Monday, August 22, 2016

Milestones and Memories

Tomorrow my heart is going to climb the steps of a big yellow bus for the first time and drive away.

I've spent the better part of an hour looking at pictures and memories of my first baby with my heart in my throat and tears in my eyes.

I remember countless nights holding him on my shoulder. Some nights it was the only way he would sleep. When was the last time he fell asleep in my arms?


He had a ridiculously adorable hairstyle. When was the last time I got to feel those sweet baby-soft locks?

His first steps were unsteady and careful. Now he runs. When did his baby wrist rolls disappear?

I hear "I can do it myself," often now. I'm proud of his independence, but when was the last time he needed me to open his juice? When was the last time I reminded him not to squeeze it too hard when he picked it up?

The answer to all of these questions is: I can't remember. 

We look forward to and make memories out of all the milestones: the first smiles, first laughs, first steps and first day of Kindergarten. But how could we possibly know to treasure and record the passing of all of the little moments, too? 

The last time he would crawl instead of walk.

The last time he needed my hand to jump down off of a step.

The last time he would grunt for "yes" instead of speak it.

The last time he would need me to read him Goodnight Moon, Dr. Suess's ABC's and the Going to Bed book on repeat until he fell asleep.

The last time he needed me to catch him at the end of the slide.

I have an overwhelming feeling that I'm not remembering all of the things I will want to remember and it's breaking my heart.

But maybe that's why we have days like The First Day of Kindergarten. Days where we can stop for a moment, look at our children and realize how far we've come. We can recall many of the beautiful moments that have passed in the space between their birth and this instant and reflect.

At some point our children move from being a collection of precious moments to being their own entity. I may not be able to remember every minute of my child's existence, but each minute has built on the one before it to create this beautiful, tiny human. 

A beautiful, tiny human that might look back at me for the last time tomorrow as he climbs onto that big yellow bus.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Just Another Family Portrait

We recently did some family photos in our backyard, now that Fiona has been added to the mix. I met our photographer, Leslie of Tiny Bubbles Photography after William was born, and we sort of just clicked and she has become not only a dear friend, but one of my favorite people. I've shared many of her photos in the past: it's no secret that she is talented.

One of the reasons I love her? Her sense of humor. I always find myself laughing when we have a chance for a girls' night. But it also occasionally sneaks into her work. Not only did she come through with some great family portraits (more on that later,) She also included this series of photos in our gallery. I originally looked at this late at night, and in my sleep-deprived state, I cried from laughing so hard.







The boys hadn't napped on this day, and were full of the sillies, as very clearly captured in this series. I nearly peed my pants in the second to last one, where you only see a foot. I love that Henry and William's personalities jump out of these photos.

I most definitely recommend Tiny Bubbles for your family or kid photos if you are in Chicagoland. Leslie also has various mini-sessions throughout the year, so check her out!

Monday, June 6, 2016

REAL Advice for New Moms

So you've had a baby! Congratulations, the hard part is over!

Ha! Totally kidding. The fun is just beginning.

I'm definitely back in New-Mom Mode. Sleepless, yoga-pants wearing, coffee-chugging, messy hair, what the heck is for dinner, New-Mom Mode.

But I'm not alone. I know of at least ten babies born in the last month, with a few others on the horizon, many of them babies to first time moms. So I'm here to let you in on the secrets. The REAL tricks of the trade. NOT the "sleep when they sleep" or "don't worry about any housework" advice that isn't really practical. 

1. Breastfeeding. AKA: Give your boobs up to your baby. If you are breastfeeding, first of all make sure you have nipple pads and breast shields like these (they allow your nipples to dry out without rubbing up against any clothing.) Use the shields while you aren't feeding baby for the first few days, until the tenderness dies down and then start using the pads.

I've heard so many times that if you are doing it right, breastfeeding shouldn't hurt. I'm here to tell you that is BULL. I'm on baby number three and the first two weeks of every child was simple toe-curling every time they latched on. But as long as there aren't any cracks or blood you are probably doing it right. HANG IN THERE! The pain will be gone in a couple of weeks and in six weeks or so you'll be a pro. If you are worried, though, get in touch with a lactation consultant.

In the hospital they tell you baby should eat every three hours. What they mean is AT LEAST every three hours. I know of so many people who try to make their baby make it the whole three hours. But it's totally normal if they want to eat every hour or two. Just give in. My husband used to drive me crazy telling me "the baby is hungry" every time one of the kids made a peep. When I told him to stand up and sway with the baby he said, "this is only working because he thinks he is on the way to your boob." But you know what? One evening I gave into William and fed him three times in about 2 hours. I was thinking NO WAY can he still be hungry by the last round. But you know what? He passed out after the last feeding and SLEPT THE WHOLE GLORIOUS NIGHT. So if your baby is crying don't be afraid to just stick your boob in their mouth.

When I was breastfeeding Henry, he would always pass out after one boob (you are supposed to try and get both boobs into each feeding.) So since then, my routine has been first boob, burp, diaper change, second boob, burp. Not many babies will sleep through a cold wipe to the tush.

2. Do your Kiegels. Yep I'm going there. I read in some pregnancy book about the importance of Kiegels, so I did them all through my pregnancies. But then after the baby came, I totally forgot about them. Don't forget about them! Do a set every time you breastfeed. Also you should Kiegel any time you are exerting pressure. This includes: coughing, sneezing, lifting baby, lifting anything, standing up, etc. You can thank me later when you aren't peeing yourself, and all your lady bits go back to where they should be.

And speaking of peeing yourself. For nine months you were likely peeing every five minutes, and with a giant baby kicking you in the bladder it probably felt like you had to all the time. After you have the baby, you may not get the "have to pee" feeling back right away. So make sure you go pee before you feel like you have to go, or you may risk peeing your pants. An easy way to remember is to just go every time you feed baby.

3. Do the housework. I know this sounds ridiculous and is the last thing on your mind. But if you don't do a little bit of housework, you'll wake up in two weeks to a mountain of laundry and a kitchen counter covered in dishes and then you'll be more stressed out. So I like to complete at least one housekeeping task every day. This can be something small (one load of laundry or emptying the dishwasher) but even one chore a day for the first week will really help. I was actually talking to my sister-in-law about this the other day, and she set the same rule for herself. It's amazing how a load of laundry will make you feel more human and less zombie again.

4. Six weeks to heal. The flip side of doing housework is DON'T OVERDO IT! You may feel great, but your body needs to heal, so please rest as much as much as you can-- even if that just means laying in bed while holding baby and watching Netflix.

5. Postpartum Depression. Did you know that postpartum depression isn't just depression? It covers a whole range of things. After each of my babies I would have some crazy anxiety over things I couldn't control. There were moments where I felt like I would jump out of my skin-- where every cell in my body felt like it was buzzing. Having a doctor tell me that was normal was enough to get me through. But don't be afraid to talk to someone or get a perscription if you feel things are getting out of control!

6. Get out of the house everyday. This is SO important! Staring at your little one all day is amazing, don't get me wrong. But don't forget about the big, beautiful world outside your door. Even if it's just a walk to the mailbox at first, or having your morning coffee on your deck... get some fresh air mama! You'll soon graduate to a trip to the library, or even better... your first play date!

7. Make some mom-friends. Speaking of play dates. You know who can relate to every little crazy thing you are feeling? Other moms! Find a few Mommy-friends also with new babies (there are lots of mom groups on Facebook or Meetup, if you don't know anyone else.)

A bestie you can text any time with things like, "On our way home from the hospital and I already want to punch my husband in the balls*" is super helpful, too. It's also a great female bonding opportunity when another mom-friend texts you, "I just threw a pack of wipes at my husband's head," and you totally get it.

8. Find a way to sleep. I looked at myself in the mirror the morning after Henry was born, and thought to myself, "Oh, that's not so bad. I've had hangovers worse than this." But then I looked at myself in the mirror one morning a couple of weeks later and thought, "Oh, who is that poor woman?" My point being: sleeplessness is the hard part.

And to those who say, "Sleep when they sleep," you likely never had a baby who didn't sleep unless he was being held (ahem, Henry.) And even if you are getting six hours of sleep a night-- these hours may be split into one or two hour stretches. And while it eventually ends, it can last awhile, which is why you have to FIND A WAY. Hand the baby off to your hubby the minute he walks into the door and go nap, or call your mom for help (my mom has come to stay with us for a week after each of the children was born and it was SO helpful. I remember one morning, she held Henry and let him sleep on her for more than three hours, and I slept the whole time. It was the longest stretch of sleep I had gotten and I felt like a million bucks.) It is however, amazing how quickly you will adjust to less sleep, and this is coming from a girl who very much enjoyed a full eight hours every night.

9. Comparison is the thief of joy. I know it's tough, but try not to make comparisons. Just last week I had a day where I rushed out of the door, without having showered, still in PJs to drop Henry and Will off at school. I was a mess. Since we were late, I had to do the walk of shame into the building (usually I don't have to get out of the car.) At the same time, another Mom, with a flawless face, perfect curls and an adorable outfit was walking her kids to the door. I left thinking, "Why can't I have my sh!t together like that woman?" But then I came home to Fiona and snuggled the snot out of her for a few hours and all was forgotten.

Also, I eventually managed a shower.

What advice do you wish you had gotten before your first baby? Share in the comments!

*hypothetical, of course.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Honey-Apple Salad with Homemade Vinaigrette

I love a good salad--especially in the summertime, but it seems like restaurants are much better at them than I am... until now!

Honey-Apple Salad with Homemade Vinaigrette

Ingredients:
6-8 cups lettuce of your choice (I like using 1/2 Spring Mix and 1/2 Spinach)
1 large apple, sliced and chopped
1 cup grated white cheddar
1/2 cup dried cherries

Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon mustard (regular, dijon or honey-- they all work!)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Layer the salad in the order the ingredients appear above. For the dressing, combine all ingredients in a glass container and shake well (I'm obsessed with this dressing bottle, pictured at left.) Toss dressing into salad just before serving.

Enjoy!

What's your favorite summer salad recipe?



Friday, June 3, 2016

What a difference a year makes

School is out for the summer! Okay, I know technically my kids were only in pre-school and nursery school but summertime is still exciting to me, and it doesn't hurt that today is a BEAUTIFUL day. 

And while I know this summer will have its challenges, (how do I take three kids under the age of 4 to a pool!?) I'm looking forward to all of the adventures we will have.

Also I'm freaking out a little bit that Henry is a KINDERGARTENER now. It blows my mind while I'm holding little Fiona, that Henry was once so small. A now here he is all of a sudden: a mischevious little boy, growing like a weed.

It's amazing how much Henry and William have changed since August. The lengths of their calves alone seem to have doubled!


Are you ready for summer? How do you keep your kids busy? What's on your summer bucket list?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Welcome, Fiona!


We welcomed Fiona Belle Rose to the world at 10:10PM on May 8, 2016. She weighed 9 pounds, 5 ounces and was 21 inches long, with a head full of dark hair. She has perfectly completed our family, and her two big brothers, Henry and Will are so proud and take their new roles very seriously.
Brand New Fiona
(c) Tiny Bubbles Photography
This was my toughest labor yet, and while I was able to do it naturally, I was definitely begging every kind of God that exists in the universe to let it be over, with a few choice words thrown in. I was "stuck" at 9 centimeters for nearly two hours, and those were some pretty tough contractions to get through. That being said, I can now say I'm happy I stayed the natural course (I had an epidural with Henry's birth, and I really just didn't like it, which is why I went the natural route with William and Fiona. Plus I know it's a little out there, but a natural labor was sort of on my bucket list, I wanted to experience it as I was meant to experience it! And I'll be honest-- it is amazing.) 

My first wink of sleep in the hospital.
I'll remember forever being curled up like this and looking into Fi's little blinking eyes.
So far Fi is proving to be our most restless child, and while she's better in the sleep department than Henry was, she is still wearing us out! However, I'm soaking up every minute, every cuddle, and every outfit change. I can't wait for our Mother/Daughter relationship to grow.


Our growing family!
Proud big brothers-- and the best moment of my life!
So happy this man will have the experience of a Dad/Daughter relationship! 
Our little Fi-Bee.
(c) Tiny Bubbles Photography
Fiona, do the best you can with this life. Spread love wherever you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier. You are what you believe in, darling.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Nursery Sneak Peek- Bring on the Girl!

In a world where we can Google questions and get answers in a split second, "When is the baby going to come?" is still a remaining unknown-- which is exciting, but I'm still ready to get this show on the road! I'm due May 5th, and while I actually feel better in this home stretch than I have in any of the my other pregnancies, I can't help but want to just have this little girl in my arms already. 

Of course there are some mixed feelings, giving birth is a little scary after all, but I'm mostly excited about it. If things go half as well as they did with William's birth-- I'll be happy. And he was a nine pounder! I love hearing different birth stories, and can't wait to see how this one will go!

We plan on this being our last baby, so I plan on being a sap and savoring every single stage. So even though I'm impatient, I'm also trying to enjoy the last kicks in this big belly of mine. 

Henry was my summer baby, William was my Fall baby, and this one is my Spring baby. I feel like I'm really in tune with nature this time around-- so far we've had two batches of bunnies, and baby geese hatch around the house. At the kids' preschool, the chicks have hatched. The question now is whether or not I beat our resident duck couple to the finish line.

Everything is ready. The nursery is ready, the baby clothes are washed, and the house is as clean as it's going to get with two tornadoes running around (I've given up bending over 1,000 times a day to pick up everything that winds up on the floor.)

Here's a peek at the nursery. It's pretty clear I need some training on taking quality pictures. Also you'll notice, after two boys... I went all out on the girly theme!
Obsessed with that pineapple lamp (Target) And I had to cover one of the canvases, which reveals her name. The other reads: Be Bold. Be Brave. Be Brilliant. And the large gray one reads: She believed she could so she did. And a special thank you to my friend Susie for the adorable glider!

I made the ribbon garland. So much more ribbon than you'd think! Diaper Pad Cover "Flower Show" from Land of Nod (matching sheet in crib.) Back up set of diaper pad cover and crib sheet in "Marine Queen." (better images in those links!) Hamper and Lamp from Target. I'm still looking to add something to this wall...

Mark doesn't like hanging things above the crib, so we went with these gold circle decals which he REALLY ENJOYED putting up with me.

Ignore everything in the crib. Hospital bag and boppy are ready to go! This is probably also the best representation of the peach color on the walls-- which I give total credit to Mark for picking out. It's the perfect shade!
Did I mention I have a recent obsession with Pineapples? Pineapple Print from Urban Outfitters.
Rise and Shine print from The Wheatfield. 
Initial hint in this picture! And I love this bookshelf from Pottery Barn Kids. We put the mirror here to try and catch some of the light coming in from the only window in the room. The knobs are holding headbands for now, but I envision necklaces in the future :)
Wildflower Print from The Wheatfield. Floral Prints from Kristy Rice.
Dreamcatcher made by me with Hazel and Ruby Dreamcatcher Kit. (I plan on making more!)
Blanket Basket from Target.


This floral arrangement was a gift from my parents at our wedding (It matched our wedding flowers, but will last forever!) The candleholders were also from our wedding. I'm glad we could work these into the baby's room, because it's not really our style for the rest of the house!
So come on, baby girl! Come out to play!

In the meantime, dear readers... won't you distract me with your birth stories?

Friday, February 19, 2016

Sugar and Spice

My boys have started to fake burp during meals.

I'm roared at multiple times a day.

And they wrestle. Which I knew would happen, but I didn't think it would happen so soon.

Henry set a place at dinner for one of his Nerf guns.

William insists on carrying around a little truck that's the replica of Daddy's truck.

Friday night consists of everyone piled on the couch playing some robot video game.

Saturday morning consists of everyone piled on the couch watching fishing shows.

But, that's all okay because I got to wear a pink shirt to a maternity session this week. 

I can't wait to add you to our family, baby girl. I can't wait to dress you in ruffles, paint your nails, braid your hair and go shopping with you. We'll throw pink glitter at the boys for good measure.

#bringonthegirl

Tiny Bubbles Photography

Tiny Bubbles Photography

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Dear Boilermaker

2008
Last night you dove into the hotel bed and relished the feeling of your silky smooth legs on those sheets.


Maybe you're on a bus ride to the pool, or eating breakfast with the team. Maybe you're about to jump in for a warm-up or a wake-up swim. Or maybe you are stepping up to the blocks for the race that you equal parts fear and enjoy. Thanks to taper, every cell in your body feels like it's buzzing.

This is your moment.

I know. I was there. But now, I'm eight years removed from my last training trip, last practice, last breakfast with the team, last warm-up, last relay, last race. And do you know what I'm doing today? I'm making breakfast for a two little boys, waddling around like I did too many squats yesterday-- but that's just me being pregnant. We'll maybe hit the library after I check in on all of your races. The only water I'll encounter today will be that of a load of laundry and some dishwashing-- I'll be lucky if a shower happens. The only one doing flip-turns is this baby.

What I'm saying is, you will have your whole life for a career, a family, and sleeping past 5 AM. 

I'm just a ghost of Boilermaker past, my swimming identity long gone, but never forgotten. A girl just like you who put in tens of thousands of hours of energy, sweat and tears swimming in circles in the same pool you did. I ran those bleachers, lifted those weights, gossiped in that locker room, lived in that house (400 club for life.)  

But today, TODAY, you have the opportunity to create some magical moments-- ones you and your teammates will forever cherish. And it's not luck you'll need, you've spent all season creating your own freaking fantastic luck.

Today is going to be the same as it has always been: 

Just you and the pool. 

Just you with your head in the water. 

So here is my advice:

Leave everything you have in that pool, because your heart will remain there forever, anyways.

Boiler Up + P2S. You are Pure Gold.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Thirty + Project Me

I may well be the only person on the planet who is excited to turn 30. Why? Because every year older I become, the better I know myself. Only in the last few years have I even decided that its important to figure out who I really am and what I need to be happy, which was a challenge in itself. Figuring out who you are is hard enough when it's only you-- but throw a husband and some babies into the mix and there are days you are lucky to get out of the house with pants on, let alone some "me-time."

this is thirty, folks!
But I'm doing it. I've been more myself in the past couple of years, than I think I was in all of the years before that combined. In your late teens and twenties I think most of us are very go with the flow-- whatever our peers are doing, that's what we do, too, without much conscious thought.

Thirty will be my most challenging year for sure. Baby girl will be here in the Spring so we'll be managing three littles for a summer before Henry starts Kindergarten (!) in the Fall. And I'm sure my husband will tell you-- I am a carefree, delight in the months following birth, with no added emotion or anxieties from pregnancy hormones. Just kidding. I'm a crazy person post-partum, but I wouldn't try and tell me that.

But a challenging year full of life, will ultimately teach me a lot more about myself, and I am grateful for that.

And while I hope to be on this Earth for a very long time-- with infinitely more wisdom to pass along as I age, no future is guaranteed, and so I'd like to share a little something with you now. I call it Project Me-- things I've developed for myself in the past year or so on my personal fulfillment and happiness quest. I seriously thank Yoga for these ideas-- I picked up practicing last Spring and the idea for Project Me came to me while I was on my yoga mat. Its really helped me be more mindful and present.
1. Start your bible. There's a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote that goes "Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet." I write down all of my favorite passages, and every quote that speaks to me-- whether it be from a book, a Pinterest post or song lyrics. Once I fill my first journal, I plan to organize them by category so I can easily reference all of the things that speak personally to me. From time to time I re-read everything I've written so far.

2. Create a mantra. Build a brief mantra-- maybe two or three sentences-- that you can repeat to yourself first thing in the morning, last thing at night, and anywhere you need it in between. Re-evaluate your mantra every few months and build it to be what you need it to be. Currently I'm repeating: "Be present, be grateful. You are this moment."

3. Create a checklist of happy. Write out a list of at least ten things that make you happy. The caveat: these must only involve you. Make a point of checking off each thing on the list at least once a week, or more depending on the activity. Some of the things that appear on my list: a cup of tea in our sun room, reading, blogging, yoga, gardening, going for a walk. It's so easy to NOT find time for the things you love-- so sometimes you have to make time!

4. 3 things. I keep a journal near my bed and every night write three things I could have done better or that I wish would have gone better today. This is a way for me to let things go. And then I write down three things I am going to do tomorrow, but I write them as if it's already happened. It's surprising how if I write something down, mentally commit to it, and picture that its already happened... how much I manage to accomplish the next day. Example, if today is Monday evening I would write: On Tuesday I got out of bed as soon as my alarm went off. I was a conscious parent throughout the day and managed to find 20 minutes of me-time in the afternoon with a book and a cup of tea. 

You see? I never did any of these things in the past, but somehow in the past year I put this together and realized what it takes to be the best ME. Can you imagine with a little more work how awesome I am going to be at 40?!

What methods do you use to maintain your happiness or achieve personal fulfillment? Maybe you'll help me to expand Project Me. I've thrown the idea around of building a private Facebook group around it (not selling anything-- just a place for women to bounce ideas off of one another in an organized matter.) If that's something you'd be interested in, shoot me a message!