Tag Archives: family

Today: Weekend Essentials

It’s Friday.  Which means it’s almost the weekend.  Except that I am working all day tomorrow, but… let’s pretend I’m not.

My Weekend Essentials

What I love to do on the weekend

  • The minute Grace reached six months, we became those bad 21st century parents who over-schedule their children signed her up for a baby/parent swim class at the YMCA.  While the class is more singing The Wheels On The Bus and splashing than actual swimming, I knew it would be important for us to get Grace comfortable in the water (and even in some small way, start working on water safety) as early as possible.  We live across the street from the ocean, my parents have a pool, and I am, like, at least 16% mermaid.  So… It’s important.  Also: It’s really fun!
  • Along the lines of over-scheduling, Grace and I take a child development class every Sunday (the session runs 12 weeks, I think) at the same place where we did our First Connections/moms’ group.  The first few weeks were a little slow, but I’m learning so much and Grace seems to enjoy each session.  There are five or six other families in attendance, and our facilitator leads us in all kinds of songs (there is a lot of singing going down on the weekends) and activities designed specifically for 6-9 month old babies and their cognitive and language development, as well as fine and gross motor skills.  Each week, I leave with something new to research or practice (baby signing, new foods to try with Grace, edible finger paint).  It feels good to be able to keep adding to my parenting tool kit.  And I fully acknowledge I am a tool box for having just said “parenting tool kit.” (But seriously, if you’re in the Boston area and want to learn more about the program, let me know.)
  • Go to Mass.  Confession (how very Catholic): I don’t go as often as I would like, but when I do… it’s just the best.  We have such a warm, welcoming community at our parish.
  • Be even a tiny bit social. I feel that it’s important to strike a balance between being a lazy blob on the sofa (that would be a fun business card) and being on the go all weekend.  But with our weekdays spent either in the office or soaking up as much family time as possible, it’s nice to pop out and see friends on the weekend.
  • Think about our meals and snacks for the week (sometimes I even make a plan and go food shopping).  I often bring Grace with me to the market on Sunday mornings while Nick is at CrossFit.  A few weeks ago, we were cruising down an aisle when I heard a crash behind us.  And then I noticed that my daughter had somehow clotheslined a Wheat Thins display.  Can’t blame her.  Salty snacking is in her genes.
  • And, you know this already, but I always try to do my Sunday things on Saturday.

What I love to wear on the weekend

  • No pants.  Just kidding.  Nope.  I am very serious.
  • My linen Sakura Bloom ring sling (a Mother’s Day pressie from Nick).  I am obsessed with baby wearing.  And sometimes I wonder if Clark would fit in it.  And then I think of this inventor.
  • A new fitness tracker.  I don’t even want to think about how many fitbits I ruined by accidentally sending them through the washer and dryer.  I wore a fitbit flex and then a Polar Loop for a while, but I felt like I was forever charging both devices.  And neither were exactly fashion forward.  I’d often stash them in my bag (mind you, I never wore both at the same time… I hope that’s obvious) during work events or meetings.  When I read Caroline’s review of the Misfit Shine, I was like, Finally!  The Misfit Shine runs on a watch battery and looks like… a watch.  Bonus: The related app is great.

What I love to watch on the weekend

  • I am obsessed with The Amazing Race and have this deluded idea that I would win the show (obviously) if I were ever a contestant.  Nick refuses to be my partner, which is probably saying something (I don’t know exactly what… but it’s something).  It’s one of only three shows I’ve watched in real time (the others being Jeopardy! and 60 Minutes) in recent memory (Hulu+ for life).  I find myself assessing the likelihood I’d succeed at each task or challenge, and weighing the pros and cons of my abilities (and lack thereof).

Potential Amazing Race Contestant Strengths and Weaknesses

Weaknesses: My own husband does not want to be my partner; Claustrophobic; Tendency towards motion sickness; Picky eater; Wears contacts; Allergic to wool (I feel like this could be especially problematic in Nordic countries)

Strengths: Knows lots of words in lots of languages; Pretty great sense of direction; I remember everything; Strong fight and flight responses

What I love to eat on the weekend

What I love to listen to on the weekend

  • Hockey on the radio, on my iPhone (via the I Heart Radio app tuned to 98.5 The Sports Hub), it’s old school meets new school meets we canceled cable.
  • Lots of Frenchie snoring
  • Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! I usually listen to Saturday’s episode while out for a walk or running errands on Sunday and always catch myself actually L-ing-O-L. (You can download episodes here.)

Weekends are essentially the best.

Also On Tap for Today:

What’s are the essential elements of your perfect weekend?

Today: Feeding baby, Part I (and a Delta Labs giveaway)

Sort of obvious disclaimer: This post is about breastfeeding.  If Google brought you here because you searched for “breasts” and now you’re sorely disappointed and regret clicking through, that’s okay.  You do you, boo… no judgement.  

Slightly less obvious disclaimer: I am not, like, a breastfeeding specialist.  I am grateful to be able to breastfeed my daughter.  It is what I hoped for, and it is what works for our family.  With that said, it is not the only way people care for and feed their children.  And I feel like that’s important to acknowledge.  Something I think all parents need to hear more of: You are doing a good job.  You are making good choices. In other words: You do you, boo… no judgement.  

Real talk of the day: Being a parent means being on a permanent learning curve.  (I guess that’s true for all humans, though, right? Life is one long learning curve.)  Now that we’re past the newborn phase, I figured I’m semi-qualified to share a bit about what I’ve learned along the curve.

I was very fortunate to have access to great lactation consultants when Grace was born.  Expectant mother friends, if you have access to lactation consultants while you’re in the hospital, I think it’s totally worth meeting with them.  I was hesitant, I thought it would be weird, and I kind of just wanted to stay in my Craftmatic adjustable hospital bed.  It wasn’t weird.  It was actually quite, well, normal.  They taught me very helpful things like how to hold my tiny baby like a football (but first, I needed to learn how to hold a football), how to tell if she was actually eating, and what hunger cues might look or sound like.

Someone’s ready for their 22nd meal of the day.

It didn’t long for us to establish a BF relationship (in this case, I like to think BF stands for both breastfeeding and best friends… but I guess that last part is sort of up to Grace).  Because Grace was born with jaundice (I initially thought she was just super Portuguese…) and lost weight rather quickly, our pediatrician encouraged us to feed Grace at least every 2 hours during those first weeks.   Needless to say, by the time she was a month old, I felt like a seasoned BF pro.  I also felt like my bum was permanently attached to the rocker in Grace’s nursery, but hey.

I rarely had time to pump when I was on maternity leave, so when I went back to work, I felt acutely aware of being on that learning curve again.  I stared at the woman on the package of my pumping bra and wondered, Who the H looks that casual and yet perfectly put together while pumping?  Why is there no spit up in her hair?  Why does she look so well rested?  When did she have time to get a manicure?  And those were just my questions about a bra.  You can only imagine the inner monologue about the actual pumping process.

If this is what it looks like to pump “in style,” I can only imagine what the pumping while frumpy version looks like. Also: Thank you, Obamacare.

Eventually, I figured out how often I needed to pump in order to have enough milk for Grace while she is at daycare.  I (mostly) learned how to avoid spilling milk all over myself five minutes before a meeting.  I even managed to pump in an airport bathroom while a work colleague tried to engage in conversation (I have a strict no talking in the ladies’ room policy).

And so, of course, just as soon as started to feel comfortable pumping, it was time to introduce solids.  I think solids warrant a post of their own (Cliffhanger! Just kidding… but seriously… stay tuned.), but I will say this: I was terrified of feeding Grace anything that didn’t, like, come out of my boobs.  Everything new is scary.  It’s been about two months now, though, and our little lady loves to eat.  And we’re having quite a bit of fun with it too.  OK.  But back to best friends breastfeeding.
I am really happy that I was able to exclusively breastfeed Grace until she started solids at approximately 6 months.  (I am still nursing her, but we started supplementing with one bottle of formula a day at 8 months, just a few weeks ago.) I was worried I wouldn’t make it to 3 months, so when we made it 8 months I nearly erected a breast-shaped statue in my own honor.  For the most part, I’ve had a very good supply.  There have been days, though, where I’ve had to pump at home in the early morning or late evening (when I’d much rather be doing, well… anything) in order to have enough milk to send to day care.  Without fail, those have been days when I’ve slacked on water, eaten like a bird, stressed too much, or slept too little.

I am obsessed with Ball jars. Like, I would live in one. If I could fit in there.

Which brings me to this:

How I’ve kept my supply up

  • Drink water.  And then drink some more.: It’s so important to stay hydrated while breastfeeding.  Your body needs fluids to, you know, make fluids… plus it needs fluids to perform its normal functions. In other words, you need to drink more.  I keep a giant mason jar on my desk (complete with an adorable drinking straw #targetdoesitagain) and refill it every time I pump and every time I get up from my desk.  At home, I make sure to drink up after nursing Grace.  It’s helped to associate the two (feed the baby, hydrate thyself).
  • Eat more, not less.: While I’ve felt the same pressure I am sure most new moms have felt to get back to their pre-pregnancy weight, restricting calories seems like a surefire way to decrease milk supply.  I’ve tried to focus on eating healthy, quality food, but I am still eating more rather than less.  One day, I’ll fit into my skinnies again.  But in the meantime, I’m busy taking care of my girl.
  • Nurse often.:  We’re fairly scheduled on week days.  We’re like a cellphone plan during nights and weekends, however: unlimited texting and minutes breast milk!  It’s the best.  Come Monday, I definitely see an increase in how much I am able to pump.
  • Think positively.: I find that when I focus on Grace and the health benefits we both receive from breastfeeding, that milk flows like water.  (Or is it wine? How does that saying go?)  When I worry about having enough milk, however, not so much.  I’m no scientist, but I don’t think this is a coincidence.
  • Supplement with herbs.: This may sound a little hippy-dippy, but several people recommended herbal supplements when I first started breastfeeding (the facilitator of our moms’ group swears by fenugreek).  I worried that my supply would drop off when I went back to work and stumbled upon Delta Labs Postnatal formula during some late night Instagramming.

In addition to fenugreek, their postnatal formula also contains glucomannan, white kidney bean, and marshmallow extract (herbs proven to help enhance lactation, and in a combination safe for babies and mothers as determined by the FDA’s current Good Manufacturing Practice guidelines). An added bonus: The capsules also contain decaffeinated green tea, CLA, L-Carnitine and vitamin B6 to safely and naturally increase energy and promote weight loss (though it’s not a substitute for a healthy diet and exercise… if only obvi).

I’ve used this product for several months (and was running low when Delta Labs kindly sent me a complimentary bottle) and would definitely recommend it for mothers looking to increase or sustain their supply.

Giveaway: Delta Labs Postnatal formula 

Fellow new moms: Would you like to try Delta Labs Postnatal formula for yourself? I’m happy to be hosting a giveaway, thanks to Delta Labs and FitFluential.  One winner will receive a bottle of Delta Labs Postnatal formula.  This giveaway is open to US residents only (sorry, neighbors to the North). To enter, please leave a comment below AND Like @DeltaLabsUSA on Instagram.  A random winner will be chosen and contacted on October 20th.

Delta Labs Discount Code 

Use code FitFluential to save $5 on any item from Delta Labs (one time discount; no expiration date).
Also On Tap for Today:

Got BF (best friend or breastfeeding, depending on your area of expertise) advice to share?

Today: My first Labor Day.

We’re heading into Labor Day Weekend, so why not talk about having a baby?  (I couldn’t resist.)  I know the holiday is technically a tribute to the American workforce (and feels mostly like a symbolic end to summer), but it’s nearly impossible for me to hear Labor and not think of… labor.

It’s been nearly seven months since we welcomed Grace.  I’ve come this close to sharing about her entry into the world several times now, but always stopped short of clicking publish. (Can I just say, the expression “birth story” creeps me out?  It reminds me of that TLC show that one of my college roommates always watched.  Terrifying.)

My labor and delivery were rather uneventful (which was sort of the goal), but ultimately, I think that’s why I want to share it with you.  I can’t tell you how many horror stories I heard while pregnant.  So-and-so was in labor for 89 hours.  My friend’s cousin’s yoga instructor’s neighbor delivered a 16 lb. baby.  That woman that I sometimes see at the dog park, her sister had a really great birth plan… and it went completely to hell.  My uncle’s third cousin’s dog groomer got a flat tire on the way to the hospital and delivered her triplets in the back of a Subaru.  (It’s always a Subaru.) Sound familiar?

At one of my postpartum check-ups with my midwife, I told her that I felt sort of awkward when people asked about our experience with childbirth — that I felt a bit guilty (and yes — grateful, most of all) that things went so well.  She told me that people need to hear the good stories too.  And I think that’s true.  Remember when I talked about fear being unproductive?  Those horror stories produce a lot of fear.  I hopeful that hearing a good story about childbirth will have the opposite effect.

So, with that longwinded intro aside, here’s one of the good stories.

Oh, important note: I’m not going to talk about body parts, really, or like measurements or anything that might make you (or me) faint.  That’s just not my style.  And I’m 103% certain I’m wrong about at least a few times and timing and hours, so please don’t check my math.  And I’m sure you understand my desire to maintain at least a bit of mystery privacy, especially when it comes to my family.  

My first Labor Day and welcoming Grace

About two weeks before Grace was born, I was sitting in my office with our auditor (which is one of the 45,000 places I didn’t want to be when I went into labor… and yes, I had spent 9 months fine tuning that list) when I started getting sharp pains in my lower back.  They were bad enough that I couldn’t stay seated, but when I stood up, they sort of got worse.  It’s a life goal of mine to not to be shady (especially in the presence of an auditor), but I had to keep coming up with excuses to duck out and attempt to walk waddle it off.

Grace at 1 month

After a couple of hours of coming and going, the pain subsided.  I figured I was dehydrated.  Or maybe my maternity pantyhose was too tight.  Grace wasn’t due for over a month, and I assumed what I was feeling was normal for late pregnancy.  Truth be told (with the exception of dragon-level heartburn), I felt really good during my second and third trimesters.  (The first trimester was sort of a blur of morning all-day sickness, sleeping for 20 hours at a time, subsiding on a diet of crackers and lemonade, and feeling extremely frumpy.)

The next day, though, I just felt off.  The back pain had returned (it turns out these were actually contractions and not random back pain… evidence that I did not read any childbirth pamphlets), my feet were swollen, and my appetite was gone.  I stupidly waited all day to call the doctor, and instead Googled things.  If I can impart any wisdom to future parents (or just, people in general) it is this: When it comes to pregnancy or childbirth or labor or really anything medical or important or not related to cute dog photos, don’t Google it.  Just don’t.

I spent the following day hooked up to a fetal monitor, drinking gallons and gallons of water, calmly reading US Weekly one minute and freaking out about the big work event I had coming up the next.  If Grace arrived today, what would my colleagues need to know? What was left to be done?  What imaginary scenarios could I cook up and then create solutions for?  Again, the contractions subsided and I was sent home with strict orders to relax. (Bhahahahaaha)

The work event went off without a hitch the following Thursday.  I wore sequins.  I wore heels.  I did not go into labor.  I did eat 5 desserts.  For the next few days, it was business as usual.  I still had a feeling Grace might come early, though, so each night before heading home, I cleaned up my desk and laid out detailed “just in case” instructions (which I would then promptly recycle the following day, only to begin again).

On Monday night, I woke up in the middle of the night with a start, and sat bolt upright.  I vividly remember this moment in particular, because for the previous month or so, sitting up was nothing short of a workout.  I must have gone back to sleep, because the next time I looked at the clock it was 5 A.M… and my water had broke. (Is that grammatically correct? I have no clue.  But I am sticking to my own rule of no Googling body part things.)

I have never seen Nick bound out of bed so quickly.  In the span of three minutes, he was somehow dressed, his teeth were brushed and his contacts were in, and he was assembling our co-sleeper/mini crib.  Meanwhile, I followed our midwife’s instructions and called the office’s after hours number.  They told me to call back at eight. Um… what?  Knowing me (and I do, quite well), I am still surprised at how calm I remained.  I took a shower.  I blew out my unruly curls.  I painted my nails (yes, really).  I ate a snack.  I un-packed and re-packed our hospital bag (which is good, because we didn’t exactly ace it the first time around).

By 8:30, I was back on the fetal monitor at our doctor’s office, but not before riding an elevator with a bunch of gentlemen in sharp suits headed to work, while my water continued to break.  There’s nothing quite like the sensation of actively peeing your pants (that’s kind of what it feels like) in public.  I wasn’t sure what the protocol for being in labor in a rush hour elevator in the Financial District was.  Should I press the alarm button and make an announcement?  Instead I tried to be cool (wholly impossible), but continued to look at Nick like, Oh my word, I am sort of peeing.  And he continued to look at me like, This is the greatest day ever.  And it was.

We checked into the hospital around 10:30 and when the attending midwife asked if we had a name picked out for our daughter, I cried as Nick answered, Grace.  Saying her name, one we had kept secret for so long, made her pending arrival feel more real than any contraction (or awkward elevator ride) could.  Saying her name made everything feel so holy and sacred and good.

Once we knew for certain (I mean, I knew that at 5 AM, but it helps to have the hospital bracelet to prove it), we called our parents and siblings and let them know that we were at the hospital, that we were all doing well, and that Grace would likely be born today.

Our birth plan was pretty much this:

  • We will be open minded
  • We will trust our our midwife, doctor and nurses to help us make the best decisions

In other words: We didn’t really have a birth plan.  I wanted to labor without medication, but um… I had never been in labor before, so I didn’t want to rule anything out.  We spent the next six hours managing my painful (real talk: they were painful, but I survived… obviously) back contractions by taking short walks around the labor floor, getting checked by the midwife and nurses, and sitting and standing and leaning and bending and bouncing.  We never broke out the deck of cards we packed, nor the crossword puzzle book.

At the nurses’ encouragement, I gave the shower a try.  I had heard that many women find showering during labor to be really comforting.  Meanwhile, I spent about three minutes in there before throwing in (and asking for) the towel.  It was sort of the opposite of comforting for me.

All I could think was:

  • Great, now my hair is frizzy again
  • The shower curtain is touching me
  • Why is this shower so small?
  • And why is there so much plastic furniture in here?
  • Everyone can see my bum

By now, I was uncomfortable enough that I was having trouble relaxing between contractions.  Our labor was progressing, but it could still be hours before Grace was born, so we talked with our midwife about options.  An anesthesiologist joined us to answer any questions we might have about an epidural, which we decided was the right choice for us.

As with all things labor and delivery related, I’m not sure how accurately I can describe what getting an epidural feels like, or how it feels after.  I could still feel everything (including my limbs), but the pain was much less intense and I was able to relax between contractions.  I hadn’t eaten more than a few crackers (I was nauseous much of the day), so as soon as the nurses told me I couldn’t eat after getting the epidural, I basically wanted to eat everything in sight.  I started getting restless, but going for a walk was no longer an option, so we watched a little TV.  I could barely contain my jealousy (nor my lack of sensitivity, apparently) as a Biggest Loser contestant devoured an entire pizza in his “before” footage.  TV was a bad idea.

Grace at 2 weeks

At some point (and this one is entirely on me — Nick now has a firm “no voluntary studies” policy), I agreed to participate in a study about epidurals (how they are administered, and if that affects their, well, effectiveness).  At some regular interval, a doctor would come into the room and ask me about pain and nausea and then (this is the absolute truth) poke me with one of those little cocktail swords (not something that looked like a little cocktail sword, an actual little cocktail sword) to determine where I did or did not have feeling.  Being in labor is surreal on its own, but this sword thing?  It was really bizarre.  The nurses (and my husband) kept reminding me that I could opt out of the study at any time.  Meanwhile, I had developed a strong craving for maraschino cherries.

Nick went to grab some coffee and as 11 o’clock approached, I wondered if Grace would, indeed, be born today.    I talked to my parents and siblings (and was denied my requests for an entire pan of baked ziti and two bags of cool ranch Doritos) and focused on the affirmation that seemed so silly a few days before, but that helped me so much during those last few hours: Grace will come at the perfect time.

I repeated this over and over in my head and soon enough, I felt like that perfect time was upon us.  A new midwife had just come on shift (I feel like I could write a whole book about how wonderful these women are) and she and the nurses started preparing for Grace’s delivery.  She got sort of close to my face and said, “You have carried this baby inside of you for nine months.  Are you ready to bring her out?  Are you ready to get started?”  Part of me was like, Um… I don’t think I could stop this if I tried and the other parts was like, Yes! I want her here so badly!  In my emotional memory (which is likely not fully accurate), Jock Jams started playing and Nick and the midwife high-fived.

Nick and Grace

Remember when I told you that a blizzard prevented us from completing our childbirth class?  This is where that missed information would have been helpful.  One nurse asked if I remembered my breathing.  I had no clue what she was talking about (it turns out, you kind of just… well, breathe).  We were similarly surprised to find out just how active a role Nick would be playing in Grace’s delivery.  I guess we sort of imagined he’d gently stroke my perfectly coifed hair and tell me I was amazing, but instead he was holding one of my legs and coaching me through the pushing (and telling me I was amazing).  Another surprise (sorry, this is kind of unpleasant, but I am feeling like it might help to know this): some people throw up, like a lot, when they’re delivering.  Apparently I am one of those people.  Also, I somehow managed to get a (clean and very much empty) bed pan stuck inside my hospital gown.  So there’s that.

Everything felt so charged and intense during the delivery.  I remember melting into the hospital bed between pushes, and asking Nick to cover my face with a cold cloth.  I have never prayed like I prayed that night.  I felt weak and exhausted, and at the same time, stronger and more powerful than ever.  It was nothing like the movies (and I mean that in the best possible way).  There was no yelling or screaming (though I did kind of involuntarily roar at one point), no real dramatics.

It was very fleeting, but I did have a quick rush of panic that I might not be able to do it.  That I was too tired.  Or too weak. I thought (this is so, so ridiculous… but also so, so funny to me), Maybe I can skip this next contraction and rest a little.  Nick saw right through that one and encouraged me to be a normal person keep going.  Our midwife calmly whispered, “Don’t be afraid.”  Just then, the miniature sword wielding doctor entered the room for our next round of the study, and Nick (politely) told him to hit the road.  For a million reasons, I am so grateful for my husband.

I am sure the nurses and midwife were talking to me, but at this point I kept my eyes on Nick and watched his posture change as the energy in the room intensified.  I hadn’t noticed that a baby nurse had come in, and that the midwife and nurses had put on masks.  “She’s coming so soon,” he said.  “She’s really coming.”  It was 12:16 A.M. on Wednesday.

Grace (and her adorable nose) at 6 hours, Elizabeth in need of a flat iron

I used to think that if I had a baby, I’d want him or her “cleaned off” before holding them.  I thought I’d be squeamish about all the, you know, stuff.  I thought I’d want everything to be neat.  In reality, I couldn’t get my hands on her fast enough.  I reached for her and Nick, desperate to have our little family together for the first time.  I kept saying “I love her so much” over and over, and then turned to Nick with the biggest smile of my life (he just reminded me of this – I wanted him to read this whole thing before I sent it out into the Universe) and exclaimed, “I would do this a million times!”  So… there’s your proof that happy, pain-killing hormones are real.  Or, that I am delusional.

Once Grace was on my chest, and I could see her tiny nose and eyes and fingers and cheeks, I cried for the millionth time since first knowing I was pregnant with her.  I felt like my heart was outside of my body.  I couldn’t see anyone else, I couldn’t hear anyone else, I couldn’t think about anyone or anything else.  I had no idea my love for her would feel like that.  And still, when I think that love can’t get any bigger, it somehow grows.

Grace at 6.5 months

Just this week Grace started putting both her hands up and reaching for me.  I can’t help but think, every time, about that night when I first reached for her.  That night is my favorite story.

It’s the story I tell myself when I miss her during the day, or when feel discouraged about my “body after baby” (whatever that means), or when people ask if she’s sleeping through the night, or when I have to pump in an airport bathroom while traveling for work (the glamour of life abounds), or when I find spit-up on the back of my dress halfway through Mass, or when there is not enough time to do it all or be it all.

Because that story and how it ends and what it gave us, that is it all.

Also On Tap for Today:

How are you spending your Labor Day Weekend?

Today: Six months of Grace.

Six months ago, we were waking up (from–maybe–an hour of sleep, but waking up nevertheless) for the first time as a family of three.  Grace’s basinet was wheeled up against one side of my hospital bed, and Nick was on a cot on the other side.  My arm was stiff from having slept with it draped ever so carefully across Grace’s tiny, swaddled body.  We had only know her for a few hours, but I couldn’t bear to not hold Grace, even for a minute.  I peeked over at her little round cheeks, her button nose, and dark lashes and cried the happiest tears of my life.  I couldn’t believe she was ours.

Six months have passed, and I still can’t believe she is ours.  She’s sleeping (more like, cat napping) in her own room.  She’s rolling from one side to another and trying to scoot.  She’s got three teeth on their way.  She’s eating solid foods.  She can babble and yell and squeal.  She’s sits up on her own… until she tips forward… and then she tries again.

She makes us happy, she makes us whole.  These have been the best six months of my life.

Also On Tap for Today:

  • Whipping up some farm stand soup
  • Finishing up plans for Grace’s Christening
  • Attempting to organize six months worth of photos

What makes you happiest these days?

Today: The Weekend According to Instagram XXVIII

We made a quick trip to Maine this weekend to see Nick’s parents, and made it back to the city in time for our niece’s birthday party.  By the time Sunday evening rolled around, I was ready to face plant into bed… but forced myself to do laundry first.  You know, so I would have something to wear come Monday morning.

Oh, and before we dig into my own Instagram feed, I came across something worth sharing this morning: Brendon and Danielle are hosting a fantastic yoga challenge (starting today) that focuses on modifications.  I love that there is room for everyone to practice in yoga, and this challenge reflects that.

Okay.  Let’s look at pictures of my trunk.  And the harbor.  And my dog.

The Weekend According to Instagram XXVIII

Follow me on Instagram: @ElizabethEv

  1. This is what “packing light” looks like these days.  After visiting my parents on the Cape over the 4th, we had a pretty good sense of what was necessary and what we could leave home.  I am not sure why I packed 100 diapers for a 36 hour trip, but hey. In addition to the obvious (ye olde Pack ‘N Play), we have a couple baby items that have been great for travel: this Skip Hop outdoor blanket which folds up beautifully and easily wipes clean (bonus points for for detachable insulated bag – we used this for Grace’s rash guard and swim diaper last weekend) and the Puj Flyte infant bath, which also folds up (sensing a theme?) and fits in most sinks.  I was afraid Grace had outgrown the Flyte (we used it for her first few baths at home), but it actually works even better now that she’s, welp… sturdier.
  2. I will never tire of this view. Dusk in Boothbay Harbor is just incredible.  I remember one of my art history professors in college talking about how the light in Maine is magic.  I thought he was high.  Now I think he was just telling the truth (also, he could have been high).
  3. Other magical things in Maine: This aptly named “Little House” nestled just along the harbor.  When I’m old I want to live in a little house (specifically: a tiny house).
  4. I’ve been sharing pages from my sketchbook lately on Instagram.  I’ve always loved to draw, but I’m finding it especially productive as a way to quiet my brain a bit at the end of the day.  I’m the first to admit that I’m tightly wound and the last few months?  On another level.  I’ve been breaking out some paper, a pen and a set of watercolors most nights after Grace goes to sleep (and, inevitably, before she wakes up again).  There were a few Audubon field guides at the cottage (plus, like… real birds outside…), hence the, um... birdoodles.
  5. An old, old wooden ship.
  6. Clark loves heading North.  He also loves pretending to play guard dog behind decorative screen doors.
  7. How I close out the weekend: brewing a pitcher of peppermint tea to sip cold throughout the week.  Super refreshing.  The Yogi Tea quotes help.
  8. New animal obsession: hedgehogs.  I picked up this set of notecards at Target (no surprise there).  More hedgehog cuteness: Biddy the Hedgehog’s Instagram account.  He fits in the palm of your hand, he visits National Parks, he is magnificent.
  9. Aaaaaaand a tiny OOTD: Grace’s party dress for her cousin’s birthday.  Wouldn’t be a party without a bow.

Hope you had a lovely weekend, too.

Also On Tap for Today:

What was the highlight of your weekend?

Today: Feeding the giraffes and stalking the sloths.

Shortly after Nick and I started dating, we made plans to visit the Roger Williams Park Zoo.  He’s always loved animals, whereas I’ve always been a little whatever.  (This was after a feral cat specifically chose the underside of my car as its final resting place… but years before I met Clark.  I think that timeline goes a long way in explaining my ambivalence towards non-humans.)

I think I was probably Googling something like, “Great… but do you have any baby hippos?” a few days before our trip to the zoo when I came across an announcement for a giraffe naming contest.  We spent the better part of a week going back and forth with name suggestions before submitting our top choices.  Nick tried to get the little leggy fellow named after one of his clients from Romania (I just made my husband sound way more mysterious than he actually he is), while I was certain I had hit it out of the park with Thomas Girafferson.  I mean, come on! USA! USA! Likely not a spoiler alert: neither of us won the contest.

The visit to the zoo, however, was lovely.  I’m not an animal communicator (despite trying to read my dog’s mind on the daily), but they all seemed well cared for and maybe even happy.

When I was trying to come up with something fun to do for Father’s Day (something more fun than breaking a toe, which is how I celebrated my first Mother’s Day), I came up with some pretty bad ideas.  One involved buying a used kite surfing board from one of our old neighbors.  I love surprises (for other people, not so much for me), so the key was finding something unexpected… but ideally, not super dangerous.

And then I found out you can sign up to feed the giraffes at Roger Williams (for a small donation, which is a nice way of saying straight cash, homey).

Question:  What new dad wakes up on Father’s Day thinking, Hey!  I wonder if I will get to feed a giraffe today? Answer: A very psychic one.  In other words, it was the perfect surprise.

Nick got to get up close and personal with Jaffa (who will always be Thomas Girafferson to me) while I snapped photos from the other side of the fence.  It was really fun to watch.  From a safe distance.  Which is how I like my animal encounters.

Actually… there is one animal I would like very much to be dangerously close to.  The sloths.  I can’t get enough of them.  When I was little, I though my sister (an infant at the time) looked like the baby sloth in my National Geographic Zoo Babies book (which was published in 1978 and is currently available for a mere one cent on Amazon… act now!).  In hindsight, I could see how that comparison could be misinterpreted (what, with the gnarly nails and overwhelming body odor), but I thought sloths were cute and I knew my sister was cute, end of story.

After Nick fed Thomas G., we started making our way back to the car (Grace was about 30 seconds away from a melt down and also, I wanted snacks) when we were about to pass the rain forest exhibit.  Strollers weren’t allowed in building, but I saw a sign for sloths, so I quicky abandoned my family took Nick up on his offer to stay outside with the baby while I checked things out.  I was about to make my way back to them, when a woman pointed above me.  I nearly fainted with joy.  A real, live sloth was hanging from a branch directly over my head.  I don’t think sloths fall from things very often (or ever?) but if he did, he would have totally landed in my handbag.  And I would have kept him.

I have no idea where this post is going… but I just admitted to wanting to steal a sloth, so my guess is: nowhere good. I’ll stop myself here.

Also On Tap for Today:

If you could steal, but then responsibly care for (obvi) any zoo creature, which would you choose?

Today: Happy Mother’s Day.

In celebration of Mother’s Day, here’s a photo of the last time it was socially acceptable for me to wear a crop top and hot shorts at the same time.  These days, it’s one or the other.  Just kidding… it’s very much neither.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.  I love you.  And I owe you the world.

Also On Tap for Today:

What’s the best advice your mom, or an important lady in your life, has given you?

Today: 100 days of Grace.

It’s been exactly 100 days since Grace was born.

There are moments when it feels like she has just arrived, and others when I can’t believe she hasn’t been with us all along.  Maybe it’s the sleep deprivation, but there are times when I cannot imagine life before that instant when she was placed on my chest in the delivery room and everything changed.

Left: Grace is 6 hours old. Right: Grace is 100 days and 6 hours old. Both: I am overjoyed, overtired, and in need of a hairbrush.

We started going to a new moms’ group when Grace was almost three weeks old.  I am so grateful for that community.  And I want all eight of our babies to grow up and be college roommates.  Or live on an organic farm together.  Or something.

At our last formal meeting, the group’s facilitator asked us to share something that is going well, something that is challenging, and something that has changed.  What stood out to me was the confidence I had gained over those first weeks.  And how much we’ve grown and developed and changed together.  And how I love her more than I could ever adequately express.

In honor of Grace’s first 100 days, 50 thoughts and reflections on life with our beautiful baby… I would have given you 100, but let’s be serious:

  1. I think the first thing I noticed about Grace was her nose.  It is so tiny and sweet, I kiss it all the time.
  2. I’ve found so much love and support in both expected and unexpected places.
  3. More so than ever, I need other people.  I need help.  I need support.  I need to be told that my crazy hair and (unintentionally) tight pants look good.
  4. It’s all very humbling, especially for someone who has always preferred to just do it myself.
  5. I am more grateful than ever for Nick, for our families and friends, and everyone who has been so kind and gentle and supportive to us.
  6. Having a community of new moms, sharing similar experiences, has been invaluable.  (If you live in the Boston area and are expecting or have children, I highly recommend Mama and Me in JP.)
  7. We were discharged from the hospital on a Friday evening, but had to see our pediatrician early the next morning (I love that they’re open on weekends) for a weight check and some testing.  The only thing more overwhelming than being sent home with a very new, very small, very needy baby… is packing her up and taking her back out in the world less than a day later.
  8.  … but because we needed to, we figured it out.  There wasn’t much time for panic or worry, and eventually necessity lead to competence (sort of… once I had the child locks on, got in the back seat to move Grace from her car seat to the Ergo… and then got trapped inside my own car).
  9. After I made a few solo trips to the doctor without, like, losing our child, Grace and I started going to more fun places, too.
  10. I made it my goal to get out of the condo at least once a day while on maternity leave.
  11. We spent Thursdays at my parents’ house, walked to Castle Island when it was warm enough, spent a shameful amount of both time and money in the stationary aisle at Target, and even got our first library card.  Start ’em young.
  12. I am so grateful to have good health care.
  13. Same goes for a wonderful pediatrician and group practice.  They have been so helpful and supportive.  And they don’t make me feel like a nutty first time parent.  Even though I am a nutty first time parent.
  14. Breastfeeding is hard.  Pumping at work isn’t exactly a walk in the park, either.  But, for me, it’s worth it.
  15. I say, “Let’s take this one day at a time” to myself a lot lately.
  16. I am convinced the face babies make after they eat is the secret to world peace.
  17. I can’t remember the last time I’ve slept for more than 2-3 hours at once.  I do remember the first time I slept long enough to have a dream after Grace was born though.  I dreamt that President Obama was making a very important speech about Olympic figure skating.
  18. I don’t know why I thought this, but I was certain both Grace and I would be sleeping through the night before I returned to work.  She wakes to be fed 2-3 times each night, meanwhile I have friends whose babies were sleeping through the night after a couple of weeks.  It’s all very mysterious.
  19. I ‘m embracing our middle-of-the-night wakings as our time.
  20. Grace’s smile can stop me in my tracks.  Even (or especially) at 3 AM.
  21. It’s the best gift.
  22. When I was pregnant, it was obvious (except at the beginning, when it was a little more like… maybe she’s pregnant, maybe she ate six pizzas).  Especially towards the end, even complete strangers were nicer to me.  People wanted to know when I was due, if I was having a girl or boy, how I was feeling.  I appreciate that more now than I did a the time.
  23. I attract similarly well-intentioned attention when I am out with Grace, but when I’m by myself, I sort of feel a bit adrift.  Like that I want to tell the mailman I have a baby, or I nearly tell the lady in line ahead of me that I am a mom, too.
  24. I guess I hadn’t given much thought to what navigating a new identity would be like, and in that way, I sort of miss being pregnant.  Sort of.
  25. I like that we are creating new rituals and traditions with our sweet girl and our family.
  26. Children’s books either totally awesome, or totally weird.  I’ve yet to find anything in between.
  27. Aaaaand I have yet to make it through Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You without crying.
  28. It feels like I’m softer (and I’m not just talking about my mid-section) than before.
  29. And at the same time, becoming a mother has definitely made me tougher.  I feel a stronger instinct to protect and defend.  I guess that’s what happens when you’ve got more to lose.
  30. I sing to Grace all the time, but the only songs I seem to actually know the words to are Christmas songs.
  31. Clark has been so good.  We’re really lucky.
  32. He has started trying to play with Grace, bringing toys and dropping them beside her, or gently nudging her when she’s on her activity mat.
  33. There is no sense in getting dressed until Grace is safely strapped into her car seat and we’re just about to head out the door.  Any sooner is just asking to be, welp, puked on.
  34. I do not miss my maternity clothes.
  35. I consigned them all the first chance I had.
  36. Uh… except for my maternity jeans.  I am saving those for Thanksgiving (or any other day when eating my body weight in potatoes seems like a real possibility).
  37. I wish I had Grace’s wardrobe.  Cotton everything.  Stretchy pants.  Cuffins and built-in socks.  Kimono tops.  Please.
  38. The underwear you get at the hospital is, like, the best underwear ever.
  39. My favorite thing to wear, though: my baby.  Babywearing is the best.
  40. Same goes for skin-to-skin contact.
  41. I could stare at Grace all day long.
  42. Being away from her during the day has been challenging (but not nearly as challenging as I imagined), and I find myself wanting to hold her all night, even if it means I risk waking her up.
  43. I am thankful that I have both a family and a career.
  44. But I struggle a bit, wondering if I am doing enough as a wife, a mother and a worker.
  45. I’ve always been in awe of my parents, but even more so now that I am one.
  46. Nick is an incredible father.  It’s like he’s known what to do right from the start.
  47. Labor and delivery was amazing.  I’ve heard people compare the experience to all sorts of things (marathons and WODs and whitewater rafting, for example) and I can firmly say this: nothing compares.
  48. It was painful and long and, at times, a bit scary (and I am pretty sure I had it relatively easy after hearing others’ birth stories), but all of that fell away the second Grace was born.
  49. Some day I’ll tell you what it was like to ride an elevator with a bunch of dudes in suits on their way to work while my water was breaking.  Maybe.
  50. After three months, I love that we’re starting to see and know Grace’s personality.  She’s curious and busy, and definitely a morning person.

I wouldn’t trade a minute of any of these past 100 days for anything in the world.

Life with Grace just keeps getting better.

Also On Tap for Today:

What are you celebrating today?

Today: Streamlining my mornings.

I have partnered with belVita and Dannon to help promote the belVita and Dannon partnership.  I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program, which includes writing about the promotion and product.  However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.

For the past (nearly) three months, my routine has been… welp… a total lack of routine.  It seems like the second I started to get comfortable, and Grace and I had fallen into a pattern of sorts, things changed.  She started eating more.  Or less.  She started sleeping more.  Or less.  Morning was the best time for us to get out for a walk or do a few errands.  And then afternoon became a better time for that.  Some days I’d be showered, dressed and out on the town (or more accurately, cruising around Southie with Grace in her stroller or baby carrier) by 8:30 AM.  Other days, I’d be in pajamas until 8:30… PM.

The sole constant:  We’ve been figuring it all out together.  Me, Nick, and Grace (and Clark, but let’s be serious… he’s a go with the flow little guy).  Becoming a parent has been challenging, exhausting, and at times, overwhelming.  It’s also been the single most amazing experience, and I know I am better for it.  The time we’ve had together these past few months, and all of those transitions from one non-routine to the next, have been so special, so sacred.

Tomorrow we make our next big transition, as I head back to work and Grace begins daycare.  In a perfect world, we could do it all and have it all.  We’d be together all day long, be attentive parents, and be productive while enjoying our fulfilling careers.  We’d achieve the perfect balance.  But the world isn’t perfect. (Duh, lady.)  I know I am lucky to have both a beautiful family and a career that challenges and excites me.  As anxious as I am about the changes to come, I know we made these choices for all the right reasons.  We are so lucky to have options.

Um… this post was supposed to be about breakfast.  Not feelings. (I’m sure I will have much more to say about being a workin’ mom once I have more than 15 seconds of experience as one.)

Back on task.  Breakfast.  Mornings.

While there are plenty of new challenges we’ll need to navigate in the coming days, weeks, and months, I am hoping that making a plan for how we start each day, and making an effort to streamline our mornings, will help.  I’ve never been much of a breakfast eater, much to the chagrin of my parents, my husband, people that I flip off in traffic, my primary care physician… you get the point.  Despite having good intentions, sitting down for a healthy meal at the start of the day always seemed to fall by the wayside when faced with a time crunch.  I can skip breakfast, but I can’t (in good conscience) skip walking the dog.  Or, like, bathing.  Having someone else depending on me in such a real way has been the ultimate game changer.  More than ever it’s clear: I need to take care of myself in order take care of other people.

BelVita and Dannon have partnered to get me (and my fellow Americans) to ditch the excuses and make time for a quick breakfast that boasts 12 grams of protein and nutritious, steady energy (…maybe we can have it all.  Just kidding.  Too soon.  Pass the Kleenex.).  I’ve been pairing Dannon Oikos 0% vanilla Greek yogurt with apple cinnamon Crunchy belVita Breakfast Biscuits, along with an apple, in the mornings.  The combination is delicious and convenient and is sure to become part of my workday routine (bonus: if when I forget a spoon for my yogurt, a biscuit is the perfect stand in).

Are you looking to streamline your mornings?  Laura Stack, “The Productivity Pro”, offers the following tips for getting the most of your morning:

  • Do as much as you can the night before.  Leave as little preparation as possible until the last minute — you’ll thank yourself in the morning.
  • Spend 20 minutes at the end of each day planning your to-do list.  When you download the next day’s activities beforehand, you can devote your morning to enjoyment rather than stress.
  • Be sure to start your morning with a delicious, balanced breakfast.  Together, the nutritious steady energy of belVita and 12 grams of protein in Dannon Oikos Green nonfat yogurt along with a piece of fruit will help you get more out of your morning.

Welp, my breakfast is set for tomorrow… our bags are packed… I guess we’re ready?

Also On Tap for Today:

How do you streamline your morning?  Favorite breakfast ideas for busy folks excuse makers?

Today: The weekend according to Instagram XXV

 

What happened this weekend ended up on Instagram.

Grace turned a month old and I turned 32.  Nick crushed 14.1, Clark discovered heating blankets.  Speaking of Clark (and Nick), a few people have asked how I switch back and forth between my Instagram account (@ElizabethEv) and Clark’s (@clarkthefrenchie).  The answer: I don’t.  Clark’s account (and his recent summer slim down plan…) is all my husband’s doing. They’re quite the pair.

The weekend according to Instagram XXV

  1. I spent my birthday morning the best way possible: curled up with my little family.
  2. Naturally, Clark wasn’t far away.  I love his squishy face and greying beard.  He’s like a distinguished old gentleman (if you ignore all the farting).
  3. Nick put together a lovely dinner (takeout from my favorite Mexican restaurant, grown up things like candles and place mats, a perfectly portioned cake) while Grace napped (hallelujah).  It’s been ages since we sat down together for a meal.  It was wonderful.  And so appreciated.
  4. I love wrapping paper.  Maybe when I am old and retired, I can get a part-time job merchandizing wrapping paper at Homegoods.  If you’re going to dream, dream big.
  5. I’m all for inspiring tea quotes, but the “warmth and love of my soul” has been no match for this frigid polar vortex nonsense.  It was, like -100 in the midwest this weekend, so 18 in Boston probably seems balmy, but enough already.  This lady needs some fresh air.
  6. My parents, sister and brother-in-law stopped by on Sunday after Mass with all kinds of treats (including a hundred CDs from my childhood bedroom… more on those gems later).  These macaroons are incredible.
  7. I channeled my inner Donna Meagle and treated myself to a new electric kettle.  I’ve been drinking quite a bit of tea lately, and have become paranoid about everything potentially unsafe.  Like boiling water and open flames and stoves.  I like that this kettle sits a safe distance from our counter ledge, promptly turns off when the water boils, and stays cool to the touch.  Also: I like cute things.
  8. You’ve heard this story before:  I’m attempting a full month of #fmsphotoaday.  Saturday’s prompt was yellow.  What’s the over/under on me making it past Tuesday?
  9. As I mentioned earlier, Clark recently discovered heating blankets.  He’s nothing if not resourceful.

Also On Tap for Today:

What was the highlight of your weekend?