10 Things I Couldn’t Do My Job Without (Part I)

Each week I have the pleasure of working with little children for about 50 hours a week.  Currently the oldest of these children is my own 31 month old.  All of the children and their parents are truly fabulous and they’re a delight to work with.

If my own little one and her big sister are included in the count, I currently have 9 children who come to my home weekly.  Ever aware of my own limitations and legal issues, I never have that many all at once!  Current Virginia law allows me to watch a certain number of children without my own children “counting” in their point system.  I’ve heard rumors this might change and if it does, I’ll be rather put-out.

By May, the number of children will be at 10.  One of the mothers in on the path to stay-at-home-mommy-hood but in her place, a boy will be returning with his new baby sister!!

I’ve have friends and strangers alike ask me, “How do you do it??” In an email just last night a neighbor said, “I saw you and your troops walking one afternoon and it made me laugh…looked like a well oiled machine…everyone holding someone’s hand and following you perfectly. I need to take lessons from you…I can’t keep my two in line!”

Comments like that really make my day because the work I do is hard but nobody really sees just what I do.

There are in my home ten things that I simply could not live without.

I take that back: I could live without them but I’d probably hate my job if I had to!

Baby Bjorn Smart Potty

#1: By far the most useful thing I’ve purchased for my business in this little potty by Baby Bjorn.   It’s small enough that as soon as an infant can self-sit, he can put his legs on the floor and balance on this while going without needing me to help him keep his balance.

Since I begin potty-awareness as soon as solid foods are introduced, this is a very important thing!  Plus, I can put this in the van for the “Oh I’ve gotta go NOW!” moments the younger children sometimes have when we’re shopping.

Image#2:  When our toilet seat broke I sent my husband to Home Depot to purchase a new one.  My only two requirements were that it be elongated and white to fit our toilet.  He saw this and purchased it without asking me about it first.

Best. Toilet Seat. Ever!!

No more of those gross padded toilet inserts so the little girls don’t fall in!  This toilet seat insert is compact, all smooth lines for easy sanitizing, and hides itself within the lid automatically when the toilet seat shuts thanks to a nifty magnet.

It’s also a slow-closing lid so that fingers don’t get smashed and sleeping babies don’t get awoken by the smack of a falling toilet lid.  It has a very small lip for little boys but I find they generally do better with a full straddle rather than a tuck ‘n duck.

Image

#3:  If you’ve ever had to shop for a baby and toddler things you know they can get pricey. From blankets to silverware to bibs: the price adds up fast!  Rather than buying all those very necessary things, I’ve taken to making as many of them as I can by myself.  I enjoy creating useful things with my sewing machines and since most of the things I sew are used for my business, if they aren’t perfect it’s okay.

To date I have sewn the following for my business:

  • 2 nap time mat covers
  • 6 oversized, absorbant, waterproof bibs
  • 3 cloth pull-ups
  • 4 nap time blankets
  • 2 zippered bags for blocks
  • a cinch sack for the stroller rain covers
  • seat cover for the chair the booster seat sits on at the table
  • 3 stroller blankets: basically a long sleeved, overly long A-line fleece dress with a slit for the stroller or car seat buckles to fit through.
  • 2 double layer fleece hats

I use my machine often enough that it has a permanent place in my dining room.

Coat Rack

#4:  Truly, if you have more than one child sized coat, this is a very inexpensive thing to make life much easier!  My coat rack sits right behind our door so it is completely out of the way.  The hooks stand out just about the same distance as the door stopper.  Only the bulkier coats, if there are quite a few of them, seem to affect how wide I can open the door.

The parents can take their child’s coat off right as they enter and put it on again right before they leave without trying to cram it in a tightly packed diaper bag.  This also gives me quick and easy access to all the coats for our trips outside.

I hung this low enough that the taller children can even remove the coats themselves!  So with the nifty coat-putting-on-technique my former daycare provider showed me, these children can get their coats and put them on by themselves before they are 2 years old.

Love this Faucet!

#5: I realize that many people aren’t willing to make any attempts at plumping whatsoever.  It can be intimidating, I know!  We just installed a new toilet and a faucet this weekend and it took 3 trips to Home Depot before we were done . . .but that’s because I thought I had bought the wrong size connector hose for the toilet, bought a shorter one, then found out the original was the right size after all!

But really, it’s not hard to replace a faucet and this faucet is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.  Like many kitchen faucets, this one pulls out so that little fingers can reach!  In the photo I have it pulled out ever so slightly so you can see the joint.

Our half-bath is small, so keeping a 2-step stool for little children to reach the faucet isn’t practical.  I know they sell faucet extenders that look like cute little duckies, but guests use this too and I wanted to bathroom to maintain its more adult appearance.

I could easily pick the child up and bend them over the sink, but that doesn’t gel with my independence-teaching style of child-rearing.  If the children are too short to reach the handles, I help them turn the water on and off and just hold the spout out for them to wash themselves.

Questions?  Comments?

Car Seat Safety Rant

Someday I’ll write a post about car seat safety in general but now this will be more of a rant/vent than anything else.

So let’s say you’re a parent and you’ve heard that the minimum guidelines for child car seat safety have changed but the laws in your state have not.

Do you follow the minimum requirements by law or the minimum requirements as given by the American Academy of Pediatrics?

Since when is the MINIMUM recommendation the best option for a child?!?  Don’t most parents want MAXIMUM safety, not minimum??

It’s the 21st century and by now every parent should know that children under the age of 13 should not sit in the front seat.  Even Dweight Schrute from The Office sits in the back when he rides with Jim!

So can someone, anyone, please tell me why Kindergartner A at our bus stop was sitting in her high back booster in the front seat of her mother’s Odyssey yesterday.  There were 5 other seats, in the rear, that were available.  FIVE.

And then today, Kindergartener B was in the front seat of her mom’s minivan without a booster AT ALL.

Virginia law states that all children must be in a child restraint system (i.e. 5 point harness or booster) until their 8th birthday.  And although the law doesn’t state it, the shoulder belt should always sit across the proper spot on the shoulder, not cutting into the side of the neck.

Both of these kindergartners are between average and small for their age.  Under no circumstances should either of them have been in the front seat!  

So what would you do?  These are mom’s who I’ve never really talked to and I don’t know where either one lives.  Finding their home would be easy though since we have no garages and they both have vehicles that are unique in our neighborhood.

Suggestions?  

The Cup that Changed my Life. . . Seriously!

I’m going to talk about menstrual periods. Squeemish?  Don’t be!  

Male?  Probably not a good idea to read this but feel free to share with a female in your life.

Did you know it wasn’t until 1985 that the word “period” was used on television? You can see Courtney Cox in the commercial here.  I’m a little weirded out by the women stretching in the background . . .

I think women have come a very long ways in terms of talking about their health, their intimate relationships, and learning to be comfortable in the bodies in the last century.

So this is me, getting comfortable with talking about my body.

My family has been on a slow but gradual move towards a more organic life.  We’re removing chemicals where we can: foods, cleaning products, personal care products, and even clothing!

I heard about menstrual cups about ten years ago and tried a brand known then as Instead and didn’t like it at all.  Massive leaking and I couldn’t figure out how to get it in right and eventually gave up.

About a year and a half ago I started to hear about the Diva Cup.  I saw ads, jokes, and comments from women on blogs and everyone seemed to say the same thing: there’s a learning curve but then they love it.

For me, the two main attractions were that a menstrual cup is free from chemicals and the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome and that it is reusable. It fit my lifestyle but the Diva Cup is rather expensive so I didn’t purchase one immediately.

After hemming and haaahing for a few months I decided to bite the bullet and purchase one.  I waited until it was needed and inserted according to the directions while taking a shower.  I noticed immediately that I could not get the thing to stay up far enough!  The directions say that if it seems too long to cut the stem.  I cut the whole stem off and it still kept slipping to where it seemed like it was going to fall out.  It was, in fact, far enough out at times that it could be seen from the exterior.  So. Not. Comfortable! 

I managed to get to where I could wear it for about 5 to 6 hours and it would mostly stay in place, but not much longer.  And that whole time it was rather uncomfortable.  Not painful, but not at all like the tampons I was used to.

Thankfully, that 6 hours was enough on a day where I really needed it!  I had to take an unplanned flight with my 2 children from Virginia to California while on my heaviest flow day and I knew that a tampon wasn’t up to the task.  Changing tampons in an airplane bathroom is just naaaaasty so I went with my Diva Cup.  It lasted about 5 hours before it had slipped to a point where it just needed to come out but at that point I was in an actual airport for a decent layover and could use a stall with some elbow room.  It was pretty darn full, too, but that was expected since it was such a heavy flow day.

A menstrual cup can be worn for 12 hours, which means that if you’re in a position like I was, where clean facilities are hard to find (or camping/hiking!), you can still be worry free.

I tried for 5 cycles to get my body adjusted to the Diva, doing kegles, repositioning the cup, and just about everything else but it wasn’t working.  After the 5th month I gave up on the Diva Cup and promptly got pregnant (actually, I used the Diva to help get pregnant–read below for more info). 

The pregnancy lasted until the 13th week, at which point I had to have a D&C.  I knew from experience that my body would resume its monthly menstrual cycle fairly quickly but I also knew the Diva Cup wasn’t going to be a part of my menstrual care.

I purchased cloth menstrual pads to use with my miscarriage flow and really do like them, but still, anytime bodily fluids are on the outside they’re messy.

Within a week of my miscarriage I was researching other brands of menstrual cups.  Some fabulous people even put together a chart with measurements of more brands than I even knew existed.  Once I realized that other menstrual cups were available in SHORTER sizes, I was thrilled!  After watching a few reviews on youtube and comparing user ratings/rankings, I chose to purchase a Lady Cup.  If you look at the chart I linked to, you’ll see that the LadyCup is one of the shortest ones available.  That’s why I picked it.

BEST DECISION EVER!!! 

I cut the stem off even before I inserted it the first time because I knew that it would drive me nuts and that it wasn’t going to be necessary.  Within ten minutes of insertion I knew I’d made the right choice.  While I was a little aware of its presence, it was not trying to fall out of me and was easily forgotten during the day. 

This is my 4th period with my Lady Cup and I must say I now understand why women love their Diva Cups so much.  I feel the same way about my Lady Cup.  She’s pink, easy to use, easy to clean, and makes for a no-leak period.  Seriously.  No Leaking.  Not even “well maybe I need a pantiliner”.  I have complete confidence in my LadyCup.

As with all wonderful things in life, there are some things that every menstrual cup investigator ought to know.

First off, the process of emptying can be messy even after you get the hang of it.  Think about it, you’re taking a small, squishy cup full of menstrual fluid out of your body.  The fuller it is, the more likely a “WHOOPS!” is going to happen as you remove it so be careful not to squeeze the cup too hard while removing if you know it’s going to be full.  I’ve only missed my dump zone once and that won’t happen again. 

Second, finding the right fit might be a little tricky.  The chart above shows a variety of brands and the sizes they sell.  Here’s the link again: MENSTRUAL CUP CHART.  A good rule to follow is if you’ve ever been pregnant or are over the age of 30, you’ll want a cup with a larger diameter.  Sizing for length can be a little harder.  You’re going to have to get to know your vagina really well for this one.  The cup sits around/below your cervix so what you need to know is where your cervix sits when it’s in “period position”.  This would be just about any time of the month EXCEPT during ovulation (usually about 14 days before your period starts).  If you can easily reach your cervix, then you may have to get a short cup like me.  If you, try as you might, can’t reach the darn thing then you’re probably good to go with any length of menstrual cup. 

Don’t know what your cervix should feel like?  Try this tutorial.  The shorter ones will still work—just don’t cut the stem before giving it a whirl because I’ve heard of people having their cups up so high they couldn’t reach it for removal.

When in doubt, use a shorter cup.  They do not hold quite as much, but it means you might have to empty it every 8 hours instead of 12 and that still isn’t a big deal.

The last thing to know has to do with moving your bowels.  Yeah, I get to talk about periods AND pooping all in the same post!  It is definitely possible to move your bowels with your menstrual cup in.  I always have to re-position it afterwards but this is really quite easy.  I have heard of a few women who always remove their cup before pooping and that would be fine, too.  

There are some really fabulous things about menstrual cups that I did not think about when I made my first purchase.  One of them is that if you are trying to conceive, you can actually insert it immediately after doing the baby-dance to keep more of the seminal fluid inside your body.  The silicone they’re made of is inert and does not affect the pH of the reproductive tract.  Sperm are designed to swim against gravity, so this really is an ideal way of giving every little swimmer a chance.

Many women I know have periods like clockwork.  They know almost to the hour when it will start.  My periods have been pretty irregular for most of my life.  Years of fertility charting have given me a pretty good idea—usually a 36 hour window—but who wants to wear a pad for hours on end if it’s not needed?  If you have an inkling that your period is going to be starting, you can insert your menstrual cup in advance!!  No need to make a quick rush to the bathroom or home for a change of clothes with one of these little ladies!

This month was the first time I put my cup to use before my period started.  I figured it would show up sometime during the day and I just didn’t want to fuss with it since I had a really busy day ahead of me.  I was very grateful I’d decided to do that because this particular period started off with heavy bleeding right from the start.

Tampons contain some crazy chemicals (there are chemical free versions and they are pricey!) and should never be flushed.  Add to that the very real risk of toxic shock syndrome and you have a wonderful case of “Is this really worth the risk??”

Nope.  Not to me.  Not anymore.  The wonderful thing about menstrual cups is that they can be sterilized as frequently as you’d like.  I generally sterilize mine at the beginning of each cycle.  There is no risk of TSS.

If you have a teenage daughter, this might be worth looking into as well.  I know as a teen I was frequently embarrassed by the noise of unwrapping a pad or tampon since everyone in the bathroom knew exactly what that noise meant.  Because the menstrual cup lasts longer than a tampon in terms of wear-length, and emptying is pretty much silent, there’s no need for embarrassment.

Also, if you are hiking, camping, or skiing: what in the world would you DO with a used tampon or maxi pad?  With a menstrual cup, you’d empty it and dispose of the blood/tissue just as you would the other bodily fluids. 

Just be sure to sanitize your hands first if you’re anywhere but home!  At home, a simple washing of the hands should be fine.  Sticking your fingers in your vagina is necessary for insertion and removal so you want to make sure they are clean. 

Questions?  Comments?  Just leave a comment and I’ll be happy to respond!  

Curious about my comment on chemicals in clothing??

My Pants to Church Experience

For those of you who may not know, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  In other words: I am a Mormon.

For those of you who do not know much about this church, please take a look at www.mormon.org

Growing up I thought my parents knew all the questions I would ever have about church/gospel related things.  When I entered my teen years I realized they didn’t know as much as I thought they did and I accepted that wholeheartedly.  If my parents, who were 23 years my senior, still had questions then it was certainly okay if I had questions, too.

In fact, the think one of the best pieces of advice my mother ever gave me was, “If you don’t know, then ask.” 

Since then, I have spent quite a bit of time asking questions and even more time listening to answers and doing my best to put my answers into how I live my life and how I raise my two children.

In my home it was always understood that we wore dresses or skirts to church.  Pants were not allowed.  It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I saw women who regularly wore pants to church and it was always the same woman or two .  It was rare and I always wondered (a better word would be judged) why they did that if the wearer appeared to be of normal health.  Obviously an elderly woman with a walker wearing pants wasn’t at all an issue to me because it seemed safer than risking catching the hem of the skirt under a leg.

Over the last few years I started to see grown women wearing leggings under their “too short” skirts and it bothered me because the skirt was too short!  Never mind that those same women were in fact dressed more modestly than others whose hem line was 3 to 5 inches longer when standing but would ride up and show an incredibly amount of thigh when sitting.

That skirt hiking was something I’ve fought for years and it drives me crazy.  I prefer to keep my thighs covered so fighting my skirt and my toddler just doesn’t work for me.  This means I wear far less attractive long skirts or maxi dresses.  Yes, some of them are seriously cute but it’s not the same look as a knee-length pencil skirt.

Over the last few years as my weight has fluctuated with pregnancies, miscarriages, and health issues my wardrobe has been a mess.  On many occasions I’ve stood in my closet in my bathrobe and lamented to my dear husband how much I hate my church clothes and wouldn’t be nice if I could just wear pants to church?

I must give the man some credit—he’s honest and open minded in so many wonderful ways.  On several of the mornings where I mentioned my disgust at my wardrobe he’s told me, “Then just wear pants.  It’s okay. “

But to me it wasn’t okay.  I was raised in a home where you simply didn’t wear pants to church!

In December 2012 that all changed.  I learned of an event put on by a group of (mostly) church members in support of gender equality within the church.  As I followed the blog posts, comments, and Facebook page associated with the “Wear Pants to Church” event, I realized just how judgmental I had been with respect to something so simple as leggings and pants. 

The group who organized the event, called All Enlisted, has this as the group description:

All Enlisted is composed of faithful Latter-day Saints, their allies, and advocates for social change. It is intended to be a place of action where active LDS men and women can engage in acts of peaceful resistance to gender inequality in the LDS church. Drawing inspiration from suffragettes and civil rights leaders, we aim to display a respect for personal revelation and community strength as we seek to build Zion, a place where we fully realize and embrace the truth that all are alike unto God. 

We strive to keep our actions consistent with those of the Savior by showing a commitment to Christ’s injunction to love one another as ourselves. We echo the words of Gordon B. Hinckley when he said, “God will hold us accountable if we neglect his daughters.”

Logically and doctrinally, it stands to reason that women are equal to men in the eyes of our Heavenly Parents. Thus, women’s realm of influence is, and ought to be, much broader than those defined and promulgated by existing church policy.

By preventing women from fully participating in the church, many women who consider themselves Mormon feminists feel forced to choose between their divine nature as women, and the church organization they love. By equalizing the role of women in the church, all members will be edified as members make decisions based on personal revelation instead of rigid gender roles. 

Equality benefits both men and women, allowing us to see our brothers and sisters as the Savior see them: as individuals with unique needs and talents and limitless potential regardless of gender. 
Our group’s name reflects the belief that all members maintain responsibility to enlist in causes dedicated to improving the church. 

While I do not agree with every aspect of this mission statement or group description, I agree with several parts of it and it put me in a position to start thinking in ways I hadn’t thought before.  It was during this few days of introspection that  it hit me:  I was, in fact, JEALOUS of those women wearing those adorable skirts and dresses, looking fabulous, while I sat there feeling frumpy and fat and constantly fighting my clothing each time my toddler climbed in my lap or squirmed.

**I have quite a few opinions on equality within the church as well, but I’d prefer to keep most of those to myself for now.**

There was quite a bit of anger on both sides of the Pants event (those supporting it and those that didn’t). Because of this vitriol, I wanted to make sure that if I began wearing pants to church that I would be doing it for the right reason.

Leading up to this decision I knew it would be a lesson to me in just how deep my cultural roots go.  How uncomfortable was I going to feel?  Did it really matter if I was the only one? 

This “wearing pants to church” was the first time in my life I’d ever done something I’d specifically been told not to do.  That morning as I dressed I was filled with both nerves about what others might think as well as a sense of excitement the came from knowing I was supporting what I consider to be a just cause and knowing that it would not be the only time I wore pants to church.

I wore a pair of medium grey dress slacks, my favorite black wedge shoes, and a bright yellow fitted cardigan.

What I didn’t anticipate in all my preparation was the lesson I was given on compassion.  The only time I’ve felt truly judged at church was when my husband and I had been married for almost 4 years and still did not have children.  Week after week people would ask about our intent to have children.  Some of it was “good natured ribbing” but some of it was hurtful.  They thought we were putting off our family because my husband was in law school, because I was too busy making a name for myself at my school, etc.  

What none of those people knew was just how hurtful all their comments were.  My husband and I tried to get pregnant for a very long time before our eventual success.  It was so hard to go to church, watching couples who had just been married have children while we sat there, childless, and being informed we weren’t good enough because of it.

In the end only my toddler and I went to church that day.  My husband had to stay home with our oldest because she was sick.  This meant I was the only adult who could help entertain our toddler and that she’d likely be in my lap, squirming, for a good chunk of the meeting. 

I’ve never been so grateful for a pair of slacks in my life!  My little girl squirmed, wiggled, and climbed and not once did I have to fight my clothing!  As I sat there, holding her, I was able to turn my focus fully on the Sacrament (something along the lines of what others call mass), my Savior, and the speakers who taught of them.

I was filled with such a sense of peace that I knew I’d made the right choice.  I know there were eyes following my slacks as I walked in and between meetings.  Hesitant smiles and averted glances were noticed, too.  Nobody was saying hello in their usual friendly manner.  I felt it.  And compassion for others who had felt left out filled me beyond anything I’d felt before.

I’d made the right choice.  For the right reasons.  For me and in support of others who have felt the sting of inequality and the bitterness of being judged.

Three weeks later I heard a story that will stick with me for a long time.  My father was dating a women who had spent some time about 35 years ago not attending church.  What is interesting is that her time away from church started on a Sunday back in 1974 or so when, as a teenager, she sewed herself a pair of culottes and wore them to church.  As my dad tells it, she was treated poorly by her peers and their parents.  She didn’t feel welcome and quit going.

I began to wonder how many other women, before and since, felt so unwelcome at church because of their attire that they never returned? 

I know a little of what it is like to not fit in.  It seems I am frequently on the outside of things and for a period of time in my life it really bothered me.  For years now I’ve felt my divine worth as a daughter of God and the power that came with that knowledge has improved my life in so many ways. When I gained that knowledge, it made being on the outside a little easier.

 I know a great many people who have not been blessed with that same understanding and strength; men and women alike who walk into the Chapel and immediately feel unease because they aren’t dressed as others are, because they believe they are alone in their parenting style, political beliefs, family dynamics, or because of reasons related to health, etc.  It is a horribly unpleasant feeling.

If you have time, I highly recommend reading the stories of other women here:

 http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/2012/12/pantscapades-the-after-party/

As you read them, whether you are a “pants supporter” or not, you’ll see that something truly amazing happened:  Women attended Sacrament meeting who had not been attending church for quite some time.  This single event helped to bring daughters of God to Christ.  And isn’t that what Sacrament meeting is all about? 

 

Flying with Children Part I

For many parents, the thought of air travel with children brings on emotions akin to panic attacks.  I’m just finalizing prep for another trip with my 2 daughters and would like to share some of the things that I do that make flying an enjoyable experience!

The first thing is to talk to your children about flying before their first trip.  Show them some pictures of the inside of the airports you’ll be going through as well as the types of planes you’ll be flying on.  If you have photos of the security check-points, share those, too.  This way, as you go through the process you can talk about it.

“Do you remember when we talked about checking our luggage?  See? They put it right on that belt and someone will put it on our plane so that it’s waiting for us when we get there!”

“Here’s Security.  Remember what we do?  Shoes and sweatshirts off and put your bag on the rolly-bars.”

By walking your children through the process before it happens, it limits surprises and can keep the children, no matter how young, interested in what is going on and that is VERY important!  Children who are interested in what is going on are much less likely to have a melt down!

My absolute biggest word of advice it to take a deep breath and remember that families fly all the time and many of them fly with just one parent.

My second daughter is almost two and a half years old.  In her life, we’ve flown coast-to-coast and back again 4 times with both girls ALONE.  Nobody has ever been lost or hurt but we have had a couple of tears related to using the restroom.  It is what it is.

When packing, keep things light.  Unless you have magic capabilities, you’ll be wrangling multiple children, suitcases, car seats, and carry-on.  Lighter is better.  Some things, like shampoo, can be purchased after you arrive and that definitely helps to lighten the load.

What you include in your checked luggage is up to you.  I’ve been crazy enough to actually pack my toddler’s favorite potty seat before (sanitized first!) because items pack around it nicely and it was something I knew she’d appreciate having while in an unfamiliar environment.

The carry-on luggage is a whole different story.  There are some very specific things you should pack to make the security check point and flight much easier.

First: Ditch the stroller if your child is flying in his own seat.  If you have to have it for your trip, check it.  All the airlines I’ve ever flown do not count the stroller as a piece of luggage and it checks for free.

If you have a lap-child (must be under 24 months of age), I recommend getting a chest/back carrier such as the Ergo carrier.  This keeps your child close, safe, and your hands free.  You are allowed to wear them during the flight but not during take-off or landing.  This can also work for older toddlers to get through the airport, but only if you have a second adult coming with you.

If your child is in an infant seat in the car, bring that in the stroller.  Once you get to the gate, walk right up and ask the attendant if there are any extra seats on the flight.  Many airlines, if there is an extra seat, will willingly change your seat so that the spare seat is next to you, allowing you to use the seat for your infant.  I have flown on American Airlines and they’ve actually given my lap-child a seat assignment when the flights aren’t too full.  Asking NEVER hurts!  If there is an extra seat, take advantage of the advice in the next paragraph.  If there isn’t, be sure to get your infant seat AND stroller tagged for gate check-in.  When pre-boarding begins, put your little baby in your chest/back carrier.  If the car seat is headed under the plane, you don’t want to make everyone behind you wait while you unstrap your child with nobody to hold him while you collapse the stroller, fasten the seatbelt straps and lower the handle on the infant seat.  The carrier is perfect for this!!

And, if you do happen to get a seat assignment for your infant, you can bring your infant car seat on the plane, child in it, and place it next to a window seat.  Keep in mind that every model of infant carrier I’ve ever seen can be used WITHOUT the base!  CHECK the base with your luggage.  If you try and fit the base in the seat you’re going to have a very hard and unnecessary fight on your hands.  Just check your seat manual for details on how to use the seat without the base using a lap belt only.  It’s there, I promise!

Once my child is too old and needs her own seat, I make a point of ensuring that her car seat is used in flight.  Is it a pain to lug through security? ABSOLUTELY!  But consider this: You child is used to being in his car seat and knows how to behave appropriately in it.  Also, any semi-curious toddler will figure out quickly how to undo the seatbelt—a BIG no-no during good chunks of the flight!

Tantrum + plane – car seat = Very Aggravated Mommy.

In addition, most young children are familiar with napping in their car seats, too, and nap-time on an airplane is really important to help avoid extra crabbiness as travel continues.  Napping without the car seat is very difficult because there is no adequate place for your child to rest her hear.

And remember: The car seat HAS to go next to the window.  I believe it is an FAA regulation.  And keep in mind that only 5-point harnesses are allowed.  A simple booster seat is not allowed to be used during flight.

So imagine me lugging my very heavy Britax car seat through the airport with my loves-to-run-from-mommy two year old and my too-scared-to-leave-mommy’s-side six year old.
If you’re picturing something like this, you’ve got the right idea.

I love this http://www.amazon.com/Childress-Ultimate-Seat-Travel-Black/dp/B0009RNXNA/ref=sr_1_1?s=baby-products&ie=UTF8&qid=1355798456&sr=1-1&keywords=airplane+carseat+carrierk.  I wish it was just a touch bigger because my Britax is a tight fit, and the seat does have to come out during security, but it leaves my hand free as we navigate the airport and that is important.

So I’ve covered car seats and checking luggage.  But what about the rest of carry-on??

Last night I packed the carry-on for my girls like this:
My 6 year old has a rolling backpack.  It is appropriately sized for her to wear if needed but she’s pretty good at rolling it.

It contains:

  • 1 gallon sized Clear bag containing a full extra outfit including slippers and toothbrush for the toddler
  • 1 gallon sized Clear bag containing a full extra outfit and toothbrush for my 1st grader
  • 1 tightly rolled up fleece blanket—my toddler’s favorite and it’s large enough to cover laps for both girls
  • Child sized headphones
  • Kindle Touch (belongs to my 1st grader) in the outside pocket
  • 1 pint sized Clear bag with hand sanitizer and chapstick, as per FAA regulations
  • Slippers for 1st grader
  • 1 empty re-usable water bottle without straw attachment (inevitable pressure changes make the straw a bad idea!  If you don’t know why, feel free to ask!)

The backpack is full, but not heavy.  This back pack will be the sole responsibility of my 1st grader and she will keep it under the seat in front of her.

Why the bags of extra clothes?  It’s a preparedness thing.  What if a drink gets spilled?  Someone gets pukey? Turbulence so bad someone pees their pants because they aren’t allowed to get up?  A flight problem that leaves you overnight without your luggage?  I’ve had ALL of those happen except the puke (knock on wood!)  The gallon sized bag gives you a place to put the soiled clothing and neatly keeps everything together so you can grab and go.  The slippers are for them to use if they want to during flight and as back-up if their shoes are rendered un-useable.

When my daughter was in diapers I put the changing pad, cloth diapers, and wipes in a similar washable but waterproof bag known as a wetbag.  My toddler has been out of diapers since she was 14 months old so I haven’t had to pack a wetbag for awhile.  Phew!

When packing entertainment, keep your child’s attention span in mind.  Do not expect a child who won’t sit still to watch a movie at home to magically sit and watch one on the plane.  It. Won’t. Happen.  Blank paper, a single coloring book, and a pack of crayons are handy if your child likes to draw.  A charged cell phone with age appropriate games that your child has enjoyed in the past are a good idea, too. I went ahead and purchased a couple of new games for our new cell phones with our upcoming flight in mind.  My daughter has fallen in love with “The Monkey Game” and it will entertain her for a good hour, if not more.

Don’t overload the entertainment though.  Remember, it all has to go through security and some children will just love watching out the window, napping, and talking to mommy one-on-one.

My 1st grader will probably read one of the 2 new books I bought for her Kindle.  She’s to a point where she’ll set and read for an hour or two and I can’t WAIT for her to do this on the flight!

My toddler will also have a small back pack.  Hers contains:

  • 1 gallon sized Clear bag containing about 10 pieces of paper, crayons, and one coloring book
  • 1 pint sized Clear bag containing 3 squeezable fruit pouches (one for each person who will want one) in the outer pocket
  • Small stuffed unicorn – for my toddler to hold while on the plane if she wants.
  • 1 empty sippy cup with valve in place
  • Potty Seat covers.  I really like these

Potty Topper

Again, my toddler will wear this back pack as we go through the airport and it will get stored under her seat.  She won’t be able to access anything in it during flight because she’ll be in her car seat, but I can always give it to her and help her out if she asks.

I usde my old college/teaching backpack when I had the infant car seat and stroller combo or when I have flown without a carseat.  It has a spot for the laptop, waist and chest straps to help distribute weight, and is RED so it’s easy to spot if for some reason I wind up chasing my toddler down the hallway after setting it down.

For the last few flights, where I had the heavy Britax in it’s own backpack, I used a rolling carryon that is sized perfectly for under the seat in front of me.

Besides the laptop, my carry-on will hold:

  • 1 gallon sized Clear bag with a set of undergarments (sans bra), yoga pants, t-shirt, socks, and toothbrush
  • 1 quart sized bag full of candy!!  Especially our favorite tic-tacs!!
  • 1 quart/gallon sized bag full of healthier foods like bananas, raisins, frozen Go-gurts
  • Letter sized envelope containing necessary identification documents for the girls
  • My driver’s license, flight paperwork, one credit card, and usually about $30 cash
  • 1 pint sized clear bag containing: chapstick, hand sanitizer, toothpaste, hand moisturizer, all sized per FAA regulations.
  • Cell phone
  • Charger for laptop and cell phone (even if my layover is too short for charging, you never know when your flight might get delayed)
  • Kindle Fire
  • Two pairs of ear buds; one for me and one for my toddler.  If I had another set of full headphones, I’d be bringing them for my toddler instead of the earbuds, but I don’t.

All the items that have to be screened separately (liquids and gels) are put in the outermost pocket of the backpacks for quick removal at the security check point.  I generally put the “fruit squeezies” bag in the bin along with the other liquids to keep things easy for security personnel.

I’ll post about navigating the airport, bathroom breaks, and food during a later post.  If you have questions in the meantime, please feel free to ask!  Comments about your experiences while flying are always appreciated!

Of Pants and Dresses

Many friends and family have asked why I would consider wearing pants to church.  As the questions were being asked, a wide variety of assumptions were being made.  Some of the assumptions were about the “cause” and many others were of the kind that sounded like my spirituality and testimony were being judged by those without authority to judge.  To all those who thought those things: Shame on you.

If you missed the actual description, the group All Enlisted, which created yesterday’s Pants to Church event, reads as follows:

 All Enlisted” is composed of faithful Latter-day Saints, their allies, and advocates for social change. It is intended 

to be a place of action where active LDS men and women can engage in acts of peaceful resistance to gender inequality in the LDS church. Drawing inspiration from suffragettes and civil rights leaders, we aim to display a respect for personal revelation and community strength as we seek to build Zion, a place where we fully realize and embrace the truth that all are alike unto God. 

We strive to keep our actions consistent with those of the Savior by showing a commitment to Christ’s injunction to love one another as ourselves. We echo the words of Gordon B. Hinckley when he said, “God will hold us accountable if we neglect his daughters.”

Logically and doctrinally, it stands to reason that women are equal to men in the eyes of our Heavenly Parents. Thus, women’s realm of influence is, and ought to be, much broader than those defined and promulgated by existing church policy.

By preventing women from fully participating in the church, many women who consider themselves Mormon feminists feel forced to choose between their divine nature as women, and the church organization they love. By equalizing the role of women in the church, all members will be edified as members make decisions based on personal revelation instead of rigid gender roles. 

Equality benefits both men and women, allowing us to see our brothers and sisters as the Savior see them: as individuals with unique needs and talents and limitless potential regardless of gender. 
Our group’s name reflects the belief that all members maintain responsibility to enlist in causes dedicated to improving the church. 

We are all enlisted till the conflict is o’er; Happy are we! Happy are we! Soldiers in the army, there’s a bright crown in store; We shall win and wear it by and by. 

 

In an effort to shed some light on my personal reasons for even considering such a thing as supporting a group that uses the words “peaceful resistance” and “gender inequality”, I’ve decided that the best way to do this is to write up a full post about it.

First off, let me just say that my husband was the first person to ever suggest I wear pants to church and that much of the inequality experienced was culturally based and not doctrine.  But back to the pants in general . . .

As I’d stand in my closet lamenting the state of my church wardrobe, my husband would say, “Then just wear pants”.   I try to be budget conscious and let’s face it: flattering outfits can be difficult to find when you lack to time shop and actually try things on.  I’ve had a lot of weight fluctuations in the last 7 years, too, which has only made the wardrobe situation worse.  I don’t like feeling like a slob when I go to church but with so many ill fitting clothes, it’s been tough!  So my precious man has, more than once, reminded me accurately that there is no policy that requires I wear a skirt or dress to church. 

But I’m pretty darn conservative in soooooo many ways and bucking cultural norms really isn’t my style so until today, I have always worn a dress or skirt, even if I felt frumpy.

I first heard about the “wear pants to church event” about a week beforehand and didn’t think much of it other than jealously because I’d never be brave enough to do it because by wearing pants, I would be admitting to all who saw me that I didn’t fit “the mold”.

Very quickly the comments about the event became very difficult to read.  I heard one side saying things I’d heard growing up and the other side saying things that helped calm my cognitive dissonance.
The side I grew up on was saying, “Pants wearers are on the road to apostasy”  while other side was countering with the equally disturbing, “Don’t judge me, you’re the one who thinks blind obedience is right!” There were even death threats that led to police involvement.  It made me want to cry.

This is a lot to take in for a woman who really just wants to do the right thing.  So, with all of the hullabaloo, I decided that as much as I wanted to wear pants to church because they are warm and comfy and dressy and because I do believe in my hearts of hearts that much of the inequality in the church is based on long held societal norms and not because “God wants it this way”, I wanted to make sure I was doing for the right reasons for me.

I know a little of what it is like to not fit in.  It seems I am frequently on the outside of things and I’ve never really had a problem with it.  For years now I’ve felt my divine worth as a daughter of God and the power that came with that knowledge has improved my life in so many ways. However, I know a great many people who have not been blessed with that same understanding and strength; men and women alike who walk into the Chapel and immediately feel unease because they aren’t dressed as others are.  It is a horribly unpleasant feeling.

I decided Wednesday evening, after sitting and reading comments on The Feminist Mormon Housewives blog that I needed to find out what I should do.

There was no way on earth I was going to walk into church, in pants, on December 16th, without doing it for the right reasons for me.

After about 2 days of soul searching and praying I knew that I needed to wear my slacks to church.  It wasn’t for me—I now know that as long as I’m dressed in my best and invite the Spirit to be with me that pants or dress won’t matter—but because someone else needed to see me in pants.  I don’t know who and I probably never will.

Leading up to this decision I knew it would be a lesson to me in just how deep my cultural roots go.  How uncomfortable was I going to feel?  Did it really matter if I was the only one?  What I didn’t anticipate was the lesson I was given on compassion.  The only time I’ve felt truly judged at church was when my husband and I had been married for almost 4 years and still did not have children.  Week after week people would ask about our intent to have children.  Some of it was “good natured ribbing” but some of it was hurtful.  They thought we were putting off our family because my husband was in law school, because I was too busy making a name for myself at my school, etc.  

What none of those people knew was just how hurtful all their comments were.  My husband and I tried to get pregnant for a very long time before our eventual success.  It was so hard to go to church, watching couples who had just been married have children while we sat there, childless, and being informed we weren’t good enough because of it.

I know many people in the church have felt hurt over one thing or another.  The most notable perhaps would be the single mom, those with same-sex attraction, addictions, or divorce in their past, but there are so many other reasons that people sometimes feel unloved.  Empathy is a far more powerful tool than sympathy.

So yesterday, head held high and dressed very nicely, I walked into the chapel in my nicest slacks and had a really wonderful experience.  I was reminded that I am a daughter of God and can impact how others view His gospel.  I really wish I could have stuck around longer to talk to someone, anyone, about “the pants” but I was unable to do so.

If you have time, I highly recommend reading the stories of other women here:

 http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/2012/12/pantscapades-the-after-party/

 As you read them, whether you are a “pants supporter” or not, you’ll see that something truly amazing happened:  Women attended Sacrament meeting who had not been attending church for quite some time.  This single event helped to bring daughters of God to Christ.  And isn’t that what Sacrament meeting is all about?

 

Take off the Headphones

I’ve been thinking about the contents of this post for months.  Yes, this is one of those posts that I was writing in my head long before I ever decided I was actually going to start a blog.  But even with months of wording going through my head, I’m probably going to sound like I’m all over the place.

It is what it is.

It should come as no surprise that I have a pet-peeve.  What may surprise you is that my pet-peeve is with headphones.  You know, those obnoxious little things (or sometimes gigantic ones) that people wear? Earbuds

I hate them.  Unless you’re sleeping in bed or in an office where what you do doesn’t matter to anyone, are they really really necessary?

Do you know how annoying it is to practically yell at someone and have them still not hear you or go, “Huh?” as they pull the earbud out???  I just want to take scissors to every pair of earbuds I see.  I hate them.  It’s not just because I can’t be heard when someone is wearing them, either.

Let me explain:

I like to go on walks and have even worked my way into jogging.  I still suck, but I enjoy the solitude and always feel better on a day where I’ve given myself a decent workout.  There is one thing that I’ve notice I do differently from all the other joggers and walkers in my area: no earbuds.

Remember?  I hate them.

There are a lot of reasons for not wanting them when I’m alone, but the most important one is my own safety.  Unless I have the headphones on so quietly I can’t hear what is playing, my own sense of sound is diminished and I am unable to hear what is going on around me.  Sometimes the sound of my own breathing  and my feet hitting the concrete is distracting enough.

If you recall, my last post mentioned how much I hate not having control over a situation.  Headphone would fall into this category.

Now, if I was Laura Taylor and could run a marathon in 3:10 then I probably wouldn’t mind quite so much because I could outrun anyone who tried to chase me. Dude, her fastest mile was mile 24!  WHO DOES THAT?!?!

Not me. I am not Laura Taylor.

Of course, people intending to do harm isn’t the only safety hazard.  To illustrate my point I’m going to share a story that I hope doesn’t offend any local readers.  Last week, on the day before Thanksgiving, the beloved school principal of the elementary school just kitty-corner to my home was killed by a vehicle.  If you want to read more, you can do so here.  She was walking with headphones and for reasons I’ll never understand, she jaywalked at a bend in the road.  It was not a “blind corner” but it was pretty close.  The driver, an 18 year old, will likely suffer mental distress for the rest of his life over the death his vehicle caused, through no fault of his own.

My point is that she was a “distracted walker”.  I can only assume that the principal of an elementary school, who is 60 years old, would never have stepped into that road without looking both ways and listening carefully if she hadn’t had at least part of her attention on whatever was playing on her listening device.

This isn’t the first story I’ve heard where a pedestrian was involved in an accident because of “distracted walking”.  This just happens to be the first one where texting does not appear to have been the distraction for either party.

So my advice is this:  If you are walking or jogging, leave the headphones home or, if you must, just put one in your ear and not both.  Not just for your own safety, but for those around you, too.  As awful as I feel for the students at Sander’s Corner and for the family who have lost a loved one, it is the teen who I grieve for the most.

So I’ll say it one last time:  I hate headhones.