lessons i’m learning in my toddler’s dance class, and a Claire Bear update


In this room full of toddlers in tutus, absolutely no one is worried about their rounded belly under purple spandex. No one has given a thought to her chubby thighs in pink tights. Not a one has looked in envy upon the body of her classmates. Instead, as a boombox plays an instrumental of “Beauty and the Beast,” they giggle and grin. They grab hands and twirl. They hug and spin. They are grace in action, even as they regularly fall down.

Even as I feel my own infrequently-exercised thighs burning as we march with high knees and pointed toes around the room, I’m learning powerful lessons too. And they have nothing to do with poise or pointe, and everything to do with grace. Grace for myself and my perfectly imperfect body. Grace and love for the women around me, that I may see them as hands to hold and partners to dance with, not competition or something to compare myself to. Grace, even, for my toddler when she refuses to participate with the rest of the class on a particularly bad morning.

Six weeks of dance classes with Etta Jane are drawing to a close, and I am happy to sign us up for the next six. My happiness is doubled because this time, I get to sign Claire Bear up too. After a year and a half in developmental preschool, Claire has made a lot of amazing progress. Enough, in fact, that we feel ready to back off on some of her therapies. She’s going to be staying home with Etta Jane and me, and we’ll be seeing her PT on an outpatient basis. I am thrilled to get more time with my girl before she has to start real preschool all too soon, and I know she’s going to love dance class as much as Etta Jane and I do. I talked to the teacher and made sure that it would be ok if she had to wear braces and sneakers instead of ballet shoes, and was assured that she is more than welcome to join the class. Grace abounds. There was a point where I didn’t think our girl would walk, and now she’s ready to DANCE.

on “pregnancy abs”: NOPE

Being pregnant is a very strange experience. I would say “out of body” but it’s really the opposite: it’s deeply embodied. The physical reality of gestating two humans inside of my rapidly changing body radically and forever altered my relationship to myself. When we saw that second blob on an ultrasound screen and learned we were having twins, my husband’s oh-so-charming first words, with tears of joy in his eyes, were “you’re gonna get SO BIG.” He squeezed my hand supportively. I did not murder him because I was in too much shock.

Thus began a 9 month funhouse of physicality. There was never a moment in all that time that my body, my physical self, wasn’t somehow on my mind. I watched my belly and boobs expand, smeared my stretching, itchy skin with lotion, and wondered if I’d get stretch marks. I saw my belly button pop out, never to go back to its innie state. I felt surges of hormones and nausea. In my sleep, I snored like a chainsaw and drooled like a fountain. I discovered that restless leg syndrome wasn’t invented by a drug company but is in fact a very real thing that makes you contemplate DIY-amputation in the middle of the night just to get some relief and rest. I felt my sciatic nerve like never before. I had some of the best hair days of my life. I discovered two babies is enough to make a uterus officially, diagnostically “irritable.” I was constantly aware of the fullness of my bladder and its relationship to my insatiable thirst. I discovered that literally everything caused heartburn.

Strangers noticed my physicality, too, and decided I was an object fit for comment. By mid-pregnancy, everywhere I went, people looked at me like a baby might just FALL OUT at any moment. Sometimes they stopped in their tracks and just said “WHOA” as I waddled by.

But this experience, as mortal as it made me feel, was also deeply liberating. I was both bound by my oh-so-human frame and completely freed from many of my previous hangups. I focused on my diet more than ever before, not in an effort to lose weight, but because I was worried about preterm labor and wanted to grow my twins as big as I could before they would arrive, however soon that might be. I largely relinquished control over my looks and just reveled in my midsection’s seemingly unstoppable growth. I actively tried to gain a pound a week, which felt downright radical in a culture that seems to think women should constantly and forever be working to lose weight.

And then when my babies did come, I was far too busy and too tired to give a flying fig about “losing the baby weight” or “getting my body back.” Thank God.

All of which to say, screw the idea that “pregnancy abs” are something any gestating human should be worrying about. There is now literally no point in a woman’s life where she’s given a break from cultural expectations about her appearance. I went from “too tiny to be having twins” to “so big I must be about to deliver any minute” without a single “acceptable” moment in between. But most of the time, I didn’t even care, because I was enjoying a hiatus from listening to or caring about those voices. I got to experience my body as a body, just doing its bodily thing in a way that was life-changing. I am now more in touch with my physical self, and more admiring of its ability to do what it has to do to keep me and others alive and growing, and I feel downright ragey at the idea that any other woman needs to spend a single precious second of her pregnancy (or any of the rest of her life) worrying about her ABS.

If you’re one of those women who can run races while massively pregnant because that is what you love to do and it makes you feel good in your body? More power to ya. If you’re like me and pregnancy is hugely exhausting and physically draining and just managing to walk feels like winning an Olympic gold medal? More power to you, too. Our bodies are unique, amazing, and OURS. How they should look isn’t anyone else’s business.

I’m spreading the gospel of the comfy waistband

You may have noticed that I don’t really do product reviews around here. I appreciate reading reviews elsewhere, but I’ve never been pitched a review that didn’t feel like it would be totally awkward for me/this space/people who read this site. However, I do from time to time get evangelical about things I’ve bought that I love (does anyone else fondly remember Mindy Kaling’s shopping blog, “Things I’ve Bought That I Love?”), like my IUD, and now, my life-changing jeggings. Yep, hold onto your lusty hats, this is a review about jeggings.

Photo on 3-2-15 at 1.17 PM

First, some backstory. As you may know, I birthed twins who weighed in at 6 lbs each. My pregnant belly was insane. At one point during my pregnancy, I felt a distinct sensation like burning fire down the middle of my stomach. It was my abs ripping apart. And they never fully went back together. This means that I’ve had to come to accept a very new midsection than the one I had before babies, and in this new world, most pants are really uncomfortable to me. To get super graphic, usually the button tries to find its way into the dent in my stomach where my abs used to come together. It’s INSANELY uncomfortable, like the buttons want to find their way inside my body, through the thinnest and most sensitive point. Sometimes I solve this problem with higher waisted pants that hit me above the separation. Other times, I stick to elastic waistbands.

Photo on 3-2-15 at 1.17 PM #2

But still, I miss wearing jeans. I like the way they look, if not the way their waistbands make me feel. I would often wish I had kept some of my maternity jeggings, which looked like real jeans, except for their soft pull-on waistband, and even contemplated buying myself some maternity pants, though that felt like admitting some sort of defeat. Then, in the comments section of a Jezebel piece, I discovered that Levis does in fact make non-maternity pull-on jeggings. Since they’re $40 and ship free on Zappos, I ordered two pairs and hope hope hoped they’d be everything I was dreaming of. Yes, I dream about pants, don’t you?

Photo on 3-2-15 at 1.15 PM #4

Y’all. These pants are in fact everything I was dreaming of. They look exactly like my favorite “real” jeans (Levis Mid-Rise Skinny Jeans), except that they have a stretchy waistband. I will be honest and say that getting them on and off isn’t exactly sexy or graceful, as they don’t have belt loops and it’s kind of a matter of wiggling as I pull them up and over my hips. But once they’re on, they feel exactly like yoga pants but look exactly like jeans. I walked out after I tried them on and my husband said, “Wow, it’s been a long time since I saw you wearing jeans. They look great!”

Photo on 3-2-15 at 1.14 PM #2

Photo on 3-2-15 at 1.14 PM #3

Now, I admit, the waistband is obviously not “real,” but as exposing my midriff in public is something that I only do in bad dreams, all of my tops are long enough that no one will ever know. If anything, the lack of a button makes for a smoother line under my hip-length tops anyway. A note on sizing: I was tempted to size up, but ordered the same size I wear in my regular Levis and other pants from Gap and Old Navy, and I would say that these fit true to size. I’m beyond a happy customer and love them so much, I’m irrationally considering ordering several more pairs just in case there’s an apocalypse and they disappear from the shelves tomorrow (note to my husband, I’m not actually doing that…yet).

Photo on 3-2-15 at 1.15 PM #5

Bottom line: if you’re a lady who finds the waistbands of most pants uncomfortable, you should try these. I’ve already convinced several friends to order a pair, and am now on a one-woman mission to save the women of the world from uncomfortable waistbands.

Hi. I'm the crazy person who just used PhotoBooth to take pictures of my jeggings. I feel kind of insane. I would be the world's worst fashion blogger.

Hi. I’m the crazy person who just used PhotoBooth to take pictures of my jeggings. I feel kind of insane. I would be the world’s worst fashion blogger.

Note: this is not sponsored. I bought my life-changing jeggings with my own money. If you’re from Levis and you want to send me 10 more pairs, I certainly would not object, though.

naming and claiming…yourself

 

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Me in my original Ernie Bufflo days.

 

My name is Sarah. Except it wasn’t always.

I was born Sara. For a while, as a young kid, I insisted my name was Ernie Bufflo, which is why this blog has such a funny name, and why encounters with people who previously only knew me online are always a little awkward, as people are obviously hesitant to ask a total stranger, “Are you Ernie Bufflo?” in case they’re actually wrong and the other person has no idea what they’re talking about. Then, sometime in Sunday School, I became aware that the Sarah in the Bible story actually has an “h,” and I became convinced my parents spelled my name “wrong.” I felt about Sara the way Anne Shirley felt about Ann:

“Oh, I’m not ashamed of it,” explained Anne, “only I like Cordelia better. I’ve always imagined that my name was Cordelia—at least, I always have of late years. When I was young I used to imagine it was Geraldine, but I like Cordelia better now. But if you call me Anne please call me Anne spelled with an E.”

“What difference does it make how it’s spelled?” asked Marilla with another rusty smile as she picked up the teapot.

“Oh, it makes SUCH a difference. It LOOKS so much nicer. When you hear a name pronounced can’t you always see it in your mind, just as if it was printed out? I can; and A-n-n looks dreadful, but A-n-n-e looks so much more distinguished. If you’ll only call me Anne spelled with an E, I shall try to reconcile myself to not being called Cordelia.

For years, I managed to pass as a Sarah-with-an-h. I possibly even lied a little in order for my drivers’ license to say “Sarah.” My diplomas all said “Sarah.” I was Sarah, not Sara. I figured I’d make it officially official when I got married, but then I discovered that the Social Security office only changes last and middle names, not first names. I thought I’d have to go through the courts, but then I discovered that for a simple spelling change, all I needed to do was request an amended birth certificate from the Department of Vital Records and pay a $15 filing fee. I got myself a new birth certificate, and while I now probably have an identity document trail too sketchy to run for president, I’m officially Sarah Sweatt Orsborn.

Needless to say, I think it’s important and powerful to be able to name and claim yourself and your identity.

Fast forward several years, and now my little Etta has started making it clear that she wants to be known by both her first and middle names. While my non-Southerner husband wasn’t too keen on the idea of a double name, it seems our girl has other ideas. We’ve always called her Etta, but she proudly introduces herself “NAME ETTA JANE!” Claire calls her Etta Jane, too. As far as I can tell, she figured Claire Bear has two names, so Etta Jane should as well. And who am I to deny my girl the naming rights I so proudly claimed for myself? If she wants to be known as Etta Jane, then I’m going to have to train myself to call her that.

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Name Etta Jane.

 

 

I eat local. I also eat at Chick-Fil-A.

Hanging out at the play place with friends.

Hanging out at the play place with friends.

As has been the case for the past couple of years, the sales numbers for Little Rock-area restaurants have been released, and the local Chick-Fil-A franchises are in the top. This has our local alt-weekly foaming at the mouth pitting people who eat local against those who eat at Chick-Fil-A.

For one thing, as I learned when trying to decide if I, a huge supporter of marriage equality and gay rights, should boycott CFA, our CFAs are locally owned franchises. I don’t personally know the owners, but friends who do have told me that they are not homophobic and do not support anti-equality causes. In fact, they have supported friends’ ministries, like Young Life.

Still, I get the urge to shop local and eat local. I’m a largely vegetarian, farmer’s market shopping foodie. When we go out to eat, our favorites are local places like The Root, South on Main, Bruno’s, Big Orange, Local Lime, The Fold, La Hacienda, and Damgoode Pies. I haven’t eaten at a chain like an Applebee’s or Chili’s or Olive Garden in YEARS. I think eating locally grown, locally made food from locally owned places is absolutely the ideal.

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Farmer’s market babies with their local produce.

But as a mom with young kids? I also eat at Chick-Fil-A. Not because my kids only eat nuggets. Nope. I’m raising baby foodies who eat whatever we eat, every single meal. But because there is just no locally-owned equivalent to my usual CFA experience: going at breakfast time, sipping coffee with my mom friends and getting to socialize, while our kids play on a safe, clean, indoor playground. Plus, our local CFA’s always have more than enough high chairs, changing tables in both the men’s and women’s bathrooms, free placemats, and a really excellent staff that usually helps me to my table with my food and highchair and kid. They have never ever ever looked askance at me and my mom posse dragging along a pack of short people.

In my wildest fantasies, there would be an indoor play place at someplace like Mylo Coffee, and I could eat delicious pastries while chatting with my mama friends and watching my kids play, and not a single hipster with a Macbook Air would give me a dirty look over my kids harshing their quiet coffee shop mellow.

But that doesn’t exist. So I’ll keep taking my kids out to eat hyper-local food for dinner, but I’m also not giving up my occasional mornings at CFA, either.

exercise: my heart was never in it

I did a color run, once. I mostly walked.

I did a color run, once. I mostly walked.

All my life, people have looked at my long legs and asked me if I’m a runner. While I have an uncle who’s an ultramarathoner, I have never, ever liked running or really exercise of any sort. For most of my life, I thought this was because I’m just wimpy, lazy somehow. I could never complete the entire President’s Physical Fitness Test mile without a large bit of walking. Pretty much all physical activities left me easily tired and winded, so I never really played sports or learned coordination or balance. I can’t really stand on one foot. I am MASSIVELY clumsy.

Three years ago, I learned the real story behind my fainting Victorian lady’s constitution: I have a heart defect. Exercise has always left me winded and fatigued because my heart was already working as heard as it possibly could just keeping me alive. Asking it to go above and beyond was just not gonna fly. Finally, just the stress of keeping me and two other people alive sent my heart into actual failure.

Now my heart is able to function in a normal range because I take some pretty serious medications. But I still feel weird when I exercise (or visit a high altitude locale) because my medicines keep my heart rate very controlled– for most folks the goal of exercise is to get your heart rate up, but mine’s not really going to go up, no matter what I do. Even when I stood on a stage and talked about the scariest thing that ever happened to me, I worked up a good sweat but my heart didn’t beat a bit faster. Instead, when my heart rate should be climbing, I feel like I always have: easily winded and overtired.

Still, I know that if I want my heart to be healthy in the future, I’m going to have to figure out how to exercise. I don’t want to, because I, shockingly, don’t like doing things I suck at. I don’t enjoy being the flailing person at a gym. I project all sorts of thoughts into other people’s heads about how insane I look and how pathetic I am getting winded just barely jogging. Not to mention, finding time to exercise when you have twin toddlers is tough.

But after reading this awesome post from a fat woman who designed a successful fitness app, I’m feeling inspired to try to do SOMETHING more than I do now:

For the vast majority of people, competition in exercise is not fun. It’s no fun to compete if you know you can never win. It’s no fun to be on a team if you know you’re bound to let everyone else down with your performance. The rhetoric of ‘more, better, harder, feel the burn’ doesn’t work for who those of us just want to use our bodies and enjoy being in them.

I remember really liking yoga for a while there. I think that’s something I might be able to achieve via videos during a couple nap times per week, but I can’t give up all my nap times, because those are also usually my writing times. I also don’t mind walking, and think maybe I could make that happen a couple of times per week too. I’m not likely to take up running or anything else hardcore, but I can move more so that I can take care of my heart and feel more connected to my body, to enjoy being in it.

In the meantime, if you see me struggling up a hill in the neighborhood know that my heart is trying really hard to be in it.