"There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot." (Aldo Leopold) Apparently, I cannot.


These Are a Few of My Favorite Things (After Having Kids)

Life with kids — although completely amazing overall (really, it is) — is exhausting, and usually dirty and sticky and full of stuff breaking all the time, with some (ok, a lot of) whining and fussing and mooching for food thrown in.

So when I find something that helps to make my life with kids easier, I’m a happy camper.  As parents, we all have our must-haves. These are mine (in no particular order). What makes your list?

favorite things

  1. Sippy cups: Because you know what? Even when those suckers get knocked over, the drink does not spill everywhere. (Assuming the lid is on properly and whatever spill-proof thingymajig you have to put in the spout isn’t missing and is put in just right, that is.) Even though my older kids are adept at drinking from regular cups, they’re not so adept at not knocking them over. I think sippy cups will be required drinking accoutrements in my house until the kids move out.
  2. Snacks: More specifically, Cheerios, goldfish, any type of crackers, and those handy little fruit/yogurt pouches that don’t need to be refrigerated. Even though the Cheerios and goldfish seem to multiply and make themselves at home in every crevice in your house and car, and the fruit/yogurt pouches can be messy if little hands squeeze too hard, these snacks are never turned down and can almost always turn tears into smiles, or help prevent a tantrum in pinch. (Or in times of food aversions can become entire meals.)
  3. Spray/stick sunscreen: Who ever invented these is just plain genius. Getting my kids to stand still is hard enough. Adding the promise of fun in the sun, sand, and water to the mix makes it next to impossible. So when given the choice of SPF’ing up the kids quickly and with minimal mess versus spending 10 minutes on each kid making sure the sunscreen is rubbed in all the way, I’ll take the first option every time.
  4. Stroller frames: I’m talking about the frames — and just the frames — that you can put your infant car seat into to make a stroller, NOT a travel system that has an actual stroller (that can be used without a car seat) in which an infant seat can fit. Stroller frames are super light, way more compact than a travel system stroller, and easy to use when you’re down to just one hand.
  5. Crayons: Whether at a restaurant, the doctor’s office, in the car, or at home, crayons can keep my kiddos busy for significant amounts of time. And this totally trumps the horrendous amount of “art work” that results. Or the accidental marks on the walls and furniture. (And yes, it’s good for creativity, too.)
  6. Portable DVD players: With family all over, we travel in the car a lot. When I started making 5+ hour trips alone with the kids, we invested in a portable DVD system. We only break it out for long trips, so it’s become a special treat when we use it. And let me tell you, it has been a lifesaver.
  7. Fans: We have them in all of the bedrooms for white noise to help buffer any noise in the rest of the house while the kids are sleeping. We’re probably creating our kids’ first addiction, but hey, they’re sleeping.
  8. Netflix: Real-time tv? Fugghetaboutit (or however you spell that). Netflix is awesome because when my kids do watch tv, we can control the shows they can pick from. And, Netflix can travel with you wherever you go, you know like when you go to a relative’s house and there isn’t anything on but news or crime shows. Netflix provides instant options, and on many different devices.
  9. Dishwashers: Three kids and three meals a day, plus snacks and random pretend play with all the things in the kitchen make for a lot of dirty dishes. And if you have a baby with bottles thrown in the mix? Horrendous. When we lived in Philly we didn’t have a dishwasher — but we only had one kid at that point. I cannot even imagine doing all of the dishes now by hand. Cannot. First-world problems, I know, but I really am grateful for our dishwasher!
  10. Minivans: Pre-kids I swore I would never ever ever own a minivan. Now? I cannot imagine life without one. The automatic sliding doors and back door opener alone have made my life easier. Not to mention all of the room in there. Plus the V6 and all-wheel drive. Awwwww yeah. 🙂


One Breast, Two Breast, No Breast, Yes Breast: Part III

Today I’m sharing the final (for now, anyway) part of my breastfeeding journey. Last week I shared my daughter’s story, and earlier this week I shared my oldest son’s story. I was unable to breastfeed either one, but for very different reasons. Although devastating to me each time, I gave it another go with my youngest son. And this time, everything fell into place. 

This time, it all worked out.

This time, it all worked out.

They say “third time’s a charm,” and for me and breastfeeding, this was certainly true. Even though I was unable to breastfeed my daughter or my oldest son, I still wanted to give it a try with my youngest son, Eli. But, whereas I went into it with fierce determination the first two times around, this time I didn’t stress too much about it. Given my history, this time I was more laid back: “If it works out, great,” I’d tell myself. “If not, it won’t be the end of the world.” And I actually meant it. Whether this had something to do with my success the third time around, I don’t know. But I like to think so.

After Eli was born, I didn’t rush the medical staff to give me my baby so I could immediately put him to my breast. When the nurse placed Eli on my chest for the first time, breastfeeding wasn’t my first thought. Instead I was in awe of the cute little human I had just pushed out of my body, and I was totally and completely amazed that I now had three, THREE, children.

I’m not going to lie. When it was time to try feeding Eli that first time, I was hit with a little bit of anxiety. But wouldn’t you know, my littlest man latched on quickly and, like his brother at first, nursed like a champ! I wasn’t lulled into excitement just yet, however, because I knew things could change quickly, as they did with Saurus.

But things didn’t change the next feeding. Or the feeding after that. Or ever while we were in the hospital. Eli took well to nursing every single time. It took a few feedings for us to get in sync with each other (you know, figure out the best position and such), but after that, there was no fussing or whining or wailing — on either of our parts. Yes, yes, yes! I could hardly believe it was happening. I was actually breastfeeding!

I did get a little anxious again the day we had to leave the hospital. Even though Eli was my third baby, he was my first to really breastfeed. I was by no means an expert at breastfeeding, and I still felt very unsure of myself. But we made it through the first couple of days just fine.

But two days later when my milk came in, my anxiety came flooding back. Now that I was exclusively breastfeeding, I didn’t know what to do when I was so engorged that Eli couldn’t latch on. I didn’t really want to offer a bottle because things were going so well, and I was still afraid of nipple confusion. But when I couldn’t get relief, I turned to a bottle so as not to starve my little peanut. Thankfully, my fears about nipple confusion proved to be nothing but unneeded worry because, as it turned out, Eli was happy to nurse from anything and went right back to the boob when I was able to breastfeed him again. Phew.

I’d like to say that the remaining months that I breastfed Eli were 100% smooth sailing. But they weren’t. Breastfeeding — although a completely amazing experience and one I am so grateful and blessed to have been able to have — is a lot of work. A LOT. And for me, at least, it was not all glitter and unicorns.

It’s true that there are a ton of great things about breastfeeding! It’s an amazing bonding experience, it provides many health benefits for mommy and baby, and it can save you a ton of money. Oh, and you can never forget your boobs anywhere, so there’s that. (There’s also a rumor going around that breastfeeding can help you drop all that baby weight pretty quickly — soooo many people told me this would happen — but, of course, it didn’t for me. Waah waahh.)

But if I’m being completely honest, breastfeeding took a toll on me physically. Off and on the entire time I was breastfeeding, I dealt with milk blisters (yes, they really exist) and plugged ducts, in addition to chronic nipple spasms (yes, those also really exist, and feel as awful as you imagine) due to another health issue I have (Raynaud’s — a vasospactic circulatory disorder). As you can imagine, all of these issues made for painful nursing sessions. I probably singlehandedly kept the lanonlin and nursing pad companies in business that year. Not to mention various pharmaceutical companies for all of the antibiotics and creams I had to use.

I should also admit that I was wholly unprepared for the amount of time breastfeeding would take. Breastfed babies tend to nurse more frequently than formula-fed babies, and usually take longer to nurse than a baby with a bottle, and boy did Eli capitalize on this, especially early on. And even as he got older, unless he’d take an unusually long nap, we never really made it past 3-ish hours between feedings. This means that I had a baby on me like all the time for nearly one whole year. Not only did this leave me with little time for myself, but it also made it hard to spend a lot of quality time with my other two kids. (And oh the guilt!) This is nothing unusual or unique to my situation, but I wasn’t really prepared for this. Coming off of two bottle-fed babies, I was used to sharing feeding responsibilities with my husband. This was especially nice when we could divvy up nighttime feedings. With breastfeeding, I was the only one producing the milk, so . . . I was the only one feeding the baby. All the time. The bonding was great, but I won’t lie, I missed being able to share the responsibility every once in a while.

Another surprise? The amount of pumping I had to do even though I was breastfeeding. Contrary to what I thought was the case given my previous experiences, I actually produced a lot of breast milk. And for a while it was just way more than I actually needed. Which meant adding pumping sessions between nursing sessions so that my boobs wouldn’t explode. Or, if Eli slept exceptionally long and missed a usual feeding, and when he started sleeping through the night before my body adjusted my supply to meet his demand, I’d have to add in some pumping. Which was nice because I was able to build up a frozen milk stash for when we needed it, but it took more time. For a long time it felt like all I was doing was either breastfeeding or pumping. Breastfeeding, pumping, breastfeeding, pumping.

With all of this said, however . . . I wouldn’t trade my breastfeeding experience with Eli — blisters, plugged ducts, spasms, and all — for anything. Anything. The whole bonding thing and closeness that I felt with Eli was absolutely amazing. I am proud to have been able to breastfeed him for nearly his entire first year of life. And if my husband and I are blessed with any more children (we haven’t closed the door on that just yet), I will definitely give breastfeeding another go. Despite all of the issues we faced, I certainly consider my breastfeeding experience with Eli a success!

But I do think that the whole “breast is best” movement should expand not only to educate families about all of the good that comes from breastfeeding but also to help better prepare breastfeeding mothers for the realities and struggles that can often occur, and are completely normal, even with “successful” experiences.

As happy and proud as I am to have breastfed my youngest, I do not feel in any way that this experience was superior to my other two . . . just different. Mommies, all mommies, whether they choose (or have no choice) to breast or bottle feed need to be supported and need to know that they are doing great. Whatever road they travel.

Nothing is supposed to come more naturally to a new mother than breastfeeding. At least that’s what I always thought until I actually had kids. And then this little thing called life sort of changed all of my plans. This series is about my ups and downs with breastfeeding with all three of my kids — my journey through anticipation; disappointment; overwhelming, debilitating guilt; and, eventually, success. I’m sharing this journey with you not to come down on one side or the other in the whole breast vs. bottle debate (because as you’ll see, I’ve fallen on both) — and by no means do I want to start a debate about it here (so please, let’s not go there) — I’d simply like to shine a light on the fact that many women, and for many, many different reasons, struggle with breastfeeding. If you have ever or are currently struggling, please know that you are not alone.


One Breast, Two Breast, No Breast, Yes Breast: Part II

So last week I kicked off my breastfeeding series with my daughter’s story: The story of how there was never any question about breastfeeding her, until she was born 11 weeks early, and life laid out a different path before us. Today I’m sharing my oldest son’s story: The story about my re-determination to successfully breastfeed and the reality that life, once again, handed me. 

breastfeeding part 2

My oldest son, 5 days old, drinking his bottle . . . le sigh.

After the extreme letdown and guilt I felt over not being able to breastfeed my daughter, I was fiercely determined to breastfeed my son. From the moment I found out I was pregnant. Yet again, there was never any question whether or not I wanted to breastfeed. I did, I did, I did! The only hurdle I needed to get over was being able to carry this baby to term. If I could do that, I was sure the breastfeeding issues I had with my daughter wouldn’t be a problem.

And after a practically 37-week-long anxiety attack — being pregnant again after having a preemie so early was a terrifying and wholly nerve-wracking experience (not to mention the copious ultrasounds and progesterone shots in my bum) — my little man Saurus (reminder: this is a pseudonym he picked out) was born, happy and healthy. Three weeks early, but still considered full term! (And yes, I know I still need to write his birth story. Coming soon, I promise.) I was thrilled! I had a baby that would be leaving the hospital with me. And a baby that would be able to breastfeed! Yippeee.

From the second we got to the hospital, I had made it known to my doctor and all of the nurses that I would be breastfeeding. I can’t even describe how proud I felt when my nurse wrote “exclusively breastfeeding” on the white board in my room. So you can be sure that when the nurse brought Saurus to me to nurse for the first time, I was all over that. Or more accurately, he was all over that. Saurus latched on successfully on the very first try and nursed like a champ! I couldn’t have been happier.

Unfortunately, that first successful latch and nursing session was also our last. Not the last attempt, but the last successful, happiness-inducing nursing session. From that point on, attempting to feed Saurus was a struggle. Every time I’d attempt to breastfeed him, he’d get extremely fussy. The first few times after our initial session I was able to eventually get him to nurse after 20-30 minutes of coaxing and repositioning and repositioning again, but he’d never go for very long. And eventually, after the first three or four tries, Saurus had had enough. When I went to try to feed him, he screamed his little head off. And then he just continued to scream. And scream. And scream. And then I started crying because nothing I did was helping. He was clearly hungry but wouldn’t eat. Even my husband tried to help us, but to no avail.

Finally the nurse came in to try to help. And? Nothing but more screaming and me crying. At this point, we decided we were both just far too gone — the baby and me — and since Saurus hadn’t really had much to eat in nearly 8 hours, we’d try to give him a bottle of formula to fill his tummy and settle him down. So much for me “exclusively breastfeeding.” I was (again) devastated. I had read so much about nipple confusion and avoiding giving a breastfeeding baby a bottle for at least the first 3 months . . . I didn’t want to do anything to mess up breastfeeding this time around, and not yet 12 hours into his life, I was breaking two of the biggest rules out there.

But determined I was still. I wasn’t giving up that easily. No way. So we kept at it. The remainder of our stay in the hospital was simply a repeat of everything we’d been through the first day. A few very short nursing sessions after 20-30 minutes of fussing each time were followed by Saurus’s refusal to go near my boobs at all and a massive screaming fit until we’d give him a bottle. And then we’d start all over again.

Needless to say, I wasn’t getting much rest, and instead of being excited to go home with our new baby on discharge day, I was terrified. I had no idea how I was going to keep this up at home while also taking care of my nearly 2-year-old. Oh, and myself.

“Keep at it,” family and friends and the medical staff encouraged me. “Some babies take a while to get it down,” they said. And I knew this was true. I had family and friends who struggled with breastfeeding for a few weeks until suddenly everything just clicked. I hadn’t anticipated this happening to me, but I wanted this so badly, so keep at it I did.

And here’s how a typical feeding session went: Saurus would start showing signs that he was hungry, I would scoop him up and attempt to breastfeed him, he would fuss and wiggle and do anything he could to avoid latching on, I would reposition him and try again, he’d continue fussing and avoiding my boob, I’d offer my other boob, he’d begin screaming and wailing, I’d begin crying, and about an hour or so after the whole breastfeeding attempt started, I’d give in and give him a bottle. Or hand him to my husband or mom to give him a bottle so I could go cry in the bathroom.

This went on for a couple of days. And then my milk came in. And I was so engorged that Saurus couldn’t even latch on if he wanted to. Which added another whole barrier and even more frustration and screaming and crying to the mix. And pumping. And more bottles. I got to the point where I simply dreaded feeding time. Like if I was given the choice between what I was going through and having to eat off my own arm to save myself from starvation, I would have chosen the latter.

Things just were not going how I planned. And I didn’t understand what the problem was. Why didn’t this baby want to breastfeed? What was I doing wrong? What was wrong with me? After a week of being home and trying everything in the book (and on the web and suggested by everyone I knew) and still feeling like we weren’t making any progress, I called a lactation consultant. Surely she could help us get back on track.

And sure enough, after sitting with us for all of 10 minutes — and after some poking and pulling and whatnot — she had Saurus latched on and nursing. He’d pop off every few minutes, but every time the LC would pop him right back on and he’d continue feeding. “See,” she’d say, “you just need to relax and do [this] and [this] and [this] and he should do just fine.” After 30 more minutes of hand holding and helpful tips, the LC left, and I was feeling better about the whole thing.

That is, of course, until I went to feed Saurus the next time. I tried everything the LC had showed me — everything that she did just 2 hours earlier that had him breastfeeding — but he wasn’t having it. And his screaming began again. I felt like such a failure. All of the memories and feelings of disbelief, inadequacy, anger, and guilt that I felt with my daughter came flooding back. And I finally broke down. Like really broke down. I remember falling into my husband’s arms in our kitchen and sobbing. And I said something so completely ridiculous like how glad I was we weren’t living in an earlier time because I wouldn’t be able to keep our children alive.

In that moment, I think my husband realized just how much I was struggling, and just how much I was hurting. And in that moment, my husband became my hero. Because he looked at me with such love in his eyes and told me that I was in no way a failure and that if I wanted to stop breastfeeding he would fully support me. All that mattered, he said, was that the baby and I were happy. And if that meant bottle feeding instead of breastfeeding, so be it.

And with that, I felt absolved. I was released of my anger and frustration and guilt. Of course my husband was right. We needed to do what was best for Saurus. For me. For our family. It was the same lesson I learned with our daughter. But for some reason I just needed to relearn it. Maybe it was because I was trying so very hard to make up for the loss I felt with Belle. Maybe it was because I hadn’t really, truly gotten over it the first time.

From that moment forward, my little man was bottle fed. And our feeding sessions typically went something like this: Saurus would start showing signs that he was hungry, I would scoop him up and give him a bottle, and he would drink from the bottle happily. There was no more crying from either him or me. He was happy. I was happy.

And once we got this down, the rest of it just fell into place. I was no longer terrified every time Saurus cried. I no longer dreaded feeding time. And I was no longer spending every waking minute trying to feed him or figure out why I couldn’t feed him — instead, I was able to spend more time with both my daughter and my husband. I wasn’t consumed with the ins and outs and rights and wrongs of breastfeeding. Because of this decision, I was able to be the best mommy I could be. To both of my children.

And again, regardless of the road that got me there, in the end, that was all that mattered.

Nothing is supposed to come more naturally to a new mother than breastfeeding. At least that’s what I always thought until I actually had kids. And then this little thing called life sort of changed all of my plans. This series is about my ups and downs with breastfeeding with all three of my kids — my journey through anticipation; disappointment; overwhelming, debilitating guilt; and, eventually, success. I’m sharing this journey with you not to come down on one side or the other in the whole breast vs. bottle debate (because as you’ll see, I’ve fallen on both) — and by no means do I want to start a debate about it here (so please, let’s not go there) — I’d simply like to shine a light on the fact that many women, and for many, many different reasons, struggle with breastfeeding. If you have ever or are currently struggling, please know that you are not alone.


One Breast, Two Breast, No Breast, Yes Breast: Part I

Nothing is supposed to come more naturally to a new mother than breastfeeding. At least that’s what I always thought until I actually had kids. And then this little thing called life sort of changed all of my plans. This series is about my ups and downs with breastfeeding with all three of my kids — my journey through anticipation; disappointment; overwhelming, debilitating guilt; and, eventually, success. I’m sharing this journey with you not to come down on one side or the other in the whole breast vs. bottle debate (because as you’ll see, I’ve fallen on both) — and by no means do I want to start a debate about it here (so please, let’s not go there) — I’d simply like to shine a light on the fact that many women, and for many, many different reasons, struggle with breastfeeding. If you have ever or are currently struggling, please know that you are not alone. (And yes, now I have that Michael Jackson song in my head, too. Sorry ’bout that.)

breastfeeding part 1

This is actually the very first time I attempted to breastfeed Belle. This beautiful moment was captured by her daddy, and I’m so grateful for it!

When I was pregnant with our daughter, Belle, there was never any question for me in the breast vs. bottle feeding decision. I was definitely going to breastfeed. I really didn’t think twice about it. But then life threw us a little curve ball: Our daughter was born 11 weeks premature. Her surprising and unexpected beginning brought many challenges, one of which being, you guessed it, feeding issues.

Belle was born so early that she had not yet developed the suck/swallow reflex needed for nursing or even taking a bottle, so she was placed on a feeding tube for a few weeks. I was disappointed that I couldn’t breastfeed her right away, but the nurses suggested that I pump for her so that she’d at least be getting my breast milk.

So, pump I did. Every two to three hours around the clock, just as if I was actually breastfeeding. I wasn’t producing much those first few days, which is normal, and which was completely fine, because Belle was only taking a few milliliters of milk at a time through her feeding tube, so even the small amount I was producing early on was plenty for her.

I kept hearing, “Just wait a few more days until your milk comes in, then you’ll start getting a lot more.” But a few days came and went. And I wasn’t producing more. And a week later, I still wasn’t producing more. I’d sit in the pumping room in the NICU and marvel at the bottles and bottles other mommies were filling (in a totally non-creepy way, of course) while I couldn’t manage to fill even one. I’d sit at home and will my boobs to start spewing milk to fill bottle after bottle after bottle. But they didn’t.

And I tried everything under the sun to try to improve my supply. Ev-er-y-thing. But nothing worked. And we finally got to a point at which Belle’s demand for breast milk was more than what I could give her via pumping, and we had to start supplementing with formula. I was simply crushed. It got to the point where I would cry every time I pumped because I couldn’t do the most basic thing a mother is supposed to do for her child: I couldn’t even feed her. And this overwhelming disappointment turned into anxiety, which did nothing, as you can imagine, to help improve my supply.

But, I kept at it. And the nurses were very encouraging: “Every little bit helps!” they’d exclaim as I’d hand them my daily take. And I knew they were right, but I still felt like a failure. My husband, my family, my friends, they all cheered me on and were incredibly supportive, but I still felt like a failure. Belle was doing extremely well — thriving even — but I still felt like a failure.

And then one day when I stopped in for my morning visit with Belle, I realized her feeding tube had been removed. The nurse told me Belle had taken extremely well to the bottle overnight and asked if I wanted to try feeding her. As I was sitting there feeding her with a bottle for the first time, another nurse came up and asked if I’d like to try breastfeeding next time. I told her I’d love nothing more, but I had no idea how. So the nurse scheduled the lactation consultant to come in and help me during Belle’s next scheduled feeding.

My heart nearly exploded with happiness and anticipation and anxiety as I waited for the next feeding. I called my husband and shared the good news, and he made sure to get to the hospital in time to join us. Of course with new camera in hand. (He’s responsible for the beautiful photo at the beginning of this post!)

I won’t lie. Our first breastfeeding attempt was very awkward. I had no idea what I was doing, and I had some complete (albeit nice) stranger grabbing and poking and pulling on my boobs while maneuvering around all of Belle’s various tubes and wires, all in an attempt to get Belle to latch on. Which she did eventually. And then promptly fell asleep. (Preemies are notorious for sleeping at the boob. It’s really a lot of work for them.) “We’ll try again next time,” said the nurse.

It took a few more tries, but eventually we caught Belle at the right time and all the stars aligned — she was awake, she latched on quickly, and she seemed to be feeding incredibly well. And then? All of the alarms on her monitors started going off. And I freaked out. After calmly checking Belle and then her monitors, the nurse told me that Belle’s heartbeat had dropped pretty low (known as bradycardia), and that this was very common in preemies, especially when they were stressed or overstimulated. She explained that breastfeeding was a lot of work for a preemie, so we’d just have to take things slow. Ok, I could live with that.

Only it turns out, I couldn’t. Every single time I’d try to breastfeed Belle, her alarms would go off. And I would get stressed. Instead of enjoying some bonding time with Belle, I’d sit there watching her monitors for any sign of bradycardia. I was always on the verge of one massive anxiety attack. And sure enough, her alarms would go off. Every. Single. Time. So we made the executive decision to alternate feedings: we’d give a bottle at one feeding, and I’d attempt to breastfeed at the next.

And this is how it was when we left the hospital and made our way home. Bottle, attempt boob, bottle, attempt boob. All in the hopes that Belle would eventually be strong enough to start every meal on the boob, followed by a bottle if she was still hungry after exhausting my still-low milk supply.

My anxiety, however, only worsened after we got home. Belle was discharged from the NICU on an apnea and heart monitor, which of course went off every time I tried to breastfeed her. But when you’re in your own home with your preemie and the monitor alarms start going off, there are no nurses there to rush over and check her and reassure you that she is ok. Or tell you what to do. Which caused me to become a complete bundle of wreck. I just couldn’t handle it.

And so? After a few weeks, we decided to move Belle to bottle feedings 100% of the time. And again? I was devastated because I had so wanted to breastfeed. But, I knew it was the best choice for us. And for my sanity. Belle was really thriving, and I didn’t want to mess that up. Plus, I was still pumping, so I felt at least partially responsible for how well she was doing.

It wasn’t long, though, before Belle’s appetite completely overtook what my body could produce. Plus the constant pumping on top of all of the bottle feedings was getting to be too much. If I wasn’t feeding Belle a bottle, I was pumping. But for all of the hours each day and night I spent pumping, I was getting very little breast milk. So we decided it was time to stop pumping. Which meant Belle would be drinking formula from a bottle at every feeding. There would be no more breastfeeding. The thing I wanted to do most for my baby, the thing I never questioned doing, was now the thing that I was giving up.

And I knew in my head that this was the right decision. For me. For Belle. For my husband. But my heart? My heart was devastated. Sad. Angry. Defeated. Full of guilt. And envious. I’m not going to lie. It took a long, long time for me to see anyone else breastfeeding without mourning my inability to do so. (And it didn’t help that I occasionally had to defend our choices to perfect strangers!)

But the day did eventually come a few months later where I looked at my perfectly healthy, verging-on-chubby daughter and realized it truly didn’t matter that I wasn’t able to breastfeed her or give her breast milk from a bottle. Belle was thriving! She was caught up in size by the time she was 6 months and was doing better than anyone had expected. She was happy. We were happy. That was truly all that mattered. And in that moment, I was finally able to release myself from all of the guilt that had been building since the day Belle was born.


Some Things I Learned During Our Move from CT to VA

So, we moved. And I’m sure you’re tired of hearing me whine about it. So I won’t anymore. But I do want to share some things I learned in case they prove useful to anyone planning a move soon.

moving lessons

  1. Do whatever you have to do to get whatever amount of money you need to hire people to do the whole move for you. Your back and sanity will thank you.
  2. Related: To be safe, double whatever estimate the moving company gives you.
  3. Stock up on those big-ass, heavy-duty black contractor bags. Because no matter how much you do before M-Day (that’d be Moving Day), it’s never enough. You will no doubt be “packing” all sorts of crap in those big contractor bags by the end of the day. And if you’re diligent, they won’t get mistaken for trash bags.
  4. Call in all of your favors with relatives and friends to get your kids out of the house during the actual move. (And if you have amazing parents like mine, perhaps they’ll drive up to CT from VA for the sole purpose of driving your two oldest kids back down to VA and keeping them at their house for a few days!)
  5. If you’re going to lock yourself out of house 30 minutes before the movers are due to arrive, make sure you have your baby with you and that your husband is only halfway to the dump when you call him to come let you back in the house.
  6. Try to plan a nice last meal at the house you’re leaving. We kept ours classy by pairing Chinese food with champagne out of plastic cups.
  7. Keep an air mattress, pillows, and blankets handy in case you unexpectedly have to stay an extra night in the house you’re leaving.
  8. When choosing which car to drive the 8+ hours it will take to get to your new house, ensure your husband picks the car with no a/c. And the cats.
  9. If you don’t like country music, you might want to go ahead and give it a try. No matter where you’re driving, there always seems to be a country station to listen to.
  10. You may want to avoid New Jersey until the cicadas make their way back underground. The entire cicada population seems to have descended on the Garden State.
  11. There is a city in Pennsylvania called Shartlesville. C’mon, that might be the best piece of useless information you learn all day.
  12. Apparently I look old enough to be called ma’am. By everyone.
  13. It gets really dark when you live someplace with no outside street or other background lights. Like you’d probably want to buy stock in nightlights.
  14. Leave yourself 5-100 days for Comcast to get your order correct. And your service actually up and running.
  15. Move to a state like VA where even after eating crap food on your road trip and crap food the whole first week in your new house you still end up 2 lbs down. Must be the altitude difference or something. I don’t really care. I’m going with it.
  16. Prepare for the inevitability of losing your keys among the bags and boxes that will overtake your new house, and go ahead and have at least 12 spares made.
  17. Ensure you live near a Super Walmart or the like since you will spend most of your waking hours there the first few days.
  18. Speaking of waking hours, there will be many. Between trying to get everything done and your kids going bonkers (see #19 below), you’ll long for the days of sleeping in and lazy afternoon naps.
  19. Your kids will, more than likely, go batshit crazy the first week or so from all of the changes. (Actual duration: yet to be determined.) Keep some popsicles and lollipops on hand for them, and some beer or wine (or something even harder if that’s what it takes) for you.
  20. Perhaps most important, make sure your kids have their clothes on before going out to meet the neighbors.


Success Is . . . My Letter to Arianna Huffington in Response to Her Search for a New Definition of Success

redefining success

Dear Ms. Huffington,

I was very excited to see news about the Huffington Post’s first-ever women’s conference, “The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power.” I was even more excited when I read your blog post yesterday asking for readers to join in on the conversation about redefining success.

As a mother, wife, and working woman, I often struggle with defining exactly this — what does it mean to be successful? And the reason I struggle is not because I don’t have a sense of what fulfills me or satisfies my heart. It is because these things are constantly changing.

Success one day, for example, means my three kids and I have managed to make it through the day with only 2 spilled drinks, 5 arguments over what to watch on tv, and 3 Phineas and Ferb Band-Aids (and maybe, just maybe, I was able to get a shower); success another day means I’ve made all of my work deadlines; success yet another day means my husband and I were able to share a dinner together and have an uninterrupted adult conversation.

All of this is to say that I don’t think you can have just one definition of success. (And by “you” throughout this letter, I’m referring to all of us — the “royal” you, so to speak.) Success is going to be defined differently by different people. And at different stages of their life. For me it’s akin to trying to define what makes a good parent — you can’t really. With so many differences in parenting styles — breast vs. bottle feeding, circumcision vs. no circumcision, co-sleeping vs. separate beds — the only thing that really matters at the end of the day is listening to your heart and doing what works best for you and your family.

If you impose a specific definition on things such as what makes a good parent or what it means to be successful, then, you’re going to have a lot of people trying to achieve something that may not work for them. And after struggling to fit themselves into a definition created by someone else, they will see themselves as failures.

Sadly, I feel like too many people see themselves as failures these days instead of realizing that they are doing the best they can. They are successful. They’re just not using the best metric by which to measure their success — themselves.

So for me, the definition of success is really the knowledge that there is no one definition of success. What it means to be successful changes from person to person. And within each person this definition can change from day to day, from minute to minute. And that’s ok. This realization, this knowledge, this is success.

Thank you so much for the opportunity to share my thoughts on such an important topic. I hope the conference is amazing, and I look forward to hearing about all of the great things that come from it.

All the best,



20 Reasons Cats Have Superior Potty Skills Compared to Kids

We have two cats. And I used to hate cleaning their litter boxes. And then we had kids. Now I see just how good I have it with the litter boxes.

cat potty skills

In no particular order:

  1. They don’t need their butts wiped.
  2. They don’t pee all over the toilet seat and leave it for you to sit in.
  3. They don’t run into the bathroom while you’re in there doing your business because they have to go so bad and can’t make it to one of the other unoccupied bathrooms that they actually passed on the way to the one you are currently using.
  4. They don’t consistently clog your toilet with toilet paper. Or Legos.
  5. They don’t wipe their paws on their butt and show it to you.
  6. They don’t ever ask you to come see what has just come out of their butts.
  7. They don’t pee or poop in the bathtub.
  8. They don’t use going to the bathroom as an excuse to keep getting out of bed.
  9. They don’t want to have a 30-minute conversation about their poop’s texture or color or smell while they’re pooping.
  10. They don’t need to be reminded to go to the bathroom all the time.
  11. They don’t need sticker charts or M&Ms to be enticed to do their business on the potty.
  12. They are not obsessed with using public restrooms.
  13. They don’t ever forget to poop the first time and then ask you to take them back to the bathroom 30 seconds later.
  14. They don’t wake you up in the middle of the night because they’ve fallen into the toilet.
  15. They don’t require you to buy 800 rolls of toilet paper every week.
  16. They don’t leave skid marks.
  17. They don’t have to be told all the time not to take food into the bathroom.
  18. They don’t accidentally drop things in the toilet while going to the bathroom.
  19. They don’t need the world around them to pause while they go to the bathroom.
  20. They don’t feel compelled to tell complete strangers about their poop.

Disclaimer: After getting some pretty funny and accurate rebuttals to this one, I figured I should mention that the kids in question here are preschoolers and toddlers, and the cats in question are not psychos. (Although I understand there is an argument to be made that all cats are psycho, lol.) Maybe the title of this post really should have been “20 Reasons MY Cats Have Superior Potty Skills Compared to MY Kids”?


Choosing Our Words: What You Won’t Hear Us Saying in Our House

You learn a lot about yourself as a person when you have kids. How much you can truly love someone. How much patience you truly have. How truly painful it is to see those little people you love so much get hurt. And just how far you will go as a parent to avoid this hurt in the first place. (If you can help it, that is.)

One of the biggest things I have learned since having kids is how to choose my words when speaking to (or in front of) my children.

choosing words

Here are some words and phrases that we try our very best to avoid in our house:

  1. Curse words: Ok, this one isn’t completely true. Every once in a while one slips (hey, we’re only human), but my husband and I really try to never use curse words in front of the children–or even if they’re anywhere in earshot. Although curse words can provide a certain colorful flair to adult conversation, we just don’t find it appropriate for our children. To hear or utter. (And hopefully most people reading this will be thinking, “Duh, you don’t curse in front of kids,” but I have known families where this happens on a regular basis. I’m actually surprised at how many times I’ve witnessed this.)
  2. Derogatory words: As painful as it is to admit, I used words such as “gay” or “retarded” when I was much younger. Everyone did it, so I did too. I just didn’t think at the time how completely unnecessary and hurtful these words can be. But then, through education from some wiser friends, I did. And I have never used these words since. In my opinion, there’s just no need to use words like this ever. With anyone.
  3. Hate: We don’t allow this word. Ever. Not for referring to things or people. I don’t think any explanation is required here. We just don’t want it as part of our kids’ vocabulary.
  4. Stupid/Dumb: These are tough because you hear them everywhere. Out in public, on tv (even on the kid shows). And these terms are so seemingly benign (e.g., “Uggggh, this stupid remote isn’t working”). Until someone uses them to refer to your intelligence. And because it’s hard to explain to preschoolers why it’s acceptable to say an inanimate object is stupid or dumb, but not another person–and because my heart clenches when I imagine the hurt my children would feel if anyone ever called them stupid or dumb–we avoid these words altogether. (Same goes for other hurtful words such as “fat” or “ugly.”)
  5. Bad: This needs some clarification. We do use “bad” in certain contexts. “The milk has gone bad.” “Too much junk food is bad for your health.” But we never use the word “bad” to refer to how our children are behaving–we never call them a “bad girl” or a “bad boy,” for example. “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Back the train up,” you must be thinking. “Surely your kids aren’t perfect angels.” It’s true. They’re not. (And I have many witnesses that can attest to this.) But we prefer to label their actions or words as “unkind” or “not nice” instead of labeling them as a bad person. Again, at this age, it’s hard to explain to them that even though they might sometimes not behave so nicely, that doesn’t mean that they are a bad person.
  6. I need/I want: This is a pet-peeve of mine more than anything. When I was in college, I worked one summer at a bagel shop. And the number of adults who came up to tell me that they “needed” or “wanted” this or that without so much as a “please” or “thank you”  just blew my mind. (“I need a dozen bagels and a container of cream cheese.” “Really, you need it?”) We understand that early on kids say “I need” or “I want” because that’s all they know. But once they can understand the concept of manners, we try to nip this kind of talk in the bud, instead focusing on them asking “please” and saying “thank you.”

Now we are not naive. We know our kids hear this stuff out in the world and even on tv (as much as we try to avoid it). And they drop one or two of these words from time to time. When that happens, we remind them that it’s not kind to do so and that they should speak to (or about) others how they’d want to be spoken to (or about).

Even though they don’t use these words now, that doesn’t mean they won’t pop up in the future. After all, just with everything else in life, there is a learning curve as you grow. As parents, we will simply continue to model the kind of language we’d like to hear.

Speaking of language we like to hear, there is one thing we do say around here all the time. “I love you.” My husband and I to each other. Us to the kids. We want our kids to know that no matter what, we love them. Unconditionally. Even if they do say “sh&t” by accident. 😉

As with all aspects of parenting, this is what we are comfortable with and what works best for us, in our home. 

Are there words you try to avoid in your house? What makes your list?


What 16 Singing Preschoolers Taught Me About Being a Mom

This past Friday started out like any other day. Well, actually, that’s not quite true. It started even earlier than usual.

Ever since the sun starting rising at the ungodly hour of 5 am (ok, 5:36 am to be exact), our oldest has been rising shortly after. I think 5:50 has been the latest in the past few weeks. But she knows her mamma loves her sleep, so she’ll usually make her way downstairs to either “read” her books or watch tv. My husband is usually up and getting ready for work, so they get to have some quiet morning time together, just the two of them. And that’s cool with me.

Our 3-year-old is pretty unpredictable. Whether he wakes up with his sister or sleeps longer, though, he’ll usually just come crawl in bed with me and go back to sleep. That is also cool with me. Like I said, I love sleep.

And the baby, well, currently he’s waking up around 6 to nurse but will almost always go right back to sleep for at least another hour after he eats. Also? Cool with me.

So essentially what I’m saying is that on any given day, even if I’m up early to nurse the baby or get the 3-year-old snug as a bug in a rug after he wanders into our room, I can usually stay in bed until about 7:30 or so, with only a brief interruption of sleep.

But not Friday. Friday was one of those perfect storm mornings where all three kids managed to wake up at the same time and had no inclination to go back to sleep. Any of them. And as I sat in bed feeding the baby while the other two talked about the whats and whys of diarrhea (don’t ask, I have no idea why this was even a topic of discussion that early in the morning) and then started arguing about what to watch on tv, I realized I was not going back to sleep. Although I did get the baby back to sleep, it was a lost cause with the older two.

Turned out the early wake-up was good, though, because I had a Mother’s Day Brunch to go to at our daughter’s preschool that morning, and since it had been awhile since I showered and made myself look presentable, I figured I’d better do something about that. As I was trying to steam myself awake in the shower while lamenting about the extra lack of sleep that morning, I started longing for the days of teenagedom when my kids’ lazy asses will likely be sleeping until noon. (Because that means that my lazy ass will be sleeping until noon!) “Those will be the days,” I remember thinking. (And yes, I know those years come with their own difficulties, but seriously, I should be able to sleep, right?!)

Then, later that morning I stood in my daughter’s classroom beaming with pride with all the other mothers as we watched our children sing us a song at our Mother’s Day brunch. I cannot for the life of me remember the words that they were singing, but in that moment I started tearing up and began experiencing something I can only describe as being equivalent to a near-death experience. You know, where something happens and your entire life flashes before you. Except it wasn’t my life. It was my daughter’s.

Seriously. It was almost as if everyone in the room disappeared and all I could see was my daughter. And bits and pieces of her life over the past 5 years just started flooding my memory. The day we found out we were pregnant with her. Her early birth and weeks living in the NICU. Her first milestones. Her first birthday party. Her transition from only child to older sister. Twice. Her first day of school. Her broken elbow. How her eyes, her smile, her laughter have managed to stay the same over the years.

Because in that moment, I was struck by the realization that my  3-lb preemie had grown into the smart, adorable, precocious 5-year-old standing before me in no more than the blink of an eye. How the hell did the last 5 years go by so quickly? All I wanted to do was freeze time. You know like in that show from years ago when the girl had an alien for a father whom she talked to via a glowing rock on her nightstand. And she could freeze time by touching her two pointer fingers together. What was that show called? (Pause while I consult Google…) Oh yes, “Out of This World.” So yeah, I wanted to do that. Freeze time. (Sidenote: If you’ve never seen “Out of This World,” you should check it out. It’s pretty tremendous.)

And then the guilt set in. For all the times, like earlier that morning, when I openly wished for time to speed up. For my kids to outgrow whatever phase they were in at the time. “I can’t wait until they’re older and sleep in.” “I can’t wait until they’re older so that they stop throwing these god-awful tantrums.” “I can’t wait until they’re all out of diapers so I don’t have to deal with wiping butts anymore.” “I can’t wait for the days when they’re older and I don’t have to watch them every flippin second of every single day.” I can’t wait. I can’t wait. I can’t wait. Wait, what?! *Insert screeching tire sounds here (or a record needle cutting across the record, your choice).*

As I stood watching these 16 preschoolers singing–these 16 preschoolers who all were babies you know like 10 seconds ago–I realized I had been spending so much time wishing for my kids’ childhoods to move along that I wasn’t always appreciating them for who they are now. Right this minute.

I could hardly breathe as the kids finished their song and I was pulled away from my thoughts by all of the clapping. I stifled my urge to sob right then and there, but when my daughter came over to give me the card that she made me, I nearly hugged the life out of her.

And right then I made myself a promise to stop wishing away time. At least so much. Now I’m pretty smart. I know everything is not going to be sparkles and rainbows and unicorns all the time just because I’ve made this promise to really focus on the now. Because I know the now still includes tantrums, and not listening, and goldfish crackers ground into the carpet, and toys all over the house, and glasses and glasses of milk spilled all over the place, and butts to wipe (oh so many butts to wipe!), and never any time for me…And I know there are still going to be times where I’ll think how nice things will be when the kids are older. And those kids of mine in the future will be awesome. I have no doubt.

But really, I need to remember that they’re pretty awesome right now, too! So, a big thank you to the 16 singing preschoolers who helped me realize this. 🙂

Happy Mother’s Day to all you mammas out there! May your day be filled with happiness and love whatever you find yourself doing.



Do You Suffer from Post-Kid Stress Disorder (PKSD)?


So anyone who has had a kid knows that this whole parenting gig–when it’s not absolutely glorious (because it really is sometimes)–is stress-full! (And if you’re new to this blog and haven’t had a kid yet, you may want to check out my “Things You Know But Don’t Really Know Until You Have Kids” series just to get a little glimpse into the sort of things us parents are working with on a daily basis.)

One kid, two kids (red kids, blue kids) . . . it doesn’t matter. Once you become a parent, your stress level goes through the roof and there’s the (very good) possibility that you will become one big ole anxious ball of wreck. At least on the inside.

This stress, this anxiety . . . this havoc you could find yourself in . . . well, my friends, I think we need to put a name to it. And I’m proposing Post-Kid Stress Disorder.


Post-Kid Stress Disorder (PKSD) is a common anxiety and stress disorder occurring in individuals who have children. It typically begins once the parents learn they are expecting, although it may not be triggered until the baby’s birth, and can last well into their children’s adult years, if not throughout the rest of their lives.


Symptoms of PKSD can include, but are not limited to, a zombie-like appearance from lack of sleep and inadequate time to manage personal hygiene, eye twitching, high blood pressure, hair loss or graying hair, constant bewilderment at things going on around you, moderate to insane amounts of yelling, repeating the same things over and over again without being heard, fear of leaving your children unattended for more than 30 seconds, the inability to find 2 minutes to yourself, a possible (over)dependence on caffeine or chocolate (or wine or beer or other booze), a nagging feeling that you’re forgetting something, obsessively counting to three, corner rocking, and extreme manic tendencies around bedtime.


PKSD has been linked to the following causes: constant anxiety from the realization that you are responsible for keeping another human being alive (increases with the number of human beings you create); the inability to get a full night’s sleep; loss of meaningful contact with the outside world; spending a disproportionate amount of your time with people who require constant attention because they can’t talk, can’t walk, can’t feed themselves, and can’t wipe their own butts; having to watch entirely too much children’s television; impaired nutritional intake due to little people always wanting to taste your food.


There is no cure for PKSD; although symptoms usually lessen over time and may all but disappear around the time your kids move out of the house. (Although be warned that this will likely bring on a whole other set of concerns.) Unfortunately, PKSD is a pesky disorder that could hang around for the rest of your life.

There are palliative measures that you can take to decrease the effects of PKSD, however. These include, but again are not limited to, taking time for yourself as much as possible, laughing at all of the silly things in life (and the absurdities when you can), connecting with other parents, finding a good sitter and going out on a date every now and then, having dance parties with your kids as much as possible, playing the part of the tickle monster sometimes, letting your kids take the lead from time to time, mixing things up occasionally (like having ice cream for dinner), checking in on your kids when they’re sleeping peacefully…

Take the Quiz

If all of this sounds familiar, you may have PKSD. To find out for sure, you can take this quick 20-question quiz:

  1. Yes/No: (A) Do you scarf down your food or hide from your kids while you’re eating so that they don’t ask to for a “bite” of your food and end up eating it all? (B) Do you hide food from your children so that it doesn’t disappear after two minutes of them getting their hands on it? (C) Do you have to buy food in bulk so that there will be some left for you after your kids get their hands on it?
  2. Yes/No: Do you shower super quickly (oftentimes deciding between washing your hair and shaving) to ensure that your kids do not burn down the house or take a permanent marker to the furniture while they are left unattended?
  3. Yes/No: Do you always have to shop for clothes without tags? Socks without seams? Shoes without “scratchy parts”?
  4. Yes/No: Do you buy prized possessions in multiples in case something gets lost or damaged beyond repair?
  5. Yes/No: Do you gag a little every time you smell goldfish crackers and apple juice?
  6. Yes/No: Do you ever bribe reward your kids ahead of time for good behavior?
  7. Yes/No: Do you avoid toy aisles at all costs?
  8. Yes/No: Do you dread hearing your child say, “Look what I did”?
  9. Yes/No: Do you secretly wish Leo would just kick Caillou’s ass already for all of that whining?
  10. Yes/No: Do you say “5 more minutes” for at least 45 minutes?
  11. Yes/No: Do you ever pretend like you didn’t hear what your kid just said?
  12. Yes/No: Do you ever look like a spy avoiding laser beam alarm fields as you try to navigate your creaky floorboards while your kids are sleeping?
  13. Yes/No: Do you panic slightly on mornings when you wake up and discover you’ve had an uninterrupted night’s sleep?
  14. Yes/No: Do you now begin long road trips around your kids’ bedtimes instead of at the crack of dawn?
  15. Yes/No: Do you in fact cry over spilt milk?
  16. Yes/No: Do you ever find yourself brushing up on your Spanish with Dora and Boots despite the fact that your kids have been off playing in another room for the last 18 minutes?
  17. Yes/No: Do you ever wish your bathroom was in a sound proof booth?
  18. Yes/No: Do you approach all chocolate crumbs suspiciously?
  19. Yes/No: Do you dump out your drink after your kid takes a sip, no matter how full it is?
  20. Yes/No: Do you use words such as “toot” and “potty” and “booboo” among an otherwise normal adult-adult conversation?


Scoring: If you answered “yes” (or have ever been able to answer “yes”) to 1-20 of these questions, you very likely have PKSD. If you answered “no” to any of these questions, you very likely don’t have kids.

(A huge thank you to my husband for giving me the idea for this post and for providing me with some great examples. Also for reading my various drafts when he should have been studying for his boards or could have been sleeping. Love you, babe!)