Raising a Boy

I read a post recently that a friend liked from an entrepeneur named Dale Partridge who said,

“You can have beard. You can post pictures of yourself in the mountains. You can even chop wood with a vintage axe. But none of that makes you a man. Our culture is fighting to diminish manhood by defining it with “manly” things. But they’re not fooling anyone. There isn’t a good woman on this planet who wants a burley guy who can’t control his temper or who can’t provide for his family or who can’t commit to a relationship or who can’t raise his own children. Men, stop trying to trick the world that beer and whiskey make you honorable or cavalier. The look is empty and if you can’t back it up with integrity, maturity, and leadership you just end up with a boy trying to fill the boots of the man he’ll never be”

This was just the thing this boy mom needed to hear today. Just in the past week I’ve been faced with two separate occasions of kind older people who praise me for raising a boy, because he’s a boy. For no other reason. The first instance, at a clothing store dressing room, I was told that “the man is dying. Good for you for raising him to be manly.” The second time was in a waiting room where an older gentleman asked if he was a boy and when I said yes told me, “Good. I bet you were so glad he was a boy”. Writing that out it doesn’t sound as bad as it was in person. His tone meant, “Having a boy is so much better than having a girl.” In retrospect I should have said, “Well we would have been just as happy with a girl”. But I’m polite and I shook my head because of course I’m glad I had a boy. I’m actually just glad I had a baby.

But raising a boy in this climate is a challenge. In 2014 Emma Watson, a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, gave a moving speech at an event for the HeForShe campaign at the United Nations Headquarters. In her speech she speaks about her struggle as a girl and as a woman to find her place in the movie business and to fight the gender stereotypes and misogyny she regularly faced. But she also talked about boys and how there is this push for boys to be “manly”; to not cry; to not show emotion and be tough. Her speech was encouraging men to stand up for women and be feminists because in the end, gender equality is for them too. “If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled.” My goal in raising a boy is to raise a good human being who loves his life and who treats others with respect. My goal in raising a boy is to show him that being a “man” isn’t his lot in life- being a kind person with values who knows himself is. My goal in raising a boy isn’t to have him be tough and manly, but able to feel emotions and have empathy. These are the characteristics that will help him be a good partner, a good dad if he chooses to be, and a good friend.

We put a lot of focus on raising girls to be strong and making sure they know they can do anything. They can run the world and get paid as much as men. They can have control over their bodies and the right to say no. I am a feminist in every meaning of the word. But we also need to make sure that we are raising our boys to break the stereotypes of men. We need their wives, their husbands, their female friends, to feel safe in their presence and not have to second guess their intentions.

I’m raising a boy, yes. But it is so much more than that. I’m raising a person. And isn’t that so much more important?

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What We’re REALLY Thankful For

Yes, we’re thankful for our families. We have rockstar husbands, adorable children, homes, food, yada yada yada. And that’s all great. But here’s what else we’re thankful for- the nitty gritty, the things that keep us moving.

Ashley

Hulu
Yeah, girl. I am thankful for friggin’ Hulu. How else am I going to watch all my Shonda shows and all of the wonderful, wonderful tv that I love so much? I literally started listing all the shows I watch and I deleted it because it’s slightly embarrassing how many shows I watch. But they’re all So. Good. It was bad enough for the new shows came out this season and so many of them are so great. I just love tv.

Twizzlers
There’s not a lot of sweets I can eat these days with having a rather bad intolerance to dairy, so Twizzlers are my vice. I can’t eat just one or two. I eat half the bag. Don’t judge me! It’s all I have so let me have it!

Wine
Ok, so maybe Twizzlers aren’t all I have- there’s also wine. When we lived in Richmond we had Trader Joe’s and if you’ve never been down the wine aisle at TJ’s you are doing yourself a disservice. Forget the 2 Buck Chuck crap and look at all of the delicious wines they have for under $10. We don’t have Trader Joe’s here so we decided to give Aldi’s a try, hoping for the same wine stock. Don’t, I repeat DON’T get wine from Aldi under $10. It is awful. Just God awful. I have turned into a wine snob. I’m not ashamed.

My Target boots
My husband is a firm believer that you spend more money on a few pieces of clothing (or find them cheap on Ebay) that will last you longer versus spending less on more items. And yes, I get the logic. But spend $100 on 1 dress or $20 and get 5 dresses? Um, the last one please! But I have to give Target some props here for making decent shoes. My Target shoes usually always hold up for at least a few seasons and I am currently obsessed with these boots that I got there last fall. They have them out again this fall and I’m considering buying another pair for when these eventually bite the dust. I’ve pretty much worn them every day this fall because they go with everything. And for that I am so thankful cause this momma ain’t got no time to be looking through all the shoes in my closet. These stay in the living room because they’re basically the only shoes I wear.

Good Ol’ 1st Generation iPad
I’ll admit when I’m wrong. I almost got rid of this iPad. My husband got it for me as a gift many moons ago and I never used it. I always had my phone or my computer so who needed an iPad? And I’m a firm believer in books over devices. But he downloaded the entire Harry Potter series for me onto the iPad and when you’re hooked up to a pump you need some entertainment other than the angry people on Facebook and what better way to fill my time than reading about Harry’s whiney butt in Order of the Phoenix. Seriously though, SO whiney. Like, Dude, everyone understands your life sucks but come off it. Maybe listen to the people around you and stop being all high and mighty to your friends so they’ll actually want to help save you from the shit storm you inevitably get yourself into again. Whew. And on that note- Harry Potter marathons. It’s seriously like hitting the tv lottery.

Who am I kidding? Target.
Does this one even need explaining?

Melissa

Starbuck’s Baristas
These people, ladies and gents, are my people. Meredith has Christina (and now Alex) and I have baristas. They all know me by name and they question me if I order my drink in a smaller size. They know my order by heart and if I see a former barista in a store, they always come up to me and ask if i’m the “Venti Iced 7-Pump Chai” girl. My husband and I were going through the McDonalds drive-thru a couple of months ago, and the cashier at the window was like “Hey! I know you from Starbucks!” My husband was telling me how pathetic that was, literally, the whole ride home. Hahaha! So if any of you are reading this, I’ll see you bright and early.

Gas Pump Clips
SERIOUSLY. I get so angry when it’s -4 degrees outside and I have to hold the gas pump handle until my car fills up. I’m literally frozen afterwards. So I am incredibly grateful for gas pump clips! To all the gas stations with pump clips, thank you! If it wasn’t for you, I would have probably had frost bite a million times over.

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Back-up Cameras
I’m pretty sure I would have backed into thousands of peoples’ cars if it wasn’t for my back-up cameras in each of my vehicles. Literally, a life saver. They show you when you are inches away from hitting anything. AND even better, in my Honda Civic, we have “Honda Sensing” which shows you the right side of your vehicle when you turn on your right turning signal. It shows up right on the monitor and every time I drive my jeep, I always think that it’s going to spoil me and show me my right blind spot and it sure does not. Such a bummer. But at least one of my vehicles has it!

“This is Us”
I am so thankful for the new show, “This is Us”. After “Parenthood”, I wasn’t sure how I was going to move on. Then BAM, they hit us with this fabulous new show that I can’t get enough of. It’s literally so perfect and who doesn’t love Mandy Moore? She is underestimated in the world of actresses and singers, when really, she is amazing! I love that she is getting her time to shine again. Do you all remember “A Walk to Remember”, yeah, that’s her.

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And I’m also thankful for Angry Orchard, car chargers, paper plates, and Canon camera makers.

Stop the Mushy Posts on Facebook? Make Me!

I had a hard parenting morning today. My little one is going through a not so fun “I hate my carseat and everything about it” phase, which makes taking him out of the house challenging. Like trying to leave the house with a baby isn’t hard enough, add some non-stop crying on top of it and that’s how our typical outings have been over the past few weeks. But today was even worse. I had a doctor’s appointment and wanted to get a few (read: 2) errands done beforehand. And it is frigid outside. Like pierce your bones cold with the wind chill. So I bundled him up in a coat, strapped him in his carrier so I could carry him, his diaper bag, and lock the front door before heading down our three flights of steps to the car. He was already mad. Then I put him in his torture chamber aka carseat and he was pissed. Super pissed. He cried the entire way to the store and the entire time we were in the store until I finally took him out and carried him while using his stroller as a cart. Rinse, repeat until we get into the doctor’s office and then again on the way home. By the time I got home I felt hungry, thirsty because I forgot to bring water, cold, and defeated.

img_0285This was not him today. This was the day before after a meltdown on the way back from Richmond.

“Is this the real people want to see on Facebook?”

I know I am a good mom. I’m not self-depricating in thinking that I suck at this. I really do think that I am pretty good at this parenting gig. At least, I try really hard. And we all have bad mornings. In between being in the car, when I took him out of his seat, my guy was a hoot. He was smiling at everyone and blowing bubbles and chatting away. He was holding onto my arms like he’s hugging me and burying his face in my chest when someone started talking to him like he’s playing shy. So it really wasn’t all bad. But as I loaded him into the car screaming, tears coming into my eyes because I felt so bad for making him so upset, I thought to myself, “Is this the real people want to see on Facebook?”

We hear so often, or at least I do, not to compare ourselves to what you see others post on social media- because people post the highlights, and the good ones at that. They post the happy moments and the toys put away and their babies smiling and the laughing with their spouses. They don’t post the 3am feedings or the dinner dishes still in the sink from the night before or the wine glass sitting empty on the bedside table or the pair of socks folded in the laundry basket when I’ve asked him a million times not to do that. When talking with our pediatrician about Wyatt’s sleeping through the night, he reassured us that the number of times he was waking up was completely normal. He said other babies his age (at the time he was probably only 2-3 months old) that were sleeping through the night just had better PR. In other words, those babies had parents who were so happy to have a full night’s sleep that they needed to shout it out to the world. And why not celebrate with them?

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When did we become so bitter that we are resentful of the happiness of others? When did the joy of others become our misery? And on the flip side, when someone posts about their sadness or their frustrations, when did we become so high and mighty that we complain about their pain? When did our lives become so perfect that we can’t understand what another person is going through? When did a post about how tired you are because your baby woke up more than once in the night become a bulletin board of all the things you could be doing better?

I always see articles on Facebook talking about the bad sides of parenting. How to get through the crying. Parents hiding from their kids in the bathroom for 5 minutes of peace. Things that every parent goes through. And there’s this desire from some people to stop putting on a “show” for social media. To stop writing posts about how wonderful your life is and how great your marriage is and how your baby is sleeping through the night and how you did xyz. I don’t know about you, but the happy things are what I long to see when I log on. Maybe it’s because in the grand scheme of things, I have a wonderful life. I have that great marriage and that happy baby. But when I see the happiness of others, it only reminds me of the happiness in my life. Seeing other people joyful fills me with joy.

So, yes, I had a rough morning. We all do. If you’re a parent, you’ve been there time and time again. It’s not my first rough morning as a parent and it certainly isn’t even the tip of the iceberg for how many I’ll have in the future. And now we’re in our warm home and he’s sound asleep while I write this. We get by and we get through this thing called life. And the purpose of social media should be to share- the good, the bad. The exciting moments, the mundane. The anniversaries, the endings. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll get support instead of judgement

“Life Isn’t Perfect, But Your Outfit Can Be”

I’m OBSESSED with online fashion boutiques. Like, insanely OBSESSED. I love clothes and I love anything off the shoulder. So I’ve decided today to show you where I buy the majority of my clothes! I’ve done enough trial and error to be able to tell you that these boutiques are the best to buy from. They ship super fast, and I mean speedy. Last Thursday, I ordered a shirt from one of these boutiques and I got it two days later, on that Saturday. Insanity! So here we go!

Hazel and Olive Boutique
http://www.hazelandolive.com

This is my ultimate favorite! I go through their emails daily because most of the time, they send out a coupon to use during their “happy hour.” They ship their clothes, most of the time, that same day. If not, they ship it the following day. Everything is always high quality and it’s not even expensive! Plus free shipping! Here are a few tops that I’ve bought:

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And I have so many more clothes from them but not everyone gets a picture taken everyday, haha!

 

Shop Impressions Boutique
http://www.shopimpressions.com

Not going to lie, this boutique can be a little bit more pricey. Shipping isn’t free so that’s always a bummer. However, their clothes are BEAUTIFUL. They have amazing sweaters and kimonos (look below), along with their wide selection of tops and shoes. They have such a beautiful Instagram that I drool over daily. Look out for deals around the holidays. Sometimes they’ll even slip in a free shipping code.

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Off the Racks Boutique
http://www.shopofftheracks.com

Do you love Simply Southern tees? I do! This is my go-to place for them! This boutique always has good deals. They send out emails with codes all of the time. I’ve bought so many articles of clothing from them and I can’t even believe that I only have one picture to show! They have free shipping and it’s fast!

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I want to add that Kaley Jase Boutique is also a great one to buy from. They have beautiful packaging and the shipping is like $1 (with the exception of shoes). They are located in Windsor, NC which is ridiculously close to where I’m from and they are just full of southern hospitality! I’ve purchased a lot through them as well, and they DO NOT disappoint! Right now you can only purchase in the store or on their Facebook page, but it’s so easy!

I’ll be sure to keep everyone updated with more boutiques that I fall in love with, but for now, check these out! Supporting small businesses is always important and these stores don’t have to try hard to get customers, that’s for sure! The Saturday after Thanksgiving is Small Business Saturday so get out to your favorite small business and show them some love!

 

*Cover Photo: Brittany Besaw Photography

Is Your Baby Ready for Solid Foods?

Are you wondering if your baby is ready for solid foods? Here is a checklist to find out if little Booboo is ready for the big wide world of pureed veggies and fruits and (ack, meat! gross- who wants pureed meat?!). Follow this simple checklist and you will surely make the right decision. JK please ask your doctor.

  • Does your child have fingers? If so, they will be sticking them into their mouth once you put food in. And then pull them out and smear them on whatever they can reach before you can wipe them clean.
  • Does your child have lips? If your child was cursed with lips when they were born, that cute raspberry sound that they make will also be made when they’re eating, causing liquid sweet potatoes to be spewed everywhere.
  • Eyes? Your sweet baby have eyes? Yeah, they’ll get prunes in them. Just so you know. And then scream because they have prunes in their eyes. And you’ll say, “Well, if you wouldn’t put your fingers in your mouth and then wack your eyes, you wouldn’t have prunes in them!” And then you’ll remember you can’t reason with a 5 month old.
  • How about a neck? Does your sweet one have a neck with which they can use to move that precious head all around making their mouth a moving target? Once you think you’ve made contact they lunge their face forward into the spoon, causing it to not only smear all over their face but also spill onto the one spot on their shirt that wasn’t covered with a bib.
  • Do you have 20 THOUSAND bibs? Also an endless supply of wipes? Also lots of spoons because you can’t clean them fast enough? Also extra clean clothes for yourself? Also room in the washing machine for the high chair cover that he just puked on?

If you answered YES to any of these, it means- well, it means nothing. Starting solid foods with your baby is exciting but man is it messy! At least they look so cute trying it all out. img_6858

Can I Open My Eyes Now?

My sister and I are part of a family with members on opposite sides of the political spectrum. We have some family who are far right, some who are far left, and a couple (but not many) in between. I won’t get into politics here, you’re seeing enough of it EVERYWHERE else. But as we close up this election season, as a new president is selected and you either rejoice or lament the results, please remember that it is our differences that make us strong. It is our varying thoughts and opinions that make us learn and think. It is how we are unalike that teaches us empathy and compassion, two traits I hope to always carry with me and teach my child. We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike. After it’s all over, we still need to be family. We still need to be friends. We still need to go to work together and eat at the same dinner table. We still need to love each other. And we can only do that if we put aside our differences and remember that we are in this thing called life together. Because if we’re not, if we keep tugging at that thread like we’ve already started to do, the whole damn sweater is going to unravel. And all we’re left with are the fibers that we started with and we’ll need to start over. Then again, maybe that’s what we need to do: press reset. Start over. Tomorrow is a new day. Let’s start it with love.

The Human Family
Maya Angelou

I note the obvious differences
in the human family.
Some of us are serious,
some thrive on comedy.

Some declare their lives are lived
as true profundity,
and others claim they really live
the real reality.

The variety of our skin tones
can confuse, bemuse, delight
brown and pink and beige and purple,
tan and blue and white.

I’ve sailed upon the seven seas
and stopped in every land,
I’ve seen the wonders of the world
not yet one common man.

I know ten thousand women
called Jane and Mary Jane,
but I’ve not seen any two
who really were the same,

Mirror twins are different
although their features jibe,
and lovers think quite different thoughts
while lying side by side.

We love and lose in China,
we weep on England’s moors,
and laugh and moan in Guinea,
and thrive on Spanish shores.

We seek success in Finland,
are born and die in Maine.
In minor ways we differ,
in major we’re the same.

I note the obvious differences
between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

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Celebrating Halloween With a Baby

Written by: Ashley

Confession: I LOVE Halloween. I love the movies (Hocus Pocus FTW!). I love carving pumpkins. I love costumes. I love seeing all the little ones in costumes. I love the music, the more ghost noises the better. I love every aspect except the scary stuff. I’m a wimp so you can keep your haunted hayrides and houses and scary movies. But give me all the cute bats and pumpkins and crafts. Celebrating Halloween in the past has always been focused on some party we went to with a couples inspired costume and passing out candy while watching a movie and drinking yummy beer. This year, we have our sweet nugget of cuteness so our plans are a smidge different. When you have a baby who will need you to be able to function in the middle of the night, going to a party that probably doesn’t even start until 10 isn’t really an option. Who am I kidding, by 10:00 I’m usually so far into a REM cycle that I’m dreaming of that bowl of candy waiting for me when I get up at 2am.

This year I was so excited to celebrate Halloween with Baby Wyatt. I wanted to make the holiday memorable (obviously for us and not him because he won’t remember any of it). But how do you celebrate a holiday with a baby who can’t sit up, can’t eat candy, isn’t into crafts yet, and is still adjusting to this crazy world around him? Here are some fun ideas that we did to make Wyatt’s first Halloween perfectly ghostly.

Clothes, clothes, and more clothes.

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Pro tip (cause you know, I’m a pro now)- do not buy holiday clothes in advance. I think for most parents you can guess what size clothes your kiddo will be in by the next holiday but for us, that backfired. We bought a “My First Halloween” onesie before he was born because it was on sale and thought for sure he would be in 3-6 month clothes for the big day but it turns out he is in 6-9 month clothes. And on that note, all of the Christmas outfits we got him already will probably not fit by then. But I think for most parents whose child is not in the 90th percentile for height, this won’t be too much of a problem. I say don’t buy holiday clothes in advance because 1- you won’t know the weather. Halloween is tricky. Today the weather is going to be in the 60’s, but yesterday it was almost 80 here in VA. If you live in a more moderate climate, this might not be a problem for you. The other reason is because of family and friends. We had family give us 3 Halloween outfits and that was plenty! He was able to wear one the day before Halloween, one the day of, and one to sleep in.

Books

I love books. I don’t think anyone could properly argue that books aren’t fantastic for kids as early as birth. Books for holidays are a great way to get kids excited about reading and also celebrate in a fun way. Of course I had to get two books for Halloween. One is really for him now and the other is for later.

The first book that he LOVED was “The Itsy Bitsy Pumpkin” by Sonali Fry. It’s a simple enough book, set to the tune of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and my music loving man loved hearing his momma sing it to him. He watched so intently as I read it three different times!fullsizeoutput_d14

The other book I got for him was “A Halloween Scare in Virginia” by Eric James. This was way too long for him to read now, but I’m a firm believer in scooping those gems up when I see them so I don’t 1- miss out or 2- forget about them. I have about 20 pictures on my phone of books I want to buy in the future. And also saved in my Amazon shopping cart.

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Pumpkin Carving and Sensory Exploration

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I don’t know why I love carving pumpkins so much. I’m not even the one who does it- the husband is! But I supervise while drinking and that, my friends, is a tough job. This year I sat with my delicious beer with Wyatt in my lap while we watched Dad do the carving. We sat on our front porch because the weather was perfection and to get some fresh air. Wyatt was more interested in the tree blowing beside us than the pumpkin, but meh, who cares? To bring the activity to his level, we put the insides of the pumpkin into a ziplock bag for Wyatt to squish and explore. He’s still a little too young for this activity and was interested in it for about 4 seconds, but it was worth it. This would be even more fun for an older baby. For a toddler or young kid, ditch the bag and just put it in a bowl for them to squish between their fingers. It’s a great, gooey sensory experience. Just be careful of the seeds because they can be a choking hazard.

If your little one is a bit older than mine, you can even roast the pumpkin and puree it for a special Halloween lunch! Wyatt just started on solids and our pumpkin had been sitting for quite some time so he wasn’t quite ready, but it would be yummy for an older child. If your kids are old enough, include them in using that pumpkin puree to make a pie or a sweet treat.

Visiting Family and Outings

We are so lucky to live not only within 5 minutes of Dad’s work, but also right down the street from where Wyatt’s great aunt works. We put on our costume and went to visit her at work for a surprise visit! If your baby is a bit older, libraries are always having special Halloween themed reading times to go to. We also went to the zoo over the weekend for Boo at the Zoo, which a lot of zoos do. Sure he slept through half of it, but it was a fun day anyway. Really, just get outside in the fall air!

Trick-or-treating. Well, kind of…

At this stage in his little life, trick-or-treating is for Mom and Dad, not for him. But we wanted to experience it with him so into his costume he went. Make sure you schedule everything so that you can get off work a little early so you don’t feel rushed and just start small- aim for a walk around the block in the stroller. If baby is doing well and not in bedtime meltdown mode (that’s a setting in some Nintendo game, I’m sure), try another block. Just don’t push it. We decided to forego going up to any houses and just enjoyed people watching. And man did we have one cute dragon! However, I do have two sweet nieces that are old enough to really get into Halloween and had a blast! Check out my sister’s blog on how they celebrated.

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Celebrating holidays with a baby can be fun, as long as you lower your expectations a bit. Don’t expect things to go just as you planned and be ok with your baby snoozing through it all or just not caring. They may not remember what you planned, but if it makes you happy to be spending that family time together, go all out! Don’t let the fact that your baby is little deter you from celebrating in a big way.

While he sleeps sweetly in his Halloween jams, Mom is writing this here blog while devouring a dark chocolate caramel bar, because, well, Halloween.

Happy Halloween!