More On the War Against VPLs…

An update to my thong post:  I bought my first pair of Spanx the other day.  I got a pair of Spanx “Higher Power” panties in an effort to smooth my mid-section for some low-cut pants. 

Overall I give them a big thumbs up!  They gave gentle support from just under my bra down to the middle of my thighs.  They stayed in place with no roll down from the top or ride up from the bottom.  They were pretty comfortable, even though I normally can’t stand any pressure on my stomach. 

The coolest/strangest thing was their gusset crotch that lets you urinate without taking off your Spanx.  It felt incredibly weird – like peeing with your clothes on – but it actually worked with no mess.  What a great idea; obviously these were designed by a woman! 

At $34 the Higher Power panties aren’t cheap, and they’re cumbersome enough that I wouldn’t want to wear and wash them every day, but they’re a great solution for a special occasion outfit.   

I also tried the Spanx trouser socks.  They were excellent too, though not necessarily worth the added cost ($10-12).  I am, however, intrigued by their reversible, two-colored trouser socks.  Those might be worth the additional investment. 

You can order Higher Power panties and trouser socks from www.Spanx.com or get them for the same price in the Nordstrom hosiery section.   

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Serena’s Special Day

I had an amazing day yesterday.  Although he usually is at home on Thursdays, my four-year-old went to daycare because of a special event.  I decided to take my infant in too and have a girls-only day with my two-year-old, Serena.  It was a girls-only treat – “Serena’s Special Day” – and it was a blast! 

Serena is a gentle, sweet soul, who is very independent and happy to play on her own.  She’s the classic second child who idolizes her big brother and lets him call the shots most of the time.  She’ll speak up (scream) for herself when there is a major issue, but in general she is calm and unassuming.  To be the star of the show for a whole day was unsettling, unfamiliar, and thrilling for her.  

We started the day with a little shopping at Target and Kohls, then headed to a brand-new community center in our area for some indoor swimming.  The pool has water fountains and a slide for preschooler-size kids, and we had a great time going down the slide and pretending to be mermaids and sharks.  After that we had lunch with Daddy, followed by her nap.  Then we read books in my bed and watched a video before going to pick up her brothers at daycare. 

It was so much fun – for both of us, I think.  Serena got some attention that she didn’t even know she was missing.  She loved the activities and the undistracted one-on-one time with me.  She isn’t very articulate about her feelings yet, but she seemed very happy all day and I got several extra snuggles last night. 

For me, being able to focus on her all day was a treat.  Maybe it’s partially the impact of the Virginia Tech shootings this week, but I’ve been treasuring my time with the kids and holding them a little tighter lately.  Having a special day with my daughter seemed incredibly poignant and precious to me yesterday.   

I’ve set a goal of trying to take one of my kids for a “special day” each month, and I’m going to try to fit in some shorter alone time activities with them more often.  They’re wonderful together, but being with them separately helps me appreciate and enjoy them in a new and special way. 

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Kids Yes, but Squalor No

I was sweeping the floor the other day when my baby started crying, wanting to eat.  I hurried to finish up with the dustpan when my mother said, “Leave that, honey.  The children come first.  The kids always come first.”   

This is truly the way that my mom raised us:  housekeeping took a back seat to living life.  I always felt this as a child, although I didn’t appreciate it fully until I was a mom of my own.  I totally agree:  the kids should come first. 

The flip side of my mother’s “kids first” philosophy was that my parents’ house was pretty much always messy.  We kids cleaned our bedrooms once a week and the whole house was cleaned when company was expected, but other than that tidiness wasn’t a priority.  Our house was generally sanitary, but it was incredibly cluttered with the detritus of six busy people.  As a kid, I appreciated the extra quality time provided by the “kids first, chores later” philosophy, but I was also a bit embarrassed when my friends came to visit.   

Now that I am the co-head of a household, I struggle with finding the right balance between putting my kids and life first yet keeping the house relatively clean.  I get edgy when the house is a sty, yet I cringe when I hear myself yell things like “just a minute, babe!  Mommy needs to finish these dishes!”  I want to have a home where kids can get messy, have fun, and play freely, but I get pissed off when it takes hours to get the house clean again. 

There seems to be a continuum with pristine cleanliness on one end and utter chaos on the other.  The truth is, I can’t really specifically say where my ideal point on this line is, but (apologies to Justice Stewart) I know it when I veer from it.  

Here are some principles (coping mechanisms?) that I generally endorse.  I can’t say that I follow them all the time, but they have been helpful. 

Contain your mess:  If your house is big enough, contain the kids’ toys and mess in general in their bedroom or playrooms.  If possible, keep your house’s entryway and a front room clean so that pop-in visitors can be entertained in relative cleanliness. 

Clean as you go:  I go back and forth on this one.  I am so Type A that if I try to clean as I go I feel like a hawk waiting to swoop in and clean up puzzle pieces or Candyland cards, which is annoying and vaguely creepy for the kids.  

Clean with the kids:  Kids and cleanliness aren’t mutually exclusive.  They need to learn how to clean, and cleaning helps teach responsibility and respect. 

Clean away from the kids:  I try to clean during naps and daycare so that I’m not constantly cleaning during the day.  I stay at home to be with the kids, not be near them. 

Clean before fun:  Nothing comes for free in our house.  The TV doesn’t turn on, for example, until the kids pick up the family room floor. 

Hire a cleaning service:  If you can afford it, hire some help.  It will increase your quality of life immensely.  I love knowing that it’s never been more than two weeks since my toilets were cleaned.  Every other Wednesday I literally thank God for my cleaning lady.             

Cut yourself some slack:  I still haven’t solved this issue in our house.  I do what I can and try not to get too wound up about it. 

And now I’m off to clean the kitchen…

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Food Allergies – Tips and Tricks for Egg- and Dairy-Free Cooking

Through my son’s experience I realized how difficult food allergies can be, especially for children. 

Allergies, asthma, and eczema are all related (who knew?!?).  With my husband’s history of allergies and asthma and my eczema, my kids inherited the genetic equivalent of the allergy “perfect storm”.   My son started out with eczema and wheezed a lot when he was sick, which was often.  Since we figured out his allergies and medications (which have been reduced over time; now he’s just on Singulair), he has been a very healthy kid! 

Birthdays and parties in general are some of the trickiest situations for kids with allergies.  Here are a few tips I’ve learned about party fare and egg-free baking. 

  • Note that eggs are used for both leavening and binding, so you’ll need to experiment on what works best for your purposes.

  • For Bisquick pancakes, corn bread mixes, and mixes in general, I use this equivalent:  1 Teaspoon baking powder, 1 Tablespoon water + 1 Tablespoon vinegar (added as the last ingredient) = 1 egg.  You won’t be able to taste the difference!  (Another tip: let the Bisquick mix sit for five minutes for smoother pancakes, without bubbles.)

  • For cakes, I’ve had moderate success with chocolate box cakes by combining the substitution above with a yeast substitution.  Now I stick to cupcakes and Cherrybrook Kitchen box cake mix.

  • Cherrybrook Kitchens has an excellent chocolate chip cake mix; the cake itself is so-so, but the chocolate chips make it great.  All Cherrybrook Kitchen products are free of eggs, dairy, trans fats and nuts.  You can find it at Whole Foods or order through Amazon.  Be warned, though: each cake mix box only makes enough for one cake layer.  http://www.cherrybrookkitchen.com/.

  • Vegan recipes are a great source of egg- and dairy-free meal ideas.  It seems to me that vegan recipes taste better than altered regular recipes. 

  • For great cupcake recipes, check out Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.  It’s a great, fun book of cupcake recipes by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.  They also have a great blog at http://vegancupcakes.wordpress.com/ .  I’ve only tried vanilla and chocolate so far; both are great. Make sure you sift your dry ingredients or they’ll taste like corn muffins!

  • Canned icing (like Betty Crocker) is often dairy and egg-free.

  • Many ice creams have egg in them; be sure to read the ingredients! Two non-egg favorites are Breyer’s All Natural Vanilla and Edy’s mint chocolate chip.

  • Earth Balance margarine tastes great and has no dairy, egg, hydrogenated oils, or trans fats.  It’s so good we just eat it for the taste.   http://www.earthbalance.net/product.html. We find it at our Wegmans in the organic fridge section, on the bottom shelf.

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And Now, A Word From Our Redhead…

I am a Crimson American.  My hair color started out strawberry blonde, then shifted to bright copper during the traumatic K-12 years and has now settled into a medium red color.  Being a redhead is a deeply embedded part of my identity because redheads are often singled out, for better or for worse.  Growing up, adults loved my hair (“what lovely hair you have, dear!”) while children – especially boys – teased me mercilessly.  “Flare hair,” “matchstick” and the old standby “carrot top” were only some of the names that I was called.  In junior high I volunteered at a nursing home where the seniors literally rubbed my hair for good luck.  This type of treatment is bound to give a person a complex. 

The red hair came with blond eyelashes and white skin that made Boo Radley look like George Hamilton by comparison.  The eyelash problem was solved when my mother finally let me wear mascara in seventh grade. It was salvation in a pink and green tube; I can count on two hands the number of people who have seen me without mascara since 1984.  The breathtakingly pale skin never changed, but thanks to self-tanning lotion people can now look at my bare legs without shielding their eyes from the glare.   

When I was about sixteen some of my peers – including the occasional boy – decided that as afflictions go, red hair wasn’t quite as bad as leprosy, and since then I’ve come to see my red hair as a blessing instead of a curse.  It really is a lovely color, and it doesn’t cost me a dime.  Plus, my husband has a thing for redheads. 

My children have somehow escaped my scarlet fate; my sons are blond and my daughter is a striking brunette.  They are kind, funny, smart, and gorgeous, and/but they are not redheaded.  I’ve noticed that most of the redheaded children I see around town have one or two non-redheaded parents, so allow me to share a few hard-earned life lessons here.   

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DO NOT DRESS REDHEADED CHILDREN IN BRIGHT PINK.  Red and bright orange are forbidden too, but bright pink is the worst offender.  I realize that it is somewhat difficult to find non-pink clothes for little girls, and that this may preclude you from wearing some hand-me-downs, but this is an unbreakable rule.  Never, never, never!  Reddish clothing fights with the hair color.  Blue, green, and purple are best.  Brown is fine too, and black works, though its contrast with very pale skin (think piano keys) can be unflattering. 

Put sunscreen on your redheaded children every time they go outside.  Also, if you are going to be outside for more than two hours, cover your kids with clothing or umbrellas, because sunscreen won’t cut it.  I can literally feel my skin burning after being in the bright sun for over fifteen minutes.  The kick in the pants is that fair skin burns the easiest and is the most susceptible to wrinkles and skin cancer.  Also, it turns out that the freckles that some people call “angel kisses” are also referred to as “sun damage” by narrow-minded dermatologists.  Luckily this sun damage is partially counteracted by the “Richie Cunningham Effect” which causes freckled redheads to look eighteen until they are fifty years old. 

When it’s time for makeup, let your redheaded daughters wear mascara as soon as possible/appropriate.  Adolescence is hard enough without a total absence of facial pigment.  As for lipstick and nail polish, redheads need to wear orange, peach, or brown-based colors, rather than red or pink.  Trust me; I have plenty of photos from the eighties to prove this. 

Don’t ever call them “carrot top” or other “funny” redhead nickname.  They’ll get teased enough; they don’t need to hear these jibes at home. 

p.s. When I looked up “redheaded” in an online thesaurus, it suggested “hardhearted,” “hardheaded,” and “retarded.”  Looks like there’s still work to be done…   http://thesaurus.reference.com/browse/redheaded   

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Bumbo Seats

Have you tried a Bumbo seat?  http://www.bumbobabyseat.com/ This seems to be a relatively new invention (I didn’t see them in stores when my two-year-old was a baby). I splurged on one ($39.95 at Target — this may not seem like a lot, but we’re all about hand-me-downs at this point!), even though we’re on our last child.  He likes it pretty well for about seven minutes per sitting.  That’s not a lot of time, but every minute helps!  I bet if we’d gotten it earlier (he’s six months old now) he would be more accustomed to it and like it more. 

Our daycare uses them now; they really are strong and secure enough to leave a non-sitting infant in a sitting position.  The other day my son pooped all over one just as I arrived to pick him up.  I’m not sure if it was a protest poop or a ringing endorsement…?

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I’m Baaack :)

Well, I’m back after a two-month recess.  I was taking a master’s level class (Philosophy of Education) which was great, but time-consuming.  I had no energy left to write more than my required papers.  This blog is much more fun!! 

I came up with a list of topics to tackle during my time off.  Here goes…

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Would You Please Turn Off Your Damn Car?

Every day I see unattended parked cars with their motors running in the daycare parking lot, and it’s bugging the crap out of me.  Are our children (and ourselves!) really so frail that they can’t stand three more minutes of cold in the winter or heat in the summer?  And do my kids need to get run over to keep your kids comfortable? 

Granted, the daycare parking lot is inside a guarded gate, so theft isn’t a big concern, but what about safety?  I assume that some of the cars, at least, are unlocked since most people don’t carry a second set of keys.  It’s conceivable that a curious child could go exploring into an open, running car.  A car could also pop into gear.  A preschooler might reach for the gearshift while mom or dad is putting a sibling in a car seat.  It’s unlikely that any of these situations will happen, but in an environment crawling with kids even one mistake could be tragic.*  Call me hysterical, but I am pissed that other parents are putting my kids at risk in this way.   

What makes me equally irritated is that parents are doing this because they are trying to prevent their child from being inconvenienced or uncomfortable for even a short amount of time.  God forbid that a child be chilly for a minute under their coat, hat, and mittens or perspire while briefly exposed to non-conditioned air.  Where is this coddling going to take us?  If we aren’t careful, our well-meaning gestures like these will create spoiled, entitled children.  The last thing that we parents want to do is to raise adults not prepared for the realities of life.  Life is not fair.  You won’t always be the center of the universe.  The temperature is not always seventy-six degrees. 

Anyway, my kids will be sweating and freezing accordingly in our turned-off minivan.  I’ll chalk it up as a character building experience.  I would greatly appreciate if you would do the same. 

*By the way, if an accident or theft does happen in an unattended running car, most insurance policies will not cover liability, theft, or damage to the vehicle. 

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My Thong Song, Err…Post

The founder of Spanx (footless and/or legless pantyhose) stockings said on TV last week that she wants to make the world a better place one butt at a time.  In that spirit, here’s what I’ve been telling my girlfriends for years:  I am pro-thong.  Here’s why: 

  • Men like thongs.  It doesn’t matter what size or shape of bottom the thong is riding, this is an empirical fact.  I don’t know why; maybe it’s because thongs flatter all figures (yes, really), or maybe it’s the inherent naughtiness – clearly his mother didn’t wear one.  For whatever reason, your man will be pleased if you make the switch. 

  • Thongs prevent the dreaded visible panty line (VPL), which are practically unavoidable with traditional underwear.  Even panties that claim to prevent VPL’s are, in my experience, ineffective.  Unless you’re going the more drastic Spanx or pantyhose route, you’ll need to wear a thong to prevent a VPL.  (Note: if you think that your VPL doesn’t look bad or isn’t that obvious YOU ARE WRONG.)  Plus, if you follow my golden rule of thongs (below) you’ll also get another benefit – you’ll avoid wedgies. 

  • Now that you know my pro-thong arguments, here is the all-important key to wearing a thong:  BUY YOUR THONG AT LEAST ONE SIZE BIGGER THAN YOUR NORMAL UNDERWEAR.  Following this advice will help you to avoid the uncomfortable constricted feeling that you are wearing anal floss.  This will also prevent the incredibly unattractive fat displacement that too-tight underwear can cause at the waistband.  There is no downside to buying larger thongs, since you don’t have to worry about sagging cheek fabric.   

You’ll also want to make sure that the front crotch area is big enough to cover everything and that you find an appropriate, lightly stretchy fabric, but these are secondary requirements.  Buying a size larger is non-negotiable.  If you follow this rule you’ll find thong wearing to be comfortable and you may even stop buying regular panties for weekends and jean wearing. 

Good luck ladies. You and your husbands can thank me later.  (Apologies to my own husband, you reads this blog and has just gotten way too much information!)  

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Why No Bottle Deposit Laws?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said today that global warming is “unequivocal” and very likely “man-made.”  Panel members said that the situation is “a threat was not simply to the environment, but to international peace, prosperity and development.”  And the United States is the biggest emitter. With this issue on my mind, I’m wondering about something related and close to home:  why don’t all states have “Bottle Bills” that require a deposit for beverage containers like soda cans?    

A quick Google search shows that there is a heated debate about this issue.  The American Beverage Association will tell you that deposit laws have a big downside, particularly that they are expensive and ineffective.  Equally biased on the other side, the Container Recycling Institute will tell you that such criticisms are myths, and that deposit laws are extremely effective, especially when used in conjunction with other recycling programs, like curbside collections. 

I want to learn more about this topic, but it seems to me that the major downside for Bottle Bills is that they are a pain in butt and are more expensive to non-recyclers.  If you’re going to toss your cans in the trash, you’re not going to get your ten cents back. This personal investment leads to the biggest benefit of Bottle Bills:  they create a culture where people don’t throw bottles in the trash.  By requiring a deposit on each can, they ensure that everyone has some skin in the recycling game. 

I grew up in Michigan, where there is a ten-cent deposit on each aluminum can and plastic bottle sold.  No one ever throws cans and bottles in the trash in Michigan, because that is literally throwing money away. In Virginia, however, people rarely think twice about tossing soda cans.  More recycling bins have appeared over the years in offices and public places, but these are still the exception rather than the rule. 

Aluminum is one of the most cost-effective materials to recycle.  With reports like the International Panel on Climate Change telling us that conservation is becoming critically important, it’s time to take more drastic steps to promote recycling and environmentalism in general.  

Related links:http://www.ameribev.org/industry-issues/environment/deposits–taxes/index.aspxhttp://www.bottlebill.org/http://news.aol.com/world/story/_a/climate-report-spurs-call-for-change-now/n20070202150409990004http://www.harmony1.com/recycling/nonferrous.cfm 

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