Wednesday, December 18, 2013

On The Other Side

I'm happy to say that we made it!  To St. Louis, of course - but also, generally, we made it through the last month and a half.

To briefly recap, Jonathan started his job in St. Louis the 2nd Monday of November, so Bates and I had almost 3 weeks alone in Memphis without him.  Not sure if I have any single parent readers - or maybe some of you have spouses who travel a lot? - either way, my hat goes off to you!  It was not easy being alone with the baby boy from ~6am - 8pm every day.  But it wasn't awful, of course.  And we had lots of visits with friends and lots of help from my in-laws.  So while it was a long couple-ish weeks, we're on the other side, not suffering PTSD.

One of the more stressful aspects of those weeks was getting our house packed.  Before Jonathan left, it was probably 75% packed, which was huge.  But the last 25% was quite difficult because it was a lot of stuff that gets used daily/weekly, for the most part.  I survived, though!  I was up super late the night before the movers came (Nov. 25th), but when they got there, it was mostly packed (and what wasn't packed was easily taken care of by the 7-man team that loaded the vans).

So we moved out of our house and were homeless for a week.  Bates and I went to my in-law's for the week of Thanksgiving and Jonathan joined us on Wednesday night.  We had a great week with his sister and her family!  Bates loves to play with his big cousins (and I loved having tons of other people around to keep him entertained).  It really was a blessed week with good times, good food, and lots of fun.

We headed up to my mom's the Sunday after Thanksgiving and moved into our new house on Tuesday.  It was rather stressful finding a house to rent here, actually.  And in fact, the one we moved into was unseen by me until the day before the movers came.  But I'm really happy with where we ended up.  I don't think I'd want to own this house, but I'm really happy to rent it.

Some things I like about the house:
1) The little town we live in (Webster Groves) - it's super cute and quaint and has so many places to discover!

2) THREE bathrooms!  Going from 1.5 to 3 is a huge upgrade!

3) A "master suite."  This is something I never thought was important (maybe because we didn't have one in Memphis?) - but now that we do, it's actually nice to have some room to breath in the bedroom and a roomy en suite bathroom.

4) A dedicated "play room."  It's up in the finished attic and while Bates won't go up there by himself to play, it's still nice to have less toy clutter in our living spaces.

5) Gas stove and double oven!  I'm definitely still getting used to cooking with gas, but I like it so far.

6) A carport!  Who knew a carport would warrant an exclamation point, but going from no covered parking in Memphis to this feels like a huge upgrade (especially since St. Louis has had an unusually snowy December).  It's also been nice to go out and warm the car before we go somewhere.  Except when Bates locked me out of the house this morning while I was turning the car on to warm.  Parenting fail.

7) A huge deck (which we obv haven't used yet), but should be nice in warmer weather.  And along the same lines, a big yard to play in!

There are some negatives to the house, too, of course.  But like I said, for a rental, it's great.  One solid negative is that Bates has been waking up every morning super early (like, one morning at 4:50am).  There has to be something about the house that is causing this, if not just change in general, but we have to get to the bottom of it!  He wakes up tired and is barely keeping his eyes open by noon.  I wonder if it's the temperature in his room, so we're going to try a space heater in there to see if that affects anything.  After that, I've got nothing.

One general negative to moving in December (which I absolutely anticipated) is the difficulty of meeting people during the month.  The weather is so cold (like, really, really, unbearably cold) that Bates and I can't play outside.  And most mommy & me classes and playgroups are closing down for Christmas and re-starting again in January.  So we've been a little stir crazy a couple of the super cold days.  But we're going to sign up for some stuff starting in January, so once we get through the holidays, hopefully we'll be on our way to meeting new people and making new friends.

Jonathan is enjoying his job!  We had his office Christmas party (a black tie affair at the Magic House) last Saturday, which was an interesting display of "why didn't your wife tell you it's not ok to get so drunk at a work party" by some of his co-workers.  But also pretty fun, as parties with that caveat tend to be.  And since my mom took Bates for an overnight babysit that night, Jonathan and I got to try a cute brunch place in Soulard the next morning.

We haven't attended church here yet.  (Well, Jonathan tried one before Bates and I moved up, but he wasn't blown away.)  But like so many aspects of living in a "big" city (bigger than Memphis, that is), I'm feeling overwhelmed by all the choices!  We loved our church so much in Memphis and loved so many of the things it offered that it's going to be hard to find something here that lives up to our expectations.

I also feel really overwhelmed by all the restaurant choices here.  Literally, this city is really big and there are restaurants in every little neighborhood in town!  So many choices!  And I think if we really try to get out there and try a lot of them, we're going to gain a ton of weight and spend loads of money, so I'm not sure how that will go down.  But I'm excited to eat some good stuff!

This post is getting too long, so I'll end by saying last weekend we had to go buy me one of those huge, long puffy winter coats.  I've never understood why someone would wear a coat like that since it isn't all that flattering or stylish.  Then I moved to a place where the mornings have been 15 degrees, feels like 1 and I understood.  So long, puffy, black trash bag it is!  Thank you, Burlington Coat Factory!

I hope you all are doing well and aren't too stressed by the holiday season.  Jonathan doesn't have any vacation time yet, so Bates and I will probably hang out with my mom a lot.  But the move has done a lot to take away the usual holiday stress I feel, which has been nice.  Stay warm and Merry Christmas if I don't pop in here before!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Thoughts On A Move

Even though we had discussed the possibility of moving to St. Louis, in my mind, we weren't brave enough to actually do it.  That is, leave this city that we love - Jonathan's parents, our friends, our awesome church community - to start all over again.

Most of our couple friends in Memphis went to school with Jonathan (and are therefore older than me), which means there isn't much transience in the group.  Just about everyone is settled in "for the long haul," living in their grown-up houses with kids in school and jobs permanently locked into place.  And I have to say, I had a good vision of how our future here would look.  I could see the people with whom our kids (and us!) would grow up, envision the schools our kids might attend, think about the neighborhoods in which we might buy our "grown-up" house.

But instead, we are throwing away that vision and replacing it with a big question mark.  We have no idea who our friends will be or who our kids' friends will be or where our kids will go to school or where we'll live or where we'll go to church.  On a lesser level than that, we don't even know the way around the new part of town we'll live in (about 25 minutes away from where I grew up) - I don't know where a grocery store is or a pediatrician or a vet or a Target or even what the main road is that travels through the town.  And if you can't imagine it yourself - let me tell you, it's really scary!

I keep telling myself that it will be fine.  We'll make friends (at some point), we'll learn our way around, we'll find a new church, we'll find new doctors, etc.  But part of me doesn't want to do that because I'm perfectly content with the way things are in Memphis.

Another thing that is hard to wrap my mind around is the fact that this is permanent.  We aren't just casually uprooting our whole lives to then come back in a year or two.  This is the real thing.  And the real thing is a big, fat question mark - awesome!

There's a certain level of adventure, of course, which adds some excitement to the scary.  And I'm elated to be able to send Bates to public school.  I'm also elated to live in an area with less of a crime rate than where we live in Memphis (ie, hopefully there won't be a "Cyber Report" from the police of crimes committed within a mile of my house that gets sent out every single day [literally]).

I know there's some saying that true growth can't actually happen until you step out of your comfort zone, so I'm looking forward to that.  I think we can grow as a family, and Jonathan and I can both grow individually as we navigate this new life.  So there is a lot of good with the bad - the move is, in a very true sense of the word, bittersweet.

Any prayers and/or positive thoughts would be gladly accepted as we close this chapter in Memphis and open a new one in "the north."  I think I'm still in a little bit of shock, ha.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Meet Me In St. Louie

So there was that time when I didn't blog for months...not even a small peep to let you know I'm alive.  So actually, if you are here reading this right now, thanks for not giving up on me!  And I'm sorry I've been absent, blah blah blah, life is busy and hectic and this isn't news to anyone.

Side note: Jonathan jokes with me every morning because he says he wakes up and checks to see what's going on with Queen Ketchup (even though, most likely, he would see me typing a lot on my computer if I actually did post).

Anyway.  We have big, exciting news coming from our house.  We're moving to St. Louis!

You might remember this post from not that long ago when we had discussed if St. Louis would be a good (maybe better?) city to raise our family than Memphis.  Well, as I mentioned at the end, I felt like we would end up wherever we are supposed to be, and I have to say, God has made it incredibly apparent (like LOUD & CLEAR), St. Louis is that place right now.

Jonathan accepted a job at a firm after we met some of the lawyers in a box at a Cardinal's game.  (Literally, I met the lawyers in line for beer, discussed what kind of law they practice, mentioned my husband does the same, and they said, "he isn't looking for a job, is he?"  About two months after that, after he'd interviewed, he was offered a job.)

We then worked really hard to get our house ready to sell, incredibly nervous about the state of the market and the strong need we had to sell the house in a reasonable amount of time.  And after 4 days on the market and a bidding war, we got a really great offer.  (I'd call that a "reasonable" amount of time, right?)  We're currently looking for a house to rent in St. Louis, but I have to say, I feel like God is going to provide that, as well, so it isn't stressing me out that much.

This is where we are right now - in a crazy and unexpected place.  I have so many thoughts on the whole move and leaving Memphis thing, but I might go ahead and do that in a separate post.  I can't believe we are leaving the land of the Delta blues - but we'll definitely be back a lot, as my in-laws (who are really sad, you can imagine) will still be here.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Oh The Reading

So when I took a month+ off blogging, one of the reasons was all the reading I was doing during Bates' naps and at night after he went to bed.  You all know how I love a good dystopia novel, so when I found this list on BuzzFeed, I immediately went to our library's e-database to see which ones I could check out.

I ended up reading 3 young adult dystopia series.

First up:  The Legend Series by Marie Lu
There are 2 books out right now (Legend and Prodigy; and a third, Champion, due out in October)

This was my favorite series out of these three and I would recommend it (although I did feel sort of duped when I learned the third one wasn't out yet).  The main characters live in a military-run state, which I found fascinating because I totally thought of North Korea while reading it; there is a ton of propaganda and negativity about other parts of the World, which has to be what it's like in NoKo.

But anyway, these are fun books.  They're written in 2 different perspectives.  I think one of my favorite parts of a dystopia is seeing the "perfect" government and how the citizens live in it, and there was a lot of that in this series.

Series Two: The Maze Runner by James Dashner
There are four books in this one: The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials, The Death Cure, and the prequel, The Kill Order

Ok, I did not really like this series.  And I don't recommend it.  Why did I read four dang books then?  Who knows.  I guess I wanted to see what happened at the end?  But it wasn't really that satisfying, which left me even more dissatisfied.

These books feel more like a weird mystery than a "dystopia."  And honestly, there are parts I would describe as a "young adult horror" genre.  Definitely not my cup of tea.

I will say that they were fast paced and intriguing at parts (and only about 300-ish pages), so at least you can fly through them.  But my overall recommendation?  Don't waste your time.

And finally, the Matched Series by Ally Condi
Three Books: Matched, Crossed, and Reached

I was probably most excited about this series.  A perfect society where everything about your life is statistically calculated, including who your spouse will be.  So stuff like what you eat, where you live, your job, etc., are decided by the Society through brain data.

The first book was really fun.  It was all about the main character, Cassia, when she is "matched" (ie, given her future spouse) and then the crazy stuff that goes down following that.

The other two books: blah.  In fact, by the end of the third one, I was dying to be done.  There was no big, awesome climax at the end.  In fact, I sort of just skimmed along trying to finish.  One of the main issues I had while reading was that I couldn't really see what was so bad about the Society.  I mean, I guess on one hand it sucks not having the option to make your own choices, but on the other hand, if something (or someone, in the case of your spouse) is calculated 99.9% to be a perfect fit for you, what's so bad about that?

I can't say I really recommend these books, either.

And then after all these kid books, I read an adult book!  I'm sure you've all heard the hype about J.K. Rowling's book that she published under a different name.  Well, I read it.

The Cuckoo's Calling by "Robert Galbraith"

This was really fun and I recommend it.  It was a classic WhoDunIt mystery that was really engaging.  It's about a private eye asked to re-examine the alleged suicide of a supermodel.  And from the way it ended, I imagine there will be other books with the private eye on the case.

So that's that.  Lots of reading.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Well Hello There!

Wow.  It's been more than a month since I've blogged!  I've had a blank post open for awhile, but just haven't had the inspiration to get something down.  I've actually sort of fallen off the blog bandwagon, generally.  Instead of checking all my "regulars" everyday, I find myself checking every couple days.

Part of it is that I don't get that much "me time" each day.  There are Bates' naps, which give me 2-3 hours, and then from around 7:30-10 at night.  I think I might do a day-in-the-life post soon, so those of you who aren't stay at home moms can see what it is we actually do all day.

But in the effort to catch everyone up to date on my life, here are some highlights from the last month+:

1.  Bates and I spent a week in St. Louis (Sunday - Sunday) and Jonathan flew up on Thursday to meet us.  I was going to blog a lot while I was there, but I have that weird fear of letting the digital world know I'm out of my house (ie, ROB ME), so I didn't.  It was a great trip, though.  My mom is a teacher so she was off work the whole time.  We did lots of St. Louis-y things: the zoo, Purina Farms (twice), the brewery tour, the Butterfly House, a Cardinals game, etc.  I loved that we were able to go up for so long.

2.  I've been reading a ton.  Like, I read three different young adult dystopia series (as in, 10 books), in addition to a couple others.  In fact, during Bates' naps that's all I've been doing.  I'll do some book reviews (everyone's favorite!!) when I have a second.

3.  Amanda came to visit!  She did a one-day trip in town for a funeral.  Sadly she didn't get to bring baby Paige.  But she did get to meet and play with Bates, who made fast friends with her.

4.  We've been loving the weather.  I think it's been nice in a lot of parts of the country, but seriously, Memphis has had the best weather summer since I've lived here.  Today, for example: high of 80, low of 55, and almost no humidity.  Bates loves to be outside (hot or not), so the nice weather has been such a blessing.

5.  We've been no-carbing.  Jonathan and I decided for the month of August that we'd give up carbs, which includes alcohol.  We both wanted to lose a little weight, and I know that I, personally, wanted to stop my unhealthy snacking during the day.  I also wanted to give my body a break from the dark, heavy beers we love to drink Thursday-Saturday nights.  Breakfast for me has been an egg-white/feta omelet; lunch has been a salad; and dinner has been fish and veggies, for the most part.  Lots of water, cheese, and nut butters for snacks.

6.  And figs.  So, I love figs - not sure if I've ever shared that on the blog.  They are one of my favorite things in the world.  Well, Bates and I were on a walk a couple weeks ago and I noticed this huge fig tree a few blocks away had some ripe ones.  This tree is huge and it hangs over into the street.  It's packed with figs - like hundreds...  So I took some.  And then the next day, I took some more.  And whenever my stash runs out, I pick more.  And I guess in theory this is "stealing," but like I said, the tree is huge.  And also, no one else is picking them, as far as I can tell.  Is that awful?  I just love figs so much!  I will plant a fig tree in my next house.

7.  On our walk last week, Hank was attacked by another dog!  We were approaching a house that had tall hedges and a gate.  Because of the hedges, I couldn't see if the gate was open or closed, but a huge dog was sitting in the driveway, so I just assumed the gate was open and the owner was standing right there.  Not the case.  When we got close enough to see, I realized the gate was closed.  So basically it was a huge, unchained, ownerless dog staring us down.  Hank went up to him and the dog started attacking him.  Like, pinned him down, was biting and growling.  I screamed and tried to yank Hank's leash, which didn't work, so then I started kicking the dog.  It was like kicking a brick house, though - he must have been 150 pounds.  I finally let go of Hank's leash, thinking he could maybe fight back if I wasn't holding it and I pushed the stroller out of the way.  Thankfully the dog relented a little and Hank ran away and we were able to clear out of the area.  A car stopped to see if we were ok and she pointed to the house where the dog lives.  The owners go to our church, so Jonathan called them that night.  Apparently they were having work done on their house, so the gate was open and the dog got out.  They were really apologetic, etc., but the event was still terrifying!  Hank wasn't hurt (none of the bites broke the skin) and he hasn't been any more weird than normal, so I'm hoping he won't have bad memories of it.  Poor doggie.

I think those are all the highlights of the past month.  Hopefully you'll hear from me again before it's another month and a half!

Now if you'll excuse me, some figs are calling my name.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Great Summer Reads

A couple more book reviews - both of which I really enjoyed!  And two books that made (and would make for you) fun Summer reads.

1) Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan

Her first book, Commencement, came out a few years ago and I really enjoyed it, as well.  This one (similar to Commencement, actually), follows four women's lives and each chapter is told in a different one's 1st-person voice.  The women in this book are a grandmother, her daughter, her daughter-in-law, and her granddaughter.  I just loved it.  It's about their past, their current lives, and the ways their lives intertwine with each other.  It all sort of centers on the family vacation house in Maine and their time there in the past and in the present.

It reads super quick and is mostly about Summer (when they're in Maine) - so it feels appropo right now.

2) The Host by Stephanie Meyer

Yes, Stephanie Meyer is the woman who wrote the Twilight books.  (Whatev, you know you loved them too.)  They say this is her first book for adults, although I might argue it could be a book for teens, as well.  But the main characters are adults, so I guess that's why they classified it that way.  Anyway - it's a dystopia (my fave!) about an alien species that has taken over Earth.  When they come in, they inject themselves (the "souls") into human bodies and live through the human, thus eliminating the human.  Only - they don't completely eliminate the human spirit every time. (Dun dun dun!)

I liked this book a lot maybe even more than I really care to admit.  At its core, it's a love story.  But one of the things I liked most is that I honestly didn't know: a) how it was going to end or b) how I wanted it to end.  It's a love story, so you would think the reader just wants boy to end up with girl at the end, but it's more complicated than that.

It's unpredictable and has some suspenseful moments.  And a charming love story(ies).  When I finished, I felt a connection to the book, like I didn't want it to end.  I might or might not have read the ending a couple times.  Make sure if you do read it, your copy of the book has the afterword from Stephanie Meyer where she wrote an additional chapter to aid the people who adapted the book for film.

Both good summer reads - both highly recommended!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Girls River Weekend

For the first time ever, I left Bates at home with Dada this past weekend and went out of town with girlfriends!  And it was glorious!

I'd never been in a different city than my child.  My in-laws take him for overnight babysits fairly often, but in terms of actually being away from him?  Never.  So when my book club talked about taking a trip to Emily's river house in Arkansas, my first thought was no.  I just didn't think Jonathan would want to be home alone with Bates for a whole weekend.  But when I talked to him about it, he was totally on-board.  And thus, the wheels started spinning on plans for our weekend away.

In the end, it was Emily, Patti, and me who made the trek to Hardy, Arkansas to Emily's family house on the Spring River.  "House" is definitely the wrong word for this cabin that didn't really have any solid walls (they were all screens).  It took my love of a good screened-in porch to the next level.  It felt a bit like Ritz Carlton camping - we were in the wilderness, but still had beds, a bathroom, a kitchen, electricity, etc.  That's my kind of camping!  Thankfully the weather agreed, and each night I actually found myself pulling the comforter on for warmth.

We spent all day Saturday on the river.  We loaded our canoe up with lounge chairs, food, drink, and books and paddled up river to a sand bank by a little waterfall (the "Knockers").  For the whole day, we sat in chairs in the river, talked, read, swam, and watched seriously drunk rednecks people try to canoe over the falls.  It was so fun, relaxing, refreshing, enjoyable - basically it was just what I needed. For two days I didn't think about anyone else's eating, sleeping, bathrooming, or bathing schedule.  Instead I worried about how much sunscreen to use, whether to read my Kindle through a ziploc bag on the river, and how many Pringles were too many.  First world problems.

Sunday morning I woke up and read in bed.  I haven't stayed in bed in the morning to read since before Bates was born.  Then I wrapped up in a quilt with a cup of coffee and spent the morning chatting with Emily and Patti.  It's amazing how much talking three women can do in a weekend - and amazing how good for the soul it can be.

When we were hanging out in the river on Saturday, another family who has a cabin by Emily's was hanging out there, too.  The mom came over and talked to us, asking if we were on a girlfriend trip.  When we said yes, she said, "you have to do them, they're good for you; you'll solve all the world's problems by the end of the weekend."  And it's so true.  I don't think we left many stones unturned.

I got back late Sunday afternoon very excited to see the baby boy (and Jonathan - although I'd been away from him before).  And as expected, all went quite well for them in my absence; they enjoyed their "boy's weekend."

This whole week I've still felt so recharged from the weekend.  I must remember the importance of getting out of the house (alone) and getting away every now and then.  It does a body good.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

To Heaven and Back

I just finished reading the book To Heaven and Back by Mary C. Neal MD and I feel so inspired I wanted to share.

So I saw this lady on the Katie Couric show about a year ago.  (The only explanation I can give for actually watching the Katie Couric show is that back in my breastfeeding days, I watched a lot of tv while I sat at the pump.  It was hard to hold a book, so tv was the best bet.  And you can only watch so many episodes on HGTV, TLC, or Food Network before you need a break.  So the afternoons sometimes included The Chew, my girl Katie Couric, and/or Dr. Oz.  Don't judge.)  Anyway, the show was about people who have encountered the afterlife: a couple kids (including this guy, who's dad, an evangelical-type preacher, I think might have made up his story) a painter, and this woman Mary C. Neal.

She is a well-educated orthopedic surgeon, a wife, a mother of 4 - basically she seems really solid and credible to me.  And she wrote this book about an experience she had rafting in South America.  After an accident while going over a waterfall, she got pinned underneath it, physically died, and went to Heaven.  She was then told by Heavenly beings, much to her disappointment, that it wasn't her time yet and she was returned to her Earthly body.

Ok.  First: whoa.  And I know some of you might be reading and rolling your eyes like, "whatev - she's lying, that's what's happening in the book."  But I wholeheartedly believe her story and I think you would too if you read the book.  To address the possibility she could be lying, all I have to say is that she doesn't seem to have any motivation to do so, in my opinion.  The majority of the profit from the book has been donated to charity, so it's not monetary.  And she doesn't strike me as a huge narcissist, that is, I don't think she's creating a crazy story because she wants to have an autobiography published. I think she's writing this book because her story is so wild and so unbelievable, she knows it can change people's lives.

And I have to say, I feel my own life changed by it.  It seems sort of cliche and "pop Christian-y," but this book was exactly what I needed to read right now.

Like all Christians, I feel my own faith ebb and flow.  There are times when I feel really good about where I am spiritually, and other times when I feel like God is far away or not there at all.  I think this is quite normal.  And in those times when God is furthest away, while I know I should seek Him even more, like most people, I often don't.

This is probably a good explanation of where I am right now.  I felt so close to God when we were going through the whole song & dance to get pregnant.  And when I actually did become pregnant and give birth to Bates, I knew it was the most precious gift from God and the most abundant answer to prayers I had ever received.  But then I had a newborn and I didn't sleep and there weren't enough hours in the day and I was a hormonal mess and excuse excuse excuse, I became distant from God.

But the crappy part?  I never really went back.  I feel like most of the 16 months of Bates' life have been a spiritual dark place for me.  There were a few glimpses of light (like going through the Deacon experience at our church and mentoring the 9th grade girl through confirmation), but mostly I had put my faith on the back burner.

As God is so faithful, though, He's always been waiting, kindly, for me to return.  I think the Bible study was the first step; gathering with other women who feel pulled in directions other than God because of their kids was such a welcome relief - and such a desired opportunity for accountability.  We all want to return on our God-centered spiritual paths and will help each other get there.

And then I read this book.  In about two days.  I devoured it because it struck a chord in me.  God is real.  Even when He feels far away, He is there and waiting with joy for me to return.  I hate that I had to read a book like this to remind me that God is real.  I mean, really?  How can I question the existence of the one who created me and who has worked miracles in my own life?  But regardless, that's where I was.

And so here is this book.  I really recommend you read it.  Maybe you don't feel like you need a book like this to tell you God is real - but even so, it's fascinating to see what Heaven was like for this woman.  I mean, come on, isn't everyone curious about Heaven and what happens when you die?

She has no agenda other than to share her experience and inspire others.  (Ie, she isn't from a specific denomination nor is she judging or condemning behavior or anything.)  Give it a read - I hope you will - and I hope you will be inspired like I have.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sick Baby :(

We've been pretty fortunate in the illness department with Bates.  He got some colds (which led to a couple ear infections) during his 2-month sampling of daycare last year.  Other than that, though, not much of anything beyond a stuffy nose here and there.

Last Wednesday, we went to my Bible study in the morning (where there's group baby care) and he had a fun time playing with the kids.  Then we came home and he went down for his nap, as usual.  He slept about 2 hours, as usual, but when I got him out of the crib he was super cranky (not usual).  I put him in his highchair for lunch and he wasn't into it.  I got him to eat a few bites, and then....BLAAAH! <----puke 101="" and="" highchair="" his="" i="" in="" it="" nbsp="" nd="" p="" temperature="" the="" took="" was="">
The poor sweet baby was sick until Friday.  He had a couple more small puking incidents, but mostly he had this crazy fever.  It got as high as 102 at some points!  On Thursday, he was down and out.  All he wanted to do was lie in my lap and watch tv (something he never does because he doesn't sit still).

We talked to the doctor on the phone who said there had been a ton of fever viruses all week.  Thankfully Jonathan nor I got sick.  But the poor little guy!  It's so sad when they can't tell you how they feel.  Can you imagine if you had the worst headache of your life but couldn't tell anyone?  Instead you just cried (which probably made it worse)?  Or if your stomach was killing you, but you couldn't tell anyone you didn't want to eat?

Anyway, the fever was way down on Friday and he was up for eating and playing again.  And then by Saturday he was 100%.  I'm assuming he picked it up at one of the parties we went to the weekend before.  Or at the zoo on Monday with his Grammy.  I feel so awful that I had him at Bible study playgroup - I'm hoping no one else's kids got sick, but I guess I'll see tomorrow.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Book Reviews!

I've been reading a lot, which has been nice.  I was pretty apprehensive about Bates switching to one nap a day, but I must say, it's so nice!  We get out and about in the morning, he sleeps for 2-3 hours at midday, then we play until Dada gets home.  So during those 2-3 hours, I usually have some time for reading, which has been a lovely addition to my days.

So here we go (remember - no spoilers - so read away):

1) Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

This concludes my reading of Lisa See for awhile because there aren't any of her other books in our public library's e-database.  Of the three I've now read, this is my least favorite.  This one takes place in China when it was ruled by emperors (I don't know - 1800s?) and as all her books have been, it's an awesome historical picture of what it was like to live back then.  (Ie, pretty crappy if you were a woman.)  This book is about two women who were basically pen pals (it was some technical thing in China) the whole span of their lives.  They went through lots of hardship, some joy, births, deaths, etc. and you follow their journeys during the book.

Overall it was fine - not great, not horrible.  I thought the end was sort of dumb and I thought one of the women (Snow Flower) was annoying and weak.  But it was an ok read.  I would check out Lisa See's other books before this one, though.

2) Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

This was our book club book for May and we all loved it!  This is one of my favorite books I've read in awhile.  It follows different stories about interwoven people - a few in present day and a few in 1950s Italy and LA. It's about old Hollywood and new Hollywood and relationships and life - and it's so good.  It's super engaging and written well.  It would make both a good summer/beach read and a good book club book.  Definitely read this one if you're looking for a new book!

3) Inferno by Dan Brown

Oh Dan Brown.  I might be a huge nerd for saying this, but I always look forward to his new books coming out.  I sort of feel like I'm on vacation when I read them; they totally suck you in and take you to exotic locales.  And I love remembering my art history from high school and college.

This one is a pretty typical DB.  It's no Da Vinci Code, but really, none of his other books have been as good, in my opinion.  You've got your exotic locales (Florence, Venice, and Turkey), a hot, young woman, lots of art, plot twists, an international disaster that's going to happen if Robert Langdon doesn't save the day, etc.  Check it out if you're a fan, it will suck you in like they all do.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ohio Trip

My half brother (my much younger half brother) graduated from high school a couple weekends ago.  And since my dad's family is really big on graduations, off we went to Ohio to celebrate!

One of the many benefits of being out of the workforce is that I can take extended weekend trips.  So Bates and I headed up to Ohio on Wednesday and Jonathan met us on Friday (then we all flew home together on Sunday).

I don't want to dwell too much on the plane ride, except to say it wasn't the easiest moment of my parenting.  It was fine, overall.  But it's just hard to keep a super active, super curious child contained for 1.5 hours.  On the way up, the very kind gate agent moved me to a seat with an empty one next to it, which was great because he could sit in his own seat when he wanted to.  Anyway, a cold, well-earned beer was ready for me when we got off the plane.

Overall the weekend was nice.  They had gorgeous Ohio early-summer weather, with cool breezes and cool nights.  My aunt and cousin came in town (in addition to some of my step-mom's family), so it was a nice little family get together.  I was concerned leading up to the trip that having Bates with me would make us change our plans a lot (and thus make me feel bad we couldn't do all the stuff we wanted to do).  But everything ended up a-ok on that end.  We didn't really go out to eat like we usually do, but it was no big deal and we just enjoyed being out on the patio at night.

The graduation was fine - the usual "you have your whole life ahead of you, you can achieve so much" speeches.  And then there was a swanky party that night celebrating my half brother and three of his friends.  (My dad and step mom incessantly complained about how the party "got out of control" by the moms who were planning it - that is, a bartender, catering, a tent, 4 cakes, etc. - but as a guest at the party, I was on board with the excess!)

Side note about graduations: isn't sort of crazy how when you're the one graduating, it feels so monumental.  The speeches are so empowering and inspiring.  But to everyone else (except maybe your parents), it just seems like another life event to tick off?  I guess that's a cynical way to look at life, but I couldn't help wondering when I was sitting there how many of the kids in that room would actually "follow their dreams" and how many would just go to college, graduate, take a job they are offered, and get into the same cycle of monotony the majority of the adult world is in.

Anyway, our trip was good.  Bates' favorite part, hands down, was my dad's dog.  It's one of those fluffy Bichon Frises and Bates followed him around all weekend saying, "dog dog."  At home he had never been that into Hank (I think because Hank is so big), but when he was around this little 20 pound dog, he had never been happier.  And actually, when we got home, his interest in Hank did seem to spike a little (for better or for worse from Hank's perspective).

Bates enjoyed practicing his walking on the carpet in my dad's house and enjoyed seeing all the people he doesn't usually see.  He's such a good baby - so friendly and adaptable to all situations - that the trip was pretty easy.  And the time change actually worked to our advantage because we kept him on his normal time (so he went to bed at 8:30 and then slept until 7ish).

Here are all our pictures from the trip....  Oh wait, we took none.  Zero.  I'm so bad at taking pictures and I MUST. GET. BETTER.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Of Late

I feel like I have so much to blog about.  There are a few book reviews to write (including my take on Dan Brown's newest, Inferno).  A recap of our trip to Ohio, which included Bates' 2nd trip on an airplane.  And a 15-month update on the sweet baby boy and his newest feat: walking!

But I should also maybe just catch up on life?

For example, this past weekend was really fun.  Saturday morning we played at the Botanic Gardens (which has an awesome area for kids).  Bates played in some sand boxes and played in these kiddie playhouses they have.  He also saw some fountains and some ducks (and ducklings!).

That night we went to a baby-laden first birthday party for my friend's son.  Bates enjoyed being with all the other kids and playing with balloons and balls in the huge, empty front room of the house.  He was happy to get a couple bites of cake and ice cream, as well.

And then in totally atypical fashion, we had a Sunday Funday (Funnight?)!  A party was thrown to welcome some of our good friends to our neighborhood.  So it was just a great neighborhood get together in someone's backyard with lots of kids and babies and chitchatting and brews and wine and sidewalk chalk and snacks.  I wish someone threw a party like that every week!

So it was a good weekend.  And I'm really excited about this week, too, because some of our summer activities begin!  Tomorrow we have the first session of our music class (Music for Aardvarks).  We did  the Winter session, but skipped Spring.  So I'm glad to get back in the swing of it.

And then Wednesday I'm starting a new small-group Bible study, which I'm super pumped about.  It's all women from my church around my age and with kids.  And some of the sweet older women in the church are volunteering their time to watch our kids while we have our Bible study every week!  How wonderful to see them "being the church" for us.

In other news, the splash pad finally opened at the Kroc Center, so Bates and I checked it out and he seems to approve.  Also, the weather is starting a major heat up; we're in the 90s all week.  So the splash pad is a welcome refresher.

Summer has always been my least favorite season, but this year seems like it's on a path towards awesomeness.  Stay tuned!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day Weekend

I had a fun Memorial Day weekend!  I hope you guys did as well!

Friday night was a little crazier than usual...  We had dinner at my in-law's house and put Bates to sleep out there.  Then we went to Alchemy to celebrate a friend's birthday.  At the bar, we ran into other friends who mentioned an abundance of food/drink at their house from a work party the night before.  And like that, an "afterparty" was born.  We got home at - wait for it - ONE AM!  I'm not sure I've stayed out that late since Bates was born.  But it was so much fun!

Major bummer of the whole thing?  I woke up at 6:50am on Saturday (which is actually an hour later than I normally wake up, so at least I wasn't up at 5:50), but I couldn't go back to sleep, so I spent the day super tired and groggy.

But anyway, Bates was returned to us around 11am.  And when he woke up from his afternoon nap, we went to a friend's pool.  (Well, not their pool - their friend's pool who was out of town for the weekend.)  Regardless, this house and pool are gorgeous and it was a lovely afternoon swimming and hanging out.

I watched the Grizzlies game as much as I could.  But my eyes got heavy around 9pm.  I was in bed by 9:30.  (So you can imagine how sad I was to wake up and learn they lost, since they were up by 10+ when I went to bed.)  But Go Grizz - I still love you!

Nothing else major happened during the weekend.  Today we journeyed over to the Mexican popsicle/ice cream place on Summer for some awesome popsicles.  We all had one there (me: cookies & cream; Jonathan: coffee; Bates: rice pudding [kid sized]) and we brought one home (me: avocado; Jonathan: pine nut).  I've had the pine nut one before and still think it's one of the best ones on the menu.  But all the ones we had today were good.  Bates loved the rice pudding pop, which was the perfect size/texture for him.

The weather has been nice.  It has started to get warm, but temps are staying in the high 80s, which isn't nearly as oppressive as the 90s and 100s we will see soon enough.  I generally hate Summer - it's my least favorite season - but I'm trying to be more open minded this year.  Bates loves to be outside and I think we could have a really good three months.  I'm trying to focus on all the fun aspects of the season and not just dwell on the disgusting heat.  Remind me of this in a month or so. :)

Hope you guys had great weekends as well!

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Never Ending Bathroom Reno...

Fingers crossed, it will, in fact, end soon!

So the tile on the floor of our shower has always been a little strange.  It was always oddly discolored (dirty looking) in places, but no method of cleaning would fix it.  I would use a bleach product and a scrub brush and the discolored portion would not budge.  For awhile I thought it must have been so old that the stains were deep set.  Then I discovered a Magic Eraser's magical powers could do the trick.  But still, it's weird that it would get these deep, grimy stains so often and would require such an intense effort to Magic Erase.

Then, about a year ago, some of the grout split open.  That is, there was a major crack down the middle of the floor.  Then about 6 months ago, the split was really bad and I started to get nervous about what was going on (thinking, "$$$$$").  We discussed having it fixed.  But that was it, ha.

Then about 2 months ago, a few of the tiles came loose and one came completely off.  That was when we decided we needed to act.  So we called around, got estimates, etc. and realized the job was a bit more time consuming than we hoped.  (We were thinking they could just rip up the floor and redo it.)  But they actually had to rip all layers of the floor out all the way down to the subfloor.  And if the subfloor was damaged, they would need to replace that first.  They also needed to take out three levels on tile on the walls because a waterproof tarp (which is part of all tile showers) extends that high.

And so this project began last Friday.  They came and demo-ed.  Thankfully the subfloor didn't need to be replaced, but they still needed a fan to blow on the floor all weekend to get it completely dry.  Monday they put down the first layer of mud.  Tuesday the second layer.  Wednesday a waterproof sealant.  Thursday the tile itself.  And then today they're doing the gout work.  Next week, hopefully, they'll put in the new door and a plumber will come to get everything cleaned up.

So for the past week - and until next week - our house has been/will be a construction zone.  Dust settling on everything, paper on the floor leading back to the bathroom, and sticky plastic covering the carpet.  Flies in the house because the door has been opened and closed so much.  A stinky, construction-like smell in that half of the house.  The bathroom itself a mess: construction equipment back there, cords everywhere, dirt, grim...just gross.

And you can imagine how enticing all this is to a curious 15-month old.  It's been a full-time job keeping Bates out of the bathroom and away from all the mud/cement pieces on the paper and plastic leading back to the bathroom.  And you can also imagine how quiet it is when, during naptime, a shower is in demolition or a saw is cutting pieces of tile.  (Hint: not quiet.)

Have I mentioned, also, that we only have 1.5 baths in our house?  So this is the main one.  We've been taking baths now for about a month and a half (since we were worried about the condition of the subfloor) and this past week, we've just been making it work: moving around cords and equipment while we get ready in there, ignoring the large dust piles of plaster in the tub while we're bathing.

To say I'm ready for this to be over is an understatement.  We've been in the house all week because we couldn't schedule a playdate since we didn't know what time workers would be here/for how long everyday.

I guess I should've taken before pictures, except the real kicker of the whole thing is that it probably won't look that different at the end.  It will just be fixed instead of broken.  Oh joy of homeownership...

Friday, May 17, 2013

Book Review: Dreams of Joy

Remember my book review of Shanghai Girls and I said, "there must be a sequel coming because it ended on a cliffhanger?"  Yeah - apparently both the first book and the sequel were written a few years ago, ha.  So I didn't have to wait!

Dreams of Joy by Lisa See

This book literally picks up the second after the first one ended.  And I was glad about that because I didn't want to skip over the logistics of how these women were going to get into communist China from America.  I should say, though, I think this book could stand on its own (ie, you wouldn't need to read the first) because any time there might be a question about the past, they explain it a little.  You would get the characters more if you read both, but whatev.

So anyway, this book is told from two different, 1st-person perspectives: Pearl (the mother/older sister who narrated the first book) and her daughter Joy.  I enjoyed having 2 perspectives this time, but I have to say, Joy was so freaking naive it drove me crazy!  Naive to the point of stupidity at times.  She does redeem herself a bit as the book moves forward, but still, there were multiple times where I wanted to scream, "you stupid, stupid child!"

But other than Joy, I enjoyed the book.  Actually, I feel really interested in reading more books about China.  This one took place amidst Mao's "Great Leap Forward" and all the consequences that followed.  It was fascinating to read about early communist China - also heartbreaking, because as we all know from history class, there were millions of deaths due to famine (which was a result of very poor leadership).  I know this book is fiction, but Lisa See did a ton of research (as noted in the foreword and afterward of the book), so it feels a little more like historical fiction.

Our library has one other Lisa See book available for e-checkout (Snow Flower and the Secret Fan), which I have on my kindle and plan to read once I finish our book club book for this month.  So I think the fact that I want to read more books by her is endorsement enough - but I would definitely recommend this book.  Like I said about the last one: it isn't "high literature," but it also isn't crappy chick lit.  And I'd say to definitely give it a shot for the historical aspect.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Wonderful Mother's Day Weekend

After so many years on the giving end of Mother's Day, it's fun to now be showered with love and presents on a random day in May.

My mom came in town to celebrate with us this year, as well.  So really, the whole weekend was nice! It was great to see my mom, and she helps us so much by taking a lot of childcare duties when she's in town (including Bates' early morning wakeup so we can sleep in).

Friday night we hung out at home.  And Saturday morning we went to the zoo.  Then, after watching the 4pm Grizzlies game on tv, Jonathan and I went to the new Local in Overton Square and sat at the bar and had dinner.  It's nice to have nights out like this every now and then to remind ourselves that at one point we weren't just Bates' parents, but people with things to do and people to see.

Sunday morning I had to be at church from 9-9:30 to rehearse for Confirmation.  When I got home, blueberry lemon pancakes had been cooked up on the griddle!  Yum!  Then we went back for the actual church service/confirmation at 11.  After church my mom headed back to St. Louis and I vegged a bit while Bates snoozed.

We spent the later part of the afternoon at Overton Park blowing bubbles and flying a kite.  There wasn't a cloud in the sky and it was about 70 degrees.  There was no place I would've rather been than right there.  Later, we closed out Mother's Day with Indian takeout for dinner and a cupcake (as my mom had bought a half dozen on Saturday).

Bates and Hank gifted me with a pedicure certificate to be used asap, as my feet look horrible.  I also got a new suitcase last week which is pretty awesome and was desperately needed.  My mom gave me this cool framed poem about a baby's hands and then she had Bates do a handprint at the bottom.  She has the same little project from when I was a toddler.

All in all, it was an awesome weekend.  I'm still loving the cold Spring and am spending every possible second outside that I can.  Also, I need to do some major detox this week after having 2.5 cupcakes, eating way too much junk food, and having a few porters at the bar.  Well worth it, though.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Bates' 2-Nap Day

Everyday, my baby boy is growing more and more into a big boy.  Most recently this has been illustrated by the transition to one nap a day.  I'm sort of excited since one nap really opens up the day for activities, but it still reminds me he isn't my little bitty helpless guy anymore.  We're also transitioning him from bottles of cow's milk to all sippy cups, which some might argue should've been done at 12 months...but we didn't do that, so here we are now.

Anyway, since we hope to have another baby(ies) some day, I want to write down his 2-nap schedule while it's still fresh in my mind.  So I guess you could say this post is more for me than you, reader, but please feel free to read about our schedule if you're interested. :)

Wake up (usually 6am) - bottle first thing

Breakfast about 2-2.5 hours after wake up

Morning nap: when he was younger, right after breakfast (so he'd never be awake more than 3 hours at a time); when he was older, nap about 3.5-4 hours after wake up

Bottle right when he wakes up from nap

Lunch about 2 hours after wake up/bottle

Afternoon nap: when he was younger, right after lunch (so he again wouldn't be up for more than 3 hours); when he was older, it kept getting pushed later and later*

*This was how I knew he was ready to transition to one nap: the afternoon nap kept getting pushed later and later because he would sleep longer stretches in the morning (maybe 10-11:30), and then wouldn't want to go back to sleep.  At first I could still get him to sleep an hour (maybe 3:30-4:30), but the late afternoon nap kept getting shorter until it was often only 20 or 30 minutes.

Bottle right when he wakes up from nap

Dinner at 6pm

Start bedtime routine between 7 and 7:20 - routine includes: bath, bottle, books, rocking, and then in the crib

-He's drinking 22 ozs of milk/day (4 bottles: 6ozs, 5 ozs, 5 ozs, and 6ozs)
-Even though he often wakes up at 6am, we never get him out of his crib before 6:30

Friday, May 3, 2013

Book Reviews Up In Here!

I've been seriously slacking on my book reviews lately, but I really want to have a list of what I've read this year - so I'm going to hit you with three (and a half) today!

1) The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon

This was our book club book 2 months ago.  It's the first book Michael Chabon ever wrote (in fact, it was his senior thesis [or maybe master's thesis?] in college).  And I sort of have a hard time reviewing the book not thinking about that.  Basically, this is an awesome first book.  It has little glimpses here and there of the incredible writer Chabon would become a few books down the line.  But I'm not sure I would necessarily recommend this book.  I'm not unhappy I read it - I actually really enjoyed the story - but it felt a little juvenile, maybe?  Chabon himself, when asked about the book, responded with something along the lines of, "dude, I was 22 when I wrote it."  Enough said.

One aspect of the book I really enjoyed, though, was the homosexual plot line.  I haven't read a lot (or any??) gay fiction, so this felt refreshing and new.  And fun fact: Michael Chabon, who is now married to a woman, said he's had both heterosexual and homosexual relationships in the past.

2) The Round House by Louise Erdrich

Read this book.  Go to the library/bookstore/amazon Kindle site and get yourself a copy.  This was one of the best books I've read in a long time.  The writing was great, the plot was engaging, and the characters were unique and memorable.

It's the story of a native american family who live on a reservation.  A horrific rape takes place and we see its impact on the family through the eyes of the 12-13 year old son.  It's a little bit of mystery, a little bit of coming-of-age, a little bit of social commentary on Indians vs. white men, and a little bit of a call for justice regarding laws for prosecution of on-reservation crime.  This was the first piece of native american literature I've ever read and really, truly enjoyed.  And I've read a fair amount.

Side note: in the afterward at the end of the book, the author says 1 in 3 Indian women who live on reservations are raped by white men.  1 in 3!  I'm horrified and disgusted by that number - I thought you might be, too.

3) Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

My friend Brooke really likes Lisa See and offered Shanghai Girls as an option for February book club (we decided on Mysteries of Pittsburgh instead).  But I decided to read this anyway.  Lisa See has a ton of books, so I figured she must be appealing to the masses if she keeps getting published.

I enjoyed this book and read it in the same fast way I fly through YA fiction or chick lit.  It's not necessarily chick lit - but I also wouldn't say it's "high literature" the way Michael Chabon or The Round House are.

It spans many years of two sisters' lives.  It begins in pre-war Shanghai and ends in 1950s Los Angeles.  The sisters' relationship is the stand-out aspect of the novel.  I loved getting everything from Pearl's perspective (the older sister), but then hearing what May (younger sister) had to say when the two would have arguments.  May would call Pearl out on something she was doing wrong, and as the reader (since I'd only been in Pearl's head), it was like, "oh - wait - she's right!"  I also loved seeing what the American racism against Chinese people felt like from the inside.

This book ends on a serious cliff hanger - so it's clearly part of a planned series (or at least a set of two).  And I will most certainly read the follow-up - I'll also probably check out more of Lisa See's books.

3.5) Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

This book is just a .5 because I didn't finish.  I came upon this because we've recently discovered the public library's e-book collection (which, by the way, is awesome for e-books users - check it out in Memphis or your own city).  The selection of really good literature is heavily outweighed by Harlequin romance and books like one I found called "Baby Momma."  So when I saw a title I had heard of, Swamplandia, I added it to my queue.

This is the story of a family who own an amusement-type park in the Florida Keys called Swamplandia! that is on the steady decline.  The mother (and star of the park) has just passed away, the grandfather (and founder) has been sent to a retirement home, and the dad and three kids are left to fend for themselves and try to keep the park alive.

It's kind of a weird story.  The writing is pretty good, but as hard as I tried, I just couldn't stay super interested in what was going on.  In fact, it was a little depressing in a real-life sort of way (that is, yet another family business going under and having serious financial concerns).  Couple those things with the fact it was a library book (and thus had an expiration) and I didn't finish.  I don't really have any desire to go back and finish.  But that being said, I don't necessarily suggest you avoid the book.  It's quirky - if you like quirky books this could be right up your alley.  And I definitely laughed out loud at some of the parts related to the brother - so maybe there's more of that as you continue reading?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Loving the Cold Spring!

Judging by my Facebook feed, and the numerous comments like "when is it going to get warm??" I think I'm in the minority.  But I have to admit: I LOVE the cold Spring this year!  I seriously dislike hot weather (summer is my least favorite season), so any delaying of the inevitable Memphis heat is a-ok in my book - even if that means we were in the low 40s last night.

(Our furnace and A/C might disagree, though, as they've both been turned on and off a few different times over the past month.)

But Bates and I have really enjoyed the weather.  We've done a lot of playing outside.  We've been to the zoo multiple times, we've romped around Shelby Farms, and we've taken Hank on a lot of walks through the neighborhood.  These activities have been a little on the chilly side for April, I suppose, but I guarantee it's a lot more fun to play at the park in 60 degree weather than 110!

Two weekends ago we went to an event called Rock N Romp, which takes place about once a month.  They are held all over the city and the one we most recently went to was at the Mud Island Riverwalk.  It's basically a rock concert for kids.  It's free (although they ask you to make a donation), there's free food (while it lasts) and free beer for the parents!  It was such a gorgeous day; we all loved being down by the river, enjoying tunes, and drinking brew.

Last weekend our neighborhood hosted its annual Spring Fest.  We walked down with Bates' wagon and hung out for a little bit.  There was a live band, food and drink, and bouncy houses for kids.  Again, it was a gorgeous sunny day and it was so nice to go out and enjoy it.

Bates adores being outside.  Whenever someone opens the door, he cries if he isn't allowed to go out, too.  We spend many afternoons just sitting in the front yard exploring and throwing the ball to Hank.  I don't know how much he'll like being outside when it's blazing hot, but I guess we'll cross that bridge when we get there.  (Although I guess kids don't mind the heat as much as parents - it certainly never dissuaded my from playing when I was little.)

It seems like colder-than-normal temperatures are widespread this year - are you guys enjoying the cold spring?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

How I Stopped Exclusively Pumping

I realize this post probably isn't applicable to most of you, but I wanted to write it anyway because I think there's a huge lack of information out there about women who exclusively pump breastmilk.  I did all kinds of google searching when I was ready to wean myself off of the pump - and for the most part, my search came up dry.

One blogger I follow (Healthy Tipping Point) wrote about her experiences weaning off the pump here and here.  I took a slightly different approach than she did...

So I was counting down the days until Bates' first birthday when I could quit pumping!  One thing to keep in mind is that you might want to mix breastmilk and cow's milk together for a couple weeks after they turn one before you give the baby straight-up cow's milk (so he/she can get used to the taste).  I say keep this in mind because you want to have enough breastmilk to be able to do that.

I hoped to quit breastfeeding slowly so as to avoid emotional side effects.  I've heard of women who didn't have much postpartum depression, but then had a lot of trouble with the hormonal fluctuations of ending breastfeeding.  I personally did not experience any postpartum depression - so I definitely didn't want to go through anything a year later.  I figured the slower I took it, the easier it would be on my body.  I imagine one could quit breastfeeding faster than I did (actually, that's how Healthy Tipping Point did it), but as much as I was ready to quit, I decided to take the slow route.

So.  The week before Bates turned one, I took my pumping down to two sessions a day (morning and night).  At that point, I was still completely emptying both breasts at each pumping session (taking about 30-40 minutes).  I saw a decrease in milk supply just from dropping the mid-day session, but I was still pumping a fair amount (maybe 20 ozs/day?).

So a week or so after bringing it down to 2x/day (and getting my body stabilized there, thus producing less milk), I started cutting the time of each pumping session.  That is, I would only pump for a certain amount of time, which would not completely empty the breasts.  Again, I did this slowly.  So maybe initially I would cut 5-10 minutes off of each session.  Then I'd do that a day or two.  Then I'd cut maybe 10-15 minutes off the original time, and do that for a day or two.  I thought it would be super uncomfortable to quit pumping when there was still milk left, but actually, I did it so gradually that I didn't feel any pain or discomfort.

I got myself down to two 10-minute pumping sessions a day (which was a good 20-30 minutes less than my "baseline" - note that your own baseline might be different).  So then I started to bring it down to one pump/day.  To get there, I did a few days of pumping less than 24 hours between each pump.  So maybe if I pumped before bed, I would hold off on my pump the next day until lunchtime or 5pm.  Then the next day I'd pump in the morning or during his morning nap. So a little less than 24 hours between each - and still limiting the time to less-than 10 minutes.

A few days of that led to pumping once a day.  For 10 minutes.  And it only took a day or so for my supply to adjust to that.  At this point, my supply had greatly decreased.  And Bates was on 100% cow's milk, so I knew I could quit whenever my body would let me.

So then I started pumping every day and a half, and I only pumped for 5-10 minutes.  But I only did that a day or two, because then I could just tell I didn't need to pump anymore.  My boobs started to feel different.  They wouldn't really hook up to the pump that easily anymore.

My last pump ever, unfortunately, wasn't that ceremonious because I didn't realize it would be the last time.  I felt like I needed to pump (like, felt that sort of duct-cloggy feeling on the left side), and about 2 minutes in, I realized the right side did not need to be pumped, so I unhooked that one and just did the left side for about 5 minutes - enough to take the cloggy feeling away.

I had the cloggy feeling on the left side two other times (one a few days after the final pump and one about 2-3 weeks after), and I just heated it up in the shower and then hand expressed enough to get the clog out.

So like that - voila - I weaned from the pump!  I'm really glad I did it slowly.  There were a couple super-emotional days, but that's about it.  I obviously don't know if I would've had the same emotions or worse if I would've done it quickly, but I'm glad I didn't risk it.  I'm also glad I didn't get a final round of mastitis (I had it twice during the year).  I think if your body has been prone to clogged ducts/mastitis during your breastfeeding journey, it would be best to cut down the time of your pumps slowly (so you aren't constantly leaving very full, un-pumped boobs before your supply goes down).

As I said in my other post, I'm so glad to be done!  It was actually sort of weird to put on a normal bra again - like, it fits a lot different than my nursing bras did.  And I can't wait to wear some shirts and dresses that didn't fit across my nursing chest last year.

Good luck if you're weaning from the pump!  I hope this helps a little.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Breastfeeding: A Year in the Life

I'm finally done!  When Bates turned 1, I got the green light to start cow's milk with him.  We did a few weeks of mixing breast and cow, and now he's completely off the breast.  After a couple more weeks of weaning myself off the pump, I'm done, too.

(Well...sort of.  The pump has been put up, so that portion is done.  But just last Friday, I felt a duct fill up that I needed to express in the shower.  My pre-pregnancy bras are fitting a little snug, still, and there's definitely some milk still in there.  BUT - I'm done for the most part.  I've heard from friends that milk can stick around [even if you aren't expressing it in any way] for quite awhile, so I think what I'm going through is normal.)

But anyway - what a year!  It's crazy to think that almost 2 years in the life of my body have been dedicated to Bates.  I have a thousand different reflections on the experience...they might be better said in a bulleted list.

1) I'm really proud of myself for doing it a full year.  Bates never had a drop of formula.  I don't think formula is bad (I was 100% formula fed), but I think breast milk is best if your body can produce it.

2) My main motivation was financial.  (Are you judging me now?)  Of course I wanted him to have the best, but I wouldn't have felt uncomfortable, I don't think, switching to formula after 6 months.  But I just couldn't justify the cost of formula when my body produced such an abundance of milk.

3) I exclusively pumped for the majority of the year.  We had a few weeks in the beginning when I fed him on the breast - and then the random breastfeeding session here and there - but for the most part, I was hooked up to the pump.  And that made for a sort of interesting year.

4)  Exclusively pumping was awesome in some ways.  I was able to leave him for more than a couple hours when he was a few weeks old to, say, go out to dinner with Jonathan (because he could be fed while I was gone).  We were also able to sort of manipulate the timing of his bottles so that we could give him a big one before bed - ie, we could all have a longer stretch of sleep.  And given our latch troubles, it was a lot more comfortable for me to pump.

5) Exclusively pumping sucked in a lot of ways.
          a) Even though, in theory, having a pumped bottle would mean Daddy could get up with him in the night while I slept, it didn't work like that because I needed to get up and pump.
          b) When he got older, it was hard to pump when he was awake and Jonathan wasn't home.  I had to put him in his exersaucer and he didn't like being in it so long.
          c) Jonathan got annoyed a lot because he felt like he was doing so much childcare when he was home (since I tried to pump when he was home [to avoid the exersaucer]).
          d) This might be TMI - but my boobs would get really engorged if I stretched the time between pumping sessions.  I don't know if this is just an individual woman's thing (that is, maybe the same thing would've happened if I fed him on the breast), but all I know is that after a night of sleep (once he was sleeping through the night), I would wake up and pump 14 ounces.  Every. Morning.  14 ounces is not comfortable to sleep on.
          e) It wasn't easy to quit breastfeeding.  I'm going to do a separate post on this.  But basically, it took a lot of planning.  When I talked to my sister in law about her weaning experiences with her kids (3 of them), she said when she was ready to switch to formula, she just did.  Like, she breastfed one day and then never did again.  That wasn't an option for me.

6) One of the worst parts of pumping was in the beginning (maybe months 1-3?) when Bates would wake up twice a night to eat.  Jonathan would feed him the first time (while I pumped), but the second time I would get up, feed Bates, put Bates back to bed, then go and pump.  I would get back in bed around 6am.  Those were a hard couple of months.

7) Washing bottles and pump parts sucks!!

So it's been a busy year.  I'm sort of curious how breastfeeding will go with any subsequent children we have.  On one hand, I want to try to make feeding on the breast work for us.  But at the same time, it's so hard in the beginning (maybe months 0-2?) because if you feed on the breast, you can't be away from your baby for very long.  Also, it takes them so long to empty the breast when they're little.  A baby's first couple weeks of life they eat every couple hours.  But that's every couple hours from when they last started eating.  So, let's say they eat at 1am.  They'll be hungry again around 3 (even if they were eating from 1-1:45).  After you get past those first couple months, I think feeding on the breast is probably easier, though.

With other kids, I also want to be more comfortable using a nipple shield in the beginning.  Bates and I did well with the nipple shield, but I was terrified to use one exclusively because I heard my milk supply might not come in completely if I did that.  Now that I've met more mothers, I've met a few people who only nursed with a nipple shield for months before they were able to go without one.  Their milk supplies were just fine.  (It's funny how important your milk supply is in the beginning - it was one of the main things I thought about for a couple months.  I drank and ate things that were supposed to boost it, I read internet articles about it, I talked to other moms about it.  I was obsessed.)

But all that to say, I'm glad to be done.  It's so nice to be able to do whatever I want, whenever I want and not have to think about my pumping schedule.  It's so nice to be able to sleep on my stomach again!  I'm happy I did it a year - but man, for the first time in so long, my body is mine again.  I'm going to enjoy this while I can!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Bates at 1

My darling little boy is already 13 months and I fear that if I don't write down a life update, it won't ever happen.

So here he is on Easter - at approx. 13 months.  (Note: my mother in law made the adorable outfit!)
One of the first things you can notice in this picture is that I am holding him while he stands up.  At this point, he isn't standing on his own or walking yet.  He is a speed crawler (seriously - many, many people comment on how fast he is), so I think he's comfortable with that as his method of travel at the moment.  He pulls up on everything and cruises around while holding on to things (he also has a little walker he loves to push around), but he just isn't ready to take the plunge into walking.

He has taken the plunge, though, into talking.  He babbles all day long.  Lots of "mamamama dadadadada babababa" etc.  He will call his bottle a "baba" and we're working on "dog" right now.  He can also "roar" if you ask him what a lion says.  And he'll repeat other animal sounds if you make them first.

Bates is a pointing machine.  He points at everything and we tell him what stuff is.  He's just a little sponge of learning right now and it usually only takes us one or two times of telling him what something is before we can say, "Bates, where's the _____" and he'll point to it.

He had a super smart moment last weekend when we were sitting in his playroom and said, "Bates, where's Llama Llama" and he went into his bedroom, got his Llama Llama Red Pajama book, and brought it out to us.

I wouldn't describe him as "snuggily" (never in his life has he been snuggily), but lately he's gotten a liiiiiittle bit more into hugging us and snuggling with us.  But for the most part, he's on the move.  He doesn't want to sit still.  The idea of watching tv or a movie with him is laughable at this point.  (I guess that's a good thing, but man, sometimes mama just wants a tiny break.)

Now that the weather is nicer, he loves nothing more than being outside.  If someone leaves our house via the front door, he races over to it and cries in front of the door because he didn't get to go outside, too.  We like to hang out in the front yard and throw Hank the ball.

His eating is ok at this point.  He has mostly fruits and veggies, cheese, yogurt, bread with butter, and sausage or soy sausage.  He hasn't really met a fruit he doesn't like.  We also always offer him what we're having for dinner, but it's sort of hit or miss whether or not he's into it.  He's drinking 100% cow's milk now and likes it (I'm still doing bottles with him), and then he has water in his sippy cup with his meals.

He's still taking two naps and I don't really think he's ready to drop the morning yet.  He sleeps about 10-11 hours at night and rarely wakes up.  When he wakes up in the morning, it's sort of funny because he doesn't really make a peep, he just wakes up and lies in his crib and sometimes plays with the bears in there.  (That makes the 6am wakeup easier for mama and dada because we don't need to rush in to a crying baby.)

Overall, he's a super happy baby (as you can tell from all the pictures I post on here).  He loves to make us laugh and always joins in when we are laughing at something.  He's pretty free with his kisses and rarely cries.  He's strong-willed (like his mama and dada) and has started throwing tiny fits when he doesn't get his way (ie, throwing himself on the floor in protest).  But luckily he can be distracted in the drop of a hat, so whenever he has a tantrum, we just pull out a toy or ask him where something is, and he's back to normal.

His joy brings us joy everyday.  It's crazy that 13 months ago, he was just a helpless little newborn - what a difference a year makes!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Colored Jeans?

Can we talk about the colored jeans trend for a second?  What's that?  You were hoping to?  You've been thinking about them a lot?

Well, great - you've come to the right place!

So when I was going into 6th grade, my mom gave her credit card to my sister and me and told us we could each pick out 2 back-to-school outfits at the mall.  I don't remember what we got my sister, but I remember we headed straight to Limited Too to get my outfits.  I ended up coming home with some cool stuff.

Outfit #1:
-black and white checkered flannel shirt
-red waffle shirt (to go under flannel - layering was hot)
-red jeans!

Outfit #2:
-White/teal/blue plaid flannel shirt
-white waffle shirt (to go under flannel, again)
-teal jeans!

I also remember I owned bright cobalt blue jeans that had a matching blue and white striped shirt.  I wore all of this stuff for a couple years, max, and then colored jeans were waaaaay out of style.  Like, could-not-be-seen-wearing-them-at-RVMS-no-way-no-how out of style.

And look where we are now.  We've fast forwarded a few years (almost 20, right?) and colored jeans are everywhere!  And I get it, most things go in and out of style over the years.  But I'm having sort of a tough time with the colored jeans because I remember how quickly and strongly they went from being awesome to awful.  Poof - it was that quick.

I'm also sort of curious if a non-skinny person could wear them.  In fact, the only people I've seen wearing them are thin, or at least on the thin side of average.  And all the colored ones I've seen are skinny jeans.

I'm thinking about myself, for example, in a pair of pink skinny jeans.  And I'm thinking it doesn't look that awesome.  I have a couple pairs of dark-wash skinny jeans, and they are fine(ish) because of the dark wash.  But I imagine if they were light pink, they would not be fine - they wouldn't even be fine-ish.  They would be awfully unflattering.  But then when I read reviews on and for their skinny, colored jeans, people say things like, "I'm a curvy size 16 and these fit great."  So who knows?

What do you guys think?  Do you own any colored skinny jeans?  Do you think the trend is cool or a little too reminiscent of those early 90s years?

(I know Patti's current project is to make her own pair [because she's crafty like that] - so we can all tune in to her blog to see how they turn out.)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A First Birthday!

Bates turned one on February 26!  We decided to have a super low-key birthday celebration with grandparents the weekend before.  We're saving money this year so we can rent a pony or something when he's older.  (Probably not, but whatev.)

So Saturday afternoon, between naps, we went out to my in laws house to have lunch and cake and open presents.  Again, we didn't want anyone to feel obligated to get him a ton of presents since he will not remember this birthday.  But he still got some cool ones.

And his most favorite of all (from my in-laws):

His new wagon!  (We put it together at our house the night before his party.)

He also got a great musical instrument set (not pictured) with a drum, maracas, a clapper, and a hand cymbal.  Some mini-sized Nerf balls (soccer, basketball, and football).  And a stuffed animal of his favorite llama (from Llama Llama Red Pajama).

We had to let him try cake, since he had never really had any sweets before.  He loved it, as expected.

Not sure if the video will work or not...

Overall, it was such a fun day.  I can't believe it's been a whole year with our little man!  I'll do a post about him at 12 months on another day.  Happy Birthday, Batesy!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Book Reviews: Beautiful Creatures and The Gods of Gotham

I realize these book review posts probably aren't my most interesting.  I get that.  It's just that I really want to have documentation of what I've read all year, so I'm going to keep writing them.  But I'll try to keep them brief, at least.

Also, for those of you that do read these blog posts [crickets], I'll never put any spoilers or anything - so please feel free to read the review even if you haven't read the book.

So here we go.  Two in one post...

Beautiful Creatures (Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl):

I had seen the preview for the movie a few times in theaters and thought it looked cool.  The book also seemed like it should be right up my alley: teen fiction, teen love story, and paranormal activity.  (Yeah - that's my alley.)  As you know from seeing the movie preview, it's about a teenage girl who's a "caster" (fancy word for witch), who is in love with a mortal guy and who has to chose to be either "dark" or "light" on her 16th birthday.

What I wasn't expecting when I opened the book (on my kindle, that is) was the way it was written: 1st person narration from the boy's point of view.  I mean, you barely see the boy in the previews.

Anyway, overall, the book was really engaging (as most popular teen fiction tends to be), but it didn't leave me dying for more.  In fact, I chose not to read the next 3 books in the series.  I tried to get Jonathan to tell me what happened (yes - my almost-40 year old husband read all four), and he told me little snippets, but wouldn't really get into the nitty gritty.  But honestly, now that it's been a month or so since I read it, I could care less what else went down.  That was not how I felt about the Twilight series, FYI.

So I'm not sure I recommend this one.  I won't suggest you avoid it, certainly, but if you're going in expecting the next Twilight/Hunger Games/Harry Potter, you won't find it.

The Gods of Gotham (Lindsay Faye):

The was our book club book for February.  We picked it because it had just won an award for mystery novels.

I started about 5 days before book club and realized: 1) it's a period piece (not my favorite), 2) it was not going to be a fly-through read, and 3) it was long.  I told Jonathan after I had read about 10% that no one in my book club would finish it.  (I was correct, actually, and sort of wish I would've trusted my gut instead of doing nothing in my free time the five days before book club but reading.  And actually, some people hadn't even started it [and no one else had finished it], so we decided not to talk about it at all!  Sort of a bummer - but since I love all the ladies in my book club, I'm not holding it against them.)

Anyway - it's a period piece that takes place around the time the first police force (the copper stars) was forming in New York City.  Think about that for a second: there haven't always been police, even in big cities.  Anyway - it's sort of complex to try to explain the plot.  There are dead bodies found in an abandoned field outside of town; and prostitutes (many of them children); and lots of tension between the Irish (Catholics) and the Protestants; and a huge fire in the city; and local politics; and a large cast of characters.

It was really well written.  The story was engaging and interesting, but because of the language, it didn't read as fast as a typical mystery (I'm thinking a la  Gone Girl).  I wish our book club would have discussed it because I would've loved to talk about some issues brought up by the book: the "class system" (for lack of a better term) created by religion; the role of women; specifically Silkie as a character (a woman who owned/ran a brothel); the children prostitutes and their lives in the brothel vs. the outside world; and/or the corruption in the police force because of outside politics.

It was a good book.  If you like period pieces, I think you will like this.  Also, I'm usually a pretty big wimp about mysteries and this wasn't scary at all.  In a good way.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


I freaking love daylight savings time!  Or are we out of daylight savings time right now??  I don't know...but whatever, I like the one we're in right now.  I looooove when it stays light for a long time at night - it makes the day seem so much longer.

I'm a little curious to see what happens with Bates' sleeping routine.  We had some trouble with "Fall back" in November - but with "Spring ahead," even if we have trouble, it seems like good trouble, right?  That is, if he'd normally sleep until 6am, it's now 7?  We'll see.

I hope everyone had a good weekend.  The weather here was awesome on Saturday (70 degrees and partially sunny).  We enjoyed a family run on the Greenline and then a family trip to the grocery store.  This morning was still somewhat warm, so we did a wagon ride around the neighborhood.  But then the rain and cold came, so we were inside the rest of the day.

One thing about Bates is that he's always on the go.  He hates to snuggle, he hates to curl up with us, he basically hates to be still when there are things he could explore.  It's both fun and tiring, as you can imagine.  Well, tonight (after his 2nd nap but before dinner), we brought him on the couch with us and put on Yo Gabba Gabba to see if he'd chill out long enough to see the show.  I wouldn't call it a 100% success, but he also didn't go absolutely crazy trying to squirm and get down.  It was definitely the most interest he's ever shown in tv, so I feel confident that if we ever need a break, it's something to try again.

Other than that, nothing too exciting to report.  My in-laws bought us a subscription to The Week magazine, which I love!  It comes once a week and re-caps all the major news stories.  There aren't many pictures or anything, but it just gives you a little snippet of what's going on around the World.  There's also a crossword puzzle in the back.  I think I did 6 of the crosswords this weekend (digging into past issues) - they are very similar to the USA Today ones (ie, not as hard as the NY Times, but not too easy to be boring).  Maybe I added a couple years of life to my mental health?  Who knows.  I hope you guys enjoyed good weather if you had it!

Monday, March 4, 2013

A Movie Weekend

This weekend, Jonathan and I saw two movies.  One was even at a theatre!  It's definitely rare for us to see movies in the theatre now that we have the wee babe, but we don't really rent many, either, for whatever reason.

So Friday night we decided to rent Pitch Perfect - the one about college a cappella singing groups.  This movie is right up my alley (I sang in all kinds of choir growing up and love a cappella groups) and it's actually sort of up Jonathan's as well (he also sang in choir growing up and just loves music generally).  All in all, it wasn't quite the comedy I was hoping for, but I loved the music.  I also thought the main character was a little annoying - but whatev.  Pop a cappella songs made up for it.

Then Saturday we weren't really planning to do anything, but my mother in law called and volunteered to babysit so we could see a movie.  A problem we encountered this past month when we wanted to see some of the Oscar movies was their length.  Most of them were at least 2 hours, if not approaching 3.  We never wanted to go to a 7pm movie that was 3 hours because then we wouldn't be home until the 10 o'clock hour (and I would still need to pump...blah blah blah).  But a 3-hour movie is perfect when you hit the matinee!

So we went to see the 4:30 showing of Zero Dark Thirty.  And we both really liked it.  It was so tense! (Even though you knew what was going to happen.)  I think Jessica Chastain is so cute - and she was great in this role.  Some of the scenes of torture freaked me out, but I think they were sort of meant to do that to the viewer.  But overall it was a great movie - I recommend.

We followed our movie with dinner and were home by 9pm.  That was a major win, in my opinion!  Actually, in retrospect, it was an awesomely-timed date night: my in laws came over at 4, so they got Bates up from his nap, fed him, bathed him, and put him to sleep.  It was a nice break for us vs. the usual date night that begins right when it's time to put him to sleep.

So we had a good weekend.  I had a pretty intense church day on Sunday (I ushered, we had a 1st Sunday of the month luncheon, and then a Diaconate meeting), but I guess that's more meaningful than a "Sunday Funday," right?