Category Archives: CT Exploration

Breastfeeding in Public

My Che is now 9 months old. At this point, we are planning on putting all of our eggs in one basket (oo pressure, kid) — so I have this knowledge and experience that I can at least share. I hope if you are looking for some advice on breastfeeding in public that you find this post helpful.

When I began nursing my newborn, I was a bit hesitant about how and where to nurse. I knew one thing for sure — I did not want to be “banished” from a room. I didn’t want to have to go hide myself at holidays or when we had visitors, as we so often did in the beginning. I’m social. I like to chat it up. I also know that I would have a hard time merely staying at home all day. I needed to get out of the house. This, of course, involved feeding Che on the go.

At the time, I did search on the internet for good places to breastfeed. I quickly learned that this is still word of mouth type information, one can only assume because of the taboo around it.

So how did I maneuver in this new territory? When it came to guests at our house or visiting others, I would usually ask, “Do you mind if I nurse.” I think that is actually particularly generous and considerate on my part, because the reality is my kid had to eat whether anyone else liked it or not. Only once did I have a really awkward situation where I was banished to a room — a room with children in it. But in such situations, if I was not “welcome” to nurse where I was, then I’d ask my husband or someone to hang out with me. There were a few instances when I nursed privately when around older, more traditional folks, but even that was pretty rare. I do recommend asking a buddy to hang with you. I found that the overwhelming majority of people were completely fine with me breastfeeding. Even in the instances of being “banished,” several people seemed to want to accompany me into my banishment.

The next road to navigate: where to breastfeed in public. I think I feared more people not being okay with it. Luckily, I have not yet encountered any kind of rude looks or stares. Frankly, I sometimes wonder if many people even notice when I breastfeed. They don’t.

Initially, I looked for nursing-friendly places. I live in West Hartford, CT — so here is a run-down of some of the good local places as well as generic places. It was fall/winter when my son and I were out and he nursed often, so we went to the West Farms Mall. A lot. The bathroom off of the men’s department in Nordstrom has a separate nursing room, which is quite nice, though I preferred the main lounge in the bathroom because it has comfy couches. Nordstrom even has free wifi, though it is a bit slow.

The family bathroom in the middle of the mall downstairs is also a great place to nurse. It’s definitely not as comfy as Nordstrom, but it works.

In West Hartford Center, I found Reuben’s Deli to be particularly friendly — not just to breastfeeding, but to babies in general. The Noah Webster Library (main branch in WeHa Center) is also breastfeeding friendly. I nursed there once in a pinch — early on when I was more nervous about it. I went into the stacks and quietly nursed. Once I asked if there was anywhere I could nurse in the library, a librarian told me — you can nurse anywhere in the library. If you want privacy, you can use the parent conference room, which is in the children’s department. Let me also make a plug for the awesome facilities at the children’s room in the library!

Another great thing is if you ask, I found places were often very willing to accommodate. As my husband and I tried to open a bank account for Che, I asked if they minded if I nursed as we waited, and an officer opened a meeting room for me. Asking opens doors, literally.

It wasn’t long before I got over my nervousness about breastfeeding in public. I had a nursing cover, but it was a pain in the ass to use. I quickly gave that up. Then my favorite places to nurse where usually coffee joints or some kind of restaurant. I have nursed in many Starbucks and the like. If we went out for breakfast, lunch, or dinner — nursing was usually part of the event.

I traveled with my baby — with my husband and alone. I’ve nursed in rest areas. It was actually in New Jersey at a rest area where I realized that I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone breastfeeding in public. Then I further realized, I don’t think most people are even remotely aware that I am breastfeeding when I am. I think I just missed it when others have nursed in public. So if you are feeling nervous about it, think of that reality check.

Obviously nursing at playgroups, doctors’ offices, baby stores, La Leche meetings, etc are all welcomed and encouraged.

Once my son hit about 6 or 7 months, my public breastfeeding habits changed a bit. I still do it, but less frequently — partly because he is also eating solids, but partly because he is more aware of the world now and gets very distracted. Even so, I feed my kid on the run frequently, and it is perfectly fine.

The bottom line is that you need to feed your kid. In most states, you are protected by the law. And the vast majority of the time no one cares — or notices.

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Tea Roses Tea Room

I just had tea at Tea Roses Tea Room in Cromwell, CT, and it was lovely. I think the little guy inside me liked it, too, because he’s currently doing somersaults!

It’s a charming place — lovely place settings, great china, fun variety of teacups. The food was fabulous. It started with delicious heart-shaped scones with cream, lemon curd, and jam — SO GOOD! Then they had tea sandwiches — cucumber, turkey salad, brown bread with fig spread, and humous and red pepper wraps — all in delicate tea sandwich form. Then dessert was wonderful — poundcake dipped in ganache, lemon tarts, cheesecake, and shortbread cookies with jam.

The tea we were served was the house blend, and it was excellent. I highly recommend this place. The proprietor and hostess, Peggy, was extraordinarily welcoming and explained everything. We had a really lovely time.

Beauty in the ‘Burbs

I don’t have pictures, but I wanted to post that since we are staying, CT has been more beautiful than ever. As I walked to work on Thursday, it was one of the most beautiful mornings I can remember. All of the grass was encased in layers of frost — not quite ice, but a thin, stiffening glaze over individual blades of green. The sun shone brightly, refracting off of each grass leaf.

When I first came out of the house, I thought is was particularly pronounced on our lawn because we hadn’t cut it, but that wasn’t the case. Each subsequent lawn was expertly outlined in this frosting. As I approached school, I could see each individual blade of grass on the fields. I went into my office for a bit but came outside again soon to run some errands in other buildings on campus. It was a cold morning, yet not painfully cold. But even these twenty minutes later, it was up a few degrees. The rays of the sun began to warm the encrusted grass, and in the otherwise silent school landscape — kids taking exams — it crackled as it warmed. Because of the silence, this array of pops and cracks filled the campus.

I thought about what this may have sounded like before the ‘burbs had arisen, when humans may have lived in simpler ways. It made me miss living at Bennington, living in a rural area. It made me appreciate the beauty that surrounds me, both on these rare occasions and every day.

It’s Official — We’re Staying!!!

So I haven’t wanted to write about this publicly until now. Sujal lost his job at Fanzter in November, which is a pretty scary thing considering he is definitely the breadwinner of our family. He interviewed with Newsweek in New York City, where he would have had a very attractive position working on their website. We went to NYC several times, but I just really did not want to move. I’m not much of a city gal — I really value space and quiet, to items that are at a premium in NYC and its environs. So to make a long story short, he turned down the position.

He was also interviewing at ESPN, and I am thrilled to say that he will be starting back at ESPN in January! Woo-hoo! While I have always maintained that I don’t love Connecticut, apparently, I do! Truth be told, I prefer small towns, but over NYC, I apparently love the suburbs. I love suburban Connecticut. There I set it. I truly am The Connecticutian. I love our house. I love our life. Could there, be improvements — of course, but things are pretty damn great. I’m also very happy at my school. It’s tough to begin at a new school. It’s like being a first year teacher all over again, and I like what I have established at my school.

The bottom line is, Connecticut, you can’t get rid of us! I am the Connecticutian: Hear me bore — I mean roar!

On a side note, Sujal found this great song by Jesus H Christ & The 4 Hornsmen of the Apocalypse.

Bingo!

Last night Rita and I went to play Bingo at The Beth David Synagogue in West Hartford. I had not been to a Bingo game since I was a child and my grandmother took a bunch of us to church bingo. I remember how intense the games were, and I always wanted a bingo inker. Well all of those dreams came true last night!

So, yes, Rita and I were considerably younger than the vast majority in attendance, though we were of the majority gender. When we made the plan to go, Rita asked me if I thought it would be really smoky, and I figured in our ever-increasingly smoke-free age that there would be no smoking. Alas, I was wrong, which was the major drawback to the event. But it was a riot! People are very serious about their game. We got a lot of bingo cards, and it was hard to keep up with the calling at first. Most people had at least double the cards we did. They had these systems of taping their cards together and this trash bag system. I tell ya, it is a whole subculture. And there are all of these crazy games that are pretty confusing — different configurations on the bingo card. But Rita and I, armed with our one inker each, stuck the evening out with great bravery! Even though husbands and friends derided us, we enjoyed the evening with the old ladies. We were also shocked at how many inkers each person had. Some people would line up ten bottles of ink. We could not figure out why the heck anyone would need that many bottles. It’s not like one would run out.

For those of you with your need to fulfill your bingo fix, here’s a helpful link of bingo halls in Connecticut and a national listing. Perhaps Rita and I will see you at the next game — hopefully a smoke-free game. I turn 35 on Saturday, so perhaps this is a stepping stone to middle age.

School’s Out!

Summer vacation has been lovely so far. While I’ve been doing a few things for school and prepping for tutoring, I’ve been enjoying my less structured time. I have a bunch of projects I’m working on — but getting out and about is at the top of my list — camping, hiking, socializing. I’ve been going to the West Hartford farmer’s market, and I’d like to check out some others. Last week I did the Heublein Tower Trail. I hope to do some more fun adventures.

Early this week, I had jury duty. It was pretty interesting to be in a bona fide court room. I’m not serving, but it was a pretty interesting experience nonetheless. I did get to read some of Jhumpa Lahiri’s new book while I was there. So far, I really like it. It feels a little different from her previous work, perhaps a bit more emotionally ambiguous.

Anyway — it’s good to have some unstructured time. I’ve even been cooking. Last week I made dosa. I can’t say I’m a particularly skilled dosa chef. Actually, my dosa kind of suck, but they get better as I make them. Then I made saag paneer, which actually turned out pretty good.

Pequot Museum & the Hill-Stead Museum

A friend and I visited the Pequot Museum in Mashantucket, CT today. I’d been wanting to go to this museum since I moved here, but things just kept getting in the way.

Overall, it was a pretty cool museum — one that spared no expense. It’s nice place. My friend and I were particularly intrigued by the supercool looking firehouse on the reservation — very cool architecture. We both agreed that this was the hippest fire station either of us had ever seen. And I’ve been to wedding receptions at fire stations.The museum had a lot of diorama-type displays — the “ancient peoples” displays of history museums. Those kids of exhibits always make me think of this passage in The Catcher in the Rye where Holden is in the Museum of Natural History in NYC by the Park, and he describes the diorama exhibits and mentions how he feels comforted by them because they never change, that no mater when he visits, that eskimo will always just have caught a fish, and that deer-skinned clothed woman will always be starting a fire. Not that there’s any correlation between the two, other than the fact that those kinds of exhibits make me think of the novel.

While I did really like the museum, I wasn’t blown away by it like I was the National Civil Rights Museum, which I visited last year when I was in Memphis. I highly recommend that one.

Last week we went to the Hill-Stead Museum, which I also had been wanting to see for awhile. It was an enjoyable tour — and I really like having a tour guide. But I also thought the museum was a little stodgy. Okay — I do love china, especially antique china (it’s my one anglo-phile weakness) (okay — Jane Austen, too) (Who am I kinding — there’s lots more English “stuff” I like — but not colonialism!). But the museum is a little self-important in terms of commemorating Theodate Pope and her wealthy, art-collecting father, Alfred. And when we asked questions of our tour guide, she did not seem to like that our interests went beyond the realms of the immaculate life of Theodate Pope, whose name incidentally means “gift of God,” a name she took on. I’m going to start calling myself Gift of God and see how people react.

Don’t get me wrong, the Hill-Stead museum and grounds seem to do a lot of great things, like the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, and I did enjoy the museum. At one point we saw these two little paintings — clearly Indian in origin, and I think they may have been mughal miniatures — a fascination of Bharati Mukherjee. In an interview called “Holders of the Word”, she describes the way these paintings influence her writing. When I asked the guide about these two works, she consulted the “room guides” to all the pieces of artwork, and those were not listed. While there were two or three Japanese woodcut prints in the house, the fact that there was no listing for these obviously eastern pieces made me think that this house had a particularly Eurocentric point of view. And that irked me a little. I suppose it has every right to be Eurocentric, but again, it seemed a little like the wealthy class patting itself on the back for being so wealthy. I was particularly interested in the library which had a large collection of old books. I searched titles that the family owned — and I saw noting that seemed “against the grain” in any way. The guide was trying to portray Theodate (and she continually referred to her as Theodate) as this very progressive woman, simply because she became an architect at the turn of the 20th century. She opposed a woman’s right to vote — how progressive could she be. So she was wealthy enough to pursue her own goals… Grr.

Clearly I felt some classism that drove me a little nuts.Nonetheless, I plan on going to see Billy Collins this summer. So there.

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Another Shout-Out

I could not forget you, Banshee Buddy! I actually broke out the banshee today — had to shovel some snow. Hope your winter break is great.

Reaching for the Brass Ring

As I previously mentioned, my mother vsited for about a week. Among the many planned activities, I slipped in a visit to The Carousel at Bushnell Park in Hartford. She’d been wanting to see the Capitol building, and the park is right there.

It also happened to be the carousel’s 92nd birthday, so they had a mini-celebration by giving free rides. As the music started on the band organ, and I know this is crazy, I almost teared up. Here is a good site that has samples from the Wurlitzer 153 band organ that is part of the Hartford carousel. The tinny sounding music has an out of tune, eerie feel, and yet it easily summoned up nostalgia for me — like a cheap shot in a Lifetime, Television for Women movie. I also wish I had a picture of the Wuritzer that plays the music, but this will have to suffice. It’s a pretty amazing series of instruments — lots of pipes, drums, etc. I wish I could bring it to you, so you could hear the dissonant pinging, the low strikes on the drums, the slight whistles — it’s a mix of strange nostalgia and something stale that one does not quite understand how it has survived this long. And to see the instrument, it’s antiquey-looking — but intricate and beautiful as well.

As I mentioned before, it was the carousel’s birthday, and so they also had free cake for everyone. I, of course, can never pass up cake, so I waited in line for this yummy cake with the other Hartfordians — kids and adults. There were also quite a number of what seemed to be homeless people in line. Of course this makes sense, but there was a weird, multi-layered irony to it. It had a ring of Marie Antoinette’s alleged words, “Let them eat cake.” My friend Lara has more recently jokingly accused me of taking cake out of the mouths of the homeless. How is it that people come to be humiliated to the point where they stand in line for free cake because it is food? Let me add to this, and bear with me as I make my second point about the irony.

When we were on the carousel, I looked up for the brass rings — or the gold rings, as Holden Caulfield calls them — and I saw no brass rings. One hears about reaching for the brass ring on a carousel. Metaphorically, of course, it is meant to convey the idea of striving for something that seems just out of reach. It even has a sort of capitalist feel to it — that if you work really hard, strive to succeed, yes, you too can become rich, or in this case, grab the brass ring. I see this as the big lie of capitalism, because that belief system is not true. Timing, privilege, and access have a lot to do with whether or no one will succeed. Yes, hard work helps pave that way, but it is wrong to say that alone will bring success in the capitalist society in large part because a capitalist society relies on a large working class — a hard-working class. Keep ’em wanting more, and you’ll get more out of ’em. So here the carousel stands, the brass ring metaphor hanging in the air, and those who obviously have not benefitted from capitalism are waiting in line for cake.

On another note regarding the brass ring and Catcher in the Rye, I looked for the literal ring and didn’t see any. I have always been a bit confused about it and could never quite picture it. I know that expression comes from carousels, but I still can’t visualize it. Anyway, here’s an explanation of the term brass ring.

Finally, to round out our carousel experience, my mother and I spent two days in New York city. We strolled through Central Park, looking for The Central Park Carousel. Our rides on this carousel were $1.50 each, not a bad price for a lovely ride. The one had a Wurlitzer 150, and frankly it did not sound as out of tune. I think this one might have been a bit faster than the one in Hartford, but the one in Hartford had real horse hair tails.

Don’t worry. I don’t think I’ll become a carousel guru (or freak), but it was interesting to ride these two carousels. If you are around either of them, check them out.

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Voting — Democracy in Action in West Hartford

Yesterday the citizens of West Hartford voted on accepting the proposed budget, and they voted a resounding, “No.”

I have not yet read any reaction to last night’s election, but I wanted to share my immediate thoughts.  They may change as I later reflect (I’m a commit-ophobe), but right now I am pretty pleased with the fact that I live in a place that has referendums decent voter turnout in the middle of June.  I guess when you come down to it, almost 30% isn’t great voter turnout, but considering what turnouts are often like, it’s not too bad. I cannot say I am pleased with the outcome of the vote, as I believe the West Hartford Taxpayers Association has been less than up front — though more importantly — they have vilified teachers and unions, as well as anyone who opposes them.  I am happy, however, that the town of West Hartford had the opportunity to raise a voice. While I may not always be completely caught up on what is happening in my town, (my country, or my world, for that matter) I believe it is important to read up and know what you are voting for or against.  I’d like to think that many people who voted no were wooed by the idea of lower taxes — a skewing of the actual WHTA’s issue with the budget.  I’d like to think that — not because I want us to all be blind voters, but because I do not want to believe that people can think so harshly of teachers, unions, and education.   Of course I don’t want to believe that people vote without a good understanding of an issue, but for some reason it seems worse to believe that citizens think teachers are greedy and self-serving.

The West hartford Blog has provided an invaluable place to discuss the issue, though I wish there had been a public debate forum.

All in all, while I may not agree with the outcome, I am glad that we had the election.  I’m getting satisfaction out of being linked in to local politics — having a firm understanding of what is going on in my town.  West Hartford does have a lot of great services, and I hope that those services don’t get cut. 

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