Show your mama some love

Hey hey, it’s mother’s day!

What are you getting for that special lady in your life? I know, it’s a dumb hallmark holiday, but you bet I’m taking advantage. I’m writing this post to help you find mother’s day gifts that don’t suck. NO BATH BOMBS, husbands. NO BATH BOMBS. And also to assist my own husband in finding me the perfect gift. I don’t want him to stress out too much.

What can I say, I’m a giver.

Time alone

Take the baby and give her some time to herself. To do … whatever.

Yoga. Binge on Netflix. Stare blankly into space.

My dream life.

Sleep. Sit at a coffee shop and slowly sip a latte and leisurely read a book. Pee alone. Cook or do laundry without ‘help’. Literally, whatever.

Note: This is the gift I want most pretty much all the time, but this won’t work for all mamas. We all have different comfort levels around how soon and how long we can be away from the baby. You probably know where the mama in your life falls on the spectrum; if not, ask her partner.

Time with you

If your mother is not a NEW mother, meaning if you’re not a baby, give her the gift of your presence. Take her to lunch, take her for a massage, most importantly, BE NICE TO HER.

Or, if she recently became a grandma, give her the baby and GET OUT OF THE WAY.

 

Instant MILF Milk Bath!

Ahah I know, I just said don’t give her bath stuff. But, there’s an exception to every rule. Becky sent me these (delicious, hilarious) milk baths and the sheer joy I experienced reading the names and descriptions was as good as that soak.

Donate to a political candidate that won’t punish her for being a mother.

I’m a little enraged by all this healthcare business. All I can say is, take care of mothers by literally helping to make sure mothers get taken care of. If you don’t have the cash money to give, then use your voice to speak up for women and mothers.

Shit Tote

Because we’re just up to our elbows all the time. Might as well throw some rainbows behind it.

There you have it, my no bullshit guide to mother’s day gifts. Sorry for all the shouting. I don’t know what came over me.. oh, no wait, I do, I wrote this on the same day this tweet came true:

Once I simmer down, I’ll be back to share the story of my first mother’s day, which involves public nudity and urination committed by an adult.

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Oops I did it again

Not many people know this about me, but I have technically finished a half marathon before.

This was four or five years ago. A good friend of mine, who has a suspicious talent for convincing people to do things they ordinarily wouldn’t do, asked me to sign up with her. Her sister—an actual runner—was coming into town for the San Francisco Marathon, and my friend was signing up in solidarity.

“But,” she promised, “We’ll just walk the first mile or so, then we’ll duck out for brunch.”

This was exactly my kind of half marathon. I registered, and instead of training for the race or even opening the information emails, I spent the weeks leading up to the race carefully inspecting Google maps and Yelp for brunch places along the route. I wanted to have options, because getting a brunch table in SF can be a total shitshow. Especially on big event weekends.

Race day rolled around and I dutifully found my friend at the start line after almost not getting my bib. Because no, I hadn’t gone to packet pickup; I had to track down some frazzled event organizer just moments before the event started.

We started running along the Embarcadero and through the gray fog and among the thousands of people who had turned out for the event. Those first few miles were exhilarating. I loved the energy, the feeling of being part of something, the flatness of that part of the course, and, of course, imagining just how many pastries I’d be able to eat thanks to a supercharged appetite.

“Shall we duck out now?” I remember asking as we ran through the Marina. Plenty of good brunch options there!

“Let’s just go a little farther,” my friend said.

We repeated that conversation several more times before it hit home that we weren’t really ducking out for brunch.

I’d been had.

We kept going. Up and over the Golden Gate, and back again. Through the Presidio. By the ocean. At some point, my pace devolved into a limping walk. All my training had taken place in front of a computer and in search of pancakes, and it showed.

I won’t go into too many details about the meltdown that was the last half of that race. Let’s just say, we made it across the finish line long after the last of the promised Irish coffees had been doled out. Womp.

I learned a few key things that foggy morning in San Francisco, and they had plenty of time to soak into my soul while we waited, shivering, in the long line for the bus back to our cars. (Clearly, this story is pre-Lyft).

Lessons:

  • Don’t fall for the brunch bait
  • Don’t start a race you have neither intention nor ability to finish

I’m sharing this story because once again I’ve been strong armed into signing up for a half marathon. This time, it wasn’t bacon; it was beer that got me to enter my credit card information.

A (different) friend has convinced me to sign up for the Shiner half marathon in, you guessed it, Shiner, Texas. I hear there is abundant beer at the finish line. And to make sure I make it there before they run out, I’ve also signed up for a training program with Rogue Runners (who the fuck am I, right now?).

All that said, here’s why I’m really doing it: not for the bacon, not for the booze: for my baby. Err, one of my babies. The not-human one. The business baby.

That sounds weird.

Moving on.

You see, ever since we started Fit Approach, I’ve been an enthusiastic crew member, cheerleader, and sympathetic beer drinker at races and other run-focused events.

I’ll even get up really, really early for ultra marathon start lines.

I’ve been to enough of them—and have enough spent time with runners—that, in critical moments, I can reasonably pretend to be a person who runs.

The beer mile is my best event.

Like, in business meetings, while working expo booths, etc.

Eating Doritos in a van counts as training, right?

I’m kind of tired of pretending. And also, we’re hosting our first-ever race & yoga weekend this summer, and I want to be a part of it. I felt such amazing energy surrounded by complete strangers in those first few miles of my doomed half, I can’t imagine the high that would come from spending time with my community, for a race I was actually prepared for.

So, yes, I’m training for a half marathon in November. But the real reason I’m hitting the pavement is because come August, I plan to walk the walk. (Run the run?). Maybe not a half – we’ll see how the training goes – but definitely for the 10k. It’ll be the farthest I’ve ever run.

Join me? 

And, since you’ve made it this far (a marathon unto itself!), you definitely deserve a discount. FLEXANDFLOW for 20% off, y’all.

See you at the finish line, and ALL WEEKEND LONG. <3

 

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Sleep and weird juju past life shit

After coming clean about just how not-picture-perfect our sleep is, I found myself buttressed on all sides by solidarity from my community. It feels good. Almost even better than the first cup of coffee in the morning: just knowing I’m not alone, this is normal, that Mac will find her way to longer periods of sleep in her own precious time.

I then ran across this article, which only solidified that feeling of being at peace with this current reality:

Ignore the chorus telling you you’re doing it all wrong and you need to wean or leave them to cry or sleep train or give them solids or get a sleep consultant or perform some weird juju past life shit on them because if you don’t you’re not “respecting their need to sleep”.

(Yes, I’ve been told that too – and it’s bullshit).

Ignore it. You’re doing great. This will pass I promise. It’s long and hard and awful (so, so awful) but you’re not alone.

You’re not a martyr – that favourite word to attack sleep deprived mothers with – you’re just trying your best.

I see you trying.

You’ll sleep soon.

So will they.

via The Spinoff

I highly recommend the whole thing. It literally brought me to tears, and I don’t think I can entirely blame the sleep deprivation or my (still elevated?) hormones for the weepiness. Sometimes it just feels so good to be seen and validated.

Speaking of which, here’s another post about baby sleep that might make you feel better if you’re in the thick of it right now. I read this one originally before I became a parent and before I had any awareness of high-stakes arena of the Sleep Training Games, and this paragraph stuck with me:

The thing is: babies aren’t convenient. They don’t fit our adult schedules. They shit and throw food all over. They need a great deal of time and attention and sacrifice and love. But they’re not supposed to be convenient. They’re babies. They’re growing like crazy and their bellies are tiny and they may need to eat more often than every 12 hours. They need to be cuddled and touched and loved. They need to be responded to, cared for, met with tenderness. And I feel certain that one day we will look back at “sleep training” (even that phrase makes me crazy, like you’re training a cat to pee in a litter box or something) as a terrible, psychologically-damaging socio-cultural error.

via Rachel Meyer Yoga

No matter where you or your little ones fall on the sleep question, here’s to finding our way through the long dark nights and the too-bright days.

 

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Pump’n’Go: your guide to mobile milk-making

Whenever people (ahem, men) express anxiety about pooping in public or in a new place, I have to admit my sympathy is pretty limited.

Pooping anxiety ain’t got nothing on pumping anxiety.

First of all, everyone accepts that people need a place to go to the bathroom. Dedicated places to pump, on the other hand, are few and far between. With pooping, there’s no lugging equipment around. When you find a spot, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be private; the chance (at least in the developed world) that you’ll have to pull out your goods and sit there basically naked for 20 minutes or more is pretty much nonexistent. The only thing you have to wash afterward is your hands. You don’t have to find a way to store your output and keep it on ice.

As a breastfeeding mama who travels quite a bit, and is a travel nomad — meaning I usually am not visiting an office where I can leave my stuff or hide out in a private room with my pump, I’ve had to get creative about where to take care of business.

My lessons learned are definitely not a complete guide to this inevitably stressful situation, but I hope they’ll help if you’re traveling without your baby and need to pump on the go.

What to bring

  • Your pump. (DUH, I know). But double check that all the pieces are there; I had a pumping emergency when I arrived at our retreat and realized the tubing was missing from my pump. Luckily a fellow mama there let me use hers, and I was able to avoid a true boob emergency.
  • Pump wipes. You won’t always have access to a place to wash your accessories, so I carry these wipes for on-the-go cleaning. I’m pretty sure they’re just repackaged baby wipes, so you could also just snag some from your LO’s diaper bag rather than buying yet another niche product.
  • Milk bags. I love these bags for pumping on the go because they take up so much less space in your bag and then cooler. The Medela ones come with little adapters for your pump so you can pump directly into the bags.
  • Ziplocs: the milk bags are notoriously leak-prone. I seal them inside ziploc bags for safer, drier travel.
  • Lunchbox or other small cooler. True story: my husband used my pumping needs as an excuse to buy a Yeti, but holy hell that thing is a bear to drag around. I carry a lightweight lunch box cooler with me, and try to transfer to the fridge, freezer, or Yeti as soon as possible. I’m constantly asking for ice from Starbucks or other casual food joints. Most of them will just fill up your cooler if you ask, and not charge you the 10 cents or whatever, especially if the barista is a woman.
  • Blanket scarf: something to hide the ladies under. Plus it’s lightweight so easy to pack or wear. God knows you’re already lugging around enough stuff.

What NOT to wear:

  • Dresses that don’t allow you access to the goods without taking them off. See: my first mother’s day experience. Oh wait, I haven’t told anyone about that except my husband. Maybe I’ll share this mother’s day…
  • Tops that will show wetness, or that can be stained by breast milk. Sayonara, silk.
  • Pants that are not forgiving when you sit down. Your midsection is likely to be exposed for at least part of your pumping adventure … so I like to choose pants that, even if they aren’t super flattering on my exposed core, at least don’t exacerbate my mom-pooch and muffin top.  (High-rise FTW).

Where to do the deed

Luckily, pumping rooms are becoming more and more frequent, but that doesn’t mean they’re a dime a dozen yet.

  • Nordstrom: their women’s lounges often have Mothers’ Rooms, with everything you need to pump or breastfeed: outlets, comfy chairs, a sink with soap and paper towels, and some semblance of privacy.

This is one of many reasons I will always be a loyal Nordstrom customer. Also, their shoe section.

  • Mamava: these handy little pumping pods are popping up at airports everywhere. I first discovered them in Austin, then also found pods in Oakland, CA, and San Francisco. These no-frills, lockable pods provide seating, outlets, and a mirror to help make sure you’ve rearranged yourself without any wardrobe malfunctions. Their app helps you find not only pods but other, user-submitted pumping-friendly locations.
  • Baby stores: this is a long shot, but if you’re traveling in the burbs, you may have a baby or maternity store nearby, and they often will provide a place for you, suggest other local options, or, at the very least, empathize with your plight. Friendly understanding won’t keep your pressurized boobs from exploding, but it does help lessen your mounting anxiety about said pressure.
  • When in doubt, just ask… I’ve ended up in random places for meetings, like hospitals, big office buildings, and cafes. You’d be surprised how willing people are to help. Some of them will get really uncomfortable, but I think that just encourages them to come up with a solution faster so they can stop talking about YOUR BREASTS. Ha. Some of the random places I’ve pumped are: in the lunchroom in a big office building, a doctor’s office after hours, the manager’s office in a restaurant, and in empty conference rooms.

    Don’t mind me, I’m just awkwardly pumping in this empty lunch room. Also take note of the blanket scarf. My only barrier between my boobs and hordes of hungry office workers.

None of those locations are fun, but they’re doable, and way less gross than a bathroom.

Now, if I could just crack the code of how to travel with a pump and ONLY a carry-on, I would be set. Any tips?

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This is not a problem

This week, I posted on Facebook about a miracle: Mac slept for 2.5 hours after going to bed, with nary a squawk or a scream.

I hesitated before hitting publish on that post, because I anticipated that the collective internet would rise up with well-intentioned advice about how to get my 15 month old to sleep through the night. Or, you know, longer than the hour that is her usual cycle.

I’ve asked for sleep advice on Facebook before, and the internet was generous with its response. Mac was 8 months at that point—nearly half a lifetime ago!—and I felt that I had reached the end of my zombie rope. Little did I know I had at least another half lifetime in me of boobin’ all night.

In the last 7 months, we’ve tried all the things.* Our sleep book collection puts the Library of Congress to shame. We’ve cued and we’ve charted and we’ve shuffled. We’ve A/B tested lighting and sound and pajamas and beds and bed company and the number of books we read and the content of meals and the timing of baths.  We’ve done craniosacral therapy and we’ve night weaned and we’ve made her do hill sprints before bed.

And the results of all that study and research?

On an average night, my toddler wakes up 4-5 times before I go to bed.

Sweaty sleep hair is the cutest.

And I mean really wakes up. I’m not talking about little baby noises or the rolling over or the resettling. This count doesn’t include the times she self-settles. This is the number of times she sits and screams and needs some kind of parental intervention before midnight. After midnight, believe it or not, it gets better, or I’m just so zombie-like that I think it’s better. But it’s at least 3-4 more wake ups, usually to nurse, but sometimes just for a snuggle, before she gets up for the day.

Anyway, the point of all this is this: I spent months scouring the internet for proof that what we were experiencing was normal.

What I found were 10 week olds who slept from 8pm-6am. I found parents lamenting that their 3 month old still got up at 3am to feed, sometimes, but that they were solving that problem ASAP. Parents scolded each other for any night nursing, because babies don’t need that after [insert age of choice here].

I’m done wanting to throat punch those people, and more importantly, I’m done feeling inadequate.

I’m done thinking that her sleep is a problem to be fixed. She wakes up a lot and I’m tired a lot and she’s a happy kid and I drink a lot of coffee and this is where we are. If frequent night wakings are our great challenge then I count myself lucky.

My local coffee shop is also reaping the benefits, since I’m singlehandedly keeping them in business.

And the real reason I’m sharing this is because of that Facebook post I mentioned at the beginning. I did not get the advice I was expecting. Instead, I got solidarity, from fellow parents who are also not living up to the insane internet standards of baby sleep. So I’m coming out of the closet as a person who stays up all night with their toddler.

If you’re reading this, and you’re in the same boat, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

* The one thing we haven’t tried is any version of Cry it Out. Friends assure it me works; their lovely children assure me kids come through the other end happy and healthy. It just doesn’t feel like the right course for us. 

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