Put a Bib on It


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Pumping Mama

Thoughts on being a working, pumping mamaThis is my second go around being a working, nursing, pumping mom.

My thoughts on that follow:

  1. It’s time consuming. We’re all busy. Home life is busy, work is busy, society in general is busy. Finding time is not easy. If you’re like me, you have found the ability to multitask while pumping: I can often be found writing work reports (or sometimes future blogs—where this one may have come to fruition) while my electric pump and hands-free pumping bra does the majority of the “work”!
  1. You’re tethered by a hose. Enough said.
  1. You may never feel sexy again. If you have ever seen what happens when a woman is attached to a pump, I’m certain you agree!
  1. It’s uncomfortable. For all you men out there reading this: it’s as uncomfortable as it looks.
  1. All you get is a storage room. If you’re like me, there is no designated space for a pumping mother at my work place. So, I get the pleasure of spending time in the storage closet in order to have some privacy. At least they let me keep a chair in there so I don’t always have to drag one in with me!
  1. Cleaning pump parts. You have just spent roughly 15-20 minutes pumping, do you really want to spend another 10 cleaning all the parts? If you’re like me you just throw them all in your cooler to save for cleaning later which, including all the bottles the baby used while you were away from them, leads to plenty of dishes every night.
  1. Your life is dictated by the schedule of your boobs. As if your life being dictated by a tiny human (or many tiny humans) isn’t tough enough. Skip a pump/feeding and the evidence will be there right on the front of your shirt.
  1. Car Pumping. For my job, I often travel around throughout the day. This means pumping must occur in my car. Not easy to do completely discretely. Thank God for hand-less pump bras and nursing covers!
  1. Lugging the pump and parts. EVERYWHERE. As if you don’t have enough to tote around by just having the baby. And what about those days you forget one little piece of the crazy contraption… ugh, guess you won’t pump that day (then you can refer to #7)!
  1. Counting ounces is stressful. Did I squeeze out enough? How much does the baby eat while I’m away? Should I try to pump a little longer? Ugh. The stress. And please tell me you did not spill a drop of that liquid gold!

Keep it up mama.  This too will pass.  And in some twisted way you might even miss it a little bit (like I did after I stopped nursing/pumping for my first—seriously though, now that I am back in the midst of it, what was I thinking?!) .

And even through all those undesirable and unattractive things that go along with pumping and nursing—there are a few positives that for me, outweigh my list above:

  1. Burn extra calories—who doesn’t love to eat an extra piece of candy every once in awhile!
  2. Decreased chances for breast cancer—I want to see the babies of my grandbabies and will do whatever I can to increase the chances of that!
  3. Ideal nutrition for my baby—I can even produce the antibodies my baby needs to fight off colds and give them to him through my milk. Wow—amazing!


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The Captain of Your Own Boat

BoatWe had a friend visit recently from Hawaii who is planning to sail around the world. We shared scouting and sailing stories for a while and as we sat he asked, “What it’s like being a dad?” Two things came to mind right away. First, I communicated that nothing else in my experience has been more rewarding, and being a parent has been such a blessing. Second, I shared the metaphor that being a dad was just like sailing and being the captain of your own boat. He nodded and knew exactly what I meant.

To be a good captain of a boat and to be able to sail around the world without many problems takes experience and practice. You prepare for the journey—not sure exactly how you will get there—but this is what you love and you know you can do it.

  • There are storms that you must face and long nights when you don’t get sleep. You need to budget all of your resources: sleep, money, time, and energy.
  • There are days that are easy when “the wind is strong” and you get a bunch of smiles and hugs. Some days have no wind and you’re stuck.
  • There are days when you feel like the work around the “boat” won’t ever be finished like the dishes or laundry.
  • You learn a lot about working together with the crew of a boat because they are your family. They might fight with you from time to time, but they are learning to really be independent and make their own decisions. Just like their captain has modeled and taught them.
  • The experiences will be so memorable that you could fill a hundred log books with memories.
  • Finally, the journey goes by so fast that you get to where you were going and he’s all grown up and ready to be captain of his own ship.

I don’t know what my parenting journey will bring as we move to the future, but I hope that I can be a good captain for my family. It was good to have a visitor come to our boat and remind me of what a blessing I have and the real responsibility that comes with being a dad. For now, I’m going to do my best to enjoy each day that I have with my crew.


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This Will Hurt Me More Than it Hurts You

dad and son2

My wife and I are blessed with our son. He generally sleeps well, eats well and is getting big and healthy. I enjoy his laughter and smiles as we play. We have begun to understand his “language”—and can usually figure out why he is fussy. He and I share conversations daily, and although I’m not sure we completely understand each other we both often have a smile on our face.

I feel like I am trying to model self-regulation and to learn how to be in control, but I’m not always the best model. Something that I don’t enjoy about fatherhood is watching my son get shots. I believe in the value and importance of getting vaccinated. I also remember that when I was about 7-years-old, I pushed away a nurse and ran from her because I wasn’t going to let her “hurt” me. So when it came time for my son to have his set of shots, I felt it was especially important to help him stay calm. This seemed easy since he had no idea what was going to happen. I soothingly told him that this will hurt a little and will be over quick. I told him that it will help him to stay healthy and that I love him very much.

The nurse instructed me to hold him down on the exam table. I looked down into his eyes and I felt like I had been prodded with a giant needle even though we hadn’t even started yet. I remember hearing the phrase, “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you,” growing up as a child. The look in his eyes when I knew he felt pain did seem to hurt me more than him. He didn’t cry at first but I had visions of being age 7 again, and I wanted to grab him up and run. I could see the pain in his eyes and held him close. He cried a little and I held and hugged him.

This has been a difficult experience. Several times in his first 3 months, Morgan also had to get blood drawn (not just a few drops). This process of feeling pain as I looked into his eyes as I held my son has gotten easier (I still haven’t given in to the urge to grab him up and run, at least.). Even though he is an infant, I like to think that my effort to self-regulate has been a good model and this has been an early step to self-regulation for him. I look forward to the other situations that will connect us as he grows up.


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Be Prepared

Be Prepared

Welcome Archer Thomas, 4C for Children professional development specialist—and new dad—to our blog team!

“Be prepared,” that’s the motto of the Boy Scouts and something I learned that is extremely important in life. My wife and I had talked a lot about having children and we wanted to be prepared to be great parents for our child. I thought about how I might feel and react to when we had the little plus sign. That day came last year, and even though I thought I was prepared, I wasn’t. When my wife came out of the bathroom and tried to fool me her eyes told me that I was going to be a dad. I was so overwhelmed by the feeling that I couldn’t hold in emotion and cried my first tears of joy that I couldn’t hold back.

Then all the questions began. What do we do now? Which doctor should we choose? What foods can’t you eat? How do we tell our parents? On and on we had so many questions. We are rather independent learners so we wanted to research much of this on our own. It didn’t take us long to discover that there are about as many opinions on child rearing as there are stars in the sky. It took some filtering, but what we soon discovered was that we really just needed to be calm, be patient, and be prepared to make our own decisions because ultimately we are going to be the people that are going to care, love and teach this new little person.

Asking questions of people such as doctors, nurses, and like-minded parents helped calibrate the needle on our compass so that we could follow this map of parenthood. My wife and I had to make the decisions on which direction to go so that we could get to that happy place of the healthy birth of our first child. We got turned around and had to rethink our direction a few times.

My wife is petite, and as her belly got larger her appetite grew and what she wanted to eat seemed to change every few minutes. She shared her worry about her weight and I did my best to support her. I was prepared for her belly, I’m a big guy and was a little happy to have someone else around that had a belly—even knowing that it was our child inside preparing to come out. As we progressed with making decisions we decided to learn the gender. The little screen at the office showed us the first pictures of our little boy. We both were happy to see him that first time and knew that we had so much to do to be prepared for him.

As we routinely visited the doctor and the expected date came closer and closer, we discovered some complications. We were scared and worried when the doctor said he would have to arrive early. Did we do something to cause this? Instead of a month left to prepare, we had two weeks. So many things were happening, but none as important as the health of a little boy that we hadn’t yet met. We were on the phone with the doctor’s office almost every day or so and after what seemed to be one hundred changes we met at the doctor’s office prepared. We were prepared for anything. The doctor said, “We need you at the hospital tonight and will deliver the next day.” I had my short list of things to get and had my ”Super Dad” shirt ready. We were off to the hospital and had our team of family and friends prepared for helping where needed.

The moment our son was born, I thought that I was prepared, but had to hand him to his mom. I didn’t want to let him go and can’t really describe how I felt. I wasn’t prepared for this love and blessing. It has been so overwhelming and wonderful.


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Talking or Teaching? Both!

Elli learningOne of the (many) great things about working at an organization focused on early childhood education when you’re a young parent is that you’re literally surrounded by child development experts. I have the chance to ask questions around the lunch table about my daughter’s development and get input from other parents—who also happen to have master’s degrees in this exact field. It’s a pretty lucky place to be.

The other day, I was talking about my daughter’s ever-expanding vocabulary, which fascinates both my husband and me. It seems like Elliot says new words every day and her ability to “connect the dots” is the most interesting to watch.

We haven’t taught her where her nose is, or to show us her feet or touch her hair. But those are all things that she knows the answer to. It you ask her where her feet are, she’ll sit down and try to lift them both in the air to show you—it’s adorable.

As I was sharing this story and my amazement that she knew these things, one of my early childhood colleagues gently said, “Tara. You did teach her that. You taught her that by talking to her everyday and telling her what you’re doing while you do it. When you tell her that you are brushing her hair, you help her learn where her hair is.”

Whoa. We talk to Elliot all the time and I knew it was what we were supposed to be doing. I knew it would ultimately help her language development, and we even use “grown-up words” when we talk to her to help her learn. I really didn’t realize how much she was picking up while we were doing that, though.

I saw it again this morning when I looked out the window and said, “Elliot—look outside. It’s raining today.” She held her hand out like an adult does when they are trying to see if it’s raining or not. “What is she doing?” my husband asked, and I had to laugh. She’s testing for rain—because every morning before we get in the car, we walk out onto the driveway and talk about if it’s warm or cold today, and if it’s raining, I always stick my hand out to show her that it is.

As parents, especially of young children, we don’t always get to see the immediate impact of our parenting actions. In this instance, however, I can see it clearly and it’s amazing.

And it’s probably time to start paying close attention to what we’re saying and doing around her, or my guess is that our little parrot will soon be repeating something we don’t want her to repeat—and probably in front of her grandparents!


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Two Years of Parenting Paradoxes

Birthdays are bittersweetIt happened. My baby turned 2. We celebrated the special day and I cried. I don’t even know why. Tears of sadness because he is getting older or tears of happiness because he is growing up?! I know—those are both pretty much the same thing— I’m confused too.

I actually feel like everything in my life related to being a parent is essentially one paradox after another.

It started in the hospital. Soon after my baby was born, the initial exhaustion of childbirth set in. All I could think about was taking a nap. Thankfully, I have an extremely helpful and supportive husband who encouraged me to do just that. He took care of the baby while I got the rest that my body so badly needed. Even to this day if I have had a long day at work or just need a little nap my husband encourages me to take a break and get the rest I need. Then I wake up and instantly feel guilty for napping and missing quality time I could have spent with my baby. The same goes for date nights, baby-free shopping trips and girls’ nights. I know I need a break from motherhood once in a while but I always feel guilty for missing the time I could have spent with him.

Nearly every evening I look forward to bedtime, practically counting the minutes down until we start the bedtime routine and I get to sit down and rest. Then, every night after I tuck him in and he falls asleep I miss him and have a strong urge to wake him back up.

I spend hours trying to make sure my son is clean and presentable when we go out in public, however I often end up leaving with food stains on my own shirt and my unwashed hair in a bun.

Sometimes all I want is a little bit of peace and quiet. Then I get the silence I have been praying for and instantly fear and concern set in and I go into a panic about why it is so quiet.

Nursing was a year-long commitment for me. As we neared the end of our breastfeeding journey, I felt a sense of excitement and joy. I couldn’t wait to have my body back. Then, after it was over and the milk had all dried up I was sad and longed to have him nurse again.

Every weekend I pray that my baby will sleep past 7:30 a.m. But, every time it happens, I lie wide awake in bed checking the baby monitor constantly and wondering if he is OK!

I looked forward to the day my baby could walk. Then the day came and I envied the days when he couldn’t walk and I could actually still catch him without breaking into a run myself.

I willed my baby for months to say “mama”. We practiced it often and celebrated when he said it. Now 90 percent of what comes out of his mouth is “mama, mama, MAma, MAMA, MAMA!!!” Ugh—why must he say my name like that over and over and over and over?

And seriously, how is it possible that every day I love him with the most love I could possibly love him, but the next day I love him even more?

Isn’t being a mother the most confusing thing you have ever done?!


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Real vs. Ideal

real vs idealChildhood is messy.

It seems like that really ought to be a given, but the lovingly curated play rooms of Pinterest, with their mint chevron accents, and the merry, candid family photographs complete with color-coordinated sibling ensembles insist otherwise. Just Google “nursery” and prepare to experience the parenting fail. You know the sorts of images I mean. While they can be really quite fun to deconstruct, they also dominate the cultural picture of contemporary childhood. With these pristine images in mind, it can be hard to reconcile oneself to the cat hair stuck to the baby’s watermelon dribbled chin, her romper dingy from scooting around on a floor you can’t remember mopping this month.

I try to be realistic about my mothering, but I’m also seriously enamored of the lovely, playful, ever-elusive aesthetic that seems like it should be attainable – admittedly with an unlimited budget and very few children around to muck it up. It’s just pretty. I arrange wooden toys for my girls to knock down. My husband and I built an a-frame tent that regularly collapses from too much rough play. Miss E could find a way to messily consume a bowl of dry cereal, let alone the ears to toes festival that is spaghetti and meatballs. I’m lucky if I brush her long hair in the morning, let alone sweep it artfully up with a bow that matches her dress… and her sister’s, too.

I have to learn not only to give in to the mess, but the kitsch, the chaos, the ugly stuff of childhood. Miss E dresses herself and is every bit the ragamuffin I was as a girl; a thin layer of grime persists on her hands, face, and clothes no matter how frequently I wipe her down. Some days she prefers a BPA-laden plastic trinket from the dollar store to her Waldorf-aspiring doll collection. Little Sister pukes her way through three outfits a day and is still inexplicably damp when we’re about to show ourselves in public. No amount of vacuuming – let alone what I’m willing to do – can keep their bedroom rugs from boasting glitter, lint, and icky tangles of shed hair.

I’m challenging myself to love these images of childhood, too, because they’re not an ideal. They’re real. They bear the indelible marks of play, of zeal, of little lives lived fully.

Besides, I’ll take a (chocolate) mint chevron smeared on a chubby, flushed cheek any day.