Friday, August 27, 2010

Losing weight and keeping self-worth

Mama piggyback carrying toddler on back
Here I am, fat and useful. Note the irony of the term "piggyback" and note also that I don't find that threatening, merely funny.
I've been thinking a lot about weight lately. Family reunions will do that to you. Especially when my mom, who used to be my Fat Ally, has lost a lot of weight recently.

I keep running across blog posts addressing the issue, which either means everyone else is facing the same problem at the same time — or, there are always blog posts about weight, but I gravitate toward them only when I am also thinking about it.

Several months ago, I weighed myself and was rather appalled to see the number that appeared. A number very close to my husband's. I gave myself something of an ultimatum, a "This will not do," and resolved to do something about it.

So I've been trying. And failing. The number's not budging.

And the thing is, I don't know how much I care.

Mama and preschooler gazing into fountain
Because it's hard to hate myself when I'm so pretty. Even though I'm not. Do you know what I mean? Do you, really?
I used to lose weight as a matter of course. When I say "lose weight," I mean, naturally, try to lose weight. Because most of the time I wouldn't, but the times I would spurred me on to try, try, try again the next time. And there was always a next time, clearly.

But back then, I really hated my fat self. I looked in the mirror and saw the rolls, the puckering, the unsightliness. Now I look in the mirror and see my shining eyes, my flushed cheeks, my height, my curves, my confidence.

It's hard to get back into that mindset of self-loathing that allowed me to diet before. Now … I just don't have as much willpower to hate myself. And without self-hatred — why lose the weight, then?

Since starting trying, once again, to lose weight, though, I've noticed myself slipping back into old thought patterns here and there, and it's disturbing. On the one hand, thoughts like, "I look like a cow in that photo!" or "Look at all those chins!" are familiar and safe and easy to fall back into. On the other hand, I feel like I'm observing that part of me from the outside, like an older, mature me who sees the immature part still chattering away uselessly.

When I read "No, I'm Not Pregnant" on Breastfeeding Moms Unite!, the immature part of me was chirping in my ear, "She still weighs a lot less than you do! And she's taller!" But most of me was just cheering along with Melodie's acceptance of her larger size.

It makes me wonder several things:

  • Is it possible to try losing weight and not lose my self-esteem? Is it possible to love myself now and yet also seek for it to be other? I suppose if I lost weight for those mythical "health reasons," maybe. But I'm the first to admit I don't lose weight for health reasons. I'd like to, if it made any difference — but, you know, everyone in my family is fat, everyone lives pretty darn long, and no one dies young of heart disease. So, yeah. Fat's not The Thing That Will Kill Me, so it's hard to muster up the energy to starve myself for some nebulous health benefit that I don't think even exists. (If you're going to tell me there's an Obesity! Epidemic! and all the fatties are killing themselves, you should read some of the research and good, good blogs I do, many of which are linked in this post.)

  • Is it better to be fat and happy and lose the dream of Thin and Even Happier? Since it is just a dream. Underbellie, in a spectacular article titled "food: it's what's for dinner," directed me to Kate Harding's matchless piece about "The Fantasy of Being Thin." We fat people like to think we will miraculously change in all the ways we want to if we become thin. But we will still be ourselves, just thinner. And probably not even that, since we will probably never become thin. You know? It's just a fantasy. A mirage. If we are shy as fat people, we would be shy thin people. If we are awkward fat, we would be awkward thin. If we are unathletic fat, we would be the same thin. You don't change yourself by changing your weight. You don't suddenly become a supermodel with a Nobel Prize and admirers hanging off you because you lost 25 pounds. So, is it better to embrace the fat acceptance? To say, Here I am, for always and ever, a Fat Person?

  • If I "gave up" on the thin dream and dieting, for all time, what do I replace it with? Do I allow myself, really truly, to enjoy food? I'm three-quarters there already. More like seven-eighths. I no longer feel much guilt at all over what I eat, or class items as Good and Bad. Unfortunately, that includes items I maybe should feel some guilt about or should classify as Bad. Or not. I can't decide. I have no internal control over my eating, no switch that flips that tells me I'm full and should stop and then the willpower to heed it. I think naturally thin people are thin because they truly don't want to eat as much as I do, not because they're depriving themselves. I remember reading a dieting mantra once that went, "I don't eat food just because it's there." And golly! I do eat food just because it's there! That's my sole reason for eating food! I think, biologically, it has a valid basis. Abundant food signals, "Hey, we just killed a mastodon! Come eat, quick, before it goes bad and we have to go back to foraging for roots again." I don't know how thin people override this, but they do. There can be a plate of cookies, and another person will take one cookie, eat half, and leave the rest. I see a plate of cookies and immediately start angling for how many I can possible stuff into my maw without drawing undue attention to myself. Leaving half a cookie on my napkin ain't happening. So if I do change my eating habits to all good food (let's say that's "real food," as a general definition), I will still be fat. Is that all right?

I wonder if part of my new acceptance of myself is due to age (30s) or being a mother or all my reading about body acceptance or what. I know now what bodies are capable of, having carried and nourished a baby for nine months, having labored and pushed through the birth, having fed this being from my own breasts — my body has a purpose now that once was not as clear to me.

But I also feel a motherliness toward people I'm not a mother to. At my ballet classes, I look at the other teens and women in the room and accept them all, with their varied shapes and sizes — the ponch in the leotard there, the willowy legs there — and realize two, somewhat contradictory things: First, there is variety, great variety, and no one shape that is "right." Second, there is little difference between us, in the grand scheme of things. We humans are all, mostly, the same size. I look at us arrayed in a line in the mirror, and I can count the differences in width in inches. Inches! Who's getting so upset about some few inches' difference? Maybe it's just maturity. Maybe, the negative flip side of that would say, it's a giving up, a settling, in more than one sense of the word.

Even parts that used to bother me, I take in stride. This summer, I was hot. I bought and wore shorts and sleeveless shirts. I have inescapably ugly knees, by any objective measure — bright pink and riddled
mama and pirate boy in ergo
This is a sleeveless shirt I'm supposed to think I'm too fat to wear.
with mysterious bumps. I know my legs are huge and white. I know my arms are bigger than almost anyone's I know. And you know? Screw it. I was hot, and I wanted to wear those clothes, and I did. And I felt fine. I wasn't constantly adjusting and trying to cover up those parts. I felt good, because they were nice clothes and I (thought I) looked nice in them. And I didn't care about anyone who felt differently — including my old self who would have been horrified at the thought of my wearing sleeveless shirts at this size. I even bought — gasp! — skinny jeans. Because I liked the look of them, and I liked the look of me in them, even though part of me wonders if the purchase was a travesty.

I wear swimsuits now without cover-ups. People can drink it in. Flab and blinding white and all. I just can't be bothered to care so much. I'm too busy swimming with my little guy and enjoying myself.

Which brings me back to losing weight. Is it pointless? Is it worse than pointless — is it harmful? Will it bring me cycling back around to hating myself, hating this body I'm in, punching my midsection in a futile attempt to pound it smaller? Because I think I rather enjoy visiting this strange land where I accept myself, even as a fat person. But I'm not sure I'm ready to buy a house here yet.

How have your perceptions of your body changed?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Photo strip



Find sites to link up your Wordless Wednesday post
at my super-cool collection of Wordless Wednesday linkies,
and let me know if you have one to add.
You can also link up a thumbnail from your post below!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Calling for submissions for the September Carnival of Natural Parenting!

After a brief summer break for August, the Carnival of Natural Parenting is back. We hope you'll join us for the next carnival in September! (Check out January, February, March, April, and May, June, and July if you missed them.)

Your co-hosts are Lauren at Hobo Mama and Dionna at Code Name: Mama.

Here are the submission details for September 2010:

Turning wood into crayonsTheme: We're all home schoolers: Children, of whatever age, are learning all the time. Describe some of the ways your children learn at home as a natural part of their day. No matter if your children attend (or plan to attend) traditional schools or not, please talk to us about how you incorporate home-schooling or unschooling ideals and practices into your children's education.

Deadline: Tuesday, September 7. Fill out the webform (at the link or at the bottom) and email your submission to us by 11:59 p.m. Pacific time: mail {at} HoboMama.com and CodeNameMama {at} gmail.com

Carnival date: Tuesday, September 14. Before you post, we will send you an email with a little blurb in html to paste into your submission that will introduce the carnival. You will publish your post on September 14 and email us the link if you haven't done so already. Once everyone's posts are published on September 14 by noon Eastern time, we will send out a finalized list of all the participants' links, to generate lots of link love for your site! We'll include full instructions in the email we send before the posting date.

Please submit your details into our web form: This will help us as we compile the links list. Please enter your information on the form embedded at the end of this post, or click here to enter it on a separate page: September Carnival of Natural Parenting participant form

Please do: Write well. Write on topic. Write a brand new post for the carnival. As always, our carnival themes aren't meant to be exclusionary. If your experience doesn't perfectly mesh with the carnival theme, please lend your own perspective. Please also feel free to be creative within the gentle confines of the carnival structure. If you're feeling so inspired, you could write a poem, a photo essay, a scholarly article, or a book review instead of a regular blog post (though those are welcomed, too!), as long as what you write is respectful of the carnival's intent. If you want help determining that ahead of time, please talk with us.

Please don't: Please don't use profanity of the sort that might be offensive to more sensitive readers or their children. Please don't submit irrelevant or argumentative pieces contrary to the principles of natural parenting. You don't have to agree with all our ideals — and certainly you don't have to live up to them all perfectly! — but your submission does have to fit the theme and values of the carnival.

Editors' rights: We reserve the right to edit your piece or suggest edits to you. We reserve the right to courteously reject any submissions that are inappropriate for the carnival. Please also note that since there are two co-hosts on different schedules and conferring over email, our personal response to your submission might seem delayed. Don't be alarmed. We also reserve the right to impose consequences if the responsibilities of the carnival are not fulfilled by the participants.

If you don't have a blog: Contact us (mail {at} HoboMama.com and CodeNameMama {at} gmail.com) about potentially finding you a host blog to guest post. Please write your piece well in advance of the deadline in that case, so we can match you up with someone suitable. But if you really have something amazing to write — why not start your own blog? If you want advice, we find Scribbit's free Blogging in Pink ebook to be a very helpful and down-to-earth guide, for beginners on up.

If you have questions: Please leave a comment or contact us: mail {at} HoboMama.com and CodeNameMama {at} gmail.com

Links to tutorials: Lauren and Dionna have written several tutorials for our participants about how to schedule posts in advance, how to determine post URLs in advance, how to edit HTML — all for both Wordpress and Blogger users. For these tutorials and more, please see this handy summary post at LaurenWayne.com.

Stay in touch:

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaShow off: If you are a (former or current) participant or supporter and want our delightful button to put in your sidebar, grab this code and proclaim to the blogosphere that you are a natural parent!

Photo courtesy vicki watkins on flickr (cc)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Work, identity and staying at home

This is another in a series of guest posts by other bloggers. Read to the end for a longer biographical note on today's guest blogger, Zoey from Good Goog.




Guest post by Zoey from Good Goog

In a little more than two months I will be stopping work entirely. No more working from home, no more going into the office once a week. Finished. I've worked my whole life. And although I'd planned to take 6 months off when Riley was born, I ended up taking just 3 months off because the idea of working from home was just too tempting.

And as excited as I am about not constantly having my attention pulled in a million different directions, I know it's a big change. There are all sorts of words to describe mothers who choose not to work.

Full-time mother. I don't like it. All mothers are full-time mothers. It also makes it sound as though I'm completely defined by motherhood which I'm also not keen on.

Stay-at-home-mother. Also, not a big fan. It makes it sounds like I have some impediment which stops me from leaving the house.

Home-maker. Not used that often in Australia, but I couldn't even say this one out loud without laughing and/or vomiting.

There are a whole range of reasons why I'm making the choice. The primary motivation is that I am personally against using institutional child care until Riley is at least three. It's also a lifestyle choice for us. A division of labour thing. So that we're not running around before and after work organising pick ups or having to do all of our shopping and errands on the precious weekend. But also, it's really an emotional decision. I don't want to miss anything. And being away for one day at the moment when I go to work is about as much as I am willing to do. We've only had two nights apart since she was born and I can't say that I really cared for either of them.

I'm in the position of knowing what I'm getting myself in for, at least. Although I've been working, the vast majority of it is done from home. The biggest misconception about being a stay at home parent is that it is unfulfilling, boring and not stimulating enough intellectually. And I'm sure there are plenty of loving parents who feel that way. But I just didn't. Which was as much a surprise to me as anyone. It was quite a shock to find out that I found looking after a baby (or now a toddler) far more interesting, stimulating and just plain fun than doing my paid work. That I found just as much reward from baking bread in the morning and cleaning the house during patches of quiet play or napping as I did from my career. And the joyful discovery of everyday with a little one far surpassed anything I had experienced in my former life.

Of course, not every day is like that. Sometimes the whining never ends. And the house is a mess. And there are no naps. And I'm exhausted. And I dread going to the supermarket because I'm not sure I can cope with another tantrum. But that's all part of why it is so rewarding.

But I'm not going to kid myself — it's still a big life change for me. I'll have to work out what to say when people ask me 'what do you do?' I can see what it's like to live without deadlines for awhile. And I can do everything I want to do without feeling like my contribution to home and to work are equally substandard. I've felt for some time that something had to give with my writing as well — either I was going to need to scale it back or I would need to stop working and see if it turned into anything. I'll have run out of excuses, too. At the moment my response to demands are often 'when I stop working…' We'll see how true that is. Because we all know the whole line about stay at home mothers' not working is a little ridiculous.

Zoey is a reformed perfectionist, writer, parent adventurer, toddler wrangler, social media addict, photo enthusiast and book devourer. She blogs in words and pictures at Good Goog.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday Surf: Vacation edition

Welcome to the Sunday Surf! Here are some of the best links I've read this past week.

I am currently taking a fabulous vacation, so I haven't had much opportunity to read and link. But I'm sure you're all getting along fine without me…

  • "Dear White Lactivists" from Raising My Boychick:
    "Racism is not our prop. It is not ours to hold up to compare breastfeeding discrimination against."
  • There will be a guest post tomorrow from the lovely and talented Zoey of Good Goog on how to identify when making the transition from working mother to stay-at-home, which I'm so looking forward to hosting. If I don't have the internet access to shill for comments, please take that as read and give her a hearty welcome. (I was going to say a "hobo welcome" but wasn't sure how welcoming that actually would be.)
  • "Danger in a Spray Bottle: Why It’s Time to Change Our Childproofing Strategy" from DrGreene.com: In 2006, nearly 12,000 U.S. children made trips to the emergency room for an accidental contact with a household cleaner — primarily poisoning. I love vinegar plus water in a spray bottle for cleaning, but over time, other poisonous cleaners (even natural ones) have made their way back into our house. I like this perspective on keeping all cleaners (or as many as possible) in the nontoxic range, to prevent unintentional child poisoning. I'm going to do another run through our cabinets and try to find non-poisonous and streamlined alternatives to everything we need.
    "None of the children’s injuries … was necessary. Effective, safer ingredients are now available for every common household cleaning job. …

    For parents of children age 6 or under, doctors’ advice to lock-up toxic cleaners is no longer adequate. Instead, childproof by replacing products whose labels must say Danger, Warning, Harmful if Swallowed, or Use in a Well-Ventilated Space. If the label gives instructions for calling poison control or for emergency treatment, the product is dangerous."
  • I am very pleased that Paige's FeedBurner guest post helped me make this Favorites feed on my long-neglected top posts page. Now the list will update automatically as I add posts to the "favorites" category. If you are a new Hobo Mama reader, you might browse through the list for posts and topics other readers found interesting, and if you're a dedicated fan, feel free to suggest posts you want to nominate for inclusion. Like this fine, fine example of journalism. Hey, don't knock it — there's a funny video at the end!
  • I have two giveaways going on right now, and one's awash in secret awesomeness:
    • A WondaWedge Inflatable Back Support Pillow for nursing, pregnancy, reading in bed, & relaxing on the beach. It's a $24 value and is open to my fine U.S. friends.
    • The Surprise Hobo Mama Giveaway, wherein you will definitely win Hobo Mama calling cards and will be entered into a drawing for other fabulous prizes, as yet unannounced. It's almost spooky, it's so tantalizingly vague! Open worldwide.
  • Enjoy "The Oregon Trail — Official Trailer" below from Half Day Today: Did you use to play the original Oregon Trail game? That was my favorite part of computer class, on our Apple IIes, and now it's been brought to the (mock) big screen. I can't decide if my favorite line is "No one wants to be the carpenter," "But, son, we can only carry back ten pounds," or "Just the bullets." I think I'm going to have to go with "Just the bullets."


You can find more shared items during the week at my public Google Reader recommendations feed.

Check out Authentic Parenting, Baby Dust Diaries, Maman A Droit, Navelgazing, and pocket.buddha for more Sunday Surfing!

Feel free to add your recommendations in the comments. Happy reading!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Hobo Kitchen: Sam's pico de gallo — using up tomatoes!

pico de gallo in glass container


I hope that some of you lucky gardeners have an overabundance of homegrown tomatoes round about now. We have had about 3 red tomatoes between us and a whole heaping bunch of green ones still hanging out on the plants, taunting us. Here's for sunlight tempting them to ripen before frost!

patio tomato harvested
Our lone patio tomato.
Good thing it was tasty.
But let's assume other people need some recipes for fresh tomatoes. Here's one of our favorites — the fabulous Sam's version of pico de gallo, a mild and chunky, non-saucy, sweetish and tangy salsa. It uses other things you might have in your garden as well, such as cilantro, cabbage, and sweet onions. (We're growing Walla Wallas! Yum!)

If you didn't take Spanish in high school as I did (yes, of course, I'm fluent!) (not really), the last word is pronounced like the word "guy" with an O on the end. But, no, it's not the word for "dude" in Spanish. The phrase means "beak of the rooster," but don't ask me why.

I'm republishing this recipe from last year, because I'm on vacation and am allowed to do things like that.

Gather your ingredients:
     • tomatoes
     • onions — the sweeter the better
     • cilantro
     • cabbage (the secret ingredient!)
     • lime juice
     • sea salt to taste (optional)

Everything that can be chopped, go ahead and dice into chunky pieces. Mix together in a large bowl and spritz with lime juice. Sprinkle coarse sea salt if you want a little more...well, saltiness.

There are no particular rules for how much of a certain item you need to put in. That's why it's perfect if you have a bunch of tomatoes but not as much of the other things. If the combination you make feels too heavy on one item or another, remember that for next time, or balance it out if you have extra ingredients still on hand. There's no wrong way to make pico de gallo, as long as it tastes good to you!

For best taste, let it sit in the fridge for awhile to let the flavors blend together. But if you can't resist eating it right away, I understand. I couldn't tell you how well this keeps, because ours never stays around that long. If I had to guess, I would imagine canning is possible, but freezing will change the texture of the tomatoes.

If you want more heat, add jalapeƱos or chiles at will.

But, as is, it makes a very nice treat for young mouths. It's mild enough for even very early eaters to give it a go, and since it's chunky, little fingers or adult helpers can preselect portions that will be appreciated. Adding heat's always an option for more adventurous mouths, but even without a lot of spice, it's refreshing to have this mild, fresh, juicy and crunchy treat.

The standard use for pico de gallo is to wolf it down with tortilla chips, but it also makes a lovely garnish for meals. Layer it over Mexican food (of course!), or use as a salsa topping for chicken, fish or eggs. It can even make for a unique relish on hot dogs or hamburgers!

pico de gallo salsa and tortilla chips


¡Buen provecho!

Much prettier and eerily accurate bottom photo courtesy Alice Carrier on stock.xchng
— we even used to have those dishes!


Linked up at Vegetarian Foodie Fridays at Breastfeeding Moms Unite!, Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum, Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, Friday Food at Momtrends, Food on Friday at Ann Kroeker, Wholesome Whole Foods at Health Food Lover, Friday Favorites at Simply Sweet Home. My apologies in advance if I don't do much commenting, because our internet access is sketchy.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Garden harvest

strawflowers bouquet from garden

patio tomato harvested

zucchini from garden in meal on plate with onion and bacon


Reminder: One day more to enter the $50 Amy Adele giveaway for invites, birth announcements, labels, notecards, or onesies, and to get an extra entry by commenting on the Hobo Mama Surprise Calling Card Giveaway post!

Find sites to link up your Wordless Wednesday post
at my super-cool collection of Wordless Wednesday linkies,
and let me know if you have one to add.
You can also link up a thumbnail from your post below!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Everyone needs a break now and then

Hammock o'clock.


Following my own advice, I will be taking a little vacation shortly as I visit with my parents, and I wanted to let you all know. They don't know I have a blog, so it's a good excuse to pull back and enjoy some time with them instead of my computer screen. I can handle that for a little bit, right?

I hope to put up some posts still, but you might notice I'm more absent than usual in terms of commenting and networking and linking and responding to emails. Or you might not notice at all, since I'm a terrible procrastinator at the best of times. I am taking care not to promise much, because I always have ambitions for what I can accomplish within a vacation, and I am always, always wrong. Which is a good thing.

Hope you're all having a wonderful summer (or winter, depending on your particular hemisphere) and that you, too, find ways to take time off in whatever way you need it.

What are your most recent or upcoming vacation plans? I'm gathering ideas. You can never have too much lollygagging.

Photo courtesy Kevin Jaako on flickr (cc)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Health insurance and pregnancy: What's a self-employed mama to do?

Hobo Mama wants you to know she's a professional blogger! Look at how professional she's being!

I've been thinking again about what we'll do about health insurance if we decide to have another baby. It's complicated, because we purchased an individual plan since we're self-employed, and the
hospital bill for 1972 emergency room visit with no health insurance by wendizzle on flickr
Bill from 1972 for Wendy Diedrich's emergency room visit for 10 stitches with local anesthesia, with no insurance and a total (and out-of-pocket) cost of $16.60 for Wendy's parents (via flickr).
individual plans in the United States where I live don't have (yet) a lot of the safeguards group health insurance plans have (the kind you get through a "real" job). Health care reform's tantalizing protection against treating pregnancy as a pre-existing condition (with a nine-month waiting period, natch) won't go into effect for me until 2014, and we won't be waiting that long.

We chose our current health insurance plan by virtue of its being just about the cheapest our family of three could find. It has a big deductible ($6,000) and no maternity coverage, at all. So we pretty much just never use it, but it's there if we need it. Except, you know, if what we need it for is a pregnancy and birth.

So. Here are my options:
  1. Upgrade our health insurance ahead of time to a plan that includes maternity coverage.
  2. Pay out of pocket for all our prenatal, birth, and postpartum expenses.

Here's where I crunch actual numbers and hope that's not too crass. I know it's boring,
hospital bill with insurance deduction for colon surgery by bobster855 on flickr
Bill from June 2010 for Bob Bobster's colon surgery and 6-day hospital stay, with a total of $43,651.05 in expenses, offset by insurance so Bob's out-of-pocket expenses were $1,500 (via flickr).

Even acknowledging, yes, different scenarios and allowing for inflation — holy moly, what a difference!
so you can skip ahead as you wish. I wanted to write it out for my own ruminating, but I decided to post it publicly in the hope it helps someone else going through the same calculations.

Our current plan (no maternity coverage) is $256/month for the three of us. It has a $6,000 family deductible, up to $300 a year (combined for all of us) in preventive care, and it's HSA eligible, so we can (theoretically) store money away pre-tax that can be used toward medical expenses. (I say "theoretically," because our most recent HSA money disappeared when it turned out the bank managers had been embezzling, but that's neither here nor there.)

PLAN A: If we upgraded with our current insurer, it would be $516/month for the cheapest plan that includes maternity. (At least they have a choice this time — last time I checked, they had had exactly one plan that offered maternity coverage. Now they have a whopping two.) That's a $9,000 family deductible at $3,000 per person, $30 copays for preventive care (including well-baby) visits, 30% coinsurance after deductible for all maternity care (prenatal, delivery, postpartum).

Definition break: If you don't shop for insurance a lot, a deductible is what you have to pay out of pocket before an insurance company will step in and pay out any benefits. Coinsurance is the percentage you have to pay of any expenses. So, if the coinsurance is 30% and the expense is 100, we pay $30 and the insurance company pays $70 — but only if our deductible has been met.

Website plug: I'm getting all these numbers at eHealthInsurance. I have no affiliation with them — I just shop for and buy my health insurance through them. (ETA: I just figured out I can have an affiliate relationship with them when I was on their site!) The prices are legally set, and the insurance company pays whatever fees might be involved for being in their lists, so there's no extra cost to the consumer. If you're self-employed, I highly recommend it as a site to shop health insurance plans and gather quotes, and then apply through the site electronically if the plan allows. It's easier that way.

PLAN B: If we moved to a different health insurance provider, we could get cheaper maternity coverage that would be in the realm of catastrophic coverage without technically being considered that. There's a plan for $385/month that has a monstrous $22,500 family deductible! No, seriously. Ignoring that one, there's a plan for $424/month that has a $15,000 family deductible. The point of these type of plans would be that they're there if anything really, really expensive went down, like an emergency C-section and a NICU stay. Otherwise, I'd be paying everything out of pocket. Preventive care is covered at 20% coinsurance with the deductible waived. Prenatal care is $25 each for the first four visits, then subject to deductible and 20% coinsurance. Labor, delivery, and hospital stay are 20% coinsurance after deductible.

Care providers: The midwives we used with Mikko, if someone didn't have insurance, offered a flat cash rate of about $2,000 that covered prenatal care (hour-long office visits), labor and delivery, and postpartum care, including lactation consulting and at least two home visits. I know — nice, right? They're not currently practicing (I shed tears just thinking of this), so I don't know if whatever midwives we go with (and we will be using midwives again if all goes well) will have the same sort of deal or a more expensive one, and how much more expensive.

Our medical plans for the next pregnancy and birth: We would like to have prenatal care but nothing too fancy. Last time, we had the most highly recommended tests and skipped the rest (including ultrasounds). We would like a home birth. However, we wanted a home birth last time, and we ended up transferring to a hospital for a non-medicated vaginal birth. I still have no idea how much that cost, because we had a different health insurance plan then with $0 deductible that covered maternity (the only one then available that did). If all goes as planned and we can use a midwifery care flat-rate plan, our expenses could remain under $3,000, including lab tests.
     But, we all know things do not always go as planned, and if things went really pear-shaped, we could be out of pocket for tens of thousands of dollars in a flash. We are unfortunately (?) no longer poor enough to qualify for much or perhaps anything in the way of financial aid from a hospital, though I'm sure we could work out a long-term payment plan. That wouldn't be much consolation, though, if they took all our retirement savings and then some. According to WSHA Hospital Pricing, the average price in Washington State for a delivery is somewhere in the range of $8,193 for uncomplicated vaginal birth to $20,224 for a complicated cesarean. That doesn't include charges for the physicians, surgeons, or anesthesiologists, or any emergency ambulance service. I'm not sure if it includes any medications used before or after birth, and I believe the newborn's hospital stay is a separate charge.
     I have considered an unassisted pregnancy and birth — but more so before Mikko's birth. There were some complications (excessive postpartum bleeding, for the most part) that made me appreciate having qualified attendants. I'm not judgmental against those who choose unassisted births, but I'm in a headspace where I'd rather have midwives present.

So here's a little chart breaking down the price difference between our current insurance, Plan A, and Plan B:

COST Monthly Yearly Difference
Current Plan $256 $3,072
Plan A $516 $6,192 $3,120
Plan B $424 $5,088 $2,016

So, if we upgrade, we're talking at least $2,000 more a year in insurance premiums. Plus, neither plan covers all of our increased health costs. In Plan A, we'd be paying all our prenatal care out of pocket and hit the deductible only if we had unforeseen expenses relating to prenatal care, the birth, or postpartum care. However, if we did hit a complication, it wouldn't be long till we hit the deductible, and then things would be covered at 70%. In Plan B, only four prenatal visits would be covered at $25 apiece, and even a vaginal hospital delivery would be out of pocket, with a $15,000 deductible. Only if there were more severe complications would the benefits kick in.

So: Is $2,016 with Plan B a fair price to pay for peace of mind in the event of any catastrophic complications? Is paying $3,120 more a year for Plan A better to have less out-of-pocket worry in the case of even mild complications (like my previous, non-emergency hospital transfer for a natural vaginal birth), when with an uncomplicated pregnancy and home birth under midwifery care, we could get away with paying over $1,000 less without upgrading? Remember that we're paying the cost of prenatal, birth, and postpartum care mostly out of pocket in all three cases if it's an uncomplicated pregnancy and home birth, and we'll say that's $2,000 since that's what our old midwives charged.

Here's another chart to illustrate the options:
MATERNITY CARE No maternity coverage Plan A Plan B
Uncomplicated (annual cost) $2,000 $5,120 $3,800 (taking off some for the first four prenatal visits being partially subsidized)
Complicated additional expenses (annual cost) 100% of costs (potentially $$$$$) $3,000 deductible, then 30% of costs $15,000, then 20% of costs

It's a risk-benefits game, but the potential losers are my baby and my health.

A couple other factors to keep in mind:
  • Every month I've upgraded to the higher price but don't get pregnant, I lose even more of the benefit of the higher-priced insurance. Ideally, I'd time it so my coverage kicks in the month before we conceive, but I can't guarantee anything like that. Note that this also doesn't allow for any spontaneity in our planning (no let's just go for it, honey! moments), as you can see from all the dull, dull, dull, deadly dull html tables.
  • Both Plan A and Plan B do not have the HSA option for paying medical expenses with pre-tax dollars. For instance, that $2,000 under our current plan would actually be $2,000 minus our tax bracket, so let's say $1,700. This is assuming no embezzling of HSA funds happens, again. Beyond that, our HSA money gets us this discount* on anything medical, including things our insurance doesn't cover, such as vision and dental care as well as prescription and over-the-counter medication. I'm just not sure how to factor this into the charts since I'm not sure what the yearly average HSA benefit is to us. (*I say "discount," but it's actually a more complicated process of getting a tax deduction after the fact. I guardedly recommend HSA-eligible plans to self-employed families who are willing to manage their own healthcare spending — just try to choose an HSA manager who's not a crook. Ha.)
  • Both Plan A and Plan B offer vision coverage, and our current scheme doesn't. However, an eye exam and some glasses every couple years is not worth so very much that I throw that into the consideration.

Philosophically speaking, assuming I've lost 90% of you with all these #%*$!@ numbers, why do I have to make decisions like this?

  • Why is my baby's health and my health dependent on some number-crunchers who decided pregnancy was too much of a financial risk for them to bother making maternity coverage standard or easily obtained?
  • Why is maternity care so expensive in this country, with the overzealous medicalization of prenatal care and childbirth? 
  • And how does even an uncomplicated hospital birth cost over $8,000?
  • Does anyone think it's a teensy bit sexist not to cover a condition that half the people of childbearing age are subject to? (And you know which half I'm talking about.)
  • Knowing that I am extremely privileged to be having this decision to make, how do unemployed or self-employed people without the financial resources to purchase individual health insurance and no access to group health insurance afford to give birth?

I don't understand it, and I don't appreciate making decisions about expanding my family based on finances.

But there it is.

And this is not meant to be a political post, but I will say that I've gotten very offended when family members have talked about health care reform disparagingly, as if it's affecting those people. Nuh-uh. It's affecting me, and my partner and their grandchild(ren), their loved ones. This is an untenable situation for us to be put in, and I'm so conflicted about what sort of risk I'm willing to take vs. how much of my hard-earned money I want to hand over to the insurance companies.

So what would you do? Plan A, Plan B, or brave it without maternity coverage at all? Have you ever or would you ever consider forgoing insurance coverage for pregnancy and childbirth?

I wrote this last night as I was cogitating, and today I called the health insurance company just to confirm that, yes, pregnancy is a pre-existing condition on my plan, and it is. She did inform me of a few more facts:

  • For pre-existing conditions, they look back six months from the date of the new plan application for any medical diagnosis, care, or treatment.
  • Therefore, the "pregnancy" starts when I first seek medical care. According to that, I theoretically could buy the upgraded insurance at 8 months pregnant as long as I sought no prenatal care before then and that would be the first record that I had the condition. I'm not saying this is my plan, just that it's kind of ludicrous. I'm not sure how much to trust that, though, since I don't have it in writing. My concern was more specific: If pregnancy is dated from last menstrual period and my plan went into effect before conception but after LMP, is it covered? According to the woman on the phone, it would be.
  • If I get pregnant on my current plan and upgraded, she said prenatal care would be covered under the new plan immediately but not delivery. (Big whoop, I know, but at least it's something.)
  • I could upgrade just myself to an individual plan with maternity and leave the boys where they are, which would be $354/month for our family total. I know — more numbers. That actually sounds much more doable to me, but I have to look into the tax implications of that, because I thought we had to have a family plan to deduct the cost from our business taxes. It would be a blow to lose that. More thinking and researching to do!
The woman on the phone was very pleasant, but I'm still shaking. I'm thinking it must be rage.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Surf: Blocking unwelcome Google ads and some inspirations

Welcome to the Sunday Surf! Here are some of the best links I've read this past week.

It might look like I haven't been reading much this week. Shhh. Let's not talk about it, shall we?

  • "Blocking Google AdSense formula ads for parenting and breastfeeding sites" from LaurenWayne.com: Cross-promoting this from my blogging blog (yes, breastfeeding on the grass 11 monthsthere is such a thing), because I think it's very on-topic for all parenting bloggers who are monetizing their sites. If you use Google AdSense and write about anything breastfeeding-related (or, sometimes, even if you don't), the AdSense bots will pick up those keywords, and formula companies will bid on them, and your site will be hosting ads that violate the WHO Code. Total bummer. I haven't been using AdSense ads on Hobo Mama for this reason, but I do have them up on my other blogs, since they're less breastfeeding-specific. My article offers a link list of offending URLs (it's a long'un) and instructions on how to add the list to your AdSense filter. It's not surefire, but it will help cut down on the WHO Code violators using your ad space. I welcome your additions to the list: If you see a Google ad for formula, bottles, or teats/nipples, let me know the specific URL and I will add it to the list to block.
  • I love the "Frock by Friday" series from Grosgrain: It's a basic tutorial Frock by Friday at Grosgrainfor sewing a simple dress in a week! You can play along and make the dress at the same time as the other readers, or you can browse the archives and make any of them at any time. You could even play fast and loose with the rules and take longer or shorter than a week.

  • I have three giveaways going on right now, and one's super-special-secret:
    • A WondaWedge Inflatable Back Support Pillow for nursing, pregnancy, reading in bed, & relaxing on the beach. It's a $24 value and is open to my fine U.S. friends.
    • An amazing $50 gift certificate at Amy Adele for adorable children's and family personalized notecards, flat cards, invitations, birth announcements, address labels, waterproof labels, onesies, and t-shirts. Also U.S.-centric (with apologies). Enter by Aug. 19.
    • The Surprise Hobo Mama Giveaway Deluxe, wherein you will definitely win Hobo Mama calling cards and will be entered into a drawing for other fabulous prizes, as yet unannounced. Soooo mysterious! Open worldwide, baby.
           (P.S. I gave away a blog calling card today to a mama I met in the park. So very proud of myself. She was breastfeeding her newborn, and she gave me a midwife recommendation, so I knew it was a good potential match.)
           (P.P.S. Just realized if she's reading this, she's going to think it's freaky. Hi! [Waves in a nonthreatening manner.])

You can find more shared items during the week at my public Google Reader recommendations feed.

Check out Authentic Parenting, Baby Dust Diaries, Maman A Droit, Navelgazing, and pocket.buddha for more Sunday Surfing!

Feel free to add your recommendations in the comments. Happy reading!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Parenting as a form of refugee acclimatization: A lens for seeing your children through

This is another in a series of guest posts by other bloggers. Read to the end for a longer biographical note on today's guest blogger, my very own husband, Sam. Sam gives us an analogy for how we might graciously see our children: as refugees in a strange new land, needing our help and patience to adjust.

father carrying son across a bridge through the woods


Guest post by Crackerdog Sam

There's a scene in the documentary God Grew Tired of Us where several Sudanese refugees get their first apartment in America, and we see these young men improvise daily life in their new, foreign setting. One of them opens a package of Ritz crackers, breaks them into a pot, and adds milk to make a thick porridge.

My initial reaction was "Eww!" But after pausing for a moment, I thought, "Well, why not?" Just because that's not the way I would have thought to combine ingredients from the store doesn't mean that it's wrong, or that it even tastes bad. It's just weird to me in the same way that America itself is weird to them.

As I watched the film, I found that the methods with which they approached simple things in daily life turned out to be an insightful door into how they thought and processed and perceived life. They were adapting, but they weren't losing themselves in the process. The places and ways in which they held onto their own heritage and culture were extremely revelatory.



Which leads me to another scene: I was recently out talking with a friend as Mikko tagged along behind us, at his own pace, inspecting shop windows and dog bowls and stalks of grass. My friend remarked at how unusual it was to see a parent not constantly instructing his child and telling him what to do ("stay with us," "don't touch that," "watch what you're doing," etc.). I remarked that this is Mikko's world to explore as much as it is mine.

I think I would miss out on all sorts of revelatory moments with Mikko if I were continually telling him what to do with himself, what was the proper use for things, and what should and shouldn't be done. He absorbs enough of these parameters, I've found, through observation and a desire to play along, and without too much explicit instruction. (Obviously there are exceptions, like with light sockets and crossing the street, where it is important to avoid certain things or to approach them in particular way.) For the most part, I want him to explore his world unhindered, and in doing so to reveal something about who he is and how his mind works.

I want to learn and grow from seeing Mikko's journey in the same way I learned a great deal watching the lives of the young immigrant men. I would have been saddened had these refugees succumbed to the pressure to become homogeneously and generically American. I want for Mikko what they had: an encouragement to hold fast to and carry with them their innate pride and spirit and fortitude in crafting a new life.



Parenting in this manner becomes a two-way street. Perhaps I as the parent hold more of the cards telling me how to act and behave in a socially acceptable manner, but then again I have lost other things now only dimly remembered: the abundant curiosity and gumption and affection that we're born with. Maybe as I steer Mikko toward concepts of, say, volume control and property rights, I am able to learn lessons from him in singing with enthusiasm, and drawing beyond the paper, if I am careful to notice.

Seeing life from a different vantage point, through someone else's mental processes, can renew and restore an appreciation for what's become overly familiar and rote. We are both learning from one another, finding spaces to intersect in our lessons in maturity and in childlikeness.

The other day at a pizza restaurant, Mikko was given a cup full of crayons, but rather than draw, he made a sculpture, emptying the cup, dropping in a shaker of red pepper flakes, putting the crayons back in so they stuck over the rim of the cup like spokes, and using them to hold up a credit card we'd gotten out to pay with. I have to admit that when he started monkeying around I had to physically restrain myself from putting everything back in its proper location for its proper purpose. But then it became a beauty to watch: so unexpected, so outside the norm. In this case he was literally arranging the world around him, just as he figuratively does it day in and day out, building and reconsidering and rebuilding his world. Social assimilation will come — I don't expect to see him making crayon sculptures in restaurants on first dates — but it's not something I need to or even want to force.



So often we are tempted to treat young children like anarchists, bent on disruption and upset, needing to be taught compliance. But most of the time young children are simply curious experimenters with no sense of time passing. Yes, they disrupt and bother and throw tantrums and mother and child touching creekrefuse us and our demands, but every time that happens, I ask myself: Is Mikko in this situation just being curious, or focused, or lack an ability to read a watch? Beyond that, is he physically uncomfortable, having not eaten or slept enough? Nearly every time I can point to a failing on my part to provide him what he needs physically, or his being a diligent scientist who's always being interrupted by the clock people.

In other words, I am forcing him to live in my world on my terms when he has his own priorities as a sculptor, sticker applier, truck driver, musician, and gravity tester. Problems arise mostly when we don't understand each other as two separate beings, and respect one another in those roles. When Mikko feels respected and not run-roughshod over, he is actually quite eager to engage in and play along with what I need to be doing and make space for me. (Yes, this approach takes a lot of patience, and listening, and attention. But I've not yet heard of a method of parenting that does not try one's patience.)



It is helpful every so often to reverse roles. Since I speak more English than Mikko, we end up with a lot of conversations with me repeating again and again what I'm trying to communicate, and he'll confirm back to me the phrases he understands or at the very least repeat what he can mimic. It's very one-way. Then one day he just started spouting a line of gibberish at me enthusiastically and, to make a joke, I imitated his gibberish back to him.

He loved this game! It was the same one he'd been playing for months but finally it was his turn to spew the nonsense and for me to repeat back words I didn't understand. I think I enjoyed being in Mikko's shoes for awhile almost as much as he liked being in mine. (Except for the one time he started playing the game when we were out at a restaurant, and halfway into the game I noticed that the two men at the next table over actually were speaking in a foreign language, and that the two of us repeating gibberish to one another and laughing loudly might have seemed like cruel disdain for them. Whoops.)



This parenting philosophy basically comes down to my belief that Mikko is a person: a whole person, not a wisp of a person, not a "less than" person, not a lost and confused puppy, not a pet that needs to be broken. Yes, he has fewer resources, emotional and otherwise, than an adult peer. He needs my support and strength. But he should be allowed to participate in the creation of his world as much as any other new arrival to a new land.

  • I try to give him space and time to work things through emotionally as he is encountering the new and unknown, or grieving the loss of what's now ended, even though it might mean — and often does mean — grumpiness or wailing or anger. (Heck, I'm in my thirties and not beyond bouts of moodiness and despondency and frustration when going through transitions and losses.) For any adult friends going through rough times I would acknowledge and respect their feelings and not hold an outburst against them. I'd give them space, and grace, and compassion. So why not with him?

  • I try to respect his body's needs and cues, allowing him to eat or not eat what he feels hungry for when I have presented a good variety of options to him. It's sometimes hard for me, as someone who still can't break free from being a member of the clean-plate club, to wrap my mind around not finishing things, but I give him that freedom to snack on a bit of this and a bit of that and not eat beyond being full, just as I never tell guests in my home to finish everything I've served them.

  • I try not to stunt his process of learning by telling him the end result I'm hoping for. I would never tell an adult person "Good job!" when he's working on something, as if he were doing the task for my approval. Nor would I jump in all the time with a "No, not like that, like that!" while she tried to figure things out. Discovery is a process of exploring options and permutations, and part of the exploration is not working toward someone else's end.

    The other day we were at the zoo and Mikko looked at the giant letters and said "Z—O—O—that spell 'animals'!" That is of course, incorrect, but we didn't tell him he was wrong. He was right to a particular degree, and the rest will come in time. The sense of value that a person gains from having mastered something should be the mastery itself and not having garnered praise.

  • I try not to assume the worst about Mikko's intentions. When children want their own way, they are called obstinate, willful, difficult, cranky, and rambunctious. When adults want their own way (which we get a whole lot more than kids), they're called ... adults.

    When Mikko wants to do his own thing, it's most often not because he wants to frustrate me but because he's in love with what he's doing or what he wants to do, just like I want to see my father and son in spray of waterfallplans followed through and not constantly interrupted. I attempt to see his "stubbornness" from that point of view, and as often as I can I switch roles so that he gets to call the shots. We recently had a beautiful evening of sitting on the car trunk in a parking lot watching airplanes fly low overhead, under his direction, which was far superior to my plan to put in him his car seat, go home, and dither about before bedtime.

  • I try to model for Mikko how I hope he would live. A significant insight I've learned from Lauren's research and writing is the idea that we as humans are very social creatures, and we tend to gravitate toward the norms of our families and peers and neighbors so that we'll fit in well enough to find camaraderie and acceptance. We tend not to adhere to abstract principles but concrete actions, even though we often believe it to be otherwise.

    Therefore telling our children to, for instance, apologize to another kid is not going to stick as a general principle unless they also witness us as parents apologizing to one another, and to them, when we're in the wrong. When Mikko gets older, I want to be as open and up front about our financial lives, love life, emotional lives, and our friendship circles as we are able, particularly to explain why we do what we do, so that he can see firsthand what choices we've made with what resources we've had. Taught principles, without rubber-meets-the-road firsthand witnessing, have less chance of sticking.

  • I try not to instill in Mikko a sense of shame. Failure is failure — it's hard enough to deal with on its own terms. But failure that is accompanied by a sense of unworthiness, of unlovableness, of shame — that's the kind of failure that keeps you from trying again. Shame is, unfortunately, an easy go-to tool in parenting. We somehow imagine that by making the stakes even higher for success ("You wouldn't want to let us down," or "No one will respect you if you're wearing that") that a child will have extra impetus to do well in whatever area.

    But everyone needs the grace to look like a fool in high school as you're trying out different identities. Everyone needs the bedrock of unconditional love at home so that when you fail and stumble you haven't lost everything. And, despite the argument that it's a harsh world out there and you must prepare children with a degree of harshness oneself, I would rather hope that by maturing in an environment of grace and compassion and understanding, Mikko would seek out friends and mentors and lovers who are mature enough to give the same.



Now, obviously at some point the analogy between cultural outsider and growing child begins to break down. If I were helping an immigrant acclimate to our country I would probably not be the one to brush his teeth or lift him onto the toilet. Nor would I expect Mikko to be able to ride the bus by himself after showing him a few times. It is just for me a helpful shorthand to think about in times of impatience and eyerolling and obsessing with completing the day's checklist tasks.

It helps me to think about the long run, about my goal to bring up a child who is not simply compliant to expectations but a full human being who has known dignity and respect. What's important is that I'm there offering up my measure of grace, my attention, my understanding, my love, my expertise, my help, and my listening ear in the process of our interrelating, all without stepping in to solve everything for him.

I am privileged to be his co-explorer in the journey of learning the world.

daddy and boy resting on shoulderCrackerdog Sam (that's his hobo name) is a full-time work-from-home parent. He shares both the working and the parenting of three-year-old Mikko with Lauren of Hobo Mama.

This is his first guest post, but he's working on many more.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Take me out to the ballgame

boy with seattle mariners batting helmet and baseball glove

fresh hot roasted peanuts at ballpark

boy with baseball batter helmet at seattle mariners game

boy eats blue cotton candy

boy watches baseball ballfield at Safeco Field

kids run around the bases

daddy and boy resting on shoulder

(Here are two baseball photos from previous years.)





Off-topic, but: I have a giveaway for an on-the-go tea glass from Libre Tea ending tomorrow, as well as a $50 gift certificate to Amy Adele Children's Stationery and a WondaWedge inflatable pillow of awesomeness. Go check them out and enter.





Find sites to link up your Wordless Wednesday post
at my super-cool collection of Wordless Wednesday linkies,
and let me know if you have one to add.
You can also link up a thumbnail from your post below!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Hobo Mama calling cards: Surprise giveaway!

You have to read to the end to get to the surprise. Trust me: You'll be so excited, and you won't even know why!

You know how I said awhile ago that it would be a great idea to get calling cards for your blog? Because that way, when you meet someone who seems like a marvelous potential reader, instead of trying to spell out your domain name or find an old receipt to jot it down on with that pen in your purse that never works, you could whip out a nicely crafted card.

Well, I convinced myself, and I bought these beauties:

Hobo Mama calling card selection HoboMama.com


Thanks to everyone who helped me decide what to order from Amy Adele. In the end, I went with not one but, as you can see, three! The more the merrier, right? I keep a selection in my wallet so I have them available to hand out when the situation arises.

The cards I chose are all located in AmyAdele.com's Distinct Designs section within the Calling Cards.

Here's the non-surprise giveaway:


You can get your own calling cards by clicking over to my Amy Adele giveaway. Ready for this? It's for $50! Yes, $50 of whatever you want at Amy Adele!

So it could be calling cards like mine, notecards or flat cards like we got for Mikko's thank-you cards, address labels or waterproof labels, or even personalized onesies and t-shirts (maybe a matching new baby onesie and big sibling shirt?). So hop on over and enter now by simply leaving a comment with what (one thing or more) you would like to order if you win!

Originally I set an entry deadline of August 12, but I was so remiss in getting this post up that I'm extending the deadline to next week, August 19, so you have time to enter. And, you get an extra entry just by saying you've read this post. Just comment with something like, "Read calling cards post."

And here's where it gets even more interesting:


BUT, the real reason I'm writing this post is to let you know of a super-secret additional giveaway, right here on Hobo Mama. I'm taking this idea from Rachel of Common Places, who suggested it in the comments on my original calling card post:
"I need calling cards for your blog. It would be so much prettier than scribbling down your URL on a piece of scrap paper when I find myself in conversations saying, 'you should check out my friend Lauren's blog. She has some really helpful things to say about [natural birth, bilingual parenting, whatever other topic is under conversation at the moment].'"
Rescue Heroes holding Amy Adele calling cards for HoboMama.com
The boys decided to help me display the cards.
Because, oh, my gosh, would people actually help me by handing out my calling cards if I could get them into your delightful little hands?

To that end, I am declaring a special giveaway here. Enter a comment, about whatever you want, and you will receive, free of charge (of course), a selection of Hobo Mama calling cards sent to your door. (Rescue Hero and robot not included, because Mikko would cry.)

Here's the surprise part. Once I determine that the giveaway is over (through a scientific process of hemming and hawing and going with my gut), I will not only collect everybody's charming mailing addresses (for the purpose of sending the cards, not for a surprise visit — don't worry, my showing up unannounced is not the prize!) — but! — and here's where it gets exciting!

I will also randomly select at least three of you to receive a super-special surprise gift!


If anyone leaves a particularly delightful comment on this post (say, a funny story or a household tip or egregious flattery, which as you can see, will get you anywhere), I might even award some non-random prizes in addition.

So, what I'm saying is, it's completely open-ended and mysterious. Which just makes it all the more fun.

I promise the prizes will be spectaculous (a word I just made up) and not just stuff I had lying around. You knew I was tempted, right? But, no, I will spend actual money on you, my fabulous readers who are going to hand out my calling cards.

Hobo Mama calling card toddler approves
These calling cards are Mikko-approved!
All right, got it? Let's go over the progression:
  1. Leave a comment on this post. It can be of whatever substance you want, or of no substance at all. Maybe you could just say which calling card is your favorite, or what you hope the prizes will be, if you want a prompt. Make sure you leave an email address or have it somewhere on your profile or blog so I can contact you.
  2. After some length of comment soliciting, I will gather everyone's mailing addresses who commented to send off a small stash of Hobo Mama cards that you can hand out to people you know, leave on community bulletin boards, slyly tuck into parenting books at the bookstore, or stock your dentist's office with. (Hey, once you get them, they're your calling cards. You're free to use them as you see fit.)
  3. Once I have everyone's addresses, I will also draw at least three winners of some Super Secret Surprise. Oh, the suspense! And there might be even further winners, if you all so inspire me.

There you have it. Oh, also? I will mail anywhere in the world, though I draw the line at outer space.

In addition to this goofy giveaway, remember to enter the one worth 50 smackaroos, which closes August 19. That one's open to U.S. residents only.

And if you want to buy your own calling cards, whether for work or play, there's free shipping at Amy Adele right now till August 11 for orders of $15 or more with code AUGSHIP. Amy Adele is also running a promotion of 15% off the 50 top sellers, which includes several labels, notecards and flat cards, the tulips calling card, and a selection of children's personalized t-shirts and onesies.

Disclosure: Amy Adele links are affiliate links.
I bought the calling cards with my own hard-earned dough.
Prizes for the surprise giveaway will be purchased by me, as well,
unless I can collect some sort of hobo patron before then.
See my full disclosure policy here.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunday Surf: Wrapping up World Breastfeeding Week

Welcome to the Sunday Surf! Here are some of the best links I've read this past week.

We're wrapping up a fun World Breastfeeding Week, though I've since discovered that August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, so I guess the breastfeeding goodness will keep on rocking!

  • "Breast Milk Sugars Give Infants a Protective Coat" from The New York Times: Lizzi at the Hobo Mama Facebook page shared this fascinating link. Apparently, a large part of breast milk is indigestible and serves to line the infant stomach and protect from bacteria. When I read this quote —
    "Dr. German and his colleagues are trying to 'deconstruct' milk, on the theory that the fluid has been shaped by 200 million years of mammalian evolution and holds a wealth of information about how best to feed and defend the human body."
    — I thought, Ah, they're trying to design better formula. Because usually that's what's funding the studies, and that's what the aim is. But then I read this last quote:
    "Such findings have made the three researchers keenly aware that every component of milk probably has a special role. 'It’s all there for a purpose, though we’re still figuring out what that purpose is,' Dr. Mills said. 'So for God’s sake, please breast-feed.'"
    Intense!
  • "Join the boob-olution" from The Bump: Some celebrities have gotten together to do a "Breastfeeding Doesn't Suck!" PSA and share their breastfeeding stories. I thought Ali Landry's story was particularly pleasant. Part of her testimonial:
    "I have a friend who is a hair stylist. I was nursing when she was pregnant. I would tell her how much I enjoyed it. She would always respond, 'I am not breastfeeding, I do not want to feel like a cow.' Everytime I would see her, I would encourage her just to try when she was in the hospital. If it's not for you, then don't do it. Her baby is now 2 years old and she is still nursing her. She sold her salon and moved to Florida just so she could spend more time with her daughter. Breastfeeding changed her life. I am so proud that I was able to influence her to nurse. She is my biggest convert to breastfeeding!"
    Here's the PSA:

  • Attachment Parenting Teleseminar with special guest Mayim Bialik: Monday, August 16, at 8 p.m. Eastern, $19.
    "Register for this call to hear hosts Lu Hanessian and API cofounder Barbara Nicholson talk with attachment parenting mother of two and actress Mayim Bialik. Hear about Mayim's personal AP parenting experiences. Find out about her new projects, including an AP book she's writing on what babies need (and don't need) and why she feels so compelled to spread the word."
    I get so many hits on my blog still for people looking for more Mayim Bialik information ever since I first wrote that post about Mayim's (then upcoming) appearance on What Not To Wear: "Mayim Bialik blossoms as an attachment parent." So this is for you, search fans. Register for the teleseminar and be sated. Mayim Bialik.
  • "Do It All Over Again" from TopHat blogging at Nursing Freedom: If you could write a letter back in time, what would you tell your less experienced self about nursing in public? I love her self-supportive choice.
  • "The Joys of Breastfeeding Past Infancy #17" from Dionna also blogging at Nursing Freedom:
    "Less than 20% of mothers breastfeed past their child’s first year of life. That means less than one in five mothers will ever hear her child’s sweet voice coo 'I love mama’s milk.' Less than one in five mothers will see her child run toward her with arms outstretched and a breathtaking smile of anticipation, intent on a snuggle at mama’s comforting breast."
    I feel so privileged to be in that sweet minority.

Hope you had a wonderful celebration of breastfeeding awareness this past week! I'll save my non-nursing related links for next week, to keep the theme going.

family of dad, mom, and baby at Safeco Field for baseball game

Today we're off to a Mariners baseball game. Mikko's been a couple times before (above is at 1 year, and below is at 2), but I don't know if he remembers. He might not remember this time, either, but we'll make sure it's fun, just in case!

Mama and toddler at Safeco Field for baseball game


Note the mature person making a face beyond Mikko's shoulder. Everyone's impressed, loser.

You can find more shared items during the week at my public Google Reader recommendations feed.

Check out Authentic Parenting, Baby Dust Diaries, Maman A Droit, and Navelgazing for more Sunday Surfing!

Feel free to add your recommendations in the comments. Happy reading!