Only in Texas: guns and parenting

The night before Sunday’s devastating church massacre, I learned a parenting lesson that I never would have thought to seek out on my own.

I was sitting around a dinner table with parent friends whose kids are a few years older, chatting about the ins and outs of slumber parties, when the subject of weapons in the home came up. I’m so grateful the conversation landed on this topic because it never would have occurred to my oblivious California-bred self that one of the pre-screening questions for playdates or slumber parties, at least in my neck of the woods, needs to address whether there are weapons in the home.

And not just that question; it’s a good start, but it can’t stand alone. Instead, it’s a conversation that needs to be primed and carefully managed to make sure you feel comfortable sending your kids to another home, and to also make sure potential guests are comfortable in your home. Here’s what I learned:

“Do you have guns?” can be interpreted lots of ways

This sounds so crazy to me, but people will answer “No” to the question “Do you have guns” because they don’t have, for example,  a gun case with 50 rifles, or they don’t consider themselves collectors or hobbyists. That doesn’t mean that they don’t have a handgun in their bedside table or another gun in their truck for hunting. Instead of saying, “Do you have guns?” ask “Do you have weapons in your home?” The question is (hopefully) broad enough to remind them of the various types of weapons that may be stored somewhere on their property.

Start the conversation yourself.

Asking about guns in someone’s home can be a potential landmine, especially in a region where people have strong opinions about their arms and their rights. The consensus around the table was to bring it up yourself, by offering something like:

“Would so and so like to come over for a playdate? So that you know, we do have guns in our home that are unloaded and locked in a safe in the garage.”

Of course that’s a simplified script, but by proactively offering the information yourself, it opens to door to ask in return without putting the other family on guard.

If you don’t have weapons in the home, my friends recommended not saying “we have no weapons,” but instead starting the conversation by saying, “How do you store your guns?” That way, you don’t risk making gun owners feel judged, or that you might not green light a playdate if their answer is different from yours. Of course, non-gun-owners can just say, “Oh, we don’t have any.”

Don’t ask “Are they stored safely?”

Instead, ask, “How are they stored?” The definition of safely stored varies, from “oh, we just keep the one in our bedside table, it’s loaded, but that drawer is so hard to open, no kid will succeed,” all the way to, “we keep guns unloaded and locked in a safe in the garage, and ammunition in  a separate, locked safe with a different password.”

Terrifying set of questions to ask, isn’t it? I admit I was completely in the dark before this weekend about just how fraught and necessary this conversation is for potential playdates.

The next morning, it felt so timely, in the worst possible way. Sunday’s massacre was horrifying, with the chilling bonus of being just down the road from us. And most horrifying of all is just how routine this kind of news is beginning to feel, from the initial reports of a mass casualty event, to the predictability of how it will be interpreted and spun by our leaders and media. We can fill in the blanks of the narrative with just with a few variables: what color was the shooter’s skin? What color and religion were his victims?

From there, the story just falls into place, and we begin screaming at each other over semantics—what kind of gun was used, whether it was legally obtained, whether he’s a terrorist, whether it was mental health to blame, whether the good guys with guns stepped in fast enough, whether now is the right time to address policy changes. Those deeply felt arguments, shouted into the algorithmic void, are just as rote as the mass shootings that keep happening, again and again.

I find the conversations happening online mortifying. How easily our leaders regurgitate the same anodyne statements that do nothing to help and nothing to prevent. How adeptly the reactionary public contorts a tragedy to support its own world views. How quickly we spread memes and misinformation to blame, vilify, retrench.

What kind of sick culture uses a community losing nearly 10% of its population as a catalyst for more violence against our neighbors?

Why can’t we all concede that we have a problem with gun violence in America? That acknowledgment does not invalidate your strongly held beliefs on gun ownership or gun control or masculinity or mental health or immigration or hate crimes or politics or anything else, other than that we have a gun violence problem in America.

You can remain pro-2nd Amendment and still recognize that this epidemic of tragedies is surely not what our Founding Fathers intended.

You can be pro gun control and still engage in pragmatic and productive conversations about how to stem this tide of violence.

Let’s stop spewing bile from our firmly established trenches. Our lives depend on it.

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What new moms actually need

Over at Fit Approach, we’re in full-on holiday planning, so I’ve been thinking a lot about gifts. It’s too early, I know—I shudder to think I’m contributing to the holidays happening earlier every year trend—but I guess I am. Oops. This is sort of a holiday gift guide but really it’s a primer on what to give your mom friend, especially your new mom friend, for any occasion.

Don’t get her a stroller or baby clothes or anything that’s “for her” but really for the baby. Get her some of these things instead.

Below are the items that transformed my postpartum life. Most of these took me plenty of trial and error to figure out, so consider this your cheatsheet for what’s actually going to improve her life.

Wireless headphones

There’s no way to say this gently, so I’m just going to say it: sometimes momlife is really, really boring. You may be watching a butterfly mobile, pushing a swing, or inspecting individual pieces of bark at the playground for what feels like an eternity. Listening to podcasts and audiobooks has been a sanity saver for me, and I wish I had started doing it back when Mac was super new and I spent my whole life nursing and changing diapers. Next time, I’ll know.

I rely on my trusty wireless headphones for everything. Wires are just a no-go with a grabby baby and a chronic shortage of hands. If you follow me on the internet you know that my Aftershokz are my constant companions – they are literally the best headphones I’ve ever owned. And they make everything from conference calls to running to boring momlife moments better.

A workout app that helps her feel connected

 

I’ve been very honest about my postpartum fitness journey, and how long it took me to find a way to fit it all in. I’m still working on that. But my ace in the hole lately, something I wish I’d had available to me back when I was on a tight breastfeeding tether, was Gixo. It’s a workout app that I actually like (this is a big deal, people), primarily because of the built-in social interactions and accountability. The classes are live so the instructor is talking to you the whole time, encouraging you, even video chatting with you during water breaks.

I use it after Mac goes to bed, or I’ll even pop into a 15 minute class while she’s busy identifying every rock at the park. Even though I know the instructor can’t see me (unless I opt to share my camera during water breaks), knowing she’s there leading the class and hearing her provide feedback in real time makes me work harder to avoid getting ‘caught’ slacking. Silly, I know, but so effective. Without the live accountability, there is NO WAY IN HELL I would ever decide to do a workout, alone in my house, after she goes to bed, when all I really want to do is collapse on my couch and stare vacantly into space.

Instead, I do a Gixo workout or two, then dive back into work, reenergized by an evening dose of endorphins.

Get one month free plus 20% off here.

 

A cell phone wallet

We made these adhesive wallets for BlogFest this year, and this simple little gadget has been life-changing for me. When you’re swapping bags all the time, from diaper bag to purse to just cramming what you need in your pockets, it’s easy to forget the things you actually need. I keep my baseline essentials—ID and credit card—in my cell phone wallet, which means all I have to do is grab my phone and, even if I do no other purse swapping, I can make it through just about any day. No unloading my wallet, no collecting loose cards or items, and no forgetting things in random pockets.

We have these cute little adhesive ones for just $3; here are some fancier ones:

A backpack she’ll want to use as a purse

 

The thing about momlife is that there are never enough hands to go around. Having a purse over one shoulder only complicates the whole juggling situation. I’ve been on team backpack for years, but becoming a parent made my commitment rock solid.

I bought this backpack as a diaper bag originally, but it has since morphed ito my purse. I get a ridiculous number of compliments on it, from people who are not parents, and who are shocked to discover it’s a diaper bag. That means you get all the pros of a diaper bag (hello, pockets and easy clean!) with none of the drawbacks.

Here are some of my favorite backpack options:

Momlife friendly athleisure

Joggers
Can we say elastic waist? I recommend joggers that are gray or heathered rather than black; they are less likely to show spit up, food, dirt and other substances she’ll find herself smeared with than a pure black pair would.

Here are some of my faves:

Tops with that are cut generously around her belly.

It’s nice to have some breathing room around the belly. IT takes weeks, or months, for new moms to not look pregnant any more. Bonus points if theyr’e nursing friendly, easy to clean, AND don’t show spit up.

These are some gems:

 

A cute pair of sneakers

 

Picking shoes out for someone else is hard, but I had to include this one because once you start dressing for mom life, it’s a slippery slope into pajamas all day and mom jeans (and I don’t mean the cool hipster kind). Having a cute pair of sneakers is a perfect way to be comfortable and able to chase around toddlers / walk around with a baby in a carrier all day without feeling like a slob. I’m a die hard Converse fan, and I also have a (stupid expensive) pair of slip-ons that I bought years ago and have been one of my best cost-per-wear purchases (what a relief!).

Why not one of these pairs?

What do you think? What’s your go-to gift for new moms?

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What kind of investments are you making?

The other day, as I was innocently typing out a post, I found myself defaulting to this tired language:

“I’ve reduced the amount of time I invest in typical beauty routines, like blowdrying my hair and putting on makeup”

Invest. Hundreds of underpaid copywriters have leaned on that default word choice in thousands of throwaway pieces, I’m sure. What a particularly capitalist flavor of condescension to women. It’s a pretty poor investment that brings you clogged pores and split ends instead of wealth or power.

I suspect that that word was embedded into my subconscious 20-some years ago by seventeen magazine. I have visceral memories of feeling initiated into a mystery the first time I ran my fingers over those pages. Each one radiated glossy seduction: eat just 2/3 of a Reese’s peanut butter cup (25 calories!) and you’ll earn the thighs that allow you to wear these jean cut-offs. Wear those shorts and you’ll be invited to join the popular girls’ lunch table. Use Night Replenishing Core Activating Anti-Wrinkle Rejuvenating Matte Day Cream with Light-Refracting Mineral Crystals in Honey Nectar, twice daily and your crush will finally ask you to prom.

Oh, what happy returns.

Surely this language is an anachronism, a hanger-on from back when we taught girls that their worth was measured by how they looked.

Or.

Well.

Sometimes it feels like the fatigue of “this still? really?” comes up and smacks you in the ass. Or is it grab – no, no, let’s not go there.

Let’s talk instead about radical prioritization. I’m winnowing, but I’m no Marie Kondo. I can’t just give up every tchotchke and 10-year-old skirt from Forever21 like it doesn’t matter to my life. My garage still guards one giant box of personalized sweatshirts from my childhood dance studio, and another of notes I wrote to my bestie in 8th grade science class.

Kari: if you’re reading this, THE SUN IS GOING TO EAT YOU. (What is happening ☝️is that the sun is slowly expanding and will someday absorb the earth.)

Compounding this imminent solar threat is that I feel always at a loss for time. Always torn in many parts. No matter where I am, I should be somewhere else, doing something else, ticking something else off that godforsaken to-do list.

I’m not minimizing material things so much as I am removing rituals that are burdensome and not, in fact, necessary to my success as a female human. This practice dovetails nicely with my dawning realization that while I have survived a particular set of cultural attitudes about women with only minor hangups and occasional flareups of rage, I cannot abide by my daughter being raised to associate the sisyphean task of pancaking and then removing twenty finely differentiated products, daily or twice daily, with the word investment.

I’m saying no to all the things and it feels so good. It feels like an opening up of possibility. Advancement through negation. Freedom and fortune. Fortune through freedom.

This is a very long winded way of saying that I’m not wearing makeup, I’m not blowdrying my hair, I’m living the capsule lifestyle, and I am considering chucking my razors, but someone recently told me that smooth, glistening skin is THE beauty trend this season, and I took the quiz on page 54 and learned that my legs are my best feature, sooo …

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It’s better without makeup

Let’s talk beauty. A few months ago I basically stopped wearing makeup, and, with the exception of my unruly bangs, I have forsaken blowdrying my hair, too.

Since then, more than a few friends have asked if I’ve really stopped wearing makeup and also said they were inspired to wear less.

The answer is yes, I really have stopped wearing makeup. I’ll dab a little powder here and there if I’m feeling red or shiny but that’s it. Full stop.

Here’s my routine:

  • Wash with FRÉ (<– Save 15% with code ALYSE)
  • Dab on some FRÉ Revive me – this is like a cup of cofee for your face. I use it when I’m traveling or just plain tuckered out

  • Layer on Protect me – SPF moisturizer. So necessary

  • Sweat Cosmetics sheer mineral powder: for extra SPF, because it is still 90 goddamn degrees here. (<– Save 10% with code SWEATPINK)

Occasionally, if I’m feeling red or shiny, I’ll pull out my compact and do a little spot touchup, but other than that, my makeup bag is collecting dust in my bathroom cupboard.

Also, I never leave home without my Burt’s Bees Pomegranate lip balm. I buy in bulk and keep multiples in every purse, actually, because it is necessary to my life. I’ve also been using Hemp Organics Lip Tint; it’s a nice dash of natural looking color. So I guess that sort of counts as makeup, but there’s no foundation, no mascara, nothin’ else gracing this mug, smearing my pillowcase, or clogging these pores.

Since I stopped wearing makeup, my skin seems much more clear and less prone to redness or breakouts (which was the main reason I wore makeup in the first place, hmm). I don’t think it all has to do with external factors, though: I’ve also been working on beautifying from the inside out.

First: through better hydration. I am terrible about hydration. I get an F in drinking water. Lame, I know. Fixable, 100%.

The sparkling detox challenge was a good kick in the pants to be better about this very simple activity. I am keeping it going strong by adding Gerolsteiner to my cold brew concentrate. Don’t laugh. This COUNTS.

Second: my secret weapon. For the last month, I’ve been trying out Amazing Grass’ Beauty Elixir, which is a pretty little powder you add to water for some inside-out-beautification. I keep this in my purse, and added a daily reminder to take it. Every time I take it, I have to drink more water. WIN.

I have to say, I think my skin is much improved. I have found myself pulling out my powder less frequently as the month goes on—and I haven’t changed anything else about my routine. If anything, I’m getting less sleep, and drinking more coffee. Plus it tastes nice and it forces me to have that extra glass of water everyday.

Save 40% on Amazing Grass with the code SweatPink2017

Apparently, vanity is the motivator I need to hydrate. Go with what works, I guess?

In partnership with Amazing Grass, Gerolsteiner, and FRÉ Skincare.

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So I guess we’re done

Breastfeeding, that is. I spent ten days away from Mac this summer, and had no real plan or agenda about how that would affect our breastfeeding. Over those ten days my body gave a few last gasps of production, and then with a last sigh of resignation it relapsed into pre-pregnancy, pre-breastfeeding state.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sad about the end of our time together. Breastfeeding was hard and painful at first, and it was frustrating and inconvenient any time I dared to step beyond a certain radius of my child, but it was also rewarding, to the tune of an extra 1,000 calories a day to blow on brownies and triple cream yogurt and as a form of bonding unmatched on this earth.

Mac is sad, too. She still nurses, a few times a day, and it’s a soothing transition mechanism for both of us and discomfort for me and frustration for her. There have been so many big changes recently, so much upheaval in routines and places and people, that I’m hesitant to counter with a hard NO when she asks. So she supplicates at the dry well and I squint with occasional twinges and we get along.

Photo: stitchy.lala.pupu

And, speaking of new worlds opening up, that box of clothes I put aside as too small are back in play, and the bras once in regular rotation are officially benched. This pre-baby body is here-ish, forever altered by the expansion and service to a life more important than its own.

And I find myself in need of new bras. Which, by the way, I have foresworn along with makeup. My apotheosis into first-wave feminist is nearly complete, if only I could reject razors and dresses as thoroughly as I have eyeliner and underwires.

So to justify my shopping, I bought a Gap gift card with ShopWithScrip, and then went to town on smaller sizes in the only kind of bras I’ll tolerate these days: bralettes free from wires, hooks, clasps, and all other mechanical fixtures.

And while I wait for my wardrobe updates to arrive, I’m embracing how thoroughly motherhood has, through hormones or hocus pocus, expanded my emotional repertoire enough that I’m missing being at the beck and call of an irrational tiny human.

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