Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Breastfeeding: The end of an era.

On May 1st, I breastfed my baby for the last time.

It was a surprisingly unceremonious occasion. By that point, Clara was only nursing once a day -- first thing in the morning. And it was mostly for my convenience, as it bought me some time to rest in bed before having to get up for the day.

Though we enjoyed it for a full 12 months, Clara and I have both outgrown breastfeeding. She is far too busy exploring and eating solid foods these days, and I was more than ready to stop.

When I realized it was time to drop that last morning feeding, I made the decision and stuck with it. Dill was home those first two days, so he got up with Clara and fed her breakfast as a diversion. Five days have passed since the last feeding and she hasn't cried for it once. She hasn't tried to lift my shirt or bite my shoulder. My instinct was correct -- Clara is just as "done" with breastfeeding as I am.

It's a bittersweet thing, moving into a new phase of life with your child, but also mourning the simplicity of the early days. I will miss the ease of pacifying my child by simply nursing her. It comes so naturally. It's a basic instinct on the part of both mother and child -- baby cries, mother knows exactly what to do.

But babies grow into children, who grow into teenagers, who grow into adults, who don't need their moms as much anymore. This is the natural progression of things and I need to accept that.

Some people may judge me for only breastfeeding for a year and for being somewhat nonchalant about stopping. Remember, everyone is different. All babies are different and all mothers are different. Clara simply wasn't all that attached to nursing and neither was I. It's true -- I haven't shed a single tear over the end of this era. That doesn't mean I'm heartless. I'm sure I will miss it someday and will look back on those times with fondness. But, I am also ready for the change.

I thought about writing a "How to Wean Your Baby at 12 Months" post, but I decided not to. Breastfeeding is such a personal thing. And just because it was easy for us doesn't mean it will be a cake walk for everyone else. In my experience, each mom knows best when and how to transition their baby from breast to cup. A one-size-fits-all approach to weaning doesn't exist, so I'm not about to try creating one for you.

However, having gone through this twice now, I can offer some tips that may make the transition a bit easier:

--Introduce a bottle or sippy cup long before you wean so your baby will be familiar with their new source of liquids once the process begins. It can be hard for a baby to learn to drink from a cup, so it's helpful to establish this skill before they must rely on it to quench their thirst.

--Eliminate the less ritualistic mid-day feedings first; then, move onto the harder ones (first morning and bedtime).

--Heed your baby's cues. If he or she doesn't express a desire to nurse, don't push it. It is common for babies to drop feedings once they start eating solids. A baby knows when to eat and will give cues if they are hungry.

I do NOT recommend quitting cold turkey. As with any major change, weaning should be a gradual process. Drastically dropping feedings can lead to clogged ducts and mastitis for you and emotional distress for everyone. I understand sometimes it has to happen this way, but try to avoid hurrying things if you can.

Also, unless your baby is demanding to be done, (like my Carson did), try to nurse at least a full year. Though babies receive most of their nutrition from solid foods by then, breast milk is still a reliable source of important nutrients.

And most importantly ... don't force anything. There's no rule that says you MUST stop breastfeeding your baby at a year. If you're both not up to it, keep going! Who cares what people think? Like I said before, every baby is different; every mom is different. Do what works best for you both.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Final Chair picture.

Would you even believe if I told you that one year ago at this very moment, I was snuggling my 10-hour-old baby in the hospital, thinking maybe epidurals are as wonderful as everyone says they are?

Yep. My baby is ONE today!

Here's a progression collage so you can see how much the wee one has changed over the months ...

And finally ...

Whoop! There it is.

Clara had some tubes installed in her eardrums about two weeks ago, and life's been dandy ever since. Imagine always feeling like you're ears need to pop and hearing as if you're submerged in water, then taking a 5-minute anesthesia-induced nap and waking up with no pressure in your ears and normal hearing. That's about all there was to it! Since then, she's more responsive, less fussy and has been talking a bit more, too! The other day, Dill picked her up and she very clearly said, "Dah-ee!" It is so exciting to see the changes in her.

Basically, ear tubes are AMAZING and I will sing their praises until I'm in the grave.

Clara has a bunch of teeth in her mouth, eats everything in sight, loves to crawl and climb (but not walk), adores the people she knows and is really skeptical of those whom she doesn't. We're talking, tears, meltdowns, refusal to be held ... sigh. I suppose I was lucky to have two kids who had zero concept of "stranger danger" and I should count my blessings. Maybe we can somehow lovingly convince her that other people aren't scary monsters who want to eat her for dinner and she'll outgrow this phase before too long? Let us pray.

In other news, we sold our HOUSE! In one showing. I know, try not to hate us. I am so relieved though, because living in a "model home" with three kids, one of whom likes to crawl behind you and undo all your cleaning and organizing, it the pits. I actually considered locking my kids outdoors at one point to prevent any further disarray in the "model home." Also, imagine my panic when the first showing is right during my EVMCO concert and poor Dillon not only has to get the "model home" ready but also corral the kids all by his lonesome. Well, apparently I should have more faith in the man because not only did he pull it off, but they offered more than we asked the very next day! Kudos, Dilly-Pie.

So anyway, we're on our way outta here and I'm feeling all sorts of emotions over it. Happy that we will be moving closer to Dill's place of work and we'll all get to see more of him. Sad that I have to leave so many great friends and neighbors behind. Discouraged by how expensive homes are in Phoenix and they're not all fancy and clean and cute like they are out in the East Valley. Unsure about where my kids are going to attend school. It's a whirlwind of feelings, people.

But for now, I'm going to quit worrying and savor this day. I'm going to forget about house-hunting for a while and have some pie and cake for my last baby's first birthday tonight. Bittersweet. They really do grow up too fast.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Encouraging light.

As most of you know, I'm a Mormon. And every six months, the leaders of my church present a collection of sermons in a massive three-day conference, which is then broadcast to the entire body of the Church. It's like a TED for Mormons. We call it General Conference. In fact, we just finished the latest conference last weekend.

Sometimes, the words of the speakers reaffirm that I am living my life the way I have committed to God. These talks feel like a little pat on the back for me. Most times, the speakers help me realize what I need to change about my life to be a better person. While it's always nice to feel validated, it's far more productive to get a little "kick in the pants," so to speak. There's always room for improvement.

On Sunday, one of the speakers, Sister Rosemary M. Wixom, gave a talk about a church member who stopped actively participating in Mormonism for a time but eventually came back. She discussed her friend's journey and noted what helped her friend return. Some of my dear family members and friends are currently struggling with certain historical facts and doctrinal teachings of the Church and have distanced themselves from Mormonism. This talk did give me hope they might find their way back, too.

However, I appreciated more when Sister Wixom quoted Elder Dieter F. Uchtorf, saying:

"We are all pilgrims seeking God's light as we journey on the path of discipleship. We do not condemn others for the amount of light they may or may not have; rather, we nourish and encourage all light until it grows clear, bright and true."

Did you catch that? "We nourish and encourage ALL LIGHT."

Immediately, I realized what I need to improve on, and that is finding the light within others and encouraging it, whatever it may be.

Do you ever walk into a room and notice how dark a particular corner is? Do you think about what's underneath the bed or the couch? Do you wonder about the absence of light behind a closed cabinet? Probably not. Instead, you are drawn to the light. Your eye catches those things that are illuminated and bright, not the things residing in the dark. So, why then do we so often focus on the less-attractive attributes of others instead of admiring their light sources?

I sometimes get so caught up in the choices others make, especially the ones I don't agree with -- the "dark" ones. I find myself doing this less as I get older, realizing it's often impossible to change someone's mind and also learning that what works for me may simply not work for someone else, and that is OK. It is their right to experience life however they want to. Even though I know this, I still sometimes focus on what I perceive to be the negative aspects about others. I allow people's different personal choices to make me feel sad, frustrated and even angry sometimes. I see their pictures on social media and remember that THING I don't like instead of thinking about them as a human being with feelings and thoughts as real and valuable as my own. I'm basically looking under their bed instead of admiring the lovely painting hanging on their wall. Sad way to live, isn't it?

I know I am not alone in this, though. I know it because I catch the snide comments people make about my faith, I see the passive-aggressive (and sometimes plain ol' aggressive) posts on social media and I know others feel the same way about my choices, too. I know there are people who want me to "wake up" and leave Mormonism and all its cultural affiliations behind, just as much as I want those same people to come back to Mormonism. Plainly put, both sides are struggling to accept that people are going to choose what they will, and they likely aren't going to be persuaded with some antagonistic comic on Facebook or anything else of that ilk.

So, when I heard Sister Wixom relay this quote, I knew what I personally had to do:

Stop finding fault in others. Find their light and encourage it.

For example: A friend of mine has left the Mormon Church. She has a lot to say about it, much of which hurts my feelings. But she's very intellectual and a great writer with a gift for communicating. So, I read and comment on her blog posts. I "like" the intellectually-stimulating articles she shares on social media. I don't have to like everything she does and says, though. I can still live authentically. I choose to ignore the things that hurt. I find her light and encourage it.

Another example: Let's suppose you are a former Mormon or currently not practicing, and your sister keeps posting Conference quotes that really annoy you and may even hurt your feelings at times. But she's so talented and giving. And you like that about her. So, you compliment those gifts. You don't have to like the things you disagree with. You can choose to ignore them. Just find her light and encourage it.

"But! I have to stand up for what I believe in! I can't let people go around thinking things that are JUST PLAIN WRONG!"

If you feel you must correct the bigoted/unrighteous/sinful/hateful/ignorant opinions of another person, find a way to do it lovingly and without attacking. Skip the sarcasm, the passive-aggressiveness and the rudeness. Say what you need to say and then move the heck on. The message will be received just fine. Probably better than if you had yelled it at them with some choice insults.

I've realized I can't continue to let people's actions upset me. Granted, I will hear and read hurtful things from others for the rest of my life, but I can let the pain pass. I don't need to internalize it to the point I feel depressed or ill. It is NOT my burden to bear. The healthier and far more uplifting approach is to focus on the good in that person and then foster it. Take the moral high road. Whether you believe in a higher power or not, we can all agree that kindness is king.

So, my new motto is this: Find the light and encourage it. Find it in your right-wing neighbor, your radically liberal co-worker, your zealously religious sister, your non-religious brother. It's there -- light is within everyone. And you don't even have to look very hard to see it.

I'm now committed to living a life filled with positivity and love for others, regardless of their choices. I want others to afford me the same courtesy. I think about how the world has become such a divided, antagonistic place lately, and I think this is the solution. Accept that others will make choices I don't like; then, find their light and encourage it. Stand up for my beliefs when needed. But most importantly, "never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved."

Monday, March 30, 2015

11 months of Clara Bean.

Yesterday, our little Bean turned 11 months! Today, I took a picture in The Chair to document her growth.

What a doll!

Clara's recurring ear infections (six of them, if we're keeping count) earned her a visit to the ENT, who said it's time for tubes! Yaaaaay. So that little procedure is happening April 16. It completely shattered my heart to learn she hears as if she is under water. Poor thing. She sure is a happy little girl despite having plugged ears.

Clara has also grown quite a collection of teeth over the past month, so we've graduated from purees to soft solids. Yes! A new lease on life! She enjoys eating pretty much anything I stick in her mouth. It's so cute to watch her pop her mouth wide open whenever a spoon or fork gets close. Homegirl went to town at Joe's Real BBQ the other night. Even babies think their mac 'n cheese is divine.

No walking yet, but she stands next to furniture and cruises. She also lets go sometimes and stands without assistance. I predict she'll be walking right at a year. I look forward to clean hands and knees.

And here's some news you'll appreciate: she can now drink out of a sippy cup! Wahoo!!! I was truly worried about her becoming dehydrated. Now, she chugs that thing whenever she gets the chance. 
Drinking more water also means she has slowed down with her nursing quite a bit. It's pretty much only in the morning and at bedtime now. I hope to have her weaned at a year. Simply put, I have no desire to breastfeed beyond that point. Yesterday, the little turkey bit me hard when I tried to offer her the breast, so I am guessing she feels pretty similarly. I will miss our little snuggles, though. Oh, and as the feedings have decreased, my acne has burst forth in an inversely proportionate matter. So that's really cool. I feel like I'm 14 again.

Well, the Bean is currently tearing up her brother and sister's room, so I'm outta here!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Mom's Cancer Chronicles: How's your mom?

I've been on the receiving end of this innocuous, considerate question multiple times a week since I publicly announced my mom's breast cancer diagnosis:

"How's your mom doing?"

After hearing this question numerous times over the past month, the thought occurred to me that I haven't updated my blog about this in a while, and maybe that would be the best way to thoroughly answer the question of "How's your mom doing?" So, for all who would like to know, here's my answer.

First off, my mom's cancer experience is not like most of the ones you see portrayed in movies and on television. She's not bald or bedridden, she's not having chemotherapy, radiation or surgery at the moment, and you can't tell she has cancer just by looking at her -- she appears to be her bubbly, beautiful, youthful self. As she explains on her blog, she is not suffering through the more painful and difficult side effects of cancer treatment people usually think of. No debilitating nausea and vomiting, no hand-and-foot syndrome and she's still able to go to her home-away-from-home Costco on a frequent basis.

But I don't want to give a partial answer, either. Regardless of her appearance and Costco attendance statistics, Mom still has Stage IV breast cancer. It is not curable and will never go into remission. She constantly has to deal with the emotional stress of this diagnosis along with the physical pain. In conjunction with her two cancer treatments -- a daily estrogen-inhibitor pill and an IV bone loss prevention drug she receives once a month -- she takes an anti-anxiety medication just so she can sleep at night. This truly breaks my heart.

But, it could be worse.

But ... it's still pretty bad.

The bone drug, Zometa, is intense. She received her first round at the end of February. It gave her severe joint pain and made her feel like she had the worst flu ever, and the side effects lasted a few weeks. This drug also carries a risk of increased bone fractures, which she could sustain even from doing NOTHING. She will have to take this for the rest of her life.

The estrogen-inhibitor, Arimidex, gives her hot flashes and makes her feel like she's going through menopause all over again. She suffers with constant back pain caused by the medication as well. And yes, she will also have to take this drug for the rest of her life.

In a few months, she'll be rescanned to see how the cancer is responding. Remember, the cancer won't ever go away, but its progression can be stopped with these medications. So that is our prayer, that is what we are fasting and hoping for daily.

So ... that is the most current answer to "How's your mom doing?" But be aware that it changes from day to day. It's complicated, dealing with cancer. It's a roller coaster of tests, diagnoses, medications, appointments and side effects. It's not simply "good" or "bad." It's a myriad of ever-changing emotions, experiences and challenges.

Now to address "the question" in question (haha). When asked face-to-face how my mom is doing, the answer I give depends on how much time I have as well as how attentive I perceive the person asking the question to be. As you now know, it's a long and complicated answer, and you honestly may not have the time to hear the whole thing. You may be in the middle of dealing with your children or on your way to a meeting or doing some other preoccupying activity, and that's OK -- I appreciate that you thought to ask. It shows you care and it's a meaningful gesture. But I want to do the response justice. I want to answer as thoroughly as I can, because this is a really big deal and I don't want to treat it lightly. Plus, it helps me process what I am going through to tell and retell the ins and outs of my mother's cancer experience.

It becomes exhausting to think about my mom's illness day in, day out. Emotionally, I have to prepare myself for these kinds of questions. Every time I am asked, it takes me back to how I felt when I first learned my mom has cancer -- that gloom-and-doom, insecure pit in my stomach reappears. At least I am putting my journalism degree to good use, having to consciously disconnect emotionally to disseminate the facts to people without bawling in their faces.

So, I guess what I'm saying is, feel free to ask me how my mom is doing, but please know this question is not in the same vein as, "How was your dinner at The Olive Garden?" I ask that you please don't use it as some kind of cheap ice-breaker or conversation-filler. Please, don't ask unless you're prepared for a few minutes of uninterrupted conversation about it. Because if one of us is wrestling our kids or I'm passing you in the hallway at church, you're going to get the quick, basic answer of "She's fine; thanks for asking." Which is to say, "She still alive and well enough to go to Costco ... but there's so much more!" And I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea about my mom and what she's going through. She might be "fine" by all appearances, but she is going through a huge trial nonetheless.

And as I said before, it's a rather immense question. It's easier for me to respond to things like, "What kind of treatment is your mom having right now?" "What are her side effects like?" "What is the puppy up to these days?" It's not as overwhelming. I can handle small questions.

If you want to call me up or text me or even chat in person about it, I'm totally down with that, too. And also, if you want to show you care but don't have time for a lengthy conversation, you could always just say something like, "I've been thinking about your mom." Then, I can reply with a very sincere, "Thank you so much," and we can move on from there.

On that note, I do want to thank all of you who have left supportive comments, engaged in conversation about this and have done nice things for me since Mom's diagnosis. A few people brought me dinner and treats, offered to watch my kids, sent me really nice texts and have generally been very uplifting. It really does brighten my days and gives me a little hope when I'm feeling down about it. I am so, so grateful for all of it.

Let's end on a happy note -- yesterday, I took Audrey (on Spring Break) and baby Clara to visit my parents and sisters. The puppy, Daisy, is getting huge! She is so cute, though, like a fluffilicious teddy bear. Here is a picture of Audrey holding her. She really loved having some one-on-one time with Daisy.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Ten months, a little late.

Clara the Bean officially reached her 10-month milestone on Saturday ... or was it Sunday? There is no 29th of February this year, so I guess March 1 is it. That means I'm only two days late on this post. Not that anyone was counting.

This pose ... I die.

As you can plainly see, Clara is as adorable as ever, crawling around, pulling up to stand, yammering all day, waving and clapping. She officially has one full tooth on the bottom, which makes her look like a cute little Jack-o'-lantern. The other bottom incisor, plus the top two, are also coming in -- albeit slowly. But they've officially broken through the gums which means we have our happy baby back! No more crying and fussing all day! No more sleepless nights! I feel like a new woman.

Since she's got teeth and a desire to chew her food, I've introduced some soft solids to her diet. Black beans, peaches, pears, Mandarin oranges, noodles, sausages, oatmeal ... stuff up that alley. She seems to like everything right now or at least be willing to try it. A breath of fresh air, considering her big brother is in the middle of his Picky Preschooler phase. Still can't get her to take water no matter how many methods I try -- the next step is forcing it with a syringe but I feel like that might be taking things into Control Freak Territory. Help me see reason here, people. I need suggestions. Don't worry, I'll be pleading for them again by the end of this.

I recently read that introducing peanuts frequently between 4 and 11 months can reduce a child's likelihood of becoming allergic to peanuts. So about every other day, I give Clara a spoonful of peanut butter. She definitely takes after both parents because she loooooves it. No allergic reactions so far. It's a good source of protein, too.

Clara adores her siblings and her daddy. She just lights up whenever they enter the room and especially when they interact with her. When Dill calls, I put him on speaker so she can hear his voice and she goes nuts. Of course she loves me, too, but that goes without saying. I'm still breastfeeding about four times a day. The feedings are waning in frequency as they typically do at this age. But she still loves her "nursies."

At her 9-month well baby visit, Clara's hemoglobin levels tested low. The doctor also wanted to look at her eardrums but couldn't see past a giant ball of wax. He gave me some instructions about how to remedy both problems and we're due back for a follow-up this week. I wonder if he'll say she needs ear tubes or not. I hope that issue has resolved itself.

Clara is the happiest little girl. People can't resist commenting on her huge, blue peepers and strangers frequently stop me to tell me how darling she is. I totally get it -- she really is a cutie with quite a sunny personality. How could anyone ignore it?

Now, PLEASE help me figure out how to get my baby to drink water! She just isn't having it and she's relying on breastmilk alone for hydration. I seriously need your help. Let me have it!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Yoga pants, vaccines, clean houses and Fifty Shades of Porn.

Lately, a few controversies have been circulating the Internet and I've been hesitant to express my opinion on them. Dealing with bronchitis, yet ANOTHER ear infection for Clara, my mom's cancer and other stresses has depleted me of all energy to debate these issues (wah, wah, waaaah). I've also learned in life that when it comes to debates, there simply is no winner or loser. People come to their convictions for various reasons, and they aren't likely to abandon those reasons on a whim.

But, I do want to state my position on a few of these things. My long-term blogging goal has always been honesty, and I feel a bit disingenuous for my lack of candid discourse as of late. I used to be much more outspoken about stuff, remember? I miss that girl, so I'm digging her up today for your reading entertainment.

Here we go!

1. Yoga pants/leggings as 'immodest.' Let me be real for a sec -- I am currently wearing yoga pants. And when I'm not wearing yoga pants, I'm wearing leggings. As a very last resort for dressier occasions, such as a visit to Hobby Lobby, I will put on actual jeans.

There is a very simple reason for my preference. When you wash jeans numerous times, especially those of the darkly-dyed variety, they fade. They get worn out. I am the mother of a drippy, snotty, 9-month-old and a messy 4-year-old who both smear their various fluids, foods and filth on me and my clothing 11 times a day on average. Yoga pants and leggings are far easier to wash than jeans and don't really experience any wear and tear from washing. And they're cheaper to replace when they do get worn out. Plus, as a mom of three (one being a crawling baby), I need to be able to bend, stretch and move quickly. I find that jeans are a bit prohibitive in this department and tend to expose half of my rear end when I bend over in them. (Who's immodest now?!) Yoga pants and leggings tend to stay in place and are much better suited for an active baby-chasing lifestyle.

Point is, I don't wear yoga pants and leggings to make myself appear superior to anyone (the true definition of immodesty), nor to attract the eyes of lustful men. I wear them for convenience and comfort and I'm glad they just happen to be "in style" right now. I even wear them to church activities and don't feel a bit bad about it. No one has ever made a comment to me about my pants being "immodest" or inappropriate because NEWS FLASH -- they aren't. And as I said on Facebook yesterday, my butt looks way better in jeans than it does in yoga pants, anyway. So if I really wanted people to make eyes at my backside, I'd slap on a pair of tight jeans instead of giving into the temptation of Spandex pants.

On that note, if I'm guilty of anything by choosing stretchy pants, it's laziness. Not exactly the type of life I'm aspiring to, but please just give me a break until my kids are all self-sufficient walkers and I can stop bending over every 10 seconds to rescue them from imminent danger.

2. Vaccines. I vaccinate my kids and I think almost everyone else should, too. It's no coincidence the measles and whooping cough have come roaring back just as the anti-vaccine movement has gained significant momentum.

Science is right about this one, folks. Vaccines eradicate disease. Period. It's been tested, tried and proven. And don't try to convince me that simple hand-washing is enough. Yes, good hygiene (in addition to balanced nutrition, adequate exercise and a generally healthy lifestyle) is key in stopping the spread of infectious diseases. But guess what? Measles and whooping cough, as well as mumps, polio, diptheria, chicken pox, meningitis, rubella, and rotavirus are all vaccine-preventable, airborne diseases. That means you can get them just from breathing the same air as an infected person. Good luck washing your way out of that one.

The worst is when people try to convince me and other vaxxers "the measles isn't THAT bad." Scientifically speaking, it actually is "THAT bad," but I'll play your game for a minute. Let's pretend the one and only symptom of the measles is expelling glittery rainbow poop for a week. Well, even then, I still don't want my kids getting the measles! Lucky for me, there happens to be a simple, effective way to prevent them from getting it, and I'm choosing to take advantage. That's my right, just as much as it's your right to opt your child out. So please, don't try to minimize the symptoms of this or any other vaccine-preventable disease in order to promote your anti-vaccination agenda. It's insensitive and, quite frankly, uneducated. Talk about your fears of vaccine injury, manufacturing and other legitimate concerns all you want and I will listen. But my fears -- infections, compromised respiration, disability or death as a result of an infectious disease -- they're legitimate, too.

3. Clean House vs. Messy House. Some people are messy. Some people are tidy. I think the way we're raised plays a small role in this, but I also feel our individual levels of organization and cleanliness are in large part due to our nature.

Since cleanliness preference is mostly inherent and unlikely to change much, why do we feel a need to project our ideals onto others? A mom with a messy house is not a better mom. A mom with a clean house is not a better mom. What makes a good mom, then? One who loves and respects her children, takes care of their essential needs and helps them grow into responsible, caring adults. That's it.

Now, you might be thinking a clean house as an "essential need." And I bet most parents agree with this sentiment. The problem is, not everyone shares the same definition of "clean." What is perfectly tidy to one person might be an outright pigsty to another. And that's really OK! Unless you feel someone's family is in danger, it's not your job to police the cleanliness level of another person's home.

I personally like to keep my home clean. Some people say it looks like a model home, which I think is generous, but yes, it's very organized and clean. That's because I function best and feel happiest in an organized, aesthetically pleasing environment. But I don't spend every waking moment maintaining it! Most of the time, I have dusty blinds, scuffs on the walls, dirty handrails and crumbs under my table like everyone else. There are books and toys out pretty much always. My mirrors are covered in spots and fingerprints most of the time. The toilet has a ring in it. Oh well. I have three kids under the age of 8. Life goes on.

I will say this: my ability to keep a clean home doesn't make me a good mom. It makes me a good housekeeper. But being a great mother is so much more than clean house vs. messy house. Don't forget it.

4. Fifty Shades of Grey as Pornography. This one is easy. These books and their accompanying films (the first of which is set to be released this Valentine's Day) are definitely pornography. It's not just a fun way to spice up your love life. It is violent, degrading to human beings and deplorable. I don't have to read the books to conclude it, just like I don't have to eat a Big Mac to tell you it's a burger. This franchise, along with all other types of pornography, is anti-feminist and responsible for fueling the acceptance of rape, human trafficking and other sex crimes. What's to stop a person who is entertained by watching violent, degrading sex acts from taking their entertainment to the next level and acting those fantasies out on others, most of whom are likely to be unwilling participants? Based on how addictive pornography is, I'd be willing to bet nothing could stop them.

Alright, I've shared my two cents. Off to clean some toilets in my yoga pants.