Five Things

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Happy Friday, friends!

What are your weekend plans? On Saturday my husband is showing his artwork at The Waxwing during Milwaukee’s Summer Solstice Festival so the kids and I will load up the stroller for a visit. I have plans to re-declutter (if that’s a thing) our house and then walk down to the Gran Prix bike race, with a few beers in-tow.

Enjoy the weather and the weekend pace!

Five Tuesday Reads

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Happy Tuesday!

What’s your email style? I like to keep my inbox to a few hundred messages and marvel at co-workers that can sift through a few thousand. I organized my space today, re-read saved articles and wanted to share the best with you:

  1. Have you ever created a stop-doing list? I love the idea.
  2. The bittersweet space in motherhood of wanting to press the pause and fast-forward buttons.
  3. Eight ways to bring more joy into your home. Why am I so scared of #5?
  4. I’ll gladly accept this definition of supermom.
  5. The sweetest little book! I ordered one for Louie and can’t wait to see his eyes light up at the familiar faces and photos.

Enjoy the hustle and bustle of the last few days before the holidays!

Current Podcast Playlist

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Do you listen to podcasts? I jumped on the Serial bandwagon back and took a podcast hiatus after the first season wrapped up. Then, I stumbled upon StartUp  and loved the concept of following a new business from the start. Now, during lunch breaks and office commutes, I turn to these favorites:

  1. When you need motivation: Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert
    For anyone who loved her latest book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, this series continues the “struggle is real” conversation going with real creatives. It’s easy to get in your head and stuck on the “whys and whats” of creative pursuits (as in, this one right here!). Gilbert takes the wind out of fear’s sails and reminds us the creative process is just that, a process to enjoy. Favorite episode: Season 1, Episode 4: Rob Bell on how “The Action is Right Here.” 
  2. When you need a laugh: Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me
    Dan and I saw a taping of the popular NPR radio news quiz this spring and since then, I’ve become an avid podcast listener of the show. Topical public radio humor mixed with comedians and celebrity guests – what’s not to love? Favorite recent episode: August 13 featuring Katie Couric. 
  3. When you need to hear from another mother: Coffee + Crumbs
    I started listening to the podcast first and now I’m a regular reader of Coffee + Crumbs essays because of their honesty and content. I’m drawn to motherhood stories and communities that share perspectives in efforts to provide connection and empathy. Favorite episode: Episode 03: It’s their day too with Katie Blackburn.  

For me, podcasts are sanity-savers and positive bursts in the current news climate. I’d love to know your favorite podcasts.Share in the comments below!

Pumping at Work: Plan vs. Reality

 

Do you believe if you fail to plan then you plan to fail?

Failure, by it’s very definition, is an all-around bummer.

Planning provides structure and alludes to the promise of change. A solid plan can help to get meals on the table, save money and achieve fitness goals. In order to reach goals, plans need action and follow through.

Even with the best intentions and planning, reaching my pumping and nursing goals has been a challenge.

I work outside of the home and my son is six months old. He currently receives a mix of formula and breast-milk. An ideal schedule.*

  • 6 am – nurse
  • 10 am – pump
  • 2 pm – pump
  • 5:30 pm – nurse
  • 10 pm – pump

Reality (based on observations from the last week):

  • Nurse anytime between 4:30 and 6:30 am
  • Pump between 10 am and noon
  • Pump by 4 pm
  • Nurse when I get home around 5:30 pm

I’m embarrassed to admit this reality because I’m in complete control of my schedule. My employer provides ample time and opportunity to pump. On paper (and in Outlook), my pumping and work schedule is manageable. In reality, it’s tough to duck out of meetings, client calls, work trips, brainstorming sessions or personal work time to pump.

Plain and simple, pumping takes a certain discipline that I have yet to truly master. I’ve essentially “leaned out” and communicated my revised goals to my managers. For me, finding a true work-life balance is harder than barreling through to-do lists and working late. This is a topic for another day!

Back to the matter at hand, pumping at work.

In order to reach my nursing goals, I’ve re-committed myself and outlined a plan:

  • Create short-term goals. Commit to a 21 day plan and re-evaluate.
  • Schedule all nursing and pumping sessions in my calendar.
  • Make all calendar times public (vs. private). A small effort to normalize breastfeeding.
  • Drink a lot of water
  • Eat whole foods that maximize milk production
  • Have fun with smoothie and cookie recipes that boost production
  • Stay motivated!

With a revised plan, renewed commitment, supportive coworkers and family members, I have confidence in my nursing and pumping goals. Breastfeeding is a grueling commitment and daily grind but I know it’s a short season. One that I’ll look back on with fondness.

Do you have any tips on maintaining a pumping schedule? Where do you turn for motivation? 

*Based on personal lactation consultant recommendations. She suggested ten sessions a day in order to increase (or, “kick-start”) supply in order to reach my goal of reducing formula feedings. The schedule outlined above made sense for my schedule and family.

Valentine’s Day

Valentin's Day Pancakes

 

With kids, each holiday is amplified and Valentine’s day is shaping up to be one of my favorites. Dan and I have been so laser-focused on getting through the day-to-day tasks, it’s nice to hit the pause button and express our appreciation for one another.

Yesterday, we visited our friend Mike’s antique and floral shop and went for a lakefront drive. Today, I had big plans to serve festive meals and take a trip to Rocket Baby Bakery but, we’re a little under the weather. Ingrid and I are spending the day watching movies and cooking shows while Dan attempts to do the laundry.

Watching cooking shows with Ingrid is one of my favorite passive activities. She loves to see how our favorite chefs (Giada and Bobby Flay) create themed menus. And if those chefs start to bake, Ingrid will ask to bake a batch of cookies or a quick bread with her favorite ingredient – chocolate. And if we start to bake, probably say: “What’s that amazing smell? CHOCOLATE!” Her chocolate-dotted hands always give away her chocolate chip-stealing secrets.

If we take naps and have the urge to get moving, we’ll whip up a batch of lactation cookies (for me, of course) and a dozen protein muffins for the family. See my favorite recipes over on Pinterest.

Have a relaxing and peaceful Sunday!

The Fog

Ingrid and Louie

 

Over the holidays, my one of my girlfriends took me and the kids out to lunch. I was attempting to eat while holding Louie and had not perfected the “Mom juggle.” Moms who can effortlessly balance their forks, cocktail and children are like narwhals to me – unreal but they somehow still exist. She offered to take him off of my hands and pay for lunch. I politely declined. She insisted, took Louie and made an off-hand comment that I was “still in the fog.”

That comment stuck with me and provided me with perspective. Much-needed perspective. I have this unrealistic expectation I should be back to my normal weight, the house should be a certain way, my meals should be a certain way, my marriage should be a certain way. Self-induced pressures and anxiety, for no real reason.

As a new mom of two, the message from family, friends and society is clear: do not worry about the house, the laundry, meals or your weight. So-and-so and this-and-that will come naturally. Take it easy, let yourself get back to normal.

Lovely idea in theory but we need clothes, meals and a functioning home. That, and, societies expectations don’t align with the messaging.

Returning to work, by definition, gets you out of that new baby mode. There are positives, it’s good for getting out of yoga pants, routines are established. Things that would have fallen into place organically. Probably when my son started sleeping through the night, which happened a few short weeks ago.

So, what’s the fog? A compounding cycle of lack of sleep, long hours at work, quick meals, repeat. It’s tough.

To say it’s tough, is tough.

We’re forced back to work while we’re still in the fog. And that, not sleepless nights, is the real challenge.

We as a nation need to have kindness for new families. Everyone in the family needs to have kindness with each other, as a new baby is stressful for all. You need time as a family to become a new unit.

Think about how you welcome a new houseguest. Make sure they have fresh sheets, pick up their favorite cereal, they visit, pack up and head home. As a new parent you’re making room in the house and having hundreds of boring, necessary conversations. Conversations about where to store the bottles and “Do we have enough bouncers?” I still don’t know. All of that stuff becomes a conversation and everyone needs time to learn how to welcome this new house guest, permanently.

When Louie was born, he needed space we didn’t immediately have. We were a unit of three and enjoyed a flexible routine. We needed time to welcome this wonderful new being into our home wholeheartedly. This process takes time. It takes time to bond, takes time to understand his quirks, and until the ripe old age of twelve weeks, he’s a unpredictable, beautiful, needy mess. Right around the time the fog lifts, moms are forced back to work – awkward black pump bag in hand – and it’s downright laughable.

The fog needs to be recognized, realized, appreciated and valued. It does not magically drift away at six weeks, eight weeks or twelve weeks. It takes effort, time, and patience. A lot of patience and kindness.

New Baby. New Discovery.

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The most stressful times in one’s life include starting a new job, moving and welcoming a new baby. Collectively, Jamie and I tackled all three over the summer. Our family welcomed little Louis Lee on August 2 – all nine pounds and two ounces. Rather than explain the lack of activity on the site, let’s dive into the joys of parenting.

Last week I listened to an interview on NPR. The host with a lovely, unique name, a requirement for all NPR hosts, was interviewing a travel journalist. The topic: career changes after having kids. I always marvel at the questions women are asked and often think “Would she dare ask this of a man?”

During the interview, the host chimed in to answer her own questions – she provided personal anecdotes about her own birth experience and maternity leave. She never thought of herself as athletic or having significant physical strength yet, after having her baby, she felt invincible. She couldn’t believe what she had accomplished. That made her wonder – what else can I do? How strong am I, really? What else can I accomplish?

Then, what happens after this monumental moment of self-discovery? Your world becomes small. Daily geography shrinks to a few rooms in your house. The focus, rightfully so, is on the baby. A very important, isolating time.

I had a C-section with my daughter and a VBAC with son. Although the experiences were vastly different, I felt the same sense of amazement and pride. My body was capable of so much more than I gave it credit for. In hindsight, that’s why I became a runner. I never considered running before having kids and told myself I wanted a quick, effective form of cardio. As I type these words I realize that’s was only one little reason. The real reason is because I finally had the confidence in my body and my mental toughness. When I’m facing a tough run or steep hill, I tell myself “You made another human. You can run up this hill.” And, it’s true. Moms do run up hills.

We research doctors, create meal plans and tour daycare centers. We write out birth plans while understanding we only have so much control. We eventually recover from pregnancy and birth. We nurse our babies. We fed our babies. We work hard to craft a life that makes us happy and fulfilled. Then we wonder, if I can do ______, what else can I do?

Nostalgia

How was your weekend? This weekend I was able to spend time with family and a few dear friends who live out of state. I rarely talk or email with these friends but our friendship runs deep and we’re able to pick up where we last left off. After a few minutes of “status updates” we’re able to laugh and say things like “you know how it is.”

This morning, Ingrid, Dan and I watched a few old homemade videos before getting out of bed. We watched Ingrid’s first steps and a silly video of Ingrid at the zoo. Then, we hit play on a video called Playdough and I completely lost it.

While I was ugly crying, Dan explained to Ingrid that I had happy tears, tears of nostalgia. Sidebar – the ponytail wasn’t doing anything.

Tonight, I’m gearing up for the series finale of Mad Men. Over the winter I re-watched the series and fell in love with Don, Rodger, Peggy, Joan and even Pete all over again. I love everything about this show – the costumes, Draper’s facial expressions, Draper’s face, the characters and the ability to keep me – the audience – on its feet. Although I’m not weeping over the show’s end (yet) I do have a twinge of nostalgia and was reminded of this famous and classic scene.

Old friends, videos of Ingrid and the series finale of Mad Men. I’m itching to make a Jeopardy joke right about now (what are “things that make me cry uncontrollably for $600?”), but instead I’ll cut this post off early and leave you with these Top 10 Quotes from Mad Men(#4).

Mother’s Day. Get the Kleenex.

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Happy Mother’s day! Now let’s do some real crying, shall we?

Okay, but I’m being serious here. Tears shall be shed, because on this day, we show that we are human and we have ourselves a good celebratory cry about why we work SO DAMN HARD all year long.

So without further ado, here are my favorite sappy videos that help celebrate the moms of the world. Enjoy!

This one starts off funny, but you will be crying by the end:

 

A new comer, this year:

 

One of my all-time favorites from the Sochi Olympics:

 

Finally, to end on a higher note, this Coca Cola commercial always gets me. Yes, kids are messy and crazy and frustrating and there are super highs and super lows…but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

 

Happy Mother’s day to all of the fantastic caregivers out there. Now go drink some wine and fall asleep while reading a good book…because this day is almost over!

 

A clean house equals a clear mind

"Wait...are you sure we're doing this right?"

“Wait…are you sure we’re doing this right?”

Today, I was able to get some deep cleaning done, open the windows, get some things organized, and just in general NOT think about all of the other chaotic parts of our life. It actually made me feel like I accomplished something this weekend and like I wasn’t a complete mess.

So enough with the woe is me schtick. Let’s talk about how easy it is for your kid to embarrass you at Target.

Ohhhh so easy.

Today I took Jackson to Target after his nap. We were mostly picking up cleaning supplies and then trying to find a rain coat for him (success on both fronts, if you must know).

While in one section of the store, he proclaims that he found a ball. We weren’t even near a toy section, but lo and behold he holds up this Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle ball like it’s the Ring of Sauron (my precious). He’s so ridiculously happy he found it.

And personally, I was happy too. It was an incentive to keep him in line while we were wandering through Target. “If you’re good and stay by me, maybe we can get that ball.”

Except that….it wasn’t your normal ball. It’s shape was not exactly round, but more like when you smash 30 bouncy balls together and call it a day. It never went where he intended to bounce it. Which resulted in a lot of him jutting out in front of someone or their cart and me going, “JACKSON, WATCH OUT!”

Did I get a “Sorry mama!” Of course not. The little twerp looks at me and says, “No, YOU watch out mama.” Luckily for him, he wasn’t screaming it at me, but more like lazily using my own language against me like a teenager distracted with video games. I really didn’t even have a response but to sigh and then pull him over towards me.

Then at one point after repeatedly telling him to hold on to the ball, not to bounce it, he let it fall and then broke away from my grip. He went for it, but a woman stopped it with her foot. She and her husband looked at me with this weird expression that seemed like a mixture of pity and confusion.

I, of course, went into embarrassing mom mode and sputtered out the following, “Argh! I’m sorry. It just doesn’t…it’s not like a regular ball…it’s like one of those…” but before I could even finish, she just pushed it back over with her foot and then turned around and walked away.

It was awkward, to say the least.

And yet, I just kind of laughed it off. It was almost comical how disheveled and frazzled I looked at that moment, letting my kid run around Target with me. But he was so happy to play with that ball. And I was okay putting up with it….this time, at least. So really, it may have cost my dignity and three dollars, but all in all, that’s a price I can afford to see him light up for a couple minutes when he’s not being a complete psycho (which I’m told is just a phase, and I’m holding on to that for dear life).

Tomorrow it’s back to reality. Normally, I’d look forward to going back to work and digging in, but as the tables have turned, it was nice to get some real work done on the house this weekend – both house projects and cleaning some much-deserted areas of the house.  And also nice to see some friends, be outside and play with footballs, basketballs, baseballs and even odd-shaped bouncy balls.

So happy Sunday to you. Regardless of how you spent your weekend, I hope you got to find a couple moments to take a breather before the work week begins again.

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Jamie LeRoy

Writer of things