Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Merry Christmas!

We had a wonderful 1st Christmas with Kenny this year.  I haven't been able to write as much in the past, and I wonder sometimes if I'm done blogging (because I love Instagram...) but I can't say goodbye to this space.  I think I'll be back with more in 2019, or I at least hope to be.

Wishing you a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018


I've been pretty quiet on this blog in recent months, and it has everything to do with life being so different these days...  I have a baby.  I don't travel as much.  I started a new role at work.  It feels like every spare minute I have, I'm trying to eat, tidy up, or just veg out watching 'This is Us' on TV.

I'm tired.  I'm happy.  And I'm shocked by what a blur this year has been.

But I wanted to take a moment and capture a few of my thoughts today, in the spirit of Thanksgiving.

I'm grateful for family.  Kenny and I saw a lot of our Korean family in Los Angeles this summer.  We also spent a week at the beach with Dan's family and friends.  I'm glad that we have so much love surrounding us.  I am especially grateful for my parents, who make such an effort to connect with us every month.  They take time away from work and home to make it happen, and it really helps us a lot with Kenny and even our own relationship with date nights!

photo by Steve Cross

I'm grateful for friends.  I just got back from a lake weekend with some of my girlfriends, and it was such a wonderful time.  I went to Newport to visit my friend Lindsey this summer.  My friends at work keep me sane.  My DAR friends are my family.  There are just so many people in my life who care about me and support us as a family, and I feel lucky to feel so full.  It's hard living in a different state than your family, but friends can really make that difference.

I'm grateful for a healthy baby.  Sweet Kenny has had his share of runny noses, but we've been fortunate to have a healthy year thus far.  I love watching him grow and explore, and he has so much personality now.  I love being able to experience it all with him.

at Cheekwood Harvest

I'm grateful to be an American.  This one has been tough, not gonna lie.  But I do feel fortunate to live where I do, to have the opportunity that I do, and to know that I have a lot of great people alongside me.  I could have a very different life someplace else, and I'm hopeful for positive change that helps our country unite for the better.

I'm never here often enough anymore (though I'm almost always on Instagram!) but I think that is just natural at this point.  I hope to bring you more travels and adventures (and of course, our annual Christmas card!) in the months to come.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Flying with Baby

This summer, Kenny embarked on not one, but TWO air travel weekend trips!  He actually got to visit the West Coast and the East Coast in the same month.  I had already planned to fly to Los Angeles for a long weekend, to visit my grandparents.  My grandmother had a stroke back in May, and my grandfather is in his 90s.  I didn't plan on taking Kenny, but my grandfather asked and asked and asked... so finally Dan and I decided that maybe I should, so Kenny could meet his only living great-grandparents.

LAX, baby!

Overall, Kenny did really well!  I think my biggest fear was a blowout in-flight, but thankfully that didn't happen.  I changed him into a nighttime diaper right before flying, and he did great.  I checked his carseat (using this bag) and our suitcase (which included some homemade baby food and frozen breastmilk, using my previous travel method for transport).  I carried a diaper backpack and used our Ergo and super-compact Pockit travel stroller with a tote bag that rolls up super small.  A nursing cover also came in handy for when I couldn't find a Mamava pod or nursing room; I like the privacy in an enclosed space, but I fully support those who choose to nurse uncovered!

Our travel stroller is seriously one of our favorite baby things!  Strollers need to go through the X-ray machine at airport security, AND they need to be gate checked normally due to size.  So what I did was carry Kenny in the Ergo through security, as well as for boarding/unboarding the plane, but used the stroller otherwise.  Flying by myself the stroller was great for when I needed to use the bathroom.  I just stored the Ergo in the stroller basket when I wasn't using it.  The stroller folds up so small, I was able to carry it on in the tote bag and store it overhead.  No waiting at the gate for it to be unloaded!

Our travel stroller!  The downside is the sunshade is lacking, but we bought this one later which helps...

I was ultimately really glad that I took Kenny to L.A.  I was so fortunate to have help on both sides to make it happen!  Dan took us to the airport and helped us check/carry items, and the ticket agent gave him a pass to come through and assist us all the way to the gate.  Then in L.A., my two aunts were there to pick us up, and my mother and aunt were there to help us check items on the way home... and of course Dan was once again at the airport to help us on that end!  I had a lot of support, and Kenny got to spend quality time with the Korean side of the family (including two great-aunts and a great-uncle and cousins!); my grandparents are still talking about his visit.  

Was it stressful flying alone with baby?  Yes!  But the flight was direct, people were kind and helpful, and Kenny slept most of both flights.  I loved that people were willing to hold him and talk to him when I needed to get into a bag or whatever.  I found the window seat, while it sort of trapped me, was the best for keeping Kenny entertained and allowing him to spread out a little more in my arms.

Our second flight was to Florida, for a long weekend with my family.  This time, Dan came with us, which made things SO much easier!  It was another direct flight with Kenny flying for free as a lap infant.  We just had to get him checked in at the ticket counter with his birth certificate in order to get a boarding document.  We were lucky to have an empty seat between us one flight, which we sometimes used to entertain Kenny.  In the future, I may purchase a CARES harness so that if we have an empty seat, we can use it properly for him.

Honestly, our two flights were smooth sailing, and Kenny can claim four total flights in his first year!  I think it will be harder to fly during the toddler years, especially since he is a big guy.  But we'll take it one trip at a time!

Friday, September 28, 2018

Newport, Rhode Island (Momcation!)

Back in July, I took a "momcation" to Newport, Rhode Island to visit my friend Lindsey.  It was three nights away, and it was really, really great.  Kenny was about five months old at the time, and it was the longest I'd been away from him ever.  It recharged my batteries, allowed me to give attention to my friendship, and I had more energy and excitement about coming home at the end.  I highly recommend it!  It's also important to me to role model for Kenny that I'm independent and have interests and activities outside of my relationship with him.

Linds picked me up at the Providence airport in her gorgeous convertible, and from that moment on, it was top down, sunshine ON!  I flew in on the 4th of July, so some grilling out and fireworks were in order.

But first, we were HUNGRY!  So Lindsey took me to one of her all-time favorite nostalgic Newport spots: the Castle Hill Inn, est. 1875.  Gor-geous.

Castle Hill Inn

The Lawn at Castle Hill Inn

Their beautiful lawn and terrace have incredible water views, so we got a table to have lunch and a cocktail al fresco.  I enjoyed a wine spritzer, because they're totally underrated and perfect for summer day-drinking, as well as their chicken al mattone, with heirloom tomatoes, burrata, and a roasted tomato vinaigrette.

And of course, since it was my first visit since Linds moved to New England, we had to share a dessert.  It was some kind of incredible funfetti cake-inspired layered magic, with delicious whipped cream and raspberries!

Spritzers are underrated.

After that, we retired to relax at Lindsey's house, which had a rooftop porch with water views and the perfect fireworks vantage point too.  We drank rosé and grilled out for dinner, capping off a beautiful travel day for me.

Over the next few days, we took a road trip to West Hartford for some real estate shopping (spoiler alert: Linds lives there now!) as well as took in the wharf and seaside in Newport.

We had a delicious breakfast at the Corner Cafe; the portions were huge, and the menu was full of Irish, Portuguese and West Coast influences.  It's the kind of place where you find black & white pudding, chourico, and breakfast burritos on the same menu, and it works!

While at the wharf, I enjoyed seeing gorgeous yachts and adorable shops.  I even visited the original Alex & Ani storefront and bought two bracelets to commemorate my trip.  The pineapple represents my friendship with Lindsey, and the sun represents a song I like to sing to Kenny.  Together, they remind me the importance of love and relationships in many facets of life.


One of my favorite things during our trip?  Touring The Breakers mansion!  I love The Biltmore in Asheville, and so I wanted to tour at least one mansion in Newport.  The Breakers is part of the Vanderbilt family empire, so it was the perfect one for my visit.  These incredible mansions not only have ocean views, but the exteriors and interiors are luxurious and high-end.  I can't believe these were considered summer homes, versus permanent residences!  Very Downtown Abbey.

My getaway to Newport was perfection.  I enjoyed the company of my friend, the delicious food, refreshing drinks, beautiful homes and seaside, and overall New England charm.  I felt so refreshed and happy when I got home, and I'll always have these beautiful memories of my first real trip post-partum.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Kenny's 100th Day Celebration

In typical new mom fashion, I'm posting something like three months after the fact, because my blog is no longer my baby...  forgive me!  But I wanted to share about Kenny's 100th Day Celebration from back in May.

In Korea, a "baek-il" celebrates a baby turning 100 days old.  Before more modern times, infant mortality was pretty high, so people often didn't show off their new baby until it was a few months old.  That indicated it had a better chance of survival, having made it to the 100-day milestone.

Now, it's an opportunity for families to show off their baby and have a party!  In Korea, many people now throw huge parties  for the baek-il as well as the "dol", or 1st birthday party.  We do plan to throw Kenny a Korean-American style dol next year!

Since Kenny came early, my original plan to visit Indiana with him during my maternity leave wasn't possible.  That meant most of my extended family hadn't met him yet.  So we planned on having some "open house" hours at my parents' house for people to come visit.  Well, once Gigi (my Mom's grandmother name) figured out she could show off her first grandchild, suddenly this was a bigger deal!

One of the traditions at a baek-il is to offer ricecakes to 100 people, to bring longevity to the baby and good luck.  Since Kenny is 1/4 Korean, we thought that maybe something like cookies would be fun!  We handed out cookies at the party, and the leftovers came with me to work.  We gave away well over 100 cookies, all individually wrapped and decorated by Mom and me.

The day of the party, tons of family and friends came to visit, including Mom's coworkers.  It was nice to show off Kenny, who behaved pretty well!  He wasn't (and isn't) at the "stranger danger" age, so he was content to be passed around.

I was really happy that my Mom could share this Korean tradition with Kenny.  I feel like she sometimes held back with us when it came to her culture, so my sister and I grew up very much all-American, English-speaking kids.  Now that I'm older, I want to embrace more of my heritage; I embrace my father's side through the DAR and genealogy, and I'm finding ways to incorporate Korean culture and language into my life where I can.

P.S.  Kenny's 100th Day weekend was also my first Mother's Day weekend!  Kenny did a potholder project at daycare (let's be real... his teachers used his feet as a stamp!) for me, and Dan gifted me a digital photo frame for my desk at work, so I could rotate photos of Kenny all day while I work.  I look at it every day!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Review: Rothy's Flats

I purchased my own pair of Rothy's and decided to review them here on my blog.  Click here for a coupon for $20 on your first pair, and my Mom will get $20 credit towards new shoes!

If you're like me, you've been getting hit left and right with targeted ads for pricey flats like Tieks and Rothy's that people are raving about!  I didn't bite on the Tieks, mainly because I go through cheap flats like crazy, because my feet sweat a lot (#truth) and they get smelly.  I don't usually splurge on shoes as a result; I buy $20 Target or Payless shoes and then toss them after a season.

But then I started to notice friends and coworkers wearing Rothy's flats, and I was intrigued.  They raved about how comfortable they were, but the kicker that got me was they were supposedly machine-washable.  That in itself felt like a game-changer for me.  The catch?  The price range is $125+, depending on if you go ballet flat, pointed flat, loafer, sneaker, and so on.  Different materials, like merino wool, costs more.

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Unboxing my Rothy's Flats, May 2018

The only shoes I've ever paid over $100 for were combat boots or running/hiking shoes, something with a ton of function and not a lot of style!  So I was definitely intimidated by the price tag... but after days of waffling about it, I finally took the plunge and ordered their signature ballet flat in the Taupe Heather color, a good neutral to match the most possible outfits!  I also ordered an extra pair of insoles, because of my stinky/sweaty feet thing.

Rothy's Rubber Sole

When my shoes arrived, I got a little bit nervous; they looked narrow!  But once I put them on, I was impressed.  I felt like my feet were in house slippers.  They were as soft and comfortable as TOMS, but way cuter and with a non-slipping rubber sole.  I ordered a 6.5, which is my normal size in flats. Some people have been saying to size up for the pointed toe versions, but I haven't tried those yet.

Extra Insoles and Care Instructions

One complaint I saw in a Buzzfeed review of Rothy's was that you can see some stretch where your toes are.  I find this to be minimally noticeable.  The seamless feature of the shoes makes them so soft and comfortable from the get-go!  I even went on a 1.5-mile walk during the work day in these shoes with NO BLISTERS.  These are basically the only shoe I want to wear this summer that isn't a sandal!  That said, if you require arch support and struggle with the lack thereof in normal flats, you're not getting much more out of these.  You can probably slip your orthotics into them, but these are definitely for folks who wear flats all the time without issues.

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After about a week of 90-degree temps and sweating in my shoes, I decided to wash them.  I took the insoles out and tossed all four pieces into my washing machine on cold, delicate cycle.  I used our everyday detergent because it's what we use even for the baby's laundry: All Free & Clear.  Then I air dried the shoes.  Rothy's flats looked brand-new and kept their shape even after washing!  I found that they mostly dried overnight, too.  The bad smell from my sweat left them easily.  In the future, I may sprinkle in a little scent boost, just to give a little fresh smell to them, since my detergent lacks perfume.  They didn't smell anymore after washing, but I think adding a little scent will keep them smelling fresher for longer.

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Rothy's after washing

When it came to comfort and machine washing, I LOVE my Rothy's!  The sustainability aspect (they're made of recycled materials) is a great bonus.  The only thing I don't like is the price.  I really wish these were $99 instead of $125-$165+, because I WANT MORE.

I've already got my sights set on their pointed marigold flats, black loafers, and a red or leopard pair of flats.  I would love to have a half dozen pairs of these to replace all of my cheapo flats.  (Which, in my mind, would cost around the same ONE pair of Jimmy Choos, but it's still hard to justify in my head.)  So I think I may buy one more pair this year, then ask EVERYONE to give me Rothy's giftcards for Christmas.  I don't think I've ever had a pair of flats I've liked so much!

If you're thinking about purchasing Rothy's after reading this review, I'd love for you to get a $20 discount through referral, so my Mom can also get a $20 credit towards a new favorite shoe.  For once, I bought something from an internet ad that was legitimately perfect for me!

ETA in late 2018 & throughout 2019:
I have over a dozen pairs of Rothy's (thank you for the referral credits!!!), and I'm still a huge fan of the brand!  My main gripe about Rothy's is the the quality control by style and color in terms of fit/size seems inconsistent.  I now have shoes in the Flat, Point, Loafer, Sneaker, and merino wool.  I haven't purchased the Chelsea, because I have short legs and think the ankle cut won't be flattering on me.  Here is what I take for sizes:

My "True" Flat Shoe Sizing: 6.5
Rothy's Flat: 6.5
Sneaker: 7
Merino Wool Point: 7
Point: 7.5
Loafer: 7.5

Whenever I have a question about sizing, I find the "Rothy's Addicts" Facebook group to be the best source of information on all things Rothy's.  I wish there were fewer non-related posts, but generally I've been successful buying the right size in a new shoe based on that feedback.  

My other gripe is that due to demand (especially since they started advertising and focusing on celebrities) their shipping has slowed down noticeably.  That's the price of popularity, I guess!

I do a load of Rothy's shoes in the wash just about weekly, and their washability, in addition to comfort, is still the #1 reason I love them.  My shoes definitely get smelly, because they get worn often.  I haven't noticed much wear and tear, though my yellow shoes have usually shown a little more than the others.  Usually I get a mark on my right heel from driving, and I've scuffed a toe before to show a little bit of a snag.  But considering my oldest pairs are 1.5 years old, that's saying something!  Gone are the days that I wore "disposable" flats that I bought cheap and threw out at the end of a season.

The merino wool Rothy's are pricey, but they are even softer and comfier than the recycled plastic version.  I also feel they breathe better and get a bit less stinky, but time will tell there. 

Rothy's can actually have pretty good resale value, too.  I've sold two used pairs (my Cherry flats and my Lemondrop loafers) for over $100 each on Poshmark, because colors are often limited editions and people want a good deal on a pricey pair of shoes.  So if you get tired of a pair, sell them!  You can often recover just about enough to roll into a newer pair for a reasonable amount of money!

Have you tried Rothy's shoes yet?

I purchased my own pair of Rothy's and decided to review them here on my blog.  Click here for a coupon for $20 on your first pair, and my Mom will get $20 credit towards new shoes!

Monday, June 4, 2018

2018 TSDAR State Conference (& Navigating DAR with a Baby)

This site is not an official NSDAR Web site, and the content contained herein does not necessarily represent the position of the NSDAR. The President General is the official spokesperson on issues that have not been addressed as policy of NSDAR.

In April, the Tennessee Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) had their annual State Conference, and once again I served as a page!  I served again as a personal page to our State Regent, the head of Tennessee's DAR.  (If your only reference for the DAR is Gilmore Girls, I have some links to past posts at the bottom of this one in case you're curious!)

I went into more detail about what my conference was like last year, including duties and public speaking, etc.  This year was similar, so check out last year's post for more details on that.  The main difference for me this year?  I was a brand-new mother!

2018 Pages with President General Dillon and State Regent Reynolds

When I tell people that I'm in the DAR, they often tell me they are interested but don't have time for it.  I've come to realize, even more so now with a baby, that EVERYONE is busy, and that balance doesn't exist... Prioritization exists.  You have to do what is important to you, and trim the rest.  For me, community service and fellowship through DAR are a priority, and my husband supports that.  So while it surprised some that I remain as dedicated now that I have an infant, to me it was important to continue the good work I've put my heart into, so that Kenny can see me working hard as a positive role model in our community and country!

State Conference (and Paging) with a Baby
First off, I let my Page Chairman know that I would need an assignment that would allow me to care for Kenny.  I actually managed to have the same assignment as last year, but since I had two other pages working with me, we were tagging in and out of events.  I was straight forward with my State Regent, who knew I was a new mom (she attended my baby shower just months before!) so she was incredibly understanding.  And I think that my need to sneak away to pump actually encouraged my peer pages to take a little R&R time when I tagged back in... healthy behavior for hard-working pages!  One example?  I skipped a breakfast so I could eat breakfast with Mom and baby, making sure she got a break too.  Then I headed downstairs to work and allow my fellow page some free time to shop and enjoy the conference.

Even though our conference is held a few miles from my apartment, I've been booking a hotel room for two nights there for the past couple of years, since I basically work 12+ hours a day.  This year, that was especially necessary!  My Mom came to stay on site with Kenny, and that was perfect.  I would go up to our room to pump throughout the day, see Kenny and Mom, and be just a text message away.  And every time Mom brought Kenny downstairs, the DAR ladies would come up to her and say, "Oh, is this Aubrey's baby?"  I even took Kenny downstairs when I went to vote, and the ladies took turns holding him while I was in line.

I had to get creative when it came to pumping timing... more so for my own comfort than meeting Kenny's needs!  For example, I snuck away after eating in the middle of a formal banquet, and I had my friend text me when the program was starting up.  It was much less complicated than it sounds.  But I figured out a good schedule, and my Apple Watch was AWESOME for receiving texts from both my Mom and my fellow pages without having to pull out my phone while working on the platform!

One of my paging partners, helping me tremendously!

Saying No
I didn't attend all of the meals at State Conference, both to save money and to make time to pump or see Kenny.  This year, I also missed some DAR chapter meetings due to Kenny's birth and childcare.  I said "no" to attending Continental Congress in DC and reprising my attendance at Indiana's State Conference like last year.  I'm hoping to do both next year, with lots of advance planning!

Making It Work
I hired a babysitter one evening so I could make a chapter meeting.  I took Kenny with me to a cemetery dedication.  I took a weekday off work, while Kenny was in daycare, so I could present an award at the state capitol.  All of these things are ways that I've been able to attend DAR events.  And you know what?  Every time I've chosen not to bring Kenny with me, the DAR ladies are disappointed.  If I bring him, they're cooing and playing "pass the baby" to help... or just to get their snuggles in.  I've never gotten dirty looks for bringing him anywhere, and I've been told that if I need to have him at a chapter meeting, he is welcome!  Sometimes I forget that most of the women I know in DAR have children, grandchildren, or nieces/nephews, are school teachers and librarians, lead Children of the American Revolution, or teach Sunday School. They're really supportive of me in every way, and they make it easier to manage!

I brought my pump bag with me, just in case... LOL

2018's State Conference was one to remember, with Kenny being less than 12 weeks old at the time!  But I'm learning how to navigate my role within the DAR, and manage to attend key events and participate actively, by saying no to some things and prioritizing others.

Curious about the DAR?
Read my post on why I joined, information about paginglast year's state conference,
and my trip to the 125th Continental Congress in Washington, D.C.!
Or you can just click here to see all of my DAR posts to date.

Also, because some people have asked me about diversity and the DAR, here is a link to our minority research page which provides guidance and sources for those trying to research African American, Spanish, Jewish, and Native American patriots!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Adulting after Baby

As I mentioned in my pumping post, I feel completely unqualified to give advice on motherhood, because I've been doing it for just a few months.  But I'm more than willing to share what I've been going through as I've transitioned back to work, navigated motherhood, and more!  #adulting #momlife

I put down a deposit at a daycare center near our apartment when I was 15 weeks pregnant; I hadn't even told my boss yet!  Where we live, if you don't act quickly, you get waitlisted and sometimes have to move from one center to another.  Ever the planner, I scheduled multiple daycare tours the same day that I had an OB/GYN appointment in the middle of the day, and I took a day off work so I wouldn't feel rushed or guilty about stepping away.

What did I look for in a daycare?  Honestly, I just went with my gut, and I only toured places where my coworkers have enrolled their own kids.  Most spots in our area are priced similarly.  I looked for happy babies, cleanliness, convenience to our home, and overall feeling.  I instantly fell in love with our daycare; I actually got a little teary-eyed in one of the infant rooms because it looked so sweet, and that's the same room Kenny is in today!

Nannies, family, and a stay-at-home parent are all options for childcare when one parent works.  But since we're a dual-working household with no family in-state, daycare or a nanny were our options.  I am so pleased with our daycare, as I can see that Kenny is cared for, stimulated, and learning... in just a few weeks we could see his development in positive ways!

Need more toys...

We don't live near family, so having them around for childcare is not an option.  There are apps and websites you can subscribe to in order to find a babysitter, but for me it was super easy... word of mouth!  My coworker gave me the contact info for FOUR of her babysitters, and I was able to look them up on Facebook because they were her friends there.  Having a bona fide recommendation and being able to put a face to a name really helped.  I wanted to attend my DAR meeting on an evening that Dan was at a work event, so I hired a babysitter for three hours.  She was wonderful, and she had no issues getting Kenny down to sleep.  If she had questions, she texted me.

While we've only used a babysitter once so far, just knowing it's an option gives us a feeling of independence and levity.  It costs a pretty penny, but sometimes it's worth calling for help!

Travel without Baby
I went on my first overnight trip for work, and it was smooth sailing!  I gave Dan a couple of weeks advance notice, so he could adjust his work schedule to handle both daycare dropoff and pickup.  Kenny was great, and they seemed to enjoy some quality bonding time!  Dan even sent a photo of them twinning in matching shirts.  I FaceTimed with them before Kenny's bedtime, and Dan made sure to send me plenty of pictures.  Our daycare also sends photos throughout the day, so honestly I didn't go more than a couple of hours without seeing or hearing my sweet baby.

While I was away, I didn't fret or cry... I let myself be me.  I saw old friends, took a hot shower, watched HGTV, and slept like a baby in a king-sized hotel bed.  I took my time getting ready and walked around.  Recharging my batteries like that was perfect, and when I got home, my happy guys were there to greet me.

Picture sent during my work overnight trip

Road Trip with Baby
We had a smooth first road trip with Kenny, 4.5 hours each way.  We chose to depart around Kenny's bedtime, putting him in PJs and feeding him before we hit the road.  He slept the entire way, even when we stopped once for a bathroom break, then slept the rest of the night once we arrived.  My parents already had a pack 'n' play at their house ready for him.  They also had toys and an activity mat (we'd received a second one as a gift) ready to go.  Mom has also picked up items at garage sales, like storage drawers for toys and a booster, so we have less to haul!

On both drives, one of us sat in the backseat in case Kenny woke up.  We had toys and other things ready for him, and on the return trip (which was in the daytime) we also had a bottle prepped so we could feed him while he was buckled in his seat.  We chose to leave when we saw Kenny getting sleepy after eating, and it worked; he woke up about 45 minutes from home.  So we stopped and fed him, and I kept him entertained.  It was smooth sailing, though I know it might be different once he is older and awake more!

Waking up to see Mommy

I'm working on friendship.  I don't get to go to all of the happy hours and things I used to!  Mostly, text messages have been the best.  I tell my friends, leave me a message and I promise I'll text back, even if it's at 4am.  And that has sustained me thus far.  I do see my friends at work and DAR events, and even on maternity leave I'd tote Kenny along and meet for lunches.  I just can't do things at the drop of a hat anymore, and I've had to come to accept that.

I think that Dan and I talk more now than ever, because sharing childcare responsibilities requires it!  I love that I don't have to ask him to do things.  If I'm playing with Kenny, he'll wash bottles for the next day.  If he's taking out the trash, he always checks the diaper pail.  We don't really have assignments for who does what, but it works... we ask one another what needs to get done, what Kenny needs for daycare the next day, whether his laundry needs done.  And since Kenny goes to sleep around 7-8pm, we can usually manage to stay awake at least an hour to talk to one another about our day or just stare at our adorable baby.

We try to do little things for one another.  Dan made sure my first Mother's Day was sweet.  And when I had a business lunch near Dan's work, I popped in and sat with him while he ate his lunch.  It was like 10 minutes, but it was 1-on-1 time and a nice surprise for him.

We also take advantage of our monthly visits with my parents, either when they come to us or when we go to them!  They always push us out the door for a date night, which is usually a nice sit-down dinner and a drink.  We've managed to have a date night once a month ever since Kenny was born, and it's something we intend to continue!  I used to worry about our marital happiness when it came to having a baby, because honestly children aren't always great for marriage (read the statistics!).  But we're really happy right now, and that makes it all easier.

This photo is unrelated to my content.  It's extraneous.

The thing that has helped the most in our daily routine?  Our daycare opens at 6:30am, which is about the time that Dan leaves home for work.  Initially I hesitated to have Dan drop Kenny off, because if I did it, Kenny would have an extra 60-90 minutes at home with me before my commute.  But then I realized, if Dan drops Kenny off, I have time in the morning to make myself breakfast, clean the house, get ready, even work out (once I get back on that horse).  My coworker, mother of four boys, told me, "Don't feel guilty about not getting that extra hour with him; all he was going to do was sit in a bouncer watching you get ready in the morning!"  And she's right.  Guilt absolved!

By having Dan drop Kenny off, and me picking him up, it not only allows us both a chance to interact with his daycare providers, but a chance for me to take care of myself and our home so there isn't as much to do in the evening.  I don't feel like a hot mess at work, and I have more energy for Kenny when I get him at the end of the day, because I've already done dishes, vacuumed, or whatever.  I can also really take my time getting Kenny ready in the morning while Dan gets ready, because I'm relaxed in my pajamas and focused solely on him.

I honestly didn't have very much trouble taking Kenny to daycare, leaving him with a sitter, even going away for an overnight.  I didn't cry, but I did miss him.  The hardest part about going back to work was getting used to staring at a computer screen all day and feeling tired after using my brain all day!  I felt like I got a personal boost once I had help with Kenny's childcare, because suddenly I had more freedom to grab lunch, go shopping, run errands, cook, clean, etc. in my spare moments.  It also makes me feel more motivated to do things with him on the weekends.  I do think it helped that I put Kenny in daycare on a Monday, but started work on that Thursday.  It gave me a few days to pick him up early if I wanted/get prepared for work.  It also meant I only had to survive two days in the office before a weekend break.  I highly recommend it!

Final Thoughts
My sister called me the other day, simply to tell me she was proud of me for the mother I've become.  I think she really expected me to be full-on obsessive and rigid as a parent, because I've always been such a planned and calculated person.  But she said she can tell Kenny is thriving, and that we're doing well with him.  It felt like the best thing I could have heard at that moment in time.  I know that babies can internalize how we are feeling, and even sense when we enter the room.  And I want positive energy only for Kenny, because he's going to battle sickness, teething, growth spurts, and more.  Adulting is hard, and parenting makes it harder.  But we're finding our groove and keeping on!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Back to Work: Pumping after Maternity Leave

I have been back to work (with Kenny in daycare) for nearly a month now, which is hard to believe!  Since I've had a few people ask me about pumping as a working mother, I figured it merited a blog post.  Caveat: I'm a first-time Mom who feels completely unqualified to offer advice to anyone on motherhood, but I am willing to share what has worked for me!

I'm very much of the attitude that a fed, healthy baby is the most important thing, so I keep formula samples that we get in the mail just in case.  We used two bottles' worth while I was hospitalized for preeclampsia, but other than that Kenny has been exclusively breastfed.  My original goal was nursing for three months, with a hopeful goal of six months.

Before Kenny was born, I ordered a free breastpump via my health insurance.  I chose the Spectra S2, a closed system pump, based on reviews and recommendations.  During maternity leave, I would mostly use a silicone hand pump on my nightstand to relieve engorgement.  Any milk that I saved, we'd use in an occasional bottle for Kenny when we were out and about.  We figured it was good practice for him.  As work began to approach, I would try to do a morning and evening pumping session to build up a stash for daycare ahead of going back to work.

My pumps, my pumps my pumps my pumps... check it out

Before I went back to work, my Mom and I helped Kenny "rehearse" for daycare by bottle feeding during the day for four days.  This accomplished two goals: training him to accept the bottle repeatedly and determining how much he eats.  The tough part of nursing on demand means you aren't on a consistent schedule or counting ounces like they do at daycare.  But we were able to estimate what I needed to pump and have in each bottle based on those few days!

Now that I've been back at work for a few weeks, I'm averaging 3-4 pumping sessions during the work day.  Sometimes my first session is at home before I leave.  I find I really need to maximize that first session, because my supply is best in the morning.

I also bought a barely used Spectra S1 rechargeable pump via Facebook Marketplace, because keeping one pump at work and one at home for home/travel minimizes the amount of stuff I have to haul on my commute.  Since Spectras are closed system, I feel confident that there isn't a risk of contamination after sterilizing the parts, but you should be careful when purchasing used pumps.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Checking In

You guys, there's so much I could write, but we all know I've sucked at keeping up this blog for the past few months as I've been throwing myself headfirst into motherhood and getting back to my corporate gig.  Yikes, it's been a while...  this space used to be my escape and release in a way, a creative outlet.  Now, I don't get here as often because it's usually easier to wax philosophical on Instagram while I'm pumping...

I love my tiny human.  Kenny is a good baby, and we're in a blissful period where we're sleeping a bit more and enjoying lots of smiles and giggles.  It seems like every time we get something figured out, it changes; babies are 100% a moving target!  But it's fulfilling, and it sort of feels like he's been with us forever.

I've definitely had to say no to more things...  after-work fun, local influencer events, blog opportunities, etc.  I'm exhausted each and every day!  But I did manage to page at our DAR state conference by having Mom stay at the hotel with the baby.  We've also survived a few weeks of daycare, an evening with a non-family babysitter, an overnight work trip away, a week of solo parenting, and a road trip.  Whew!  That's a lot for a little guy who's only been out here breathing oxygen for a few months.  So I think that what's happening in non-essential stuff is eliminated from the calendar, and the stuff I really want and prioritize is making the cut.  That's not a bad place to be.

I'm also "graduating" from regular therapy!  I started using Talkspace over a year ago, because I was stressed out and struggling.  Dan and I were having conflicts about trying to conceive (it can put a lot of strain on a marriage!), I was overweight and overeating, I was navigating work and personal relationships, and I needed an objective ear that wasn't my friends.  Having a therapist in my phone to text or video chat with helped so much.  I went from a monthly video chat and 5x weekly texts to just texts, then to a few times a week, then to once a week texts.  Now, I don't feel like I need the sessions anymore, and my therapist supports me stepping back until I know I need help again.  I made sure I had support from that point, through pregnancy nerves, to those initial baby blues, to my transition back to work, and I couldn't be prouder or happier that I feel so much better now than I have in so long!

I've made sure to do some things for myself since Kenny was born.  I'm still active in the DAR, which I love!  I've gone to Happy Hours (just not 2-3 a week like the old days).  I've gone to Target after the baby is asleep to walk around.  I've worked on my scrapbooks and photo books.  And now I'm taking some time to reconnect with this blog, as I've got a bunch of stuff on my mind that people might find useful or interesting to read!

I have a few posts I'm thinking through, including my latest Stitch Fix recap, my experience going back to work (and pumping!), favorite baby things, and Kenny's 100 Days party/my first Mother's Day!  Hopefully I'll get around to those now that I'm tackling my to-do list to an extent.  But the desire to write has to be > the desire to sleep, and I have to have showered.  Because sometimes you just have to go into survival mode, and put yourself back together when you can.

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