Monday, October 20, 2014

Crying Over Spilled Milk

Well, this weekend sucked.

This is what 56 ounces of ruined breast milk looks like, in case you were wondering.

Yes, it's true...

Although I may begin sobbing again as I write this post, I feel it's necessary to admit that Stewart and I managed to spoil 14 bags of frozen breast milk this weekend.

It was an accident.

It wasn't anyone's fault, really.

Worse things have probably happened.

But as I stood there, staring tragically at the destroyed remains of what represented so much time, energy, stress, and guilt, I felt like my heart would literally break. I had turned my son's life-giving nectar into poison.

Whoever said "don't cry over spilled milk" was an asshole (and obviously male).

On Friday night I nursed, rocked, and tucked my sweet little baby boy into bed. Then I decided to do some cleaning and reorganizing. I had a ton of breast milk in the fridge that I needed to store for future use, but my freezer had become jam-packed with frozen breast milk surplus bags, so I decided to move some into the freezer in the garage. After measuring, pouring, sealing, labeling, and rotating, I ended up transferring about a quarter of my milk stash into the garage freezer.

And after such a thorough inventory of the elixir of life that I had stockpiled for my son, I went to bed feeling quite pleased with myself...

Then on Saturday evening I even managed to come home with groceries for the week. (Insert Perfect Wife & Mother award here). I asked Stew to put some of them away, and he obeyed promptly.

His horrified exclamation came early the next morning...

During the night, something in the freezer had shifted, popping the door open a few inches. Just enough to thaw and destroy everything in there, including all of my boobie juice.

Of course there was nothing I could do except crumple to the ground, curled desperately around my little angel baby, and sob.

I still feel shell shocked.

And poor Stew; he felt absolutely terrible.

No, this doesn't mean that Ryder will starve (I pump more than enough milk for him every day and always have extra). And no, I won't have to supplement with formula (I've got at least double the amount of milk that I ruined still stashed safety away in our other freezer).

But the tragedy of all that time and effort having gone to waste... The irreplaceable nature of breast milk... All those hours spent sequestered away in the supply closet at work... Carefully measuring, pouring, sealing, transporting... My mind boggles.

And I'm crying big, fat tears over all that spilled milk.

And let's see what else... 

Due to a series of unfortunate events, it took us two and a half hours to drive 18 miles on Saturday afternoon. #roadrage

I scraped the crap out of one of the wheels on my new car. #moretears

These encouraging blog stats greeted me on Sunday morning. #geethanksguys

Oh, and the Seahawks lost. #profanities


I respectfully ask the universe for the opportunity to repeat last weekend, with better all-around results.


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Monday, October 13, 2014

Ryder's First Seahawks Game

Make way for the littlest 12th Man!
Ryder was with me for every single game last season while I was pregnant, so it seemed only fitting to have him accompany us to at least one home game this year. We chose yesterday for his rookie experience, and the day couldn't have gone better (except if the Hawks had won, but let's not focus on the negative, shall we?)
Is there anything cuter than a Baby Seahawk?! 

First family photo from the Hawkwagon Tailgate!

Initially, when Stew told me that he wanted to take Ryder to a game this year, I was pretty skeptical. However, I subsequently reminded myself of our vow to not let having a family change our lifestyle, so I began getting myself mentally and logistically prepared to take our five-month-old to an NFL game.

We chose October for our trial run because we figured the weather would probably be more cooperative early in the season. We headed out around nine o'clock, which is Ryder's typical morning nap time, and he slept in the car all the way into the city, staying asleep in his stroller for the first part of the tailgate. Once he woke up, I gave him some shots of Fireball nursed him in the car and we hung out until it was time to head to the game around noon. We changed him into a warm fleece Seahawks onesie for the game, popped him into our Baby Bjorn carrier, and he proceeded to take his second nap of the day during the half hour walk to the stadium.

We loved having our baby boy with us for one of our very favorite activities.

He's learning young that anything in a Solo cup tastes delicious.

Baby-wearing while checking Fantasy Football scores.

When you bring your baby to a tailgate, he's like a mini mascot and everyone wants to borrow him.

Diaper bags are not allowed in CenturyLink stadium, but bags that are clear plastic, vinyl or PVC and do not exceed 12” x 6” x 12” are permitted, so I ordered an official Seahawks NFL clear plastic tote bag online a couple weeks before the game. It was plenty big enough for all of Ryder's essential items (changing pad, diapers, wipes, extra clothes, bottle, etc), and getting through security was a breeze. A Family Restroom with a baby changing station is located conveniently right outside our section, so we stopped there shortly before kickoff to change and nurse Ryder, which worked out great.

Ryder's very first NFL experience!

Prior to the game, I did research on baby headphones and ordered Ryder some hearing protection earmuffs to keep his little eardrums safe from the 12th Man's roar. He didn't seem to mind wearing them one bit, and having all the noise reduced to almost nothing helped keep him super calm and happy, even allowing him to sleep for several hours during the second half!

 We alternated between holding or wearing Ryder throughout the game. He was such an angel, and never cried the entire time we were there, just fussed a bit when he was hungry or tired and then ate and went right to sleep. At halftime we visited the Family Bathroom again and gave him a bottle in the stands before the third quarter, after which he passed out for the remainder of the game.

Ryder Steven, the Seattle Seahawks newest fan!

I know there are probable those out there who think that an NFL game is no place for children, but I have to respectfully disagree. I think being a football fan starts early in life, and it's something really special that you can do as a family. Sure, Ryder won't remember watching the Cowboys beat the Hawks (and maybe that's a good thing), but Sew and I have memories that will last a lifetime of this super fun day that we shared with our baby boy.

Hawk Yeah!

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Pumping and Working -- My Secrets

You've heard it, you get it.
No chemical composition can ever replicate what we lucky women can make ourselves, for free.
It's nature's perfect elixir, and it comes in a conveniently portable milk delivery system.
But let's face it -- As much as we working moms who choose to breastfeed love to provide our hungry little nurslings with nourishing milk, PUMPING AT WORK SUCKS -- literally.
I've made a commitment to provide Ryder with breast milk for his first year, which means milking myself like Bessie the dairy cow has become a part of my daily work routine. Unfortunately, some people seem bothered by the fact that breasts produce milk to nourish human life, and co-workers can be put off by accidentally using breast milk as coffee creamer (no matter how thoroughly you explain the nutritional value and immunity boosting properties). Plus, accidentally catching a glimpse of exposed lady bits being suckled by the equivalent of a mechanical infant tends to make them slightly uncomfortable.
So when I returned to work I was on a mission to become a stealth pumper, and I'm here today to share my best tips and tricks.

// privacy //
First and foremost, make sure you have a private place to pump. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, employers are required to provide "a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk." They are also required to provide "reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child's birth at each time such employee has need to express the milk."
I don't know about you, but there are few times when I feel more vulnerable than when my nipples are being sucked in and out of transparent plastic cones. Fortunately, my extremely supportive workplace makes this abandoned supply closet in a vacant office space available for working moms, but since the door doesn't lock I made myself a sign, just in case.
// preparation //
Organization is key, so get yourself prepared! My day starts at home, where I have already spent the evening before cleaning, sterilizing, drying, and packing up everything needed for the next day.
Most of the supplies will be left at home, or go with Ryder to the babysitter.

Four of the bottles and lids go into a little cooler pack, which I pack up and take with me to work.
// supplies //
Make sure you are provided with a comfortable location in which to pump. Every three hours, I attach suction devices to my nipples while milk spurts into bottles attached to my engorged breasts to the tune of Wee-WAH... Wee-WAH... Wee-WAH. In the beginning, this caused me a fair amount of anxiety. But once I got used to the routine of it all, I've actually begun to enjoy these little breaks, and make the most of the time while I'm milking myself like a dairy cow.
You'll need a comfy chair and access to an electrical outlet. I suggest getting a double pump so you can do both breasts at once to save time. I have the Medela Pump In Style Advanced Backpack. It comes with a little cooler bag and contoured ice pack that is perfect for holding five ounce bottles.
When my pre-programmed Outlook reminder pops up on my computer screen, I head across the hall and get settled. After I hook myself up to my medieval torture device breast pump, I enjoy a cup of coffee, a book, and often browse social media to pass the time. With a little practice, I've perfected the ability to hold both pump apparatuses with one arm while checking Facebook or reading the latest and greatest parenting book.
Hydration is a key aspect to breast milk production, so as soon as I'm done pumping I always make sure to quickly drink an entire glass of water so I don't forget.
// storage //
Of course, you will need a place to keep the milk that you pump. According to La Leche League International, fresh human milk can be stored at room temperature for up to six hours. Here is my strategy for storing my milk throughout the day.
The first time I pump, I simply place the bottles into the insulated part of my backpack and zip it back up, so that the bottles are covered and kept as cool as possible. I just leave the breast shields on the bottles so that they are ready three hours later when I come back for my second session. At that point, I just re-attach the tubing and pump into those same bottles.
After the second session, the bottles are full, so I transfer them into my little cooler and carry them back across the hall, where I pop the whole thing into a mini fridge located conveniently around the corner from my desk.

For some reason, actually seeing my hard earned boobie juice seems to bother most people, so disguising the bottles in a cooler that is placed in a rarely-used mini fridge is what works for me.
// cleaning //
You'll need a place to wash and sterilize your pump parts. After I complete my pumping session, I rinse out the breast shields, valves and membranes under hot water in a sink that's located right outside my pumping room. I don't feel the need to sterilize my parts every single time I pump -- that would be far too time consuming.

When I'm done with my third and final pumping session of the day, I take all of my supplies back over to my office. In our main break room / kitchen, I use a paper towel and dish soap to wash out my pump parts and sterilize them using a Medela Quick Clean Micro-Steaming bag. These things are the BEST! I use them every single day both at home and at work.

It takes a minute and thirty anxiety-ridden seconds in the microwave, during which I pray that no one enters the kitchen and inquires as to why I'm cooking a plastic bag (because then I have to explain that I'm cleaning parts that were recently attached to my naked bosom, and we both awkwardly wish for a time machine to go back to the moment before we began talking about my breasts).

After everything is cleaned and sterilized, I place all the parts on clean paper towels in the top part of my pump's backpack, and along with the steamer bag I put everything underneath my desk to dry overnight.
Another day of pumping in the books.

// transport //
Each day I collect anywhere between 16 and 20 ounces of breast milk. When five o'clock rolls around, I just grab my little cooler of liquid gold out of the mini fridge, pop it into my bag, and head home to my hungry little boy. And I definitely experience a smug feeling of satisfaction, knowing that I've been able to work a full day away from home while still providing my son with breast milk that will help turn him into the healthiest version of himself.
When I get home, I still have some work to do. I divide the bottles evenly into four ounce portions, label each one, and put them in the refrigerator. I always pump more than enough milk in one day to cover Ryder's meals for the next day while I'm at work (usually more).

// schedule //
After a week or two of trial and error, here is the schedule that ended up working for me.
  • 7:00 -- Nurse Ryder and leave for work
  • 8:00 -- Arrive at work, get settled in, drink water/coffee and eat breakfast
  • 9:00 -- First pumping session, followed by water and a snack
  • 12:00 -- Second pumping session, followed by water and lunch
  • 3:00 -- Third pumping session, followed by water and a snack
  • 3:30 -- Clean and sterilize pump parts for the next day
  • 5:00 -- Grab cooler of milk and head home
  • 6:00 -- Arrive home and nurse Ryder
  • 7:30 -- Nurse Ryder and put him down for bed
At this point (five months) Ryder is still waking up every two to three hours throughout the night to nurse. This could be attributed to growth spurts, or adjusting to eating bottles during the day instead of nursing; we're not sure. Ryder typically eats three 4-ounce bottles while I'm at work, and since I make more than he can consume I've also acquired a pretty impressive freezer stash of frozen breast milk, which is available for emergencies.
Pumping at work is a real pain in the nipples.
I'm not denying it. But realistically, it's just a mildly uncomfortable thing that I'm happy to endure for the good of my child. It's a transitory part of life, and eventually Ryder will outgrow his need for breast milk. At which point I will probably curse the day I ever complained, because the pain of knowing that my son can actually survive without me will cause my soul to ache.
But for now, the look on his sweet little face as he gulps down what only I can provide him reassures me that I'm doing the best I can as a working Mamma.  
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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Blog Tour -- My Writing Process

Have you ever wondered about why I write this blog, or what I choose to write about, or how I manage to publish posts in between working, spending quality time with my family, and changing poopy diapers?
If so, today is your lucky day!
One of my favorite blogger friends, Becky at Rebeckann's Random Thoughts, invited me to participate in a virtual blog tour, and I thought it would be a fun opportunity to share some of the details about myself as a writer blog nerd.

 // what am i working on //
Currently I've been trying to get back into blogging on a more regular basis after cutting back significantly in the months following my son's birth. Most recently I have been exploring many different topics -- self discovery, reviews, event recaps, new parenting, monthly baby updates -- trying to figure out what my readers like, as well as what I enjoy writing about. Figuring out a balance, I think, will be the key to gaining and maintaining followers. But I also want to make sure that blogging continues to be a satisfying personal hobby, because that's why I started writing in the first place.
 // how does my work differ from others of its type/genre //
Lifestyle blogs are a dime a dozen, and the category is incredibly broad and encompasses so many things, but that's what I enjoy about it. I'd like to hope that my blog differs or stands out because of the wide variety of topics that I cover (see above). And perhaps also because of the incredible journey I have been able to highlight on this blog throughout the years... From single girl fabulousness to falling in love, engagement and wedding planning, marriage, a move from the city to the suburbs, and having a tiny human.
// why do i write what i do //
I am a writer at my core, and I started blogging because I wanted a place to put my thoughts down on (virtual) paper. This blog is my creative outlet. And as an added benefit, it has become a place where my family, friends and I can connect and look back on all the adventures, twists and turns that our lives have taken. My hope is that this blog helps my readers feel connected to my family and what we're up to.
 // how does my writing process work //
I find blog inspiration at completely random times, and whenever I do, I jot the idea down on an ever-growing list in my phone. I'm always looking for inspiration for a new post, and I get a lot of ideas from other bloggers. And when I know an event or a milestone is coming up, I begin a draft of that post so I can get it published in a timely manner. Most often I begin posts at one time (on the bus, during my lunch hour, before bed) and then finish them later when I have a few more free moments. Such is the life of a busy working mamma blogger. 
// the tour //
I asked the following ladies to join me on this virtual blog tour. Even if they don't write a tour post, I highly recommend you check out their blogs! I always look forward to reading them. 
Erin from Love, Fun and Football. Erin is an Ohio girl, and I think she might actually love football a little more than I do. Like me, she has a journalism degree and is using blogging as an outlet for those unutilized skills. She also married the coolest man on the planet (weird, I did, too!), and loves Mexican food, Disney, and reading. Except for the fact that she likes cooking (which I loathe), she might just be my internet doppelgänger. Erin is just all-around fabulous and sweet. Plus she also does blog design, so check her out if your blog needs a little face lift (she did mine)!
Kristine from Living Barefoot and Crazy. Kristine is from a small country town in Washington state and we bonded instantly over a love for Seahawks football (and tailgating). When she's not cheering for the Hawks, Kristine's life revolves around volleyball (she's a player, coach, referee and spectator), her fiancĂ©, and a few fur babies. Kristine is a country girl who speaks her mind without any apologies -- one of my favorite things about her. Her blog often makes me laugh, and always reminds me that there are still "real" people out there in the world.
And when you get a chance, head over and check out Becky's blog. She's such a sweetheart and has some really great posts -- A couple of my favorites are Stuff & Things: Teacher Edition and Why I failed the #100happydays challenge.
Thanks for reading!
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Monday, October 6, 2014

Turning up the heat in Palm Springs

My dear friend Carolina got married this past weekend, which meant a quick (and I mean quick) jaunt down to Palm Springs for me and Stew.
I don't think I've ever actually flown somewhere for just 24 hours before, and it was definitely a whirlwind. But it was just enough (almost too much!) time for our first overnight away from our precious baby boy. My parents came up for the weekend to stay with Ryder, and even though I knew he was in extremely capable hands I was so anxious about leaving him. And I missed my little angel terribly!
Although we did still manage to have a blast.
It was 104 degrees in Palm Springs on the day of the wedding. Stew and I spent the afternoon lounging at the pool with friends, because it was really too hot to do anything other than stand in the water while downing blended margaritas. Happy vacation to me...
The one photo I managed to take with my nice camera, which I then neglected to bring to the wedding. #fail

The wedding ceremony and reception took place at the super glamorous Viceroy Hotel & Resort in downtown Palm Springs. It's a small, boutique hotel with a ton of charm, very "old Hollywood," and it was such a perfect location for Carolina and Eren's wedding.
Chilled champagne during the ceremony made the heat just a little more bearable.
Cocktail hour by the pool... open bar and a big night out for us!

The one photo I managed to get with the absolutely gorgeous bride! I'm so happy we have remained good friends after all these years... (PS see that guy in the background at the top right? That's Joel McHale, host of The Soup!)

Leaving Ryder for the weekend, even though it was just overnight, was definitely difficult. But it was amazing for me and Stew to get some uninterrupted, adult time together. And frankly I was really looking forward to drinking to excess and sleeping through the night for once. However, I came down with a horrible sore throat the day before we left, which meant I wasn't really up for excessive partying during the reception, although we did stay out late (for us) and had a fantastic time.
What I did forget about was PUMPING.
Ah, yes. How I initially failed to realize that I would need to pump all weekend is beyond me, since I pump all day at work when I'm away from Ryder and then get up all night to nurse him. But even though I had to wake up in the middle of the night to suction my ta-tas, sleeping in until almost nine the next morning was still a luxury!
This trip definitely taught me the ins and outs of Traveling While Pumping. I now know what it's like to lug a breast pump disguised as an ugly mini backpack around as my carry on, how to pump standing up in an airport bathroom stall, and what it's like to wake up at four a.m. wondering if my boobs are actually going to explode. It literally hurt my soul every time I had to dump all the milk I pumped down the drain (that stuff is liquid gold!) but unfortunately I had no way to transport it home safely, and it was probably contaminated by all those adult beverages, anyway.
We were so happy to be there to celebrate with Carolina and Eren, but equally excited to get home to our Mini Me. Although I'm still not certain he actually missed us...
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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Dear Ryder... Five Months

Dear Ryder,

This month has brought a bit more routine back into your life, mainly due to my maternity leave ending. Returning to work full time has been a change for all of us, but overall it's gone pretty much as well as we could have hoped for.

I eased into things and only went in for two days my first week back, then right off the bat we had a busy weekend planned, starting with a pickleball tournament for Daddy!

With you as his good luck charm, he smashed the competition in the doubles tournament and took home the gold medal, and he would have dominated in the singles round as well, except Mommy forced him to head home so we could get ready for family photos that afternoon. 

My first full week back at work was pretty overwhelming, at least for me and Daddy. After spending virtually every moment with you for the entire summer, separation anxiety attacked me full force, and I definitely had to talk myself down off the ledge a few times at work. 

I am used to how demanding it can be to stay home all day with an infant, but for Daddy it was a bit of a crash course those first few days. When he left for work on Wednesday, it was time for your first full day next door with Julia. She and her mother-in-law watch you on the days when Daddy is on shift, and it's obvious that they are taking great care of you, which gives me a huge amount of relief as a working Momma. 

We had a few visitors this month... Tony and Nikki came over for dinner one evening, and Dave and Annette came all the way down from Bellingham to meet you. 

You still love your Jumperoo (at least for about 15 minute intervals) and you're getting big enough now that your feet almost touch the floor. 

You celebrated with Aunt E at her engagement party in Seattle toward the end of September.

Tummy time still isn't your favorite, but you'll tolerate it for brief periods of time, especially when we get down on the ground with you.

Sometimes I have to remind myself to actually get in photos with you! Too often Mommy ends up behind the camera, instead...

You still love your feet, and grab for them almost every chance you get.

Bath time has become quite fun for you. You love splashing, and you manage to make such a mess these days that we've had to move your baby bath tub into the big tub so you can slash to your heart's delight without soaking the entire bathroom.

I love to snuggle you when you're all warm and cuddly, just out of the tub.

One of your favorite games with Daddy is when he holds you high up in the air. You squeal with delight every single time, and it's one of my favorite things to watch.

Nana came up to watch you for the day while Mommy and Daddy attended a Seahawks game this month. It's good for the two of us to get out once in a while on our own, but we sure did miss you!

You love playing on this bright colored quilt that my boss, Cindy, made for you.

Nana and Grandpa stayed with you for an entire weekend at the beginning of October so that Mommy and Daddy could attend a wedding in Palm Springs. You were such a good boy for your first night away from us! Even though you woke up many times throughout the night, Grandpa and Nana handled you just fine, and you always love spending time with them.

Grandpa knows how much you love it outside, so he made sure you got plenty of time soaking up the late summer sunshine in the backyard while we were gone.
We are so lucky that Nana and Grandpa are thrilled to come stay with you any time, like when we need to attend a wedding or cheer on the Seahawks

You are generally such a happy boy, but we basically spent the entire month battling your sleep schedule. For weeks after I went back to work you continued to refuse to nap, and even the doctor seemed surprised when we told her. Finally, you have started to take regular naps for about an hour in the morning (sometimes two hours) and short, 20 to 30 minute naps in the afternoon.

When I get home from work at six o'clock you are fussy and tired, so we almost immediately start getting you ready for bed. I nurse you and rock you to sleep, and you go down in your crib for usually about two hours before you wake up for the first time. Then it's nurse, rock, back to sleep, every hour or two for the rest of the night. We have no idea why you continue to wake up so frequently. I like to tell myself it's because you miss me while I'm at work all day, and I won't deny that I enjoy our special, secret, midnight cuddles, but we're all getting to be extremely sleep deprived. I've been doing lots of research and reading on sleep, and hopefully we'll have this figured out by next month.

You're very alert and active, kicking your feet, waving your arms, grabbing at anything within reach. You still drool constantly and chew on everything you can get your hands on, but we haven't seen any sign of teeth just yet. You roll from your back to your tummy, but usually get stuck there and become frustrated until we rescue you and turn you back over. We are practicing sitting up, but you still can't manage it very well unsupported for more than a few seconds at a time.

I have missed you so much this month since I've been back at work, but I'm so happy that you have gotten so much quality time to bond with Daddy.

We both love you so much, sweet boy!

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