No Sir, I’m not pregnant (and other tales of woe)

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Today I was mistaken for a pregnant woman.

I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me since the birth of my five-year-old daughter, but I can tell you it has been a lot. Some of the most memorable occurrences were at my grandmother’s funeral and on the field as the third base coach for tee ball.

My feelings toward my body are complicated and fluid. Most of this is because my weight fluctuates so much throughout a given year that how I feel in my clothes truly does depend on the day. But another part of this is because the message fed to me by society is frustratingly contradictory. The media conveying an unrealistic standard for the female body is a tired notion that many people are sick of, both the skinny and the not. We all know magazine covers are Photoshopped and that Photoshop creates unhealthy and unrealistic body image goals for women everywhere. We all know that the sexualization of television shows and movies creates unrealistic expectations for men as to how a woman’s body looks naked. We are all sick of hearing this.

Despite the fact that everyone is aware of these facts, the standard remains and this frustrated enough people that a body acceptance movement came rolling in on a tidal wave. Mothers post their “tiger stripe” selfies of their bodies postpartum and write about how they shall wear their bikinis despite their stretch marks because their stripes are war wounds, accolades from enduring one of life’s most challenging tasks: growing another human being and delivering it into the world. I remember reading about a mom who wears a swimming suit despite her insecurities and using her courage as a summertime mantra. Comment sections from posts like this are filled with a battle between other women being inspired and thanking the blogger for the courage it took to post the pictures and others writing about how encouraging acceptance of an unhealthy body is one of the reasons why America is dying from obesity. For every blog post from a woman trying to free herself from this weight demon, there’s another one where a guy is telling a woman she’s probably going to be obese if she decides to have a baby since she’s already 8 pounds overweight.

Body acceptance campaigns are everywhere. Some companies are changing their tunes and trying to put more “real people” in their clothing advertisements and commercials. Overweight women are selling bikinis made for overweight people and they are being applauded. People share memes on social media that say things like “Real women have curves” and things like that. Many of these campaigns make it clear that large bodies are fine as long as they are healthy bodies. But what does that mean? Do I have the acceptable kind of large body? At least half of the food I eat is vegetables. I drink about 20 ounces of soda a month, if that, regular or diet, and stick to coffee with no sugar in the morning and water for the rest of the day. I eat very lean beef that I buy from the farmer all year long and cook 95% of my family’s meals from scratch with no preservative-filled shortcuts. But I also eat pizza, cake at birthday parties, and chips and dip if they exist in the same room as me. I don’t block out time every day as official “work out” time, but I did just take a trip where I walked 13-15 miles a day and never felt winded and I can run three miles in less than a half hour. I don’t drink tons of sugary or heavy drinks at social gatherings, but I do love a nice glass of wine at night. I have never had an issue arise at a physical with a doctor, but I do have an overweight body. So what does this mean? Does anyone actually know? Am I the healthy kind of overweight, which may only exist in some people’s minds, or the unhealthy kind?

When John Legend’s music video for “You and I” came out, it brought tears to my eyes. It featured women of all types looking in the mirror, like I do every day, worried about their appearances. In the song, Legend is singing to assure the woman in his life that she’s beautiful before she gets all dolled up and that she’s the only girl he sees in the world. I think that’s pretty much everyone’s hope in this world: to be loved, lumps (literally) and all. Unfortunately, this song loses a bit for me once the second verse comes and the girl he’s with is turning heads all night. If the girl that inspired the song is his 5’10”, 120-pound wife, Chrissy Teigen, who is featured briefly with Legend in the video, then it’s not really all that impressive to me that he can force himself to see his model wife as beautiful. This is a warped sense of body acceptance — a woman that is turning heads all night is not really the woman that needs assured of her man’s love despite her appearance. It’s the women represented by  so many of the other women in the video — the ones that haven’t turned heads in a long time, if ever, that need assured that they “don’t have to try” in order to be viewed as beautiful.

Despite all of these things, women are still on a quest to look better. There are pills and wraps and powders and supplements everywhere that insist they can help people toward a healthy lifestyle, but they are often unbelievably expensive and only marginally effective. But people buy them — including myself — because they are aware they are out of shape, they are trying their best, and they want to be happier with themselves. Those that purchase these products are constantly being reminded by healthy people everywhere that the only solution is a good diet and exercise.

But here is the reality: sometimes a sensible diet and exercise aren’t enough to find weight loss success. I’m not delusional and I understand how the basic science behind diet and exercise. I understand that it is simply a tango you must dance between calorie intake and calorie output. I understand that a deficit of 3,500 calories must occur to lose a pound of fat. I understand that half your plate at a meal should be vegetables. I understand that white sugar and too much white flour creates a storage of fat that is difficult to fight against. After my two-year-old daughter was born, I used the My Fitness Pal app to carefully monitor my diet and exercise to an obsessive degree. It got to the point where I was weighing myself at least twice, if not four times, a day, and had the amount of calories found within all of the foods in my kitchen memorized. I learned that if I had a “cheat meal”- something like my beloved pizza with my family or a plate of tacos, it would take me 5 days of salads to lose the new weight I found on my scale the next morning. I ended almost every single night in the app’s happy green zone and was promised that if I kept up with what I was doing now, in a certain amount of time I would weigh a certain amount. This was true up until about 15 pounds away from my goal weight – ten pounds away from a healthy BMI. And then I just sat there, stagnant, for months. I changed my diet, I changed my exercise routine, nothing mattered. Those last 15 pounds were not going anywhere. The monitoring process was exhausting and took up a lot of the free time I had left after work at work, the work I had to bring home from work, and the work waiting for me at home with a house, husband, and two kids.

I can’t tell you how many times I looked at the number at my feet and wanted to cry. I was so, so depressed. I had set my goals, I had followed the plan, I had made the commitment and sacrificed so much of my free time doing shitty things I didn’t want to do, and all I had to show for it was failure. All my life, I have been a gold star seeker, and no matter how hard I tried the gold star never came. Eventually, I put my scale away and stopped logging my food. I started enjoying a glass of wine at night with my husband instead of inputting portion sizes. I tried embrace it and accept that this was my normal body now.

But I can’t say that I was happier. I still noticed how my stomach would hang in a terribly unflattering way off the waistband of my pants. I still noticed how my thighs rubbed together when I walked. I still hated picking out clothes in stores and taking them into dressing rooms only to find I had underestimated my size once again.  There I was: a tiger-striped mother faced with the unavoidable task of accepting battle scars with pride and not being able to lie to myself enough to do so. I couldn’t stand to be the overweight woman who was trying but failing or the one that was delusional enough to accept the status quo.

Time passed and I had hated how I looked so much that I decided to try again and focus even more on exercise as a way of burning the fat. I started running, which is my least favorite thing in the world to do. But I did it anyway — squeezing the time for the run in after dinner and while my kids were in the bath before it was time to read to them and put them to bed. People that like to run always say that once you get into the habit, you learn to love the time you spend running. They say you can leave the world behind and use the time to just be with you in your head. They say you are always happy that you decided to go for a run after you finish. None of these things were true for me. I ran four or five times a week for three months and never learned to enjoy it. But I continued doing it because I knew what science and society tells us: this was the only way to get the results I wanted. This was the only way I could finally get to the point where I’d stop hating what I saw in the mirror every morning when I got dressed. I envisioned the long term end game and was willing to do the hard thing. I even avoided the scale this time — recognizing that weight is such a fluid thing, that muscle weighs more than fat, and all that jazz. At the end of three months, I did my first weigh-in. I remember stepping on the scale with my eyes closed and giving myself a silent reveal moment similar to one you’d see on The Biggest Loser. I glanced down, triumphant. I had lost 0.4 pounds. I thought about all the runs I didn’t want to go on, how many nights dirty dishes sat in the sink so that I could steal this time for vanity away from my household, how I had lost precious minutes where my entire family was home to do this, how much time and energy had been concentrated into this effort, and I cried some more.

When I shared the disappointing results with friends, most of them responded positively saying that I was still a healthier person for my efforts, always adding that muscle weighs more than fat, and that I should be proud of myself anyway. I always wanted to scream back how incredibly frustrating this was. When you try to lose weight the only way that people universally deem acceptable and not lazy, you shouldn’t have to just shrug off and be happy with zero results. I had tried my hardest to sweat off my belly, and my newly toned calves weren’t a comfort to me to see in the mirror below the belly that remained.

Here’s the ugly truth: some people can eat a moderately healthy diet, engage in moderate exercise, and maintain an attractive body. Other people have terrible metabolisms and can only achieve this body through a lifelong commitment to kale and quinoa.  I think there are very few of us in the latter group that are truly happy with our appearances during the quiet moments and can rise above with our proud tiger stripe banners waving in the wind. It seems like an amazing concept, but it is flawed with the harsh truth that people, including ourselves, are critical and ruthless. No matter how much I try to find a happy medium  where I am making healthy choices in my diet and finding time to run, play, and sweat with my kids, I still may never have the kind of body that society passes as acceptable, unnoticeable, or even unremarkable. I am trying so very hard to just be okay with that and to accept that a life with pizza nights with my kids still in it means that it will also probably be a life with love handles. But as soon as I achieve some success and walk out the door in something I can feel good about myself while wearing, I still can’t stop jerks at the fair from telling me my two children and “the one in there” (pointing at my belly) get in for free, or the cute, toothy six-year-old from asking me if I have a boy baby or a girl baby in my tummy, or my distant cousin from giving me a knowing smile and a congratulations over my grandmother’s funeral ham. And as hard as I want to pretend like I can hold my head high after a “silly little mistake” like this, the truth is encounters like these always leave me broken, raw, and, ultimately, back in front of my mirror.

Aside

Please watch this fantastic video that features several children’s reaction to a biracial family in a commercial and their response to the public’s outrage.

Cheerios commercial reaction from children

There are two things about this video that make me extremely happy, hopeful, and inspired.

Firstly, the fact that these kids didn’t notice that the couple in the video was biracial is a breath of fresh air and exciting for the next generation in this country. But seeing this made me ashamed of myself. Not because I had a bad reaction to this commercial or even because I’m a closeted racist (which I am not). I felt ashamed because listening to their answers made me realize a mistake I had made in underestimating my students in the classroom.

Every year I have been a teacher, I have had discussions on race in my classroom. In my first years, we analyzed speeches by Dr. King and Nelson Mandela, read excerpts from NIGHT and FAREWELL TO MANZANAR, which tackle the Holocaust and Japanese-American internment camps respectively, and read “A More Perfect Union”, which is a speech given by Barack Obama in 2008 that talks about some of the racial problems that exist today. In the last two years, I have taught TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and used a few other poems and speeches I found along the way. Every year at discussion time, I left my classroom at the end of the day feeling worried and embarrassed to be teaching in such a small town. You see, responses to my questions about the racial tensions that still exist today are always met with a skepticism that I had always seen as ignorance. Responses were statements like, “It’s a good thing racism doesn’t still exist because it just sounds terrible” or “I don’t understand how people back then were like that. No one I know is like that now.” It took every incidental professional lesson I had learned in college not to respond to them with, “If you only knew” or “How can you possibly think that what you just said is true?”  I mistakenly assumed it was their small-town 99%-white-community experiences that had lead them to believe that racism was no longer an issue.

But what this video has shown me is this: my kids had it right all along. I stress to them that we as a society are not far removed from the plights of our country in the 50’s and 60’s, despite the fact that it feels like an entirely different world away to them. “Some of your parents,” I say, “and your grandparents lived through these times and remember them well.” But even this statement is becoming less true. We are getting further and further away from the generations of hate and prejudice – further away from that excuse of “being taught that way”, which always falls short for me in an explanation for unacceptable behavior and comments.  For my students and their world, racism really is, perhaps, pretty much over. And maybe as time goes on we will continue to see the peace that blooms from this truth.

The second thing I take away from this video is the collectively intelligent response they all had in regards to ways You Tube could fix this problem. These kids understood the abilities and limitations a website with such a public nature, like You Tube, has in a way that I think a staggering amount of people 30 to 40 years older than them could never do.

This reminds me of a conversation I had with a teacher on her way out of the profession during my first year. She, like so many professionals, was disgusted by this new breed of young people that were coming to us with their noses buried in their phones and obsessed with 3 minute video clips, the fastest way to do things, and turning to Google on instinct to answer a question rather than taking a guess at it themselves.

“How can we possibly be expected to teach these kids? They can’t pay attention for any amount of time. Their spelling is dreadful. They don’t think they have to think about anything — that the computer can do it all for them. And they can’t appreciate anything that takes longer than 4 minutes to finish.”

I frowned at her and replied, “I guess we just have to try different approaches. You’re right. These kids aren’t the same kids that came through this building 10 years ago, or even five years ago. But I think soon we will start to see some super abilities they will have that they’ve gained from doing all of these things they do on a constant basis.”

She gave me a look similar to the look I gave the kids in regards to their “racism is over” comments — a look that says, “Yeah okay. Don’t worry. One day you’ll get it.”

And I think, in this case, I was right. While I know there are challenges that come with broods of kids that have grown up with 3G in their pockets — and there will be even more with kids like my 3-year-old daughter, who not only uses our iPad with proficiency but can show us things we didn’t even know it was capable of doing. But these kids are going to be smart, so smart, in ways that haven’t even been invented yet. Their expectations for entertainment (which IS 75% of teaching, even if you don’t want to admit it) are going to be ridiculously high, and it’s going to be hard to keep up.

But they will also be a beautiful generation. A generation with a new version of the iPhone every 6 months will  not only embrace change and improvement, but demand it. “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it” will never be acceptable if that way is inefficient. A generation that spends so much of their free time making vines, watching YouTube, and creating lyric videos will have such a staggeringly impressive ability to create visual mediums that are interesting, new, and creative. A generation that is budding under a black president in a country with growing vocal support to simply allow others that are different races or sexual orientations or religions to live and find happiness will finally begin to do what Dr. King dreamed they would do: judge others not by the color of their skin (or the God they worship, or the sex they’re attracted to… I’m adding my own spin here), but by the content of their character.

And perhaps most significantly from an educational viewpoint, a generation with a world full of information in their pockets will never need to waste time memorizing facts and lists that google can tell them in less than the time it takes to sip your coffee waiting for the answer. We can use our time in the classroom for more fruitful and meaningful conversations that ask them to synthesize those facts, judge those facts’ credibility, and form opinions about those facts of their own and present them in an intelligent way. They will be a generation of kids that may not have memorized the exact date Martin Luther King said he had a dream, but they will be the ones that get to live that dream and all that it has to offer.

A Hopeful New Generation

Holding On

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It’s been 3 full days since the shooting in Connecticut, and my mind continues to loop around the information, photos, and reactions surrounding the event. Even though my heart breaks a little more with each bit of new information that I read, I can’t help but continue to come back to it, as if finding out more information will somehow fix the problem or put my mind at ease. Although I have accomplished neither of those things, my continual venture into this topic has helped me to see a pattern. So many journalists have ended their articles or began their newscasts with the same thought many parents are sharing on facebook and twitter: Parents are holding their children a little closer than normal these days.

This is particular poignant for me at this stage in my life right now. Two months ago I had my second daughter — a beautiful, laid-back dark-eyed baby that has captured our hearts — and I’ve spent all my time since then on maternity leave from teaching. For two months now, I’ve spent every day with my new baby and my two-and-a-half-year-old. I’d like to say it’s been a joyous, wonderful time in our house, but I can’t say that with a straight face. It has been a time with a countless number of joyous, wonderful moments, but those are also mixed with some serious challenges that I’ve had to face as I readjust my life and learn what it means to be a mother of two instead of one.

Most of these challenges are not raised because of the baby, but rather my oldest. Eva has always been an independent-minded girl. She likes to figure things out and because of this, she usually insists on doing things on her own, even if they are things she is not capable of doing on her own yet (like pouring a cup of juice, cooking her dinner, or adjusting her bath water temperature). So it was both shocking and frustrating to me when she started regressing a bit once her new baby sister was born. She started crying for someone to carry her down the stairs and into buildings and getting upset when she was referred to as a “big girl,” wanting instead to be called her mama’s “baby girl.” All throughout the day, she has been trailing behind me with her arms raised begging “Hold you?” in an effort to get me to carry her on my hip everywhere I go. Everything you read as a parent tells you this behavior is totally normal and that the best thing to do is to help your child recognize that things are different now and that he or she needs to learn things like patience, sharing, etc. and to set aside a special block of time to focus just on them if possible. So, being the parent that’s trying to do the right thing, I did what I thought I was supposed to: I stuck to my guns, I didn’t give in to her cries and refused to do things for her that she was fully capable of doing herself. Every “Hold you?” asked at a bad time was answered with a quiet and steady reason as to why I couldn’t hold her at that particular moment in the most loving and caring tone possible.

And then this happened. I didn’t hear about the shooting until hours later because I was busy with the girls in the morning, then feeding Eva lunch and getting her to take her nap, and then scrambling to get as much done as possible while they were both sleeping. When I finally had a moment to take a break, I hopped onto facebook and was immediately hit in the stomach with the news of what had happened. My eyes were glued to the coverage, not fully believing that these early reports of fatalities could possibly be accurate and waiting patiently for some new and better information. It didn’t come. Instead, I sat alone on my couch, watching my baby sleep in her sleeper next to me and our Christmas tree lights reflecting off the several gifts I had already wrapped and labeled with my children’s names. I thought of the Christmas presents across that town that were already wrapped, the letters written to Santa that would go unanswered, the joy of so many Christmas mornings sucked away like a vacuum for these parents that would walk around forever with a hole in their heart where a child and the lifetime of lost memories should be.

Eventually, Evalee clambered down the hallway in a sleepy daze, hair sticking in all directions from a stubborn sleep, and with her eyes still half-glued with sleep she raised her arms and asked, “Hold you?”

I wrapped my arms around her and she clung to me, relieved that I hadn’t turned her down. My mind instantly jumped to those twenty mothers that would give anything at all to be able to do this with their own children just one more time. And as I hugged her and rocked her and let silent tears wash into her hair, I re-evaluated what it meant to be a mother of two.

We were heading to my parents’ house once their girls woke up from their naps, so with a heavy heart I started putting the baby in her carseat and helping Eva strap on her shoes. I threw the diaper bag over one shoulder, my purse over the other, looped the carseat onto my elbow, and turned to look at Eva and said, “Okay it’s time to go. Grab my hand and we’ll get in the car.”

“Hold you?” she responded, her eyes both hopeful and sad.

I gulped and said, “Okay. Just a minute.” And I carried my load to the car, locked the baby’s seat in place, and headed back inside to Eva, who was still waiting at the top of the stairs.

“Come here, baby girl,” I smiled and scooped her into my arms and carried her down the steps.

I don’t know how long she will continue to be in this phase of clinginess and need, but if I’ve learned anything from the last two and a half years of her life I can say with certainty that it won’t last forever. Perhaps she’d grow out of it much more quickly if I continued doing what I was doing and helping her see that she doesn’t need me all the time. But I won’t really know for certain because I plan to continue to hold her whenever she asks me to.  Maybe we’ll get dinner on the table 15 minutes later than the ideal time, and maybe I’ll lose an opportunity to run a load of laundry or straighten up the living room. Maybe she’ll even become a bit less independent for much longer than she should. But I will take that. Because soon enough she will spend each of her years learning to be her own person and slowly slipping away from me. 10 years from now when she is a couple of months shy of becoming a teenager, she will no longer ask for me to read her another story at bedtime or carry her down the stairs to the car. And 15 years from now she will be a few months away from graduating high school and leaving our house. And 25 years from now, when she’s gone being brilliant and fabulous somewhere all on her own, I will wish for a moment that she wanted me to hold her again.

Dear Disney: A parent’s look at the movies she’s seen a time or two

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My daughter loves movies. Moreso than hot dogs, spinning in circles, and chasing cats, my daughter’s devotion to her stack of movies is real and steadfast. For a while when she was younger, we tried to restrict the amount of time she spent watching movies. Studies, internet articles, and pretentious phantom parents tell us that young children should watch a very small amount of television daily so that they don’t get ADD, super lazy, super stupid, or in the habit of being neglected by their parents. This 60 minute cap on our TV time lead to crying spells, tantrums, and begging. It was stressful. And then, life happened. I got pregnant and started feeling sick and tired more often. The weather got really rainy and then unbearably hot. Laundry needed folded, dinner needed made, rooms needed vacuumed. And so she started watching movies more and more often. I felt guilty about this for a while because of aforementioned reasons, but what I found after weeks of more movies was this: my daughter was gaining so much from them. Her imagination started soaring, her vocabulary increased, her problem-solving skills developed, and her empathy and compassion for others began to bud. She started telling the characters of danger ahead, laughing at the jokes, being sad when the characters were sad, answering the questions that were asked, and excitedly telling anyone that would listen what was about to happen. And so I started to feel less like a terrible parent and instead focused on all that she was gaining from watching movies and PBS shows.
As a result, Travis and I found ourselves watching the same movies day after day and day. Because of this and perhaps in order to secure the little sanity we still had, we started turning a critical eye to these movies and shows and started discussing our observations together. Here are some of our favorite observations:

Cinderella

  •  How come no one seems overly concerned about the mental state of the king? He’s very angry, he’s not concerned about his son’s happiness in the least, and he almost KILLS the Duke after jumping to the conclusion that Cinderella’s disappearance is some sort of conspiratorial plot to ruin his life. Though I will say he has pretty much the coolest bed ever.
  •  We never find out what Cinderella’s dream was at the start of the movie. You can’t tell me her dream was to one day marry the prince. When she’s presented with the idea of going to the ball, you would have thought she would have mentioned that it was her destiny or something if it had been her dream all along. Which leads me to my question here: did her dream really come true? Or did she just say, “No, world. This ending is fine too.”
  • Why hasn’t she just poisoned those bitches or burned the house down already?
  •   Perhaps the scene with the godmother is really a mental breakdown that is a direct result from the evil step-sisters’ bitchy move tearing her dress apart.
  •  Is she really THAT stupid that she doesn’t realize she was dancing with the prince? Did they have any sort of conversation at ALL while they were dancing? And if so, how is “What is your name?” not at the top of the list of questions to ask someone that you’re interested in. He’s the only guy at the entire ball and he’s dressed in royal attire – how does she not put this together?
  •  So the prince is deeply in love with Cinderella and is convinced he wants to marry her, and yet he doesn’t care enough to just go look for her himself? He sends the duke with a shoe hoping she’s the only person in the entire kingdom that has that size of foot. Seems as though he could really take her or leave her already.
  • If the idea is that the shoe fits perfectly and that’s how we know it’s Cinderella, why does it keep falling off? She loses her shoes 3 times in the span of the 75 minute movie. Is the shoe fitting really just a tiny shoe fitting over an even tinier foot?

Beauty and the Beast

  •  Chip really leaves me asking a lot of questions. If the entire castle has been turned into inanimate objects for 10 years, how does he even exist? Or, did the magic spell also involve all of them not aging? It also seems curious that Mrs. Potts could possibly be his real mother – Angela Landsbury does not exactly give her a youthful spin.
  • And while we’re on the subject of the enchanted items in the castle – how are all the plates and glasses and silverware people that worked for the royal family? There are hundreds of dancing dinnerware items in the “Be Our Guest” number – that’s a lot of servants for one castle.
  •  Where is the rest of the Beast’s family? If his parents had died already, wouldn’t he go ahead and call himself king of the castle instead of sticking with prince?
  •  How come NO ONE in the village had ever heard of the royal family that lived less than a half of a day’s journey away? It’s not like they’ve been enchanted and hidden away for hundreds of years. 98% of the people we see in the village are at least old enough to have been alive before the castle became enchanted. You’d think someone might have noticed when the castle basically died.
  • How long is Belle at the castle? In some places it seems like just a few days, but yet when the movie starts the trees are pretty fall colors and we see it snow pretty consistently for a time, and then again by the end everyone’s marching to the castle to kill the Beast wearing short sleeves and a few cloaks. If she’s there for several months, how come no one believes Maurice’s story that perhaps Belle is in trouble somewhere since she is nowhere to be found? And why does it take him so long to try to rustle up some help? Was he on his death bed all that time?
  • Why doesn’t Beast have a name? No one refers to him at any point as anything other than “Beast” and “master.” You wouldn’t think he’d prefer to be called Beast so much as to introduce himself to Belle as Beast and insist that she call him that.

The Little Mermaid

  •   It seems curious to me how violently opposed to the human world King Triton is, and yet he seems to have a knowledge of their world and ways that would suggest that he has some sort of contact with the surface world. Here’s the theory:  Ariel is his favorite daughter in an uncomfortably open manner. She’s also the youngest. When you pair this fact with Ursula’s griping at the start of the movie about how things were different when she was at the castle, you can only come to one logical conclusion: Triton and Ursula  went through a messy divorce that resulted from a dramatic reveal that he got a human pregnant in a scandalous love affair. She broke his heart when she was so disappointed Ariel turned out to have a fin instead of legs that she cast her daughter into the sea and disowned them both. Triton, unable to abandon his new daughter, had no choice but to bring her home – evidence of his adulterous crimes.  The fighting ensues and Triton and Ursula are unsure what their next move is and what’s best for their 8 or 9 daughters – she doesn’t want to leave her sweet set up as Queen but yet she cannot love Triton any longer. So she eventually starts slowly sucking the will to live out of Triton until he banishes her from his castle forever. The party that Ariel forgets to attend is his “free at last” bash.  This explains Ursula’s deep hatred for Ariel as well as the king.
  • How does Eric not realize that the girl with jet black hair is not the same red headed girl that saved him from the ocean? And why didn’t Ursula just play it safe and make her human visage look eerily similar to Ariel?

Curious George

  • Although not a Disney movie, George is a beloved story for toddlers everywhere and has one central plotline flaw: Why is it that NO ONE questions why a man that has no physical or mental impairments that would necessitate animal assistance is allowed to take a monkey everywhere he goes? It’s not like George and The Man just hang around their small town that has for some reason made a collective decision to love this random monkey that cruises around. He lives in NEW YORK CITY and travels places like OUTER SPACE often. Not once has someone said, “Hey, I hate to be a party pooper here, but I’m not sure the doctor’s office is a great place for you to bring your pet monkey.” Every stranger they encounter instead embraces George unquestionably and usually lets him help drive the crane or fix the pipe or whatever task they show up to do.

So this is our

The Moffatts: A Love Story

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If anyone that hasn’t met me judged me by my 8th grade yearbook alone, they’d pretty much only know one thing about me: I was a huge fan of a band called The Moffatts.

Nearly everyone that signed my book wrote something about how they hoped my dreams came true and I would one day meet The Moffatts. The Moffatts was a band of 4 brothers during a time where boy bands like NSYNC and The Backstreet Boys were ruling the airwaves, or at the very least claiming most of the locker door real estate at my junior high school. But I was very quick to tell anyone who would listen that, unlike these groups, The Moffatts had talent. In a similar vein to Hanson, The Moffatts played their own instruments, wrote their own music, and didn’t dance around on stage. They were serious musicians, I told everyone I met within 10 minutes of meeting them, and it was only a matter of time before you’d be hearing their music just as much as those other guys’. But also unlike NSYNC and BSB, The Canadian Moffatt brothers were virtually unknown in my tiny town in the Midwestern United States.

At the time the internet was still a vast and mysterious place, and my family’s version of it involved typing in a web address, hitting enter, and going to make lunch while the page loaded. But it was also an amazing place where I could suddenly be a fan of a band in an area with absolutely no fan base. I could pull up pages made by 14-year-old girls in Canada or Asia or wherever (who presumably had an internet connection that allowed them to MAKE these slow-to-load pages in their HOMES, a concept that made me assume they were millionaires or from the future) and feel like a part of a secret, underground community made up of people that got what it meant to appreciate music. It was also where I could find crappy, pixelated pictures of the brothers to print and cover my walls, school folders, bedroom doors, desk, closet, etc. etc. with. It was there where I found interview transcripts; lists of favorite movies, songs, colors, T.V. shows and such for each brother (I would of course note and memorize these things so that I could bring them up in conversation as soon as we were in one another’s presence); biographical information about their childhoods and families; and other stalker-friendly bits of information to feed my hungry obsession.  My brother was involved in extra-curriculars that required him to get to school a good 30-45 minutes before classes started, and since he was my ride I usually had a lot of time on my hands in the morning. Luckily, a few of my junior high teachers never locked their doors and I was able to slip into the internet world on weekdays using a fancy DSL connection that loaded pages, with pictures, in large chunks in 10-15 seconds. It was truly spectacular.

When Napster first came out and before they could figure out how to deem it illegal, I suddenly had a way to download live versions of performances where occasionally, you could tell which song the band was playing over the screams from the crowd surrounding whatever crappy recording device was used to grab the track. Occasionally I would find a gem of a studio recording of a song they hadn’t put on a record and that made me smile for at least a week afterwards.  Of course obtaining these files usually involved leaving the dial-up connection running for 2 or 3 hours, which was tricky since we only had the one phone line. But I didn’t care — my unwavering love for the band drove me to do whatever was necessary to stay just as on top of the band happenings as the fans who were able to listen to them on the radio and watch interviews with them on TV.

When I think of how easy it would have been to be a fan of this band now, just 12 years later, with the ability to follow them on Twitter, like them on Facebook, or purchase their music in seconds, I am baffled as to what I would have done with all the spare time I would have had. Maybe I would have better math skills or something.

Junior high was also a time in my life where I was trying to find out who I was, and I had decided the year before that I was going to become a famous writer. This hobby worked out nicely with my main hobby, which required me to sit patiently at a computer for hours at a time waiting for my internet to load. This naturally lead to my writing a 150 page fan fiction book where bad weather and car troubles lead the brothers to staying with a complete stranger for a night (who was strikingly similar to me in many ways). One of the brothers then of course falls in love with said girl and for reasons I can’t remember now, her parents agree to allow her to roam the country with the band in their tour bus for several months. In other words, it was literary gold. But seriously, although it lacked in form and maturity, it became a popular read for my bored peers in study halls and my audience of 15 or so people drove me to keep writing night after night.

Like so many tales of a first love, mine too has a bit of an end story. As I grew older, the brothers did too and their attempt at changing from the bubble-gum pop sound in the album I cherished so much to a more edgy rock one did not take and the band broke up after my freshman year of high school. During the year where they were promoting the new album, the brothers changed their look and their image as a whole, chopping off their long Hanson-esque hair, showing off new muscles, and swearing more. Mostly, changing from boys to men. I remember rolling my eyes at some of the pictures I found (on my then slightly faster dial-up connection), and I even remember saying things like, “Oh who does Scott think he’s kidding? These are the kinds of things he’ll look back on in a few years and be embarrassed about.” It was as if I knew them as a mother does — better than they knew themselves.

Years rolled by after the band’s break-up and I moved onto other hobbies with the same amount of main-stream popularity, like collecting musical soundtracks, and turning my self-absorbed writing to a xanga instead of the fan fiction book. Classmates that I didn’t talk to much, if at all, in high school would ask how The Moffatts were doing, even in my senior year, if we were ever forced by unfortunate circumstances to attempt a conversation. To an uncomfortable amount of people I grew up with, my love for this band was perhaps the only thing they could think of that they knew for sure about me.

In a way it is pretty embarrassing for an adolescent love to be equated with me as a main character trait, but a part of me knows it’s probably true. It’s how I would imagine someone would feel about relationship they took far too seriously before they could drive. But like it or not, this obsession really is a large part of who I am today. The months and months of nightly writing made me feel comfortable at the keyboard and allowed me to never panic at the thought of a mere 5 page paper due in English class. This skill carried me through high school, college, and even late night lesson planning sessions. Believing so strongly in a cause that almost no one in my world even cared to know about taught me that it’s okay to be different. (Of course at the time I thought I was different in that I was going to be the leader of a musical revolution that would change the course of popular music as we knew it and not different in the same way regulars at Medieval Times are different.) The Moffatts also helped me hold onto the hope and innocence that so often leaves a person far too early in life. My belief in their talents and success combined with  my vigilant hope that I would somehow one day have the opportunity to show them just how awesome I was kept me in a childhood world while everyone around me focused on learning how to apply 15 coats of mascara without clumping and how to flirt the correct amount in a note written during science class. I didn’t have time for both those things and preparing my words for our first conversation, so clearly one thing had to be put on the back burner.  Their music was also pure and innocent — the lyrics were always filled with simple rhymes about a cute girl they had a crush on or what it really means to love someone, things that they as 15 and 16-year-old writers must have thought they were experts on and we as their audience were nothing if not enamored with the idea of being the girl of their dreams. They were my Justin Beiber, but with long hair, guitars, and much sexier brown eyes than his. Phsh.

It’s now been over a decade since The Moffatts as a group put out any new music, although each of them has pursued alternative musical careers either solo or in pairs. The twin brothers have even recently begun new careers as a country duo, playing small gigs in Nashville and building a fan base slowly and steadily online. When I came across their act online, I immediately joined their fan mailing list, feeling very much like a proud aunt that has watched them come so far and is anxious to see where their careers take them. A few months back I got an email about a contest where you were asked to identify which brother answered each question a certain way, and the winner would receive an autographed photo of the duo in the mail. I skimmed through the items to find that I could still remember their personalities from their childhoods — knowing that they had changed over the last ten years but also knowing that like me, a part of them would have still been the same old nerds they were when they were young. I took the quiz for old time’s sake, feeling slightly like I was an addict that had gone so many years without making a slip and was now again engaging in reckless and foolish behavior. I just was curious to see how well I’d do, I told myself. My photos just arrived this week, and a big smile spread across my face to see the signatures scrawled above their faces with a note of best wishes to me. I remembered those signatures. I once spent about 45 minutes downloading a scanned copy of them and transferring them to an iron-on sheet to put them on my pillowcase.

As an adult, I can now look back and laugh at the person I was back then. But a small part of me, the part that’s found inside all of us that holds on desperately to the nostalgic, the silly, and the beloved with both hands, will always be a fan of The Moffatts. When one of their songs comes up on shuffle, which happens a few times a year, I always pause, smile, turn it up, and sing along. It’s like watching movies that were sacred to you as a child; you remember each breath, each skip, each moment you will forever associate with certain lines of lyrics. It all  comes flooding back to you like it never really left in the first place. And as I anxiously await the arrival of new music from the duo, I can’t help but think that it never really did.

But don’t worry, sweet husband of mine. I won’t be making any pillowcases this time.

Why a medicated, hospitalized birth is right for me

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There seems to be a push in the maternal world I find myself in to be some sort of super human mother. Mothers are expected to breastfeed their children, regardless of their careers or other obligations, until they are 6 months old (according to the World Health Organization) or 12 months old (highly recommended by the American Pediatric Association),  They are expected to equip their squirming babies with stimulating and educational toys, which must be changed out every 2 months with entirely new challenging toys, so that they will grow to identify all the colors of the rainbow by 18 months and recite the Pledge of Allegiance perfectly by the age of 3. They are expected to discipline their children using both loving, tender words and firm and unmoving principles that make your child feel both safe and loved and comfortable with the expectations set before them. The list goes on.

And the expectations don’t just begin  at birth. There are also tons of pressures during the pregnancy concerning diet, exercise, sleeping habits, medical choices, music choices, nursery decorating color schemes, frequency of salon trips, heel height, and herbal tea choices.

But where I have most definitely felt the most heat during my pregnancy is in regards to my birthing plan. Yes, my birthing plan. Women have to have a birthing plan now. A thousand years ago I’m pretty sure most women’s birthing plan was simply “don’t die” or something similar. Now we’re supposed to consider the location, your clothing, the temperature, the music playing in the background, who should be in the room during labor (as opposed to the delivery audience), how much/little you want to nursing staff to intervene, under what conditions you would like to use pain medication, how bright the lights should be, what positions you feel comfortable being asked to lie in, and how soon after the birth you’d like to be offered to eat. And what’s completely ridiculous about this is most of the women compiling these plans have never given birth before, thus making it difficult for them to really go about making these decisions in any sort of educated manner. For example, if someone would have asked me how I felt about allowing medical students or other people I’ve never met or are not immediately necessary to the birthing process to come into my hospital room and inspect my downtown business before the day of delivery, I would have scoffed at them appalled and written, “Absolutely not.” But when I was asked that day if a Dougie Howser look-alike could watch the birth I believe my answer was, “Yeah sure whatever.” I never could have anticipated the amount of hospital staff members that had waltzed in and out of my room to check this or that and how after an hour or two I would be so focused on other things I would not care in the least.

Those that endorse the birth plan option like to point out the various avenues one can take in birthing a child that don’t involve an open-backed hospital gown. You can give birth at home, in the bed your child was conceived in (and you’ll have to keep sleeping in later), in a blow up tub that is not unlike the pool already in my backyard for my two-year-old, or even the bathtub (which seems impossible. I’ve only taken the doctor-mandated post-birth baths in that tub and it’s so small I cannot imagine trying to successfully give birth in there without kicking someone in the eye).

When I was pregnant with Evalee, I was determined to be as educated as possible about the birth process. In truth, I was nothing short of terrified about the person I’d become in the moment. So I took to DVRing the Birth Day show on TLC and watching it regularly over dinner or before bed. (For the record, no, I didn’t have a lot going on at the time. Travis worked nights and my only other hobby was surviving the school year.) I watched so many women on the day they gave birth that the show became a game where I guessed at what point they were going to crack away from their natural birth plan (which 90% of the women on the show said they wanted) to get some pain relief.

Now, please understand that in my explanation for my decisions below I’m not hating on anyone. I know there are women every day that make different birthing decisions than I do for totally unselfish and logical reasons and it turns out to be a wonderful process for them. All I am simply saying is why I, too, feel like the decisions I’ve made are best for me.

1. Why I am “pro” epidural

When Travis and I went to our birth class during my first pregnancy, we were one couple in perhaps 12 or 15. When the instructor asked the room who was planning on getting an epidural, I was the only woman that raised her hand. Immediately I was attacked and forced to defend my decision. I responded in the best way I could at the time, having of course never given birth before. I told the class, “I’ve read about them and they have very low long-term risks and the short-term disadvantages don’t seem to outweigh the short-term advantages to me. I’m not trying to prove anything to anyone and I’m not interested in the special experience. I just want to have my baby in the most comfortable way possible.” The disgust in the room was palpable. I immediately felt like I could hear the other women’s thoughts, despite the fact that approximately 9 or 10 of the 15 women there would end up getting one as well, stastistics show. If she really loved her baby, she’d trust her body and endure the pain because it’s what is best. or It is all part of God’s plan for women to endure the pain of childbirth. or How selfish is she? Deciding she’s going to get one without even being in the situation first. Maybe it won’t be that bad. They were all arguments that had been throw at me before. But on game day, I didn’t regret my decision in the least.

I went into the hospital at 3 a.m. with no sleep. When I arrived, I was dilated to a 1. There are women at eating at McDonalds right now that are dialated to a 1. It took me a couple hours to the get to a 2 and several more before I got to the 4 I needed to get the epidural. By that time it was 8 a.m., I was totally exhausted and broken down after walking the hallways in pain and working to try and get Eva in a new position (they thought at the time she was breech). After my epidural was administered, I was able to take a 2 hour nap. I never drifted off to dream-land, but for those two hours I remember feeling like I could finally lay still and store some energy for what was ahead.  I crawled through my labor progression and Travis and my mom (the two people approved to accompany me in the room, via my birth plan 🙂 ) watched in amazement as my contractions sky-rocketed off the screen with almost no time in between them while I lay comfortably. Had I not gotten that epidural, my spirits would have been broken as the nurses continued to check me and report my tiny bits of progress each hour. But as it was, my response to, “I’d say you have progressed maybe 1/2 or 1 more cm” was always, “Great. Thanks.”

I’ve heard people say that an epidural takes away from the bonding process between mother and baby because you are so immobile after the baby is born. Others say they choose not to get one because they are afraid they’ll be too “out of it” to really experience the joys and emotions in those final moments. To these arguments, I say “Nonsense!” My inability to move from the chest down had no baring on how special the moment was where I first laid eyes on her. That’s what the bed remote is for.
And nowhere in the rest of the medical world is going through a major, painful procedure without medication considered a good thing. No one is walking around telling stories of their root canal where they passed on the medication.

My other problem with the epidural haters out there is there seems to be a large number (again, not ALL, but a large number) of women that go au naturale for bragging rights. It’s pretty rare to come across a woman that has successfully avoided pain medication in giving birth that didn’t mention it in the same breath as her child’s name and birth weight. “Peggy Sue was born at 6:30 a.m. after 37 hours of labor with no pain medication and weighed 7 lbs.” Or if, regrettably, they did have to get some pain medication, it’s almost mentioned in a “but” statement, as if to hope that they don’t lose as points on small technicalities. “I did end up getting a small amount of medicine at the end, but just for a little while to give me a small rest. The nurses insisted on it. I didn’t want it, but they thought it was best. And it wore off pretty fast.” While I’m not saying completing that task without medical intervention isn’t something to be proud of, I am saying your purpose in forgoing medication shouldn’t be so that you can tell the pregnant girl in Target about how tough you are (it’s happened to me probably 6 or 7 times).

As one of my many nurses put it, there’s no medal for opting out of the epidural. Thank God. If there was I think there are some women that would wear it to their kids’ graduation ceremonies.

2. Why I’m “pro” hospital birth

The idea of giving birth in my house could not be less appealing to me for a variety of reasons. The first is quite simple: the birth process is disgusting. When I think about how exhausted I was when it was all said and done, the last thing I can imagine doing is snapping on some gloves to start cleaning up afterwards, nor could I imagine laying idly by while my husband and/or midwife or whoever else was there cleaned up for me.

I remember watching a show with a home birth where a mom said, “It was wonderful. My son was born at 3 p.m. and by 6 p.m. we were all eating the chicken I made for dinner and my son was telling me about his day.” Yeah that’s right — she gave birth at home and then made dinner for her husband and older son. I don’t know who her husband was, but he should definitely get a nod for Husband of the Year. “I’ll make her dinner on Valentine’s Day, but NOT on the day she gives birth. I’m no housewife.” But then again, maybe he was up to his elbows in the clean-up process.

I’ve also heard arguments where women liked the idea of giving birth at home so they could be near their other children. I don’t know about you, but my child doesn’t let me pee in privacy. I cannot imagine focusing on getting through the labor process while also trying to figure out what show Eva is asking for on our Netflix queue or getting the wrapper off  her stick of cheese. I love her, but I am gladly handing her over to her Grandpa on birth day #2.

And don’t get me started on what my two idiot cats would do. They already have no regard for my belly and often walk right on it with their pointy little paws trying to find a good place to settle down at night. I can’t imagine how they’d be that day.

On the flip side, I can understand people’s apprehension to hospitals. They smell like rubbing alcohol, you have to wear a humiliating backwards cape, you are being cared for by strangers who talk about you as if you aren’t there at times, it’s loud almost always, and it seems full of people that want to poke you with needles or strap something to you somewhere. But I am so thankful that in the moments where it seemed as though the baby was in a bad position for birth, the cord was wrapped around my daughter’s head, and her heartbeat was hard to detect, their expert hands were the ones in charge.  And when it was time for me to get my 60 stitches (yes, that’s right, 60 stitches. How’s that for a Target horror story?) I’m glad my doctor (with the help of Dougie Howser) was the one doing it.

My personal experience at the hospital was wonderful. Even though I passed through a few different shift changes and was handed off like a baton between nurses, every nurse I met was polite, competent, and more than willing to do anything I asked of her.  A frosty can of Pepsi with a straw was offered to me exactly 12 seconds after I heard my baby cry for the first time. One morning, a thoughtful nurse brought me my breakfast on a platter with one of those dome lid things because I was sleeping and she was afraid I’d miss the meal before the buffet closed. Another nurse seemed to make it her own personal mission to make sure my stitches were iced thoroughly at all times, bringing me new ice before I could even request it. I was helped to the bathroom, I was helped to the shower, my baby was bathed and swaddled by women that could do those things with their arms tied behind their back and treading water. For two days, my baby and I were waited on hand and foot. Not the service I’d expect at the Kershaw Manor. I’d be lucky if I could get an hour nap in before I was being dragged into a Toy Story scenario where Buzz Lightyear was on the hunt for Swiper the Fox underneath my daughter’s bedsheets. This is something I do gladly on any other day, but not at this particular occasion. But how could I expect my daughter to make the distinction? To her there may be a new baby around suddenly, but that won’t change the fact that she needs a freeze pop. Now. A red one.

 

So, for these and a few other reasons when baby #2 decides to make her debut in October, I will be anxiously timing my contractions so that I get to the hospital on time. When a new nurse introduces herself to me as in charge of my care in some way, I will respond in the same way I did the first time, “Hi, nice to meet you. I’m Sara. And yes, I do want the epidural as soon as it’s physically possible.” And hopefully, unless everything is moving so fast I can’t get one, the epidural will be administered, the baby will arrive, I will sleep as much as can without looking like a narcoleptic they should be concerned about and shovel the delicious food they offer me in my bed down as fast I can, and then I will take my baby home like everyone else. And it will be a spectacular and awe-inspiring day, regardless.

The Prologue

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I’ve been itching to start a blog for a while now. I’ve always loved writing, discussing current events, exhaustively dissecting the TV shows and movies that I love, and making people laugh. In my adult life, I’ve also taken on a liking to discussing education, politics, and the habits of toddlers. And a girl can only update her facebook status with these thoughts so much. Thus, the idea of this blog was born, and with it I hope will bring the beginning of a fun and enjoyable place to come and stay a while.

Unfortunately because I have so many awesome, amazing ideas swirling around in this head of mind, I’ve been stalling on the blog’s launch because I hadn’t been able to settle on the right topic for my maiden entry. Frankly, there are so many things I’d like to state my opinion about, giggle about, rant about, rave about, and simply make fun of it’s been hard to narrow it down. But I’ve decided on a topic that is relevant in my life especially right now and, I believe, in our country in general in these current times. Hope you enjoy.

S