Homesick for the Fellowship in Self-Realization Fellowship

We have been living with my in-laws for over three weeks. It was supposed to be a much shorter visit, but it’s hard to leave these grandparents! Being a religious woman and a member of Self-Realization Fellowshipa church that encourages discussion and questions, I always enjoy the theological discussions I have with Walter’s namesake, Grandpa Walter, a devout Catholic. Theological discussion, a documentary, the news this past month full of the Catholic Church and a conversation with Walter about the need for community for the church to truly do its work–it all made me homesick for the feeling I have whenever I am on “SRF” property. For about twenty-four hours, I even wondered if I was feeling actual distance from the church I grew up with. I asked myself, am I feeling called to convert to Catholicism?

It wasn’t a comfortable question. Converting to a religion is a big deal, and my politics don’t exactly mesh with the Catholic Church’s views on birth control, choice and who knows what else. I could ask the question, however, because SRF would still embrace me. The “Church of All Religions” teaches children at its Youth Programs that “all paths reach the mountaintop.” There is a garden that celebrates each of the world’s major religions at the beautiful Lake Shrine in California, right near the entrance. Conversion would be a very big deal for me and my family, but it would not cause any rifts.

The interior of the temple at Lake Shrine, couresty of lakeshrine.org

The interior of the temple at Lake Shrine, couresty of lakeshrine.org

Then, today, I attended Easter Mass with my in-laws, baby and husband. The homily was delivered by a priest from India, the same man who performed mass at Christmas. The only two Catholic masses I have attended in my adult life were performed by this priest. This is a bit of a divine joke, in my opinion, because the founder of SRF came from India to the United States in order to offer a spiritual path that united East and West. It makes me smile. The priest is an intelligent, devout, eloquent, passionate speaker. When he spoke today about the Resurrection, he said that the Resurrection of Christ was a reward for the life Christ had lived. This resonated with me deeply, because I believe that union with God, the Realization that our true Selves are, in fact, one with God, and that we have to work for that. The work that we have to do is to cast aside the delusion that keeps us from that knowledge, the desire for worldly achievements and things that distract us from the desire to reunite with God.

Easter Mass with Cousin Elliott and Aunt Peggy

Easter Mass with Cousin Elliott and Aunt Peggy

And therein lies my answer to the conversion question: I do not believe that the Catholic Church is the one true church. I believe in reincarnation. I may not be a member of the religion of Self-Realization Fellowship yet, not having received the meditation technique Kriya Yoga, but I am still a proud member of the church. Paramahansa Yogananda is my guru. When I pray, I sometimes choose to begin with the same beginning I have heard so many times at Sunday talks and Youth Program meditations, “Heavenly Father, Mother, Friend, Beloved God; Jesus Christ, Bhagavan Krishna, Mahavatar Babaji, Lahiri Mahashaya, Swami Sri Yukteshwar and our Beloved Guru, Paramahansa Yogananda, Saints and Sages of All Religions, I bow to you all.” Krishna and Babaji, in particular, are too dear to my heart.

I do not want to convert to another religion. I simply long for community. When I visit my mother, in Phoenix, AZ, and see the various ways in which she can choose to be involved in the church there, I long for those same choices. Members of SRF are not holier or nicer than Catholics or anyone else. They simply share a longing that I, too, feel, to take this particular path to mountain top.

Today, I was thankful for the massive statue of Christ that hangs above the altar at the local Catholic church. Rather than Christ on the cross, it depicts Christ rising. I looked at that image and prayed another familiar prayer, deep in my heart, “May thy love shine forever on the sanctuary of my devotion.”

 

Paramahansa Yogananda, courtesy of http://www.yogananda-srf.org/

Paramahansa Yogananda, courtesy of http://www.yogananda-srf.org/

Babywearing on Vacation: The Onya Rules

I already explained why you need an Onya if you’re bringing your baby on an airplane. Today, I’m going to recap my experience at the BlissDom conference last weekend while showing you why the Onya is the best thing to happen to babywearing on vacation since, well, parents like me started wearing their babies on vacation!

I suppose that a conference might sound like a work event, especially since I went as a blogger and attended sessions where I learned about writing, blogging and life, but “conference” sounds too stuffy for BlissDom. It was, literally, a resort full of people with similar interests, most of them smiling all weekend long! I think what I learned about myself as a mom, my baby, babywearing on vacation in general and the Onya applies to any trip. I’ll be using this to go to the fair this summer, on trips to visit friends and family, at family reunions–you name it. While I used the Onya Outback carrier on the plane, I chose the 100% soft cotton Onya Cruiser (in Dove Grey/Chocolate Chip) for our time in the gorgeous Gaylord Texan resort. Here’s why you need an Onya for babywearing on vacation with your family:

  • Never get left out–I found myself soothing, entertaining, cuddling and even nursing my baby, Walter, without interrupting the activity I was enjoying, whether that was lunch with my friend Diana, listening to the amazing and inspirational Annie Downs, picking up more “swag” (freebies from vendors/sponsors), having a great conversation while standing in line to meet Susan Cain at her book signing, or walking to and from various events. I didn’t need to stop to find an elevator for a stroller or a stroller-friendly bathroom for diaper changes. I could just stand up and bounce/pat/rock a fussy or sleeping Walt (I sat in the back to make sure I wouldn’t block anyone’s view). I could follow a crowd up an escalator just to see where we were all going. Walt entertained by peeking out to interact with strangers, playing with his favorite toy (a little butterfly that is evidently very yummy) or chewing/drooling on the organic cotton, snap-on, machine washable Onya Chewies around the straps of our Onya.
Chewing on some Chewies! We have some with slate, instead of chocolate, accents to match our Outback, fyi. Love them!

Chewing on some Chewies! We have some with slate, instead of chocolate, accents to match our Outback, fyi. Love them!

  • Feed on the go–If I wanted to nurse while standing, I could do that discretely in the carrier. If I wanted a quiet moment to sit and feed my boy, I didn’t have to take off my Onya, I just had to let the front fall onto my lap and serve as both outfit protector (we’ve got a spitter!) and a nice, soft surface for cuddling (the Cruiser is 100% brushed cotton).
Nursing in the Onya! (I had to look at my InstaGram feed to even figure out which self-portrait of me and the kiddo *was* the nursing photo.)

Nursing in the Onya! (I had to look at my InstaGram feed captions to even figure out which self-portrait of me and the kiddo *was* the nursing photo.) Note: tons of head/neck support for my babe.


  • Never get lost or locked out–the Onya is the only carrier with two zipper pockets, and this resort was big enough to require a map. The map went in a roomier side zipper pocket, while my hotel room key went in the front zipper pocket.
  • Buy/collect just the right amount of stuff–I bought a book on Minimalist Parenting (I know, irony!) and collected lots of free things from sponsors, including an entire diaper bag full of goodies. Because I had my hands free, I could carry more, and I also had my hands free to rearrange everything and look through it all to decide–do I really want this? I liked that better than pilling everything in the stroller basket, because I took less and threw less away when I packed for home.
I did not win these amazing, blinged-out Bébé sunglasses at the VSP (Vision Service Plan) booth, but I got to enter the contest thanks to babywearing! Do I not totally look like Anne Hathaway in this shot? The nice lady said I did!

I did not win these amazing, blinged-out Bébé sunglasses at the VSP (Vision Service Plan) booth, but I got to enter the contest thanks to babywearing! Do I not totally look like Anne Hathaway in this shot? The nice lady said I did!

  • Nap time on the go–I have never met a baby who didn’t sleep better in a carrier. Listening to an adult’s heartbeat and being cuddled is just plain better for baby sleep, in my mama/nanny experience. The Cruiser’s sleep hood is incredibly soft and tucks away when Baby is awake, but it unfolds and easily but securely snaps onto the shoulder straps. No other carrier has a sleep hood that tucks away, invisibly, when it’s not being used, and Walt didn’t even stir when I pulled it out of the pocket.
  • Give Baby a Better View–when he was awake, my Walt just loved being able to see everything to his left and right. All I had to do to show him the massive fountain (he loves water, especially rushing water!) was turn to the side a little. If someone wanted to meet him, same thing. Even when he was sleeping, new and old friends could soflty squeeze the pudgy little baby hands and feet at my sides (after asking permission, of course).
  • Better Bonding–I felt like I got to know my little guy as a person, because I really shared all these new experiences with him. A glance let us look in each other’s eyes. I could feel his body tense or relax. I could kiss his head or hold his hand or tickle his foot without even thinking about it. I fully responded to his need for soothing with touch and motion by standing and swaying, even as I listened attentively to an amazing keynote by Susan Cain on the power of introverts. I even asked a question after he had fallen asleep!
  • Make New Friends–When your baby is on you (get it? “Onya”?), people are just plain friendlier. For the most part, they smile when they see you. They feel ok coming up and saying hello and asking to meet the little one. I could always start a chat with someone sitting next to me by pointing out that he was smiling at them. There’s a lot to talk about when there’s a baby around, especially if he’s not hidden away under blankets in a carseat on top of a stroller. I am not making this up, either: people stopped me to ask about my baby carrier, because it looked great and super comfy (and it IS), and I enjoyed those conversations, too!
Walt's incredibly adorable new friend Caprice. Yes, they are holding hands!

Walt’s incredibly adorable new friend Caprice. Yes, they are holding hands! It took all of five seconds to get him out of the Onya and onto the table.

I could go on about always knowing whether he’s hot, cold or just right, exploring my new surroundings freely, walking to put the baby to sleep while having my hands free to call home and more. But I think you get the point. Here’s the shocker:

My back didn’t hurt. 

On Friday alone, I wore a 16+ pound baby in the Onya Cruiser for over seven hours, without going back to my hotel room, and at the end of the day, only my shoulders were a little sore. Sure, I had had short breaks, like the time he played with a new friend or during a diaper change. But he was even in the carrier while I ate my lunch (he napped, and the hood protected him from crumbs–really). But I am not exaggerating, folks.

I wore a baby about Walt’s size on a long walk in an Ergo once, and I couldn’t wait to take that thing off. Sorry, Ergo, but the Onya is just more comfortable. The soreness in my shoulders wasn’t the same sharp, concentrated pain I’ve felt with other carriers. It was just the natural soreness that follows good exercise. A video showing how to put an infant in the Onya shows why its well-padded, wide, easily adjustable straps and waist band are so unique. Because it was so easy to adjust every little thing starting out the day, every tension and angle was just suited to my body, from the length of the straps to the tightness of the belt and the clip keeping the straps connected. I had given my body a healthy workout, kept my baby close enough to kiss and avoided injury!

Here’s some related stuff–

My illustrated guide to safe babywearing at the parenting site Dinker & Giggles; there’s a great discussion in the comments section on that article and pretty pictures.

A video showing how you can wear you child on your back in the Onya.

A video showing how you can use the Onya’s chair harness for a baby who can sit up independently. I’ve set up the chair harness in about thirty seconds, with very little practice, and it is tucked away in an incredibly discrete pocket and not an extra attachment. My baby has not mastered sitting yet, though, so it wouldn’t be safe to put him in it, no matter how often I have desperately wished he could be safe in a chair at a restaurant table.

One more thing: even if you have never blogged in your life, go to BlissDom. I obviously missed out on some of the official events while caring for a five-month-old. But I made several friends I’m keeping contact with, and I had amazing conversations with some people I may never see again. The official events I did attend were fantastic. This year, attendees will be able to see what we missed online by watching videos of sessions. I won my ticket during a BlissDom contest called “#HolidayBliss” so stay on the lookout for free tickets! I learned so much and came home so inspired. Thanks, Bliss Chicks!

Note: OnyaBaby sponsored my hotel costs for the BlissDom conference and provided the carriers I used, but the opinions in this review are all mine.

The Onya is the Best Baby Carrier for Air Travel

 

Walt isn't visible, because he's asleep in the Outback. I'm kissing his forehead.

Walt isn’t visible, because he’s asleep in the sporty Onya Outback, seen here in Burnt Orange/Slate Gray. I’m kissing my baby’s forehead in this picture.

Mama and Baby on the plane on our way to DFW!

Mama and Baby on the plane on our way to DFW! Walt is sitting on the Onya while it doubles as a lap pad.

Onya, the best baby carrier company in the entire world, sponsored part of our trip to the fabulous BlissDom conference in Dallas, TX. I knew I loved the Onya; I didn’t know that the Onya is the best carrier for air travel. I have so much to say about the Onya during our trip that I’m grouping my stories into topics, starting with the traveling. Our little family flew to visit my mom’s house, but solo parenting on an airplane is an entirely different experience.

Here’s why you should choose Onya next time you need to fly with one of your littles:

  • Your hands are free to deal with checking luggage, getting through security quickly, purchasing a magazine or pain killers or water.
  • You don’t have to take it all the way off–just sit down, unbuckle the top and let it double as a lap pad.
  • If you don’t take it all the way off, it’s easy to put it back on when it’s time to change a diaper. In the tiny airport bathroom, it won’t take up valuable space, but it will leave your hands free to help you up and down the aisle on your way there and back.
  • The top zipper pocket is the perfect size for ID.
  • The side zipper pocket (yes, there are two zipper pockets) is exactly the right size to hold a boarding pass.
  • The whole thing rolls up to about the size of a shoe box when you’re not using it.
  • The entire carrier weighs a mere 2.2 lbs.
  • The Outback, with its sporty design and mesh lining, will help keep you and your baby cool through all the exercise and overcrowding that is air travel these days. Its waterproof fabric will make cleaning up after an inevitable mess very easy.

A sponsor helping pay for a trip might make you think I’m biased in their favor; I definitely am. I am biased in Onya’s favor because when the carrier came out, I could tell that it had fixed most of the problems I had encountered with other soft-structured carriers when I was a nanny: uncomfortable straps, an uncomfortable waistband, too much of the baby’s weight on the top of my shoulders. I contacted Onya first, ages ago. I was a cheerleader for them on Twitter before I even owned one. I reached out to them about BlissDom sponsorship, because I knew I’d rather wear Walt than push him in a stroller. The babe likes to be held. I couldn’t picture a stroller working very well, and out of all my five baby carriers, the Onya is my clear favorite for long-term babywearing. I am so excited that they helped me go, in part because I have so much great information to pass on to you about the carrier. We’ll start with why it’s the best baby carrier for air travel.

First: security. I needed the carseat for the trip from Dallas/Fort Worth airport to the hotel and back, so I needed the stroller to carry the carseat. I could have checked both with my luggage for free (on American) but had heard from more experienced mamas that if there was an open seat, I might be able to put Walt in his carseat on the plane. So I decided to take it through security. I found out from these same experienced mamas that I would need to hold Walt while the carseat and stroller went through the XRay box along with my purse, shoes, etc. My solution? Put everything in the stroller except the Outback and put the baby in the Outback. It worked like a charm! My hands were free to get everything arranged and on its way through TSA. My baby was happy. We were ready to check everything at the gate in case there was no extra seat (there wasn’t). This happened on the way to Dallas and on the way home. Both flights were packed.

I sat down in my window seat, where I prefer to nurse during takeoffs and landings to help Walt’s ears pop, and discovered that I could keep the Onya buckled around my waist and let the front fall across my lap. It made a cushion for the baby. It prevented his little toy from falling to the floor. It even stopped spit up from soaking my jeans! Because I was using the Outback, which has an easy-to-clean mesh lining, I could clean the spit up with a napkin and not worry that it would soak my baby when I buckled him back in.

IMG_2529

The dark gray is the Onya. This is the flight home, during a rare moment of peace.

Walt didn’t fuss when we were standing, because he was in the carrier and could see. He loves to see new faces! Someone found us at BlissDom because she recognized him from the flight–she had been sitting behind us when I lifted him up to see all the people. His smile really made an impression! On the way to Dallas, he was a dream. He played with the toddler sitting next to us. Smiled at the people around us. Fell asleep after I changed his diaper. Stayed safe in his carrier in the aisle while I used my hands to make sure I could catch us in the event of sudden turbulence. The flight home was a different story.

On our way back to New York, his stomach hurt from gas pain, his gripe water remedy was in the checked luggage because the bottle was a 4 oz, not a 3 oz, bottle, and he just screamed. He screamed himself to sleep. Then, the pain woke him up, and he screamed again. I put the carrier on, took it off, put it on and nursed him in it, then took it off and used it as a lap pad while I tried everything I could think of to calm him. In the end, all I could do was put the front back on, pat his back and sing our favorite songs into his ear while he cried.

A lovely man I don’t know approached us while we were waiting for our luggage. I was so afraid he would say something about how I should have handled the flight differently. Instead, he said it was nice to hear my singing voice. I was the perfect way to respond to a young mom and a young baby who had had a very long day. Having two hands while solo parenting in airports and airplanes while holding my baby? The only way we made it through that day at all.

 

To Good Morning America, From Anne-Marie Lindsey

Dear GMA,
I’m sure that you did your best; frankly, your segment and blog post misrepresented my story and [www.mommyneedsaxanax.com]. At best, it was harmless, except for the anxiety and anger it has caused me. At worst, your piece came off as pressure to use meds only in emergencies and to get off as soon as possible. A “response to motherhood” does not even come close to an accurate characterization of most stories. If you want to cover postpartum mental health, say that. If you were trying to cover mental health for women like me, who became mothers after overcoming mental health obstacles, you utterly failed. You may have shown me saying that meds are a tool in my toolbox, but you didn’t mention the other tools available, how to “find a support group” or the fact that 2 of the 3 moms you interviewed were on meds before motherhood. I am not only disappointed, I am angry on behalf of the mothers you shamed today. Now, many of them will have to answer questions like, “Do you really still need medication? Are you sure?”
Women do not take medication because they can’t cut it as mothers alone. That was the message your show and segment sent. You wasted a golden opportunity to change hearts and minds. You perpetuated the stigma that mothers like me are weak. The “anchors” came off as callous and completely lacking in empathy. You could have done worse, and that’s the best I can say for your so-called “news” piece. This was sensationalism and a disservice to mothers. Trivializing mental illness and the medication that helps the mentally ill is never ok.
Anne-Marie Lindsey

On TV on Our Anniversary: Perspective Gained

One of the three other bloggers Good Morning America interviewed found me, and we had a nice chat. Then, in the middle of that chat, we heard from the producer of “our” segment that it’s going to air tomorrow (today? it’s 3 am!) so that was crazy. I am choosing to believe that that is a sign that it is actually going to air and we can let the anxiety level fall down to a reasonable level again (right before heading off to Dallas and the BlissDom conference). She’s lovely, and in Mississippi, and her blog is over at Mommy Needs a Xanax. Yes, in fact, she is funny!

But you know why I’ve been really excited about March 20th for quite some time, now? It’s our wedding anniversary. I could not have designed a better reality check if I had tried, which leads me to suspect that Somebody up there likes me enough to have designed this reality check as a little joke. There’s five minutes on TV (or however long) and then there is… MARRIAGE.

If you have arrived at this blog because you saw me and my son, Walter, on ABC, then this is the first thing you may read. If that is true, then let this be the first thing that you learn about us, in real life, for real–getting married to each other and starting this family is the best thing that Nathan and I have ever done. We agree on this. We are having a little vacation right now. Do you know where we both just assumed we’d be spending spring break? At his mom’s house. Why? Because it’s really nice, here. And “Gram” loves us and our boy. He lights up when he sees her. And it’s been an awesome spring break. Tomorrow, we will get dressed up. Gram will take care of our boy. We will go into The City and eat at the same restaurant that hosted our “reception.”

I put that in quotes, because we got married eight days after getting engaged, at New York’s Marriage Bureau, aka “City Hall” (it’s not actually in City Hall anymore). We invited whatever immediate family members could come. I stayed up late the night before, giggling with the friends who would help me get ready. Nathan slept here, at his mother’s house. We waiting in a few too many lines and did more paperwork in front of our guests than your average couple, but we had a wonderful time at our wedding. The clerk who married us actually cried a little. And she does it all day long. There was so much love in that little chapel.

Tomorrow, I will put on a white dress, again. This time, it’s one I spotted a year ago while shopping with Nathan. It was on clearance. It was the last one. It was in my size. But I was newly pregnant, so I showed it to Nathan and expressed my sorrow at leaving that dress size behind. He told me to buy it anyway, and wear it in a year. Our baby turned five months, yesterday, and my body looks more familiar than it did. Nursing and a few spikes in anxiety have helped me shed some baby weight, I suppose. I fit in my pre-baby skirts. But some sort of superstition has kept me from trying on my Anniversary Dress. So, here’s hoping it fits. If not, I have a backup. And we will have a marvelous evening.

There is so much to celebrate. Our family has grown. All of us are happy and healthy. That’s all I ever wanted. Happy and healthy. Many times in my life, I have believed that I needed perfection. This is better, because it is real. Perfection is a mirage. With that in mind, here is a model wearing The Dress. And in case you are wondering, it’s Jason Wu – For Target. Also, I will not be wearing sunglasses.

0110-jason-wu-for-target-06_fa

Car Seat Anxiety: The Dangers and Comforts of the Internet

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you may know that my husband and I were in a minor car accident about two weeks before our son was born. Essentially, this is what happened: we stopped at a red light. We were stopped for a bit. A bus pulled up behind us, and it didn’t stop in time. A city bus. Yes, there is a lawsuit pending. Despite what the driver claimed, it is not possible for a city bus to “tap” a car, even while going very slowly. It was scary. I had to be monitored in the “Triage” section of Labor and Delivery. We had to throw out the car seat that we had installed in case the baby came early (he did, by the way! ten days early! I was right!) and buy a new one. Because “you never know.”

I am now thoroughly car seat paranoid. I check the little “is this installed correctly” bubble that should be green about once a week, to make sure it’s still green. I pay close attention every time I strap our child into his seat. I have taught his close-by grandmother, who has a base installed in her car, the proper placement of the chest clip (higher than you thought), why children should not wear bulky clothing in car seats (it’s pretty much equivalent to not tightening the strap) and the list goes on. Other parents tell me that this particular anxiety is warranted: very few people actually use their car seats correctly. Which makes it pretty hard for the seat to do its job. I refer anyone who wants to know more to The Car Seat Lady, an amazing lady with an amazing website.

The latest installment of my car seat anxiety (pun intended) involves hearing, at his last checkup, that our son, Walter, is 26″ long. Which is only 4″ shorter than the maximum length recommended by the manufacturer of his “infant” car seat. Of course, I immediately began to dread the day he would require the next step in child restraint safety–the “convertible” seat. These get their names from the fact that a child can sit in them facing the rear of your vehicle while he is under a certain weight (it varies depending on the car seat) and can also be installed so that it turns around to face the front of the car when you baby is a toddler who weight more than 30, 35, 40, etc pounds. The concept does not give me anxiety. The fact that there are eight billion car seats to choose from, ranging in price from under $100 all the way up to $500 is what causes me to freak out.

How do you know when you are paying for safety and when you are paying for a brand name or a fabric pattern? Why is it that the Consumer Reports recommendations are from 2011 and apply only to car seat models that are no longer available for purchase? Are the basic standards required of all car seats really good enough to justify buying the least expensive seat? And, finally, am I willing to pay extra so that I can adjust the height of the harness straps without taking apart the car seat?

The only question I know the answer to in that list is the last one: yes, we are all agreed, dad, mom and grandmother, that paying more for the “sliding” harness is totally worth it. When my mother-in-law bought carseats (before they were required), she just walked into a store, pointed to one, and walked out with a box. I can’t do that. Because I Googled it. Now, I know too much to buy just any car seat, even if they do meet basic standards, because I know that some are better–Consumer Reports says so. But since their tests apply to models no longer commercially available, I don’t know which current model is the safest one. I can also order online, and each and every retailer stocks different models from the big brands. I have both too much and too little information.

In my daydreams, money is no object, and we buy the Clek “Foonf” in “dragonfly” green, a Danish carseat that really does have some incredible new safety features and is only as wide as a person. You could instal three of them, side by side, in the back seat of a minivan, and they wouldn’t touch. It’s amazing. And around $500. So that’s not happening.

I’ll figure it out. I got a short list of good ones from moms and baby gear bloggers I trust. That’s the joy of the internet. Go to a couple of Facebook pages, ask a few people for some brand names on Twitter, check out that list in a few stores, and a mom can feel reasonably confident in her short list of preferred car seats.

But boy oh boy, is the car seat industry a racket! I was in two different stores today, and I could not tell you the difference between different models from the same brand that cost $100 more, except that they had different (meaningless) names. You can, I kid you not, get “last year’s colors” for less money. When Graco comes out with a “Tensley” shade of mauve that beats out last year’s “Kinsley” shade of muted magenta, consumers are apparently expected to care.

In case anyone from Graco sees this, I have a bone to pick with you: stop naming your colors with completely un-descriptive, un-helpful words that sound like made-up reality-TV baby names. Britax’s “Mooflauge” may be stupid, but at least it gives you some idea that that’s the one with the cow spots. Given that price varies by pattern, a fact that makes me want to throw things, it would be helpful to have a clue what I’m looking for when I see which pattern is the cheapest. Because no, I don’t care if my kid’s next car seat is so 2012.

But Walter has not outgrown his infant seat. I do not have to choose a new seat, yet, or start wondering all over again if the slightly more- or less-expensive seat would have been safer, physically, or wiser, financially. Right now, all I have to worry about is how to get the damn infant seat installed in the Super Shuttle when we arrive in Dallas this Thursday for the BlissDom conference.

Which car seat did you buy? Do you feel like it’s a status symbol? Do you have any tips for installing an infant seat in a Super Shuttle van?

PS Don’t forget to enter my giveaway before March 20th!

Win a Skip Hop Pronto Changing Station in My First Giveaway!

The best advice I got before having a baby/creating a baby registry/buying anything for life with a baby was from my sister. She told me not to buy a diaper bag. She said she had hated all the ones she had tried. Instead, she suggested that I buy a smaller changing station that would hold diapers, wipes and some diaper cream and attach it to whichever bag I found useful for each stage of my baby’s life. At the time, hers was in a backpack; my nephew was almost two, and my niece was almost four, so their stuff took up quite a bit of space. She told me that when she had just been toting around my niece as an infant in her ring sling, she hadn’t needed anything bigger than a purse. Well, diaper bags are expensive, especially the nice ones. So I looked at some. Drooled over a few. Then, I scored a purse that I loved and realized that it was both durable and big enough for my baby’s needs.

We never leave the house without:

  • Diapers
  • Wipes
  • A Change of Clothing for Walt
  • A Plastic Bag

I really should always have a change of clothing for me, but I never remember that. I usually have a pacifier, and often a bottle. But we can pull over, so I can breastfeed him if he’s hungry. No one has died from hearing a baby cry, and the pacifier doesn’t always work, anyway. If he has managed to shoot out all the poop in his body at one time, up the back of his diaper (every baby does this, I am told), waiting until we get home to change him is pretty awful. Putting him back in poop-stained clothing, even if his diaper is clean? Really gross. Having to store the poop-stained clothes in my purse without a plastic bag around them? Really gross. I once forgot the plastic bag and threw away the outfit with the dirty diaper rather than get deal with it. (We have a ton of baby clothes, many of well-loved by older cousins. This outfit was one of those, not a fancy new gifted outfit.) My point is that all of these things fit in my purse, for now. I don’t need a big diaper bag. So, I decided to take my sister’s advice and find some sort of mini diaper changing “station.”

Picture me and my mother-in-law at Babies ‘R Us, trying to finish getting the things on my list that we had not received at our babyshower. We wander. There are outbursts of excitement when we finally find something on the list. I have brought all the wrong measurements for everything and don’t understand what size of anything I’m supposed to be getting. Finally, I spot the portable changing stations. It’s been picked over pretty well. I have two options: the Babies ‘R Us brand without a wipes container or the more expensive (and much prettier) Skip Hop Pronto, the Queen of all Changing Stations. Obviously, I treat myself to the beautiful one. I plan to carry it every time I take the baby out, after all.

I nearly packed our Pronto in my hospital bag. I had diapers and wipes in that thing weeks before my due date. My husband talked me out of bringing it to the hospital because it is a five-minute drive from our house. In traffic. But I still worried that we would need it! Behold, the awesome:

Yes, the changing pad is an adorable surprise! (Photo from skiphop.com)

Yes, the green changing pad is an adorable surprise! (Photo from skiphop.com)

The features of this incredibly useful product include:

  • Front Zipper Pocket: For keys, wallet, phone, etc
  • Strap w/ Clip: Hangs on stroller or wrist
  • Pronto Pillow: Innovative head-cushion keeps baby safe & comfy
  • Mesh Pocket: Holds up to four large diapers, creams and other essentials
  • Translucent Wipes Case: See-through for timely reloads
  • Two-In-One: Pad zips off for independent use
  • Changing Pad: Extra-wide for wiggly babies. Wipes clean. Laminated mod design
  • Material is ideal for monogramming (this service not offered by Skip Hop)
  • Size: Closed: 8 3/4” x 11 1/2” x 1” Changing pad size: 21 1/2” x 21 1/2” (at widest point)

Did it ever occur to you that a *translucent* wipes case would come in handy? Not me! But it does–we can see how many are left without opening it. I use the Pronto, Dad uses it, three of Walter’s four grandmothers have used it. It fits in an airplane bathroom; did you know that once the changing table in one of those bathrooms is folded down, there is barely room for a parent, let alone a parent toting a big diaper bag? Oddly, Skip Hop fails to mention in their official list of features that the changing pad zips off. Yes, you can unzip it, put it on the changing table and put the rest of the Pronto on whatever counter is handy. Just in case you, too, find yourself changing a baby in an extremely cramped space. We clip it around the handles of my purse, the handle to the carseat, to the stroller. I’ll be clipping it to my baby carrier when I attend the BlissDom conference next week!

But one day, it just wouldn’t zip anymore. I panicked. Obviously, I took a picture of the broken zipper and posted it to InstaGram, because I turn to social media when I panic. (Yes, I’m aware that that is weird.) I asked Jaime, aka The Baby Guy, for help. This is what happened in the comments to my photo:

I got a real person's email. You can't see it, because I covered it up with hearts, but she was super nice and helpful.

I got a real person’s email. You can’t see it, because I covered it up with hearts, but she was super nice and helpful.

I already was a huge Skip Hop fan. It would take me awhile to list all of the things people have given us from the brand, because they know this. And because everything they make is adorable and high-quality. I am now an even bigger fan. I emailed the Skip Hop rep who left her email in that comment, and she had a coupon code for their online store emailed to me within 24 hours. After I placed my order, I discovered that she had also made sure that shipping was free and that it would arrive within two days.

The box, when it did arrive, contained not one, but two Skip Hop Pronto Changing Stations. And yes, “GIVEAWAY!” was the first thought I had. I had to get permission, of course, and make sure they didn’t want the extra one back. Oh, no, they are happy to let me give it away to one of you! What is not to love about this company? The Pronto you get will look like mine: black, with a fun green pattern on the changing pad inside. There are other colors and patterns, but I couldn’t be sure that they’d match my red purse. Here are more pictures:

By the way, the strap that's clipped around the model's wrist gets really long. In case you need to buckle it around something very large? They think of everything.

By the way, the strap that’s clipped around the model’s wrist gets really long. In case you need to buckle it around something very large? They think of everything.

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That’s OK: I Do Not Want to Go “Home” Again

I thought long and hard about whether or not I should publish this post. But I want to do it. I want to say that what happened to me in high school hurt and that it still hurtsMy anger is something I carry with me. I might as well lay it all out, here, since I’ve made a habit of baring my emotional life in this space. I don’t know what my classmates, teachers or family should have done differently. I do know that what happened then exacerbated my anxiety. I’m honestly not sure how helpful this post will be to anyone else. I’m hoping it may exorcise a few of my own demons.

I was invited to my ten year high school reunion a couple weeks ago, and I’m not going. I thought that I would go, initially. I thought about all the people I would like to see. I haven’t been back to my “hometown” since I was 19; my parents don’t live there, anymore. I thought it might be neat to see the changes. Then, I watched the Oscars, and I freaked out about the misogynist jokes and about the way people treated Quvenzhané Wallis. There was the name thing, and The Onion thing. When Twitter exploded in rage over both these issues, the rage was justified. But my reaction was disproportionate. I felt a rush of emotion so huge that I couldn’t stand to participate in social media for a little while. I talked it over in therapy, and I realized that it was all connected to my own experience as a girl and young woman. I am a privileged white woman. I am not claiming that I am similar to Quvenzhané Wallis. I am simply explaining that the Academy Awards controversies triggered a cascade of emotion and memory for me that resulted in my decision to avoid high school reunions, now and forever.

I was bullied. I didn’t know then that that’s what it was. I wasn’t beaten up or taunted relentlessly on the playground. No one graffitied my car or TP’ed my house. But I was told, in so many words, to shut up. Over and over. By boys who didn’t like that I was never shy about my success or quiet about any opinion. I remember it starting late in the fourth grade, and it didn’t let up. That makes nine years, grades four through twelve, of hearing that my voice was irritating, annoying, offensive, obnoxious, stupid, bitchy, pointless. It wasn’t one boy, or a specific group of boys. It was a sort of truth universally acknowledged that I was simply too loud. And the boys were the kids who felt free to tell me so. I’m not sure exactly why it was always boys. But in my memory, the girls are quiet, barring a few short outbursts, and the boys are oh so very loud. I shouted back, partly in order to drown out the anxiety roaring through my head and partly because I was raised among people who fought.

Not every boy actually threw an insult or told me to shut up. But no one told them to stop, either. And that is how it managed to become more frequent and more intense until I knew that the only way to escape it was to leave. Part of me wishes I could go back in time and answer a mom who asked me, “Why would you want to go so far away for college?” with “Because your son calls me a feminist and a lesbian like those are dirty words, and I want to get as far from him as I can.” They called me “Smart Girl” as though the words needed to be spat out, the way I might say “pedophile.”

If you are reading this and knew me in school, this might make sense to you, but it might not. I was what someone might call today a Highly Sensitive Child. Other people’s moods, words, the looks on their faces, took on huge meaning to me. This is still true, to a large extent. I now know that I am “spinning stories” about people around me, as one psychiatrist put it. I am trying to let go of the “probable” hatred I could very well have spun from a misinterpreted glance. But there were direct insults that I remember. It was sustained over years. That is bullying. One boy’s name would surprise none of the people who witnessed our battles. This one boy just would not leave me alone. But there were other boys who said something here or there. It all added up.

If you are reading this and took classes with me during our senior year of high school, I’d be shocked if you didn’t understand my feelings. My father taught two of the classes I needed to take in order to finish the requirements for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme–English and Theory of Knowledge. Students actually yelled, in my presence and sometimes directly at me, about his teaching methods. I don’t care if his classes were the best or the worst or somewhere in between; it was not ok to take it out on me. A classmate’s mother called our home and yelled at my father for ninety minutes. He hung up. She called back. He finally changed that kid’s grade just to avoid the yelling. I would have, too. My classmates called him names. They called me names for doing well in his classes. They said we were cheating. My high scores on the tests wouldn’t come back until after I had moved away, but it wouldn’t have mattered. I had been raised to do well in those courses. Do you know who lived in my house while I was in high school? Me, and my father. The two of us. What do you think we talked about at the dinner table? Over breakfast? On weekends? I loved to read. School was the most important thing in the world to me and my ticket out of a life I hated. He groomed me to get those grades. And no one spoke up for me. No one stopped an eighteen-year-old boy when he stood five feet from me and called my father a “moron” who “had no idea what he was doing.” That is wrong. If you are reading this and took IB Physics with me senior year, you should have said something. I did. I turned and told him to complain all he wanted, but to please do so somewhere I couldn’t hear him. But do you know what researchers say stops a bully? Not standing up to him. A peer who stands up and says, “enough.”

I don’t really want to punish anyone, or shame anyone. I don’t want to go back and prove that I’m above it all. I simply do not want to go back “home” because the memories still hurt. I can list on one hand the students of the Class of 2003 whom I trust. I’m in touch with those people, and will arrange for our families to meet another time. I was closer to older students and to adults. I would love to go back to that beautiful town in the north woods of Minnesota, to see the people I still care for who still live there. I have finally separated the place from what happened to me, there.

In just over four years, I experienced the traumatic divorce of my parents, the usual trials of adolescence, enormous pressure to apply to and get in to exclusive colleges and universities and the collective hatred, expressed quite vocally, of most of my classmates for the only parent who still lived within five hundred miles of me. The very thought of seeing the faces of the people who spouted vitriol and the people who looked away when it happened makes my face flush.

It’s been ten years. If I close my eyes, it feels like yesterday. I don’t trust my own memory, to a large extent. I don’t know if, by the time I graduated, everyone hated me or most kids even liked me or if hardly anyone outside the drama surrounding my father really thought about me at all. I don’t even know how much of the controversy surrounding my dad’s teaching (and my success in his courses) actually made it to that graduation ceremony. I do know that adults chose me as a graduation speaker. So, I spoke about being an “outcast” and the necessity to risk the acceptance of The Group in order to gain truly great insight. It was not subtle. I read part of this poem by Alice Walker:

Be Nobody’s Darling

Be nobody’s darling;
Be an outcast.
Take the contradictions
Of your life
And wrap around
You like a shawl,
To parry stones
To keep you warm.
Watch the people succumb
To madness
With ample cheer;
Let them look askance at you
And you askance reply.
Be an outcast;
Be pleased to walk alone
(Uncool)
Or line the crowded
River beds
With other impetuous
Fools.

Make a merry gathering
On the bank
Where thousands perished
For brave hurt words
They said.

But be nobody’s darling;
Be an outcast.
Qualified to live
Among your dead.

Lifelong Anxiety: I Have No “Before” Life

I have always been mentally ill. I know that it is not comfortable to think of children as mentally ill, but the anxiety and even depression that I have experienced as an adult began haunting me at a very young age. I remember counting small landmarks that went by as our school bus drove from my stop to my best friend’s house, when we were in kindergarten, because after we turned the corner by the big old brick building, after we passed the corn field, she would finally come down that aisle to sit by me. I remember that one day, her siblings filed onto the bus without her. She had three school-aged brothers and sisters, so I asked her oldest sister, “Where’s Sarah?” I felt an awful, tight feeling in my chest when her sister told me that an ear infection would keep Sarah home all day. I know now that that is anxiety. But I couldn’t say “I feel afraid.” There wasn’t something scary happening. It didn’t feel the same as “afraid.” I could only say that my chest hurt, or my tummy hurt.

My mother was never told about childhood anxiety and how it might manifest. Tummy aches that came and went in minutes seemed implausible. She accused me of trying to get out of chores by faking it. Other adults and peers would try to comfort me by explaining that it was “no big deal.” They probably meant that the situation did not warrant so many tears. They were probably right. But what I learned was to keep it all inside, tucked away and secret. The problem was, I have always been really bad at hiding my emotions. Sooner or later, I would break down and cry in school, in front of everyone. It happened in elementary school, middle school, my senior year of high school. There is only so long you can pretend that it’s no big deal, especially when you don’t even know what “it” is. Why was I crying? Because there was too much noise? The hallways were crowded? I couldn’t sleep at night?

I never slept well. My mom tried early bedtimes. Strict wake-up times. (Note: my father didn’t really participate in this whole ordeal until it was just the two of us, when I was in high school. I doubt that he realized then what my mom had been going through my entire life, but he couldn’t get me out of bed any better than she could.) She threatened. She cajoled. She bribed. She made me walk when I missed the bus in the seventh grade. I get it, now. She did not know what else to do. I had to go to school. But I couldn’t get up, because I couldn’t go to sleep. Earlier bed times just meant more time staring at the clock. I still couldn’t fall asleep until midnight, or later.

This has been my reality for as long as I can remember.

I was talking to a friend recently about how she misses life before her anxiety hit her so hard, in her late twenties. I can sympathize, but I can’t relate. I can imagine wanting to go back to the time before anxiety. Obviously, that sounds great. But I can’t picture it. I have a before and an after, too, I guess. Mine is “before treatment” and “after treatment.” Treatment came before an official diagnosis, so getting a name for what I have isn’t the important moment, for me. Before and After don’t look very different, from the outside. I got good grades. I didn’t suddenly become anti-social or lose a job or lost control in any way. Before treatment, I was faking it. After treatment, I could see a better way of living.

I know that it’s on magnets and greeting cards, but I first read this in a book of Emily Dickinson poems:

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul — and sings the tunes without the words — and never stops at all.

I kept going, before treatment. There was a tiny thing urging me on. But after treatment, I had words to back up that tune. I had reasons to hope. Things to try. A name I could share. I could tell my mom, other family, my friends and, later, my husband and in-laws how to help, when they asked. I knew how to ask for help. My life didn’t change much from the outside, but it changed a lot from the inside.

I will probably never know what it is like to live without this illness. I’m still not sure how I feel about the idea. Do I envy my friend her time free from the monsters in the dark? Life without the featherless creatures that have whispered hopeless words, all my life? I’m not sure I can envy something I can’t even imagine. Is it sad that so much of my life has been so dark? Better that I don’t have a time to wish I could go back to? It doesn’t matter, I know. We each have the lives we need. I believe in not only karma, but reincarnation. These are just the questions running through my head today.

In case you are reading this and struggling with postpartum mental health trouble, I highly recommend signing up for the daily email service that got me thinking about that Emily Dickinson poem I have loved so long. It’s called Daily Hope. It does cost $50 for the year, but somehow, every day, the email has just what I need inside. It’s money well-spent. Because I have no “before” life, I don’t always relate to my friends with more “classic” postpartum struggles. But they are always sympathetic. And even the Daily Hope emails that address postpartum depression specifically touch my heart. I’m not affiliated with Postpartum Progress at all (I wish!) so this is just a suggestion from me to you.

We Are On Good Morning America… On Monday! March 11!

After a nerve-wracking and confusing viewing of Good Morning America this morning, I emailed the producer to ask, “Um, why were we not there?” She graciously informed me that the piece has been pushed back to Monday to give the show more time to cover “such an important topic.” Sorry for the suspense and confusion, but I hope you tune in on Monday!

In the meantime, here are some more photos:

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