like to go on a family outing to a museum. Forget the kids, this is your dry run of packing snacks, lunches and spare outfits. It's your dry run for how to get out the door for a family outing. Plus your kids probably will have a great time and be nice and tired at the end of the day. It's a win win situation.

  • Speaking of snacks, I think that food is critical for family outings. Part of the reason I disliked going on outings was that by the time I actually got into the door of a museum it was around 10:00 or 10:30 (even more so now because I live in the suburbs and I don't want to drive in rush hour traffic) and I would start to feel a slight rumble in my stomach. If I feel those rumblings before I balance my checkbook, I will eat a snack because frankly it's hard to give it my full concentration. Same thing with really giving exhibits my full attention. The problem is though, that you just handed over a chunk of money to go to this museum or event and the last thing you want to do is leave for lunch even if it just is to head over to the cafeteria. My view was always that it was a complete waste of time. Actually what was a complete waste of time was my going through the museum and not fully enjoying it.

  • Packing a snack is dependent on where we're going and who's going with us. It's changed as the kids have gotten older. Woolpoolza was a one day event not to mention that we were meeting up with people so we got there right when it opened. FYI if an event is a one day only event, I recommend getting there right when it opens. Since we wanted to be there at 10 am, I packed a snack and gave it my kids in the car. That way they weren't hungry and I didn't have to carve time into our trip for a separate snack. If it's just a regular trip though, what we tend to do is eat lunch before we even go to the event. That's right, if the minute hand is just one minute past 10:30 am we head over to where we are going to eat lunch. Is it early? Yes. It's it worth it? Absolutely. Plus by the time we get settled, and get our food if it's at a restaurant, it is usually 11 anyway. We did this for the New England Air Museum space exhibit and it worked really well. Plus around noon when everyone left to go for lunch we were able to take advantage of the shorter lines. We always do this for the aquarium. When the kids were smaller, I did pack snacks and let them have a snack time at the aquarium or event. Sure it was 15 minutes out of our time there, but the rest of the time they enjoyed themselves which also meant that I enjoyed myself a lot more.

  • Strollers. They are a pain in the neck but can be well worth it. When my kids were smaller I absolutely used them. For reasons I still don't understand, I decided against getting a double stroller. However, when we would go on outings, my at the time 3 year old older son (OS) would get tired from walking. Looking back, that was completely understandable. We are usually at events for a couple of hours. That is a long time to walk for a little kid. I didn't realize that at the time though and what I would see would be after an hour OS would start to loose it and then I would get frustrated and no one had a good time. One day I went to the aquarium with a friend who had an "opening" in her double stroller and OS was able to sit down. He really enjoyed the aquarium after that and we all had a good time. First chance I had, I picked up a double stroller at a yard sale. Now OS is 5.5 and does fine walking. However our younger son (YS) is only 2.5. It completely depends on whether or not the Big Giraffe is coming along. This past weekend we didn't use the umbrella stroller, but then again, BG was also there to carry YS if needed or chase after the kids if needed. If I'm by myself I would bring it.

  • A change of clothes can be important. Right after OS was potty trained, I carried around a spare set. Out of sheer laziness, I happened to have a spare set on me when OS somehow missed the toilet with a few drops. I was glad I had the clothes. Nothing can ruin a family outing like pee. Now I don't carry one around for him because he's older. I do carry one around for YS. When I have gone on an outing into a place that is farther away like Boston, I'll throw a spare set of clothes for OS in the car and I will probably start to do that for YS fairly soon. Yes, it's annoying but literally it takes about two minutes to grab the clothes and toss them in the car and if we are going to be 45 minutes or an hour away, I would rather have the option of spending 5 minutes running back to the parking lot than another 45 minutes to drive back home before we are all ready to leave. So why the car instead of with me? I just enjoy outings more if I don't have a lot of stuff on me. Less stuff means that first of all I don't feel like I'm lugging the entire contents of my house around me, and second means I am more able to do things like crouch down to explain to my kids what they're seeing or lift them up so they can get a better view (or chase after them if they go under the velvet ropes...). Not having a stroller if I don't need one means it's easier to maneuver museums and crowds. Of course having a stroller during the winter means I also don't have to carry coats which is a huge plus!

  • Here's my most important piece of advice that was given to me. Forget snacks, strollers, and everything else if you must. This rule is crucial: Leave before the kids are ready! That's right, leave before the meltdowns and the crankiness starts. That way their last memory of the outing will be having a great time and they'll want to come back again. More importantly you'll want to come back again. This last rule is the hardest. Just keep in mind that with places like the grocery store and BJ's you're trying to get the most bang for buck, not so with museums with small kids. Resist the urge to see "just one more thing". At the space exhibit on Sunday, the boys got to ride around on toy scooters shaped like airplanes. They had a great time. We already been there for about 4 hours and could see that the boys were getting tired. It took every ounce of resistance to say that we were leaving when I knew that there was another area of the museum that we hadn't yet seen and was handing out some cool balloons and other such freebies. However, the kids had a good time and want to go back and despite the fact I have no interest in airplanes, I had fun with them so I would like to go back too. We tried this strategy with Disney when we remembered (the last word being key) and also found it successful. I won't lie: it's really hard. Resist the temptation!
A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: Leave wanting more.
posted by Alex Elliot @ 6:04 AM   3 comments
  • At 4/02/2009 2:19 PM, Blogger Heather said…

    Great tips!

  • At 4/03/2009 10:37 AM, Blogger Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog said…

    The food. Yes. BIG breakfasts. Granola bars in the car just before you enter. Eat early or late, but don't eat when the rush is in the cafeteria...

    Also, be prepared by memorizing or mapping out the museum. Start where they really want to, and not where the museum starts.

  • At 4/06/2009 1:59 PM, Blogger Goofball said…

    hmm that last tip sounds so obvious and yet so hard to do. I don't even manage to do so for myself ;)

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Name:Alex Elliot
Home:MA, United States
About Me:Professional Mom of two cats, a dog, an ant farm, and oh yeah...two boys: a 6 year old and a 3 year old. Also found in my house is my husband who is known on this blog as The Big Giraffe.
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