Friday, June 27, 2014

Small photo arrangement

A few months after Owen was born I bought 4 square black frames to hang on the wall in Owen's room above the rocking chair. I didn't have enough time to put finishing touches on his room before he was born thanks to my denial and late preterm delivery. The wall was bare and I was tired of it. I filled the frames with some of my favorite newborn pictures. I don't think I captured the arrangement to show you.

Anyhoo, all this to say that Owen knocked one off the wall a couple months ago and it broke. I'd never really liked them in there anyway. They were the only black things in his room and they seemed out of place. I decided I liked the idea of giving him some family pictures to look at. He loves to point to "mommy" and "daddy" and "baby Owen".

While hunting around for black picture frames (for the gallery wall in the basement), I came across white frames with mats that seemed like they would work way better.

Such an improvement. I know that y'all have nothing to compare it to but trust me. The white crib sits on the opposite wall and now it feels balanced.

Yay for pictures! I've been on a roll with them lately.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


"Sometimes I don't hear you because you are so close you are whispering in my ear. Help me be silent so I can make out your words."

These words are from my prayer journal during a snowshoeing excursion through the woods of Big Sky, Montana (January 2005). I have always felt closest to God in the quiet of nature. When I'm away from all the hustle and bustle of life, away from technology, away from the noise, I can hear the whisper of something greater. I remember that evening of snowshoeing well. The woods were silent the way only a snow covered forest can be. The only sound was the crunching of snow beneath each foot as I crept my way deeper in. I wrote these words after finding a seat on a fallen tree.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Pumping Mom: My advice

I realize this topic is a little random and probably doesn't apply to most of my readers (I know you're out there because I see the hits). I've been wanting to write this post for a while though. I had a hard time getting going with breastfeeding (probably another post in and of itself) and then when I finally felt confident, it was time to think about going back to work. Pumping at work felt overwhelming. I want to offer support to other women but I also want to remember my own advice for when baby number 2 comes along.

If you are anything like me, the thought of leaving your baby when you head back to work is scary. I cried and cried the night before I was supposed to go back to work. I was able to take 12 full weeks for maternity leave. I loved it and I just couldn't imagine how I was going to leave my sweet little baby for so many hours at a time. My schedule at the time only required me working three days a week but it was for long hours. While my shifts were only 12 hours, I had to be away for 14 hours and that's if I actually got to leave on time.

I had so many fears and so many questions about going back to work. How many times would I need to pump? How long would I need to pump? What if it was too busy and I missed a session? How was I going to eat my lunch and pump at the same time? How was I going to store all of my milk? How would I clean my pump parts in between sessions? How much milk do I leave for Owen? How many bottles would Owen need during the day? What about my milk supply?

Spoiler alert: We were fine. More than fine. There were a few bumps along the way. However, I was able to breastfeed Owen and pump for an entire year. I'm so thankful for that. I learned a lot in that year and overcame obstacles. Breastfeeding doesn't always come easy and when you add pumping to the mix, well, it can be overwhelming. Here is what I learned.

Establish a support system
I cannot stress this point enough. Patrick was definitely my main cheerleader but I should also give shout outs to my sister, my friend Laurie (who was right there with me with her little newborn), my mom, and the countless other nurse friends who had gone before me that were willing to offer their tips, advice, and encouragement.

Do some research before baby arrives and be sure to share this information with the person who is going to be supporting you the most. I gave Patrick a packet of information on the benefits of breastfeeding before Owen was born. I believe the knowledge he gained from that helped him cheer me on because he knew the importance and health benefits of breast milk.

Grab a book on the subject of breastfeeding that includes information about pumping. I bought The Essential Guide to Breastfeeding by Marianne Neifert. This book was part of my support system too. It was a helpful book to have around and I used it as a quick reference to answer questions several times.

Get the right supplies.
You need a breast pump. It needs to be a double electric and it needs to be reliable. There are a ton of different brands out there. Medela seems to be the leading company and is used in most hospitals. However, there are other options. Unfortunately, a lot of the good pumps are expensive when bought new, but keep in mind that it doesn't have to be new. See if you can find a friend who has one. Maybe you can just barrow one. I've even heard that some hospitals allow you to rent a pump. When my first pump (a playtex double electric) began acting up and randomly not turning on, I bought a medela from a lady off of Craigslist for $50. Medela doesn't actually recommend sharing, but I read up on it beforehand and felt that it was safe to use as long as I used my own parts. She had used it with two children and said it had never given her problems. I used my own pump parts and bottles that I received while I was in the hospital. Recently, I've heard that some insurances will cover the cost of a breastpump. I've even heard that WIC is now on board to help out women by giving out pumps to those lower income families who have decided to breastfeed.

You will need bottles to pump into. Most breastpumps come with bottles, but consider how much volume you will be putting out when you are away from your baby. I actually chose to carry 3 medella bottles (8oz) with me to work and I pumped into them. I would pump into the same two bottles for my first two pumping sessions of the day. I researched and found that this was okay to do as long as the volume you are adding does not exceed the cold volume that is there. Luckily, most women produce more in the morning and less and less as the day goes on and that was true for me. Pumping into the same bottles was never a problem. The third bottle was there to help me get through the final pumping session of the day without overflowing the other two.

You will need bottles for your baby to drink from during the day. By the time I went back to work, Owen was feeding about 7 times during the hours that I was going to be gone. However, I decided to stick with six Avent bottles (9oz). It meant that whoever was keeping him had to be sure and wash at least one bottle, but that didn't seem to be a big deal. My main motivation was to prevent excess. I mean, he can only drink out of one bottle at a time.

You will need freezer bags and they need to be designed for breastmilk. I bought the target brand and they worked great. Buy whatever brand you would like. Be sure to label milk with the date it was pumped and then stick it at the back of the line so that the older milk gets used first. Also, avoid freezing large amounts in one bag. The bag may hold 8oz but it's better to freeze in small quantities of 3-5oz to avoid waste.

If you are going to be in a time crunch and needing to pump while you eat or while you make phone calls, then you will love having a hands free pumping bra. I've actually heard that smaller chested women can sometimes get away without them by simply using their regular nursing bra but I'm pretty sure that wouldn't have worked for me. The hands free bra was great because once I got going, I could focus on other things like eating or I could just simply close my eyes and relax for a couple minutes.

There are many options for cleaning pump parts between pumping sessions. They make wipes (they aren't cheap), you can use soap and water after every use, but I found that the sterilizer steam bags were the bomb. Each bag can be used 20 times. I would steam my parts, drain the water, and then leave them in that plastic bag until the next pump session. Prior to discovering the bags I had been hand washing my parts after every use but it was time consuming. The steam bags were very convenient. 

Build up a freezer stash
Honestly, I wish I had started my freezer stash way sooner. I think I was about 4 weeks into my leave before I even thought about it. Don't do this! Start as soon as you can. The key is to pump a little extra after a few feedings. Once again, most women have more in the morning. Take advantage of that engorgement and pump it out. Not only will you feel better, but you will soon have a little stash going.

I began by pumping after the first two feedings of the day. I should have kept that schedule as long as possible, but I just didn't know any better. I got tired of it and dropped to pumping after the first feeding of the day only. Each pumping session should last anywhere from 10-15 minutes.

Pump right after you feed your baby. Don't wait one or two hours. You won't get much the first few days you do this because your baby has just nursed, but eventually your body will respond to the demand that you are placing. That's how it works. Demand and then supply. 

Prepare your baby for the transition
Obviously, the first day you go back to work shouldn't be the first day your baby gets introduced to a bottle. I think the sooner the better. Sure, you can give baby a couple of weeks (we actually had to give Owen a bottle after only a few days due to his jaundice), but I would start to offer it occasionally after that. Maybe just one feeding a week. By eight weeks I decided that it was time to get more serious about the bottle because Owen was still choking a lot on them. I decided that I would try to have Owen take one feeding a day from a bottle. Maybe that was excessive, but it made me feel better. I also tried to allow as many different people as possible feed the bottle to him. If we were out to dinner with friends then I would ask for a volunteer. It wasn't hard to find takers.

The interesting thing about giving Owen a bottle once a day is that I became more familiar with how much milk my body was producing at different times of the day. Up until that point I had only ever pumped in the morning hours. I would get a ton of milk. The first time I pumped after returning home from dinner where we gave Owen a bottle, I was shocked that I only pumped out 4oz. Well, it turns out that was completely normal for me during that time of the day. I soon learned that I could easily pump 8oz in the morning but maybe only 3oz at night. This turned out to be helpful information when I went back to work because I better understood how to prepare the bottles for the caregivers (more volume in the morning, less at night).

Prepare yourself for the transition.
Know why it is going to be important for you to continue breastfeeding even after returning to work. I say this because it will help you when you have your bad days. Because you will probably have a bad day or two. You might just be so tired when you get home that you forget to put that breast milk you worked hard to pump that day away in the fridge. You might just wake up in the morning and melt into a puddle of tears over it. In that moment, you will need love and support. You will also need to remember why you are doing it in the first place and why you aren't going to give up. Arm yourself with knowledge.

Prepare yourself for the transition back to work by knowing what it will be like to pump at your job. Does your employer offer time for pump breaks. Most do. Will there be a space for you to pump other than the bathroom? Knowing when are where you will pump ahead of time will ease your mind.

Know your numbers.
Before you return to work, count the number of times your baby typically nurses in a day. Subtract the number of feedings that you will be available to feed your baby and you have the number of times you should pump while you are at work. If your baby is still feeding all over the place, then go with every three hours. Be sure that you never allow your breasts to get overly full while you are away from your baby. Overly full breasts begin to send signals to your brain to stop producing as much milk. 

Take the milk you pumped from the day and go ahead and divide it up into bottles in the fridge. For example, I usually pumped 16-18 oz of milk when I was away from Owen. I knew that Owen would need 5 bottles when I was away from him but that the first one of the day would be what I pumped right before leaving for work. I would pump out about 8oz before leaving for work and leave that fresh milk in a bottle on the nightstand for Patrick. Then I would take the milk from the day before and divide it into the 4 remaining bottles for the day. I would put on average 4oz in each bottle. Keep in mind that most newborns take 3oz per feeding and that they are going to take their largest amount of volume during the first couple of feedings for the day. On the days that I had pumped more than 16oz while at work, I put the extra in the bottle that Owen would take following his morning bottle (the one from the nightstand). I ordered the bottles in the fridge so that everyone would know to grab the one in the front first and work their way back.

Don't stress.
Stress can decrease your milk supply so don't do it. Ha! Easier said than done. One of my friends from work actually had a pretty great idea that helped calm her nerves and kept her from worrying. She said that she purchased one small can of baby formula for emergencies and that she kept it in a hidden place in the house. She didn't tell the caregiver about it, but it was her insurance. She said that it was just in case she ever got a frantic phone call about being out of milk. Knowing that the formula was there in her home gave her peace. I thought it was a pretty genius idea. I think it's important to keep in mind that formula isn't poison. It's more important to feed your baby.

I kept formula in my pantry the whole time I was at work. I think we used a total of 3 cans during Owen's first year of life before we weaned and transitioned to whole milk. It's not the end of the world if you have to give your baby a little formula every now and then. You may never need to give any but don't let your pride, your ego, or your goals get in the way of feeding your child. Remember that some women choose only to formula feed or only have that option and guess what? Their babies do fine. I guarantee that if we lined up a group of fourth graders, you would have no idea which ones breastfed, which ones got formula, and which ones got a mixture of both. It will all be okay in the end.

If you are anything like me, you will have a love/hate relationship with pumping. I wanted to burn the thing by the time I was reaching the year mark. It's just felt so unnatural and made me feel like a cow instead of a mom. However, it allowed me to continue breastfeeding even after returning to work and so I was thankful to have it. Just hang in there and don't give up. Before you know it, cuddling your sweet little one against your chest will be a distant memory you cherish.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Life through my lens

 Thank you Publix, for having these shopping carts and free cookies for little ones.

Okay, not my lens, but thought everyone should know that Annie (my niece) is here! She is actually flying home today! This picture downloaded from my phone because I had to save it in order to pass it on to Patrick since he was on a trip. She has already changed a ton since this picture! Go check out her story and progress by clicking here.

Learning to crawl through all the tunnels.

Youth house fun.

He thought that having his car seat in the middle of the floor was awesome.

My date for the Neighborhood Brew couldn't be any cuter.

"Beep, beep!" He loves this car at the playground.

First time in weeks that he has wanted to swing. Just a weird phase but judging from the look on his face, the phase is over!

Loves to slide. Signs "more" after going down.

Happy after his nap.

Good morning pic for daddy.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Summer Cleaning

My sister and I got busy cleaning out the basement while Patrick was at a youth conference. Our home has a fourth bedroom in the basement that we've pretty much used as storage since the day we moved in until now. Since there is still no bathroom in the basement (maybe one day), I'm not willing to claim this odd room as a bedroom. My plan is to make it into a playroom.

I haven't been able to walk through this room in over a year. We will soon be able to rip out the carpet in there and paint! I'm still working in the neighboring room as well. I've been playing around with the furniture arrangement yet again. I'm thinking I'll ditch the over sized loveseat and just stick with the couch. I'll hunt around for a couple of chairs to put on either side of the entertainment center. They will need to be small but comfortable.

This has been a much slower process than I had originally planned.

All the stuff left behind the couch will need to be sorted through with Patrick. Some of those boxes contain books that will most likely end up on the shelves when they get painted. About five of those boxes contain CD's. I have no idea what to do with them. What have people done with their large CD collections?

Thursday, June 19, 2014


"True love waits beyond the silent stars."
- Lenny LeBlanc

I have always loved stars. I had an observant friend in college who told me that she loved walking outside with me at night because my gaze would shoot upward within just a few seconds of clearing the door of a building. She loved that it reminded her to look up and take a second to observe the stars as well.

I feel small beneath them, but I feel something else too. I feel nostalgic, awed, humbled. I'm reminded of all the different verses in the Bible regarding stars, but I also find myself thinking about God. He is infinite and great. He is as real and as mysterious as those stars. I like to think that he is waiting for me somewhere beyond them. One day, I will fall into the arms of the One that I was made by and made for.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Photo Gallery Wall

I've known for a long time that I wanted to incorporate a photo gallery wall into our home. The problem was that I had no logical space for it. I had thought about the hallway but it's already narrow and I thought it would make it feel cluttered. However, once the basement got painted I had a space for it.

I started the project by sorting through some pictures and selecting some of my favorites. After I narrowed it down I began searching for frames. I bought a mixture of black frames with white mats from various locations (TJ Maxx, Homegoods, Target, and Walmart). Once the pictures all had frames I had to decide how to arrange them. This proved to be a more difficult task then I had originally anticipated. There was an endless amount of options. Below is one of the options that I had considered.

I knew I wanted an asymmetrical look but it still needed to be organized. I've done my reading and apparently, the way to achieve this thrown-together-organized  look has to do with using an axis. You can do your own google search online if you're looking for help on that. It's more than I care to get into and also gives a ton of options. In the end, I decided I needed to stretch my photos out across the wall a little further. Also, I decided that I needed the pictures high enough that little hands couldn't reach them. I played with the pictures on the floor for a while until I came up with the following.

I guess I should also mention that I was texting with Patrick throughout this process trying to get an opinion. He didn't really have one for a while so I went ahead and made a decision without him. Of course, then his text message came through.

"Don't know which one you like better with the axis (or what that means!). I think if you want them asymmetrical, in part so they're easier to line up, then the three rows makes more sense. The two rows might be tough to keep that straight line in the center. But whichever you prefer is great with me. I like them and love you and appreciate your work to make our home beautiful!"

Did I marry a sweet man or what? Well, I simply followed his text with a picture.

That, my friends, is my axis. Oh, and please ignore the water mark on the ceiling tile. That came when we had to reroute the water line for the fridge upstairs. We might get around to replacing them one day.

There was a method to the madness for choosing where that line would be as well as getting that line straight and level. First, I chose the biggest frame that I had that would be going on the upper row and made sure that the top of it wouldn't sit higher than the top of the door frame. That picture just so happened to be the vertical bridal portrait from our wedding. I held it up against the wall and then made a slight pencil mark at the base of the frame. I then used that pencil mark to determine where my axis line should go. I grabbed the level and leveled off a line across the wall using more pencil marks. Then I formed my axis line with painters tape. Oh, the vertical piece of tape is marking the midpoint of the wall, not the midpoint of the tape.

If you are still following, congratulations. Next, it was time to trace my picture frames and prepare to space them out. It went something like this.

I traced each frame and this allowed me to play with them on the wall before making any nail holes. Once I was satisfied with the spacing, I began the process of nailing. This took me holding up each picture and measuring where the nail needed to be for each particular frame. It took some time.

It was kind of fun to pull that blue tissue paper down and know that all I had to do was hang pictures on nails. Piece of cake.


That would be the first picture that I decided to hang. The FIRST one! Yep. Curse words.

Well, then I recalled the wise words of Dori from Finding Nemo. "Just keep swimming." So that's what I did. The show must go on and I would just have to find a replacement later. Needless to say, I was extremely careful following that first failure. I was making dang sure that each frame was secured perfectly on it's hook before my hands set it free. The result?

Which one of these is not like the other? I was pleased that I could see more of the vision, but extremely irritated at myself for being clumsy. I decided to leave it like that for  a while. This morning, I set out with Owen in search for a replacement frame.

I started at Homegoods since that is where the broken frame came from. Well, not only did they not have that black frame (they did have it in white), but they didn't have any black frames. I left there and went to TJ Maxx. I was in there last Friday, as in less than a week ago, and they had lots of black frames. Surely I could find one big enough. Wrong again. Did they have a run on black picture frames or something? I left there and packed Owen back into his car seat. This felt like deja vu. I thought about driving to Target but I've been there recently and was pretty certain that they didn't have much in stock. It was then that I decided I would swing by Kohls. Well, to make a long story shorter, I'll let you know that success comes at a price sometimes. That last frame was definitely the most expensive. As in, double but mostly triple the price of the others.

But it is finished. And I like it a lot.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Life through my lens

Pool time and picnic on the porch

Watching the geese at the park

Getting so big!

New favorite bath fun.

Loves blocks.

I leave the room a second and this is what he does.

Cleaning with a dust pan and fly swatter.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Holding hands

"Child of God, child of God, come and rest your weary soul. Come and take His hand. Take His hand. You don't have to walk alone."
- Unknown author

I need to remember these words. Being miss independent can wear me out. I wasn't designed to go it alone.

Day in the Life

June 11, 2014
I've done one of these posts before maybe close to this time last year. I'm not sure. I'd have to look but I feel too lazy to do that right now. It's currently 9:50pm and I'm up waiting on Patrick to call to tell me goodnight so I'd figured I'd type this post out while I wait. I'm going to go ahead and apologize that I didn't do anything "fun" today for your enjoyment. Nope. This is real life. Part of the reason for this blog is to chronicle life and life isn't always rush, rush, rush. Today was laid back. I chose it mainly to give myself something to do/think about since Patrick left me for Breakaway Conference in Hilton Head, SC. Okay, sorry for the long intro. Here goes.

Patrick's alarm brought me out of a dream that I can't remember now but I could this morning. That's always frustrating to me. I rolled over away from the light in the bathroom, I heard the door to our room open, his footsteps trailed down the hall and then I began to smell coffee. I opened my eyes and coffee was sitting on the night stand. When did that get there? Patrick was finishing up in the bathroom. I promised him that I'd sit up and talk to him before he left. We talk briefly. I tell him that I'll be praying for him and that I'll miss him. Both are very true. He finishes his coffee, kisses me, grabs his bags, and then he's out the door. I won't see him again until Sunday night.

What? You mean most people don't take selfies at 7am in a camouflage shirt with a superman logo? bad...

I finished spending some time in prayer and decided to sneak down the hall to grab a second cup of coffee. I returned and snuggled back into bed with my journal and a book I'm reading about establishing spiritual practices.

Owen began to talk and call out. I got dressed and snapped yet another selfie. Don't worry, this behavior will not become a habit. It's just awkward. I thought I'd give it a try though.

When I got to Owen's room I found that he was happy and very stinky. He's had some terrible diapers lately with a new set of teeth coming in. Three have already popped out in the last couple weeks and now I'm waiting on the last stubborn one that I can see under the surface. I can tell it's been bugging him but I swear it hasn't bothered him as much as his raw booty has. Teething diapers are the worst!

Once he was cleaned up, we headed down to the kitchen to eat breakfast.

I let Owen play with blocks and watch TV while I grabbed some water for us and threw his clothes in the washing machine.

We left for the park so that I could get in a run. I really like running with Owen because it's a great way for me to get exercise without having to wake up at the crack of dawn (even though I did that today) or wait for him to take a nap. This means that when he naps today, I can shower and do whatever I want!!! Well, as long as it keeps my butt at home and doesn't take longer than a couple of hours. Ha. I'm already thinking that I'll probably finish laundry and nap. Exciting, right?

We pulled back in the driveway. We fed Hurley because I forgot to before we left this morning. Poor boy has majorly dropped on the totem pole. Owen and I settle in to play with toys for a little while. I turn music on and we enjoy dancing.

Lunch time. Unfortunately, Owen caught on to what I was doing and fussed the entire time I was fixing his lunch. It's so much easier when he has no idea food is coming. Otherwise, he gets very impatient. 

Nap time! I put the clothes in the dryer then settled on the couch to watch TV. Nothing was on so I browsed some blogs, facebook, instagram, and then decided that I needed to quit wasting my life. I showered, dressed, and lied down. I couldn't sleep so I got up and started organizing the guest bedroom. Caroline is coming this weekend to help take care of Owen while I'm at work and the bed in there is currently covered in a photo wall project I'm working on and tax documents that I still haven't filed since we did our taxes. Yeah, I'm on top of things. At least it's clean now! I grabbed the clothes from the dryer and folded them in our bedroom. I'm was just about to start making a cup of coffee and a snack when I got interrupted.

I heard him talking to himself quietly.

I walked in and he asked me for his boat. He has a pirate ship stacking toy that he calls "bow" which of course means "boat." I handed him the toy and asked if he wanted to get out of bed and he shook his head no. I got to make my coffee and peanut butter toast. While I was in the kitchen I realized that I needed to thaw chicken for dinner. I got that going.

I walked back down to his bedroom. This time Owen jumped up and reached for me. I changed him and then we went out on the screened in porch so I could enjoy my afternoon snack while he played with his fort. We spent the next hour playing with toys.

I'm made chicken bake so I needed to go ahead and get started. I turned the TV on so Owen would hopefully be distracted from my absence and content. It worked for a little while. I got about half the veggies chopped before he was under my feet. He's started this new thing where he will come up to me from behind, wrap his arms around my legs, and press his head in between them. Sometimes, he kisses the back of my legs too. I got the food in the oven and we played with his train set while it baked.

Oh, and we sent a picture to Patrick.

Dinner is served. Owen cried when I tried to get him to eat his potatoes. He changes what he will and will not eat on a bi-monthly basis. It's weird. He ate a ton of chicken, some red pepper, and bread.

Then I made cookies for desert. He ate two of them without protest.

Decided it would be a good idea to give him a bath. Baths are good for diaper rash, right? I read somewhere that adding baking soda helps. Actually, maybe it was baking powder.... I'll try anything at this point. It has gotten a lot better but I'm ready for it to be completely gone!

I brushed his teeth, got some PJ's on him, and then we went back to the living room to hang out and read some stories.

It's now 11:00pm. I interrupted this post and spoke with Patrick a little after 10pm. Now I can go to bed. Like I said, my normal every day life is nothing special to most people, but it is my life and special to me. I want to remember the big important stuff, but the little in between stuff too. Sometimes a string of insignificant days turn out to be the most significant later.

Think about it. Now I'll always know that I woke up in an ugly shirt June 11, 2014.