Month: January 2017

Banana Pumpkin Oat Muffins

Sometimes I’m taken aback by the extent to which Lily and I are on the same wavelength. It’s rarely anything existential, and is usually more along the lines of both wanting to go get ice cream. I say rarely existential because we had this one car ride a few months ago where Lily said something like, “Mom, do you feel like the moon?” and then proceeded to go through things like “a star,” “an owl,” “a bear,” and it turned into this whole experience where we talked about what it would feel like to be each of those things. Anywho…

Last Thursday I gave up all hope of waking up early to run, and let Lily come in my bed after Ryan left for work at 6am. I couldn’t remember the last time I didn’t wake up to an alarm on a weekday morning, and it was just so relaxing and warm in bed. Lily was semi-asleep, and the thought of getting up and making banana muffins crossed my mind. Of course this was a Thursday and already an hour later than my normal wake up and I was on my own with both kids, but I had a feeling the morning was going to go more smoothly than most. That’s when Lily looked at me and said, “I want a muffin.” I swear we share brain waves.

I’ve been using the same basic banana oatmeal muffin recipe for a few years. I look at recipes more as suggestions, and also never seem to have the right ingredients on hand or have others I want to use up, so I’ve adapted this recipe many times. This version was by far the best, so I actually wrote down what I ended up using because I might even make the exact same recipe again.

I know I mentioned in my lactation cookie recipe that I always double baked good recipes, because if a recipe doesn’t make enough to freeze, I don’t have time for it. But did I mention that to do this, I have to use a massive salad bowl? It’s kind of ridiculous.

I happened to only have 2 really ripe bananas, but I had a can of pumpkin I had been wanting to use up. So glad I decided to try this. I was also out of regular sugar and didn’t have quite enough brown sugar, so I added some maple syrup. The batter was a little wet at the end, but a healthy heap of ground flax brought it to just the right consistency.

Have you discovered how much you can get done in 10 minutes yet? I went upstairs to take a shower while the first batch was in the oven, with just over 10 minutes until the timer would go off. I figured they’d be a little overlooked, but when I ran back downstairs there were still 3 minutes left on the clock. I had this weird Twilight Zone experience and had to check that yes, Lily was still alive in the living room, and yes, I had managed to wash my hair and put lotion on in 7 minutes.

Somehow Maggie, Lily, and I all managed to eat breakfast together. Did I just admit giving a muffin with added sugar to my 9 month old? I considered using honey but chose maple syrup because botulism, so it cancels out.

Lily warming up with a muffin after a smoothie “freeze attack.”

BTW, Lily asked, “Do these muffins have wheat?” So considerate of her gluten-intolerant relatives.

Of course, less than a week after making this double batch of muffins there is only one left so we’ll be making some more this weekend.

I know this is a weird pic of Mags, but look at her mouth: she chews her food with her teeny tiny front teeth!

Print Recipe
Banana Pumpkin Oat Muffins
This super hearty muffin recipe is already doubled, so you can toss some in the freezer for an on-the-go breakfast.
Course Baked Goods
Servings
muffins
Ingredients
Course Baked Goods
Servings
muffins
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Combine flour, oats, flax, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg and cinnamon to taste. Set aside.
  2. In a very large bowl. beat the eggs lightly. Stir in the milk, oil, vanilla, and maple syrup. Add the mashed banana and pumpkin, and combine thoroughly. Stir in the dry mixture until just combined.
  3. Coat muffin tins with cooking spray, and fill 3/4.
  4. Bake at 400 degrees F for 18-20 minutes.
Share this Recipe
 

Being a Pregnant Bride

Before we got engaged, Ryan and I hadn’t talked much about what kind of wedding we wanted. The only things we had discussed were that we wanted it to be outside and for it to be a laid-back party. Also, we didn’t even discuss getting married. All of this was in hypothetical terms like, “I’d definitely want an outdoor wedding.”

By the end of the car ride back to Buffalo from the Adirondacks where he proposed at the top of a mountain, we basically had the whole thing planned. The when (fall), where (The Ashokan Center), caterers (The Hickory), flowers (we’d pick and assemble them on our own). I told Ryan I wanted to be laid back and not stress but I’m pretty sure he didn’t believe me. At all. I can’t let it go when he brings home the wrong kind of peanut butter so I couldn’t blame him. I’m working on it.

But I was serious. I had spent so much time looking at Style Me Pretty (not to plan my own, but because wedding porn) and had watched enough Say Yes to the Dress that I knew how stressful wedding planning could be. So I made a decision to not stress about every detail, and not to worry about what anyone else thought about this.

Little did I know how laid back my wedding would really end up being.

Surprise!

Just over five months into our engagement, we found out I was pregnant. Apparently some people would postpone their wedding or maybe move it up, but we didn’t actually consider this. I just figured I’d be pregnant when we got married. Really pregnant. Like 8 months pregnant to be exact. I guess I could have been really bummed about this, but instead it felt like I was getting a major pass on any wedding expectations. Now no one could say anything about our casual nuptials.

Honestly, there wasn’t a huge amount that we changed about our wedding. We gave the DJ an FYI since he wasn’t actually going to see us in person before the wedding, and our engagement photo session became sort of a prenatal/engagement shoot. My showers become combo baby/bridal showers, and I got the dress I originally wanted only 8 sizes bigger.

Maybe the most significant impact being being pregnant leading up to my wedding had was that I didn’t have to worry about being super in shape and fitting into a dress. There is so much pressure to be super skinny on your wedding day, and unfortunately this is something I would have spent a lot of time stressing about. But instead of trying to figure out what I should eat during the day before the ceremony, I got burritos with some of my bridesmaids after we finished hair and makeup. They even had beans in them.

Other things that some of our guests probably didn’t love but I didn’t care because I was pregnant:

  • I picked all of the flowers with my mom, dad, and one of my sisters the day before the wedding, and my mom, sisters, and some cousins assembled all of them the day of.
  • Most of our guests slept in bunk houses. It was like $25 a night. Some of them slept in tents. For free.
  • We didn’t have a seating chart. Ryan and i had a “sweetheart table,” but most other people sat in long tables on benches.
  • Everyone, except our older guests, stood for the ceremony which was outside on the grass.
I think everyone still managed to have a good time.

Shocker, but I didn’t miss drinking on my wedding day (actually not 100% true because I had a glass of champagne), or being hungover the next morning. I guess that’s probably good because we ran out of alcohol. And food. Other things I didn’t miss:

  • Wearing heels. I wore flats! It was great not worrying about what my butt looked like, or having an extra pair of shoes to change into when my heels started killing my feet.
  • Wearing structured “undergarments.” I didn’t even wear a bra.

And some completely un-pregnancy-related things I loved about our wedding:

  • There were two (or three?) campfires the day before and then after the reception
  • The caterers didn’t show up to set up the tables, so a bunch of guys from both sides of our families did. Half of them had just come back from a run. My parents asked if I set this up on purpose because it worked out so well.
  • Ryan picked our wedding favors. 200 of them. They were apples from a local orchard.

The only time I really even felt pregnant during the wedding was at about 9:30pm when I realized I was really thirsty and should probably take a break and sit down for a few minutes. And then the next day when I was more exhausted than I had ever been in my entire life.

Honestly, if I had to go back and do it again, I think I’d be pregnant when I got married. It just made everything so relaxed, and there was this undercurrent of excitement about the fact that we were also having a baby.

And did I mention the burritos?

 

Lactation Cookies

  1. Ladies, it has been an exhausting few weeks.

While I’ve been sticking to a 42.5 hour work week, Ryan has been putting in some really long hours. He’s been getting home after 8 three days a week and then working from home in the evening, and has also been working several hours every Saturday, and sometimes a few hours on Sunday. I’m an exempt employee, so working more hours doesn’t translate to more pay. Ryan, on the other hand, is self-employed and technically a business owner, so the more he works, the more he makes. When you have 2 kids, student loans (all mine), a mortgage, a garage door and hot water heater that need to be replaced, and five weddings coming up, that ends up translating to a lot more hours worked.

Maggie is still waking up to nurse three times a night. I fell asleep in the rocker while feeding her twice the other night. We’ve sort of tried to sleep train her, but she also keeps getting sick, and when she’s not sick she’s teething, so it’s been a nightmare. She also doesn’t respond well to us going in at increased time intervals–she doesn’t calm down at all in between, and we’re too exhausted to listen to her crying for an hour. Last night, I slept in the basement after 2:58am because I can’t sleep through her crying.

Maggie of course isn’t the only one who’s been sick. Ryan has been since Christmas, and ended up with strep. He can’t seem to kick whatever he has. I used to stay late at work sometimes and put in a few hours on the weekend, but I’ve gotten to a point where 1) I want to spend that time with my kids and 2) I don’t have time because laundry/grocery shopping/cleaning/meal prep/etc.

Lily has been battling cold after cold and a nasty cough since before her birthday that also have her up at night, and I ended up in urgent care with her last Friday night. She officially has “reactive airways” (asthma, but they don’t call it that until age 4), so is now on treatments for that which make her super wound up and aggressive. I’ll do a post on RSV and her respiratory issues at another time, but let me just say she is a trooper. With her and Maggie waking up through the night though, and both of them only wanting me, I. am. EXHAUSTED.

I was craving cookies last week, and decided I needed to do some baking before I went broke buying one every other day, or Lily started wondering where all her animal crackers were going. Turned out I was getting my period, which meant not only cravings, but a plummet in my milk supply. I see a direct correlation between my sleep and my milk supply, and at this point I was only producing 7 or 8 oz. while I was at work.

I had tried making lactation cookies when Maggie was a month or two old, but they didn’t do anything for me. They were SO delicious though (read: my husband wouldn’t stop eating them until I told him how expensive the ingredients were), and I had all these lactogenic ingredients lying around, so I figured if I was going to make cookies I may as well make them with a purpose.

The boob-juice inducing ingredients.

And guess what? They worked! For the first time in weeks I was able to pump enough milk that I didn’t have to supplement with formula. We finished them in just a few days, so I’m going to make some more this week (and hide them so no one else can eat them).

I used the same recipe that didn’t originally work for me, which I had originally chosen for its trifecta of lactogenic ingredients (maybe quadfecta? oats, brewers yeast, fenugreek, and flax seed). I don’t know about you, but when I make cookies I always double the recipe because who has time for 18 cookies. This recipe is already doubled! Extra bonus: the dough smells and tastes pretty unappetizing, so no little hands trying to sneak a taste while you’re whipping them up.

The only dough you’ll never be tempted to eat.

These are pretty hearty and they freeze really well, so I just microwave them for 30 seconds when I want one. So tasty all warmed up. I hope they work as well for you as they did for me!

I’m not the only one who makes giant cookies so I don’t have to feel bad about eating three, right?

Print Recipe
Lactation Cookies
Servings
Ingredients
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Mix flaxseed meal and water; set aside.
  3. Stir together flour, brewers yeast, salt, baking soda, and fenugreek. Set aside. (this is the stinky stuff)
  4. In a standing mixer or bowl, beat butter, coconut oil, and sugars until well-combined. Blend in eggs. Add flaxseed mixture and vanilla and mix until incorporated.
  5. Add dry mixture. Mix until just combined. Stir in oats and chocolate chips.
  6. Scoop 2 Tbsp dough (eh, mine were 1/4 cup) onto baking sheet, an inch apart.
  7. Bake for 10-13 minutes (if they're big like mine), or until matte on top.
  8. After they're cooled, store in a freezer bag in the freezer. Microwave 30 seconds before enjoying!
Share this Recipe
 

Ode to the little table

Oh little table, with your “washable” ink-marred surfaces and tomato sauce-encrusted cracks, how you have proven yourself to be one of our best child gear investments (you’re currently on par with the BOB, but it’s the middle of the winter). You’ve endured through toddler breakfasts and Playdough creations, and display sticker residue and “accidental” marker lines with pride.

last-meal-1-year-old
Last meal as a one year old.

When you first joined our family, your white and cool green pallet blended effortlessly with our décor, and we were thankful you refused to make your presence known at all times in primary colors.  You gained instant popularity by fulfilling your duty of transforming our toddler from a banshee with the attention span of a goldfish, to a poised individual who could sit quietly through meals.

baby-breakfast
Lily’s first meal at the little table. Look at those chubby baby legs!

You didn’t complain as Lily made her first strokes across scrap paper littered over your surface. Mealtimes began with pushing a shoebox full of crayon stubs and wrinkled coloring books to your corner, and slapping a plastic placemat overtop of you. The latter was always in vain as yogurt or applesauce or another liquid would inevitably seep underneath and act as a glue. Your chairs took the brunt of the abuse as Lily dragged them from room to room and experimented with achieving progressively higher decibel crashes as she repeatedly toppled them over on our wood floors.

fish-tank
Creating Fishy O’Fish’s habitat with Auntie Laura

You came with us to our new house, and withstood the great “washable” ink incident of 2016. You were no longer pleasant to look at, and I chose to ignore the dried-on peanut butter, jelly, and pasta sauce that no combination of baby-friendly, green cleaning solutions could remove. Instead, I just hoped that visitors wouldn’t leave with any new communicable diseases.

carrot-cake-new-house
Sharing secret carrot cake with Mama in the new house. She looks like such a baby!

The slats on your chairs constantly loosened themselves, exposing my preschooler’s butt to four tiny nails which I could have completely avoided had I heeded your negative online reviews. Wood glue was no match for this flaw, but you survived through the great handheld drill incident of 2017.

These days Lily joins us at the big table for meals, and uses you more and more for drawing increasingly more recognizable stick figures and tracing letters. I’ve tossed around the idea of repainting you a-la the Ikea Latt Table hack, but who has time for that detail. Plus, the cakes on jelly and black scrawl give you personality.

art
Suddenly she

As Maggie gets closer to pulling up, I’m having visions of she and Lily sharing cookies and tea and giggling as we all know sisters do (and myself mopping up crumbs on my hands and knees). Sometimes I fantasize of the day you’ll no longer take up residence in the corner of our dining room, and I try not to think about how many crayons and cheese cubes and dried up peas are stuck in vent inconveniently located beneath you. But then I remember saying goodbye to you will also mean saying goodbye to babyhood and toddlerhood and the preschool years, and I am not ready to let go. So for now, you stay. Just please, use the hand sanitizer on your way out.

 

 

 

Free indoor activities for kids

We all know about winters in WNY, but this past summer we had to endure some record-breaking heat. Summers aren’t usually so sweltering, so a lot of us don’t have air conditioning. At my house, we spent a ton of time in our humpback whale cool (ahem, pool) and basement while I was on maternity leave, but we also got creative with free activities that you can do away from home. There are a lot of inside play spaces for babies and kids where we live, but it can get expensive quickly. Between borrowing AC in the summer, and battling out cabin fever in the winter, we have a pretty well-rounded list of free indoor activities for kids. I’ll save the ones you can do at home for another day, but here are some of my favorite things to do when you need to get out of the house on a budget:

Libraries

When I worked part-time, Lily and I went to the library once a week and we would sometimes stay for two hours. While the library in our old town didn’t have activities for under threes, it had an incredible children’s section. There was a big wooden dollhouse, complete with garage and wooden people, furniture (indoor and out), and car. There was a play food section with a shopping cart, a toy kitchen and table, few cozy reading areas, and hamsters. I haven’t spent much time in our new library because the girls go there twice a week (once with each grandma), but while it doesn’t have all of that fun stuff, it does have a ton of programming for kids. Most of it is for three and up, but there are often evening activities for families (so kids of all ages). The girls have been to a few, but I’ve only gone to one. There were monkeys, so I was over the moon.

Barnes and Noble

Barnes and Noble has various story and song areas for babies on up. They also have a train set and, of course, hundreds of books. We’ve gone there to do the stories and songs and then play, and other times we’ve just gone there to play. I recommend first heading straight for Starbucks, then over to the train set so your kid can play with the other kids and you can sit back and enjoy your latte.

 

barnes-and-noble

 

Pet Stores

One time I had planned to go to the Children’s Place with Lily in tow. Their website said they opened at 10, but they actually didn’t open until 11. Thankfully there was a PetSmart right next door. We spent the entire hour looking at different animals, watching the dogs in the dog area, and playing with doggie toys (because let’s face it, who can really tell the difference between them and baby toys).

The same mall our Barnes and Noble is in also has a cat adoption store! You used to be able to go in there and pet all the cats roaming around, but I heard they’ve stopped letting them out of their cages. Sad face.

Side note: I can’t stand our Children’s Place, and the customer service is terrible. I was at least 36 weeks pregnant with Maggie when I went there with Lily, because I figured (correctly) it would be my last real free weekend. No idea what I would have done if the pet store wasn’t next door, and the Children’s Place employees didn’t seem to care.

Grocery Stores

There was a day this past summer when it had been over 85 degrees inside our house, and between being hot and exhausted I almost passed out. I knew I had to get somewhere cooler, and that I also had to get groceries. So we headed to the grocery store, Lily hopped in one of those carts with the ride-in car on the front, and Maggie checked out all the lights and colors from her spot in the carrier. I did this a few more times over the summer with Lily, because those cars are basically a sure deal to get her to fall asleep.

asleep-cart

Side note, we had gone to the farmers market before Tops, and by the time we were done getting groceries we needed some lunch. I took the girls to Taste, because I had my mom’s stroller which Maggie tolerated when she was much littler. Lily and I had a long, lazy lunch. Then the rain came. It hadn’t rained in such a long time, that I hadn’t thought to check the forecast. The windows in my car were cracked quite a bit, the groceries were right under these windows, Maggie’s car seat was in the car, and I didn’t have an umbrella. When it started coming down in torrents, it took me a minute to realize that everything was going to be soaked. There wasn’t any point in rushing out to the car, since we were going to get soaked, too. We got drenched on the walk to the car, and Maggie’s bucket seat was full of water. I had to put her in it, and she didn’t even cry on the way home as the water sloshed around her. Chillest baby.

Fisher Price Store

We’re fortunate to live in the hometown of Fisher Price. Their store is chock full of every toy they have on the market, and is really spacious. Lily LOVES looking at all of the different toys, and pressing everything that makes sound. She’ll go up and down the aisles visiting her favorite toys over and over. They also have this room with ride-on cars, which are in huge boxes. The balls are also stored in this room, and she loves to throw them around and let them bounce off the boxes.

It might sound crazy to bring a toddler to a toy store, and I have to credit my MIL with establishing toy stores as an environment for play. She was the one who gave me the idea, as she used to bring Lily there while babysitting her. She does usually get Lily fruit snacks while they’re there, and I’ve occasionally gotten her a Little People (they were only $1 last time!), but Lily never expects for or asks for anything (at least when she’s with me). I also LOVE looking at all of the baby things. Kids’ toys don’t really change much, but there is always new baby gear out there. When I was little I used to pour over the baby section of the JC Penney catalog. It’s a good thing that our friends and siblings are starting to have kids because even if we have more, we probably won’t need any new gear (except a car seat, and I love researching car seats so the thought gets me excited).

Toy Loft

Yes, there are two toy stores in our town. Toy Loft is more high-end, and they carry a lot of Melissa and Doug. It’s my go-to for gifts, and between Lily’s classmates and our friend’s and family’s kids, I’m there more and more often. The best part is they have an area set up in the middle with Magna Tiles and a little toy house full of doll house people and Calico Critters, and a train set. We had to go there to get presents a few times this summer, and I always lingered so Lily could play and I could check out the books (and baby toys–again, I can’t get enough). It’s really tight in there, and you can’t usually get a side-by-side double stroller any further than the ramp. It’s also not ideal if your kid is in a really rambunctious mood. Bonus: they have a great bathroom.

Vidler’s

In case Fisher Price wasn’t enough to get East Aurora on the map, we also have Vidler’s. In the winter, the Christmas decoration section will keep any kid entertained for a while. They’re all in themed groups, so it makes it easy for kids to pretend play. Not that that’s what ornaments are intended for or anything, but they don’t seem to mind as long as you’re not breaking anything. There are a ton of toys upstairs and all manner of nooks and crannies to get lost in (cards! lunch boxes! books!), but the highlight is Sandy, the ancient mechanical rocking horse that’s only 10 cents per ride. They also have cheap popcorn, which can occupy a toddler for a good 20 minutes.

What are some of your favorite free indoor activities?

 

Paint-splatter art

This summer when I was home on maternity leave, I quickly discovered that I needed to have at least one semi-structured activity planned for Lily every day. We struggled with some behavior issues, in the form of her simply not listening. I really couldn’t blame her for this: A week before her Halloween birthday, we officially potty trained her. In December, we said goodbye to her Wubbanub. We spent most of January and February sick, and she ultimately ended up hospitalized with RSV in March. A week after we were released, we moved to a new house in a new town. Then she got her first stomach bug, and Maggie was born 2 weeks later. It was a huge amount of change and upheaval, and I am so proud of how well she dealt with and adapted to it all. So when she started running away when we were in the yard or at the playground, I knew she needed more of my attention.

We stopped going to the playground with Maggie in tow after an incident where Lily ended up with a bloody lip. When Maggie was really little, she refused to go in the stroller so I had to bring her everywhere in the carrier. One day while at the playground, I had Maggie in the Ergo when Lily started running away to a sidewalk that leads directly to a busy road. She is fast. She wouldn’t come back and get in the stroller, and because Maggie was in the carrier and Lily was kicking, I couldn’t pick her up. She had fallen (sort of) off a swing earlier so her bottom lip was puffed up (she was swinging on her stomach and fell off face-first. Me: “Sweetie, do  you want to go home?” Lily: “No, I want to do it again!”). I grabbed her while she was in mid-run, and she fell…right on her puffed up lip. It started bleeding and it was this whole horrendous experience of (thankfully few) other playground-goers watching as I dragged a bleeding toddler to the stroller. I learned a few things from this: 1) Always follow Lily with the stroller. Getting her into it is much easier when it’s not on the other side of the playground. 2) Don’t go anywhere alone with both kids. Ever.

We spent a lot of time at home after this, so I knew I had to look for some activity ideas. I headed for Pinterest because, duh. I found some great ideas, and a lot of blog posts that had links to websites or blogs full of ideas for kids activities. These kept us entertained all summer. Let me say that the activities we did didn’t end up looking as nice as they did on these sites, or going exactly as they were planned. We did a lot of adapting, and a lot of rinsing off in our blow-up whale pool (which I already miss Lily’s mispronunciation of: “My humpback whale cool.”). One of my favorites was Paint Splat Art.

paint-splatter-standing

Is it only me, or does the sight/thought of a mallet make everyone else shudder thanks to The Shining?

This is a great outdoor activity to do on a hot summer day. You’ll definitely need to hose off or head into a pool or other body of water right after because it is messy.

Supplies

Directions

  • Dollop globs of paint a few inches apart all over the paper, and cover each with a cotton round.
  • Wallop each cotton round with the mallet, and watch the paint splatters fly!

paint-splatter-squatting

This activity is definitely intended for kids who are a little older than Lily was (almost 3). They need to be big enough to actually be able to control the mallet if you want to get anything worth sending to Grandma. However, Lily had a blast doing this. She smooshed the cotton rounds all over the place, and for some reason was really interested in putting them in the flower pots. As you can see, she also covered her entire body in paint. I showed her how to walk through the paint, and then make footprints all over the driveway. We had a really dry summer, so I was reminded of this activity every time I went by her colorful footprints.

I tried to make our summer activities about what I would have wanted to do. It can be really tempting to guide little ones through an activity with an end goal of something pretty. But even if you don’t follow the rules, these activities are great sensory experiences and help them to explore their creativity. Lily loved layering on the squishy paint, and watching each different color footprint appear. The cotton rounds are a texture kids aren’t often exposed to, and she experimented with covering them with paint, sliding them around, and sticking dirt to them. I didn’t push her too much to try to perfect her aim with the mallet, because it was so heavy and she was more interested in touching everything with her hands. This would be a great way to work on targeting aim with older kids though.

I really look forward to doing this activity again when the weather gets warmer, and to seeing how Lily decides to experiment with another year under her belt!

 

Nursing, the second time around.

By this point, we all know about the benefits of breastfeeding for both moms and babies. I’ve been a proponent of breastfeeding since long before I had children. It wasn’t until recently, though, that I realized what my stance really is when I saw the phrase circulating social media: “Fed is best.”

When I was pregnant with Lily, I planned to breastfeed. I also planned to do so only to the extent that it didn’t negatively impact my quality of life, her health and happiness, or my relationship with my husband, friends, and/or family. I read so many stories about women who were staunch breastfeeding supporters and wouldn’t feed their babies formula even though they were struggling to maintain weight. They went so far as to tape little tubes to their breasts, and pumped around the clock. It angered me how these women felt that they should be praised for these efforts, all the while they also expressed how exhausted they were and how going to these extents meant that spent less time with their babies, older children, spouses, family members, and friends.

I knew I was incredibly lucky when Lily latched on within a few minutes, and I had an oversupply of milk. After she nursed for the last time in January 2016, I threw out my extensive freezer stash. When Maggie was born, I immediately knew something was different. I produced just enough milk to keep her fed. She was an incredibly fussy eater, and in the evenings during her witching hour(s) often couldn’t latch. There were a number of times I gave her bottles of expressed milk, but I had such a small amount saved up that I considered supplementing with formula very early on. Evenings were incredibly stressful, with her screaming inconsolably from as early as 6pm to as late as 11:30pm. It was impacting my life, and taking away from time spent with Lily and Ryan. There were endless nights of bringing her into our room at 7pm, and eventually passing her off to Ryan a few hours later when I couldn’t take it anymore.  Every night I struggled with whether or not to give her a bottle and then pump, which I dreaded. Then suddenly at 7 weeks, things got better. She started latching more effectively and was much less fussy. But when I went back to work at 13 weeks postpartum, I was barely producing enough milk. I depleted my freezer stash, and could only pump enough for the next day. I often had to pump in the morning and evening as well. When we had a 3-night trip away from the girls looming when Maggie would be 5 months old, I knew we’d have to supplement.

sleeping-baby

Preparing that first bottle of formula was strangely liberating. With Lily, I think I may have cried if I was forced to give her formula. With Maggie, it was like this huge weight was lifted off of me. Here I was with an alternative for when she struggled to nurse because there just wasn’t much there for her, for those evenings when she bit me because nothing was coming out. She had formula for 1 1/5 days of our trip, and of course was completely fine. These days, she ends up getting one formula bottle about half the time when I’m at work. Probably 2 days a week, I end up giving her formula before bed because I just don’t have enough left in my boobs (this is usually toward the end of the week). And then of course she nurses 3 times a night at 8 months which is a nightmare, but part of me is okay with it because I do want her to get that little bit more of breastmilk.

While my supply is definitely lower this time around, being at work full time has absolutely made pumping more difficult. With Lily, I only worked full time for about a month before going to 2 days a week. Pumping 3 times a day, 2 days a week is nothing. Pumping 3 times a day, 5 days a week and not producing enough is exhausting. I get so anxious looking at the timer on my pump, and sometimes I’ll get to 14:45 and just rip the thing off (I try to pump for 15 minutes). I also have to work through pumping sessions, because otherwise I’d have to take 45 minutes worth of unpaid breaks during the day. This means my back is completely wrecked from sitting hunched over, typing one-handed while trying to push every last drop out. It’s complete crap that we’re expected to exclusively breast feed for 6 months, but we have to go back to work after only a few weeks and don’t get paid for pumping breaks.

I reached out to a lactation consultant when I was considering stopping pumping because of my low supply. I wanted her to say that it was okay to supplement with formula. Instead, she suggested I add a pumping session in the morning and/or the evening, and that I try relaxing while pumping at work. If she had said this to me in person, I may have bitten her head off. There is no way I would pump in the morning or evening and take away from time spent doing chores that enable me to be more present with my girls when they’re awake. And relaxing at work? I don’t think an extra ounce of milk is worth 45 less minutes with my family. She also suggested that I ask my childcare providers to offer her fewer bottles, and more solid food and water during the day. Why wouldn’t I just send her with an extra bottle of formula then? I’m all for lactation consultants, but that last suggestion really put me off.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, though. I think. I stopped pumping with Lily at 10 months, because she stopped taking bottles. But I was also home with her the other 5 days of the week, and she would nurse those days. With Maggie, I think I’ll stop when she’s 12 months old, but what if she wants bottles during the day? Do I just send formula? Or do I keep pumping? What did you do?

PS: I switched to the Spectra S2 pump after my Medela Symphony just wasn’t cutting it. This pump is such an improvement! It’s so quiet, and much more efficient. It came highly recommended by a lactation consultant, who said she didn’t know why people would choose the Medela over it. Plus, it’s kind of cute. Spectra S2 Plus

A day in the life

One of my favorite blog posts to read are “Day in the life” posts. I love seeing what other family’s typical days look like, especially if their family is similar to mine. I work full-time, 42.5 hours a week if you include lunch. I’m a project manager, so sometimes those hours get stretched out even more but recently I’ve been sticking to a 42.5 hour schedule because I feel like that’s so much to begin with. My husband is a Certified Financial Planner, and while it differs week to week and month to month, he has a pretty grueling schedule and always works a few extra hours over the weekend. We have 3 year old Lily, and 8 month old Maggie, and our childcare situation is a bit unusual so I’ve done each day separately.

Monday

My alarm goes off at 5:15am, and I look at my phone until 5:18-5:20. I go downstairs to make coffee and kick myself for not doing delay brew (again). I make my, Lily, and now Maggie’s lunch while I drink my coffee. I used to try to make lunches in the evening, but the girls have been sick and Maggie has been sleeping terribly for what seems like 4 months now, so after I get Lily into bed at night I go to bed.

I’m supposed to run at 5:45am, but not doing delay brew and having to make lunches means that I run at 6am instead. If it’s above 20 degrees and not the middle of a snowstorm, I run outside. Otherwise, I run on the tredmill and watch a show.

6:30/6:40am: I get back from my run. I look at what lights are on as I come up the driveway to try to gauge who’s awake. Sometimes it’s no one, sometimes it’s everyone, and sometimes it’s just Ryan and one of the girls. Whatever the situation is, I try to get into the shower before the girls see me if they’re awake or they’ll get upset.

6:55-7am: I get back downstairs and make the girls breakfast (it’s usually me), get my pump parts together, and finish making lunches if I haven’t already. After Lily finishes her breakfast she watches a show until we’re ready to leave. I/we (depending on if Ryan decides to run or not) brush Lily’s teeth and hair (the worst–I am thisclose to her first haircut), and get her dressed. Mondays are great because I don’t have to get Maggie dressed which is a struggle.

7:35am: My mom arrives to watch Maggie. This is really helpful because I can get last minute things together and deal with getting Lily ready.

7:50-8am: I always seem to be late getting out the door. I drive Lily to preschool and drop her off.

8:30am-5pm: Work!

sleepy-maggie

Maggie, lulled to sleep by snow falling outside the window and the ultra-calming environment created by Grandma.

5:25-5:30pm: I pick Lily up. We talk about her day on the 5 minute drive home.

5:45pm-ish: I get home and my mom is making dinner, or already has it made. We chat, I put whatever I can away, and Lily helps set the table or plays.

6:15ish: We eat dinner. My dad often comes too, along with their little dog.

6:50pm: If I’m giving Maggie a bath, I take her up to do that while Lily hangs out with my dad and my mom clears up dinner. After Maggie’s bath I read her a few stories, nurse her, and have her in bed by 7:15.

7:15pm: I go back downstairs. When my parents leave, I give Lily a bath or play with her (we do baths every other day)

7:50pm: I read stories to Lily. Sometimes Ryan gets home and says goodnight, but other times he’s not home until 8 or 8:30pm.

8:03pm: I’m out of Lily’s room. Sometimes she reads to herself for a while, or has to pee again. Sometimes I’ll do a few things to clean up downstairs, and other times I’ll just get ready for bed immediately. I like to be in bed by 8:45 because it usually takes at least 20 minutes of reading for me to fall asleep, and with Maggie waking up a few times each night I have to be in bed for at least 8 hours to get anywhere near a full nights sleep.

9:30pm: If it gets this late and I’m awake, I panic! Otherwise, I’m already asleep.

Tuesday

My morning routine is the same as Monday. The only difference is Tuesday is technically Ryan’s morning, and his mom comes over to watch both girls. I’m supposed to leave at 7:30am so I can leave work early that or a different day, but it’s usually more like 7:50am. That’s okay because I work 5 minutes away on Tuesdays!

8am-5pm: Work!

5pm: I leave work to either go home to the girls and make dinner, or go to my MIL’s to get them and have dinner. When we do this, we typically stay until 7pm and then I go home and put Maggie to bed right away while Lily watches a show on the iPad. The nightly routine is the same after this.

Wednesday

We’re still figuring this one out, because my MIL doesn’t come to our house until 8am, and Ryan has to leave around 7am. This is too late, so I starting next week I will have to get both girls ready, bring Maggie to my MIL house, and bring Lily to preschool, leaving by 7:20-7:30. Maggie isn’t awake yet half the time, and sometimes Lily isn’t either. I am panicking just thinking about it.

8:30am-5Pm: Work

5pm: Sometimes I run after work on Wednesdays because the mornings are hard. I always skip one day a week running, so it should probably be Wednesdays. That just means getting up really early on Thursdays!

Ryan is supposed to make dinner on Wednesdays, but he gets home at 5:45-6 half the time so this doesn’t always happen. Regardless, Wednesdays are always easy dinners, and having him home in the evening to help clean up and to keep Lily occupied while I get Maggie to bed is a HUGE help. Last night Ryan and I were both tickling Maggie on our new foam mattress as it finished expanding, and she was laughing but also looked kind of confused and Ryan said, “She’s like, ‘Why am I getting all of this attention?'” It was spot on, because most of the time we operate under divide-and-conquer. I’m really guilty of using anytime Ryan is around to get chores done, and I’m trying to be better about letting things go and spending time all together instead. It’s hard when I haven’t cleaned the bathtubs or dusted in 3 months, and there are 5 loads of laundry that need to be put away though.

Thursday

Here is what Thursday should look like (and what it did before Daylight Savings Time and Maggie not sleeping):

4:45am: My alarm goes off. I did delay brew the night before, so I get up right away and start drinking coffee while prepping lunches and doing other chores really quietly.

5:15am: Run.

5:45am: Return from a run. Maggie often wakes to be fed. I’m in the shower by 6am, and Ryan is out the door by 6:15am. Both girls tend to wake up early on Thursdays. Murphy’s Law. This isn’t a problem because my mom watches them both at our house, so the morning is better no matter what!

messy-lily

“Frankie didn’t know any better!” Typical Thursday morning before my mom started watching the kids. Lily decided to cover herself in “washable” ink and blame it on being a dog.

8:30am-5pm: Work. The evening looks the same as Mondays, minus having to pick up Lily.

Friday

5:15am: Alarm goes off and I get up. The morning is the same as other mornings in terms of prepping lunches and running. I leave by 7:30am, and Ryan drops the girls off. This is Maggie’s one day a week at daycare, and it’s the same one Lily goes to.

7:30am-4:30pm: Work. This is a long day because there’s usually a half hour I need to make up for somewhere else. I’m Exempt, and I used to feel like I needed to work over 40 hours every week. With the new labor law changes, our work day was expanded by 30 minutes so I don’t work extra anymore.

5pm: It’s Ryan’s day to pick up, but I love picking the girls up from daycare/preschool so I’ll often offer to do it. There’s nothing like that running hug! We eat dinner as a family on Fridays, but it’s again something casual like homemade pizza or burritos. After dinner is a combo of playing and getting Maggie ready for bed. This is again so much easier with Ryan home! We’ll sometimes stay up until 10(!) on a Friday, maybe watching a movie.

Looking at this, our schedules are all over the place, and it feels that way a lot of the time too. Two things that make my life so much easier are delay brew, and making lunches at night. Like I said, Maggie wakes up so much so I’m so exhausted that I just don’t feel like doing this in the evening. It’s really time for us to sleep train her, especially now that she’s been on an antibiotic and is feeling better. In the summer, evenings look very different. We always play outside in the evening in the summer, and often take a walk or go to the playground before or after dinner. When I have my act together in the morning, sometimes we’re able to get outside before it’s time for me to leave.

Is your schedule as messy as this? How do you deal with mornings?

 

A Birth Story

It’s been three years(!) since I last wrote a post. I’ve been wanting to get Maggie’s birth story written down since it happened, so I’m going to jump right back in with it.

Margaret Emmelise O’Connor was due, according to me, on April 24th, 2016, and according to my OB on April 21st. With this pregnancy, like my first, I had experienced Braxton Hicks since about 13 weeks on. This time, however, I had been having real contractions since about 36 weeks, and my midwife let me know it was prodromal labor and could occur for several more weeks. The good news was that prodromal labor preps your body for the real thing. The bad news: I was exhausted. It fortunately came in waves, so I sometimes had a few days reprieve.

My main midwife had been really enthusiastic about my plans to have a natural birth after having been induced with my first. At my 38-ish week appointment, things changed. I had my first cervical check, and her face just dropped. She told me my cervix was posterior, which is unfavorable for labor. With a posterior cervix, you can experience strong contractions that don’t result in progress. She said I would likely go past my due date, and might end up getting induced. She assured me we would try all of the natural labor induction methods first, and I went home and chugged my raspberry leaf tea.

The next Monday before my Thursday due date was uncharacteristically beautiful for late-April in Western NY. I was walking in the park near work thinking about how nice it was going to be to have a few weeks at home with Lily before the baby was born. After finding out I qualified for extended medical leave, I had decided the next day would be my last day of work. I really wish I had gone out earlier than 39+ weeks, but I hadn’t known I could use EML. At my appointment on Tuesday, my other midwife agreed I still had a few more weeks to go. That night I had some pretty intense contractions, but ultimately fell asleep.

I spent the next day at the zoo with Lily and my mother-in-law, breathing through inconsistent contractions. My MIL later said she had no idea I was having contractions then and that she couldn’t believe I spent hours walking around the zoo and even carrying my 2 1/2 year old. A big part of me figured I had a few more weeks of feeling like this, and that I needed to carry on like normal. That afternoon while Lily napped I baked and prepped a real dinner, which I hadn’t done in weeks. I started timing my contractions but ended up stopping because they were anywhere from 1-13 minutes apart. After she woke up we spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening playing outside. I chatted with my dad on the phone a bit and joked that maybe there’d be a baby that night. It was such a nice day and evening.

That night I started having more contractions around bed time. I again started timing them. I kept having to get out of bed to walk through the contractions, so I ended up going downstairs to sleep on the couch. I was able to sleep in between them until at least 2 or 3 am. I remember after my first birth thinking it was crazy people could fall asleep between contractions spaced less than 5 minutes apart, but here I was doing it. They were again inconsistent and I wasn’t in a huge amount of pain. I was mostly just annoyed that I was going to have to deal with this every night for a few weeks, because again, they were inconsistently spaced. I had a few that were 45 seconds apart, and some that were over 10 minutes apart. Around 4 am I got in our jet tub to see if that would help. It slowed everything down a bit and felt awesome. I decided to call my office, though, because I had been having contractions for such a long time at this point. It was really exciting getting to select the “If you think you’re in labor, please press 3” option! I explained what had been going on and that I wasn’t in a huge amount of pain but wondered if I should get checked. They said yes, and I said I wanted to wait to get to the hospital until about 7am because my MIL needed to come over.

We called my MIL and she got to the house about 6:30am on April 21st, my due date. Lily was still asleep while we got everything in the car. She woke up just a few minutes before we were going to leave, and I carried her downstairs. I remember thinking how little her hands looked. I set her down at the bottom of the stairs and let her walk into the living room while I had a contraction. I could tell my MIL was a little annoyed we had asked her to come over because I didn’t look like I was in labor. We got into the car and I cried about saying goodbye to Lily. It still makes me want to cry thinking of it.

On the way to the hospital my contractions slowed way down. I only had I think 4 during the entire 20 minute drive, and they weren’t strong. I had one on the way from the car to the maternity floor, and we arrived at about 7:05am. I was only 2cm dilated when the nurse checked me and a bit embarrassed. She said that I should walk the halls and if I didn’t progress after four hours, they’d send me home. We asked about walking in the park right outside and they said no which I was bummed about because it was nice out. About 7:55 we started walking the halls, after Ryan did some work in the room and they got me all checked in. We walked past the jam-packed nursery where there were at least 12 babies. A few minutes in, Ryan told me some joke and I started laughing. Suddenly, liquid splattered all over the ground and I said “Either my water just broke, or I peed my pants.” I was SO excited that my water broke! It was just like the movies. A nurse came over and I apologized but she said “You go girl!”

We headed back to the room and they tested the fluid and said it wasn’t my water. I was pretty convinced, so when I felt another gush in the bathroom and also lost my mucus plug and had my bloody show all at once, I had them test it again and it was positive. Suddenly, I had my first real contraction. This was at about 8:55am. I now know that I was in transition. After another 2 of those I was yelling at Ryan to get off the phone and that I didn’t care he was finishing up work. The nurse checked me and I was 7cm dilated. They shuffled me to the delivery room and onto the bed where I promptly curled into the fetal position. They couldn’t convince me to move so I stayed there a bit. Another nurse who had read my birth plan which included my desire to labor in a tub came in, took one look at me, and said “Oh, you’re not getting in the tub!”

In line with my birth plan they dimmed the lights and kept it quiet. I wouldn’t open my eyes, and told Ryan I didn’t think I could do it without an epidural. They said there wasn’t any time, and somehow got me to roll onto my left side. My midwife–not the one I usually had, but I was ultimately very happy with her–came in and said “Are you kidding?!” She was so surprised to see me in labor. She wanted to do a cervical check but I refused–the last one had been so painful. My body was bearing down on it’s own and every time I was convinced I was going to puke but I didn’t. They made me get on my back, which I was terrified to do because I was in so much pain. Then all of a sudden I was out of transition and ready to push! Just like in the movies again, I felt awesome between each push and was carrying on a conversation with this student. My midwife applied a warm compress like I had requested, and I attribute this to not tearing and having very limited swelling. The experience of pushing was so different this time, and strangely I didn’t feel like I was doing as great of a job. I pushed for about 20 minutes total. I remember thinking my entire body was going to rip open, and saying this in wonder after one push. I was excited about going through the experience of each stage of labor. And then suddenly she was here! They put Maggie on my chest and I said “She’s so tiny!” She was longer and a little skinnier than Lily so looked so scrawny. Margaret Emmelise O’Connor was born 9:53am, 21 inches and 8lbs 3oz. She just lay on me for the longest time, just like I had requested. The cord was wrapped around her neck but they still asked if I wanted to wait to clamp it, according to my birth plan (“No!”). We had extra skin-to-skin time before she was washed up because there weren’t any rooms available. Eventually they brought us to our room and Maggie to the nursery for her shots. I took a shower and was amazed at how much better I felt after Maggie’s birth than Lily’s. I also wasn’t starving. Ryan texted our family while we were still in the labor room and they were all shocked to see pics of the baby. My mom actually said to her friends at work “Who’s baby is this?” because it had gone so quickly. I was in active labor for under three hours!

My delivery could not have gone any better. I think the only thing that was harder this time was them pushing on my stomach afterwards. That was worse than the entire birthing process, and my contractions were bad for the days following. I had some retained placenta as well and actually had to get an ultrasound after passing some tissue. I was, and still am, so excited to think about her birth. It was incredible to be able to recognize each stage as I was in it.

To this day, Maggie is such a chill baby. It was like she didn’t want to impose on us with her birth. We convinced them to let us go home the next afternoon instead of staying another night. We had already spent several nights in the hospital just over a month earlier when Lily had RSV, and we were ready to go home. We didn’t even go straight home though–we went to my in-laws where everyone got to see her again and we got to pick Lily up. I felt so dramatically better this time around that we really launched right back into our lives. We even went out to a bakery for cookies the next day and people were amazed at how new she was. Even in the hospital, I felt like myself so much more quickly than I had with Lily. It’s been a whirlwind since Maggie was born, and so difficult dividing my time between my two girls. She is the sweetest thing though, and I can’t wait to watch her grow into a little girl.

baby-maggie

Itty-bitty week-old Maggie Moo.