life, Parenting

What’s Different With Nursing the Second Time ‘Round

First off, let me say that I am horrible at making titles. In college I always thought that was the hardest part of the writing assignment. I always feel like there is a catchier way to call attention to what I wrote…but instead I just list out the subject. Oh well. that is not the point today.

I just had baby 2.0 a few weeks ago. I had been meaning to make another post before the birth to update the few family and friends who read this blog, but I just didn’t have the steam to do so. I spent a lot of extra time with my first at home, trying to relish the relative sanity of having just ONE kid in the house to keep track of. If you can even call having a three year old boy in the house “sane.”

Anyways, with my first, the entire process was dramatic. The pregnancy was rough, my mental state before and after the delivery was pretty much rife with [undiagnosed] psychosis and mental anguish (no, not exaggerating). My firstborn was also whisked away to the NICU immediately and so nursing got off with a rather rocky start–no skin to skin bonding time and I didn’t get a chance to nurse until more than 24 hours after the birth. And trying to use the hospital grade electric pump was horrifying, to say the least. It didn’t give me a very good picture of what feeding my child breastmilk would be like. In retrospect, I was setting myself up for failure at the getgo, even though at the time I actually *wanted* (desperately) to breastfeed my baby.

So with my oldest, nursing pretty much sucked, and not in a good way. It was so hard to keep up my milk supply. I had no visit from the Lactation Consultant in the hospital since it was Thanksgiving and everyone was off for the holiday. The NICU was pretty much nonchalant and didn’t care that I wanted to breastfeed; I walked in the first time to hold my baby, about six hours after delivery, only to find a pacifier in his mouth. Needless to say latch on was super hard after that. It took many weeks to get it right and I do believe it was due to the fact that the hospital gave him a hard, plastic fake nipple to suck on in his first hours of life. To make the first nursing moments even MORE awkward, I received assistance with my boobs from a MALE nurse who was on duty in the NICU, and while he was very kind to me, he was also a man, who, you know, doesn’t have any boobs.

I also had to return to work just a few weeks after having my first son. I was gone many hours a day and unable to pump enough milk and we had to supplement. A LOT of supplementing, not enough time to nurse, and having my boobs reject all variety of breast pumps made nursing pretty much HELL IN A HANDBASKET.

So this time around I had mega anxiety about breastfeeding. In fact, I did NOT want to do it at all. For weeks I walked around with dread and a ball of anxiety in my gut. But knowing what I know about the health benefits for baby AND mom, I knew I *had* to try. Preventing the horrid postpartum depression and psychosis I suffered from last time is my number one priority, aside from, you know, keeping my kids alive and stuff. And I do know that ain’t no one happy if the mama ain’t happy.

I have read that nursing exclusively, even in just the first few weeks, helps the postpartum mother physically recover faster. It also releases a hormone called oxytocin, pretty much forcing your mind to love that baby, even if all else feels like a rotten ball of shit because you haven’t slept in days. So I’ve been nursing. And more nursing. Nurse, nurse, nurse. ALL. THE. TIME. (Or, every one to two hours.)

And you know what? It sucks, but in a good way. Baby 2.0 is a good nurser, and my previous experience with latch issues and milk supply has made this time around so much easier. The first ten days or so was pretty painful as I dealt with a loose latch and possibly a bit of a tongue-tie, but the Lactation Consultant reassured me that I have “good gear.” Meaning, large nipples that aren’t flat or inverted. She also reminded me that baby’s mouth will grow and with some time and perseverance, the pain should subside and it *will* become the beautiful bonding experience I wanted to be.

And so far, it is. I believe the initial suckling and skin to skin contact within the first hour after birth also helped. The delivery also was fast and uneventful, leaving me virtually unscathed as soon as the epidural wore off. They (whoever that is) all say that each pregnancy is different and each baby is different. Yes, it’s annoying cliche advice that every experienced parent gives out…but you know what? It’s damn true.

Sure, there are moments when I don’t like it. Like when 2.0 likes to chew on my nipple with his (amazingly hard) gums. Or when he has gas that I can’t get out of him and he shakes his head and cries with my nipple in his mouth. (OUCHHHHH!!!) Or even when I am sick to death of sitting on the couch with the damn boppy pillow and just want to get up and dance with kid 1.0 or take a shower or leave the house to get milk ALONE. So yeah, sometimes it isn’t fun. But mostly, it is OK. I am dealing with it, my baby is thriving, and, probably most exciting for me, is that I have dropped all the weight I gained during the pregnancy. I am back down to a normal-ish size AND I feel really good. Like, really, really good.

So I write this for any woman who hates nursing like I did. I write this so you know that you CAN do it. Maybe the first time it sucked like it did for me. Maybe you are dreading it and are contemplating not doing it at all. Formula is not evil, after all; lots of people formula feed and their kids grow up smart and healthy. I just want you to know that I get it. I truly do. But I also know that it can also be good. So give it a go, if you want.

And if it doesn’t work? Don’t beat yourself up about it. Remember that your happiness and health are important too. And how you feed your baby is YOUR choice. No one else should have a say except YOU.

Cheers mamas! *raises boob in friendly toast*

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Family, life, Travel

My TOP Pieces Of Advice To Take On Your Disney Vacation

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of pins for planning a Disney trip in my Pinterest feed. There are undoubtedly numerous resources on the ‘net for tips on the best possible Disney trip. The place is truly EXPENSIVE and most people don’t have the luxury of going multiple times, so naturally a lot of people want to make the most of it. And having just been for the first time as an adult with my own kids, I have a few pearls of wisdom for you.

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1. You can’t do it all. Let me repeat that: YOU CAN’T DO IT ALL. Yes, you spent a ton of cash on theme park tickets and you splurged on a Park Hopper pass, but seriously, give yourself a break. I read countless articles before going on our trip that advised taking a day off from visiting the parks just to relax by the pool or to visit the different resort hotels, which are a sight to see in and of themselves. I told my husband he was nuts to buy theme park tickets for all seven days we were there, but he did it anyway. And you know what? We burned out. I was ready to go home at day three. This is also partly due to the fact that we were also traveling with his family who we don’t get to see very often, so naturally my husband wanted to spend a lot of time doing what they wanted to do. But this leads me to my next point.

2. Don’t travel with a big group and expect to have your own plans or any private time as a family. It seems like the most magical place on earth would be the best place to meet up with rarely seen family members, but the fact of the matter is that if you are not willing to take a break (as mentioned above) there really is no time to spend together to catch up. I don’t consider traipsing around a stupid amusement park for hours on end to be quality time spent with Grandma and Grandpa from Timbuktu. Especially when some of your group is under five and hasn’t had a proper nap or night of sleep in six or seven days. It’s just not a good combo. So if you wanna meet up with your remote family members in Orlando, that is fine, but PLEASE DO take tip one to heart and take a day off for relaxing and maybe some good quality face-to-face time.

3. Do let your little ones determine what the plan will be for the day, and BE FLEXIBLE. Again, this is hard when you have a large group to deal with, but when it comes to your own sanity and the sanity of your younger travelers, realize that going back to the hotel to nap or swim might be a good idea, even if that means you “waste” money that you spent to buy the ridiculously over-priced park tickets. I’ve heard from a few Disney expert bloggers that the witching hour is around 3 o’clock and let me tell you, THEY ARE RIGHT. I was of the mind on our trip that since my son doesn’t get to see his grandparents and cousin very much that we would skip the naps and regular bed times. This was a mistake. Not only do I feel like it ruined my son’s good time, but it also made me feel like a horrible parent since I was also at my wits end and just NOT having a good time on this trip that was supposed to be such a grand old time. If you have older kids, then I think this is definitely not so much of an issue, since my niece was also traveling with us, but as an 11 year old, I didn’t see too many meltdowns from her. So basically, if you’ve got little kids with you, PLEASE, base your day on what you think their needs are, and if that means you have to send the rest of the crew off to have the fun while you take the little bambino back to the hotel, then by all means, DO SO. You will be refreshed enough that later you can meet up with your crew again and have an enjoyable evening, instead of dragging a screaming monster around like a miniature zombie in a cart.

4. Don’t waste money on a dining plan. Surely there will be a lot of naysayers to this tip, but let me give you my reasons for this. The dining plans are EXPENSIVE and I feel the value that you get for snacks and quick service meals is not that great. Table service meals are a different story and I do feel like as long as it isn’t a two-point meal, I think that getting a table service meal is definitely your best value in the dining plan. But the snacks are only about $3 a piece, and mostly consist of crappy junk food and sweets that no one has any business eating multiple times a day. At least, I personally didn’t want to fill up on copious amounts of sugar and other garbage when all my body really wanted was a good salad and a ton of fresh tasting water. Quick service meals are essentially FAST FOOD only, that come automatically with a desert. Let me tell you, after being forced to eat some nasty circus food, the last thing I want is a huge giant desert to go with it. A quick service meal value is about $15, and it mostly consisted of food I didn’t want to begin with. If I didn’t have the dining plan, I would have been free to purchase what I wanted to eat and drink a la carte, instead of feeling like I was just throwing cash in the garbage can if I didn’t order the biggest platter of garbage I could find, just to make up the fact that I pre-paid $60 for meals that are not that great in the first place.  So unless you love to eat copious amounts of crap for days on end, I’d really suggest spending your money on table service and buying what you want for breakfast, lunch or snacks throughout the day. I would have much rather spent the money we used on crappy quick service to buy the extra large bottles of water and maybe some overpriced fruit. Instead, I felt compelled to order the most expensive grease-ball things so that I could get the value out of my plan. There were even some days I didn’t use my snack or quick service so I ended up wasting a LOT of money on unclaimed food. Also, keep in mind that ALL meals on the dining plan are shared with your group. So if you take a trip like we did with five extra people, it becomes hard to keep track of who is getting what meal or snack. It’s already an expensive enough trip without wasting money on stuff you yourself are not going to consume.

4. Character meals are really, really valuable. If you do end up going with the dining plan, DEFINITELY make reservations for a character meal or two. Here is why. At a character meal, you get guaranteed time and autographs from your favorite characters, thus eliminating the hour long wait to see Mickey and Co. in the parks. Believe me, even with Fast Passes, you definitely will spend enough time waiting and waiting and waiting in line for rides and to meet beloved characters. So, with or without the dining plan, make that Character meal reservation! Your kids and feet will thank you for that.

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5. Beware the Magic Bands. I know everyone is all super stoked about these stupid bracelets and how cute they are and easy to use and whatnot. In theory, they should make it easier. However, in practice, they are worthless pieces of garbage. These bands supposedly make everything you need included right on your wrist: theme park tix, dining plan meals, room key, charging capabilities. Let me tell you, three out of the seven days I went to the parks, my “Magic” Band did  not work, and since I didn’t bring my Key To The World with me since I assumed the “Magic” Band would work, I literally had to have 39 employees helping me get into the park every single time. It took several days for my dining plan to work on my Band, and numerous times I was locked out of my room and had to take the bus 20 minutes to the front desk to have them reactivate it or whatever it is they did to the stupid thing to make it open the door. In a nutshell, the Magic Bands wasted a LOT of our precious vacation time, because not only did we have to argue to get into the parks and to use the dining plan, and waste time going back and forth to the front desk, but we also had to spend a lot of time in our resort lobby getting dining plan fees reversed, since some meals were paid for with money since the dumb Magic Bands were not actually linked to the ridiculous Dining Plan. (Just another reason NOT to prepay for your meals at Disney!) So if you get a Key to the World when you check in, bring that along even if you have the Magic Bands, ’cause let me tell ya, those Magic Bands are NOT so magical.

Honestly, I’m no expert on Disney, just a regular mom that noticed a lot of things that could have been better on this way expensive trip to Disney World. I spent all this time researching my trip and instead of following the advice given, I let my trip be ruined by not putting my foot down for the sake of my own sanity. If I had it to do over again, I’d take some of these things into major consideration, because in retrospect, even though my two (almost three) year old had a good time in general, I feel that the many thousands of dollars spent on this “magical” week could have been better spent on a few trips to visit the far-away grands, instead of a week of hurried frenzy that did not actually result in much quality time at all. Just try to make the most of it in terms of what is right for YOUR family, and don’t be swayed by the pressure of getting your money’s worth and pushing yourself to the limit.

To quote one of my favorite characters, “to infinity and beyond!” Go enjoy that trip, give yourself a break, and don’t forget to try and make it a fun vacation for YOU too!

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art, German Schtuff, life, Travel

East Side Gallery Berlin-Remnants of the Past

In case you didn’t know, I studied for two summers in Berlin, Germany at Humboldt University. (I actually kept a blog the second year and it still exists! Short but sweet, I lost momentum quickly since getting to the computer lab was sporadic and I wanted to be out in the city, not sitting in a stuffy room at Uni.)

Humboldt University Berlin, July 2008

The program was a cultural and linguistic immersion, four weeks packed with language classes, phonetics training, and cultural and extracurricular activities. Best two trips of my life, needless to say. And not only did I learn German, I got to know Berlin. It is a city with a rich, deep and painful history.

berlin at dusk

Size and population-wise, Berlin reminds me a lot of Chicago. Big, broad, busty, bold, with a river running through it. This is likely why I feel so at home there. But Chicago is much younger and was not destroyed by World War II and, probably most importantly, was never a focal point of Cold War communism.

The modern, reunited Berlin still carries the scars of a city whose transitions have caused literal worlds to be turned upside-down. Or right-side up, depending on what side of the wall you happened to be on.
As such, Berlin’s art reflects these scars, these revolutions.

One of my favorite things about my time in Berlin is the fact that I had plenty of opportunity to see such large icons of historical significance, such as what was left of the Wall at East Side Gallery. So I was quite sad to hear from a dear friend in Berlin the fate of this special section of the wall. I feel like a piece of my own past is there too, since my time in Berlin had such a profound impact on me.

The entire story of the wall is fascinating, from how quickly it went up in 1961 to how quickly it came crashing down one evening in 1989. Of course, all the reasons the Wall even existed were so wrought with tension that it is no surprise that after reunification die Mauer became a prominent canvas for political art.

die mauer

 

The largest open-air art gallery in the world, the East Side Gallery commemorates and remembers the extreme political tensions of two sides, East and West, and not just in the name of Berlin, the city, but as two sectors of the entire world. This is globalism before the Internet, folks.

die mauer 3

So it is quite sad to me that in the middle of the night sometime in March that contractors removed a section of the Wall in order to pave a road leading to an eventual luxury apartment complex.

Taking down what is left of the Berlin Wall for the sake of a capitalistic pursuit seems, so, well, American. I realize that great minds have likely planned every detail of this venture, and I am sure it wasn’t a hasty decision, given that this is Germany we are talking about, after all. But it also feels so wrong to replace it with fancy condos.

Sometimes I am hesitant for change. This is human, I think. Other times, I want to change everything. I miss Berlin, I miss the life I was planning to make there, I miss who I am and how I feel about myself there. Which is completely different than how I feel at home, stateside. Lately I’ve been feeling really nostalgic for that time I spent abroad and resentful that life changed so suddenly that I had to completely re-organize my plans to teach and study abroad for grad school. I love my family and I am still getting used to this motherhood thing, but I am so strapped for time I feel this part of me slipping away. So somehow this change in Berlin also kind of marks a symbolic end to my time there.

And that is why the removal of the East Side Gallery makes me tear up.

Berlin, ich hab’ dich Lieb!

My last days in Berlin. Hugging the Brandenburg Gate. Berlin, 2008

My last days in Berlin. Hugging the Brandenburg Gate. Berlin, 2008

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life, rant, Work

10 Lessons I’ve Learned About College *After* Graduation

 

  1. Unless you are in the health sciences, engineering, or IT field, you can probably just forget about a job with a living wage unless you go back for a Masters or PhD.

  2. I just spent a ridiculously insane amount of money to make $10 an hour at Target, Starbucks, or the like.

  3. According to (and because of) #2, I will probably pay my student loans off in my 70s. And I don’t even have half as much debt as most students do who attend elite or upper level schools.

  4. I am “overqualified” for most jobs that I could technically “qualify” for (again, see #2).

  5. Everyone who told me to study languages was not completely out of line that I’d have a useful skill. I can now sit at home and make foreign language memes for the internetz to enjoy, free of charge.nein grumpy cat

  6. Starting/having a family while trying to begin a career or pursue a long-term intellectual goal (such as writing) is pretty much impossible.

  7. Because #5 is in my face every single day, I weep a little for all the Women’s studies classes I took, wherein I learned that the modern woman can have it all, eventually crashing the glass ceiling.

  8. If I pursue the Master’s degree I wanted when I first went back to college, I will probably never pay my loans off before I die.

  9. Being a stay-at-home-parent while my husband works full-time pays more than any job I could potentially get with my fancy-pants expensive, liberal arts degree, if I were not actually so “over-qualified.”

  10. Unemployment deferment is only 36 months.

 

 

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life, rant

Rockin Romnesia

Hello all,

In the spirit of the upcoming election and my recent irritation with any and ALL things republican, please enjoy this little ditty. Feel free to share too, when you think you know someone who might enjoy it.

The piano player is my dad and the sax guy is a friend. They make a great combo and there are more duets on my dad’s You Tube page, which you can check out here.

Kind regards,

Michaela

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Books, DIY, life, Parenting

The elusive Ikea Bekvam

I did it. I found it.

Ikea Bekvam spice rack. In it’s natural habitat.

It was lovely and glorious to spot them there on the bottom shelf, a torn box of five shoved to the back, as if hiding from the next poacher.

So I caught them and took them home, and now I am endlessly perusing the ‘netz for book nook ideas for Ben’s room. Because I too am going to poach them for their exquisite functionality.

Pictures of the finished reading nook/area to follow, once I actually complete the project. Which could be a week or a month. Heh.

Check out Modern Parents Messy Kids’ book-nook roundup for your own inspiration.

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DIY, German Schtuff, life

Twist One Up: Schultuete

Mini School Cones at KinderCone.com

I’ve been missing Germany lately. I’ve also been feeling a little bummed that I’m no longer in school myself, and therefore have no reason to buy new pens and clips and notebooks. Oh, I do love fresh school supplies and the beginning of a new semester.

So when I stumbled across a picture of Kinder Cones on Facebook, I got a bit inspired.

Literally translated, Schultuete means school bag; Schule = school and Tuete = bag.
Basically, it’s a cardboard cone filled with treats. Traditionally, they consisted only of sweets (Suessigkeiten), earning the cone an alias of Zuckertuete (Zucker = sugar).

Child with Schultuete, 1953, Wikipedia

The tradition (reaching back to the late 1800s) is that parents present the child with a cone on his or her first day of first grade (Einschulung), which in Germany is the year that kids begin their formal elementary school education. (The American parallel to this is Kindergarten.) The ritual is so popular that many little ones look eagerly forward to their Schultuete.

Some parents choose to continue the tradition beyond the first grade, making it a time to also provide the student with other basics they need at back-to-school time, like socks or clothing. They also don’t stick exclusively to candies for fillings; Schultuete can also contain cool new school supplies and maybe some small toys. A great way to bring a little cheer to saying goodbye to summer vacation, if you ask me.

I love filling Christmas stockings and making Easter baskets, so naturally this tradition is one I plan on starting with my little guy. But,we are nowhere near  Kindergarten! My niece is, however, in fourth grade. This is typically a little older if we were sticking with the tradition (er, rule?). But fourth grade is still big news so I’m happy to take the opportunity to celebrate with this Schultuete tutorial.

 

Supplies.

 

What You’ll Need:

Paper, card stock, or poster board, depending on the size cone you want to make

Double stick tape

Invisible tape

The loot.

 

Tissue paper

Decorations

Small bit of ribbon or yarn

Candy, trinkets, school supplies, etc.

 

 

 

 

Twisting it up.

Take the paper or poster board and twist  into a cone shape. Make a nice sharp point by inserting your hand into the cone.

Tape it down on the outside. Then tape the inside so it doesn’t uncurl on itself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I cut this point off, but you could leave it alone too, it’s purely a personal preference.

You’ll likely be left with an awkward point on top from rolling a square or rectangle into the cone. You can leave it alone, but I cut mine off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then I started the decorating process.

Making the top.

To make a traditional top, I lined the inside rim of the cone at the top with double stick tape. Then I took a sheet of coordinating tissue paper and just stuck it in around the edge.

Now you have a cone with tissue sticking out.

 

 

 

 

 

Apply stickers or whatever trimmings you like to the outside of the cone. I used foam letter stickers I had in my stash from Valentine’s day and a matching little flower embellishment to spell out my niece’s name.

My decorated cone, waiting for treats.

Now for the super fun part. The fillings!

Filling it!

Topped off with a Ring Pop and a note 🙂

Tie the top with a ribbon…

Tie it closed.

and now you have a Schultuete for your little student!

The finished school cone!

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