Saturday, June 30, 2012

Study: Women Who Fear Childbirth Have Longer Labors

Well, duh.

I could have told you that one.

Birthing From Within contains a chapter entitled "The Tiger in the Room", which talks about how if you  lose your sense of calm and peace and allow fear to enter you, it will effectively destroy your labor, because you won't be able to give birth with that tiger in there, filling you with fear.  I read this chapter after I had had Bug and before my labor with Cat, and suddenly everything clicked for me.  That was why my labor had stalled out--a tiger had entered my hospital room in the form of a very unfriendly nurse, and I didn't want to give birth with her there, making me feel uncomfortable. Plus, you know, I had never given birth before, so I admit--there was some definite fear of the unknown involved.

But I'm so glad I read that chapter, because it gave me the confidence in myself that I needed to birth Cat naturally.

Anyway, apparently a study was recently done in Norway, surveying over two thousand women who were pregnant with a single child.  Researchers evaluated the participants' level of fear at 32 weeks pregnant using an established questionnaire, and they found that between five and 20 percent of pregnant women are afraid of childbirth.  The average age of the participants was about 31, and about half of them were first time moms--so really, a pretty common demographic for nowadays.

Well, in the study they found that the average length of labor was about 8 hours for first time moms (are you freaking kidding me?  28 hours!  28 hours with Bug) and 5 hours for those who had previously had a child (my labor with Cat was probably about six).  But, the women who had an established fear of childbirth labored for nearly an hour and a half longer than those who did not.

So what's the takeaway?  Honestly, the best advice I can give is to get comfortable with your body.  Stop listening to stories about terrible labors and look inside yourself and know that you can do this, that your body was designed to pop out a kid.  I cannot stress how much prenatal yoga helped me with Cat.  I really can't.  It's a shame our society has turned something as natural and as normal as birth into a culture of fear, and it's time to ignore them and listen to the voices within that tell you yes, you CAN do this.

Ignore the voices that say you need that second helping of ice cream, however.  It doesn't come off all that easy postpartum ;)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Helping Out Postpartum

Those first few weeks home with your new baby are precious times.  With both of my boys I spent the first few weeks just in awe of their sweet little faces, their beautiful eyes.  I would watch their yawns and I would stare at their bellies as they slept, watching those deep breaths, marveling at how perfect they were.

However, those first few weeks also sucked.  Let's get real here.  If you have a vaginal birth, you're bleeding like a stuck pig.  If you had a c-section, you have to rest, and Lord help you if you live in a house with stairs.  If breastfeeding isn't going well, your boobs are killing you.  Oh, and the whole lack of sleep thing totally blows.  And if you're doing it a second time around, having an older child is sometimes rather daunting.

Which is why, if you have a friend who has a baby, you should bring them food.  Because let me just tell you, I didn't feel like cooking at all, especially when I felt like I was hemorrhaging.

Luckily for me, the wonderful women at my church and in my mom's group brought me food.  There are a couple great websites that you can use to organize meals for new moms.  My mom group uses and my church uses  Both are great.  I don't really have a preference.  You can go to the website and plug in the person's name, contact info, and address, along with the number of people in their household and whether or not a recipient has food allergies.  You can also indicate food aversions.  Then, everybody signs up and you can see what people are going to bring.  And then, voila!  Food!

A member of my mom group was put on bed rest a few days ago, and the Meal Train organizer set it up for her that very day--and by the end of the day all but two slots were full.  It's a wonderful tool, and I highly recommend doing it for a friend--because seriously, with a new baby, the last thing that mom will want to be doing is cooking.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Having two children, especially in the Northern Virginia area, is NOT cheap.  Repeat:  NOT CHEAP.  I was lamenting to one of my girlfriends who lives in Florida earlier that for the amount of money we paid for our townhouse, we could own a McMansion in Florida.  But, alas!  That's not meant to be.

Anyway, I look for ways to cut costs when I can, and I've gotten rather good at couponing--to the tune of saving around 30% each time I shop (sometimes it's more or less, but I figure that's not a shabby figure!).

So how do I do it?

Well, I'm not as awesome as some other people I know (certainly not an extreme couponer), but here are a few tips:

1.  Get your Sunday paper delivered.  This is way cheaper than buying it at the grocery store, and if you get a deal through LivingSocial or Groupon, you can save a ton of money on the cost of the paper.  The coupons in your paper are always worth taking a look at.  Generally at least once a month you can find coupons for baby items:  diapers, wipes, baby food, etc.  While most coupons are for processed foods, you can find some good deals in there as well.  Today, for instance, I used coupons for granola bars, cereal, juice, and cheese.

2.  Learn about online couponing.  There are lots of great websites where you can print up coupons for free!  Personally, I never go to Target without first going to and printing up their coupons.  Last Sunday I went in armed with $12 worth of savings from their website alone, and then I managed to use some clipped coupons from my Sunday paper.  Other great resources are, and All You.

3.  Learn how the extreme couponers do it.  A few months ago I was fortunate enough to win an online couponing class from Rayven Perkins of Stay a Stay-At-Home Mom from the Prime Parents Club, and I learned some great tips and tricks.  I highly recommend her website.  It's a great resource for learning how to stretch your dollars!  Another extreme couponer who I follow on Facebook is NOVA Mom.  Go check out her page--her deals and steals are good in lots of places around the country, not just NOVA:)

Anyway, the way I look at it is, the more money I save, the more money we can put in the kids' college funds, toward a new house, and toward fun things like family trips.  It's a win all around!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Guest Post: Follow Up on What to Do When Your Child Hits

Hello again readers! It’s Jay again, and I’m here to do a follow up to my original post found here, What Should You Do When Your Child Hits.

Like a good dad, I exchanged my child Monday morning with her mother and warned her that Madi was hitting. I don’t think her mother believed me because when I got Madi back Thursday night her mother explained, rather surprised and incredulously, that Madi had hit her. I remember thinking, “Duh! Didn’t I warn you about this already?”, but instead offered a polite, “I know. You’re right. We need to nip this in the bud.”

We used a three pronged approach that I would like to convey the best way I know, through notable moments of World War II. And let’s face it. Raising kids sometimes is a battle. (links go to Wikipedia if anyone is interested).

First Prong – Molotov Ribbentrop Pact - I won’t hit her, she won’t hit me.
I’m a patient parent, but like everyone I have my limits. When limits were reached I would usually a spank instead of opting for a time out. So, I stopped spanking completely for a few weeks. I enforced time out over spanking.

Second Prong – The Battle of Midway – Strike first, and do it decisively.
Someone advised stopping the hit before it lands. I thought, how could I see a hit coming? Turns out you can. Picking her up when she’s angry or when I’m close by I was more aware if she was cranky/angry so I readied myself to get hit. Like the good little slugger she is, Madi has a little wind-up. It’s very easy to spot. So, the couple times it happened I grabbed her hand before she hit and “No Madi, we don’t hit daddy.” I’d then place her in timeout, safely out of reach.

Third Prong – VJ Day – If you can’t beat them, surrender.
I realized my daughter is under 2 and there are issues with communication. One of the many unfortunate things about two homes is I’m sometimes perplexed by her growing vocabulary. She will tell me a word she knows, but I don’t have a clue what it is. So, I took to having more patience and understanding. I tell her, “I don’t know honey. I’m sorry. Can you point?” and Madi has responded by pointing.

Does Madi still hit? Mostly no; she’s my sweet angel again. I’m pretty lucky. Whether it was phase or the effectiveness of prongs, her tempers are much milder. And oh my goodness has her vocabulary doubled since my last post. I think being able for her to vocalize her feelings helped a lot. She’s been doing so well with a lot of things that I took her to see the movie Brave this past weekend. But that’s a post for another day…

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Awash in a Cesspool of Self-Pity

I had a rough weekend.

I wasn't going to blog about it, but I'm feeling sorry for myself and so I figured the best way to deal with that was to air all my dirty laundry on here, in the hopes that writing about it would cleanse me from all of the bad feelings and I could start fresh.

What happened?  Just a whole pile of UGH.

So, on Saturday, the day literally just got away from me, in between naps and diaper laundry.  The rotten thing was, my load of diapers was SO LARGE that I ran it three times and it still didn't come clean.  So I had to take out half of the diapers (which, by the way, were covered in poop) and then run two separate loads.  So basically I spent all day on Saturday doing nasty, disgusting diaper laundry.

To top it all off, the kiddos got crazy in the afternoon, so I suggested to Jon that we go to Harris Teeter--it was super double coupons week, after all, and they usually had some pretty good deals.  So we went for a drive (during which Cat fell asleep) and we got there and got some great bargains, but I was irritated because you could tell the cashier totally didn't want to be there and she was being rather short with us.  Well, we got to the car and I looked at the receipt and she hadn't used any of my coupons.  I then had to go back into the store, find the coupons for her, and then they finally gave me my money.  But seriously!  I spend time every week cutting and organizing my coupons, and I expect them to be used!

So anyway, we packed up and headed home...and as we approached our house Jon started sniffing.  "Do you smell something?"

"Fine, I'll put my shoes back on," I muttered.

"No, I don't think..." and he trailed off as he looked back into Cat's carseat.  "HOLY CRAP!"


"He pooped and he smeared it all over the carseat!"

I looked back and, indeed, Jon's assessment was correct.  My son had, in fact, pooped and smeared it all over the carseat.  So guess who got to spend even more time dealing with poop on Saturday?

So in addition to that, Tropical Storm Debby pulverized the Tampa Bay region in Florida, which is where my parents and several of my best friends live.  A tornado went down a street mere blocks from my parents' home.  Plus there was drama with some of my friends, which never makes you feel good.

Sunday morning was actually kind of fun--we babysat for a friend.  Her son is close to Bug's age, and they played together nicely.  And then I got to go out and have a pedicure with one of my girlfriends.  She had invited me to join her and honestly, I think I needed that, because sometimes I feel like I'm the only one reaching out.  Normally I don't mind doing that, but when you are feeling a ton of self-pity, it's nice to have someone do that for you.

As Sunday evening drew to a close, I had a rather heavy heart.  My house was a mess.  My family was potentially in peril.  My oldest child had the mother of all tantrums when I put him to bed.  My baby didn't seem to have any interest in going to bed.  The weekend was over, and I had barely spent any time with my husband.

It was enough to make anybody want to cry.  Instead of doing that, though, I went to bed early and slept for nearly eight hours.  That was kind of awesome.

Monday started out fairly well, Cat slept until after 6 and Bug until almost seven.  We went for our walk and went out and met Jon for lunch, and then because Cat fell asleep in the car, we drove around for awhile.

But this evening was rough.  Cat wouldn't take a third nap (the time has come to accept that he's only going to do two a day), and so he was up for over five hours before he went down.  Bug had a tantrum about...I don't even know.  And dinner took forever to cook, and I burned my thumb (it still smarts very badly).  So again, another day where I wound up feeling drained, incompetent, and like I hadn't accomplished anything.

It's just so frustrating.

Anyway, I love my life, I love my children, I love my husband--I just sometimes wish I could have a day where nobody was crying.  Is that possible at this stage of the game?

Monday, June 25, 2012

More Items On My 30 Before 30 List

I've got some more!  Some of these I know I will definitely be able to cross off.

11.  See a play.  (Which I am doing next Saturday!)

12.  Go to a concert.  (With my sister at the end of July!)

13.  Submit an entry to PostSecret

14.  Try three things I have pinned on Pinterest.  This can be recipes, arts and crafts, etc.

15.  Visit the National Gallery of Art.  Sans children.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sunday Funny

The other day it was hot as all get out here, and so I had planned to keep the boys indoors--until they both started trying to drive me crazy.  When I realized that we had to leave the house or otherwise I was going to lose my temper, I plopped them into the car and I drove them to the dollar store.

As we made our way through the aisles (I had Cat in my Ergo carrier, and Bug was walking next to the cart), we paused in the children's aisle.  A woman in the next aisle over had her phone go off.  Bug immediately grabbed a pack of crayons, pressed it to his ear, and said, "'Ello?"

I love that child.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

30 by 30

So, I'm turning 30 this year.


Actually, it doesn't really bother me.  I'm still young(ish).  I have enough stamina to deal with Things 1 and 2 (which is an affectionate nickname I have for Bug and Cat).  But I feel like it's kind of a big deal.

There are lots of things I wanted to accomplish before age 30.  Some I have, some I haven't, and some...may be doable.  We'll see.

But, I have decided to copy my dear friend and editor, Jennifer Harris Dault, and make a list of 30 things to accomplish before my 30th birthday.  You can see her list here.  Her birthday is shortly before mine--I'm an October baby--and while I don't have a lot of time, I figure I can always try.  I have stolen a few from her that I really like.

Here's the list I've come up with so far:

1. Lose 15 lbs--the rest of my baby weight from both children:)

2.  Get Cat sleeping through the night, preferably in his crib.  (You have no idea how good for me this will be.)

3.  Give away 30 things.  (10 down via Freecycle!)

4.  Complete two chapters of my book with Chad Thomas Johnston.

5.  Potty train Bug.  (Again, this is for me.)

6.  Take a sewing class.

7.  Do something physically adventurous.

8.  See my best friend.

9.  Collect enough flip-flops for my TerraCycle project.

10. Watch 3 movies that I have never seen before.  (This will probably be one of the hardest, alas--watching a movie isn't easy!)

So I need to come up with 20 more.  Any suggestions?:)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Interview: Bianca Schulze, The Children's Book Review

The Semi-Organic Mom's Note:  My interview series with moms I admire continues today with the fabulous Bianca Schulze!  Bianca runs a book review blog...which is aptly titled The Children's Book Review.

Amanda Lynch: So, tell me a little about yourself.

Bianca Schulze: It all began back in the 70’s (whoa! let’s just say the very late 70’s) in Newport Beach, Australia. Fast forward, a few years … I flew the coop to ski in Beaver Creek, Colorado, where I met my wonderful husband who decided to lock me away in a tower and keep me forever. Tower is really a metaphor for a lovely home in California, filled with joy, laughter, two little girls (six and six months) who blow my mind everyday, and shelves and shelves of books that I review for my website The Children’s Book Review. Oh, and it’s probably important for you to know that my husband does not keep me locked up, as I suggested above. That would be weird (unless you’re a Fifty Shades of Grey kind of gal).

AL: What prompted you to start TCBR? Did you just wake up one day and decide, “Hey, I’m going to start a book review blog?”

Proof Bianca and I worked together--at the release of Harry Potter 7!
BS: Prior to living in California, I resided in Washington, DC, where I had the pleasure of working with this crazy girl, Amanda Lynch—oh, wait, that’s you. What I meant to say is that I worked with this amazingly thoughtful and dashing young woman, now known as the Semi-Organic Mom, in an independent children’s toy-and-book store. It was always exciting to me when the new release books would arrive. I couldn’t wait to pair them with just the right reader. I’d come home and tell my husband all about the new books we just had to purchase for our daughter. During an in-home date night that consisted of a candle-lit dinner and red wine, he eventually told me (in a round-about way), “As much as I enjoy books and reading to our daughter, I just can’t take the book talk anymore. You need to start a blog.” And I did!
Thanks to my husband’s advice, I’m now part of a large community of book and mommy bloggers that strive to create lifelong readers. Reading is one of the fundamental skills behind all kinds of learning—the more children that learn to read the better the future of our world begins to look.

AL: Have you always loved to read?

BS: In all honesty, I wasn’t what you would call a bookworm. However, strangely enough, I have some very fond memories from my school years that involve books. During elementary, my friends and I would spend playground time searching for Waldo in the Where’s Waldo? books (known as Where’s Wally? in Australia) and we spent hours searching for animals in Graeme Base’s alphabet delight, Animalia. I also loved June Factor’s wonderfully wicked children’s chants and rhymes from her books All Right, Vegemite; Far Out, Brussel Sprout; and Unreal, Banana Peel. I don’t remember which one of Factor’s collections this particular chant came from, however, I still recall this on a regular basis: “Pardon me for bring so rude. It was not me it was my food. It was so lonely down below, it just popped up to say hello!” I take pride in knowing that a children’s book can have such a lasting impact—not to mention that I’m still so easily amused.
For the record, I now read every day—to my children and to myself. Not because I have to, either, I just love how reading really takes you to the place of “now”. You can’t be anywhere else but in the moment of the words—it rarely gets more Zen than that … for the average person, anyway. I thank my mom for reading to me as a child and modelling how one reads for pleasure—even if I do wish there were days she’d have put down her book and played with Barbie and I!

AL: How do you get traffic to your website? What are your top referring sites?

BS: Word of mouth, search engines, social media, and bribery (also known as book giveaways). The search engines (Google, Bing, and Yahoo), Facebook and Twitter are the top referring sites for TCBR. It’s a continual work in progress to create and share relevant information to maintain a loyal readership.

AL: What’s your most memorable blogging moment?

BS: It would have to be the day that Huffington Post shared my list of books for dog lovers! Huff Post is such a great resource and I was honored they picked up my list.

AL: I remember when you started TCBR back in 2008 (FOUR YEARS??). What has changed the most for you since you started the site?

BS: Me! I may be unique in this thought, but I really enjoy growing-up.

AL: How do you balance running TCBR and your family?

BS: This is a great question. I ask myself the same thing on a daily basis. Mental balance is the beginning: accepting the day I’m presented with. When I accept each day for what it has to offer I find the most balance (or inner-peace). A wise friend often reminds me, “Wherever you are, you’re right where you’re meant to be.”
Then there’s the logistics, which is really just like putting together a jigsaw puzzle: Every morning, I mentally prioritize my to-do list and always begin from the top and work my way to the bottom (from family to TCBR to cleaning bathrooms—in that order). Being systematic in the way I approach things like creating a post and responding to e-mails really helps—for me, flexibility and creativeness comes from within structure and routine.
Acceptance/balance also means knowing when to turn on Scooby-Doo for my six-year-old, pull out the baby exer-saucer, and pour myself a “Skinny Bitch” margarita!

AL: What’s your favorite part about blogging?

BS: Having a purpose beyond family—it’s something that I do for me. As Carly Leotti said in her first contribution to the Semi-Organic Mom, “If Momma ain’t happy …

AL: Do you have any advice for aspiring bloggers out there?

BS: Find your niche. Find your balance. Be true to yourself in the way that you write and the topics you choose to write about.

AL: What children’s book best describes your life?

BS: Where the Wild Things Are by the late Maurice Sendak could possibly be the best fit. I’m Max (short for Maxine) who sets out across the sea (from Australia to the U.S.) to find myself. I meet my husband and stare into his yellow eyes (they’re actually green) without even blinking once—I become the queen of all wild things. I dance with monsters (my beautiful girls) in a “wild rumpus” on a regular basis. And, I know my mom would always have a supper waiting for me, still hot.

I’d like to say Where’s Waldo? I’d be Wanda and my husband would be Waldo and we’d travel all around the world with our kids! I’d just have to hope that we didn’t lose that little scroll/map that’s tied with the red bow—it’s always nice to be able to find your way home.

AL: When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

BS: A movie star! It’s not too late, right?

AL: What’s the best thing a blogger can give her readers?

BS: A free iPad?! What? You were looking for a more inspiring response? A unique voice—sharing your unique voice is liberating for both blogger and reader. 

AL: Where can we follow you?

BS: The Children’s Book Review, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, the TCBR newsletter, or anywhere, as long as you bring chocolate and a good book.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Things I Can't Wait to Do with My Boys

I'll admit it, I always assumed I would have girls.  I'm pretty girly.  I remember the first time my husband (then-boyfriend) came over to my apartment in college and he took one look at my closet and said, "Wow, that's a lot of pink."

But when I found out that Bug was a boy, to be honest, it sort of made a heck of a lot of sense.  Even though I had always had fun with my friends' little girls, and the ones that I babysat, it always seemed that I developed a stronger bond with the little boys.  And when I found out that I was having a second boy, I started thinking about all the cool things I could do with them.

So here's my list of things I'm looking forward to doing with my two sons as they get older:)  (Note:  Yes, you can do some of this stuff with a girl.  But hey, I'm planning for what I've got).

1.  Watching every single Indiana Jones movie.  Well, maybe not that last one.  Then we will go to MGM and see the Indiana Jones show.  I will gladly buy them hats and help them chase down artifacts and defy Nazis at every turn.

2.  Thomas the Tank Engine.  We will have train tracks all over our house and I will love it, except for the part where I step on metal pieces.

3.  Some of my favorite books/series growing up were "boy" books.  The Time Warp Trio.  The Three Investigators.  We will read them all.

4.  Bug LOVES MegaBlocks.  I am so looking forward expanding our Lego Collection.  Particularly Harry Potter and Star Wars Legos.

5.  When we go to Disney World, I think we should all dress as pirates.  I will wear my pirate mouse ears.  I will probably get ones for my sons (though probably not pink ones for them!).

6.  Teaching them how to cook.  I refuse to send my sons out into the world without a basic knowledge of the kitchen.

I'm sure there'll be more, which I'll add as they grow.  I was thinking today about how truly blessed I am that these two adore each other.  My Bug and Cat are best buddies--what more could I ask for?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Guest Post: Are Ultrasounds Safe for Mothers and Babies?

The Semi-Organic Mom's Note:  Thank you so much to Maria Holt for taking the time to write a piece for us on ultrasound safety.  It's something that I have fretted about with my two pregnancies and I know a lot of other moms out there have had concerns.  Here is what she has to say on the matter:  

Every year, millions of expectant mothers across the world receive ultrasounds to check on the health of their baby. While ultrasound machines have been in use for several decades, many people wonder how safe ultrasound machines really are. The following guide explores the safety of modern ultrasound machines.

Ultrasound machines are safe for mothers and their unborn children. Since ultrasounds use no ionizing radiation to create images, there's no increased risk of cancer from regular ultrasounds. In some cases, having ultrasounds can improve one's health. By detecting potential pregnancy problems early, it's possible to prevent many of the problems that are associated with health problems during a pregnancy.

All ultrasound machines use a specialized type of sonar to reflect sound waves off of human tissue. Since these sound waves are beyond the limits of normal human hearing, people are not aware that there is sound bouncing around inside them. Ultrasound machines are built on the same technology that pilots use to detect other aircraft. By bouncing sound waves off an object, it's possible to determine information about its distance and size.

With an ultrasound device, a doctor can reconstruct detailed images of the interior of a woman's womb. Some modern 3D ultrasound systems can even recreate 3D images of what a baby looks like. This can be a great way to make sure that an unborn child is in proper health during a pregnancy term.

While ultrasound machines are completely safe, there are other types of imaging machines that can pose a significant risk to one's health. While x-rays play an important role in modern society, overuse of them can increase the risk of certain types of cancer. Since an x-ray uses ionizing radiation to create images, it can pose a significant health hazard to people of all ages. Ionizing radiation has been shown to cause DNA damage and increase the risk of many types of cancer. In addition, ionizing radiation can cause hair loss and localized tissue destruction.

Fortunately, ultrasounds pose none of the risks associated with x-ray machines. By using an ultrasound machine, it's possible to ensure safety for oneself and one's unborn child. No ultrasound machines have ever been implicated in an increased risk of chronic diseases. In addition, ultrasound machines play a valuable role in detecting and diagnosing a variety of serious health problems. Ultrasounds are a safe and affordable option for everyone.

Maria has worked in the ultrasound scansbusiness for several years and has spoken to many couples during this time to understand how they feel. She currently works for Ultrasound Direct.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What NOT to Eat When You're Pregnant

In case you haven't figured it out by now, I am a complete and utter psycho.  Especially when I'm pregnant.  I took both of my pregnancies very seriously and I didn't eat a single thing that I wasn't supposed to.

Well, except for the deli meat I ate before I knew I was pregnant with Cat.  Oh, and the custard I ate with Bug.

The thing is, there are sooooo many no's that most people don't even know about.  So, I have taken it upon myself to make a comprehensive list of what to avoid when you're preggers:

1.  Deli Meat--Obviously, this is one that they tell you.  No deli meat whatsoever due to possible listeria contamination.  Listeria is a bacteria that doesn't hurt people normally, but when you are pregnant it can cause possible miscarriage.  However, if you heat your deli meat to steaming, it's totally fine for consumption.

2.  Certain cheeses--As long as your cheese is pasteurized, you should be fine.  But the ones to stay away from include feta, blue cheese, brie, and certain Mexican cheeses like queso.

3.  Eggs--Eggs are fine as long as they are prepared properly.  Scrambled or hard boiled eggs are perfectly safe for consumption and are a fantastic source of protein, as well as choline, which is essential in fetal brain development.  However, eating raw or undercooked eggs can leave you open to salmonella infections, so it is recommended to cook them thoroughly.  This also means avoiding foods that have undercooked eggs, such as mousse, custard, and mayonnaise.  Mayonnaise that comes in a jar from a supermarket is fine, but homemade mayo (or mayo made in a restaurant) is not.  You should be careful about this because a lot of restaurants make their own dressings, and they tend to use mayo that they make in house.  So cream based dressings at a restaurant can pose problems.

4.  Certain Fish--Do not eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, rockfish, or albacore tuna while pregnant, due to high mercury contamination levels.  Shellfish are deemed okay and I admit, I craved crab like crazy when I was pregnant with Cat.  Canned light tuna is okay, but you are supposed to limit your consumption to 6 ounces per week.

5.  Raw or Undercooked Fish Or Meats--No sushi, although vegetarian sushi is great (and yummy!) for you.  The green seaweed has a lot of nutritional value.  Everything should be cooked to at least medium well.  I greatly offended my waiter at the Cheesecake Factory one time because I ordered my Filet medium well, but hey, baby comes first:)

6.  Unwashed Fruits and Vegetables, Sprouts, and Salad Bars--You should wash your produce thoroughly, but sprouts especially can harbor listeria.  There have also been outbreaks of listeria with bagged spinach and cantaloupe in recent years.  The best way to ensure your produce is safe to consume is to cut it up yourself (no precut veggies, and steer clear of salads at restaurants) and wash it thoroughly.

7.  Alcohol and Excessive Caffeine--Keep your caffeine intake to less than 200 mg/day.  I personally drank a Coke every few days to try and keep my heartburn at bay (phosphorous FTW!).  I'm not a coffee drinker so it didn't really affect me there.

8.  Herbal Teas--Unless you know your herbs, stay away from these.  Some of them can bring on labor.

That's all I can think of at the moment, but knowing my craziness, I'm sure I'll have more to add!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Guest Post: If Momma Ain't Happy...

The Semi-Organic Mom's Note:  I am pleased to welcome Carly Leotti, AP DOM on board as a regular contributor!  She will be writing for us a few times a month.  Carly is not only my sister-from-another-mother, but she is also a Board Certified Acupuncturist and has some very unique insights.

It's Monday afternoon and this is my third patient who has sat down in the recliner across from me and started crying. “What's wrong?” I ask; “Life” she replies, and the details of an existence spread far too thin pour out.

Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon occurrence. I work at my acupuncture practice three days a week and, every single day, there is at least one patient who comes in crying. All are women, most are mothers, and all have forgotten the existence of a very important person: themselves.

Sometimes, I think we women are born with it: this innate desire to care for everyone else around us and to place their needs above our own. Some seem to be able to overcome this draw to absurd selflessness, but for the rest of us, we find ourselves curiously torn between a need to feel fulfilled and the guilt that accompanies the pursuit of that need.

To each woman who sits across from me in tears, I have the same conversation (there are variations for mothers vs. non-mothers):

Me: What's your schedule like?
Her: Well, I get up with the kids and get them ready. I go to work. Pick up the kids, figure out dinner, put the kids to bed, spend time with my husband, and then go to bed.
Me: Ok. Do you have any “you time”?
Her: Oh of course! Once or twice a week I get out of the house for an hour or so.
Me: (surprised) Oh good! What do you do?
Her: Grocery shop.

Allow me to clarify: braving the teeming hordes of WalMart, the patchouli laden aisles of Whole Foods, or the crowds at Publix is not, I repeat, is NOT “you time”. The conversation continues:

Me: Hm. Well, what is something you like to do?
Her: Umm...well, hmm.

This is the saddest part of the conversation for me. The woman has become so wrapped up in the well being of her family, her friends, her co-workers, that she has forgotten (or maybe has never found) the things that she likes to do. Her existence has been defined as belonging to someone else; she is someone's employee, someone's bestie, someone's daughter, someone's wife, and/or someone's mother.

Please understand, I am not saying that we cannot be happy and find joy in being a daughter, wife, mother, or friend. I am proud to be a wife to my husband and a mother to our son; they bring me intense joy. What I am saying is that, before jobs, husbands, and children came along, we were an individual with our own desires, needs, and dreams. There were things we did that made us happy, that we did for own selfish enjoyment. Somewhere along the line, we lost sight of those things, replacing our own desires with the needs of others. At some point, going grocery shopping became “me time.”

We cannot be good employees, good wives, or good mothers if we cannot be good selves. How can we truly give to others when we cannot give to ourselves? How can we really care for someone else's needs when we refuse to tend to our own?

So, what's the takeaway? Simply that, when making out your to-do list for the day, don't forget to schedule some time for yourself. When deciding on your priorities, get yourself on the list (even if it's at the bottom- everyone has to start somewhere). Do one thing every day that is only for your enjoyment (even if the only thing you can do is run potty by yourself). Show yourself the same patience, the same mercy, the same love that you strive to show everyone else. Love yourself more and you will love others better.

Carly Leotti is a board certified acupuncturist and mother to an amazing little boy.  She practices with her husband Dominic in Fort Myers.  Their website is  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day to all the wonderful dads out there.  Your children need you, and I am blessed to say I know so many great fathers who do a fantastic job taking care of their kids.

A special wish of happiness to my dad, and of course to my amazing husband.  Our boys are lucky to have you!  Bug and Cat adore you, and your dedication, hard work, and devotion to these boys is such a joy to see.

We love you!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Buy Local!

I have started going to our local farmer's market every Friday afternoon.  This is great for so many reasons:

1.  I get to leave my house without my kids.

2.  I get to go out and support local farmers in my community.

3.  Everything is really fresh.

4.  I get to leave my house without my kids.

Oh, I kid--sometimes I actually take them, but I often find that when I do that I don't exactly enjoy the experience.  And a farmer's market is really all about the experience.  I am now pretty much best friends with the guy at the bread stand.  Betty really does make the best guacamole in the world.  I love the honey mint salad dressing that I bought there (we eat it with sweet potato fries).  And then today, one of the farmers and I got into an intense debate over who had a harder day.

Him:  Man, it's been a lo-o-ong day.  I've been up since five.

Me:  Yeah, me too.

Him:  I had to get up and deal with the cows, and you know right now we're breedin' em...and then wash off all the stuff you see here.

Me:  I have a two year old and a six month old.

Him:  Okay, you win.

Anyway, I came home with some pretty spectacular ranier cherries (my favorite!), fresh lettuce, delicious looking red potatoes, and of course, our favorite cinnamon chip bread, which I use to make French Toast (it's so good.  So, so good).  And the best part is, I get organic stuff on the cheap, and I know where the food is coming from.  So, eat fresh!  Buy Local!

Friday, June 15, 2012


I was planning to do my follow-up article today about talking to your kids about sex, but in the interest of full disclosure, I needed a personal day.  So I will get that up tomorrow.

In the meantime, I will shamelessly show off my two beautiful boys:

Took the boys to the park today--we had a really early morning.  Well, my morning actually began at 3:30, when Cat woke up and decided to chat with me--no, chat AT me--for an hour and a half.  Then Bug woke up at 5:30.  Yup.  So, I put them down for a nap around ten and then we spent an hour and a half at the park, running around.  Then we went and visited one of my girlfriends, and then I got to go out with some of the women from my mom's group and have a yummy dinner!  Yay!

So seriously, back to the real world tomorrow.  Thanks for understanding:)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

When to Talk about...You Know...::whispers:: SEX (Part 1)

A few of my girlfriends and I were out the other night and the conversation turned to something that is a huge frustration with me:  Parents not talking to their kids about sex.

Look, I get it.  You might feel uncomfortable about it.  Probably because your parents made you feel uncomfortable when they talked to you about it (my husband will tell you about a book entitled The Wonderful Way Babies Are Made and the phrase "special marriage hug."), thus making you feel like maybe you should be awkward with your kids when you talk to them about sex.

Well, I don't know about you, but I do things a lot differently than my parents did.  So I don't see why, if awkward was the precedent, it should be maintained.  (Note:  I actually think my parents did a good job in this arena, but more on that later).  Sex is all around us.  TV.  Magazines.  You can't go to a grocery store without seeing cleavage when you go through the checkout.  Kids pick up on stuff.

For the record, I started reading Judy Blume books when I was seven.  So I was pretty well-informed about a lot of things by the time I hit puberty.

The thing is, unfortunately people don't know how to handle talking about sex with their kids.  And honestly, I feel like saying to them, Get over it.

If you are a parent, there's a pretty good chance that you had sex at least once in your life.  We all do it at some point.  It's just one of those things.  And the best thing you can do for your kid is to make talking about sex a normal thing, so they aren't freaked out about it.

You want to know the kicker?  The best time to start talking about sex with your kids  When they're little.  Even as little as mine.

I'm not saying you should give them a blow by blow, but you can start introducing concepts.  For instance, whenever we visit Jon for lunch, we drive by our old apartment complex.  "Look, Bug," I always say cheerfully, "that's where you were conceived!"  You can start talking about body parts.  You can acknowledge that boys and girls are different.  This is key not only in helping them learn about  how their bodies function, but also allowing them to develop a positive self-image.

Most importantly, when they come to you with questions, because you have established that you are willing to talk to them about this, you will be able to have a dialogue about it.

I cannot tell you how many people I know who have gotten pregnant as teenagers because they were simply misinformed about how their bodies work.  Every time a politician tries to get rid of sex ed classes I totally cringe.  Studies actually show that kids who attend sex ed classes and are informed about things like how easy it is to get pregnant (especially when you're a teenager and are in prime babymaking time) and how easy it is to contract an STD will actually have sex later than their peers who do not attend classes.

You've got to talk to your kids.  You've got to get over yourself.  If I hear one more girl say something like, "Well, I thought I couldn't get pregnant if I was on top" or "Well, he said if he pulled out..."  Hearing things like this makes me want to bang my head into the wall, folks.

I am all for teaching abstinence, and I think that should be the first thing you talk to your kids about.  But I also believe in discussing consequences.  How things work.  Because at the end of the day, it's about the information that you have provided and what they do with that information.  And I don't know about you, but as for me, I want my kids to understand what could happen--and I want them to know that they can always come to me and their dad.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cloth Wipes

I know, I know, I harp on the whole cloth diapering thing--but seriously, I do love them.  I am so impressed with the way my Fuzzi Bunz have held up!  Cat is now fitting into the medium sized ones and they look just like they did when I put them on Bug for the first time!  (Side note:  I am a Fuzzi Bunz affiliate and I completely believe in their product, so please contact me if you have any questions!)

But what I wasn't super hardcore about with Bug in the beginning was cloth wipes.  I know, I know--it sounds a little iffy.  And truthfully, I wasn't sure of them at first, either.  But now I wish I had been doing them from the beginning!

There are lots of different brands of cloth wipes out there.  I wound up buying some bumGenius ones, but then later I started making my own by cutting up some of my husband's old undershirts, the ones that were really worn and super soft.  Then I just wet them--sometimes I use my old peri bottle from when I was in the hospital, or other times I simply wet them in the bathroom sink, wipe baby's bottom, and then toss them in the diaper pail, and voila!  All done.  I just wash them with the diapers and hang them when the diapers are drying.

I love the cloth wipes for two reasons.  First, I'm cheap, and disposable wipes are pricey.  I personally use the Huggies Natural Care (note:  I am NOT currently sponsored by Huggies) because both my boys have sensitive skin when I do use disposable wipes.  In the interest of full disclosure, I use disposable wipes when we are out and about, and when there is infant poop involved.

But the other reason--more important, honestly--is that the cloth wipes don't have any chemicals in them.  And I have noticed that since I have started doing the cloth, there is less irritation overall in the diaper area in both my boys.

So yes, even though I was a skeptic at first, I am a cloth wipes aficionado.  Easy to make, easy to use--works for me!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What I Do Well as a Parent

I'm not a perfect parent.

I have screamed at my children.  The first time I did it, I was horrified.  Could not believe I had screamed at Bug that way.  I've snapped at Cat as well, but he has not raised my ire the way my toddler has.  I swear, 90% of the time, he's wonderful, amazing, and funny, and then that other ten percent he's Mr. Hyde.  Or The Hulk.  Or maybe some sick amalgamation of the both of them, with a dose of Linda Blair in there.  And then, Cat...well, he's not as easy as Bug was.  Sometimes I refer to the two of them as the Brothers Cray Cray.  Maybe I should write a children's book series about that.

Side note:  When I make comments like that about my two loveys, some of those smug parents of only one child, who are still completely enamored of everything that their kid does, give me the stink eye.  My favorite is when I post a comment on a friend's Facebook Wall and I get a virtual stink eye. I got news for you, oh Smug Ones:  I used to be one of you.  You have no idea what happens when you have a second one.

But, in spite of moments where I'm not proud of my actions, I know there are things that I do well, and last night when I was out with my girlfriends I was told that obviously I was a good parent.  But, since I feel like I'm constantly flailing and floundering, I figured it was time to give myself some credit.  I'm hard enough on myself as it is.  So here goes:

1.  My kidlets have alone time with me every day.  I make sure every day to say to Bug, "Okay, it's Mommy and Bug time" and we do whatever he wants to do, whether it's read The Poky Little Puppy for the ten millionth time or go outside on the front porch and blow bubbles.  Ten minutes of alone time with each of your children is something that they will cherish forever.  Cat gets alone time with me no matter what since he still sleeps in my room.  My favorite thing that he and I do together is bath time.  I will pop him in his tub and scrub him and sit there and watch his sweet little face light up as he kicks and splashes until every drop of water is out of the bathtub.

2.  I put their needs before mine.  Sometimes this isn't true, like if I really, really need to, uh, use the restroom.  But the bulk of the time it is.  I haul myself out of bed every morning at some ungodly hour and make Bug breakfast.  If Cat wants to listen to Justin Bieber, so help me, I turn on the Biebs.  Do they appreciate it now?  No.  But they will.  I know because my mom always put us before her, and it means more to me than I can say.

3.  I work with my husband to parent.  Bug and Cat have a great dad, and we've grown leaps and bounds as parents.  We also have been working hard to present a united front to our kids, so that they know that Mom and Dad can't be manipulated against each other.

And I love them.  Which, really, is the best thing any parent could do.  We need to cut ourselves a little slack here, I think.  If you honestly love your children, at the end of the day, that's all that really matters.

Monday, June 11, 2012

First Tooth!

Since I had such a cranky post yesterday, I figured today I would share some of the cuteness.  So here's what's going on with my two loveys:

Cat's getting his first tooth!

It's finally busted through the gumline.  He is soooooo much happier.  He'd been really fussy and crabby and angry and there were moments where I was waiting for him to start shaking his fist at me and start screaming, "NEIN NEIN NEIN!" a la his brother, but thankfully, that hasn't happened.

He's so cute though, isn't he?  I have to admit, I love the six month old stage.  He's still little and snuggly, but so many new things are happening.  He's starting to try to figure out how to crawl--he hasn't quite gotten in yet, but he sometimes manages to get his rear end in the air, and other times he can get himself up on his arms, God help me.  I guess I'm going to have to start thinking about the repercussions of that--but maybe I'll just allow myself a little more denial first:)

Speaking of loveys, Cat has one--unlike Bug, who preferred to use me as his comfort object.  He has gotten very attached to a stuffed lion that his great-aunt Cindy got for him, and it's so cute to see the way his face lights up when I hand it to him.

In Bug news, the boy never ceases to amaze.  First off, he's figured out how to open the front door.  He's figured out how to get the doorknob cover off, unlock the door, and walk outside.  The first time he did that I nearly had a heart attack.  As a result, we've had to get chain locks for the front and back doors.

Oh, and he won't drink milk anymore ::eyeroll::  He will eat cheese, and yogurt, and cottage cheese, so as long as he consumes a few servings of those during the day I am okay with it, but it's so frustrating!  This is the kid who used to adore milk!  And now, all I get is, "NO WANT!"

He is totally into bubbles, as you can see from the picture.  We've been spending a lot of time outdoors this summer:  going for walks, going to the park, painting outdoors, blowing name it!  I am a firm believer that children should be outside as much as possible, and Bug is loving every minute of it.

We have a busy week this week--lots of playdates and catching up with old friends, and I'm going to go out with my girlfriends a couple of times.  I'm so grateful that we have found such a great group of families up here to hang out with!  I love knowing that Bug and Cat will have all these wonderful friends, and I am so grateful for all of my mom friends.  You ladies rock!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Why is it Any of Your Business?

Can someone please explain to me why it is, exactly, that women's reproductive health is anybody's business?

I very clearly remember a moment at my bridal shower when one of my mother-in-law's friends mentioned us having kids.  I wish someone had taken a photo of my face at that moment, because I am quite sure that the only words that could possibly describe it were "abject horror."

I was twenty-two.  I had absolutely NO INTEREST in having children.  To me, the concept of children was something very abstract:  Something that I would like to have someday, but definitely not then.  In a lot of ways, I was still somewhat of a child myself.  I was rather innocent about...a lot of things, really, and I had a great deal of growing up to do.  Plus, back then, I can honestly say I was way too selfish to have a kid.

Jon and I were married for nearly four years before Bug was conceived.  I was six weeks along when he and I went out for our four year anniversary, and we were both excited, but scared, knowing that our lives were going to be forever changed.

But!  Because we were married, clearly we should have been procreating!  I will never forget how weary I felt when people were constantly asking me when we were going to have kids, when a big question for Jon and me was if we would be able to have kids.  I honestly wanted to murder my husband when he told some of his family members that we were going to be trying, as it took eighteen months for me to get pregnant with Bug.   This turned into eighteen months of me biting back smart remarks every time somebody asked us how it was going.  And then shortly after I had Bug, everyone was asking when we were going to go for Number 2!  Of course, Cat simply wanted to be born, and he showed up quite unexpectedly.

But it's just rude!  I mean, seriously.  Didn't anybody ever teach y'all manners?  Why on earth would you badger someone, especially if you know they might have trouble conceiving, about something like that?

What brought this on?  Well, a friend of mine is moving, and she posted something on Facebook, and somebody responded back that before she moved that she needed to get the maternity clothes that she had loaned to this person, and suddenly people were like, "OMG R U PREGGERS?"

Plus another one of my dear friends had a miscarriage last year, and everyone is bugging her, asking when they're going to try again.  She's still dealing with the loss of that baby, along with fear of it happening again.

I suppose I just don't understand.  I was very confused as to why everyone was asking us about having kids when we first got married.  I mean, we weren't destitute, but even though Jon and I both were working money was very tight for our first few years of marriage.

I don't want to be totally hypocritical--one of my friends was posting on Pinterest nursery ideas so I did ask her, and another friend was acting really suspicious so I also posed the question to her.  But I don't go around harassing people about their babymaking.  I also didn't do it in a public forum.  Or repeatedly.

Look, I've been truly blessed.  I have had two fairly easy pregnancies that resulted in two wonderful, whole, happy babies.  But not everybody is as fortunate as me, so I do encourage you to please think about it.  While we do live in the Facebook world of statuses that contain pretty much everything we need to know (and frequently more than we need to know) about other people, extending a little courtesy to people goes a long way.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Beauty Secrets

I get asked a lot what I do to care for my skin, because I rarely have blemishes or anything like that.  Unfortunately, most people get annoyed when I tell them the truth, which is not a whole heck of a lot--I have been blessed with really phenomenal skin.  And, for the bulk of my life, I have done basically nothing to deserve it.  Sometimes I would remember to wash my face at night.  I at least would remember in the morning, and apply moisturizer, but that was about it.

But, now that I'm almost thirty (I figure if I keep saying this over and over again by the time my birthday rolls around in October I will have accepted it) I have forced myself to adopt a beauty routine.  I mean, I've already noticed the skin on my hands has become dryer (although this may be a result of the constant hand washing I have to do with a baby), and so, fearing my face was next, I have taken a few steps.

I like to use glycerin soap to wash my face.  That way, there aren't any harsh chemicals and I have found that the glycerin washes clean and doesn't leave any residue, so I'm not scrubbing and tugging at my face.  After that, it's eye cream and moisturizer (both containing SPF--I use Elizabeth Arden's Ceramide products), a layer of petroleum jelly on my lips, and I'm done.

Speaking of petroleum jelly, it is the best lip balm, hands down.  While I do take a stick of Burt's Bees with me when I am out, the petroleum jelly is so good at insulating my lips and keeping them moist.  And it's cheap!  I've had the same tub for six months now--which I spent a whopping total of $2.99 on--and it's still going strong.  It's also great for keeping your eyebrows in place--and if you're like me and have Frida Kahlo brows that you get waxed once a month, you probably need all the help you can get!

I'm not big on makeup and I never have been.  I used to wear it when I was younger and worked at Borders, but I stopped because I used to get hit on, a lot.  Now I will occasionally wear lip gloss and maybe some powder, but the truth is, I'm kind of happy with what God has given me so I don't really feel like I need a lot.

As for the hair--well, mine is naturally curly, so once it starts to get warm out, I dispense with any pretense of keeping it straight and I let it air-dry and do it's thing.  Once I run out of my current stock of shampoo I am totally planning on trying Anna's Organic Shampoo Recipe, but right now I use the Bed Head Total Control products.

Anyway, I need to get's Diaper Laundry Day!  The party never stops here!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Gosh, I love them.

I love how Bug is going in to give his brother a kiss, and Cat is just like, whatever.

We had a lot of fun yesterday.  Earlier in the day I babysat for my girlfriend's son (so yes, there were THREE boys in my house yesterday!) and he and Bug played together very nicely.  Then in the afternoon when it became apparent that Bug wasn't going to take a nap, we met some friends over at the park and I let Bug tire himself out.

I feel like Bug is too young to give up a nap, but he will sleep for 12 hours at night if he doesn't have one. And the thing is, he wakes up at 6 in the morning, pretty much no matter what.  So I can either have him go to bed early and get to hang out with Jon, or I can forego any time to myself.  It's kind of a catch-22.

So, I'm starting to think it may be time to try putting Cat in the crib in the nursery.  The plan has always been that the boys will share a room, and Cat is getting pretty big for the cosleeper.  Weight-wise, he's fine, but he doesn't have a lot of room in there and I'm sure he'll be sitting up before I know it.  Plus he's been sleeping a lot better at night.  So, we'll see.  I don't think there's much point in doing it until after our vacation next month, but after that I think I will try.

Also, we'll be getting hardcore about the potty training next month.  Bug is totally ready, but I don't see the point in doing it before our trip.  We're going to be spending a LOT of time in the car.  Ugh.

In other news, Bug has figured out how to get the doorknob cover off of the front door and how to unlock it.  This weekend we will be installing chain locks.  Is there anything this kid can't get into??

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Websites I'm Reading, 6/7

In the few moments of spare time that I get, I am constantly checking out parenting and writing blogs.  Here are some that I'm reading this week:

The Children's Book Review--my friend Bianca (interview to come soon!) runs this blog.  I remember when she started it back in 2008, and now it has truly blossomed into a wonderful resource for book recommendations for kids of all ages.  Bianca and I used to work together at a children's store, and I'm not as up on what the newest books are for Bug's age as I used to be.  Luckily for me, I have this wonderful resource to turn to!

(a)Musing Foodie--Twitter is a great way to meet new people, and Liza Hawkins (a.k.a the (a)Musing Foodie) was a true find.  I often turn to her website when I am in a bind for dinner, and I want something different from our usual rotation.  (Speaking of which, have you noticed that whenever you add something to your usual rotation you're excited about it for about five minutes and then it becomes blah?  Yeah.  Yeah, that's how I feel lately!)  

For Mom and Keiki--I have included a link which takes you to their Facebook page, but you can also shop at their store  I highly recommend following them on Facebook because they always post a lot of great articles on attachment parenting, breastfeeding, cloth diapering, and so much more.  

Not too much going on around here.  We made it to the park on Monday, and then I spent Tuesday and Wednesday trying to get my house in order (and failing miserably).  Today I'm babysitting and I get to discover what it's like to have three boys in my household (pretty sure we're going to stick to two, though!:)).  The weather has been crazy in Northern Virginia lately--last Friday we had some fairly epic storms (and as a Floridian, I know storms!) which have resulted in cooler temperatures, causing my sinuses and allergies to go crazy.  Yesterday I actually wound up dozing on the couch while Cat dozed in his swing and Bug walked around saying, "Shh!  Shh!"

We are gearing up to take our first road trip--but more on that later.  I am excited because I booked our hotel!  I am looking forward to a couple of days at the beach with my wonderful family.  I'm sure Bug will love it.  Cat...well, we'll see. ;)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Interview: Kennedy Velasco, Northern Virginia Children's Photographer

The Semi-Organic Mom's Note:  I am starting a series of interviews with fellow moms who I admire.  These are women who, in addition to being fantastic mothers, are taking time to pursue their personal and professional dreams.  

Look!  It's me!

Lookin' good, huh?  Not too shabby for 6 months postpartum.  I just need to lose twenty pounds and all the bags under my eyes.  Which will be super easy, I'm sure.

Today I am interviewing Kennedy Velasco, the lovely woman who took my picture here and managed to make me look pretty:)  Kennedy is a member of my local Mom's Group and is the mother of two adorable children.  She is truly talented and you can see her work over at her website, Velasco Photo.  Here's what she had to say about being a photographer:

1.  So, you're from the Midwest.  What brought you to NOVA?

I moved here with my family in high school due to my dad's job transfer.  Ironically, most of my mom's family already lived here - so we have a ton of family in the area!  I went through a bit of a culture shock but Northern Virginia has grown on me over the past fifteen years.

2.  Have you always wanted to be a photographer?

I have always had a passion for photography and I kick myself that I didn't start my business sooner… but I am a firm believer that things happen at their own time.  I remember going through disposable cameras as a kid and waiting for days on end (can't even imagine that in 2012!) for my film to come back.  I took photography courses throughout high school and college - working in the darkroom is one of my fondest high school memories!

3.  How many kids do you have?  How do you balance your work life and your home life?

I have two little ones at home that keep me extremely busy, sometimes to the point of exhaustion (I know all moms can relate)!  On those rough days, it can be difficult to stay up late editing or working on my blog when my eyelids feel like sandpaper… but, despite how tired I am, I can't tear myself away.  I am mediocre at balancing work life and home life at this point - although the only thing I'm sacrificing right now is sleep!

4.  Are you a "self-taught" photographer? Or did you have a mentor who "showed you the ropes"?

I had an truly amazing photography teacher for several years in high school (shout out to Kim Basinger - yes, that's her real name!).  The passion she had for the subject just oozed out of her and was instilled in her students.  I learned the darkroom basics and how to go manual on my old school Canon EOS 300 and went from there.  I often spent my lunch period in her classroom working in the darkroom - I couldn't get enough.

5.  What made you decide to be a children's photographer?

I have several professional photographer friends that have built up successful businesses and I've always considered giving it a shot - who doesn't want to do what they love?  For the five or so years after I graduated from college, I was working full-time and having babies… there was no extra time to dedicate to building a business.  Once I made the decision to stay home with my children, it was a little more feasible.  As for choosing my subjects, I am open to shooting just about anyone of any age, but I do consider myself a children and family photographer.  I love capturing the connection between parents and their children and my clients love having those memories… and babies?  Babies look different  as each week goes by so it's amazing to watch the transformation.

6.  What is your favorite age to shoot?  Why?

I love the sweetness of a newborn session, but I love the spunkiness and spontaneity that a young child of three or four can bring to the table.  Sure, they don't make the most agreeable subjects, but I think capturing laughter or silly faces is even more natural.  That's their element - four year olds are silly!

7.  What inspires you on a regular basis?

I came across a great blog post on Momastery ( and it perfectly describes what I am inspired by and try to capture.  She talks about how there are two different types of time - Chronos time, which is what we live in - and Kairos time, which is those magical moments where time stands still… time outside of time… the moments where you REALLY look at your child and see the details of their eyelashes and the beauty in the edges of their smile.  Those are the things that aren't captured as easily in your memories - so I try to capture those for my clients.

8.  During a session, how many photos would you say you take to find "the right one"?

Oh boy… sometimes I come home from a session and have 400 images to go through.  I rarely check an image when I'm shooting unless I'm checking my white balance or something of that nature… so I just shoot away for one to three hours, depending on the session.  Many images get tossed immediately - if it's out of focus, eyes are closed, etc.  It's always better to have more than you need than not enough!  Plus, when your subjects are as young as mine, sometimes you come away with some crazy faces!

9.  If your kids had to describe you, what would they say about you?  (Mine would probably say, "Mama...pretty...poop!")

They're not old enough to be very descriptive… but I'd imagine 'silly', 'pretty', 'funny'… hopefully nothing bad! ;)

10.  If you weren't a photographer, what would you want to be?

Before I had children, I worked in federal human resources.  I wouldn't say that it was something I ever dreamt of doing nor was I passionate about it.  The whole time I was working after college, I would dream of having a job that utilized my creativity - so had I not turned to photography, I think I'd still be exercising my creative mind in some way.

11.  Would you mind sharing one or two of your favorite images? 

This is my new favorite image… The new dad was a big guy so it just helped to emphasize how TINY this sweet eight day old baby was.  I can't help but smile when I look at it because he just looks so proud to be a daddy to this little girl.  It really shows how most of us felt as new parents.

What a beautiful photo!  You can find Kennedy on Facebook and on her website, Velasco Photo.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Musical Experiment

When I first brought Cat home, I spent a lot of time watching reruns of Glee in the middle of the night when I was nursing him.  I think that's where the problem started.

If you are a Glee fan, you will probably recall that during Season 2, Sam (Chord Overstreet's character, also known as Trouty Mouth) did a cover of Justin Bieber's "Baby".  He did a great job, to be honest, and it wound up being one of my favorite episodes.

Cat loves this song.  Adores it.  This is the song that I turn on when he is hysterically crying, because it calms him right down.  

And I can't stand it.  Nope.

So, I'm currently doing a musical experiment to see if I can find a replacement song.

See, Bug was easy.  He liked Lady Gaga, especially "Bad Romance", and Maroon 5.  Stuff that I had on tap.  

Bieber?  Not so much.

So here's what we're listening to tonight:

1.  Adele, "Rolling in the Deep"--Cat tolerated Adele's anthem from last summer.  He wasn't as keen on it as I had hoped, so I played the version from Glee sung by Rachel and Jesse, which he was more into.

2.  Keane, "Somewhere Only We Know"--He sat there and giggled at me while I belted out this song, which is a personal favorite--one that heavily influenced my first book.  I'll count this in the "win" category.

3.  Maroon 5, "Moves Like Jagger"--Cat was momentarily interested when I started dancing, but then he had a fit and we had to listen to Bieber.

4.  Michael Jackson, "P.Y.T"--Cat thought my MJ imitation was hilarious.

5.  Poison, "Talk Dirty to Me"--This is Bug's favorite song.  Cat did me proud and consented to dance with me to this one.

Hmm...maybe I should play some more appropriate songs.

6.  Styx, "Renegade"--He was pretty ambivalent, no tears, but no excitement either.

7.  Robin Thicke, "When I Get You Alone"--About thirty seconds into this I realized this wasn't in the "appropriate" category; that being said, Cat thought it was hilarious when I sang, "And I'm not leaving..."

8.  U2, "City of Blinding Lights"--This song will always have a special place in my heart because I was at a U2 concert when I was 17 weeks pregnant with Bug, and during this song I felt him move for the first time.  Cat, for the record, smiled very broadly when I sang, "Oh, you look so beautiful tonight" to him.  I think he knows how adorable he is:)

All in all, I think we accomplished something.  Only having to turn the Biebs on once is pretty good, right?  Right? :)

Monday, June 4, 2012

Lack of Sleep

I have a confession to make.

My oldest child spoiled me ROTTEN when he was a baby.

Don't get me wrong, there were definitely some trying moments, like the whole breastfeeding debacle, and he insisted on being carried/worn every moment of the day.  I had moments where I would put him in his bassinet and he would wail and I would say something along the lines of, "Bug, Mommy just needs thirty seconds to pee by herself!  Please!"

But...Bug was an AMAZING sleeper.  

That's not to say that he didn't have his moments, but on the whole, he was great.  By the time he was 3 months old he was sleeping 7 pm to 7 am.  And I did nothing.  No sleep training.  Nothing.  That was the schedule he put himself on and I wholeheartedly approved.

But this one?  Not so much.

Cat is seriously lucky he is such an adorababy.

When Cat got sick back in April, he had started to sleep for an 8-9 hour stretch, but that was quickly destroyed when he got ill.  On his worst nights he was awake every two hours, and ever since then, the nights have been rare where he hasn't woken up somewhere around 3:00 am.  And because my only time for getting work done (blogging, writing, bill-paying, etc) is in the evening when the boys are asleep, well...I'm sure you can imagine how displeased this whole venture has made me.

To top it all off, Bug has decided that I am the only acceptable parent who can put him to bed, unless he's utterly exhausted.  Then, and only then, will he tolerate his dad.  But if Jon tries to carry him upstairs he immediately points at me and tries to hurl himself out of Jon's arms, screaming, "Mama!  MAMA NIGHT NIGHTS!"

While I appreciate this show of adoration, sometimes I just want to pull my hair out.  And Bug is not the easiest child to put to bed.  We typically read stories (which he and I both enjoy), and then we cuddle and rock for awhile, and then he gets in bed and I tuck him in and I sit in the chair until he falls asleep.  Which usually works great, but the last couple nights he has just decided that sleeping is for chumps.  In fact, on Friday night, when I put him to bed at seven, Jon poked his head in around 7:30 to check on us and found that I had fallen asleep in the chair.  Which was a good thing, because Cat and I wound up having a party that night around 2:45.

The thing is, I know this is going to get better.  I do.  But it's making me crazy!  I try so hard to be a good, available mom to my children, but I've seriously got to start getting some rest.  Last night, for instance, Jon had gotten Cat to sleep and then he went to go sleep in the recliner in Bug's room because his sinuses are acting up.  About ten minutes after Jon left, Cat started wailing.  And I do mean wailing.  His high-pitched cries reverberated in my eardrums, as I did everything I possibly could to try to calm him down:  I rocked him in my arms, I sang, I walked around, I turned on Justin Bieber.  Nothing.  He screamed for over an hour.

When I finally got him to go back to sleep, my nerves were shattered and so I read for a few minutes before I conked out, with my baby snuggled next to me.

Only to have him wake up at five  in the morning.  After falling asleep after eleven.  Jon came in around six fifteen and heard me pleading with our child, "Baby, please go to sleep.  Mommy can't take it."  Jon, God bless him, took Cat and let me sleep for awhile, which I desperately needed.

I'm not trying to complain about my children, because I love them and I can't imagine life without them.  But, ohhhhh, I am so tired.  Most days during the week Jon comes home to find me with my eyes barely open on the couch.  And I'm not really sure what to do, because I am opposed to sleep training.  All I can do right now is remind myself that at this age, Cat's sleep habits are liable to change from one week to the next, and hopefully he'll sort himself out soon.  And I can sleep more than four hours at a time.