Mother

Summer Bucket List: Staying on track and soaking up summer

It’s nearly July.

That means my kids have been out of school for several weeks now and we are dashing our way toward the first day of school. And I hate it.

I love summer and the freedom to do things with my kids whenever we can. We don’t have to worry about homework or be strict about bedtimes. The sun stays out later and so do we. Adventures call and we answer.

Last summer, I instituted Free Field Trip Tuesday. I was off of work on Tuesdays so we would find something free to do. We did lots of neat stuff, but there were so many little things that we wanted to do, but didn’t. This year, I caved the the Pinterest Pressure and made a formal Summer Bucket List.

Our summer bucket list is supposed to keep us on track. We don’t want to regret the time we had together this summer.

We’ve already done so many things on this list, and the kids have already added to it.

I printed it out on 11×17 inch paper and hung it on the fridge. On days when we are together, we can pick an item and do it. Most of them are free. Some require a bit of preparation on my part, but they each give us something to do and prevent us from the same-old, same-old. Some of these really get us to try something new. I’ve never made a pinata or I’m excited for that one!

The girls and I can easily fall into a rut. The days I’m home with them, I want to clean up the house, finish the laundry and tackle the bigger projects so that when my husband is home, we can enjoy family time. However, that means they just bounce on the trampoline, swing on the swing set, ride their bikes and play their Kindles. That can get old. I knew we needed direction, for all of our sakes. Enter the bucket list.

I found some ideas on Pinterest and combined them into a list that was not only interesting to us, but do-able. There is nothing like creating a bucket list with items that we’ll never do because they are so outlandish or because they are too expensive.

There were a few that didn’t make the cut. Two of us wanted to make a lip sync video like we see on YouTube, two of us didn’t. If not everyone was on board, it was going to make it tough so we took it off the list.

They are so excited and itching to scratch items off the list. The rules are simple.

  1. We have to do them together.
  2. We can’t rush them. They have to be meaningful experiences.

I had a summer bucket list for myself, but I can easily see that’s not going to happen. It was two items: Clean the garage and do yoga in the morning.

  1. Most of the stuff in the garage belongs to my husband and I just really don’t want to clean it up.
  2. I am not a morning person.

In short, I gave up before I started. But trust me, my summer is going to be full.  So tune in, put on your sunscreen and let’s see what this summer brings!

While the kids are away at grandma’s house…

I'm so excited to see my kids leave to go visit their grandma, but I'm immediately filled with worry. I'm sure it never stops.
I’m so excited to see my kids leave to go visit their grandma, but I’m immediately filled with worry. I’m sure it never stops.

I’m sitting here counting the seconds until we leave to drop our kids off at my mother-in-law’s house for four glorious days. Days where not one will call me mom, or ask me to wipe their butts. Four days when I can eat dinner without having to get spoons (for eating steak nonetheless) or refilling milk cups. Three nights of no one waking me up from nightmares or  having to change diapers.

That is, until we drop them off.

Then it will become four days of worrying if they are too much for my mother-in-law. While they kids are away, it will be four days of worrying about them getting hurt, having bad dreams or missing me. Four days of praying they are safe and healthy.

This trip is optional and also a good thing. The summer has been long and they need a change of scenery. My mother-in-law is more than capable and they love spending time with her. I have to work so it’s not like I would be spending my time doting on them. They’d just be with a sitter or their other grandma.

Not to mention it gives me a chance to clean their closets, do some laundry and just recharge for a few days. I’ve got a list of things to tackle. I’m sure I’ll do way too much, but I’ve also built in time for being lazy, doing crossword puzzles and watching the Olympics.

Side note: As I typed that last sentence, I felt so old. But in the interest of transparency, I left it.

By the first morning, I will miss their sleepy smiles. I will miss my oldest’s enthusiasm for the day. I will miss my middle’s creative outfit choices. I will miss my youngest’s chubby cheeks. I will miss their conversation, their help and their need for me. I will miss their need for, you know, meals. I will wish they were here to color with me, swim in our pool or jump on our trampoline with me. I will miss them when it’s time to feed the dogs–something they usually do. I will never miss their constant need for me to “watch this real quick.”

Those are the very things that require me to take a break from time-to-time. They are the very things that make me exhausted and frustrated and overwhelmed. The very things that make me question my ability to be a good mom.

When they return, it will take me all of 10 minutes to feel exhausted again. I will immediately feel overwhelmed. But the feeling of missing them will linger for a few days. I’ll hold them closer, listen to their stories and feel a sense of security that they are sleeping just down the hall. Even if it does mean that I’ll probably be up at some point tonight to calm a racing mind, change a diaper or refill a water cup.

Breastfeeding Series: Pumping Tips

The first time I opened up my breast pump, I couldn’t figure out where all the hoses went and how it was supposed to turn on and what in the world were those horn-looking things for? I was terrified of it. But with incredibly short maternity leaves, I needed to establish a hardy supply. By the time I finally retired my breast pump, I had figured out how to pump everywhere from my car while driving to the bathroom floor at a Detroit Lions football game. I had mastered it and now I’m going to share the wealth. Here are my pumping tips.

Storage

My stored milk was organized in 3, 4 and 5 oz bags, flattened and then organized by date in our deep freezer in the basement. At 11 months, I had more than a month's supply of milk and was able to stop pumping.
My stored milk was organized in 3, 4 and 5 oz bags, flattened and then organized by date in our deep freezer in the basement. At 11 months, I had more than a month’s supply of milk and was able to stop pumping.

My pumping routine fell in step with my nursing routine. For the first few days home, I’d pump for about 15 minutes after each feeding, but slowly cut my pumping sessions back to 2-3 times per day. I’d store the milk in a bottle in the fridge until I had 3, 4 or 5 oz. Then, I’d put them in a milk storage bag, stack them in my milk storage container to make them flat and then store them in the freezer.

Three ounces lasted until she was about 3 months old. Then I moved to 4 ounce bags and capped at 5 oz. My middle daughter never took more than three 5 oz bottles at day care and my last went through a phase of reverse cycling–which means she didn’t take a bottle at all at day care, but nursed all evening.

Once they were flat, I’d rake them out and store them in boxes in the basement freezer. Milk in a deep freezer can be stored for up to a year. This was never really an issue as I always did first in, first out.

To make things easier, I always kept the milk in the upstairs fridge until I had enough for 3, 4 or 5 oz pages. Almost every bag in this picture is 5 oz because I pumped them when my daughter was 4-6 months old.

Oh and one more tip for pumping at home. Keep the catch bottles and the horns in the fridge too and then I cleaned them once per day rather than every pumping session.

Pumping on the Go

I liked pumping in the car. With my first daughter, anytime I was the passenger to my husband, I would pump. Onec I got good at connecting everything, I began pumping as a driver. I’d pump on my way to work, meaning I had a solid few hours once I got there, and on my way home.

I figured there was no better time. I was just sitting there and I had the time, so why not?

So, how did this all work?

Well, I always wore a nursing tank under a shirt. I’d loosen my top shirt just enough to get the horns under it and then wedge them between my top shirt and my nursing tank. This sometimes meant I had to use the 8 oz bottles to catch the milk as I could prop them up on my thighs, but I could do it with the 4 oz-ers as well.

I’d plug the pump into the cigarette lighter and put it on the floor of the car. I could easily reach the dial to stop/start it if I needed to.

Once I had pumped for 15-20 minutes, I’d disconnect everything and leave the milk containers in the cup holders until I got where I was going. I’d use nursing pads to wipe up any drips, pull down my nursing tank, straighten my shirt and be on my way.

I pumped in a bunch of bathrooms between Detroit's airport and O'Hare in Chicago.
I pumped in a bunch of bathrooms between Detroit’s airport and O’Hare in Chicago.

I’d also pumped during a day-trip to Chicago. I pumped after I had gone through security but before I boarded. Then I pumped after the hour-long flight (give or take a bit for boarding, taxiing, etc.). My boss (oh, yeah, my male boss so that was fun) took the El into the city. Once we got to our destination, a hotel, I inquired about a place to pump. These amazing people gave me a hotel room to pump in. I could have kissed them. I did the same on the reverse trip. Pumping before we boarded and again when we landed. Apologizing to my boss for every 20 minute delay. He was a saint.

The only downfall to all of that pumping was that I couldn’t save it. I was taking Xanax to fly and that isn’t good for baby so I had to pump and dump. It was a sad, sad day to watch that milk go down the drain.

Pumping at Work

11874168263_2cc3b3e414_bThere are some companies that have rooms with comfy chairs and private fridges for nursing moms. I was not that lucky. At my first job, I had a private office and could pump behind a closed, locked door. At my second job, I first pumped in a storage room. We locked the door and the secretary kept watch to make sure no one came in. There was an adjacent bathroom, so that was convenient.

For my third baby, I pumped on the floor of an office bathroom. There were many, many odd moments doing that. It was the office of the school psychologist, who often had students. I had to knock and ask permission each time. Once a student came in while I was in there and my pump was making it’s whirring noise as she cried to the psychologist about some trouble she was having with classmates. There was also no electrical outlet, so I had to run my cord to the nearest outlet outside the bathroom, which meant I had about 2 feet of slack and was relegated to the floor. Ick.

I pumped every 2-3 hours depending on how much water I had, how much milk I pumped on the way to work and how full I was getting. You’ll know when it’s time. Even if you don’t think you need to pump, do it anyway, because like I said in the Developing a Good Breastfeeding Routine post, it’s all about supply and demand.

Don’t Count Every Ounce

Every day is different. Sometimes stressed, lack of water or exhaustion will bring down your supply. If you have an off day and only get 5 ounces when you typically get 8 while at work, don’t stress, it’ll only make it worse.

If your supply is off for a few days, consider adding in a pumping session or let baby nurse a little longer when you are at home. Supply and demand!

They Are More Afraid of it Than You Are

My husband got suite tickets to a Lions game while I was breastfeeding. We decided to go as a date night, with my pump as our third wheel. We ended up driving some friends to the game so pumping in the car was really not an option. That meant my pump was going in. I was so nervous and almost whispered it to the security woman. But then I realized it made her more uncomfortable than me. She had to open it and look in the bag and swabbed the residue to make sure it wasn’t an explosive.

Sadly, I was forced to pump on a bathroom floor, but I survived.

Pumping conditions are often less than ideal. Pumping itself is no fun. But it’s necessary for maintaining your supply and also feeding your child. Find what works for you, but hopefully my pumping tips give you somewhere to start!

Read more of my breastfeeding series:

Breastfeeding Series: Nursing is hard, here’s my story
Breastfeeding Series: DIY Nursing Cover
Breastfeeding Series: Clothes for Bresatfeeding
Breastfeeding Series: Developing a Good Breastfeeding Routine

Breastfeeding Series: Developing a good breastfeeding routine

Breastfeeding is all about supply and demand. So getting into a good routine is important to establishing and maintaining a healthy supply.

The hospital set to work at getting me into a breastfeeding routine from the first morning. I pumped in the hospital with all three of my kids. For my last baby, breastfeeding was hard. Because she was early and wouldn’t latch or nurse without getting too sleepy, I had to pump until she could get things sorted out.

The nurse had me pump every two hours. This was tricky without a double pump, but it was managable. I continued the routine until my baby got into a routine.

For my sanity, I scaled back with pumping, but only slightly. I was going back to work and knew I needed to start establishing a supply early. It depletes quickly!

My newborn nursing tips

  • Nurse every 45 minutes to 2 hours. (No, I’m not joking)
  • Baby can have one long session for sleep. Don’t go more than 4 hours without nursing in the early days. The milk is important to help flush out the body and keep baby from getting jaundice.
  • I’m had sleepy/jaundice/premie babies who needed to be roused to eat. I always started with a diaper change. If that didn’t wake her up, I strip her down to a diaper and pinch lightly at her cheeks and legs and rub her head. If that still didn’t wake her up, I went to the wet rag method. Sadly, I’ve had to do this more times than I wanted. Just know, they aren’t scarred for life.
  • Pump 2-3 times per day, with the most important pumping session happening right after her first morning feed.
  • It’s okay to tell guests it’s time to nurse. Everyone wants to meet the baby in those early days, but it’s okay to tell them baby needs to eat. If you aren’t comfortable nursing with a cover in front of people, find a quiet room and take your time. Nursing the baby is the most important task you have right now.
  • Ask for help. With our first, I had a hard time getting a good latch so my husband would actually hold up the cover and help me line up the baby’s head for a proper latch. Then he’d place the cover over both of us. His help made me feel more confident.
My nurse put me on a strict pumping schedule, but only have me a single pump. Ugh. The good news is that we went home with milk we stored in the fridge at the hospital.
My nurse put me on a strict pumping schedule, but only have me a single pump. Ugh. The good news is that we went home with milk we stored in the fridge at the hospital.

There is nothing routine in the early days. Sometimes you are up every hour and sometimes you get a few long stretches. You will be tired and sore and ready to give up. That is when you call a friend, your mom, or someone outside of the situation and vent, ask advice or just cry. It’s okay and it’s totally normal.

So, how did I stay up in the middle of the night when I was super tired?

I read. In fact, I was so engrossed in The Time Traveler’s Wife with my second baby, that I was actually excited to get up some of the times. But just some.
I watched Netflix on my phone.
I texted friends.
I ate something.
I watched TV.
If all else failed, I turned on the lights and talked to the baby…not for her, but for me.

I’ve accidentally fallen asleep, but I was sitting in a chair so I always woke up when my head nodded or my phone fell out of my hand. I didn’t feed her in bed because I knew the risk of an accident was too great. NEVER FEED YOUR BABY IN YOUR BED!

I can’t stress enough that everyone’s experience is different, but this is what worked for me. And if you need someone to vent to, I’m always here to listen.

Breastfeeding Series: Nursing is hard, here’s my story
Breastfeeding Series: DIY Nursing Cover
Breastfeeding Series: Clothes for Bresatfeeding
Breastfeeding Series: Developing a Good Breastfeeding Now

 

Breastfeeding Week: Nursing is hard, here is my story

It's breastfeeding week on my blog and this post is all about my experience.
It’s breastfeeding week on my blog and this post is all about my experience.

This week, I’m devoting my blog posts to my breastfeeding journey. It’s not a path I ever thought I’d walk, but it turns out, it’s a route that I loved and traveled down several times. I’m hoping that my experiences and breastfeeding advice can help someone else learn to love it too.

When I found out I was pregnant the first time, I was asked several times if I was planning to breastfeed my baby. I was so worried about just taking care of the baby, there was no way I could comprehend learning the mechanics behind breastfeeding too.

I really had no idea about breastfeeding. My mom didn’t do it. I hadn’t grown up knowing many who had. I was the first of most of my friends to have babies, so I didn’t have built in resources. I did a little research and decided that maybe I would give it a try. Our hospital offered a class, so we decided to take it, but I still had no idea how this would all actually work.

The books made it out to be so easy. The baby would be placed on my belly shortly after she was born and she would move her way up and instinctively start nursing. It would be great and I’d gaze at her lovingly while my body magically morphed back into shape and my husband gently stroked my hair.

Um, that’s a great picture, but it does no happen that way. Breastfeeding is hard.

Once our baby was born, we were in our room alone with the nurse and I finally asked if it would be okay if I tried breastfeeding her. I literally asked permission to feed my own child. I had no idea what to do or how to do it. And things were a struggle. None of it was like the book.

It hurts.

Despite the fact that I had an epidural, I still felt most of her birth. As it turns out, epidurals don’t work well for me so I was able to experience every inch of birth. And for the first few days of breastfeeding, flashbacks of those contractions and the pain came back with every suck.

That’s because the baby sucking actually helps the uterus to contract back down to size. But, contract…yes, it’s the same thing as labor and yes, it hurts.

Of course, there is the pain that comes along with the nursing. The bleeding and cracking and the pain from engorgement and plugged ducts. It’s not quite the peaceful process the books make it out to be, especially at the beginning.

Not every baby jumps right in.

All three of our daughters had some sucking issue at birth. The first liked to suck her own tongue, but nothing else. The second was better, but she was a sleepy girl and was often too tired to suck. Our third, the premie, was just too young. She had a hard time getting it all together.

It can be very frustrating, but it’s not your fault.

Consider that the baby is just a few hours old. You just met face-to-face and you need some time to get to know each other and learn to work together to get this feeding thing down. Try different positions, move the baby around until they seem comfortable and you are relaxed. My first baby hated the Boppy. I had to use pillows with her. It was all trial and error, but you’ll get there.

There is help.

I wasn’t clicking with my first baby. I saw lactation consultants in the hospital, nurses tried to help, they even had me tune to a channel on the TV for more tips and tricks to try and make the process better. I was determined but I lacked any confidence. I figured that once I was out of the spotlight of the nurses, once the visitors had come and done, once I was in my own house–everything would just click and I’d be able to successfully nurse my baby and nourish her myself.

That didn’t happen.

Our first night home, I took her into our room, turned on the TV and decided I would sit there until it worked. She screamed and cried. I did too. My husband came in and said something I will never forget. He said he admired my dedication. She appeared to hate me for trying to make her eat and I didn’t want this brand new baby to be scarred by my attempt to keep her alive. But I kept trying.

When, two days later, we just weren’t getting anywhere, my husband suggested we call the hospital and meet with a lactation consultant. Totally worth it. She worked with me one-on-one for about an hour. She showed me different holds, looked at my latch, analyzed the process and really helped us establish the missing connection.

Then, she referred me to the La Lecha League and other breastfeeding support groups to help me get through the potentially rough weeks ahead.

Pumping is part of the deal.

I had no idea how a pump went together and I was horrified the first time I used it, but it’s just part of the deal if you plan to be away from your child for any length of time while nursing. It’s not fun. It’s work to clean it. It can hurt. But it’s necessary. There is no other way to stock milk or keep up your supply if you aren’t able to feed on demand. Plus, if you plan to go back to work, your baby has got to try to take the milk in a bottle or you could really have a rough transition to childcare.

So what else is there to write about when it comes to breastfeeding? Plenty. I’m looking forward to sharing with you how I made my own nursing cover, my favorite ways to cover up, traveling and pumping, nursing clothing, storing milk and ways to keep up a healthy supply.

I never thought I’d breastfeed my children, but I did. And now I hope my advice can help someone else succeed at it too.

Check out my other breastfeeding articles:

Breastfeeding Series: Nursing is hard, here’s my story
Breastfeeding Series: DIY Nursing Cover
Breastfeeding Series: Clothes for Bresatfeeding
Breastfeeding Series: Developing a Good Breastfeeding Now

National Letter Writing Month: The letters we save

Do you have any letters tucked away in a special place? I don’t often think about the letters we save, but when I do, they bring up so many memories. I have an entire box of letters that my husband wrote to me in our early days. I have the circle journal that I wrote about last week. There is also one letter that I forgot about until last week. I keep it in my daughter’s baby book.

I remember getting this letter. Let me preface the story though. I have a little background that will help you understand the context.

When I was 20-something weeks pregnant with my first child, I was told I had to have a glucose test for gestational diabetes, as all pregnant women do. I feared this. I had a glucose test when I was in high school to figure out why I kept passing out. The sugary drink made me feel sick. The multiple blood draws left me week and sore. It was a six-hour needle fest that made me want to barf.

I didn’t want to go to my glucose test alone. I feared it would be the same. My husband had to work. My mom couldn’t take time off. My dad volunteered to come. Or, he may have been volunteered by my mom. It was a while ago and the details are fuzzy.

I felt horrible for him. First of all, he looks young and I was afraid people were silently judging us. Me for being some sort of gold-digger and him for being a cradle robber. Second, he had to sit at my OBs office for a few hours with me. After having a sugary drink. And no food. I’m sure that was not his idea of a pleasant way to spend the morning.

I had my blood drawn, drank the sugary drink and waited for my next draw an hour later. In the meantime, I had an appointment with my OB’s nurse practitioner. I invited my dad to come in. Now before you get all, “Gasp! How could she do that!” it wasn’t one of the no-pants appointments. It was just a routine listen of the heartbeat, ask me if there are any concerns, schedule me for next month appointment. So, my dad got to listen to the heartbeat, and meet this crazy, whack job of a nurse practitioner who I didn’t like.

It's National Letter Writing Month, which prompted me to look at letters I have saved, including this one to my daughter. It was written before she was even born.
It’s National Letter Writing Month, which prompted me to look at letters I have saved, including this one to my daughter. It was written before she was even born.

Side note: My dad confirmed she was crazy. And a whack job. I wasn’t imagining it.

All went fine. There was no passing out. No sugar shakes. It wasn’t horrible. Which was helpful for future pregnancies. I didn’t make my dad go to anymore glucose tests.

But he did buy me breakfast afterward.

So a few weeks later, I checked the mail and there was a card in it addressed to Baby T, which is what we called our gender-unknown fetus. It had no return address label and the writing was something I definitely didn’t recognize.

I opened it and it was a poem. At first I was confused…who would write this?

You spoke

And they were words of love.

I’m sure I was beaming.

Your mother was.

Sweet sounds–like a child singing

“Jesus loves me…”

Love sounds

Sung from your heart

to mine

160 syllables per minute

Love, Grandpa W.

At first I could not figure out when my only-living grandpa would send a card like this to my baby. How did he know my baby’s heart rate and WHEN IN THE WORLD DID HE START WRITING POETRY.

Then the pregnancy brain cleared.

My dad wrote this.

My dad has never written anything like this to me before. But according to my mom, he wrote her lots of poetry in their early days together. (Hidden dad talent, like holding his breath for an insane amount of time and repairing just about anything with c clamps and glue.)

This is a letter you save.

The other night when I got it out to refresh my memory as to what it said, my daughter saw it. I read it to her and told her that it was a letter from Grandpa to her before she was even born. She beamed, much like he did that day.

Then she and her sister spent the better part of an hour looking through their first-year photo albums. They asked about their baby sister’s, but in typical third-child-fashion, her’s is…a work in progress. We talked about how excited everyone was to meet them and how much they were loved even before they were born. We talked about coming up with their names and how much they look like their dad, or me, or their cousins.

It amazing how much love was wrapped up in those books. And it started with that letter.

A letter I will save forever.

So what about you? Do you have any letters that you have saved? What makes them so meaningful?

 

 

Lime Chicken Fajita recipe brings flavor to lunch

This recipe for lime chicken fajitas was easy to make and full of flavor to help me incorporate more protein into my lunch.
This recipe for lime chicken fajitas was easy to make and full of flavor to help me incorporate more protein into my lunch.

I’ve been looking for ways to incorporate more protein into my diet throughout the day, not just at dinner. I’m really great at having meat with dinner but the other meals, especially lunch, are my downfall. I need the protein to give me the energy to get through the day. When I came across this lime chicken fajitas recipe, I decided to whip up some for lunch one day and then save the leftovers for the rest of the week. I’m surprised there were actually any leftovers–it was so yummy!

My husband hates most Mexican food. Well, he likes Taco Bell. That’s probably about as Mexican as the taco or fajitas that we make at home. I, on the other hand, LOVE Mexican food. One of my favorites is fajitas. I don’t have them often. My husband’s dislike for them means it’s not something I make for dinner.

This recipe looked great and allowed me to get in the chicken and the veggies. I thawed some chicken and decided to make it on a day I worked from home.

Here is the recipe.


 

This comes from Cafe Delights! I have adapted it slightly to the ingredients I had on hand and my taste preferences.

Marinade/Dressing:
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 100ml (just over ⅓ cup)  lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons coriander
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Salad:
  • 4 chicken thigh fillets, skin removed
  • ½ red bell pepper, deseeded and sliced
  • ½ an onion, sliced
  • 5 cups lettuce, washed and dried
  • Extra coriander leaves to garnish
  • Sour cream (optional) to serve
  • Shredded cheese
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Whisk marinade ingredients together to combine. Pour half the marinade into a shallow dish to marinade the chicken fillets for two hours if time allows. Refrigerate the reserved untouched marinade to use as a dressing.
  2. Heat about one teaspoon of oil in a grill pan or skillet over medium-high heat and add strips of cut chicken. Once chicken is cooked, set aside and allow to rest.
  3. Wipe pan over with paper towel; drizzle with another teaspoon of oil and grill/fry pepper and onion strips until cooked to your liking.
  4. Prepare salad with leaves, pepper and onion strips and chicken. Add small amount of shredded cheese and sour cream.

As I was cooking this, my husband was remarking that it smelled really great. And it did. The lime isn’t something that we cook with often and the citrus-y aroma was so delightful. It was so full of flavor too. 

This was one of the times that I really missed my grill pan. We had to pitch it several months ago because the non-stick coating was starting to come off. I need a stainless steel grill pan! The veggies could have been a little more char grilled, but it was still totally awesome!