Maternity Jeans Manifesto

I believe in Maternity Jeans.  They are an underrated and underused miracle of modern fashion.

I jumped into the world of maternity pants early because with a twin pregnancy, I was unable to button my jeans at about 10 weeks.  The first time I went to Pea in the Pod and slipped into a pair of those pants that look like normal jeans but have an oh-so-comfortable stretchy waistband, I was in heaven.  Now, I need to confess that I have always been adverse to pants with buttons (the reason that yoga pants and maxi dresses are basically my uniform.)  Seriously, my husband can attest to this, every time I sat down I would subtly reach under the table and unbutton my jeans and then button them back up before I stood.

I refused to go full pajama jean (although I did consider it) but then I discovered maternity pants.   The magical thing about them (besides no buttons) is that they fit when you are at your skinny weight and also fit when your stomach is a huge beach ball.  At the end of my pregnancy, I was wearing XXL maternity tops and even those were too tight, but my amazing jeans still fit.

I had a c-section with the twins and then a hysterectomy 6 weeks later (see Brief Timeline of Crazy for reference) so I continued to wear the stretchy top jeans for months after pregnancy.  I was “lucky” to loose the baby weight fairly quickly due to the awesomely fun combo pack of breastfeeding twins and an increasingly worsening flare of ulcerative colitis.  But still I held onto my “magic pants.”  About 8 months after having the girls, my husband finally staged an intervention and I tearfully gave away my stacks of maternity clothes and started wearing my old jeans again. Sigh.

Flash forward to February 2014.  I had just had an operation to remove my colon and was fitted with an oh-so-stylish ileostomy bag.  For those of you who don’t know what this is, essentially I had a piece of my small intestine sticking out of my stomach and a sticky bag thing that I put around it to catch stool while I healed enough to go back into surgery and have my newly created j-pouch (kinda like a fake mini-colon made out of small intestine) reattached.  Now, please stop with the fawning over me here, yes my life is glamorous, I know you want to be me, but that is not the point of this particular post.

It was difficult to wear pants while I had the bag and then one day I had a stroke of brilliance (seriously I think a lightbulb went on over my head.)  So back I went to the maternity store.  I grabbed several pairs of jeans and began trying them on.  They were as comfy as I remembered and were perfect to stretch over the ostomy bag.  If you are woman with any type of ostomy, please consider getting some.  They don’t dig into the bag, they go all the way over it and provide an extra layer of protection, and they help keep it flat so it doesn’t show under clothes!

I gleefully made my way over to the buy the pants and this was my conversation with the lady at checkout:

Her:  Nice choices.  When are you due?

Me:  Oh, I’m not pregnant.

Her:  I’m sorry, will you be needing a gift reciept?

Me:  No thanks

At this point the woman gets an obviously puzzled look on her face, so I decide to have a little fun.  I lean in and say very mysteriously, “I need them for medical reasons.”  And then happily leave her stumped trying to figure out what kind of medical condition would cause a skinny, non-preggo girl to need maternity pants!

The pants served me well during the months that I had an ostomy bag and the months after surgery when my belly was still far too tender to wear anything else.  And then I got to a place where I could totally wear normal jeans again.  I started to think that maternity pants and I had a good run, but it was time to give them up.  But then I thought… F that!  I have been through so much in the past few years, if I want to wear maternity pants for the rest of my life I am going to.

If people think I’m weird, oh well, wouldn’t be the first time.  As women, we are so often putting fashion before comfort, but here’s a chance to wear something comfortable and cute!

Never been pregnant? So what!  There is no law saying you have to be a slave to the jeans button, pregnant women don’t have exclusive rights to maternity clothes.  I say we stop calling them maternity jeans and start calling them “Happy Pants.”  Hey, I know a lot of men who would probably love some stretchy topped jeans- no more unbuttoning at Thanksgiving, you can still eat as much as you want without wearing sweats.  Happy Pants for Everyone!!!

So if you see me out and about in jeans, you can give me a little wink, cause you know “Natalie’s Secret.”  Those sexy designer pants I’m wearing go all the way up to my boobs and I am proud of it!

You wish your pants were this awesome!
You wish your pants were this awesome!
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Two Mommies or Why I Love My Church

Flopsy has been playing a game lately that I am not too fond of.  She likes to pretend that Curly is her mommy and she runs around the house saying “Mama, Mama, Mama!” and when I ask what she wants (thinking of course that she is speaking to me) she says, “No, other Mommy! Emma Mommy.”  This charade is very frustrating because she has started doing it in public and I look like I am ignoring my child’s cries for me.  I get judgey eyes and am like, “Oh, no Sir, she’s not calling for me, she’s talking to her sister…”

At one point I asked her who I am and she said “Mommy” and when I followed up with “then why do you call Emma Mommy?” she said she has two mommies.

And that’s when it hit me.  One of her best friends from school and church has two mommies, so maybe in addition to playing a game of house with her sister, she is also experimenting with the knowledge that there are different types of families.  The first time she and Curly met “Carter” and his two mommies, I explained that we have a family with a mommy and daddy but other kids may have two mommies or two daddies or just a single mommy or daddy.  They are 2 and 1/2 so this giant revelation was met with, “Oh, ok.”  Followed by an extremely loud and adorable game of “Ring Around the Rosie.”

At this age kids are just starting to notice differences in the world around them.  So if they innocently ask why a man is in a wheelchair, rather than hushing them and walking away, I explain that sometimes people can’t use their legs and have to sit in a chair.  To them, that is no more strange than discovering that some kids at school have never seen Doc McStuffins (that was a true shock to their little systems!)

So this is where I have to stand up and give props to our church.  We belong to a small, progressive Methodist Church,  Greenland Hills United Methodist if you live in Dallas and are interested.  And our church is the most truly welcoming to all that I have ever seen.  I really noticed this the other day in the parenting group when I looked around and realized that nearly half the people there were gay or lesbian and that one family had just adopted and brought home from the Congo two of the cutest little girls I have ever seen.  So when my kids see white parents with black children or vice versa, or two loving same sex parents with their children, they won’t give it a second thought.  That will seem totally normal to them since it is what they have grown up with.

And if one day one of my little girls realizes that she is gay, or has questions about her sexuality, she won’t be scared that no one will accept her.  Forced to hide who she is because her church, the place she should feel unconditionally loved and accepted, would shun her or try to change her.  I truly believe that bigotry and racism don’t have a chance to grow if you really spend time with people of all different abilities, colors, and sexual orientations.

Our pastor, who is one of the kindest and most welcoming women I have ever met, said in service one day that she believes that “Love is Love.”   I couldn’t agree more.  I am thrilled that we are raising our kids in a community that teaches that God is about love, not condemnation.  So if Flopsy needs to play out her interest in Carter’s family by pretending that she has two mommies, I guess I can live with it.  I’ll just have to ignore Mr. Judgey at Target with the raised eyebrow.  It’s much more important to me that in the long run, when my kids come face to face with people who are different from them, their response continues to be a simple shrug of the shoulders and a quick, “Oh, ok.”

Who are these babies to judge?  Those hats are ridiculous!
Who are these babies to judge? Those hats are ridiculous!

One Hundred and Thirty Pounds

In 2003 I was living in New York and trying to make a go of it as an actress.  I wasn’t having much luck getting paying gigs and at 5’11” I was always being told that I should model, so I got myself an agent and added aspiring model to my resume.  I got a few modeling jobs but quickly felt the need to drop some weight to be more competitive.  I was about 145 lbs, which is pretty thin for 5’11” but that agent told me that I would do a lot better if I lost 15-20 pounds.

Ok, I thought, I can do that.  Stop drinking so much, eat healthy, exercise more and the weight would fall off, right?  I dropped a few numbers on the scale but was nowhere near my “goal weight” of 130.  So I started throwing up.

Now, I didn’t think of myself as bulimic or having an eating disorder or anything, because I didn’t do it every day and most of the time I didn’t even have to stick my finger down my throat.  See I had a system… I would go all day, running around to castings, exercising, walking everywhere, and only eat 1 or 2 “Zone” bars a day just to keep myself from fainting.  But then sometimes at night my discipline would waver and I would be so starving that I would eat whatever I could find, which would make me so nauseous that I would be clutching the toilet in no time.

And still that magical number eluded me.  I got to 135 and broke down in tears one day when I went into a casting and while measuring me the casting director said, “Oh, you’re a big girl huh?  Might want to lay off the chips for awhile.”

I realized at that moment that I was never going to be what they wanted me to be, that I was not meant to be one hundred and thirty pounds, or at least that I couldn’t get to that weight without doing serious damage to my body.  So I quit.

If a modeling job came my way and they liked the way I looked then fine, but I was done making myself sick for it.  I am not going to lie and say it was easy.  Over the course of a few months I figured out how to get my eating back into better habits and I started keeping track of and celebrating the days I went without throwing up.  I figured out that it was more important to be a happy, healthy me than to be 130lbs.

Flash forward to 2014.  I am 34 and way past my modeling days with twin two-year olds.  I step onto the scale and start to cry when I see the numbers flash until they reach 130.0.

See for once in my life I am trying to gain weight.  I am recovering from my third major surgery in four months and no matter what I do I keep loosing weight.  I had to have my entire colon removed because of an auto-immune disease called ulcerative colitis and now it is difficult for my body to process nutrients.  In addition to being super skinny, I am also deficient in several vitamins, severely anemic and weak and get out of breath when going up half a flight of stairs.

And yet… everyone is telling me how good I look.  Joking that colon-removal is the new fad diet.  Making me wonder if when I am better and start gaining weight again I will miss that little number on the scale.

This was supposed to be a pic of me shaking my fist in Righteous Fury but it really just shows how skinny my arm is!
This was supposed to be a pic of me shaking my fist in Righteous Fury but it really just shows how skinny my arm is!

No matter how crappy I feel, there is still a tiny voice in the back of my head that is pleased that all my clothes are too big and that for the very first time I can remember in my adult life I can look in the mirror and have no criticisms about my weight.  Old habits die hard and old dreams even harder.

I try to remember that now I have different dreams and the ones I have actually make me feel good about myself and my life.  I want to get strong and healthy again so that I can play with my adorable girls without running out of breath.  I want to get back my energy so I can spend time with my amazing husband who has supported me through a really tough period of time.  I want to learn to feel good about my body so that I can teach my children as they grow up that their bodies are beautiful whatever size they are.

I realize that I am crying because 130 is a number I never thought I would reach and because a part of me is doing a little victory dance but also because I realize what a toll it took on my body to reach that goal from so many years ago and hope that I can finally let it go.

Wonder J – The Super Nanny

With all the drama surrounding the Corner Market incident I would like to take a moment to give a written standing ovation to my own personal superhero, Wonder J, the Super Nanny!

We have had quite a few sitters, and since I got really sick last fall, I have needed pretty much full time help with the kids.  We went through a few nannies (some great, some not-so-great) until we found Wonder J.  My process for interviewing a new person is to hire them for an afternoon and then have them play upstairs in the kids room while I spy on the monitor (Yes, I’m sneaky like that.)

The first time that J came over and I heard the way she played with the girls it was like the skies parted and I heard the Vienna Boys Choir singing Halleluiah!  She was engaging, entertaining, and was teaching them things, all while being firm but gentle and keeping the toddlers in line.  My own personal Mary Poppins! Although, if I am being honest she could really work on her singing, she sounds nothing like Julie Andrews…

Throughout my surgeries I knew that if Flopsy and Curly were with Wonder J, I didn’t have to worry about them at all.  It took so much pressure off of me to know they were truly being loved and cared for when I could barely get out of bed.  When I got a little stronger but still couldn’t manage them on my own I would go with them on outings and to playgroups.

Before my first surgery I thought I would really miss all the alone time I was used to with my girls, but Wonder J became like family.  She knows just when to back off and let me have time with them and when to step in and take them off my hands because I am exhausted.  And I truly enjoy her company.

Recently she had to go out of town for a month and when she got back the girls were so happy to see her that Flopsy just sat in her lap and pet her hair for an hour.  I have to admit that if it were not super creepy and inappropriate I probably would have done the same thing!

That is part of the reason I was so angry that the owner of the Corner Market immediately turned the blame on her by saying that she is just a “bad nanny” who was on her phone the whole time and let the kids run wild.  I think he was just taking the chance that we didn’t really know what she is like with our kids but he picked the wrong nanny to accuse of being irresponsible!

I have first hand knowledge of how great she is, but I have also heard countless reports from friends and even play center staff about how she is one of the best nannies they have ever seen.  Last week I hosted a playgroup in my house that ended with 5 toddlers sitting around our table having a lunch that she made with all of the moms in the other room talking.  At one point we stopped and realized just how good all the kids were being and were amazed.  I couldn’t do that, I have a hard time keeping my two calm by myself.  But Wonder J is a master nanny and I bow down to her skills.

I just want her to know just how very appreciated she is, and if you have a Wonder J in your life (be it someone you pay, a family member, or friend) make sure they know how special they are to you.

Oh and NO! You can’t have her number, she’s mine…my preciousssss

Righteous Fury!

I have been wanting to start this blog for a long time, but with how incredibly crazy life has been, I have been delaying it over and over again for one reason/surgery/medical crisis/poopy diaper or another.  But then something happened that made me so angry that my chronic fatigue has been momentarily lifted by an epi-pen of righteous fury! (BTW every time you see the phrase “righteous fury” imagine me shaking my fist in indignation!)

My fists of fury are legendary!
My fists of fury are legendary!

Apparently we live in a world where it is now acceptable for an employee working at a supposedly child friendly establishment to scream obscenities at toddlers!

If you want to know the full gory details about exactly what happened, take a look at my post called “Cussing Out Toddlers- Not a Good Business Plan,” but if you haven’t read that, the basics you need to know are that my children went to a small local café, The Corner Market on Greenville in Dallas, were singing a song, probably being a little loud and were told to “Shut the F Up” by an employee, who continued to curse and frighten them.  The owner was made aware of the situation and only suspended the employee for ONE DAY.

I am not normally an angry person, in fact I can probably count on one hand the amount of times that I have been truly steaming mad.  But right now there are flames on the side of my face, breathing, heaving breaths…

So when Sebastian (the hubs) met with the owner, he told him that we felt that his response was unacceptable and that we would be taking to social media so that others would know that this- in my opinion- potentially dangerous man was still working there.  S gave Owner his phone number and said if you would like to resolve this differently please let me know.  In the past few days we have not heard from him.

But he has responded… in the crappiest way possible.  As we spread the word, especially to my mom friends, a lot of people started inundating the CM’s facebook page with negative comments and bad reviews.  In one day their facebook rating went down 1 and 1/2 stars because so many people were upset by finding this out.  So rather than telling his side of the story or offering an apology, Owner deleted all of the comments and disabled the reviews feature on FB.  Seriously go look up The Corner Market on FB- you can’t leave any sort of review.

So we took to Yelp.  I posted a detailed review about what happened, and many of our friends, family, and even a few people we don’t know wrote and gave the Corner Market 1 star.  Almost all of these got taken down (something about the yelp algorithm and too many one star posts in a day being considered spam) But, despite the fact that I am sure he saw them since they were up for several days, still no appropriate response from Owner. The more Owner ignores our attempts to get him to at least acknowledge that cursing at toddlers is generally not a good business practice, the more it fans the flames of my righteous fury (insert fist shake.)   I would have to say that at this point my level of anger and indignation has reached Spinal Tap’s proverbial “11.”

Cussing Out Toddlers- Not a Good Business Plan

I wanted my first blog post to be about something a little lighter, but sometimes you just have to go with the craziness that life throws at you.  And although I swear I am not trying to bring drama into my life, it somehow finds me!  So here is the latest SuperCrazy situation:

Last Friday my nanny, Wonder J, took Flopsy and Curly (my 2 and 1/2 year old twin girls) to a small neighborhood café for dinner- The Corner Market in Lower Greenville for those of you in Dallas.  The girls were singing “London Bridge is Falling Down” and were probably not using their best indoor voices but certainly not in the middle of a stage 3 toddler meltdown.  A male employee from behind the deli counter about 30 feet away yelled directly at them “Yo, Shut the F&&K Up!”

Right now you are probably saying to yourself, “Aw Hell No,” but it gets much worse.  He proceeded to come out from behind the counter, go over to their table, grab all the food that they had already paid for and were still eating and literally say to my toddlers “Get the F&&K out.”  At that point Wonder J told him to back off and stop using that language. He left the room, and my super-nanny got the kids stuff together, the owner’s phone number from another employee who kept repeating, “I’m so sorry,” and started the very long process of herding upset toddlers out of the store.  The Grinch then came back out on a cell phone loudly talking to someone and complaining about Wonder J(using names that I will not repeat here) and was standing next to the door so they had to walk by him to leave. J managed to get the kids past him and into the car safely and while they were scared and very upset, she was able to keep them from totally freaking- all while managing not to haul off and punch the guy in the junk- I swear she really does have super powers!

Now here is were I will admit that we all made a mistake, when she got home visibly shaking and told us the story we should have immediately called the police, but I think my husband, Sebastian, and I were so relieved that everyone was ok that we wanted to just get them safely tucked into bed.  Wonder J spoke to the owner on the phone and told him the story while she was leaving the store and he said that he was with his sick mother and could not do anything to handle it right at that moment.  They agreed to meet up to discuss the issue in person.  Due to scheduling conflicts J and S did not meet with him until Tuesday morning and although we were all very upset for a few days we wanted to give this small business owner the chance to make things right before we made a big stink out of it potentially hurting his business.  We gave him the benefit of the doubt, thinking that he would apologize profusely and tell us the Grinch had been let go and at least offer to refund us the money from the dinner that got taken from them.  That would  be the smart and moral thing to do if you are the owner of a small community business- right?

Apparently not!  At that meeting he told S and J that he had interviewed the witnesses (the other employees) and they all had different accounts of what happened.  He said that the Grinch did in fact say the F word to my kids, AND ADMITTED IT, but the “witnesses” only heard him say it once.  So he punished him accordingly- with a ONE DAY SUSPENSION.  A grown man working in a restaurant that, oh by the way, has a kids menu and toddler sized table (which they were sitting at) should under no circumstances be allowed to terrify small children by yelling obscenities at them!

The owner- who is clearly not a member of the BBB- then told us that everyone says that Wonder J is a bad nanny, was on her phone the whole time and completely letting Curly and Flopsy run wild.  Wait, wait, wait… so if toddlers are acting like, well- toddlers in a restaurant that has a toddler table- then your staff is allowed to berate them using curse words?!!

And his first instinct was to blame my family rather than taking responsibility. I have absolutely no doubt that J’s version of events is the correct one (in later posts I will talk about how she is my own personal superhero.)  And I know my girls, they love restaurants and very rarely meltdown in them.  But even if they were running up and down the restaurant, drawing in crayon on the walls, and throwing Kix at the Grinch’s face- he still does not have the right to tell 2-year olds to Shut the F Up!  You can absolutely ask a customer to keep their kids quiet or even request that they leave if you feel that the behavior is inappropriate.   But under no circumstances is it acceptable to yell, curse, rip food from the hands of and frighten a patron of the restaurant you work in.  It’s not ok to do to an adult and to do so to a child is in the immortal words of Vizzini , “Inconceivable!”