Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Magic Room Book Review

Ava Joy was only a few days old when I picked up The Magic Room by Jeffrey Zaslow and began reading. Now, since BlogHer had asked me to participate in this book review, I had a faint idea of what the book would be about, and having just birthed my third daughter, I thought I would love it.

And then I realized that this book was not a work of fiction like I had supposed.

Y'all, do you know how long it's been since I read a book that was not a work of fiction? I mean, I haven't read much lately (at least compared to my pre-3-kids days), but even what I have read has mainly been fiction. Any non-fiction I read has been strictly limited to news articles. So I braced myself.


Weaving together stories of the Becker family of Fowler, Michigan, the bridal shop they have owned for three generations, and the brides-to-be who visit the shop, Zaslow poignantly uncovers the nature of the hopes parents- particularly mothers- have for their daughters as they enter into marriage. Stepping into the famed "Magic Room" with a series of brides and their loved ones, Zaslow discovers that the secret heart of the most stoic father and the most distant mother is brought, however briefly, to the surface, in this mystical place. And there, in their heart of hearts, are the fears and dreams of generations.


Walking through a bookstore, I probably would not have chosen this book for myself. I most likely would not have been in the non-fiction section to begin with, and once there, I would probably have chosen a book that I felt was going to impart more relevant information for my current situation (and let's be honest here: that probably would have meant something about adoption or breastfeeding or living in the South without loosing your senses.)

My wedding dress on my wedding day.
December 26, 2009

But I'm glad I read this book. I think, like many parents who read this book, it brought my own hopes, dreams, and fears about marriage to the surface. After all, it was only 3 years ago that I was being zipped in and out of bridal gowns in search of the dress that said "I love you forever." Certainly, this remembering has also lead to me thinking about what I do want for my three beautiful daughters* as they grow and commit to marriage. But moreso, reading this book has been good for my own marriage. It helped me realize how very far John and I have come- not just because we have added more babies to the mix or moved across the country, but because we have grown together. We have built a shared vision of our future and are working together to make it a reality. And that may not sound terribly romantic, but at the end of the day, when I think about what I hope for my girls in their marriages, it is what John and I are working to be to each other: life partners.

I think any mother of daughters would enjoy this book, and I think it would be a great read for moms who are looking at their daughter's future and realizing that the trip to the bridal shop may be coming sooner rather than later.

To read more of what others thought of the book, check out the BlogHer Book Club discussion.

One of my favorites of me in my dress.
December 26, 2009

* Yes, I say this about my daughters, and only my daughters, because I cannot imagine the day when I will not be my son's "best girl." I know it will happen one day, and that it will be the right thing for him to move forward and build his own family with his wife, but I'm just not able to picture that day. On the other hand, I totally can picture the day when Abigail and Anna will walk down the aisle (not so much Ava Joy, because I can't even picture her walking yet) and I know what I want for them on those days...

Disclosure: BlogHer paid me to write this review, y'all! Yee-haw! It's kind of like having a paying job, while being an at-home mom. But don't worry, I'm not very good at lying, even in writing, so you can trust me when I say all the opinions are my own. For reals. I mean, if I was making this stuff up, would I really have admitted that I thought this was a fiction book?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Target Nurse-In (and how YOU can support nursing moms!)

My first Nurse-In!
Selinsgrove, PA Target

I attended my first Nurse-In today! Yay! 

What's a nurse-in? It's like a rally for breastfeeding- you know, like a sit-in, but for breastfeeding! Nursing moms and their supporters gathered at Target stores across the nation to bring recognition, awareness, and normalization to nursing in public. Target was chosen due to an incident last month where a nursing momma was disrespected, humiliated, and treated on what borders as unlawful.

I have nursed all of my bio kids in public before, and didn't have any negative reactions until I moved to Mississippi. So for me, this event was about normalizing breastfeeding and standing up for my baby's legal right to be fed in public places.

It felt really great to do something. Often, we feel discrimination or humiliation and there is really nothing we can do about it, other than just keep being ourselves and hope we make a change. But today, I did something that matters. This event got national media attention, and even thought there are many people who will continue to say babies should not be fed in public, drawing attention to this kind of event is starting discussions.

I hope when my daughters are old enough to be nursing in public, they will be free to do so without hate, humiliation, or hurtful looks/comments.

If you want to support a baby's right to eat in public, even if eating involves a breast, here are some things you can do:

  • Know the law. Federal law mandates that a woman has the right to nurse on any federal property. Most states have laws specifically protecting the right to breastfeed in public, but even if they don't, it does not make nursing in public illegal.
  • If you see a violation of the law--- even if it doesn't happen to you--- report it to the manager and, if applicable, corporate office of the offensive public place. Many states also request that violations be reported to the Department of Health as they can issue a letter of violation. 
  • If you are nursing, nurse in public without shame. You don't have to draw attention to yourself, but if your babe is hungry, feed the sweetie! And hold your head up, make eye contact, and talk to others while you are doing it. Bottle-feeding moms do this all the time. So can you.
  • If you see a nursing momma, make eye contact. Smile. Give her a thumbs up. Thank her. Offer her your seat if she seems uncomfortable in hers or if she cannot find a seat. Treat her like the great mother she is. Don't act embarrassed by the fact that she is feeding her baby. Don't make her hide away or be isolated just because she is feeding her baby.
  • Tell your kids that it's normal and natural for babies to get milk from their moms. If we train up the younger generation, our daughters will have a much more accepting society when they nurse. And we will have a lot fewer kiddos questioning what we are doing:)
  • Tell your family that it's normal and natural for babies to get milk from their moms, even if they are in public. Unfortunately, many adults cannot understand that mommas are provided with a great way of feeding their babies, and that they- and their baby- benefit from utilizing that method of feeding. Some of them also can't understand that babies need to be fed frequently, and staying home for every feeding is simply unrealistic. 
  • Don't bash moms who don't breastfeed. This does nothing to help breastfeeding moms, but does fuel the breast vs. bottle debate, which ultimately creates more contention and negativity related to breastfeeding.
Nursing Ava Joy moments after her birth.
November 25, 2011

I also wanted to share this blog post. A lovely Muslim woman stopped by our little nurse-in and took some photos (Ava Joy is adorable, as usual :), and then wrote this post. I love what it has to say! Go check it out!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Why I love Sesame Street (from the 70s)

I wish this clip was aired these days. It really treats breastfeeding in such a child-friendly manner, with respect. Love it.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Breastfeeding Etiquette

I'm really not a lactivist. I promise. I make this distinction because I think many lactivists can be so exuberant that their activism swings to the side of making nursing actually off-putting to many. Or they judge those who don't nurse. Which is not my thing at all.

But even though I am not a lactivist, I might have to become one.

Here's the thing: the Jackson-metro area is the least breastfeeding-friendly area I have ever lived in. Ever. When I get the time, I will share about some of my experiences- starting right in the hospital.

But right now, I am in Chicago. And this area is pretty nursing-friendly. But given the recent experiences I have had with breastfeeding Ava Joy for the short 3 weeks she has been with us, I have been overly-aware of how breastfeeding is addressed here in the northwest Chicago suburbs.

And it's been good.


Well, I was in a nursing mother's room at my folks' church. Now, my take on nursing rooms is that, basically, anything goes. Meaning, if you need to go in there to pump, you can. If you need to change your little one's diaper while in there, go for it (nursing always makes Ava Joy poop. Usually quite loudly.) And if you want to nurse without a cover, then it's not an issue. It's a safe place.

So I was kind of surprised by the fact that I was the only mom who did nurse without a cover.

I mean... uh, we are all using the same equipment to do the same job. Is it really such a big deal if we accidentally catch a glimpse of each other's equipment? And how likely is that, even, given the fact that we all kind of avoid looking at each other unless invited into conversation? I understand that some women want to use a cover because they are more comfortable, and that's fine... but it felt more like there was this unspoken "rule" about using a cover, and I was breaking it.

What's your take? Do you think you should use a cover in a nursing mom's room?

I found this to be a very interesting article: Breastfeeding etiquette. According to the Emily Post Institute, breastfeeding in public is totally within the bounds of etiquette, and no cover is necessary... whether you are in the nursing mom's room or not.

I also plan to participate in the Target Nurse-In. Nursing mothers all over the country are going to their local Target at 10am on December 28th and nursing. In public. Because Target has a history of harassing women who nurse in their stores. And no mom should ever be harassed for her feeding choices. Ever. (In fact, the link above points out that harassing a breastfeeding mom is the opposite of good etiquette.)

Will you consider supporting the Target Nurse-In, either by nursing your baby at your local Target, or by supporting those who are nursing their babes?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Anna's Hair (Update)

In the words of Benita who does Anna's braids, "that girl has deceptively long hair!"

Exhibit A: Freshly washed hair

Exhibit B: A Curl (remember this?)

Exhibit C: The Same Curl, Stretched Straight

Her hair goes well past the bottom of her shoulder blade.

Exhibit D: Hair in 2-strand Twists

I am definitely getting better at doing Anna's hair. This style, from freshly washed to all twisted, took a little over an hour. It helped that her had had been combed out before the wash as well as during the conditioning. It made combing it out to style very easy (which can be a main time-eater when styling hair that is Anna's type.) We keep it in protective styles that preserve length (mostly small braids, hence going to a professional braider), and her hair grows like a weed. 

Sadly, Anna has been telling us that she wants to cut all her hair off. Like, shave her head. She loves that look, and has seen several brown ladies with very short hair which she admires. For the time being, we aren't letting her cut it (we do trim, but not cut), but soon we probably will allow her to have more input into her hair. There is so little one can control at this age, but if she wants to wear her hair short, I guess that is not the end of the world.

Monday, December 12, 2011


And that is pretty much a study in my daughters' personalities.

Friday, December 09, 2011

7 Quick Takes- Random Kid Quotes, 2nd Edition

Anna (to me): Momma, my neck hurts. And my hand where I got that oowie. And... my teeth tickle.

Abigail: Momma, all the girls at school wear make-up, and I'm not allowed. They say I'm a baby. 
(Note, Abigail is a year ahead in school, so her peers are ages 10-11.)

Me: Well, all I can say is that when you have an old barn, you paint it. When you have a new barn, you don't paint it.

Abigail: I don't get that.

Me: When you do, we can talk about make up.

Anna: I know how to spell Anna! A-N-N-Little A.

Abigail: Momma, what does "sane" mean?

Me: Well, it's like the opposite of Anna.
(This is why John calls me the human dictionary.)
(My more elaborate response was that sane is when someone is able to think clearly and logically, and insane is when they can't think right.)

After a particularly trying day, while sitting in the bath tub...

Anna: Hey, Mimi? Am I on your last nerve yet?
(There may have been growling in response.)

This isn't a kid quote, but I thought I would include it...

John makes a fantastic Buzz Lightyear:)
Dude at Halloween party (to John): You must be pretty secure in your manhood to come dressed up like that.

John: Have you seen my gorgeous wife and children? Yeah, I'm pretty secure.
(Major brownie points;)

 Recently, Abigail failed her hearing screen at school (turns out she had fluid in her ears because they weren't draining due to swollen Eustachian tubes/nasal turbinates... most likely due to new allergies here in MS.)

Me: So, what happened? You just couldn't hear the sounds?

Abigail: Well, when I heard them, it just sounded like... nothing.

Once again, thanks to Jen for hosting. Link up your own 7 Quick Takes over here. And have a great weekend!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

This is how I feel (Not Safe For Work)

In a previous post, I asked you how an image made you feel. This image, to be exact:

Almost everyone I have discussed this with have had strong reactions to it. Not necessarily negative or positive, but strong. For me, I had a very strong reaction- some positive, some negative, but mostly it just felt like my thoughts were going a mile a minute.

My very first thought was "man, that is a tiny baby." Then my thoughts started wandering to adoptive breastfeeding, and from there, surrogate breastfeeding/wet nursing. The racial connotations of the term wet nurse/nursing triggered very mixed emotions for me  At the same time, I was so excited to see a picture of a black woman breastfeeding, as that remains a major race-related health disparity. I loved the image of black and white, together, doing the most natural thing on Earth in caring for a baby. I also appreciated the lack of sexualization of this image... it's a very non-sexualized image that, to me, conveys the normality of the breast as nutrition for infants rather than the breast as a sexual object. And honestly, I thought the image was very artistic- presented in such a way as to make the focus on breastfeeding--- and the natural, caring, life-giving nature of that act--- rather than the persons participating in the act. It didn't feel like a clothing ad at all.

However, when I shared this with friends of different races and genders, I was surprised by the feedback. First and foremost, many of my black friends said that this image made them think back to the way slaves were made to act as wet nurses for their masters. Let that sink in a moment.

One friend polled 10 friends of different races/genders and responded that her black friends did point out the connection to slavery/ wet nurses, and all but one black friend were upset by the image ("WTF"), considered it offensive, or at best provocative but pointless.

Even before receiving that feedback, I questioned if I would have had the same reaction to the image if the adult and baby were not different races. I looked around and found this image... the closest I could find in terms of composition, minus the racial differences.

And you know what? For me, this image did not stir up as many thoughts and emotions. Sure, I still found it to be a beautiful, non-sexualized image of a wonderful, natural part of parenting... but without the racial differences, the idea of adoptive/surrogate breastfeeding and wet nursing did not even enter my mind. Without the racial differences, the image did not seem suggestive, provocative, or nearly as thoughtful.

In the end, I don't know if I've come to any big conclusions about the first image, but I did grow quite a bit... specifically in my knowledge of wet nursing/surrogate nursing (did you know it is making a comeback in the US, and is a sign of class in China? I didn't.) I think I also opened my mind more to adoptive breastfeeding (although I still believe that it was not the right choice for us when Anna came home.)

Moreover, it has made me think about how history and stigma play a role in breastfeeding. This article suggests that the role of black slaves as wet nurses as well as the stigma that breastfeeding is for "poor people" has contributed to the continued low rates of breastfeeding among black women. Although anyone who does a quick Google Images search for "breastfeeding" will quickly see that breastfeeding is for white women. This makes me sad.

Others raised the issue of "shock" advertising and whether cropping the image to be "headless" was dehumanizing and the generalized use of race or breastfeeding or breasts to sell a product. I won't get into that, because I don't really think that played into my thought process very much. But I do like a term that United Colors of Benetton used when discussing this ad (which won awards in Europe) and their other ad campaigns: shared humanity.

That sums up this image for me.

The sharing of humanity, of life, of that which is good.

When I heard that phrase, I decided I liked this image.

How about you?

Monday, December 05, 2011

Ethiopian in Jackson!

We finally got an Ethiopian restaurant here in Jackson!

We tried out Abeba Ethiopian Restaurant a few weeks ago. I was seriously craving some Ethiopian food, and  even the kids were ready to get their injera on:)

 We started with a few orders of sambusa, which is always a hit with the kids. Even JA ate some!

Fit Fit with gromen and salad

Tibs with greens and shiro (whole chickpeas rather than powdered.)
I had never seen tibs served as big strips of meat, but the flavor was right!

Doro Alicha with shiro and yellow lentils.
There was much fighting over the egg. John asked if we can order it with extra egg next time!

The food was served a little differently than we were used to, and I think there were some regional differences, too. But the flavor was great!

JA likes injera.

Who cares if I can't bite off the beef? I still like to chew on it!
The staff initially asked if we had Ethiopian before, and I responded with "we've been to Ethiopia... and can't wait to go back!" We had a great time discussing Ethiopia and the Jackson area. (Kaldi's may have come up.) I asked if they knew anyone who gave Amharic lessons, and our waiter looked at me like I had three heads before saying "well, any of us!" And, just like they do in Ethiopia, JA was scooped up by the waitresses and they played with him when we were done eating:)

Now, if only they would get some Tej (for me) and Ethiopian beers in (they say in a few weeks they will!)

 Have you had Ethiopian food before? What is your favorite dish?

Friday, December 02, 2011


When I started the adoption process, I started saving Abigail's clothes for hand-me-downs... pretty much for the first time in her life. After 4 years, those hand-me-downs are starting to get some use...

Abigail, age 4.5. March, 2007
Anna, age 4.5. October, 2011
Still a bit big on her, but she should grow into it in the next few months.
What lovely girls I have. But what very different personalities:) Can't believe I will be handing down to another daughter soon!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Sleeping Beauty

Here's to surviving my first few hours alone with both babies.

There were tears, but none from Ava Joy, and only a few from JohnAndrew. 
(Yes, it was mostly me. I'm hormonal. It should clear up in a week or two.)

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