Thursday, July 31, 2008

Crisis averted

Monday morning I kissed Jordan and Suzi goodbye and they got in the car to leave. I heard it crank, and then a horrible thought struck me: Where is my purse??? Usually my purse and I are like peanut butter and jelly, but the night before we arrived home from Columbia after dark and I was in the back seat with Suzi. My purse was still in the front. Since I didn't get back into the front, there it sat all night. Holding my cell phone. My wallet. My keys. My LIFE!

Had I not run out the front door at the last second (and I mean as Jordan was backing out) waving my arms and yelling for Jordan to stop, he would have left me sitting at home with no way to drive to work and no way to even call and let them know I was stranded. (We don't have a home phone.) Although everything I needed was right there in plain sight from the van window, I wouldn't have been able to get in without a key!

I just thank God for saying Jenny--ahem--isn't there something important missing this morning?

P.S. Sorry for the lapse in posts. I have been obsessing over entering contests at the Bloggy Giveaways Carnival and haven't had time to write anything! You should go too! The 1000+ contests should keep you occupied for a few minutes.

Monday, July 28, 2008

*Updated with winner* My first giveaway ever!

And the winner is... Blueberries & Peanut Butter!

Here are your random numbers:


Timestamp: 2008-08-02 04:00:45 UTC

I've had so much fun entering these contests! The laundry may be piled up, and the sink may be full of dishes, but this comes only once a quarter and just lasts a couple of days. I got an email earlier that I won one of the prizes and I'm so excited! Details later on what it is.

I'm thinking of doing a monthly giveaway. It'll be something small, of course--I'm not rich and famous, and it may even end up being bi-monthly. I wasn't expecting 129 comments! My idea is to give away something I make myself or a vintage treasure I find while yard-saling and flea-marketing. I find lots of good stuff, namely jewelry and accessories. But if I do that, you all have to enter or it'll hurt my feelings. Even those of you who normally just "lurk" and never comment! We are going to yard sales tomorrow so we'll see what I can come up with.


I had been thinking of having a giveaway for a few days when I realized Bloggy Giveaways was just about to host the quarterly Bloggy Giveaways Carnival! Fate!

Here is what I'm giving away:

It's a hot pink Braggables purse which holds a picture of your sweet baby (or teenager, cat, or dog--whomever you'd prefer)! It's easy to change the picture when you get a new one.

To win, just leave a comment and include an email address.

Please also note:

1) U.S. addresses only please. I'm not being a snob, I just can't afford to ship it out of the country!

2) You don't have to be a blogger to win, but please leave an email address whether you blog or not so I can contact you if your name is drawn! You may want to type it as somebody (at) somewhere .com to discourage spammers.

3) The contest will end at midnight August 1st and I will select the winner randomly. I'll email the winner (and post here) and if she has not responded with shipping information within four business days I will pick someone else.

4) Duplicate entries will be disqualified--you know, the usual stuff.

Yay! I'm excited!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Because you'd hate to waste all that coffee

Do you have several cups of leftover coffee in the pot? Don't pour it down the sink! Here's what you can do with it. My mom gave me the idea and I refined it (although I'm probably not the first person to try this). Thanks Mama!

Before you leave for work, pour the coffee into a glass container--preferably the glass from which you plan to drink it later--duh! Why didn't I think of that in the first place?

Add Irish Cream, Bailey's if you can afford it (as much as we consume, we have to buy the cheap stuff, but it's still good). It's up to you how much you add, but I keep pouring until it's about this color. Stir.

Stick it in the freezer. Just be sure to leave enough space at the top of the container for the coffee to expand a bit as it freezes. You don't want it to run over!

When you come home from work you will have an iced coffee drink that tastes like it came from Starbucks! Alcohol doesn't freeze, so no matter how long your day is it won't be a solid brick. 90% second wind, 10% buzz--perfect if you've had a hard day! Reddi Whip and favorite magazine are optional.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Why I want to homeschool Suzi

Jordan and I have been discussing the idea of homeschooling Suzi rather than sending her to public school. It's been on my mind a lot, and as I rehash memories of my own education, it seems homeschooling may be the path for us. There are, of course, people who think homeschooling is a bad idea. Below I have addressed some common viewpoints and also given the reasons I want to homeschool. This post took me nearly a week to write.

Before reading all this, it is worth noting that I had ADD as a child, and still suffer from mild symptoms of it. My education, while possibly beneficial for many children, was frequently inappropriate for my needs. However, this is only a fraction of the reason we are considering homeschooling.

Are you homeschooling your kids or do you plan to? Please leave a comment if you have any advice or resources you'd like to share. We still have a lot to learn about this! Kristin already answered several of my questions, and I truly appreciate it. I'm sure her experience will help others as well!

1) Don't you think a professional teacher would do a better job of educating your child? The short answer is possibly yes, given the right circumstances. I have a lot of respect for (most) teachers; my mom is a retired one. However, it is an uphill battle for a teacher to properly educate every single student.

a) There are bureaucratic requirements such as oodles of paperwork, and these are a major timesuck. I remember my mom writing lesson plans and report cards for hours on end, even during our family time, because when she was at school she was too busy with the children. She actually only had the luxury of working on those at home on nights when her presence wasn't required back at the school for a meeting or a performance (kids in chorus expect their teachers to be there to hear them sing), and when she wasn't talking to parents over the phone about their children's progress. And oh, she had three kids of her own! Remember us? Sometimes I think people forget most teachers are family women. Teachers today are hit with a barrage of extra work, some of which is supposedly going to give our state and country a better reputation when it comes to education--such as preparing students for standardized tests.

b) Teachers in public schools (to say nothing of ones in private schools, who frequently get even less) are often so poorly funded they may want to show children a practical example, but instead have to refer to the outdated text, because necessary materials are not funded. One of the most beloved teachers at Daniel High, Dr. Welsh, taught us Physics mostly using beautiful junk he gleaned from wherever he could. An old bowling ball on a rope is one example. He mentioned to his students that he needed a bowling ball and one day he found it outside his door.

c) Another casualty of the school budget: Smart, inspiring teachers with decades of experience who have worked until their contract is about to expire may not get hired back. This recently happened at my old high school. Senior year I had the most amazing AP English teacher. She selected the best books for us to read and had us so involved in the class we didn't notice we were preparing for the AP exam; we were having a good time! Her poem of the week contest, in which we each wrote a poem and a handful were selected to be critiqued by the class, gave me confidence in my writing and the courage to enroll in fiction workshops in college. Her "pet peeves" still influence my writing and prepared me for college professors who have no patience for fluff. I passed the literature and language AP exams and exempted two semesters of mind-numbing freshman English classes. But Mrs. Swanson will not be returning to Daniel in the fall, due in part (it is widely believed) to the fact that a new English teacher is cheaper. Mrs. Swanson will be teaching at Clemson University in the fall.

d) Every student learns every concept at a different pace. I once received a "B" in a college prep, not honors, high school English class. Why? I was bored senseless. English has always come naturally to me, and I needed to be in an honors class but had been pigeonholed into a college prep one because I couldn't take any other honors classes. This often happens to kids who need extra help in some courses but a challenge in others; they are earmarked as altogether unintelligent and never given the chance to excel. (Luckily, as mentioned above, I made it into the Honors English class later with my mom's help.) Furthermore, in one class there are generally 20-30 students. As a teacher explains a concept, some students will understand and be ready to move on and others will be confused and need more practice. I don't want Suzi in either of those groups; the first one is a waste of time and energy, and the second is disheartening! When a child is homeschooled, she is either taught privately or in a small group in which individual attention is not so rare.

2) Your child isn't going to get socialized if you don't send her to school, and she'll be socially inept! That's what I thought too once. In high school I had a great time socializing!

a) I attended over half a dozen military balls in four years, both at our school and at others. For most of them my date was my longtime high school boyfriend who shall remain unnamed. The relationship was often a source of stress, as it was plagued with usual high school melodrama. Looking back I am still perplexed as to why I have never had a meaningful friendship with this person. I know some people marry their high school sweethearts, or at least feel they learned something from the relationship, but I don't think I did. I wish I'd met Jordan in high school, but he was down in Columbia having relationship issues of his own.

b) Then there were two proms. I took a different guy each year, both of whom were not from my school (and were older) and I never want to see either of them again. My classmates danced in questionable positions while a few friends and I hung out in the lobby and talked. The only pleasant memory I have of (senior) prom was wearing my perfect dress. I liked it better than my wedding dress and had fun picking it out with my mom.

c) When you send your kids to school, you are exposing them to prospective friends (and often enemies) who may not be supervised by their parents and with whom you may not want your kids to socialize. At Daniel, one of the best schools in the state, we had a student pull a gun out on some band members, and one of my classmates grew up to rape a Clemson student. A couple of classy kids decided to wear black trenchcoats to school after Columbine. In middle school a friend of mine was victimized by one creepy kid who made many students (not to mention teachers) uncomfortable. He was constantly harassing people and starting fights. One day the kid went too far, pushing my friend's papers off his desk. My friend snapped; he jumped the bully and started to beat him up until the teacher pulled him off and they were both suspended for several days. He came back to a hero's welcome, but it's this sort of thing that prompts kids to come to school and shoot people. I was victimized in third and seventh grades, and those were the worst years of my life. Some of the bullies were poorly parented (as in DSS should have taken them away) and others were just mean. The latter are frequently seen in private schools as well, as evidenced by my husband who went to a Christian school and still has his share of bully stories to tell. Some people say bullying is "just life" and sheltering our kids from it is a disservice, but I disagree. Bullying begets violence. Even in the best-case scenario you may have a child who is bullied and whose self-esteem suffers permanently.

d) Off the top of my head, I can think of six teen pregnancies during my middle- and high-school years. God only knows how many abortions! Even worse, at the private Christian school Jordan attended, they kicked girls out of school if they became pregnant. That I cannot abide. For one, God does not forsake women when they become pregnant out of wedlock, so neither should a school in His name. Second, it leads to abortions. In either case, better sex education would help decrease the problem and kids are not getting that in public or private schools. (Instead, they are getting vaccines so when they have sex, they might be protected against cervical cancer! But don't get me started.) Part of this goes back to your kids hanging around with unsavory characters. In a homeschool environment, even in a network, I would have the opportunity to meet all of Suzi's contemporaries and their parents.

e) Air Force Junior ROTC is my only reservation as of yet. Well, that and athletics--however, Suzi would have her pick of activities such as dance, martial arts, and YMCA sports to keep her active. That said, I loved ROTC and can't imagine high school without it. She also wouldn't have access to marching band or other group activities intrinstic to regular schools. Some schools allow homeschoolers to partake in their extracurriculars, but I don't know if this is available in our area (good thing to research in the future).

f) Just because a child is not in a regular school does not mean she won't have friends. Suzi is only one year old and she has friends already! The other day at babywearing group, several little girls attended whom Suzi had never met. Four-year-old Tallulah (Carey's daughter) took Suzi by the hand and introduced her. "This is my friend Suzi." It was so sweet.

3) Your child will miss out on so much if she isn't in regular school! I feel there's so much she'll miss if she is in school.

a) Instruction in art and music is suffering. If there is a program, it's often treated as a strictly-for-fun extra. I had art and music once a week as a child. It sends the message that it doesn't matter much, when truthfully it matters most! Creativity is so important. As an adult in a job-starved environment, I used creativity to write my cover letter that got me an interview for my job. Marketing professionals use it constantly, as well as mompreneurs who make, market and sell their own line of accessories. The ability to think outside the box is even imperative for our military. Fine arts should be given prime placement in a child's curriculum and not squeezed in at the end of the day when the child is too tired to focus. If we homeschooled, Suzi would have the opportunity to incorporate music or art lessons at the most appropriate time for her individual learning style.

b) One day I was out sick and my mom stayed home with me. She knew what we were learning in school, so she decided not to pass up a teachable moment. When she poured each of us a cup of hot tea, she put a stainless steel spoon into hers and a sterling silver one into mine. Then she explained to me why my spoon was hot and hers wasn't: the silver was denser and a better conductor of heat. I still remember it, because I actually touched it with my own hands. This sort of teachable moment does not often present itself in a classroom due to practicality, but it happens every day at home!

c) Travel, travel, travel. I feel I missed out on this. While Jordan has been on countless trips, including Europe, I have barely left the country. The first and last time was on our honeymoon to St. Lucia, and I learned a lot on that trip. My parents didn't feel comfortable sending me to Spain with teachers and other students (I begged) but they could have taken me themselves had I been taught from home. I probably would've retained a lot more knowledge of geography, history, and world cultures had I actually visited some of them. If an opportunity to travel for a week or two arises and we are homeschooling Suzi, we can take off, incorporate it into her lessons, and not worry about her missing school. Immersion into another culture is widely regarded as the best way to become bilingual. On a smaller scale, we could take Suzi to the aquarium or to the beach during appropriate times.

d) Due to the individualized nature of homeschooling, we can allow Suzi to focus on and develop her interests. This will help her better prepare for college. A lot of kids who went to college orientation with me were "undeclared," meaning they knew they wanted to go to college but had no idea why. This may be due to the wholesale nature of group education in which kids are taught the bare bones basics of a bunch of subjects. For instance, how much can a 16-year-old who aspires to be a speech therapist learn about the field while in high school? Many kids wind up switching majors because of this, and losing money and time in the process. If Suzi became interested in a career path during her teen years, we could possibly help her secure an apprenticeship or shadowing setup in which she could learn on-the-job and figure out whether it was really the path she wanted to take.

4) Predators in our schools: This is often overlooked.

a) Military recruiters, in my opinion, have no business in schools. But there they are, tabling outside the cafeteria with promises of money, travel and adventure for anyone who signs up! At 17 all you need is your parents to sign and you are on your way to Iraq! At 18 you can sign for yourself. You aren't mature enough to drink alcohol, but you can sign several years of your life away while you are still in high school. But the recruiters don't stop there! They'll get your child's name and phone number and start calling you at home. It happened to me several times, but luckily I had learned about the different branches in Junior ROTC and was somewhat knowledgeable; besides, I was headed for college and wasn't interested. I have a lot of respect for the military, but at the tender age of 18 (or 17!) I don't believe some of these kids realize what they're getting into. The kids who are unsure where their lives are headed are particularly at risk of making a rash decision. What's it going to hurt if they wait another year or two before enlisting? They should not be approached during lunch at school and certainly not called at home! Incidentally, if I had a nickel for every time I heard the phrase "my recruiter lied to me," those signing bonuses wouldn't faze me at all.

b) Bad teachers... there are some. In third grade I fell prey to a meanie. I befriended an unpopular girl that year, and the other students made me suffer for that and for my own eight-year-old shortcomings. Not only did my teacher allow it, she victimized me as well. My grades even suffered in her class and it made me feel like an idiot. It was the worst year of my life; my grandmother died, I had the ugliest haircut in the world, and I needed a little love and understanding. But it wasn't me alone. I remember her calling a boy in my class--a sweet and quiet child--to the front of the room and making him cry in front of everyone. Then she told him to "suck it up." No, it didn't make me a stronger person; it stole my confidence. No, I didn't learn anything from it other than people can be jerks. I'll be damned if that's going to happen to Suzi.

c) You may not realize this, but companies market to children in schools, and they market things to which you may not want your child exposed. Because schools constantly need money, they are beholden to anyone who may offer it. Beginning in middle school we were made to watch Channel One News, a two-minute "educational" program filled with not-so-subtle advertisements. It underscores the already rampant notion that children (particularly teens) need more stuff. Lip gloss that's just a bit shinier, a video game that's more fun than the last one, an energy drink that will keep you going a little longer. This may seem harmless, but it molds the type of consumer your child will become for life. If you think this is a conspiracy theory, take a few minutes to read about the National Honor Roll scam.

5) Inappropriate (and harmful) methods

a) Did you have the misfortune to suffer through timed multiplication tests? I did. It was fifth grade for me, but now I'm told it's advanced to third. When I think of that year, this memory jumps to mind: Sitting in the front row of Mrs. M's classroom, gripping my pencil, panicking. The timer ticked away and I couldn't possibly finish the sheet of problems in time. Why couldn't I remember them? I counted in my head the best I could and there was always at least a row of problems left blank when the teacher growled "put your pencils down." My mom went over and over and OVER the tables with me. It just consumed us! I am now 24 years old. I graduated summa cum laude from Clemson in the honors college and got A's in all my math classes and I still don't know those damned multiplication tables! (Spelling tests may be misguided as well. I luckily have an almost photographic memory for words, so I loved spelling tests. I know they tortured some children, though, and really--while spelling is important, that is what dictionaries and SpellCheck are for.)

b) I had one witch of a teacher who seemed to know my learning style by heart and write her lesson plans just to make me feel stupid. She taught 9th grade world geography. First, we had CNN quizzes in which we were required to watch the news for 20 minutes or so and then answer five questions. I focused my every brain cell on the program, trying to remember everything. She'd ask us fairly obscure questions, so I was lucky to remember three out of five. And friends, that is a 60--more commonly known as a D! I was an A/B student, so just imagine how I felt. Then the old bat decided it'd be fun to quiz us on how fast we could read a newspaper. She gave us fifteen minutes to answer ten or more questions. I flipped frantically through the tangled mess of paper trying to find just some of the answers so I wouldn't end up with a horrible grade. The only time I ever cheated in school was on one of those quizzes. A friend showed me where to find some of the answers. Integrity is of the highest value to me, and it still angers me that a teacher drove me to cheat.

c) Too much homework was a problem for me in elementary school, and I'm sure it's even worse today. (I just received my highly anticipated copy of Mothering and there is a wonderful article about this in it. It may show up soon on the website, and I'll try to keep an eye out for it.) Math problems were the worst--they took me forever, even once I understood the concept being taught. My mom and I suffered over the math book together every night. It's pitiful how children are made to waste their time with excessive practice when they could be spending time with their families.

d) Because there are usually 25 or more kids in a class, they cannot all interact with the teacher at once. This necessitates a means of encouraging the children to sit down and shut up. In second grade I responded to a teacher's question correctly, but forgot to raise my hand first. "That's right, Jenny," he said, "but you spoke without raising your hand so I'm going to have to put a mark on the board." In that class we were organized into groups of four or five, with our desks clustered together. Whichever group had the fewest marks on the board at the end of the week got to select a small plastic toy from a "treasure trunk." As if my group members didn't hate me enough already! Suffice it to say by the time I exited elementary school, I had a firm grasp on the skill of keeping my mouth shut. Unfortunately, this is not a marketable skill in college or in life. I was nearly passed over for the job I am in right now for being too quiet and "shy," and I've spent the past seven or eight years trying to come back out of my shell!

Final thoughts... At a babywearing meeting several months ago, Carey was explaining why she was underwhelmed with our country's educational system. During a conversation with a friend of hers who was an English major, she mentioned a well-known writer and her friend's face went blank. She didn't recognize the name. Carey pointed out that she would've expected an English major to know more than that, and the friend replied "I only know what they teach me!" It's embarrassing to think how many times I've been in such a situation, not knowing things I should have learned years ago. This is where our schools fall short. There is value in taking responsibility for one's own education; I feel I've learned more in the past two years just from independent reading and experience than I have in most of my formal education! It's that type of interactive, thoughtful, self-aware education that I want Suzi to experience throughout her childhood. I think I can help her achieve it.

Round-up of related links (a work in progress as I find them):
So You Think You Can Homeschool
Homeschooling Questions
Homeschool Advice from a Grandma
HSLDA on State Regulations
Home School Legal Defense Association
South Carolina's Legal Requirements
South Carolina Association of Independent Home Schools

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Another contest to enter!

Here's another one! This is sponsored by Baby Cheapskate... a site I will soon be blogrolling. I think if I find any other contests within the next few days I will come back and post them here, so keep checking back! (Thanks Beth!)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

You hurt my feelings

Picture it. 10:00 pm, our couch. Suzi is asleep in the papasan and Jordan and I are camped out watching TV. We are in no fit state to entertain--half-dressed, toys strewn everywhere, did I mention baby is asleep?

And then you ring the freaking doorbell. Maybe in your jobless drug-world, people do this all the time at 10 pm, but not at our house, buddy. In our world, if someone rings the doorbell after dark it is either a friend or family member with a dire emergency, or some wingnut. But my husband, ever the optimist, answers the door after looking out the window to see if, I don't know, you are brandishing a dagger or anything. My heart is pounding.

After talking with you for a few minutes, and hearing your lovely story about how your poor little one-year-old son is at home suffering from asthma in the dark because you are $21 short on your power bill, sweet Jordan locks the door for a minute and comes back with a five-dollar bill--all the cash he has. I am just glad he doesn't get shot--because remember, I have no idea who the hell you are! You take the money and then walk up the street to scare our poor neighbor to death, trying to pry open her windows when she refuses to open the door. The cops finally pick you up around 10:30 and while I hope they will keep you for a good long time, I seriously doubt it.

I am proud of the way Jordan is. He doesn't judge people. If you say you need $21 to pay a power bill, then you do. But because of YOU, who have three outstanding arrest warrants and have the gall to go door-to-door requesting money as though you are entitled, we now feel stupid. Next time someone really is in trouble, we are going to keep that door locked tighter than hell. We want to help others, but not at the cost of our little girl's safety. She is our #1.

From now on we are no longer going to acknowledge anyone who approaches us this way. We contribute to programs to help people who are truly in need (and not just in need of a drug fix), and we have to hope and pray that help will be there for anyone who asks for it. In the meantime, go here and click the yellow button every day.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

July Babywearing Contest and a fun summer afternoon

Have you entered this contest yet? Get out your red, white and blue and start taking pictures! I know some of you have slings that would be great for this, and you can win a pair of BabyLegs! This was our Saturday afternoon activity, and this first picture is my entry:

We are sitting on the steps of the red caboose in the Botanical Gardens in Clemson. We were headed there because it's such a pretty green place with lots of space for Suzi to explore, and when I saw the red caboose I thought, that's perfect! Somewhere there's a newspaper clipping picture of me playing in that same place when I was four. My mom used to take me there to play.

Daddy wears Suzi too!

After a few minutes we decided to take Suzi to the largest grassy field we could think of: Bowman. She walked...

And walked...

And walked.

We walked up to the Military Heritage Plaza and Suzi met the cadet statue.

Did you know those are Colonel Whitley's footprints?

(In case you were interested)

We left and went to Subway. We ordered Suzi a sandwich but she mostly ate strawberry yogurt and drank water. Then she got a second wind.

This makes me proud of Clemson. It is a start!

Poor little squirrel without a tail. I wonder what the story is there! Apparently they are sterilizing squirrels on campus and it makes their tail fur fall out temporarily, but this little guy is like a bobtail squirrel! This was as close as I could get for a picture; he was giving me the stink eye.

This is what we ended up with by the time we pulled into our driveway...

Good night!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Seriously, who doesn't like free stuff?

I just received some free popcorn in the mail thanks to Lindsay, and decided to do a post on winning stuff. These are some things I've won:

The Rookie Mom's Handbook--an excellent perk-me-up book for new moms, especially ones still on maternity leave! Thanks to Mama Knows Breast.

At the same time I won Margarita Mama, a book of "mocktails" for pregnant women.

My ModMum Sling is probably my favorite. You know how I love carriers!

I also won a Take-Along Tether from the Pinks & Blues girls (MomGenerations now). I don't have it in the picture because it's in my mom's van. It keeps Suzi from throwing her toy phone overboard where no one can reach it.

Winning stuff is exciting, isn't it? (Julie's "major award" comes to mind.) But even if you have only won a butt-ugly fishnet-covered leg lamp, it's still fun. Because, you know, if all else fails, you can sell it on eBay. For 200 bucks. If you haven't seen A Christmas Story I'll bet you're confused right now.

Anyway, I wanted to share how I find contests. Most of you probably know about Prizey. Many product review websites use this site as advertising, and you can count on them not to get you in over your head with spam after you divulge your email address. All the prizes in the world are not worth hundreds of unwanted emails!

Aside from Prizey, I have a few favorite sites I go to for information and then enter the contests because it's something I want and I'm already there! These include Adventures in Babywearing, Baby Sling Blog (they are currently running a patriotic babywearing contest), Mama Knows Breast, Mama Speaks, MomGenerations, Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog (one of my favorites for breastfeeding info--they'll keep you abreast of current issues), Suburban Turmoil (in the reviews), and of course Along for the Ride.

**Right now they're doing a cool contest over at A Mama's Blog: a year's subscription to Kiwi Magazine! All you have to do is visit the magazine's site and tell what you thought was interesting. They have all kinds of eco-friendly (and bank account-friendly) ideas! Go enter now!**

I have been thinking about doing my own giveaway just because, I don't know, it would make me happy. It may sound corny but blogging has given me so much--a place to store our memories with Suzi, new friends, a way to connect with other moms--and it makes me want to give something back! But first I have to find something. I'll let you know.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Another awesome contest!

I found this on Kristin's blog. Enter here to win an unbeatable stash of carriers: Gypsy Mama Wrap, Hotsling, BabyHawk, Beco Butterfly, ZoloWear Ring Sling... Is your mouth watering yet? I know this might sound a little bit crazy, but I think I could use all these! Enter by July 31st!

Linville Caverns

On the way home from Grandfather Mountain on Sunday, we passed by Linville Caverns and decided to stop. For $6 each (Suzi was free) we got a guided tour. Suzi rode through in the Ergo and squealed excitedly as we worked our way through the cave.

Daddy and Suzi waiting outside

Before we went in, she decided she wanted me to carry her.

The fish in the stream are blind because they spend most of their lives in total darkness.

Kilt Rock t-shirt

It was cold in the cave and the air was crisp--a nice change from the games where it was hot and someone was smoking a cigarette every ten yards! The guide told us a story of two Civil War soldiers who deserted and hid in the cave (the stream was much higher at that time). They made it past a sandbar near the entrance and built a fire, but when the smoke escaped through the fissures in the ceiling they were discovered and arrested.

We were entertained by rock formations loosely resembling corn on the cob, a bride and groom, a pickle, a ham, bats and many others. It was tough to get pictures because the flash was so obnoxious in the dark I felt guilty doing it during the tour.

My favorite part was when the guide turned out all the lights. It was a pure, velvety darkness, even darker than the country dark I experienced when my family used to spend the night at the farm in St. Matthews. According to the guide, the only place you can find darkness this pure is in a cave or at the bottom of the ocean. Many years ago (not sure how long exactly), two boys ventured into the cave carrying only one lantern which was lit with a flame. When the boy carrying it tripped and the light went out, they were plunged into black darkness. Amazingly, they found their way out by following the flow of the stream.

There is also a "bottomless pool" in the cavern (no one has ever been able to reach the bottom), which is covered by a metal grate you can walk on. Looking between your feet down into the pool is an interesting feeling. The passage to it is sweaty-palms narrow, but we made it.

They have panning at the caverns (in which you sift through a bucket of sediment and try to find valuable stones), but it's closed on Sundays. Suzi probably wouldn't have had the patience for it anyway. I was impressed she made it through the 20 minutes or so in the caverns without getting antsy.

At the end of the tour we bought a mortar & pestle from the gift shop and then had to run back in and get another one. I called my mom while breastfeeding Suzi in the parking lot and she wanted one too! (There are times you just need a good mortar & pestle, but the presence of electric grinders has made them somewhat difficult to find. One time I needed chocolate graham cracker crumbs and ended up having to grind them in a bowl using a beer bottle. I'm sure it would also be good for grinding up other more important things.)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Built for a Kilt

We just came home from three days of Highland Games at Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina! On the field, cabers were tossed and hammers were thrown. Sheep were herded, dancers danced, and there was even a marathon. Then there was the parade which required us all to wear matchy-matchy hats, and which lends new meaning to the matchy.

The Maya Wrap Ring Sling was my best friend and got many oohs and ahhs. Equally wonderful for carrying Suzi in the parade, or...

Breastfeeding so no one will notice!

This is the face of a good sport.

But off the field we discovered an edginess we didn't know existed in Scottish festivals. After seeing lots of guys going casual by pairing their kilts with t-shirts, Jordan decided he wanted to do the same. We bought him this one so everyone will know he is "built for a kilt!" (He is, too. His legs were the first thing I noticed when we met! Well. Besides his personality.)

We headed down to Grove #2 to hear Coyote Run and ended up discovering Barleyjuice and Mother Grove, bands in a genre nicknamed "kilt rock." They play bagpipes and fiddles as well as electric guitars and drums. We left with three CD's and a Mother Grove tank top (for me). If you still doubt kilts can be edgy, watch this. At the end of Barleyjuice's set Saturday, the fans started shouting "potatoes, POTATOES!" Potatoes? Listen to a sample of what they wanted here. I am loving my Barleyjuice CD, which features other gems such as "What's Up Yours?" and "Whiskey in the Jar," but unfortunately not my favorite, a love song entitled "Tartan is the Color of My True Love's Hair." They have graciously made it possible to download just one song for 99 cents, so I did.

Mother Grove performed in the Grove Saturday. It was hard to get a clear picture of the fiddler because she was all over the place dancing! She played that fiddle like it was an electric guitar.

Above is a tiny fraction of the crowd at the Celtic Jam Saturday night. They were probably out there until midnight but we left at 10:00 because Suzi was ready to go. To the left of the stage was a mob of dancing fans--dancing well, dancing poorly, dancing any way they could.

This whole thing began with my dad doing a little research. Then buying a hat. A kilt. A piece of tartan for my mom. I got in on it and began dressing Jordan up. Now Jordy is saying he wants a pair of boots to go with his kilt (so of course I want some too). The boots look sexy and make a good place to stick your sgain dubh if knee socks aren't your thing. I am also hoping to get a mini-kilt in our tartan, maybe for Christmas. I love my long dress and skirt, but a mini-kilt would be a nice change during a three-day festival!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Our vaccine conundrum: the outcome

With help from the work of the fabulous Dr. Sears, we have decided not to vaccinate Suzi anymore. Although Dr. Sears is level-headed and impartial, and personally recommends some of the vaccines on an alternate schedule to limit aluminum exposure, when I realized what was going into my daughter's body with each shot I was horrified.

Please note: Our decision was based on several things. Suzi is not in daycare and I am still breastfeeding her, which offers her extra protection from illnesses. We also have a family history of cancer. I feel the long-term risk of giving her new vaccines researchers know little about outweighs the benefit of one of them potentially preventing an illness she already has a minute chance of contracting. This is a personal decision each family should make, and I'm not saying everyone should decline vaccination. I do, however, believe each parent should research the vaccines--how and of what they are made, possible risks and benefits--before deciding.

Three things I bet your pediatrician didn't tell you:

1) There's formaldehyde in at least four of the vaccines regularly given to infants. Formaldehyde is classified as a probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is an ingredient in embalming fluid. They say vaccines contain only a tiny amount, but babies are tiny people.

2) The FDA knowingly allows vaccines to be made and administered with amounts of aluminum far greater than what is known to be safe. This can be especially dangerous if your child is given more than one vaccine containing aluminum in the same day, as children on the usual vaccine schedule are.

3) The chicken pox vaccine is made using DNA taken from the tissue of an aborted fetus. That alone is all the religious exemption I need!

If you decide to refuse vaccination or even alter the schedule, you may be booted out of the pediatrician's office. Luckily, we found a doctor who accepts our decision. Dr. Bailey-Dorton is cool, smart, and admirably supportive of breastfeeding. If you think I am, as our former doctor suggested, a "loony-toon," go to the CDC's website. It states: "The amount of chemical additives found in vaccines is very small and may not be enough to cause a serious allergic response." Really, CDC? It may not? How reassuring.

Here's some interesting reading:
The discussion of the varicella vaccine on Upstate Moms
I highly recommend The Vaccine Book (I got it from the library)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

When it rains it pours

Long story short (believe me, I'm doing you a favor): Our AC is broken. After a late-night ride to Wal-Mart (I feel so dirty) for a new thermostat and an hour of Jordan hooking it up, we realized it still wasn't fixed and resigned ourselves to spending the night in a hot and muggy house. With the windows open upstairs, we fell asleep to the sound of crickets and woke up to birds chirping. When I went in the bathroom my sheer white curtains were fluttering in the breeze.

Still, the AC must be fixed, and even though it is under warranty, the warranty is "limited" and I'm almost certain it's going to cost us. The people are coming tomorrow to look at it so I am hopeful. There are other little nagging annoyances in addition to this, but I'm trying to quit complaining about the AC and focus on what I do have.

A husband who strapped his daughter into the Ergo and carried her around while he picked up toys and vacuumed so I wouldn't be stressed by the messy room.

The reassuring thought that we always have a safety net when things go bad.

My mom and dad who asked us to stay for dinner and ordered us pizza (and invited us to spend the night).

A cleansing rain that cooled our house down by two degrees, and it feels even cooler.

Windows that aren't painted shut. (Seriously!)

A sweet little girl who gives us hugs and sometimes kisses, and is finally asleep!

Daddy loves me...

He loves me not.

He loves me...

He loves me not?!

Daddy loves me.

D'oh! I knew dat.

The other day I was feeling sick with a summer cold (which I still have). Suzi made me feel better by bringing toys to keep me company. She even offered me some of her water.

I'm sitting right next to the open window and there's a cold wind blowing in; more rain is coming.

This post was inspired by this amazing post. I am going to quit complaining and be happy now.

Tagged again!

This time Mama tagged me. Here goes...

1. What was I doing ten years ago? I was nearly 14. From what Mama said, I think we were at the beach. This was the summer I went up to Daniel High for orientation and picked up my ROTC uniform. After meeting Colonel Whitley and some of the senior cadets I was TERRIFIED and begged my mom to let me quit and turn the uniform back in, but she made me try it... and I ended up loving it.

2. What are 5 things on my to-do list for today? 1) Laundry. I had a hard time finding something to wear this morning! 2) Clean house. We aren't going to be here this weekend and I hate coming home to a mess. 3) Diapers. They need to be washed. Luckily I just throw them in and the washing machine takes care of the rest. 4) Suzi's bath, but my sweet husband is doing that right now. 5) Stop bitching about the AC. (I'll make another post about this in a minute.)

3. Snacks I enjoy: Watermelon, celery with my mom's pimiento cheese, Ramen noodles, cookies and milk, and ice cream--preferably Ben & Jerry's Phish Food or something else chocolatey.

4. Things I would do if I were a billionaire: We'd definitely add on to the house, if not move. But I wouldn't want too big a house, because we don't need it and it's just more to take care of. Other than that, there are several causes I believe in and I'd like to get personally involved with them and give money.

5. Places I have lived: Clemson in my parents' house, dorms at Clemson, then two different apartments in Central, a big house in Seneca that was awful, and now a little house in Pendleton that we love!

6. Jobs I have had: First I worked at Clemson University in the 4-H Camp Extension office opening mail, making calls and entering data in Excel. Then I got the job counting pills at a local pharmacy (I wasn't a pharmacy tech or anything fancy). My most interesting job was working for a psych study at Clemson. We rode over to Anderson to the "shoothouse," where we were given laser tag guns and helmets and basically shot at each other. It was a little more complicated than that but I won't go into detail. Then Impressions, then Jennie G's.

7. I am going to be a wet blanket and not tag anyone. There are a couple people I could tag, but they've just done a similar tag so I don't know if they want to do this one. But if you feel like sharing, by all means, go right ahead! I'd love to see your answers. Just leave a comment!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Would you let someone borrow your BABY?

(And the scariest mother award goes to... Alecia, pictured above. That girl would not be getting my baby. No, no, no, no, no. It made my hands sweaty just watching her.)

That's what NBC asked five couples to do. What's more, they were loaning them to teenagers. I wasn't going to blog about this, but after reading Amy's well-researched article my comment to her was so long I decided to blog it after all.

Without a second thought, Jordan and I eagerly tuned in to this show the other night. What a cute idea! But wait a minute. These people are actually handing over their babies? To strangers? For THREE DAYS? I have three problems with this.

1) Babies are people, and sensitive, impressionable people at that. They should be treated as such.

2) It's unfair to the teens. Of course it's going to be harder than hell to "parent" these babies; they want their real moms and dads! Even so, I'd like to point out that after two years of marriage and a bachelor's degree (in psychology), I made some of the same mistakes these teens made. That's what happens when you're learning to be a parent, because you can't learn parenting from a book. You can only learn it from your baby.

3) Every baby is parented differently, so these cookie-cutter homes NBC set up, with cribs and bottles and other detached-parenting paraphernalia, are not going to work for every baby. My daughter would've had a FIT. We cosleep, but they wouldn't dare put that on TV, seeing as how society is so hung up on it being dangerous. These teens could have done a much better job if they'd been given a manual specific to each baby. Is the baby Ferberized or does he cosleep? Does he like homemade baby food or is the storebought stuff okay? A breastfed baby is going to make an automatic failure of the aspiring teen mom, because no one can meet that need but the mother. It makes me want to cry to imagine Suzi in that situation. NBC could have selected only formula-fed crib-sleepers for this experiment to level the playing field, seeing as how they probably wouldn't have allowed them to cosleep and certainly not to breastfeed. That also would've made it a ton easier on the babies. I believe they chose not to do this because they wanted to, at whatever cost, drive home their point that teens make lousy parents, and ensure there was plenty of conflict on the show to keep viewers interested.

Instead of a cutesy I-told-you-so farce, I'd love to see real live teen parents making it work with their own biological children. Then we could really get down to brass tacks. Did they breastfeed? Cosleep? How did the birth go? This would come closer to teaching teens (the viewers) what's involved in parenting. Who knows? Perhaps there could be a role model or two in the rough.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008 A safe home for our videos!

You may have heard of YouTube's views on breastfeeding images (and they aren't alone; apparently MySpace and Facebook feel the same). Well, for those of you who are offended by the sentiment that pictures of breastfeeding are pornographic, you'll appreciate this new website. is especially for parents! There are videos demonstrating proper use of a Boppy and even correct first latch. If you want to post a breastfeeding video, they won't give you any crap about it. Since I have been dabbling in vlogging for a few months, I'm excited about this site!

ETA: I finally got around to watching the breast crawl video Carey told me about... Go here to watch it! Amazing.

You really MUST enter this contest.

Go here to enter to win 18 bumGenius diapers, a diaper sprayer, a dozen cloth wipes, and bottle of odor remover OR a gift certificate to Nature's Child of comparable value ($250)! What could be greater than that?!?

If you win and don't love these diapers... Suzi and I will gladly take them off your hands.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Beluga whales at the Georgia Aquarium

This is a long video, but it's sort of relaxing.

The Georgia Aquarium was fantastic. I've been to one or two other aquariums, but they pale in comparison. It wasn't just the animals, either; the design of the building was perfect and the volunteers were knowledgeable and friendly. They had penguins and other animals in addition to the fish you usually find at aquariums. I know many people say the aquarium is too crowded, and it is--after about 10:30 am. If you are going, you need to arrive at opening, especially if you are taking children. We went in around 8:30 and hardly anyone was there! This is the line right after lunch, which is when we had to leave because the crowd was too exhausting:

And here are the obligatory gifts we purchased for Suzi at the aquarium. I was pleased with their selection, as they had several decent books. I think Suzi will enjoy making us sing the song over and over.

More aquarium footage coming soon. I didn't want to overwhelm you.