Friday, July 28, 2006

I am not really a Lactivist, but yeah, I guess I am...

I can't believe the uproar about nursing your infant in public. Well, sure I can. This is America, right?

It is feeding a baby, people. If you see a mother nursing, she is nourishing her child. All your kids learn about it in school in 7th grade science class - that is why we are called mammals. That is how we get milk - from a cow's boob, just with lots of middle men (or machines). It shouldn't be some secret. The secret is that some adults engage in similar behavior (mouth and boob) for sexual pleasure. But I bet your kids know all about that from TV and movies - just please don't tell them a breast was made by The Creator for the purpose of feeding a child.

Now the public thing.
I understand it makes some uncomfortable. Most moms are probably uncomfortable doing it in public. I nursed my baby to age 6 months and I was not super comfortable doing it in public. But I couldn't stay locked in my house for that long. I had to get out. And babies aren't the most patient things. Sometimes they gotta eat. And then it's eat or scream and I think I'd offend you less by modestly nursing under a blanket than by having my kid scream bloody murder in a restaurant.

What is the issue? SEEING the breast or just knowing that someone is doing it in your presence? Are some people such perverts that they can think of nothing else but sex when they just see a breast? I am way more comfortable seeing a nursing mother's breast than I am seeing some scantily clad lady's boobs hanging out of a push up bra. And I see that all the time - I rarely see a nursing mom in public.

Is it that you might have to explain it to your kid? The 7th grade science teacher already did!! And if you act uncomfortable talking about it because YOU think it's sex related, then you are just giving your kid more sex info! He probably never thought about it until you acted embarrassed about it.

People have the right to feed their children. I feel when I have to do it in public that I have the responsibility to be courteous to others. As I would not start yelling loudly in a restaurant, nor would I whip out the boob for all to see. NOR would I go hide in my car or the dirty restroom to feed my baby. Please explain to your children if they ask what the lady is doing and that it is what the body was made for. Don't get into some sexual issue. It's not unless you mention it.

Here's the article that prompted this post:

Right next to the article about a mother breastfeeding on the cover of a parenting magazine was a Victoria's Secret ad with a well endowed model with large breasts. Is that offensive? Is she buying the bra for support or to turn on her boy friend? Are people offended by the latter? I guess I am not seeing the difference. Unless the viewer of the two images has a dirty mind and cannot see a breast without going to sexual thoughts.

I hate extremeism and I hate debate. I know, I sit on the fence on many issues. I may be wishy washy or it may be that I just like finding middle ground. Moms, try to not disrobe in public and Public, please try to remember it is a natural and necessary part of bringing a child into the world, it's not perverted.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Black Friday - to shop or not to shop?

I have always refused to go shopping on the day after Thanksgiving. The TV reporters go out into the madness and show us how bad the parking is and how long the check out lines are. I worked in a department store years ago during the Christmas season. Working on December 26th gave me my first eye witness experience of the throng rushing in at 6 am to grab all the left over Hallmark ornaments (75% off). The cash register didn't stop for an hour. I kept wondering why the security guard had showed up at my post before they opened and then stayed around. He knew what I didn't - I was the one to be most swamped. It really soured me to holiday shopping and I have continued to eye anyone suspiciously who says, "I love to go shopping on the day after Thanksgiving!"

My first Thanksgiving as a Mrs., I find myself at the table with my husband's female relatives discussing when to leave for the mall the next morning. I traditionally avoid shopping the day after Thanksgiving - the worst day of all to be out in the mess with the crazy road-raging bargain hunters. And here I’d married into a family of Black Friday shoppers.

There was some sale at Best Buy until 8 am, so they wanted to go at 7 am. I just had to tell them I could not do 7 am. They said, “We'll come back for you, how about 9?” “Great,” I said shooting a look at the Mr. that said, "Save me!" but he just grinned back, ignoring my plea. Later I asked if I couldn't just stay with him and his brother and his kids and watch football and clean out their mom's gutters. He said, "Go on - it won't be too bad (this from a man whose longest shopping trip to the mall was 17 minutes). Besides, you hardly know my sister at all. You should spend some time with her."

I had the worst memories of Christmas shopping: rude drivers cutting you off in the lot, people grabbing scarf and mitten sets off a table at Penney's when a sale price was announced, having to circle the food court like a vulture to get a table, impossibly long lines at cash registers. We set off for the mall at 9 as planned with Lora and Sue telling tales of their early morning door buster experience at 7 am. (Whatever they had wanted at Best Buy was gone by 7:15 when they arrived.) In the van, I gave my self a stern lecture: You are not having to drive in traffic or purchase anything - You do not have to be hassled today - You are not in a hurry - You are here for female bonding - Put a smile on your face and have a positive, patient attitude. We pulled up and easily got a parking place. I internally chanted, "Serenity Now" a few times. It turned out to be a pretty good day, but I don’t remember buying anything. We got home and Bill was happy I'd spent time becoming one of the gals.

Thanksgivingthe next year. We are again with my husband’s family. We go to the mall at 9 am. This year, I am buying. I had decided that if I had to spend the day in a mall and waiting on them, I might as well be getting some shopping done, too. If a line is too long, then forget it. It is still 25 days or more until Christmas. We hit strip malls and Target and Best Buy; we hit some small specialty stores; we attacked the mall; we sent Lora to Chik-fil-a with our orders while the other five roamed the seating area staring down people camping out at their tables. By 3:30, fatigue had set in and someone suggested going home. I said, "But wait, we haven't been toMacy’s!! Or The Gap!" Lora looks at Sue and says, "Oh, no, we've created a monster. Come on, everyone - two more stores to go."

So, I guess my advice is to go later in the day on the day after Thanksgiving and don't get in a long line if you aren't going to make up your mind to be very patient. The crazy, frustrated shoppers seem to come out more on the weekends closer to Christmas. Desperation and hurry kill their holiday spirit. I do remember some really dead time while working the department store that one season. The last hour of the shopping day, was always dead. Being alone in a department store, you can admire the decorations and shop at leisure. You can actually hear the piped in Christmuz Muzak. The clerks are bored and glad to actually have a customer to ring up to break the monotony.

Thanksgiving the following year. I am home with my family. I say to my mom and sister, "What time do we want to leave for the mall tomorrow?" They look at me as if I just suggested that we stuff the turkey with Jello. Heh, heh, heh, I think - two more to be initiated into this holiday ritual.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Choosing a dance school

I have been watching "So you think you can dance?" this summer. During the first auditions there were several dancers who said they were dance teachers by profession. Some dancers were so abysmal, that the judges implored them not to teach dance anymore. They said, "Please do not take anyone else's money again to teach them dance." I thought it wise advice and I wondered if that ruined anyone's career. Can you imagine seeing your child's dance teacher on TV being told by award winning dancers and choreographers that they are awful? I am certiain that happened somewhere. And had it been my kid, he wouldn't have gone back to Miss Hazel's School of Dance anymore.

Here's my advice on how to choose a good dance school for your child:

Go to recitals. In the spring visit recitals of the schools you are interested in. See if it is a professional artmosphere. Look for good dancing. Would you want to have you kid on this stage? Are the advanced dancers good? That could be your little Susie in 10 years.

One school I danced in as a teen had terrible recitals. The owner rented out a theater and tried to have every class do a separate dance and do all the classes in one night. So it lasted about 6 hours. The aisles were constantly streaming with parents who would watch their child dance and get up and leave. Tacky, but I understand. I wouldn't want to sit there from 6 till midnight either.

Talk to other dance parents. Ask about the school's policies, classes, fees. Find out the teacher's background and philosophy of teaching. Do the teachers continue their dance education?

My mom's cousin took her kids to the aforementioned school. After a few years they quit. The costumes were $60-80 each and if you had a jazz/tap combination class the teachers would choose 2 different costumes. Like why not use the same costume for both with removeable pieces? Wear the skirt for tap and wear the hat for jazz. Some parents have 2 or 3 kids in dance - imagine how much that cost them! Same cousin said every year at the recital the dancers were no better than they were the year before and some routines were just passed on down to the class below them - same music, same choreography. Who wants to go to a recital like that? Boring! Look out for these "recital mill" schools. Is the the teacher just teaching a routine to the student? Or is the teacher creating a dancer from your child? Is your kid learning how to be a good dancer? Or just memorizing a routine? In my humble opinion, it is a waste of time for a child to take classes just to dance in a show every spring in a glitzy costume and not have learned about dance and how to dance and to perform better.

Visit schools before your kid signs up. Observe if possible a class and meet the teachers. Some teachers are very strict and "old school" about their policies. One ballet school I taught at had a policy that parents do not watch class. There were 3 weeks through the year when parents were invited to view class. You don't go to school with your kids, why go to dance with them? You don't trust the teacher? Switch dance schools. Let your child go - go and be an individual and develop on their own. They (and other dancers and the teacher) will only be distracted by your presence.

Look at the studio where the classes are taught. Is there enough room for a group to move? Is there a well constructed dance floor? Any floor surface over concrete is NOT appropriate for any kind of dance or any age dancer. The floor should be raised off concrete so as to "give" when it is jumped on. Dancing on a concrete floor at all can cause injuries to feet, ankles, knees... Any teacher too cheap to do it right is not concerned enough for the well-being of the kids and in my opinion just wants your money.

Two issues I guess I am on the fence about: age to start dancing and competition teams.

I think it depends on your child and the class offered, but I don't believe in starting a kid in ballet at age 2 or 3. I think pre-schoolers should be in a creative movement class and not expected to perform in recitals. They can start ballet at 5 or 6. I have seen too many kids who completely fell apart on stage. When they are so young, they don't know if they want to be on stage or not. Having a bad first experience could guarantee you that they won't be a dancer. There is nothing wrong with waiting and not pushing the child to do something YOU want them to do.

I was in a performing dance company from 7th grade through high school. We performed at community events and had recitals and a few times we were in contests. Then I remember we didn't compete anymore and I asked my teacher why. She said something about performing to entertain and be the best dancers we could be and not caring who won. I guess I look at dance as an art, rather than a sport although the lines are blurred around ice skating, gymnastics, ballroom dance. What do you want for your kid? What does the kid want? Competitive dance is a different arena from just performing dance. Rewards can be just as great for a dancer who danced well, regardless of if a trophy was awarded or not.

Friday, July 14, 2006

A State like no other

When I moved to this corner of Suburbia in 2001, I noted so many differences between this place and other states I'd lived/traveled in, I thought they should offer a special course to aid new residents to assimilate into their culture. I started searching Amazon for a book on the topic, as surely I was not the only one seeing how different this place was from the rest of the United States.

My background? Not a stay at home country bumpkin, no sir. As a foreign language teacher I had spent my life studying foreign culture. I came to appreciate the differences between American and other ways of life. I understood how others live, even thought very different from my American lifestyle. I have travelled to [pause to count] 9 other countries and 43 of the 50 states. I have lived in the South, West, Midwest and Northeast. I have no problem operating under the "when in Rome" philosophy when abroad. But this was the US. Why did I feel like such a foreigner in my native country?

In 49 states this is how we operate:
-we have full interchanges at every exit on major 4 lane divided highways (usually called Interstates). You can get off to eat, shop, get gas etc and re-enter the road at the same location.
Here you can get off and you can only turn around and go the other direction at some interchanges.

-we store shopping carts inside the store, not out in the rain, cold, snow.
Here you have to get a cart before entering the store.

-on most large roads, we have a middle safety lane for making a left turn (we call it the turning lane)
Here you have a lot of 2 lane roads where drivers turning left have to block the lane they're in, or you have a long concrete barrier down the center that prevents a left turn at all. (one native called the turning lane the" chicken lane." People here do not trust it.)

-we don't pass on the right because it is illegal. (I am sure some drivers nationwide do, but it is not common practice.) Most roads are not paved on the right to allow this anyway.
Here people do it all the time and the shoulders are paved. They do it everywhere - even in intersections.

-we have fundraisers for charitable causes
Here they do that too, but they also do public begging -approved by municipalities for the beggers to station themselves at red lights to just ask for coins from passing cars. I have seen this a few times only for some horrible cureless disease. Here they do it for a local baseball team's uniforms or a high school chess club to go to a regional competition.

-we have wide checkout lanes in stores like Target, Walmart as well as at grocery stores
Here we have teeny narrow check out lanes in grocery stores. Makes getting food out of cart difficult. You can't walk around the cart for any reason.

- we have tons of 24/7 gas stations
Here you better not run out of gas after 10 pm - no station is open

- we have ice cream parlors and they stay open year round
Here, they all close from September through May

- we can ask the bill to be split by the waiter in a restaurant and refills on coffee, tea and soda are free
Here, forget separate checks. You better be good at math and have cash.

-we have drive-thru ATMs at most banks and many other drive thru businesses (dry cleaners, etc)
Here, no dice. You have to get out of the car and walk inside. Not convenient for a mom with kids in thr car.

-we sit at bar to drink and we run a tab (settle up at the end) or we pay by the drink
Here you pay for the first drink and are expected to leave your change on the bar all night.

Doesn't it sound so old fashioned? It was like moving from one state to 1954. And my city isn't population 342 - a cornfield with one traffic light. It is a midsize metro area with burbs sprawling from a downtown. Does it have good things about it? Yes. Can I live with it? Yes, for a while. But it is so unlike the other [pause to count] 5 states I have lived in. Other "foreigners" I meet notice the same weird stuff, too - it's not just me.

If all that sounds familiar, you probably live there, too. We should just secede from the union so people who come here don't try using their knowledge of American culture to get along.

Being the mother of boys

I always thought I'd have girls. I was the oldest of 2 girls. My mother was the mother of girls, so when I was going to become a mom myself, it seemed so natural to be the mother of girls. The word "baby" to me was synonymous in my mind with the word "girl". The thought of a baby also brought about images of pink and dolls and bunnies and blonde little angels.

God had other plans.

When I first found out I was carrying a boy I was hysterically depressed for about 48 hours and then I just snapped out of it. I went through disappointment that it wasn't a girl at the same time suffering horrible guilt that I felt that way. I told my self how selfish I was "At least you can conceive and have a kid when so many cannot." I told God terrible things - things I am ashamed to admit that they even crossed my mind. I went through all 5 of Kubler-Ross' stages of loss. I thought, "OK so it's a boy. Next time I'll have a girl."

Once again - God in charge, not me.

This time I went through the same emotions, but with more anger (which I didn't think possible). There wasn't going to be a next time. I only wanted 2 kids. Try for a girl next? Oh, no. Not me. With my luck it'd be another boy. I can hardly handle the first boy as he goes through a terrible two phase. Where was my little girl? God, don't you know I always wanted a girl?

I grew up playing Barbie, doing crafts, taking ballet. Sports? Forget it. Camping and dirt? No way. What the heck do I know about raising little boys?

In retrospect, I was destined to have boys. After all I had always been one of the boys. I had a bunch of guy friends in college that I felt more comfortable with hanging out, going out with and most importantly, being myself with than I ever had with groups of girls. Sometimes I make a new friend and later find myself chatting more easily with the husband. Not flirting, just talking. From my original college gang, we are still friends and have been in each others' weddings, are godparents to each others' children and still travel to see each other. I married one of that gang and am eternally grateful for that.

The other day Matt had taken my toothbrush and cleaned the floor with it. Later I was squatting down fastening Drew into his car seat and was tackled from behind, causing me to fall forward and almost squash the baby. Then I was washing my hands and Matt came up and hugged my legs and kissed me right on my butt. A delightful squeal from the terrible two. I laughed until I cried. God, I asked, are you sure about this? And I realized that after all this time wishing for girls, it seemed so right to be the mother of boys.