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Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: the Mommy Stories Year in Review

What a year it's been! So many fun moments, difficult times, and sharing of ideas and experiences through this crazy blog I started several years ago.

It only continues to grow - with 1748 moms (and counting!) in the Facebook Mommy Stories group, and almost 200 blog posts this year... it's a fun adventure that keeps being fun for me. I'm grateful to all of you who follow along my motherhood journey and share your stories with me. I am SO honored to feature you on this blog. Constantly I'm asking you questions and seeking your ideas to feature on the blog and do two things: 1) help you feel like you're healing through whatever was going on, by sharing with others and 2) helping other moms feel less alone. I see this blog as a How-To for new mommas and those seasoned moms who have questions.

Thank you, thank you.

Here is a look back at 2015's highlights from the Mommy Stories.


Generous Mommas
One thing I'm super proud of in 2015 is that this Facebook group and blog helped more moms and families than ever before.

We adopted THREE families for Christmas - 3 moms, 1 dad, and 5 children total. They received all the gifts on their list, by generous Mommy Stories moms sending them packages! In 2014 we only adopted one family. So excited about this!

We sent cards, notes, small treats to 8 STRONG MOMMAS in a series I did on the blog in November, featuring moms who had gone through something tough and deserved some encouragement from fellow moms. I loved hearing these stories of courage and determination from everyday hard working moms.

We helped out a young mom by sending her diapers and formula, wipes, etc. This was so dear to my heart, as it was a former student of mine who we were helping. A young mom, just starting out, against many obstacles, but who graduated high school and was doing the best she could. The packages I was opening to send over to her made my day brighter.

I love that this group can be a vehicle for change - not only in the day to day business of being a busy, tired, hard working mother by answering questions and reading stories, but also in these bigger events of sending a deserving mom the things she needed for her child so she could relax a little bit, knowing she was supported, and making a single mama who was asking for help for the very first time feel better knowing everyone wanted to support her and that she was deserving of a little extra help. 


Blog Series
I love featuring series of stories on the blog each year. Every time a thought comes to mind and I find something new that hasn't been featured on my blog before I get excited.

Last January 2015, I featured two blog series, one about saving money and moms who'd used the Dave Ramsey budgeting plan, and then a Healthy Happy YOU series about getting yourself back in check with being a healthier mom and making time for yourself.

http://themommystories-friends.blogspot.com/2015/01/healthy-happy-you-2015-part-4-making.html

The stories of strong mommas made me feel so happy. I loved this one of my friend Christine who had a heart condition and was told she'd never have kids.... to deliver a beautiful girl and now pregnant with her second! Life is amazing. I'm so blessed to feature these wonderful stories on my blog.

http://themommystories-friends.blogspot.com/2015/03/a-piece-of-my-heart-by-christine-coutu.html

Hearing about the differences between girls and boys was so fascinating to me! I'm lucky to have one of each myself. I loved reading these.

http://themommystories-friends.blogspot.com/2015/04/girls-sweet-and-sassy.html
http://themommystories-friends.blogspot.com/2015/04/boys-will-be-boys.html

You know I'm all about self-care and making sure we take care of ourselves as individuals so we can be great mothers. The #momMEchallenge was born last year and I promoted it a lot this past year.

http://themommystories-friends.blogspot.com/2015/05/mommy-self-care-learning-that-its-ok-to.html

July was a big series month. I featured stories about miscarriages and the strength moms had to go through those... and then featured smart & savvy kids, interviewing occupational therapists and others who work with kids in professional aspects. It was so informative! 


This one is a favorite.... about mom gladiators who are out there helping out other moms.

http://themommystories-friends.blogspot.com/2015/07/we-are-not-alone-moms-as-warriors.html

And this one about we're not failing, we're fighting....
http://themommystories-friends.blogspot.com/2015/10/you-arent-failing-youre-fighting.html

One of the best series all year was Hiedi  Earwood's feature on car seats. SO MUCH great information!
http://themommystories-friends.blogspot.com/2015/08/car-seats-101-by-hiedi-earwood-part-one.html

TONS on the blog about sending your first to Kindergarten! Lots of my emotional mess... but hopefully good resources.

And then there were the tough moments of 2015.... like when I went through a miscarriage in October. I wrote a lot about it... hoping it would help me grieve to process by writing, my way of coping, but also to help others get through it, too. This series is something I'm very proud of... I heard from so many of you that it helped you out tremendously. Thank you...

http://themommystories-friends.blogspot.com/2015/10/a-miscarriage-story-i-didnt-think-it_15.html

In November, we featured tiny blessings... stories about premature babies. I loved hearing these stories of courage and bravery. These moms are amazing to me.


2015 was a busy year!

I hope to see more book reviews and stories featured on my blog this year. More unique topics and interesting stories you'd want to learn more about. If you ever have a story to share, please email me at themommystories@gmail.com.

Hope you enjoy a wonderful New Year's Eve!
Do what you love this year.

THANK YOU for following along... it means the world to me.


MOM 2015 Resolutions - part 2 - Sandra Drew and Morgan Leeman

Part 2 of our Mom 2015 Resolutions series this year, talking with the 2015 Moms of the Month about their best moments in this past year, and what they are looking forward to seeing more of in 2016.

GREAT ideas about how to improve and enjoy this new year!

Thanks, moms!


Images shared from Sandra Drew


Sandra Drew
December Mom of the Month
http://themommystories-friends.blogspot.com/2015/12/mom-of-month-sandra-drew.html

1. What did you learn about motherhood in 2015?
I feel that this year was such a good year in so many ways, and I learned some most valuable lessons. Time goes by soooo fast so I learned to cherish every moment. 
I stopped worrying about money, and I spent more time with my son doing free outdoors activities. Most importantly, I learned how to be patient by reenergizing and having some me time.
2. What do you want to see more and less of in your life this new year? I want to see family more often, more laughter, more date nights with my husband, more me time. I want to see less worrying and fewer tantrums.
3. Which 3 words do you want to describe your 2016? Healthy, Active and Pregnant smile emoticon
4. What resolutions will you make this year, what will you keep doing and what will you change about the type of mom you are now... going into 2016? Currently, I am on a weight loss program, and it has been very successful. I am planning on reaching my goal weight by the summer time and planning on staying active and healthy. Since, I started being active, it gave me this extra boost for doing fun things with my family, more energy and I love that I can keep up with work and my busy toddler smile emoticon 
I want to spend less time watching TV after Luka goes to bed and spend that time by writing a baby journal or putting together scrapbooks of a million little things I saved from the time he was born. I also want to say less NOs and bring more positive moments.
5. Advice for moms trying to put more ME time into their mommy days this new year, or on keeping their resolutions? What works for you? Being active and making time to do fun things. I recently started Zumba with a couple of friends, and it has been the best experience ever. We get to exercise, dance and have fun. It is only 45 minutes, but it keeps you going for a week. 
It took me a very long time to be okay and leave my son with my husband so I can go out without having mommy guilt but once I did it, it was okay, and it helped us in so many different ways. I am a much happier person; we are having more play time and spending more quality time when together.


Images shared from Morgan Leeman


Morgan Leeman
May Mom of the Month
http://themommystories-friends.blogspot.com/2015/05/mom-of-month-morgan-leeman.html

1. What did you learn about motherhood in 2015?
To always trust your instinct. 9 times out of 10, you will be right. I've always listened to my instinct, but this entire last year, proved to me that I need to listen to it sooner.
2. What do you want to see more and less of in your life this new year? I want to see more experiences. Go places, do things, and take chances. We seem to have forgotten to relax and have fun this year and I won't let it happen next year.
I'd like to see less excuses. I always seem to have an excuse for something (why dinners late, why my pants are tight, why the laundry isn't done, the kids rooms are a mess), and it needs to stop. Excuses aren't helping me or anyone else.
3. Which 3 words do you want to describe your 2016? 
Exciting. Fulfilling. Happy.
4. What resolutions will you make this year, what will you keep doing and what will you change about the type of mom you are now... going into 2016? This is pretty cliche but to eat better and exercise more. In the last 18 months, I've really let it slip with everyone as far as snacks and dinners go and the complete lack of exercise.
And after reading/writing the next question, I'm adding in that I need to do more for myself.
5. Advice for moms trying to put more ME time into their mommy days this new year, or on keeping their resolutions? What works for you?
Giving suggestions on how other moms need more me time is hard for me because it's something I struggle with. My me time looks like one night a week, I sit down and watch tv with an occasional glass of wine. It works for me because it's all that I get. But I'm going to try to do more for myself, even if that means not buying my kids that 100th shirt they need and me the shirt that I really want. Finding time for more date nights, even if it's just on the couch watching a movie. Or going for that extra walk. 
2016 is going to be my year of 
changes and improvements.



how we survived the first few months of Kindergarten

Kindergarten. The mere word sent me into a tailspin a few months ago. All summer long I was terrified, sad, weary, curious, and worried beyond belief that this would NOT go well! 

I was questioning their safety protocols - would my baby be taken care of? He was still my baby after all, despite the tallness and 5 year old thing going on. I was worried he would not make friends. We sent him to preschool in another town, so he didn't know anybody really from the Kindergarten school. Would he be sitting alone on the playground?! Would he miss me and ask for me 100 times a day? Would he be able to sit still, my busy boy who is filled with energy? How would this really go?

I was scared to say the least. I had no idea what to expect, this was our firstborn. It was nerve-racking and I sobbed after he walked away from me into the building that first morning.

I shared a lot of what I was feeling the months prior, on my blog, hoping it would help another mom feel less alone in what she may be feeling sending her baby to the Big K.


Now 4 months later, a half of a school year has gone by and I can tell you: IT'S AWESOME! Kindergarten is great! All those fears are gone. All those questions, mostly answered, or let go because we don't really need answers to all of our worrisome neurotic Mom Questions. 

My son is thriving in Kindergarten. He LOVES it! Just like everybody told me he would.

Yesterday I was talking to a friend who is sending her baby girl to Kindergarten next fall. She's got that look of terror all over her face, just like I remember having last summer. She's wondering the same things I was wondering: how will the adjustment to not only a new daytime school but also a before and after care program be? How will she sit on a bus that long without me? Will she be too shy to make friends? How will I get through sending away my baby to strangers? I remember all of this. And now, a mere few months later, I'm telling her: You just will. You will get through it. It WILL be OK. Promise. You will survive.

I even looked at her though, after explaining how great it was for us, and still saw the look of fear. It's that look that the first time mom has when she drops her infant off to a babysitter for the first day of work after maternity leave. No matter how many moms who have done this before tell us it's going to be fine, we'll all get through it, it's harder for us than for the child... we don't believe them or fully understand it until we do it ourselves.

So, Mom of an Almost Kindergartener, know that you aren't alone, we've been there, too, and you WILL get through it. If you have those worries and random questions, ask them and talk about it out loud, with we moms who've been there. We get it. We understand.


Here's what I've learned about Kindergarten, now that we've survived it for a few months!

He has a zillion friends. 
We've been invited to several birthday parties already, where I met amazing mothers, who I feel so grateful to know and ask questions of. He instantly had friends... from the second we were standing outside in the line to walk into school the first day. The teacher paired him up with some buddies that first second as she took him from me. He recognized a few kids from T-Ball and Soccer that we'd done that spring and summer. It was perfect. So tip #1: Get involved in some team activity prior to sending your child to Kindergarten if you aren't sending him to preschool in the same town. And if your child is shy, try setting up some play dates in the summer time, even at the school's playground, so help them transition together. Check in with the teacher ahead of time. Tell her your child is super shy and may need some support in making friends at first, pairing up with buddies.

He LOVES it.
The first day, I stood outside the car listening to him talk for 15 minutes - no joke! - as I was buckling him in. He raved about chocolate milk and PE class and running on the playground and having a cubby for his things in the classroom. There has not been one thing he hasn't liked so far. Some kids take a little while to adapt and like everything. Be patient and encouraging. Ask questions - open ended ones that don't end in "yes or no" answers from her. Ask her things about her day, "What was the best part today? What did you learn today? Tell me the most fun thing you did at recess. What was for lunch?" Realize that you're nervous and so may he be also, but overall he can't wait to learn more and it's triggering these exciting feelings in him to want to know more about the world. It's a great thing seeing them so happy to learn.

He adjusted no problem. 
Everyone told me it would be fine, the whole transition period. I was not convinced. I expected meltdowns daily about getting up and ready to leave. Instead, he rushes out the door since he had special time with Dad in the mornings and LOVES his before care activities. I was nervous he'd hate getting there so early with our schedule. He literally wants to be the first kid there to get the good Lego set or a basketball for indoor gym time. I thought since he napped all summer long still a few hours a day (yes, we know he's a saint and we're lucky!), he'd have a really hard time, be emotional and struggle through his day without a rest time. He hasn't. Fridays are tiring, of course, we don't plan much those nights, but overall no real emotional issues. He falls asleep most days on the ride home from school for about 20 minutes, just enough to tie us over through the rest of our evening. It's been OK. Some kids really struggle with not getting enough rest. It's a very long day. If this is the case... just know this ahead of time, plan not to do too much in September and October until she adjusts. Don't plan activities after school daily. Have calming music and a blanket in the car for the ride home. Have a rest period at home when he's off the bus. Don't plan anything Friday nights. Stay in, regroup, relax together. We had to change our entire morning routine around, and that was a family challenge for a month or so before we got it figured out. Be patient with your children's behavior during transition periods. Don't expect too much. Be a good listener and supporter.

I adjusted quickly, too!
It took me about 3 days to really be totally fine with this new Kindergarten thing. After day 1, seeing his smile and that he was all in one piece returned to me and that he gave me a huge hug after that first day, even in front of his friends, and how happy he was to show me his folder of artwork... that helped me realize that this would be JUST FINE. Then the next few days, seeing his excitement continue, getting a note from the teacher saying he had a great day, and attending Open House where I got to see where he spent his entire day, what he was learning, etc. that helped me feel more reassured that this was great actually. He was safe. Meeting the principal, hearing the teacher's voice... it all made me realize we're good, they're good, they've got this, I can trust them to take care of my prize possession. By week two, it was old news, those worries I had. Everything was OK.


So much FUN! Events and Mom Friends. 
We attended many school events together. It was so fun having cool things to do and becoming part of this new community. Being around other moms with the same questions and worried looks on their faces helped. Being around veteran moms, on their 2nd or 3rd Kindergarteners, helped tremendously. They knew everything! Talk to the moms! It's a great experience joining the PTA and being part of something that helps your child's school, getting to know other families who are going through what you are. Talking to them has made all the difference.

He's LEARNING!!!! 
The things my son comes home knowing astounds me. I'm throughly impressed and surprised hearing him count by 10s to 100 and spelling words and reading words. When I saw him reading by month two I was like WHAT?! Amazing. When you realize that this is what Kindergarten is all about - so many cool artwork projects and learning math and reading real words like at and cat and me... it's so reassuring. He came home the first few days with a note for his sister... it was the sweetest thing in the world. Seeing his hand writing never gets old. It's the most incredible thing I've ever seen before. I'm not kidding. Incredible.



He's still my little boy. This was a hard one for me. Deep down, I was very sad sending my boy to Kindergarten. I felt like, "This is it. The beginning of the end. We're going to be at high school graduation before we know it. My baby is leaving me. No longer a baby." I was very sad letting part of him go. It took me a day to realize he still was my baby. He still hugged me daily and wanted to snuggle at night. In fact, he wanted to snuggle more because he was so tired from his busy day! He still was fascinated by seeing tractors and hearing police cars driving by us. He brought a pretend construction tool to his first Show n' Tell and a John Deere tractor after that - the toys he's used since he was practically a year old! He still holds my hand when we leave after care - even in front of the Big Kids. He brings home picture books from school. And yet he's growing up, too. I hear new words (some better than others!) and he wants to learn about skateboarding and can build huge things with Legos now. But the growing up part has been cool, interesting, wonderful, not sad or worrisome. He's still my little guy in there. It's reassuring to see that.



I learned to let things go... more than I'd done before. 
Once our babies head out into the world, we cannot control all that they do or say or learn. It's just the truth. This terrified me last summer, before sending him to Kindergarten. I was afraid he'd learn to bully or be bullied. I was nervous he'd pick up bad words. I wasn't sure what to expect really. By day 3, after my son said he had a peanut butter sandwich, carrot sticks, fruit and chocolate milk the third day in a row at hot lunch... I realized, eh I don't really care. I cannot control it. There is no way to tell the cafe workers, "Um let's not give this kid sugar chocolate milk every day." I accepted it and it's turned out just fine. We limit elsewhere and it works OK. He feels like a big boy.  I learned to accept that yes, we dressed him adorably in a tie (HIS CHOICE!) for his picture day, but then he took it off after a huge meltdown about it being too tight and he just wore a plain white shirt. Oh well. Big deal. It meant more to me that day than it does in the end, but I quickly got over it. You'll realize there are some things you just can't control in Kindergarten and that's OK. They work out in the end. Some things just aren't important.


Not everything will change after the Big K.
Kindergarten is about a lot of changes... too many papers to fill out and people to meet and names to remember and protocols that are new and different than you're used to. It's hard to adjust to. But not everything is altered like I thought it would be. My big Kindergartener still believes in Santa. He has learned to climb more things at the playground and is getting stronger. He knows how to use the mouse on a computer. He can count higher than before and knows all of his letters and sounds words out to spell them every single day in cards he makes for the family. He still plays with tractors and loves special dates with his Mama. He still falls asleep the same way and snuggles up with his blankie. He still loves to be read to, even though now he can say some of the words himself.

He's still my little boy. A big old school has not changed that. In fact, he's my growing boy, which has been amazing to watch. I know it will only get better from here. 



So, Mom of an Almost Kindergartener, 
I hope you remember it's OK to worry. It's normal to be concerned or scared. It's OK to even have ridiculous questions and thoughts. (I asked at Parent Night about safety protocols and if they teach kids social skills - I'm a school counselor! It's all good.) It's OK to feel sad about this huge transition, milestone. Acknowledge whatever you're feeling.

But in the end, please, please know that it WILL be OK. I promise. However tough it is those first two months, it gets easier for every parent I know. Even for those parents whose kids don't want to leave them the first day or who hate their teacher or who don't like the hot lunch meal. They adjust. And so do their strong parents.

Tips for you to survive this change:
  • Have patience - with yourself and your child - during this growth stage. 
  • Take it a day at a time. It gets easier. Focus on today, not the whole year.
  • Write things down - so many papers come home with color days and assemblies and show n' tells to bring in! 
  • Be there. Connect with your child daily. He misses you just like you miss him, even if he doesn't show it. Make sure you get time in together - even 10 minutes - individual time to read or talk or play whatever he wants. Check in about how it's going for him. 
  • Talk about the change. Talk about your feelings - not too much, don't scare him, but it's OK to share that yes, you probably will cry the first day of school and that's because you love her so much. 
  • Figure out your system. New procedures, backpacks, morning routines, afternoon routines, etc. Figure it out slowly but surely, it'll work out. 
  • Ask... for help, questions, things you don't understand. It's OK! You are not the only worried parent to come through a Kindergarten door. Check in! Email the teacher, it's OK to check in periodically! 
  • Connect to other moms, organizations, groups, the school in general. Volunteer in the classroom if you can. Attend Open House. See that this place is safe and awesome.

You can do this.
We survived. I know you can, too.

:)


MOM 2015 Resolutions - part 1 - Melissa Gilbert and Krista Foye

Every year I ask the Moms of the Month from the former year to answer a few questions about how their 2015 went for them, ideas they have about the coming New Year, and overall how this motherload is treating them. I am always in awe of their answers. There's a reason these dynamic, hard working, amazing mamas were chosen as our Moms of the Month for the blog this year!

Thank you to two outstanding mommas for sharing with us their ideas about the New Year, and a few realistic resolutions for hard working moms.

Melissa Gilbert and Krista Foye are incredible mothers. I'm honored to feature them here again!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!


Images shared from Melissa Gilbert


Melissa Gilbert
October Mom of the Month
http://themommystories-friends.blogspot.com/2015/10/mom-of-month-melissa-gilbert.html

1. What did you learn about motherhood in 2015? 

To take a breath. If I don't capture every moment on camera, it doesn't mean it didn't happen. Live in the moment, because life happens quickly. Memorize my son's laughs, smiles, jokes and words.

2. What do you want to see more and less of in your life this new year? 
I think 2015 was a perfect year, so it's hard to wish for more or less of anything.

3. Which 3 words do you want to describe your 2016? 
Happy, HEALTHY and fun.

4. What resolutions will you make this year, what will you keep doing and what will you change about the type of mom you are now... going into 2016? 
I want to worry less about timely bedtimes and my picky eater. Sometimes I focus on the tasks too much and forget to just breathe and enjoy life. 

My own personal resolution is to keep myself more accountable. If I tell myself I'm going to do something, DO IT. I'm probably going to be making a lot of lists because Mommy Brain is no joke. I'm going to continue letting my family be before my career, because since I've made some major life / job changes, I've become a much happier person.

5. Advice for moms trying to put more ME time into their mommy days this new year, or on keeping their resolutions? What works for you? 

My advice is don't apologize for needing ME time. It's so easy to turn into a martyr and take on the world...but if your cup is empty, you will be no good for your children. 

I've learned that I can't wait for my husband to offer for me to sleep in or go out for a girl's night. He has different needs and strengths as a parent and doesn't always see when I'm at my breaking point. So I'm much better about telling him before I get to that point and carve out some time for myself.


Images shared from Krista Howe Foye


Krista Howe Foye
September Mom of the Month
http://themommystories-friends.blogspot.com/2015/09/mom-of-month-krista-foye.html
1. What did you learn about motherhood in 2015?
We had our second baby, and he was born 1 week shy of my first child's 2nd birthday. 
I learned that I need to be more patient, slow down, and do not stress the small stuff. 
Being a mom of 2 very active little boys is HARD but it is the most amazing experience and I would not trade it for the world. I was crazy about every detail of my first born's first 2 years, and I learned that those minor details and worrying about everything takes time away from just enjoying being a Mom.
2. What do you want to see more and less of in your life this new year? I would love to be more organized at home, especially with meal planning, more time for myself to exercise or just take a time out. And I would like to see less sickness in my house his winter!
3. Which 3 words do you want to describe your 2016? Healthy Happy Adventurous
4. What resolutions will you make this year, what will you keep doing and what will you change about the type of mom you are now... going into 2016? 
My resolution is get back in shape... My brother is getting married in Mexico in May. I need to get moving! I am just really struggling with fitting in any type of work out, since I work 12 hour days and I love to soak up every free minute with my babies.
I would also like to fit in a date night with my husband every few weeks. Life is so busy and we both put the kids before any of our needs.
I will keep working really hard so that my boys have a strong role model in both of their parents - but also take more time off from work so that I can spend more quality time with my boys.
5. Advice for moms trying to put more ME time into their mommy days this new year, or on keeping their resolutions? What works for you? This is something that I struggle with... Whether it is not feeling like there is time, or guilt. 
I have realized that I am a better mom if I can be honest with my husband or nanny or mother, by telling them when I need help with something or need some time to myself to shop, or pamper myself.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

how I use my fringe hours - #momMEchallenge

One of the best books I read in 2015 was The Fringe Hours: Making Time For You by Jessica Turner. I LOVED this book and all it stands for: Busy moms figuring out WHEN and HOW to make time for themselves, because it will make them even better mothers.

I reviewed it here: http://themommystories-friends.blogspot.com/2015/07/making-time-for-you-book-fringe-hours.html

It's about finding little snippets of time in your day to make things all about you - even for 2 minutes at a time. Everyone is busy, especially mothers, but we can't be so busy that we run out of steam altogether... which will happen if you don't put time back into yourself.


Here are a few ways I've been finding my Fringe Hours - the moments in my day that I could in fact spend time on ME!

  • Daily Mornings- I've found that since I'm up early anyway heading to work, if I make sure I go to bed at a decent hour the night before, then in the morning I can wake up a half hour before I really need to and before everybody else is up so I can work out. I could not have done this in the past when I was up in the night with babies needing to feed or when I was responsible for getting two kids ready all by myself to do two drop offs. I get it, our time is tight and there are various phases we go through with our kids where we have less time than others. BUT making yourself a priority - even once a week! - is better than nothing. So I wake up every morning at 5 and walk or run on my treadmill before my day has gotten started. I'm so grateful for this ME time right away. And in order to make this happen, I set out my clothes the night before. I set out my kids' clothes and pack snacks or lunches the night before. I fill up my water bottle the night before. I use time I already have and could possibly waste at night, so that I CAN find time for ME in the morning. It's about prioritizing what you want to do in your day, and then rearranging WHEN you do certain tasks so that you can make sure it happens. I feel rejuvenated, more patient and happier, physically stronger and mentally focused when I work out first in my day. This makes me a MUCH better mom, wife and worker.
  • Evenings - I've found I can do a lot of cleaning at night OR I could do a lot of ME time, once the kids are in bed. I've found I can organize my time differently at night in order to find some fringe hours where I can refill my own tank. My husband and I got into a great routine a few years ago, when our second child was about a year old. We'd both put the kids to sleep and then go downstairs to clean up for about a half hour, no more. We'd never get it all done, but we'd do our best to clean up the toys in the living room so it was more relaxing in there, and we'd clean up the kitchen from dinner, do the dishes or put into the dishwasher. We may fold laundry together while talking about our days or toss a load in the washer. But we'd cap it at about 30 minutes or so, letting the rest go for now. We'd then spend time solo doing whatever we needed to do. For me, that's blogging or emails for work, wrapping a birthday present for an upcoming birthday party, or scrolling Facebook. For him, it's work emails or paying bills or calling a friend. Having time to ourselves is something we both need, and by limiting the amount of cleaning we do, in addition to doing it as a team together, we make sure we get our own time. Then we always meet up later at night, about an hour before we want to be asleep, to watch a show or talk. We didn't find any magical time in our day. We just rearranged what we did to ensure we had those fringe hours being used for what WE wanted them used for. It's hard at first to let go of the cleaning everything all at once... but once you have two kids and realize you CANNOT keep up with it all without falling apart yourself, it becomes easier with practice. 
  • Lose the guilt. - This is another great time I take advantage of my own fringe hours. My husband likes to sleep in on the weekends, and so do I, so we alternate. One of us sleeps in later on Saturday, the other on Sunday. When it's my turn to get up earlier, I set the kids up with a snack and a show, while I blog and/or work out. The kids are still sleepy and not really needing anything at this point so I take my 30 minutes when I know I'll be least interrupted taking them.  Sometimes my husband will be up and making breakfast for the kids. I do not at all feel guilty that during this time when they're interacting I'm on the treadmill or blogging. I know I'll join in with them in another half hour and it's great for my kids to be with just their Dad for a little while. Let go of the guilt: that's #1 for finding and utilizing your fringe hours. Sometimes I'll be heading out to run while the kids and Dad are playing Legos together and I'm missing out. I don't feel guilty. I NEED me time, and if I have to be strategic and take it while I have help at the house, well, that's OK. 
  • On-the-go = doctor's appointments, etc. - You can find tons of time if you prepare ahead! Leave a book or a Kindle in your purse for whenever you're heading to your child's practice or your doctor's visit. Read! Relax! Or even just get caught up on meal planning or writing a grocery list, or scrolling Instagram. Do something mindless, that counts as ME time! I used to only call my friends if I knew I had like a half an hour to talk to them. Now, I'll text randomly something silly to let them know I'm thinking of them, or I'll call them when I have 5 minutes to go on my commute to work after dropping the kids off. We NEVER have all the time we want, so make the time you do have count. My best friend who lives far away from me, we talk several times a week and it's for maybe 5 minutes when we're rushing out the door to work! We take what we can get, and every time I'm left feeling happier, lighter, like someone understands me, not like "oh that wasn't worth me calling her right now with only a few minutes." It's always worth it, spending time on your own wants and needs, even if only a few minutes. In the car, listen to a book on CD if you're commuting solo. Whatever works in your small timeframe! 
  • Indulge - For me, chocolate is a staple in my desk at work and at home. I need a small piece to make myself feel calm, happier, better sometimes. Not all the time. But just knowing I have it makes me feel happier. Whatever works for you- find it and use it. Don't abuse it, not too much, but if you need to take a moment and lock yourself in the bathroom while the kids are screeching or complaining they want a third snack in the last 20 minutes, well, you go for it - grab the chocolate! 
  • Take a lunch break - This can work at home or at the office. I've worked as a school counselor for 9 years in one place and NEVER took more than maybe 3 lunches a YEAR in all of those years. Literally. I worked with kids while eating my lunch every day. I always ate, but never solo or without my computer. This year, I decided I'd try to slow down, take a break in my day and just BE by myself. I went a whole month taking lunch 5 days a week, several times a week I'd eat with another person, just enjoying someone's company and NOT checking email! It was wonderful how much better I felt and how much more energy I had for the rest of my workday. At home, eat a snack when your kids eat lunch, then sit down after you send them out to play or after they're down napping. Eat solo with a magazine or while watching Ellen. It's OK to take a break. Even if it's only 10 minutes. Soak it up!
  • Sleep when they sleep. - This is SO important! No, I don't have time to sleep during the day. Yes, there are a thousand things I SHOULD be doing... like cleaning up the toys or doing the lunch dishes or even blogging or something. BUT I have found if I nap while the kids nap, even if I just close my eyes and don't really sleep, even if only for 30 minutes, I'm a MUCH more patient and happier mom after nap time. It's important to at least put your feet up and rest on the couch for even 10 minutes during your busy Mom Day. Don't feel bad about it either. You'll be laughing more post-nap if you had some time to recharge. 
  • Sleep time = Mom's FREE time! When our kids are down for the night or when they're napping, these are GREAT times for one or both me and my husband to sneak away and do something we love to do. For example, sometimes on weekend days when the kids are napping, I'll head to my favorite kids' consignment store or roam around Target solo just for fun. I'm not missing out on anything at all, I'm just utilizing my time differently. Or during nap time my husband will head to have lunch with a friend. He's not missing anything at home, we'd all just be napping or watching TV or something. When the kids go to bed at night, you know you aren't missing anything, so start date night after they're asleep, head out with your partner without feeling guilty. 
There is time to be found! Find it and use it the way YOU want to be using it, not the way you feel you have to or the way parenting makes you feel like it's supposed to be spent. We can be humans, individuals, too, in addition to being awesome parents. I guarantee if you just set out to find *some* time in your day - or even start with finding one half hour a WEEK- you'll be happier!

Check out Turner's book, The Fringe Hours, you'll love it! A great book to follow for your New Year!




the pros and cons of having kids close or far apart in age

This question comes up a lot in the Mommy Stories Facebook group. I'm grateful to all of the moms in the group who responded to my questions to this discussion. It's so different for everyone. Here are a few ideas from real moms, hoping they help you in discussing this topic with your partner or planning for your future additions.

12-18 months apart
  • PROS
    • We're still in the baby phase, have everything relatively new and out already. 
    • They are SO close, babies are best buds.
    • Into the same things at the same time.
    • Can potty train at the same time.
    • Everything is fresh in our minds.
    • Get the baby stage done and over with quickly with two kids at once for the most part!
    • Little jealousy from big sibling.
    • Big sibling LOVES helping with "their baby." 
    • 2 year olds are interested in the baby but not so interested that they smother.
    • Little regression.
    • They teach each other things.
  • CONS
    • Two in diapers.
    • Two waking up in the night.
    • Two in daycare.
    • Two in cribs.
    • Need double stroller = expensive.
    • Need all the car seats at the same time.
    • Not back to the way I wanted my body, not physically as strong as I wanted to be. Didn't lose baby weight first time.
    • Exhausting! More so than expected.
    • Terrible 2s and being needy from older one is hard to manage with newborn.
    • Hard to go shopping with both kids, difficult leaving house at first.

2-2 1/2 years apart
  • PROS
    • They are BEST buds. 
    • They play all the time together, are pretty much into the same types of games and toys.
    • Are close in age so we weren't totally done with diaper and baby type stage when second came along, it was like second nature to us to start it again. 
    • When baby came home, toddler was still young enough that it didn't bug him too much, he did not get super jealous, he wanted to help. 
    • All the baby supplies, clothing, strollers, etc. still worked, weren't expired, etc. 
    • Able to get in physical shape to be strong to be pregnant again. 
    • Relationship is back on track, going on date nights, we're into a routine.
    • When our oldest was out of the convertible car seat, our little one was ready for it. When our oldest was out of the convertible and into a high back booster, out little was ready for it... and so on so we saved money there.
    • Younger one potty trains quicker later on, wanting to do all the big sibling does. 
    • They learn from each other, so close in age, the younger one knows things sooner than the first one did, having someone to follow around and look up to.
    • Older one still naps!
  • CONS
    • Being pregnant with a 18+ month old was HARD! He wanted to run, I wanted to sleep! 
    • I feel like I missed some of his toddler-ness and snuggling... now that I have the second one without a baby around, at the same age, I'm able to snuggle her and play more than I was with my first child when pregnant or having a baby when he was a toddler. 
    • Potty training with newborn SUCKED.
    • Need double stroller.
    • Big one still wants to be held sometimes.
    • Two in daycare.

3-4 years apart
  • PROS
    • Oldest wants to help willingly, very helpful!
    • Oldest is old enough and mature so that things can be explained to her instead of her feeling left out. 
    • She loves her sibling, nurturing, wants to be holding him.
    • Big kids in school, gives you time with the little one.
    • The break in between babies is nice to get your family into a routine before adding another person.
    • Mom is more relaxed since you're older yourself and have had time to reflect on what's important.
    • Oldest doesn't need to be held all the time.
    • Oldest can verbalize what she needs.
    • Did not need to buy double stroller.
    • Will be in school the same timeframe.
    • Oldest typically potty trained, independent, etc.
    • Big kid can walk well everywhere.
    • Older one can hop in car, buckle up, you check them, and then strap in baby. More self sufficient.
  • CONS
    • Going from having uninterrupted sleep to a newborn was tough!
    • Each with very specific and different needs can be tough to manage.
    • Slight regression in big kid.
    • Slight jealousy.

5+ years apart
  • PROS 
    • Only one in diapers. 
    • One in daycare = saving money. 
    • Oldest is a big help.
    • Can leave baby with oldest for a few minutes in another room to help parent.
    • Oldest can play games with little one.
    • Great one-on-one time with baby while oldest in school.
    • Only one child waking in the night.
    • Needed to purchase new car seats and baby attire, some clothing, etc. that was not good anymore from saving it so long.
  • CONS
    • If oldest had parents all to self for so many years, it's hard to share and jealousy happens a lot when baby comes.
    • With older one totally independent, hard to start over with baby phases. 
    • Siblings so far apart in age = hard to keep that bond close and it's something to keep focusing on and working on.
    • Some kids at these ages apart compete with one another.
    • We got rid of almost everything baby-phase wise and had to get new things.
The thing is that whenever you end up pregnant or adopting, well, that's the time that it's going to work out well for YOU. There are pros and cons to every single timeframe, things that worked for one family will not work for another. There are things you cannot predict either. So, do what works for you in the moment, know that you can plan some things but not all... and go with it. After all, you're adding a LIFE, a baby, to your family. What could be more perfect than that?! 

how to entertain a big sibling while feeding a baby

This is one of the most challenging aspects to bringing home baby #2: figuring out how to make everybody happy at the same time! Yikes! I swear to you, it gets easier with practice and lots of trial and error! Be patient with yourself and your children. You'll get there.


Here are some tips for feeding your baby while entertaining your toddler or big kid. 
Thanks to the Facebook Mommy Stories mommas who shared their great ideas.
  • Check in with your big kid first before sitting down to nurse... ask if needs snack, drink, potty, etc. 
  • Set them up with a bowl of fruit, cheese, crackers, and water bottles when you sit down. 
  • Be flexible with them eating where you nurse, bend the rules a bit.
  • Put on a show while you go in another room to put baby down to nap.
  • Button Art, coloring, crafts, play doh
  • Have her clean up her toys so after Mom is done nursing, we can move on to a new activity. 
  • Nurse in the baby carrier.
  • Encourage them to feed their baby at the same time.
  • Read a story to them while you nurse baby.
  • iPad learning games. 
  • Have a basket of toys, books, games, etc. that only comes out when you're nursing, so it's new, exciting and has novelty so they are interested in it. 
  • If feeding a bottle, have big kid help you out.
Resources:
A GREAT site of 35 activities to give a toddler while you're nursing! 
http://pickanytwo.net/entertain-a-toddler-while-breastfeeding-a-newborn/

https://bayareabreastfeeding.wordpress.com/2012/06/07/round-two-10-tips-for-nursing-your-newborn-while-chasing-a-toddler/


Just know you aren't alone and you won't get it all right the first time or every time... just keep working at it, have patience for your toddler who only wants your attention and to be with you while you're with the new baby. You CAN do this... it's just going to take time.

Happy feeding!

Monday, December 28, 2015

talking through problems with siblings : Dr. Markham's advice that WORKS

In October of this year, I attended a few sessions from an online Moms' Conference that I'd never heard of before but LOVED! It was awesome! Top notch guru speakers in the parenting field, online, where I could listen to their expert advice while sitting home in my pajamas and cleaning the kitchen (true stories!). I wish I'd been able to attend all of their sessions.

Make sure you check out their Web site s you can join in the future:
http://conferenceformoms.com

The best session I listened to was by Dr. Laura Markham, who is a leading expert in parenting, author extraordinaire. She's incredible to read from or listen to! She talked about helping your children be the best of friends, teaching them to get along. I learned SO much!

The very next day after listening to her ideas, I tried out her suggestions on being a more peaceful parent in helping kids work through problems versus just saying "stop it, separate, leave each other alone." I happily reported to my husband later that it WORKED! Like instantly, without training or taking a parenting class or even having read a book. I just listened, used what I remembered, and voila my kids responded.

I've practiced this over and over (not every time, but it's getting more natural to just start using the techniques) and it's WORKING. I'm feeling less frustrated with my two kids' arguing (ages 3 1/2 and almost 6), and they are actually working together more and more. It's amazing.

This process is not a cure-all. All kids will fight and argue and not get along, even daily this will still occur. BUT the dealing with it becomes easier, happier even, less stressful and less anger provoking for all involved, including you! I LOVE this technique and want to share it with you in hopes that it works for you.

In order to learn from the best, which I am certainly NOT, you need to read Dr. Laura Markham's two books about peaceful parenting. I wrote blog reviews on them this month, so check those out.

She also organizes this site with great articles and videos!
http://www.ahaparenting.com


There are a few important steps to this process of helping our children manage their strong emotions, figuring things out for themselves, guiding them.

From her book , Peaceful Parent: HAPPY SIBLINGS, Dr. Laura Markham offers a step by step approach to being a coach and helping kids problem solve.

On page 80, she offers ideas for how to do this process that is working SO well for us!
  1. Model being calm. Take a breath.
  2. Point out that you see a problem here. 
  3. If it's an issue over a toy or something, move that object away from them so nobody is holding it. 
  4. Describe the problem. No judgment or opinion. 
  5. Get agreement from each child that yes, this is the problem they are having. 
  6. Invite them to come up with solutions. What could we do about this? Ask them.
  7. Write down solutions or restate them to the children. 
  8. Ask children which solution they could agree with. 
What works here is a lot of restating what was said, how they are feeling, and encouraging them to figure it out, but also guiding them. You are there WITH them, not disciplining them or punishing them for arguing together.


The sign: It's time to change
A few days after hearing the online session in the conference in October, my children literally played out a scenario that Dr. Markham talked about. It was a disagreement over a crayon. I took this as a sign to start using Dr. Markham's tools and try to solve this disagreement peacefully. In the past I'd probably have said "oh we have tons of crayons, use this one, move on, it's ok, be quiet" or something like many parents do daily.

Instead, I broke it down into simpler terms and tried empathizing that this was a BIG deal to them.

  • Mom: Uh oh, what is wrong? Do we have a problem here?"
  • Boy: Yes! She's taking my crayon and I NEED the red crayon now. 
  • Girl: BUT I NEED IT! (very angry)
  • Mom: Oh boy, we have a problem here, don't we? It sounds like you both need the red crayon for your pictures and we only have ONE red crayon. I wonder what we could do. 
  • Boy: I need the red crayon for my house on my picture. I need it.
  • Girl: But I need it for this girl's dress in my picture. 
  • Mom: Sounds like you both really do need the red crayon. I wonder how we could solve this problem, because there is only one crayon but two of you who need it. Does anyone have an idea?
  • Girl: I know! I could use the red crayon and give it to him when I'm done.
  • Boy: But I want it! How about I use it first?
  • Mom: Sounds like you both want to use it first. I wonder what we could do about that since there's only one crayon.
  • Boy: I know, how about it I break it in half then we'll have two crayons.
  • Girl: I know, I think I can use purple first and he can use red, but then I can use red.
  • Mom: Wow, awesome ideas. I wonder which one we can choose?
  • Boy: She can have the red one, I'll use a blue one instead for my house.
  • Girl: THANK YOU!
  • Mom: Wow, great work everyone, we solved that problem. Thanks for sharing. 
It ended with all smiles and pride from my kids who'd just solved a problem together. It took a few minutes, but nobody was yelling or crying or pouting or upset - including me! 


Be there: Connect
This process is about listening, hearing your children, helping them feel understood. It's acknowledging their struggles as though they are the most important things in the world, when really we feel like fighting over a toy or not being first in the tub or not getting what they want from the other's room is pretty petty. It's important stuff to THEM where they are developmentally, and the more we listen and reflect what we're hearing, empathizing with them that we care, the more connected we are to our children, the better they respond to us when we ask them to do things in the future.

When you repeat what you hear, that's a form of empathizing and reflecting what is happening for them. It's a key thing that we counselors do, but it's also something any great parent does. You may be doing it without even knowing it. It feels boring or awkward, but it helps.

  • Kid: I don't like to have to sit here at the table so long while my sister finishes!
  • Mom: It's hard to sit still and be patient. 
  • Kid: YES! I don't like it. I want to jump up and down instead.
  • Mom: You'd rather be playing and running and jumping wouldn't you?
  • Kid: YES! I don't want to sit here.
  • Mom: I know it is hard to sit here... we need to sit though so we can all be together as a family. I wonder if after we're done sitting for dinner, if you'd like to teach me to jump super high like you do? Would you like to do that?
  • Kid: YES! I can do that!

You're teaching problem solving skills. These are things our kids need in their daily lives at school, with peer pressure, when they are older and doing more serious things like driving a car, and of course in their lives in the future.


Daily bickering = chances to show patience, empathy and problem solve
In the middle of writing this blog post, I had to stop eating my breakfast and writing to go break up a yelling fight in the living room where my kids were playing together. NO JOKE! I was apparently being tested about what I was writing!

My son had some peanut butter crackers in a bowl. He'd just said that the Goldfish next to them wasn't his, it was his sister's. My daughter heard him say something was her's, and she thought he meant the peanut butter crackers, so now of course she wanted to eat them, too. Her brother got angry because she took a cracker from his bowl without asking. This is when I stepped in, hearing them yelling at each other.

  • Mom: What's going on in here? 
  • Boy: (very frustrated tone, physically upset) She's taking my crackers! She just took it without asking me! They're mine! 
  • Girl: They're mine! Give me them!
  • Mom: (taking the bowl away from them) Let me hold that for a second. We have a problem here. I'd like to hear what happened. (taking each of their hands so I'm touching them and closer) So one at a time, you go first and let's listen, then you get a turn, OK? 
  • Boy: Those are my crackers and she just took them from me and was going to eat them, but they're mine, you gave them to me. (calmer voice, not yelling)
  • Mom: Oh it sounds like those were your crackers and you didn't like her just taking them away. (Boy nods) How did it make you feel when she just took them?
  • Boy: Mad! I don't like her taking my stuff.
  • Mom: I can see it made you very angry. Girl, do you see that? (she nods) OK, well, now let's hear her story... what happened, Girl?
  • Girl: He said they were mine, so I took one. I wanted to eat a cracker, too. He said they were mine. 
  • Mom: Oh, I see, when he said the Goldfish was yours, you thought he meant the peanut butter crackers. We had a miscommunication where we didn't understand. So now, Girl wants a peanut butter cracker, and you have all of them. I wonder what we should do about this problem. Does anyone know how we could solve this problem?
  • Girl: I know, I could have one of his crackers and he could have my Goldfish.
  • Boy: NO! I don't want Goldfish. I want my peanut butter crackers. 
  • Mom: Hmm... good idea, Girl, but he doesn't want those. I wonder what else we could do, because Girl has nothing right now... she really would like a peanut butter cracker.
  • Boy: I know, how about if she has her own package of peanut butter crackers and not mine?
  • Girl: I don't want a package. I just want one of your crackers. I like yours. 
  • Mom: Hmm... it sounds like she doesn't want a package herself, but only one small cracker. I don't know what we could do... do you guys know?
  • Boy: Here, Girl, you can have one of mine! (smile, calm voices)
  • Girl: Thank you, Boy! (huge grin on face, gives him a hug)
  • Mom: Wow, we solved this problem! Great teamwork everybody. Boy, thanks for sharing. I really liked seeing you do that. 
The whole exchange took about 3-4 minutes. It sounds like it took much longer... and it IS a lot more patience, energy and thinking than the typical response "Separate! I told you to stop yelling at each other, that's not nice! Apologize! Just give her your cracker! Enough!" 

It's more peaceful, happier and it's TEACHING them skills and modeling to them how to stay calm even when we're angry. It's teaching them to use their words to express emotions and then figure things out together, on their own... lifelong skills you'll hope they have in middle school, high school and beyond in life. 

I admit: YES it's work. It feels like MORE work at first... BUT I swear to you it FEELS better than yelling, snapping or losing your patience after the 700th fight of the day. It connects you to your children, which is something Dr. Markham is all about. 

I swear to you it works! 

Give it a try! 

You won't use it every time at first, and that's OK. But the more you practice it and even teach it to your partner, the more likely your kids will be to start using it on their own.

I now hear my two children saying, "I know, how about we solve this problem like this... I have a great idea, what about we do this?" with smiles on their faces versus anger and arguing. It's only been loosely two months of me doing this and only me using it, I haven't yet showed it to my husband, and it's already making a difference in our household with sibling rivalry and getting along better. 

Resources:
Here is an awesome video I found on working through problems with your child individually:

http://www.ahaparenting.com/videos/how-to-get-your-child-to-want-to-cooperate


http://www.ahaparenting.com/videos/top-five-rules-for-raising-great-kids

All of her videos are a minute or so long, they're great and easy to watch!

I hope this helps you add a little more peace into your parenting repertoire! Happy problem-solving, Moms!



the how-tos of pumping at work

It's been a long time since I've pumped at work... but this blog post idea has been in my blog queue for a while and I know I need to write it because SO many of you ask about how this works. Hope this helps!

I pumped at work for two years with two kids. It's hard work, but doable. You first should have a conversation with your boss and close colleagues to explain what you're doing, what you need, etc. Be realistic - you're there to work, so yes, they should support you, but you still need to get your job done. The biggest thing that helped me was I'd pump right before I left for work so that would extend the time into the work day that I'd need to pump again. I'd pump at lunch time so that didn't interfere with anything work-wise. I'd also get it down to a routine of 10-15 minutes. Once you figure out your system, you'll be better able to make this a quick process versus a long one.

You can do it! Do your best.

Some jobs, this doesn't work very easily. For some women, this stresses them out even more to juggle pumping at work and being away from baby. If it's not working, ask for help or suggestions from your boss, friends, etc. And then if it's still not working: THAT'S OK. You can stop when you are ready. I wish you luck!


Image from Google.com


Here are a few things that worked for me:
  • cooler bag - Especially if you don't have a fridge easily accessible for you, having a cooler bag is helpful. This is also important for after you leave work and you need to pick up baby, run errands, etc. you don't want the milk getting warm during warmer months, so having ice packs is helpful. 
  • bring picture of your baby - you probably have these on your phone, so that's easy! Looking at baby helps! 
  • hands-free Medela nursing bra - This helped me TONS with pumping the second time around. I would hook up to this, be totally hands-free, so I could text or email and get caught up on work things from my desk. I would lose track of time and ended up pumping MORE this way!
  • use Dr. Brown's bottles - they fit the pump parts to pump right into the bottle instead of pumping into the Medela bottles and then pouring into a Brown's bottle. 
  • get a system down and stick to it - be routine, schedule it in your planner, make it known to your colleagues what timeframe you need to do this. This may take a little while before you figure it out... that's ok! 
  • rinse and then wash at home - After pumping at work I'd rinse out in the sink near my office, and then really wash good at home each night. It's easy and quick that way. A lot of women I know don't even rinse, they just put back into the cooler bag, in the fridge so it's cold and safe, then pump again... washing at home.
  • sign and cover the door- you'll want to find a secure place that you're comfortable in to pump. Make sure you have a sign or paper for the door so everyone knows not to disturb you. 
  • pack extras in your pump bag - so many times I forgot a cover to the bottles or a towel (that I'd put under my bra so nothing got on my work clothes while pumping). Make sure there are always an extra bottle, cover, etc. in the bag at all times so you're never without what you need. 
  • dress to NOT impress- yes, you have to dress nice for work, that's fine, but remember you can't wear the same dresses and things you did pre-pumping. You need to be able to easily lift your shirt to pump. Try on the outfit ahead of time and make sure it works for you. Wearing something easy to take on and off is part of making your system easier and a shorter process. 
  • drink up! - It's hard to do this at work, to keep the fluids coming in like you do at home. Pack already-filled water bottles, extras even, so that you cut down the time you need to run to the water fountain and fill them up. Make sure you're drinking so that the milk will flow easily later. 
  • keep snacking- this keeps your milk production improving, also, so just because you're working doesn't mean you don't need to stop and make sure you're taking in what you need to keep those calories up that you're burning while pumping. Keep healthy things at your desk - nuts, dried fruit, apples, cheese sticks, etc. 
Here are some great ideas from real moms like you, from the Mommy Stories Facebook group:
  • Put an event on your Outlook calendar that you share with colleagues, same time each day, schedule in your pumping time.
  • To remember to take home the milk cooler bag at the end of the day from the fridge, put your keys in there!
  • Use Medela ice packs- they last up to 24 hours.
  • Pictures on your phone of baby nursing from your perspective.
  • A baby blanket or clean diaper to help with the smell to trigger let down if needed.
  • Keep your pump supplies in the space you'll be pumping so you don't have to keep moving it back and forth to your office space.
  • Take baby to the work space where you'll be pumping 1-2 times before you go back to work so you're familiar with it.
  • Use a timer so you aren't going over your work break times.
  • Have two pumps - one that stays at work and one at home.
  • Car charger and a window sun screen! With nursing cover.
  • Put on Pandora to mentally check out from work.
  • Use Medela quick clean wipes in between sessions if you don't have time or aren't able to rinse under water.
  • Making the pumping time time for ME- reading, scrolling pictures or videos, snacking, music, etc. because it helped it be less of a pain to me.
You'll figure it out : Just keep pumping
It's pretty challenging to figure out a system for pumping at work the first week or so, but I guarantee you with some planning ahead and patience, you'll get into a quick routine that works for you and produces lots of good milk for your baby! Good luck!

One big tip: ASK OTHER MOMS for ideas, suggestions, tips and help! You aren't the only one who's been here before. Ask away!

Also, read the book The Milk Memos. It's my FAVORITE resource for pumping and working moms! Such a hilarious and good book about real moms who worked together in an office space and used the same work room to pump. Awesome book!

Happy pumping, ladies :)


Sunday, December 27, 2015

on the road again : tips for traveling

Traveling with kids... oh the joys!

My dad and my sister live 5 hours away from me - in opposite directions - so we travel quite a bit during the year.  Here are a few ideas to help keep you a little bit sane during the trip!


 ON THE ROAD - traveling by car. Here are a few tips that work:

  • pack snacks - tons, more than you'd think they'd want. and water bottles! 
  • have toys within your reach so you can pass things back to them.
  • pack snugly things like blankets, stuffed animal to make them feel more comfortable strapped in the seat, and hopefully so they'll nap.
  • noise maker or music to help them sleep.
  • extra clothes, handy, not packed in the trunk of the bag - this is important for if you travel at night and need to stay in a hotel and don't want to bring in all the huge bags, as well as for diaper or pottying blow outs that you need to change quickly. 
  • headphones for any iPads or Leap Frog games. 
  • wipes container or plastic bags with crayons in them and coloring books 
  • sticker books or magnet books 
  • trash bag up front - or else your car becomes the trash can!
  • wipes handy - even if you don't have diaper children, wipes are helpful to eat lunch, after visiting a rest stop bathroom, etc. 
  • pack the kids' potty if you have potty training kiddos! sometimes there are not rest stops when you need them. 
  • slip on shoes - something easy they can take off and on in the car and when getting out to eat or stop at a bathroom.
  • comfy clothing, mostly for a comfortable ride, but also so it's easy to pull down and up when going potty quickly or when getting into a change of clothes for bed time. 
  • pack toys that they don't often play with- something unique that will hold their attention longer.
  • Traveling during nap time.
  • a Kindle or other book pad so kids can listen to stories. My kids LOVE this! 
It's helpful to take stops and run around, we play games like racing to one side of a lot from another. My kids love this and it helps get their legs stretched out as well as deals with pent up energy. 

Whatever works for you- sometimes timing is everything... which varies for kids. 

HAPPY TRAVELING!