The tradition has fallen! My last blog post in 2006 was a year in review through the lens of Formula Fed and Flexible Parenting. I then did the same thing to end 2007. For those of you who anxiously counted down all 2008, even over that extra day for Leap Year, I must apologize for having failed you. 2008 ended without a year in review post.
Does that mean doom to the tradition? Nope. Instead my first post of 2009 will be a review of 2008. I am repeating my first lesson learned from each month in 2008. May it bring wisdom, insight, or entertainment to all who muddle through it.
First Lesson Learned of Each Month in 2008
January: Ending one year with pre-existing friends and starting another with new friends makes for an enjoyable and memorable transition.
February: Bringing food to a funeral home can be one way to help a family that has just undergone a tragedy.
March: You can figure out where in life someone is by their dream snow pants.
April: Parenting can age you.
May: Keep your newborn on your older child's schedule, but make sure that older child does not have any Sharpies.
June: There are strange people everywhere, including your own driveway.
July: Children act like children.
August: Birthday politics are challenging.
September: If your creep alert goes on, it's a good idea to turn around and go back the direction you just came from.
October: Just because some members of your family take certain religious holidays off does not mean that schools will close for other members of your family.
November: Eat a few pieces of Halloween candy that you really like on Halloween or you may eat many pieces of Halloween candy you don't like.
December: Parenting includes some crappy experiences and memories that just can't be flushed away.
This past week has been very busy, but in a good way. The Big Giraffe and I have gone on three date nights! I know, I can't believe it myself. Let me just pause here so I can pinch myself to make sure I'm not asleep! I hope that those three date nights don't mean that we won't have any more date nights for the next year. Is there a quota on how many date nights you can have a year once you have kids? We went to the So You Think You Can Dance Live Tour, to see the movie Mama Mia in the cheap theater with the awesome self serve popcorn butter machine (seriously why don't all theaters have that?) and tonight out for coffee and dessert. I'm still in shock that we had three in one week!
We also replaced the sunroof this weekend. I should clarify that by "we" I mean the roofers because for the Big Giraffe and I to have replaced the roof would truly be an impressive feat. We were impressed with how quickly that was finished. After having a week filled with date nights and successful major household repairs, it seems almost fitting that election day is tomorrow. Like many, I can't believe that the election is already here. It seems like the campaigning has gone on for...what...four years? Regardless of what happens, I am excited to go cast my vote. I'm going to watch the results come in tomorrow night. I'm excited for my kids to be part of this historic event as they began their introduction to politics.
A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: I encourage you to go out and vote.
Sally HP tagged me to write a 7 Things About Me meme. It's been a while since I've had a meme at FF&FP so here it goes.
When I was younger I had an imaginary identical twin sister. Her name was Mary Frances and she lived in the world on the other side of my bedroom mirror. Of course that meant that she was left-handed. I remember as a kid thinking that was totally obvious. The flaw in this reasoning was that for some reason, I mean I really can't believe this, it was not intuitive to other people that I had an imaginary identical twin sister. My parents were a little skeptical when I told them that Mary Frances broke my canopy bed when I was 5.
Almost two decades later, I met a guy who had his own imaginary country where he was president. When he ran for reelection, his cat beat him in the primary. He managed to eek out a victory in the general election as an independent. We immediately started dating. Although that didn't work out, we eventually became friends, and he had been friends with the Big Giraffe before I met either of them. Unfortunately he passed away from colon cancer. We named our older son after him. This should count as three things about me.
I was a vegetarian for ten years. I still don't like a lot of meats.
I cannot sleep at night unless I have a heavy blanket. It makes no difference how hot it is outside. I found out when I became a parent that it's a sensory issue. So is the fact I hate celery in chicken salad, soups etc.
When I have any sort of big project to do, I like to get it done right away. Sounds good, right? Sure sometimes. It was great for schoolwork or for projects at work. Not necessarily when handling things though in my personal life. Many, many times, I wished that I had just stopped to calm down and think about things before I delved into them. I get into the mode where everything needs to be done yesterday and thus totally stress myself out and anyone who happens to be around me. I can see my husband nodding his head in agreement. In fact he may have even said a "Here! Here!" out loud.
Need an example? I found out on Friday that I need to have an area of our sunroom repaired. Here is what went through my mind: What? I'm going to have to sell my kidney to pay for this!!! It's going to snow, and then we will have ceiling and wiring damage, and Oh my God it's going to snow and it's the end of October and it's going to snow in a few weeks and I need to call roofers and did you see the market today, and it's going to snow in three days and what if the roofers futz around with coming by to give me an estimate and did you see what happened with the stock market today and surely it will be snowing in five minutes and our sunroom needs to be fixed. Has it already started snowing? By Friday afternoon I already had two roofers and a handyman out to give me an estimate. I also felt like I might have diarrhea. The good news is that at least in this instance my tunnel vision was productive and my stomach calmed down. The better news is that the fix is relatively inexpensive and not of significant consequence to the house.
I absolutely love Greek yogurt. No, seriously I eat it every day. Hmm...I think I need to re-stock tomorrow.
I love napping. One of my favorite things to do is nap on a hot summer day. I love getting all cozy under a heavy blanket with the air conditioner on. To me it's absolute luxury to be able to have nothing else to do so that I can nap.
A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: What you sense and what you imagine can impact what you like in life.
As I wrote before, I finally succumbed to other bloggers the powers that be and joined Twitter. Kate from Eucalyptus Pillow asked me to explain exactly what it is. I have to confess that I actually first heard about it at BlogHer Chicago two summers ago. Emphasis on the word heard. Everyone was talking about Twitter. Not that this would ever happen to me of course, but have you ever had the experience where you've blanked out during a critical moment when someone is telling you a story? Suzy was dating Jon and when you zone back in Suzy is now dating Stan and you're not sure what exactly happned but are too embarrassed to admit that you don't know because you weren't paying attention? That's sort of like Twitter and me. I knew that it involved typing one line sentences, but I was too embarrassed to say that I had no idea what exactly those sentences were about or why someone would want to read or write them.
I think the best way to explain Twitter is to compare it to the Facebook statuses. All you are doing is answering the question, "What are you doing?" You then type one sentence that describes what you are doing; you aren't allowed to use more than 140 characters. For example, my Twitter status the other day was "I can't figure out Twitter" or something to the that effect. Yesterday I twittered that I was on cat duty to make sure that the cats didn't jump through the giant hole in my wall. Anyone who follows me on Twitter would have been notified of my activity and wondered if I were drunk. Someone who knew me in person might be aware that the workmen scheduled to replace our living room picture window had shown up.
Unlike when someone reads your blog, you get notified if someone is following you on Twitter. There are security settings that can require someone to get permission before becoming a follower of yorus or can enable you to block specific people. You can use Twitter from your cell phone or your Facebook account.
One of my reasons for joining Twitter is that I have been the last to learn about several writing opportunities that others have heard about through Twitter. It's not as addictive as I had feared it might be, and let's face it, the last thing I need right now is to be twittering away while doing something critical like performing "cat scans." Perhaps that is not so critical; obviously someone tipped the cats off to the workmen's arrival since they were nowhere to be found. I think the informant was the neighbor's cat who is always hanging out on our lawn. I also think that cat is our older cat's boyfriend, but I don't have the hard evidence I need to convince the Big Giraffe that I'm right.
The biggest drawback that I've both heard and experienced it that once I've Twittered something, there doesn't seem to be much point in doing a blog post about it. Sure, Twitter is only a senentece and a blog post gives all the details, but it sort of feels like telling someone a joke after already revealing the punchline. I enjoy being on Twitter, though, just like I enoy reading everyone's status updates on Facebook. What can I say except that I'm nosy and I have ample time to find things like Twitter and Facebook fascinating, for example when watching windows or Tae Kwon Do or sitting for five minutes in a parking space because I got to preschool early!
A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: This one was passed on to me by Balex Elliot. When someone tells you they are for example @alexelliot and you have no idea what that means and are tempted to do a virtual Star Trek gesture back at them, it means that to find them on Twitter you should go to www.twitter.com/alexelliot.
I have to say that I feel like a wimp these days. The election is coming up in a few short weeks, and I have yet to write a post about it. Next month we will vote for a new president, but the half dozen posts in my mind are about motherhood, workmen and preschool and yes in that order. Motherhood in the abstract vs. the workmen getting the days mixed up vs. parent-teacher conferences. I've read a lot of really great posts about the election. Check out Jen at A2eatwrite who provides non-partisan links on info about both candidates as well as info on registering to vote. I've also had a number of really great political discussions with friends. In fact the book club I hosted last week focused less on the book and more on the election. I have to admit that I was surprised because we normally don't discuss politics at book club, but it was a really great conversation.
I enjoy hearing different points of view. Yesterday I had a good conversation with someone who is unsure of which candidate she will ultimately support. She explained what she felt were the pros and cons of both candidates. I felt like I was truly having an intelligent conversation where different thoughts and ideas were exchanged. Even though I didn't agree with everything she said, there were no hard feelings. I truly enjoyed hearing what she had to say.
So what can I say if I'm not going to write a political post?
A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: I would encourage you all to read up on the candidates and of course to vote.
I know I know: but what did I learn at BlogHer Boston? Take a seat and I will spill the secrets of blogging. Alright that's a little dramatic. The fact of the matter is that this is my third BlogHer conference, and each time I have learned something new. I've walked away thoroughly enjoying talking in person with bloggers I've "met" on line, meeting new people, learning about new blogs to read and learning how to get the most out of my own blog. Here are some tips that I learned in the two blogging sessions I attended. Yes, it was two not three because I wound up talking with some bloggers at the end of the first one and losing track of time.
I'm putting this one first because it applies to non-bloggers as well: Google Alerts. What are those? First of all they're free. Basically they are alerts you set to find out who's talking about you. I know someone who had a job interview in a couple weeks time and set the alert up for that company so that she was sent information whenever there was any news about that company. She was very prepared for the interview. Same thing for any topic of interest to you, whether relating to allergies or a political candidate. If something new comes out on-line (blog, on-line paper etc.) you will receive an email telling you about it. Also, if you wanted to only search blogs for something, you can go to Google.com, select more from the top of the screen and then select blogs. This will allow you to do a blog search. This is what I did when writing for Just Cause.
Post frequently. Hmm...I seem to be falling short on this one lately
Comment frequently. See above. Someone recommended commenting on three new blogs every day while you trying to build a blogging community.
Respond to the comments either by leaving a comment on your own blog or emailing the commenter back. At the rate I'm going I'm not going to have any readers left!
Encourage conversation in your comments section. This can be either by responding to comments or asking your readers questions that they would answer in your comments.
Blog template should be easy to read and not too cluttered. I actually was already planning on doing a complete makeover of FF&FP. Now, if I could just find a way to invent a time machine and stop time, this might actually happen!
It's important to catergorize and tag your blog posts. This increases your Google hits. If you're finding that people get a huge number of pages on your blog when searching for a term that you frequently use in your blog posts then try breaking that term into a more specific catergory. Confused? The example was carrot from a recipe blogger. Because she uses carrots in lots of recipes, a search for carrot cake would bring up all her recipes with carrots as an ingredient. Instead of using the category cake for the recipe for carrot cake she was advised to create a specific carrot cake category.
To find a blog community, look for a blogger you like who has a blogroll. Read those blogs and comment away. Another way is to click on the profile of someone who has left a comment on a blog you like and then follow that person to their blog, comment on their blog, etc. Just like in real life society, bloggers have a tendancy to move in circles.
Use Google Reader or Bloglines to read blogs. It's more efficient than clicking over to each individual blog you read. It also allows you to see when a blog has been updated so you don't have to waste time checking on blogs to see if there are new posts. My problem is that I need to update my Google Reader, as I am currently using Firefox bookmarks. Bloglines is supposed to be easier for newbies, but Google Reader is more convienent for Blogger bloggers since you have to have a Google account for Blogger anyhow.
Designate specific times when you're going to be on your computer. That way you know that if you read an email, you will have the time to respond to it. If you find that you lose track of time when you're on the computer, then set a timer to limit how long you can be on it. Apparently time-out timers are good for this.
You can set your email up to automatically put messages into different folders based on certain criteria thus making it easier to manage your inbox.
That's all I can think of off of the top of my head. I finally joined Twitter! Yes, after two years of thinking about it, I finally took the plunge because hey I don't have enough ways to procrastinate! Anyhow, if you're on Twitter, leave a comment on how I can find you. I'm @alexelliot
A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: BlogHer Conferences are full of lessons.
We are now approaching my favorite time of year. I love it when the air is crisp, the leaves turn bright colors, and I can wear jeans and a light jacket. What could be better? Answer, you can become the parent of preschooler, and it becomes the time of year when kids also go back to school.
When I became a parent, I began to get more involved with various activities ranging from Mommy and Me classes to events at our church. In fact, on one occasion I let a friend of mine talk me into participating in a potluck. I had no idea what to bring, and it was last minute so I brought left over stew that I had made in my crockpot. I worried that no one would eat it, because it was a new recipe that turned out not to be worth repeating. This potluck ended up being largely attended probably because my friend had done such a good job of personally inviting everyone. Unfortunately, pot luck can be a nice way of saying "Bring whatever isn't moldy in your fridge" so they ended up serving a half a dozen salads, a plate of brownies, and my stew. Despite its quality, as the only entree, my stew was a hit. Of course, people learn quickly, so there was no problem with having too many salads and not enough desserts at the next potluck. Unfortunately that was because everyone brought desserts. While that is definitely my type of potluck, that wasn't what everyone wanted.
The amount of volunteer opportunities for me has skyrocketed since I began parenting a preschooleer. From volunteering to help out for special events in the classroom, to chaperoning, to after school activities, to bringing in snacks for school and outside activities, there certainly seem to be a lot. That's not even counting carpools, since we won't drive into that world until we get a larger car. The challenges also extend to community activities (who is hosting which event), programs to bring meals to new parents or friends in need (6 meals on one night could be overwhelming rather than helpful), and team participation (who is bringing the halftime snacks to which game).
If only there were a way for everyone to know what was needed and what people had signed up to bring without barraging each other with emails followed by reply alls to emails containing conflicting copies of spreadsheets that are difficult to incorporate into one document!
Well, there is...
Yours truly is in charge of a campaign for a free website that helps parents (and others) get organized and get things like this done. The site is called Jooners. That means I also have some good prizes to give away. Click here for more info.
A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: It is difficult to know what to bring to a party if you don't know what everyone else is bringing.
If you were at BlogHer, I may have pawned off one of my business cards on you. On the back was a sticker saying that I am looking for period stories submissions. Suzanne, author of Off the Beaten Subway Track, asked me to be a co-editor of an anthology of period stories! We made our site live right before I left for BlogHer.
Women at BlogHer seemed pretty excited about the idea of a period anthology. I think that I heard more period stories on Friday and Saturday than I had previously heard in my entire lifetime. In fact, these stories were so much fun that a group of us ended up talking about them for at least a half hour. I believe we may also have scared some woman away, but that's another story.
A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: We're looking for more submissions. Please click here for more info.
One of the sessions I attended at BlogHer discussed whether mommy blogging is a radical act. Forget mommy blogging, what about blogging in general? Have you ever tried to explain to someone that you blog and had them look at you as though you have six heads. If you mention that you are going to a conference on it, they look at you as though you have eight heads. They apparently imagine you spending a weekend in a dark room lit by a single light bulb with two shady people who identify themselves as "bloggers". They actually get even more shocked when they hear that over 1, 000 bloggers attended. After a lengthy silence, it's not unusual for a person to look truly mystified and say, "but why would there be a conference for it and more importantly why would you attend?" (I admit I was concerned before my first BlogHer that it might be like a Star Trek convention. The Big Giraffe didn't understand why that would be a concern.)
I love blogging. I have a community that supports me. I can work on my writing. My family and friends can read my blog and know what's going on with me. My family lives in Chicago, my MIL lives in Chicago, and my BIL and SIL live in KY so reaching out to people who live far away is a big deal to me. Let me go further. We don't get to choose the parents of the kids in our children's preschool class. While we can choose what activities we do, sometimes we don't see eye to eye with other parents. With blogging, you get to choose who you want to "hang out with." As someone at BlogHer said, "You can always hit the X button on your computer if you don't like what you're reading."
I have some fantastic friends in my real life, but it can be hard to have a conversation while kids are running around, and none of the in-person interaction takes away from the fact that I blog and read others' blogs and any corresponding emails in my own time. Bloggers tend to write things that I normally don't hear discussed. I think that relates to time and space. The fact that blogging occurs on a computer rather than face to face makes a difference. The asynchronous nature of the communication gives bloggers flexibility as to when to respond. If I conceive of a response to a post, but don't have immediately available time to write it, I can post it later. If someone shares news in person, I need to respond immediately. Not so with blogging. Plus, real life pre-blogging friendships have grown closer when we both blog.
During the keynote at BlogHer, Dooce talked about attempting to explain how she felt about something to her husband and finding that he only fully understood later when he read a post on the same subject. That's how I feel many times about my husband and my real life friends who blog, and I believe the feeling is mutual.
Last year was my first blogging conference. I walked into a hotel and met a lot of women who were just like me! There were a lot of laptops, iPhones and all sorts of technological gadgets. As a SAHM, one of my fears is losing touch with the modern world. Seriously when you're buried under diapers and parenting magazines, are you really aware of the top 40 tunes and the latest trends in movies and technology? What's going to happen a few years from now when my kids are a little older if I'm not connected? I wouldn't know enough to protect my kids from risks or encourage them to take advantage of opportunities that I don't truly understand. As counterintuitive as this may sound, blogging has really helped me keep in touch with reality. It was the same thing for me this year.
Ironically as I was hovered over my Blackberry next to Suzanne who was typing away on her laptop at BlogHer, I got an email from someone is my moms group who said that one of the group's meetings this fall will be on Living Simply. I'm not sure exactly what that means, but I suspect it has to do with turning the TV and computer off and cutting back on activities. As I looked around the conference I thought to myself that I want to embrace all this not turn away from it. Suzanne was also surprised by that choice of topic. Does blogging take up time? Yes. Could I be doing something else? Sure. Let me put it another way though. Does reading up on parenting take up time? Sure. Is it worth it or should you be doing something else? That's an individual decision. What about talking on the phone? What about playdates?
I have learned so much from blogging. I have walked away from reading blogs with ideas for how to be a better parent, better wife, and all around better person. I have felt that maybe I'm not so alone. It's comforting to read that someone else's child has major temper tantrums or has no interest in dressing himself. I love reading suggestions about books to read, movies to see, or even recipes to try. Any time a post makes me laugh, parenting or not, it is worth my time right there.
At BlogHer several of us discussed managing computer time although none of us felt overwhelmed by it. There are so many different ways to do it. Personally I tend to rotate through my blogroll so my blog reading is divided into chunks. Just though like you are your own publisher when you blog, you're your own boss when deciding when to read blogs. You get to set your own rules. Forget living simply. I want to be organized.
A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: There are some really great technical gadgets out there, like Blackberries and Palm Pilots, that really help you be organized, and there are lots of blog posts out there to provide suggestions on how to take advantage of them.
I realized after re-reading yesterday's post that I should have mentioned that there were five or six sessions going on simultaneously during each time slot, plus "Birds of a Feather" Meet Ups, so each participant had to pick and choose what they attended. In other words, 6 people attending BlogHer could have gone to 6 entirely different sessions at the same time. Also, this year there was a designated mommy blogging session during each session block. (No, mommy bloggers were not required to go to any or all of those sessions, but several of them were of interest to me.) One theme that permeated several sessions, both mommy blogging and general, related to writing and boundaries.
In Liz Rizzo's Sex and Relationship session, she specifically asked us if there were topics about which we wouldn't blog. Since this was a sex and relationships session, I was expecting people to say that, well, they don't blog about hot steamy sex. It turns out that while their blogging may not steam up any monitors, many people do blog about sex. As much as those bloggers were all for sharing what happens between the sheets, several did have other boundary limits, like not talking about work or not discussing family situations. I actually impose several boundaries on my own blog. I previously identified them as "things I don't blog about," rather than boundaries, but it is essentially the same idea. Calling them boundaries made them seem more official.
I do not blog about my husband's work. Like any blogger, I'm not sure exactly who reads my blog, and my husband's work business is his own business to share if he wants. I don't think I've ever posted about it, and I don't foresee doing it in the future. That one seems pretty obvious.
However, the more I thought about some of my other boundaries, the less sure I became that they are really firm and solid boundaries, rather than something like inflatable bumpers in bowling alleys which allow you to hit the pins without gutter balls. (The bowling metaphor is my own spin on things; it did not come from BlogHer.) These are things that are rarely the central focus of a blog post, but they do sometimes get mentioned peripherally. My biggest inflatable gutters are my kids or, more specifically, photos of my kids. I have posted some in the past, but I don't tend to do it too often. I also don't use their names. Another gutter is my everyday social life. For example, I have had my ups and downs with my moms group since I've been part of it. I tend not to write about the group's meeting topics and activities, good or bad, but after reflecting on this for a few days, I think I might start to post more. I won't ever bash anyone or even post about a specific person though because that to me is a hard boundary, not an inflatable gutter.
Yeah, yeah so we all have boundaries. Big deal. Except it is a big deal as your kids get older. Several bloggers debated about whether your kids' stories ever become solely their own stories or always remain your stories too. After all yes, my older son was potty trained and being potty trained is his story. However potty training a child is my story too. I heard several different perspectives from bloggers who are parents of teenagers. Some felt that they shouldn't blog about their kids. Others' kids loved that they blogged about them. It seemed that many of the kids also blogged about their parents! I think that's one of those areas that is probably a very personal and individual decision depending on the family. I'm sure there's lots of ways to go about doing it too. I have no idea how I'll feel when my kids are teenagers much less how they'll feel.
In the meantime, a boundary I've always had is to not tell intentionally embarrassing stories about my kids. That's a hard one though because what is embarrassing to one person is not to another. So perhaps I didn't blog about one of my children taking off his diaper in the middle of a park and running around bare bottomed, but I did post about how one of my kids made a pet rock whale while his classmates made cats and dogs. To me the former story might be embarrassing, but the latter would not be. I guess I really set boundaries for my kids based on what I assume would embarrass me if I were them. We all know the saying about assumptions!
My big conclusion is that it is helpful to have some rules for what I will and will not post. I think it really does help me decide what to write about and how to make a conscious decision about whether or not I really want to share a particular story or divulge a particular piece of information. I am of the mindset that it's easier to be conservative in your posts than to try and take back what was written later on. Plus, as many speakers reiterated, once something is out there, it is out there even if you delete the post.
The nice thing about being a blogger and therefore being your own publisher and boss, is that you get to decide when the boundaries should change. As great as boundaries are, they will always mean that there are areas of your life that you can't ever talk about on your blog. It just depends on why you're blogging and who your audience is. Many speakers also reiterated something that the Big Giraffe tells me all the time...no matter how hard you try to be anonymous, you can never fully be anonymous. In other words, secret blogs aren't always so secretive after all unless they're password protected.
A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: We all have boundaries.
I had a fantastic time! There's so much to tell. I thought I would provide an overview and if anyone wants to hear anything specific, then I'll write more about that. I may also have a couple more specific posts over the next couple days as well. In case you're wondering, there were 1, 000 people there. Yes you read that right. It was sold out. I also heard that there was a waiting list.
I headed out on Thursday. Over the years, I've become less and less comfortable flying. Hence you can imagine my pleasure when I found out I was seated between two doctors one of whom was a former ER doctor. I felt reassured that should I have a massive panic attack, I was in good hands. Fortunately, I was fine, and the flight although long (seriously the longest one I've been on in 15 years)was uneventful.
After checking into our hotel room, Suzanne and I met up with Average Jane and had lunch. Later on I met up with Suzanne again to attend a BlogHer speakers and contributing editors reception. After meeting some great bloggers there, we went to the newbie party with some friends. That party was held in a gorgeous room on the top floor of the Westin. For reasons I don't understand, I got motion sickness while on the glass elevator and became convinced that the floor was moving for the entire time I was at the party. Sadly, I was not smashed either. In fact I hadn't drunk any alcohol. My theory that perhaps there were small tremors was fortunately unfounded. Hey, this was my first time in San Franciso. Suzanne's old co-worker Claudia stuck by my side and repeatedly offered to get me anything I needed. From there we went with Snigdaha to the People's party where they had awesome swag. After spending some time there and talking to more people, Suzanne and I headed out to a very late dinner at a diner. Honestly this whole weekend I felt like I was living with no sense of time. There's a three hour time difference between CA and MA.
Friday we had breakfast at the conference, and I was psyched to catch up with Plain Jane Mom. I attended a session entitled "MommyBlogging: Is Mommy Blogging Still a Radical Act?" It was a very interesting session and left me with a lot to think about. I even asked a question. I walked away thinking about whether or not I'm tailoring what I write to a specific audience. In other words, am I really being true to myself and my writing? I think this can be tricky for many bloggers. It certainly is for me. I have a tendency not to get very personal in my writings. Right now I have a couple of big things going on in my life that I've never posted about. I have a lot of admiration for bloggers who can say exactly what's going on with them, and I think that's one of the things that makes them very good writers. At the same time, bloggers risk alienating people and losing friends, for example if someone in real life isn't talking to you because you said you didn't like the preschool class gift. In fact, I asked about that during the panel at the session.
After that I attended a session called: "MommyBlogging: Public Parenting and Privacy." That one was also interesting, and I decided to share my thoughts on that one in a future, separate post. The moderator Digital Sista, was amazing, and I repeatedly told her throughout the rest of the conference that she was my favorite moderator.
I had lunch with a whole bunch of bloggers I hadn't met before which was a lot of fun and then darted out for Suzanne's book signing. This was followed by Liz Rizzo's session called "Sex and Relationships." It turned out to be my favorite BlogHer session. Liz did a wonderful job, and I found the questions and stories the bloggers told to be very eye opening. For example, as someone who's 32, I didn't realize how invisible older female bloggers are in the blogosphere and media both in general and specifically in discussions about sexuality.
During this time, I also enjoyed a very tasty Grover cupcake. More on the cupcake elsewhere in this post.
Later on I attended the community keynote where 20 bloggers had been selected to read their favorite posts. I think the majority of us alternated between laughing and crying. The posts were that moving. This was followed by a party at the Ruby Skye nightclub. A bunch of us hung out there for a while talking with other bloggers. There was amazing food. Then Suzanne and I walked from Union Square to Fisherman's Wharf to the Ghiradelli Chocolate Factory. After a lengthy investigation of their wares, we took the cable car back.
The next day started with breakfast followed by a session entitled "MommyBlogging: The Commercial Momosphere: Policies, Ethics and Outreach." Although it seemed to be going well, I had to leave early to finish with Grover. No, I don't mean I needed to finish the cupcake, but I did have to go back to the Sesame Street room. The actors who do the voices for Grover and Abby Cadabby were there, and I had one of the last DVD reservations. What? Let me explain. I got to be on a mock episode of Sesame Street where Abby Cadabby and I talked all about my boys. She talked to them and even sent me home with a hug to give to each of them. Getting to be on Sesame Street for a couple of minutes made me the coolest mom ever in my boys' eyes. It was an amazing experience.
Despite missing a lot of the her panel, I did meet "ebay mom" later. She was incredibly nice. Hey, she's from the Chicago area. What else can you expect?
Afterwards, the Red Stapler, Suzanne, and I met up with Count Mockula, her new baby, and her mom. The Count was one of my roommates last year, but understandably with a new baby could not make the conference this year, particularly since she had her appendix removed last week. She does live in CA, so she was able to meet up, and her mom treated us to lunch. Afterwards, I went to Suzanne's session on feminism and gender and then hung out in the BlogHer bookstore with the Count, her mom, Suzanne, Claudia and the Red Stapler.
If that all weren't enough fun, the day ended up with a reception at Macy's. You needed your BlogHer ID to get there, but once you were inside, you had access to seven floors of different activities. I'll admit to being skeptical about the logistics, but it turned out to be the perfect place to have a reception for 1,000+ people. The 7th floor was the best. It was the furniture floor and they had an area for music and dancing. They also had the book signing for Sleep is for the Weak. I found the editor of the book, Rita Arens, who blogs at Surrender, Dorothy to also be really nice. All the contributors who were there signed the books. There was plenty of food and drinks. It was so spread out that I managed to get a seat on a very comfortable couch with a bunch of bloggers. And hey it was the furniture department so there was plenty of seating and tables for all!
Afterwards, Suzanne and I hung out with the Red Stapler some more. The next day after breakfast, Suzanne and I walked around San Francisco for an hour and a half. Then it was time for me to board the BART and get to the airport. Even there, I saw more bloggers, and I had a nice chat with Velma.
I got home after 1 am this morning, exhausted but excited.
A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: At BlogHer, there are a lot of great bloggers to meet and many new ideas about improving blogs and writing.
I know it is kind of funny to change my template just before going to BlogHer, where I will no doubt hear many speakers share a variety of exciting ways to jazz up my blog, but I was getting tired of the purple, even though it is the last remnant of my blog's original template. I know that purple is considered a royal color, and that British peers are described as "born to the purple," but the look was starting to feel heavy to me.
So I asked the Big Giraffe he could exercise what he claims are his limited web development skills do something quick enough so that he wouldn't feel put out if I undid it a month from now but thorough enough to lighten up the blocky feel. He asked a couple questions, and then went off to handle the boys' bedtime rituals, patiently answering all of our older son's questions, including what is the Big Giraffe's favorite color (red) and what is his favorite TV show (Babylon 5).
He then came downstairs, confiscated my computer, and started paging through the gibberish that makes up my blog template. I don't know how he did it, but his first draft was exactly what I wanted. As I pressed that Save Template Changes button, he suddenly gasped out loud as if in pain. When I asked what was wrong, he turned to me with a self-satisfied smirk and said, "Alex, your blog was stunning in purple!"
After a few blank looks from me and a lengthy explanation from the Big Giraffe, I now understand the reference to what is apparently one of the most famous quotes from Babylon 5. In an episode written by series creator Joe Michael Straczynski (JMS), a seemingly over-the-hill space alien ambassador got drunk and fell on his face during a banquette uttering "But in purple, I'm stunning."
Thank you to everyone who participated in the Happy Birth Days Carnival! I am really enjoying reading everyone's stories. Mostly I love that everyone was able to say exactly what they wanted to say, and since I'm reading them from the comfort of my living room, neither I nor anyone else can jump in and interrupt your stories and talk about when we needed Pitocin!
I think it's important to be able to share something that is so important to us. After I become a mother, someone told me that sometimes birthdays are hard on moms. Yeah, no kidding! Your kid is getting older, and sometimes sulkier, and while I personally am grateful that my kids are healthy and celebrating each birthday, there's a part of me that just a teeny bit said that with each day their babyhoods are a little farther behind. (Then I have to change a diaper in a public bathroom and that regret gets tossed out faster than the actual diaper.)
Although our children's birthdays or adoptions are the anniversaries of when we became mothers (or dads, aunts, or grandmothers) for the first (or sixth) time. Yet somehow that fact seems to be forgotten. There's the emotion and sometimes the physical pain. Sometimes we still have physical scars from the births, and sometimes there are emotional scars as well, despite how glorious and wonderful that day was. If there was a difficult birth or if there were stressful events around the time of the birth or adoption, those feelings can resurface on their anniversary which of course is...ta dah...your kid's birthday. For all those reasons, I think it's important to always have the option to be able to tell your story. I therefore am grateful to everyone who participated.
Please feel free to continue to add your posts to Mr. Linky. Just because the raffle is over doesn't mean the carnvial is closed. I know of a couple posts that are still coming. On that note, I used random.org to draw the names of the two winners. They are Mayberry Mom and Jen. Congratulations!
Click here for the Happy Birth Days Carnival. I am extending the carnival through the weekend meaning that I will do the drawing on Monday evening. You are more than welcome though to add your story to Mr. Linky after Monday. And, since several of you have asked, you don't have to enter a new post to be eligible for the drawing. You can link to your birth story, no matter when you may have posted it on your blog.
I am enjoying reading all your birth stories! Keep them coming! In light of the fact that I came down with a cold yesterday and seem to be losing my voice, I don't feel up to writing a post today. (Alright, losing my voice isn't a factor, because it's not like I'm reading my blog posts out loud to you, although I learned at BlogHer last year that I can.)
I am not the only one who is slightly disengaged from the blogosphere this week. My friend Jodifur is on vacation, and I was very honored that she asked me to be one of her guest bloggers in her absence. I am going to refer you to the post I wrote for her on her blog.
Perhaps I can have the Big Giraffe guest post for me this week about his experience taking our Older Son (OS) to a birthday party since I had my frog sexy voice and thought my pillow would be more comfortable for my pounding head than spending the time with lots of excited kids on a sugar high.
Extra! Extra! The Happy Birth Days Carnival is Here!
Tonight I kissed my younger son as I put him in his crib and said to him "Good night my 1 year old". This is something my parents used to say to my brother and me on the eve of our birthdays. This is the last night I got to tuck my 1 year old into bed. Tomorrow, Saturday June 21st, he will be two.
I think back to the my first ob appointment of the pregnancy. My doctor confirmed what I had already heard from two obs - because of the structure of my anatomy and because my older son (OS) had been born via c-section with a weight of 8 pounds 12 ounces, it was recommended that I have a planned c-section with YS. The nurse informed me that in order to perform the c-section the week before my due date, YS would probably be born on June 21. A summer solstice baby! I imagined snagging the first slot in the maternity operating room at 8 am and delivering the first scheduled baby of the summer by 8:30. I was pretty excited.
Throughout the entire pregnancy I fixated on the fact that YS would be born during the summer solstice. Sure enough, when it came time to schedule the c-section at the hospital, the date was June 21st. It wasn't totally perfect; I did end up with the 10 am slot. Other than being concerned about the fact I wouldn't be able to eat breakfast, I didn't worry too much about it.
Less than three weeks before my planned c-section, my doctor informed me that he had to have a kidney and rib removed. No, I'm not making this up. Although he was a solo practitioner, he had made arrangements with another practice for coverage. I was a little shaken to say the least. I had never been thrilled to have a c-section, and I had really wanted my own ob to perform it. In fact I had even switched from my prior ob after OS's birth to have him as my ob. Obviously I understood though! I knew several of the obs from the covering practice, and I was able to choose the one with whom I was most comfortable, since it was a scheduled c-section. Unfortunately, that ob did not perform scheduled c-sections on Wednesdays, so the date was changed. The ob was told, the hospital was told, the family was told, and my insurance company was told. I assumed YS knew of the change as well. Now I was scheduled for Thursday, June 22 at 8 am.
On June 15, I started having strong contractions. The Big Giraffe and OS got me to the hospital. Once I was safely checked into a bed, he called a friend of ours, whose son was also a friend of OS's and ducked out quickly to drop OS off at their home. He returned quickly, hoping to arrive just in time to attend to the c-section. Alas, it was a false alarm; the contractions were caused by a previously undiagnosed UTI. Although we were partially disappointed we felt we were in the homestretch. One of our "emergency contact friends" who had been available to take care of OS in the event of surprise, nighttime labor went out of town for a week. However, our second emergency contact friend, "Cee" had three young kids and wasn't going anywhere, and we had family flying in the night before the new date for the c-section.
I was very excited when June 20th rolled around. I was planning for my final playgroup as a parent of an only child at Cee's home the next day, the arrival of family that next evening, and then an easy drive to the hospital for YS's birth the following morning. Then C called to let me know that her middle child was running a fever. There might be no playgroup. As the day went on, I wasn't feeling so hot either. In fact several people told me I looked awful that day. Nice, right? I was having cramps, but I assumed that I was either sick or having a resurgence of the UTI. The Big Giraffe kept insisting I was in labor. I was in denial. Finally around 4 am, on June 21st I couldn't take it anymore, and asked the Big Giraffe to take me to the hospital. With OS sleeping peacefully and our family not expected to arrive for almost 24 hours, he went to call our first emergency contact...who was out of town ummm...our second emergency contact...whose kid had a fever ummm...an unsuspecting friend of ours. It turned out that she had a cousin who had just been in a fatal car accident earlier, and she was caring for her mother who was in shock as a result. She was willing to come over to take care of OS, but she asked if there were anyone else. Obviously the Big Giraffe offered his condolences and said we would call someone else. He then called a woman from our church that I'm friends with, who immediately (but nervously) said she would come over. OS didn't know her well, so we were concerned about how he might react upon waking up with her in the house, but we didn't have much choice. She arrived at 4:30 in the morning, and we took off for the hospital.
At 6 am, the Big Giraffe called Cee, and it turned out her sick child was fully recovered. She and all three of her children got to our house while OS was still sleeping. OS awoke to find his favorite friend in his room. Then he got to go out for donuts and have a sleepover at her house later on that night. I think it was one of the best days of his life!
Meanwhile, an ob I didn't know from the practice of the ob who was covering for my ob examined me. I was 3 cm dilated. I was quite proud of myself because I never dilated on my own with OS and had always sort of wondered if I were capable of it. Time for the c-section. The ob called for an anesthesiologist. That's when the next round of hoo hah started.
Apparently the anestheseologists were all very busy at a meeting. "No, it's not an emergency," I heard the ob snap into the phone, "but I am here with a woman who is in pain, and we should take care of her." After placing the phone down with what I would describe as restrained deliberation, he turned to me and said, "I apologize. That was completely inappropriate." He then strode from the room with continued deliberation. I presume that he went directly to the anesthesiologists and displayed less deliberation than he had shown to me. Either way, an anesthesiologist was in my room less than 5 minutes later. I took off my brand new sandals and walked into the operating room. The ob whom I had originally picked to cover for my own ob came in even though it was not her normal day in the hospital and partnered with another attending to perform the c-section. It is apparently pretty usual to have two attendings perform a c-section.
The c-section was really quick, and I felt nothing. In fact, I was waiting for them to start the procedure when they announced they were finished delivering the baby. Little YS was born at 8:22 am on Wednesday June 21 just like I had pictured for the majority of my pregnancy. He was healthy. Despite the drama of his birth, he was an incredibly easy baby and still is. One thing did not go according to plan: my new sandals were stolen.
Throughout my pregnancy with YS, I believed he would be born on one specific day. Even when it seemed like he would be born a day later, he still claim on the original date. With OS, things had appeared opposite. I went into labor one day before the due date projected by the ob. However, I went through 38 hours of labor followed by an unplanned c-section. The result? OS was born on his due date.
A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: Babies are born when they are ready. In some families, that may actually be on their due date.
Happy Birthday, YS! I can't believe you're two years old!
The Happy Birthday Carnival will run for a whole week. You are more than welcome to still continue to add your blog to Mr. Linky after that, but I will be drawing two $10 gift cards to Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts at the end of the week ( the evening of June 27th).
I attended a new moms group when my older son (OS) was just a few weeks old. This group met for 4 weeks and was run by a facilitator named Rosemary who had been doing it for many years. After we initially introduced ourselves and our babies, Rosemary had each woman tell the story of her baby's birth. We each got the group's undivided attention and could take all the time we wanted.
Childbirth like many women's issues is a funny phenomenon in our society. It's a rite of passage. However, it's a rite of passage that we aren't really encouraged to talk about. Sure when you get together with a group of other moms we might tell parts of the stories, but my experience has been that usually moms all jump in and share their experiences too. Hence it becomes a conversation. And yes, many times I'm the mom who jumps in on the conversation. After the inital phone calls to family and friends, it does seem like we don't have that chance to have undivided attention about something that was a major event to us all. Sometimes even those phone calls are interrupted or we may realize later that we didn't say everything we wanted to say. This is why Rosemary had us tell our stories. We had the opportunity to have the spotlight on us and have a listening audience who gave us their undivided attention.
A couple weeks ago I was talking to a friend of mine about giving birth to my younger son. I happened to mention that my brand-new shoes were stolen while I was in the operating room having my c-section. Apparently this isn't the first time that shoes have been stolen at that hospital. I was surprised that I hadn't mentioned it to her before, just because it is a funny part of my own birth story. Alright it wasn't so funny when it happened or when my husband had to find a pair of shoes for me to wear home since I didn't have any. It occurred to me that because I wasn't a new mom when I had YS and therefore wasn't in a news moms group, I never got the chance to tell my birth story for my second son.
In honor of YS's 2nd birthday on June 21, I am holding a Happy Birth Days Carnival. I'm encouraging anyone who wants to participate to share your birth day stories. It can be for any child. It can be a birth or it can be an adoption. It can be the birth of your grandchildren, your nieces, or your nephews. It's up to you. Our stories are all different. Some are sheer happiness, some are pain and happiness, some are funny and some are sad. We all have stories though.
Here's how it works. On June 21 I will put up my birth day post and I'll include a Mr. Linky at the bottom of it. The carnival will be open for a full week. At the end of the week, I will use random.org to draw two gift certificates for $10 each to your choice of Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks. You can mentally picture yourself enjoying a cup of coffee and a good pastry on me while all of us in the blogosphere are sitting on virtual couches in a coffee shop reflecting on the birth story that you've shared. Please email me if you are considering participating and would like the code for the button.
A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: No matter how many children we have, every child has their own special birth day story.
It's been called to my attention that many people have had a problem leaving comments on my blog for the past week or so. If you've had problems with this, please email me at alexelliot at flexibleparenting.com I'm trying to figure out exactly what is happening.
With my first triathlon tomorrow morning, I have been trying to be particularly careful in my eating and sleeping habits this week. I have also tried hard to manage my progressively escalating case of nerves as the week went on. So you might expect that I would have gone to sleep as early as possible yesterday. Almost as if I were in denial about my need for rest, I did the opposite, and enjoyed what was for me an unprecedented social opportunity that I could not refuse.
We had a fun evening typing talking and talking and talking. Plus there was fabulous food. We were the last ones to leave the restaurant. Hmmm...I bet my triathlon training buddy and our trainer would have something to say about that. If they ask me about it, I may need to deny it. Afterwards, we went to a bar. Relax! I was willing to stay out late for friends, but I did deny myself alcohol in order to avoid derailing my training and triathlon prep. Actually, I had such a good time that I really feel it helped me to relax before my big event tomorrow. The Big Giraffe also denied me the consequences of my late night by generously encouraging me to sleep in today! I certainly have something to say about his kindness.
I have enjoyed what SMID and Jenn have to say for almost as long as I have been blogging, and there was no denying from our prior meetings that SMID is a fabulous person. I quickly felt that I could say the same about Jenn. I have to admit that as much as I enjoyed getting to know Jen and getting to know SMID better, what most stuck with me today, other than just having a great time last night of course, was what Jenn had to say about Life in the Netherlands.
Of course, I had to find a metaphor in what Jenn described to apply to my own life. For example, Jenn described the way she shops by going from specialty store to specialty store like the cheese store, the nut store, and the bakery, just the way things used to be in the US before supermarkets became so prevalent, except that they bike everywhere. So today I didn't just go to the supermarket, but made a stop at a specialty store, Trader Joe's, to stoke my yogurt craving as well. Technically, I haven't ridden my bike in two days, but I will be on it bright and early tomorrow for the first leg of my triathlon. Yeah, not as nice and neat as in the Netherlands, but if you add biking and choosing the right store for each purchase... Of course, in the Netherlands, an employee would have started pulling together my usual order for me when I walked into the stores. Trader Joe's didn't even have my normal order; they were out of the cheaper Greek yogurt. I silently rejoiced at the "excuse" to buy the more expensive Greek yogurt that tastes twice as good.
Tomorrow's my big day. I'm all packed and just about ready to go to bed. I'm definitely nervous although not nearly as nervous as I would have thought. Apparently a night off was just the ticket.
A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: When preparing for something stressful, there is something to be said about denial.
I would love to be able to give you some advice on having a second child. The problem is that most of the time, I still need some advice. I'm just kidding sort of. Honestly having a second was a lot easier than I thought it would be. Here's the two best pieces of advice I have for you.
1) This is really the best advice I've received for parenting. A friend of mine who is remarkably organized despite having and has four happy kids told me to make the new baby fit into the older child's schedule. Sounds a little harsh, but I am so glad I did it. I think back to what it was like when my older son (OS) was a newborn and I was housebound because of perceived nap restrictions, minor germ phobias, cold weather, hot weather, you name it. However, when OS was 34 months old, and it was the official first day of summer aka my younger son's (YS) birth, I knew that being housebound was just not going to be okay with him. Talk about a way to make him resent his sibling. I just made sure that there was a Pack N Play at whatever playdates or playgroups we attended so YS could nap. If necessary, I brought one with me. I also invested in a few more receiving blankets and hung them from the handle of the baby bucket carseat when YS was in the stroller and we were outdoors to provide a sun screen. I know people who've even bought the velcro sticky tape to velcro them to the handle. YS never ever had a sunburn.
Here's the best part of this wonderful advice; YS is incredibly easy going and while part of me knows it is just plain old luck (for which I will be eternally grateful) there's a part of me that believes it's because he has led a "go with the flow" life from birth. Of course, an afternoon nap was part of OS's schedule, so they both napped at the same time.
2) Make sure you don't have any Sharpies in your house. No, seriously. A few weeks after bringing his brother home, OS found a Sharpie and colored all over his walls, furniture, the bathroom, and clothes, when we thought he was sleeping. We didn't even know we owned a red Sharpie. If you have any doubts, send your older kid and friends on a treasure hunt for Sharpies in your house. You may be amazed at what they find.
Best of luck! Everyone told me that the best part of having multiple kids was seeing the beautiful friendship that forms. I have loved witnessing this because it allows me time during the day to blog and/or talk on the phone .
A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: Keep your newborn on your older child's schedule, but make sure that older child does not have any Sharpies.
No, this isn't about exercising or triathlons. I'm very excited to say that I will be writing for both Just Cause (click on Editor Blogs) and GNM Parents. Did I mention that I'm excited? I'll be writing on Mondays for Just Cause (I have been doing Fridays) and on Thursdays for GNP. Hmm...today's Thursday and tomorrow's Friday!
Where do I begin? We've definitely had our ups and downs over the years. I remember as a kid not thinking too much about you. I wasn't displeased with you, but I never appreciated you either. On the other hand, you seemed comfortable doing your own thing, like when we went through puberty. You didn't ask me my opinion on it. You just went ahead and did it way before I was ready. I would be lying if I didn't say that at times I felt betrayed by you. At times I also hated you. We got through that though and when I was in high school, I actually felt really good about you. Together we did swimming, fencing and synchronized swimming. You and I also had some great times with my high school sweet heart.
In college I realized that I had been holding something back from you. I didn't want to hurt your feelings. I tried to talk myself out of my own feelings, but you were doing something that was causing me physical pain. My back hurt all the time, and I wasn't really thrilled with the way I looked. After consulting with a plastic surgeon and weighing the risk factors for us, I decided to have a breast reduction surgery. I have to say that I think you were actually pleased by it. Nothing hurt anymore. A weight had literally been lifted from our shoulders. Life was much easier. Even my times at swim meets were faster because it was easier to move you through the water.
Time ticked by. We certainly enjoyed getting to know the Big Giraffe, but overall you were ignored again. Life got busy. I paid attention to you during my engagement and I toned you up so I could look good. After that though, I have to say that you were sadly forgotten. More time passed and I realized I really needed you. I had something that I really wanted you to be part of: having a baby. Once again you came through. And you did it twice. I am thrilled to have had 2 healthy baby boys. Large, healthy baby boys. You even allowed me to experience breastfeeding, if only for a brief period of time. Even though you initially disappointed me by requiring me to have a c-section, I quickly got over it. Out of all the things I may get neurotic about, having a c-section wasn't one of them.
That leads us to almost a year ago. Between being a new mommy and trying to balance my new life, I forgot about you again. The great care I had tried to take of you in my high school and college years by eating properly and exercising were long forgotten. We had grown to be such strangers that I had trouble even recognizing you when I saw you in the mirror. I bought a package of personal training sessions. We showed up - heavier with our abs hanging from two c-sections - to get in shape. It was hard. If I hadn't bought the package of sessions, honestly I wouldn't have gone back. You screamed out in pain. I hated going. For about three weeks I remember every time I moved your were incredibly sore. Yet you still allowed me to push through.
Then in October I got this crazy idea to train for one triathlon which turned into training for multiple triathlons. I was so excited. You supported me even though running has never been our thing. Demands of motherhood made it hard to stick to a good schedule. You were great about allowing me to fit in exercise wherever I could. However, it wasn't enough. I wanted consistency. That's when I had to ask you for the biggest favor, my night owl body. You that has loved staying up until the wee hours of the morning. You that hates getting up early. I had to ask you to start getting up at 4:50 am to be able to work out. At first you hated it, but then you surprised me. You actually liked it better.
I guess that leads us to now. We're still going strong. Thank you.
A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: When you take good care of your body, you will be amazed at what your body will do for you.
When I went to Wellesley College, I joined a club called the Outing Club. It was one of the clubs that had a combined membership between Wellesley and MIT. My friends and I were very excited to go on a big campout with a bunch of different colleges one spring. By the time we got there, it was starting to get dark, and we were starving. Fortunately the MIT contingent had agreed to bring the food. Unfortunately, they forgot to bring enough for us, and I have a distinctly bad memory of eating someone else's leftover spaghetti. After Suzanne's post (and the comments from various people) about eating food out the trash, I finally feel okay with this.
I hadn't been camping in about 5 years, and none of my friends had ever camped. Fortunately the MIT contingent had agreed to bring the tents. Even more fortunately, they remembered to bring one for us. When they gave it to us, we did what we thought was the reasonable thing and asked where the directions were. They looked at us like we were crazy. Fortunately engineering students don't need instructions to know how to put things together. Unfortunately liberal arts majors do. Fortunately male engineering students lack the patience to watch liberal arts coeds fumble around trying to put together a tent at the pace of a snail while it gets dark. They jumped in, corrected our mistakes and put the tent together in about 2 seconds. Alright, maybe it was 60 seconds, but I swear all I did was turn around and it was assembled. They gave us a weird look, commented on how putting a tent together was really quite easy, and left.
That's why I was shocked the next day when they suggested the following bonding activity for all the colleges: put together a tent while blindfolded. No, I'm not kidding. Not wanting to be bad sports my friends and I participated. Needless to say, the only record we set was for the longest amount of time ever taken to put together a tent. The MIT geniuses contingent seemed genuinely stunned. I remember pointing out to them that we couldn't even get the tent together with our eyes open much less with a blindfold on. We did much better on the task requiring us to run around several trees with water on a spoon without spilling any of it.
As for our tent? I hated to look a gift horse in the mouth, but it was set up on a patch of completely uneven ground so we ended up sleeping outside.
A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: If you can't do something with your eyes open, there's a good chance you won't be able to do it blindfolded.
Because I am concerned about lowering the rate of teenage pregnancy, I have decided that it's time for me to do my part. There comes a time for each and every one of us when we are called to duty. A time when we must make sacrifices for the good of a cause. It is tough, but we must hang strong! We can prevail if we set our minds to it!
In that vane, I have decided to rent my kids out to teenagers who are contemplating having unsafe sex. That's right, I'm setting up several package deals so that these teenagers can have my kids for the day so they can truly consider the consequences of their actions. My bonus package includes taking the boys to the Field Museum in Chicago. This package is complete with a 4 year old who will meltdown and scream the whole way out of the museum as well as a 19 month old who will try to "investigate" the toddler toilet while you are using the adult toilet in the individual family bathroom you have declared ingenious only moments before. I will also offer the To the Moon and Back Package package. This is for teens who feel that it's well and fine that my kids may give me a hard time, but if they were their kids they would be perfectly behaved. In this deluxe package, teens can watch my kids for two whole weeks. At the end of that time, they can take my kids to the Field Museum and see how they fare. Prices vary depending on locations. Does not include airfare, housing, and tax.
Check out my post and others over at the Writing Game today.
I have to say that I before I write anything really personal, I always stop and think about whether or not I really want everyone to read it. Sometimes I'll write a post, and wait a few hours before actually publishing it. As anyone who blogs knows, once you put something out, it's...well...out there! Sure you can delete it later, but you never know who saw it (or cached it).
I feel the same way about political posts. Of course I have my own opinions. One of the many purposes of a blog is to be able to say whatever you want on it. So why not say what you believe about politics? I can tell you what makes me hesitate: it's the fear of offending someone and being verbally attacked. These were both things I thought about on Wednesday when my Blog for Choice post went up. Every time I checked my email, I wondered what sort of comments I would get. Would I a) offend someone or b) be verbally attacked?
Sure enough, not only did a) happen, but b) did as well. I couldn't believe it. That's what I get for sharing my true opinions...for baring my soul...for sharing the world as I view it. I was left feeling exposed. I felt bad that I had been misinterpreted. Frankly I was also a little annoyed. I worked hard on my post to make sure that it really did reflect my views and to ensure that my readers would find my post informative.
So was I attacked by a staunch opponent of abortion? No. Was I attacked by someone who felt I was unfair to the religious right or to political conservatives? No. Was I attacked directly for my Blog for Choice post? No. I was attacked for something far more divisive. In a post on New England Mamas, I actually...used the word museum to describe a place called "Noodle Noggin and Bean." I have now learned that the I should have called it a play center, and that the word museum refers to something with a "historical or archival component." It is not a mistake that I will soon make again, and I do appreciate the commenter's subsequent feedback on both why she is so passionate about the word's proper usage and some of her own thoughts on getting children to get out their energy.
A. Elliot's Lessons Learned: 1)It may be difficult to predict what content will be considered offensive. 2) The written word is great, but it doesn't contain nuances.
I love getting awards. Unfortunately many times my response to awards goes the same way as my thank you cards and takes me much longer to write than I ever intend. Time to catch up!
I was quite honored to be awarded the Mwah! award by Jenn in Holland. She writes a fantastic blog and also writes the nicest emails. The Mwah! award is a chaste kiss given to say thank you for friendships and comments in the blogosphere. When I first started my blog, I had hoped for a comment here and there. I have been taken aback by how many wonderful well thought out comments I have received. I also never expected to develop the friendships that I have. If you would have told me when I first started out my blog that in a year and half time I would be exchanging emails, exchanging Christmas cards and meeting other bloggers in person, I wouldn't have believed you. My favorite time of the day has always been checking the mail. Now checking my email has surpassed that. So here are the people to whom I am giving the Mwah! award in no particular order:
Soccer Mom in Denial awarded me A Roar for Powerful Words. As with Jenn, I have a deep respect for SMID. In addition to enjoying her wonderful writing, I have actually had the privilege of getting together with her twice. As part of this award, I need to describe three elements that I believe are critical for good writing. If I subjectively define good writing as writing that I enjoy, then I can kind of toy with the rules by providing the criteria that cause me to pick the blogs (blog posts) that I like to read.
I like blog posts that I can relate to in someway, whether they are funny, political, serious, or they speak to something that I have in common (or will have in common) with the blogger.
I like blog posts that are honest even when the writer isn't always portrayed in the best of lights. It shows that we're all human.
I like posts that show emotion. This one I'm taking directly from SMID. I enjoy reading blogs to see bloggers write about what most people don't discuss very often.
As I was driving my older son (OS) to school today, he announced that today is my last day of being 31. I immediately corrected him and said that it was my last day of being 32. Actually I'm going to be 32 tomorrow. Who accidentally thinks that they're older than they are? Shouldn't I be forgetting that I'm not 28 anymore?
29 was a huge birthday for me simply because for my entire life I have been hearing my elderly relatives tell me that they were 29. This lead me to believe that there must be something extra special. In fact 29 was to me was what 21 is to a lot of people: a birthday you look forward to your whole life. 30 was fun because well, it was the start of a new decade. Now I view people in their thirties as either being 30 or 35. I consider you around 30 if you're between 30 and 35, and I consider you around 35 if you're between 35 and 40. I don't make a distinction because honestly what's the difference between 33 and 34 for example? OK obviously the distinction is the difference of living a year longer, and I apparently consider the difference between 32 and 33 significant enough to devote an entire post to it, but there aren't any milestones between 30 and 35. Or at least there aren't any commonly recognized milestones. The Big Giraffe was really excited to celebrate a third of a century of excellence exactly 4 months after he turned 33, but that is only one of the many ways in which he is...unusual. Everyone is welcome to mark their own personal milestone, the way I marked 29 and the Big Giraffe marked 33.333 (repeating).
I still take pride in getting older each year. I don't deny that there may come a day when I want to hide my age, but for now, I'm still proud that I'm aging; you know the whole thing about getting older with wisdom, dignity and grace. Wait a minute! I'm still waiting for those things to happen. Does anyone know the exact age when I can expect to start experiencing these things? I have no problem with the number itself getting higher. Hey today I thought I was turning 33 tomorrow instead of 32. Hmm...perhaps that in and of itself shows I'm getting older!
In celebration, the Big Giraffe is taking the day off and we will be having a family outing. My older son (OS) also picked out a Little Mermaid birthday cake for me. He is quite excited about it. In fact he was so excited about it, he told everyone at preschool that I am going to be 32 tomorrow. You know it actually made me a little uncomfortable. Are you assuming that it made me feel old? Nope. It made me feel really young when the teacher commented on my age.
Last New Year's Eve, my last 2006 post was a year in review through the lens of Formula Fed and Flexible Parenting. Since it seemed to work then, I am trying the same thing this year. For round #1 I am repeating the first line of my blog for each month in 2007 (excluding Blog Exchange posts or Blog Exchange references). For round #2, I am repeating my first lesson learned from each month in 2007. May it bring wisdom, insight, or entertainment to all who muddle through it.
January: I know January 1 is supposed to be a day of change since it's the start of the New Year and New Year's resolutions.
February: Some memories of your baby growing up can be precious.
March: My husband had been stressing out about it since before my younger son (YS) was born.
April: I grew up Catholic and my husband is Jewish.
May: Yes, I am writing this from a bathroom in a Holiday Inn in West Virgina.
June: I was very surprised to receive the following question from the Big Giraffe over email:
July: What's worse than when your 3.5 year-old throws up on one of the few rugs in your house after inhaling his breakfast and running around like a lunatic?
August: Last year Massachusetts almost banned the inclusion of free formula samples in hospital gift bags for new moms.
September: Happy birthday my sweet older son (OS).
October: Today I was talking to a pregnant friend of mine.
November: The day after Halloween many years ago, my kindergarten teacher told us that she paid her kids $5 if they would give her all their candy.
December: Soccer Mom in Denial is declaring January 10, 2008 to be a very important day.
January: Who knew that one bag of tater tots could lead to so many questions.
February: Yogurt spit-up smells disgusting.
March: Invest some time into reading the FAA's and your airline's website and some money into a box of gallon sized ziplock bags.
April: The prohibition against having pets in the doctor's office apparently does not apply to imaginary chinchillas.
May: Look messy - earn free soda.
June: If your marriage is secure, your spouse should be able to handle being told that you consider another human being physically attractive.
July: With any medical procedure, it's best to get the most current information and not rely on information from when you were in 2nd grade.
August: It is possible and desirable to promote breastfeeding without limiting any woman's choice for whatever reason to feed her child formula.
September: Gardening equipment may be hazardous to your family.
October: The difficulty in assembling children's gear increases faster than a parent's skill in performing the assembly.
November: If you ask OS if he got a lot of candy for Halloween, you will get a dirty look from me.
December: You are legally responsible for your own decisions regarding how to dispose of a Christmas wreath.
The Golden Compass and the Best Feminist Blogging of '07
One of my Christmas gifts to my husband, the Big Giraffe (BG), was the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. The BG finished The Golden Compass on Wednesday, The Subtle Knife on Thursday, and The Amber Spyglass on Friday, passing each over to me as he finished. It thus may not surprise you that I am thinking a lot about interconnections between various worlds.
It is far easier to click a hyperlink to another blog than to find a way from one universe to another, but sometimes the gulf in the blogosphere seems almost as vast. I know that with the large number of blogs, the small amount of time to read them, and the lack of an alethiometer to guide me, I have a tendency to keep clicking on the URLs of my favorite bloggers over and over rather than to cut my way to new writers. Since joining BlogHer Ads, however, not a day goes by without four links that open windows to other blogs that are often not on my blogroll. Some days do go by without me going through those windows, but when I take the time, I am often impressed by what I find.
Today's BlogHer ads brought me to a post called I Need Validation on a blog called So Sioux Me. I was initially struck by her tagline, "My intention is to inspire women and help them to empower their daughters. I welcome comments to generate a constructive conversation," which feels very consistent with what so many of my favorite bloggers seek to do on their blogs. I read a couple of posts and saw her writing openly and honestly about her brand of feminism, how she makes choices, and how she parents. I will be back!
However, the post where I initially landed was about a contest on another blog that I didn't know, Hoyden about Town, to find the top 40 feminist posts of 2007. I started scanning the comments and following a couple of links. I was struck by two things: the quality of the writing and my complete lack of familiarity with any of the blogs. It reinforced how there are entirely separate universes of women blogging on innumerable topics, including those related to feminism. Unlike the worlds in Pullman's trilogy, the blogosphere can only benefit from connections these blogging universes.
So I urge my regular readers to go through the window to Hoyden about Town and read and enjoy the posts that you find there. In particular, you can find the contest explanation and rules so that you can nominate up to six posts from other blogs and up to two of your own posts. This isn't an election, as the selections will be made by "the Hoydens" themselves from amongst the nominees, but it is a chance to enjoy bloggers whom you may have never read before and to attract bloggers who may have never seen your work or other work that you appreciate. Go quickly! The contest ends at the end of this year, and then it will be as ephemeral as dust in the wind.
So what links am I leaving open across the blogosphere? Here are my nominations for a few of my favorite feminist posts of the year:
Suzanne's post Suzanne Reisman, Swimsuit Model, Takes a Stand on CUSS taking a personal stand agains unrealistic beauty standards. (In accordance with the Hoyden linking policy, I will note that CUSS is not safe for workplace viewing (NSFW).)
Do Assumptions Change When you Know the Accused also by Suzanne but on BlogHer rather than CUSS, struggling with the balance between supporting women and preserving the presumption of innocence for those accused of crimes against women, particularly when you know the accused.
Soccer Mom in Denial's post Be an Ally and a Friend linking a personal story, a well-known tragedy, and our own responsibility to Transgendered Day of Remembrance.
Kristen's post Irrelevant on Motherhood Uncensored about getting lost in blogging, public relations, and the value of motherhood.
The Latest Formula Ban is the post I wrote criticizing the New York City public hospital ban on free formula samples for new moms that got me invited to speak on the Mike and Juliet Show on Fox TV last August.
For those of us who didn't get an instruction manual with our babies and for whom parenting hasn't always gone as planned. On a more serious note this blog is about supporting a woman's ability to make her own choices about parenting including the choice, for whatever reason, to bottle feed her babies formula.