Fearlessly Authentic.

Fearlessly Authentic.  This is what I would call my personal journey that has been a few years in the making and it really all started with the most spiritually awakening and exhausting experience there is: becoming a parent.

When I became a Mom for the first time, I was overwhelmed with happiness. The transition into my new life was so shockingly smooth and wonderful for those first few months that at times I actually wondered why people made this parenting thing seem so hard. Then I went back to work.

All of a sudden, I had anxiety.  I was depressed.  I was overwhelmed.  I cried every night thinking about leaving my new baby for 10 hours and also thinking about all the time I didn’t have to do so many things that were being asked of me. Nothing about this felt right, even though I had a career and co-workers that I really loved.  Every part of my body and soul was fighting it. I kept thinking- how come nobody talks about this?  How come nobody warned me that to be a fully present parent and successful in my career would feel damn near impossible? And that the amount of overwhelm & inadequacy I would feel would be paralyzing? How come everybody seems to act as if this is just what people do?  WHAT IN THE ACTUAL HECK.

So I started talking about it.  A lot.  Probably to the point of my friend’s and co-worker’s annoyance.  I told my boss I was struggling to keep up but was doing the best I could. I talked to my friends about how I held this new sense of resentment towards my husband and I didn’t know how to process it. I talked to co-workers about how pressured I felt to be good at everything yet consistently feel like a failure at the end of every day.

And the more I shared the more I was met by this beautiful chorus of “me too”.

Furthermore, when I decided to pursue a different job with more flexibility to better balance work/home/motherhood- I was met by another chorus of “I wish I could do that”.  Which hurt my heart and is another topic for another day.

 

As I went deeper into motherhood and eventually had my second child, I realized there was so much more we don’t talk about. So I made it a little personal goal to be fearlessly authentic.  To be honest and forthcoming about my joys but also my struggles. I don’t do this to play the martyr or be dramatic, but so that I do not feed into the facade that my life is perfect so you should feel crappy about yours. I don’t want to add to that.  People feel inadequate enough as it is.  I am a happy and positive person by nature and I love my life but man do I struggle in many ways.  Here are some examples:

I love my girls and being a Mom.  But sometimes I feel suffocated and depleted by motherhood.

My husband is a good man whom I love.  But sometimes I harbor strong feelings of resentment and rage towards him that have a negative effect on our marriage.

I love my work, but I struggle with it fulfilling my whole purpose.

I struggle every day with feelings of not being good enough.

I have a hard time managing my money

Being authentic does this powerful thing.  It frees you from your own prison.  There is this myth that when you share your vulnerabilities, you give them power.  But on the contrary–it does the opposite. It sets you free.  Free from trying to play the game, balance all the balls in the air and say everything’s fine when really you are on the verge of a breakdown. Nobody’s life is fine all the time. NOBODY.

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Authenticity has another powerful affect- that person you just shared your truth with?  They have a truth they have been weighed down by and afraid to share, but you sharing yours, it frees THEM.  Instead of that person walking away from you thinking “well he/she has it all together, so now I feel even more like a mess.”  They feel empowered, they feel relieved that is not just them.

I am not saying we need to share our woes with everybody who will listen, that isn’t healthy either.  However, I believe the mental health of our society can be directly correlated to this isolation we bring on ourselves because we are fighting battles alone that should be fought together.

Saying everything is okay does not make the darkness go away, it makes it darker.  When you share your truth, slowly lights will begin to flicker.  Those lights are other people whispering “me too” and then suddenly instead of being overwhelmed by that said darkness, you will be overwhelmed by light and community.  This is the way to live, I believe it with my whole heart.

 

Are you giving too much? Protect yourself and your schedule.

I have had 5 people cancel on me this week. A few were “important” meetings for work that I had to re-arrange my schedule for because they were ‘SO IMPORTANT’ and others were informal catch-ups with friends.

Am I annoyed? Not really. I very often am the flake who forgets about an appointment or has to cancel a lunch date, it happens. Additionally, I have the tendency to get a little too enthusiastic about scheduling and end up having to slim things down if it has been a crazy week, so I get it. I give people grace because I hope they would give it to me.

But it got me thinking about how much I have evolved over the years with scheduling and planning things, and MAN have I evolved. I rarely re-arrange anything for anybody anymore, and this week was a good reminder as to why.   When you get in the habit of moving around your priorities to meet others’ needs, you will suffer. Guaranteed. A couple of these work meetings I had scheduled were in the early morning and a far drive away- which means  I would have had to skip my morning workout AND not be able to have breakfast with my daughters.  NOPE.

Am I more selfish now? Hell yes. I know very well what I need in my day to day life to feel balanced, happy and productive.  If I do not get what I need and I run myself ragged, I am not a good Mom, I am not a good wife, I am not a good employee. Period.  If I want to give LIFE my best, I have to guard my priorities and my schedule and do what works for ME to be my best in all my roles.

I remember early in my career when people wouldn’t give me reasons they couldn’t do things, work on projects or set up a meeting etc. and I remember thinking those particular people must be slackers. At that time in my life, I booked myself solid in all departments of my life, especially work.  I would schedule anything with anybody at anytime!  I am flexible! I am committed! I am dedicated!  I will get the job done and THEN SOME! You know what I was? Naive.

Because who was the first to suffer?  Me. My work suffered. My health suffered. I skipped lunches, forgot to eat. Got to work too early, stayed too late.  Yet…was NOT productive OR effective at ALL, yet I considered myself a hard worker because I was always doing SOMETHING. What a joke.  And then I caught on.  Ah yes, I am the keeper of MY schedule and my work load.  When I finally figured that out, I became more productive and better at my job, I learn to say no to things I did not need to do or that were not important, because I only have so many hours in the day.  I learned to time block tasks and push away all other distractions.  I learned that I didn’t have to respond to an email or a phone call or a co-worker’s need IMMEDIATELY.  Especially if I was working on a project that needed my full attention.

We unfortunately live in a society in which we are supposed to jump whenever somebody wants something from us.  Text back immediately.  Respond immediately.  Get that project done in 1 hour. There is this general assumption out there that this is just how business needs to be done if you want to be successful, keep clients, be looked at as a hard worker. NO. We are not doing anybody any good by teaching others that they can have whatever they want from us when they want.

If you want a quality response, quality work or better yet, if you want to retain me as an employee and get GOOD work out of me, you will give me time and respect my time. This goes for friendships and family relationships too.

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Here is a prime example. In my current role, I work with a lot of needy and difficult parents who will literally call me 10 times a day and everything is an emergency (it is not).  During the winter months, I spend a lot of time reading college applications and it takes a lot of focus.  I have my schedule mapped out so that two days a week in the morning, that is my sole focus and nothing else.  I don’t take phone calls or check emails until after lunch, and I typically can get back to everybody who has reached out within that day without issue, but those specific mornings are blocked off without exception.

There was one particular Mom who was calling and calling one morning, but I did  not answer as it was my blocked out application reading time.  She left me 4 messages, emailed me, texted me and called my boss all in a matter of 2 hours.   When I finally got back to her that day, she lit me up.  She was beyond frustrated because she was filling out her son’s college application and a question confused her and ‘she just wanted to get this done and off her to do list for today’ (why yes, parents fill out college applications for their kids now in case you were wondering and yes it is absolutely ridiculous).

After she was done yelling at me for taking 2 hours to get back to her- I calmly said to her….

“I am sorry you are frustrated, but this morning I was focused on reading applications which I take very seriously.  I would hope that when it is time for me to read your son’s application you would want me to give it the same focus and attention”.

She got real quiet and then immediately changed her tone to that of condescending to practically brow-nosing.  Eye roll.

I have to use that line on a weekly  basis. WEEKLY. Because again, I know better.  I know you can teach people how to treat you and what you will or will not allow.  I know that answering every single phone call every minute means I will get nothing done and feel stressed and have to work longer hours and a result not being my best self. And if I do not guard my schedule and my priorities for my day for both work and personal life- people will walk all over them, most of the time un-intentionally.  I am not sorry for it, I am better for it.

I challenge you to find what your personal equation is for your own balance within work and personal life.  Do you need a slow morning start?  Do you need an hour to decompress at the end of your work day and plan ahead/reflect/organize? Do you need space and time to create new ideas?  Do you need a workout every morning? Meditation? Do you love going to your Saturday morning spin class?  Sunday Church?  Own those priorities and protect them with your life because it IS your life you will lose if you do not.

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Lastly, please do not be sorry for it. People WILL be annoyed, but don’t be offended or worried about that.  They are only annoyed because they typically are the people who are running themselves ragged and are not brave enough to guard their own life, so they are envious.  I know, I used to be one of them.

Let Your Mind Run

Like many people, I tend to fight off voices in my head telling me I am not good enough quite often.  This voice has proven to be very loud at times, especially when I am running.  A few years ago when I set the goal to qualify for Boston, I followed a training plan, did everything I should have, worked hard, but my mental confidence was never really there. Some days I was strong, but the majority of training I was exhausted not by the miles, but by the fight with my thoughts.

Just recently, I read a Memoir written by Deena Kastor, an Olympian and American record holder for the Women’s marathon.  In her book, Let Your Mind Run, she documents the ups and downs of her running journey.  In one specific chapter she talked about how one run she started to become more aware of her thoughts and was shocked as to how many negative ones came through. She decided on a simple strategy to replace every bad thought with a good one and it strengthened her running more than she ever thought was possible.  I was so inspired by the simplicity of this and decided to try it for myself while doing a local 5k.

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I love the 5k distance. It is quick but challenging, and always pushes me to run a little faster than I am used to. The most challenging part of 5ks for me though are the runners around me.  There has been countless races in which I SHOULD have finished first, but I let the other competitors and my negative self talk get the best of me.  I have always had issues with crumbling under pressure and it is something I am working on.

So I decided to try this strategy out.  So simple, for every negative thought that came in, I would replace it with a positive one.  I just needed to be aware of the thoughts, all of them. That was my only goal for this race.

As I lined up at the start line, I put myself behind a sea of what had to be the local girls cross country team.  Great.

My first thought came in…

 I am at least 20 years older than these girls. Yup, and you have 20 years of experience on them.  They don’t stand a chance.

As I stood there anxiously, I felt my heart start to pound and my legs get shaky. Good, use that energy.

The gun goes off and 3 girls sprint like a bat out of hell ahead of me.  CRAP.  Don’t worry, you know how those young ones can be, they don’t know how to pace. Get close to them, but don’t worry.

About a half mile in, I looked at my pace: 6:15.

I can’t keep that!  Says who? You feel fine. Relax your shoulders and settle here.

I end up being right behind the lead girl by mile 1 and I decided to just hang right behind her as to not be too risky, but shortly after I noticed she started to lose steam a bit.

Don’t go now, just stay here, it’s safe. What? You feel strong right now, give a little push here.

So I surged passed her and had a serious boost of confidence and energy as I took the lead.  As far as I knew, she was really the only other girl that was close to me.

Well, look at me!  I am so fast!  I am going to win! I am awesome!  I am….

A little teeny bopper FLIES past me out of nowhere right after mile 2.

You have got to be kidding me.  Well, there goes my lead. I knew it was too good to be true. There it goes?  Don’t just give it up you pansy! You can stay with her! You got this!

She is legit sprinting. I am frustrated.

My legs are dead.  They are alive.

Who did I think I was?  You are a fast runner, that’s who. Stay with her.

Look at her butt, that is a runner’s butt. I couldn’t even fit one ass cheek in those shorts, who am I kidding here?  You have a strong butt. That is an advantage.

For what seemed like an eternity, I stayed right on her tail as best I could, huffing and puffing along the way.  At one point we passed a bank sign that read the current temperature: 91 degrees.

It’s too hot to be running this fast, you really should play it safe, slow down. Second place is still really good. Oh shut up, you love the heat and you know it.  Stay here, first is  better.  You want first.

At one point one of my favorite Fallout Boy songs came on in my headphones called,The Mighty Fall.  And I found myself repeating: She will fall. She will Fall. She will FALL. (I of course didn’t want her to actually fall, just fall back).

Then somewhere around mile 2.7, she abruptly stopped from her sprint and started walking.  I literally almost tripped over her.  I could not believe it.

Worried somebody else was going to threaten my potential victory, I put on the best pump me up song I could find and and pushed on.

My body feels so heavy.  I feel like a feather.

What if somebody is right behind me?  So what if they are. They can’t catch you.

I can’t do this.  You are doing it.

Then I crossed the finish line as the first female with a time of 21:16.  This may  not seem like an Olympic victory, but in my head it really really felt like one. This was the first time I was ever able to control my thoughts during a run and it was powerful.  This was not a PR for me which is what makes it even more profound.  Had I let those few girls beat me, I would have looked at my time and been confused and frustrated, knowing I could have run faster.  But instead, I let my head win the race and let my body do what it knew how to do.  This was not a matter of just trying to stay positive for the sake of it, I literally felt my body responding with each strong thought. It seriously was just so surreal.

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Now here comes the comical part, shortly after I was handed my fancy glass “First Female Finisher” plaque, I dropped it and it shattered into a million pieces. Yup. There were a couple people standing around me who gasped in horror and I think looked at me waiting for me to start crying.  But I laughed.  Because, this is me folks. And two, because nothing could steal the joy of that victory.  NOTHING!  Not even a pathetic yet typical clumsy act that I would normally beat myself up about in embarrassment.  NOPE.

I challenge you to choose new thoughts in your day to day life.  First, become aware of your thoughts. Then as those little jerks come through saying to you “you are not good enough” or “why did I think I could do this” just choose a NEW one.  You are good enough, you CAN do this. You don’t even have to believe it, just say it to yourself.  Make it a practice and watch the magic happen.  It is too simple to NOT try.

 

The Importance of Presence

I have been thinking a lot lately on presence.  Defined as, the state or fact of EXISTING, occurring, or being present in a place or thing. If I could pick one major value I have as a parent and as a person in general, presence is it.

I believe that if we could simply become more present, intentional and authentic with our lives- we would encounter so much less stress, anxiety and pain. I could write for days on all three of those, but today is about  presence.

I have been thinking about this often because the more present I work to become (and believe  me, I do have to work at it), the more I notice the lack of awareness surrounding me. We tend to think we are experiencing moments by taking photos, posting, sharing etc.  And don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy those things, but there is a line that dances with the devil.

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Immediately following the horrific shooting at Parkland High school, I was working in a coffee shop as I often do, and that particular day I was feeling pretty heartbroken, helpless and really just lost. As I was working, I was observing families and people coming in and out whether sitting down with a friend or grabbing breakfast or lunch with their kids. And something continued to happen that literally made me so upset that I ended up just needing to leave because it was shaking me to my core.

I was at that coffee shop for 5 HOURS and every single family that came in that day, was not present with the people they were with.  Not ONE. I am not exaggerating. This is a problem.  This is an epidemic.

There were friends that sat down for coffee and would chat for a few minutes, not really listen to the other person, interject or interrupt with their own thoughts before the other one finished and then check their phone- repeat.

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The parents that came with their children, all different ages from toddlers to teenagers would sit and eat their food and scroll on their phone.  Muttering a few words here and there but then right back to their screens.  Probably checking an email they thought was important.  Probably scrolling on Facebook.  Probably shopping online.  Or maybe taking a photo to post on social media about how much they love spending time with their kids…yet THEY ARE NOT EVEN THERE.  And several times, if a child got fussy and anxious, as children do, a phone was shoved into their face.  What in the actual hell is happening here.

I notice these things all the time.  I fight the urge myself.  But this particular day, it really got to me.  Just the day before, 17 families lost the ability to ever have a meal with their child/friend/parent ever again.  Yet here we sit, hours after knowing that, and we cannot even look our own loved ones in the face and enjoy them?  We are severely lacking presence, which leads to lacking awareness, which also leads to lacking the ability to sense if something is wrong around us, whether that be within our own hearts, within our families or others who need us. Even if those ‘others’ are strangers.

A similar situation struck me when I was in an airport recently.  I was standing in line approaching security and there was an abrupt announcement made saying that they were going to bring dogs in as a security measure and “please do not acknowledge them or pet them, let them sniff you if need be”.  Okay no big deal, this happens all the time.

There was a family in front of me that had three kids, two older possibly in high school, one boy in middle school, maybe younger.  I noticed right away that the younger boy became visibly anxious at this announcement.  He looked up to his parents or siblings for re-assurance but they were all…you guessed it…looking at their phones.  As the dogs continued to walk around near us, I kept seeing the boy get more anxious and continuously look up at his parents to no avail.  This only went on for about 5-7 minutes but my GOD I could feel his pain and it felt like an eternity, I so wanted to help him, to just give him a hug. I kept watching him, desperately hoping he would look at me and make eye contact so I could assure him, “it’s all good buddy, this happens all the time, nothing to be scared of!”  I still regret not being more assertive and telling him that.

How many of those small moments are we missing?  Those moments when somebody really needs us, is going through something, but we miss it entirely. I can tell you one thing, we are missing a lot with our kids.  I can see it happening every where I go.  I know we cannot possibly catch everything, but I think we are missing more than we are catching and our kids our suffering because of it.

Guys, I’ve been there.  On long days at work or with my kiddos, I will check my Instagram feed to see what everybody else is doing as a way to “decompress” (which is a joke because it does the exact opposite for your brain).  I will respond to a text message that really does NOT need to be responded to immediately.  Or the most often for me, I am having a moment with my girls that I truly am enjoying and then I feel the need to take a picture and share it.  I am NOT innocent and I have to constantly fight the urge to look at my phone, I have taken Facebook and Email off it a long time ago to better work on my presence. But we all have to fight harder I think.  There are people that need us and we literally cannot see it because we are too busy, too clouded and too focused on ourselves and our screens.  We are all hurting and we all need connection, real connection.

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The question I have been asking myself a lot  lately is “How can I make this world better?  What can I do to help?”  The answer tends to ring back pretty loudly: love your kids, love your family, love your neighbors, love your community and BE the change.

If we all did that in our small corner of the world, I really do think we could change our trajectory, but we have to first work on being present.  Did you read this on your phone?  Great, now put it down, Look around, listen to the rain, take a few deep breaths and let your thoughts sink in,  it might be uncomfortable, but let yourself BE.  This is where the work begins.

Happy 6 Year Anniversary, Crossfit Oswego!

After college, I had started running marathons & triathlons to keep myself active and stay in shape.  Yet, I still had such a yearning for something MORE when it came to my workouts.  Nothing had quite yet gave me the satisfaction, sense of community and challenge that being an athlete did. Enter Crossfit Oswego.

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I remember pulling up into the parking lot on my first class and I was a few minutes early.  Once I parked, I noticed there were some of the coaches doing a workout that involved lots of running, some rope climbing and throwing around heavy looking stuff.  Maybe nobody saw me and I can just turn right back around and leave? Who am I kidding with this!? This is so not my level, I should just stick to running.

Somehow, another thought followed… OMG THIS LOOKS AMAZING!  Obviously, I listened to the second thought, thank goodness.

I was scared, because as corny as it sounds, I knew this place was the answer I was looking for.  The place that was going to push me out of my comfort zone, and it has continued to be that place for 6 years, my third place. The place away from home & work where you can let the barriers fall, relax and just be you. The place where life, responsibility, stress, whatever it is you are going through, just gets put on hold for one hour. The magic hour.

Because of the coaches and the people, I gained an outlet I didn’t know I needed.  And I gained confidence and strength I never knew I had. The picture below is during my first class, when I could not do a single pull-up and needed the assistance of a band.

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For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be “that” girl.  The girl with the kind of strength that people notice. The girl who can do a pull-up, or heck, SEVERAL. The girl that may look small, but is mighty.  Crossfit has helped me be that girl I have always wanted to be, but never thought was possible.

Through more marathons, two pregnancies, and all the ups and downs that life has had to throw at me…Crossfit Oswego has remained my constant. There are some seasons of life I feel like I am killing it in that gym, and others I feel like a total wuss (coming back after  babies, oof). But, I keep showing up because for whatever reason, at CFO I am the best version of myself no matter where I am in life or in my fitness journey.  I am positive, I am strong, I am capable.

This place has no doubt changed me physically, but the mental aspect is what has truly been so profound, it is hard to even put into words.  My inner voice is not as negative as it used to be and I go after things that used to terrify me.  I am so thankful to these coaches and to this community for continuously changing and pushing me for the better. Happy Anniversary, Crossfit Oswego!

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As a Mom…it is important to leave sometimes.

At the time I am starting to write this post, it is 6pm on a Tuesday and I am on a work trip.  I am in my hotel room, in my pajamas. I just went for a run in the mountains then took a 25 minute hot shower. I am eating dinner in bed while watching a marathon of Fixer Upper. I have nothing to clean, no bottles or food to set up for the next day and nobody to take care of. I will probably fall asleep by 7.  I will sleep all night without any interruptions and I will wake up when my body decides it is rested. I will sip on some coffee slowly and then maybe even hit the gym before work. Does any of this sound like an absolute DREAM to you?  Then you are probably a Mom too.

I am so VERY fortunate to have a job that allows me to work from home most of the year in a field I love, college admission.  This means I can have a pretty consistent presence with my girls, keep up on things around the house in between work tasks, and not have to rush out the door in the morning. This is a blessing in so many ways, but also can be a curse as I don’t get out as much as I should.  I do however get to go to Colorado a few times a year to visit the campus I work for. I will be honest, when gearing up for those trips, I am equally excited as I am a hot mess.  It is so hard to leave.

If it were not for work, I probably would never willingly leave my girls, especially not for a whole week. BUT, I consider myself lucky because it has taught me how important it is to leave sometimes.

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Being a mom is exhausting, this is not news. I don’t care if you are working mom, stay at home mom, if you have one kid or five, whatever, it is exhausting.  My two year old is in a rough sleep/emotional phase right now, so there are some nights we don’t get a ton of sleep, and some days where she is on emotional roller coaster of crying and tantrums all day long.  It is hard stuff. Since having our second little girl, Maeve, my husband has had to travel a lot for work, so there are many weeks that aside from my mom watching the girls during the day while I am working, that I am alone.  This has taken a toll on my emotional health a bit.

I have dealt with depression much of my life, BUT I am also proud to say that I have mastered how to keep it at bay and stay on top of my emotional health..until recently. Postpartum depression has hit me pretty hard since having our second baby and am still trying to wrangle it. Some days I wake up anxious, sad, angry… and I go to bed, anxious, sad and angry.  It doesn’t matter if it has been a perfect day, I am constantly fighting off tears and anger all at the same time. These feelings are so overwhelming they make it hard to breathe some days.

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I AM a happy person, I do love life and I LOVE being a mom. Yet, the internal struggle I have can still get the best of me. Being on this work trip has reminded me how important it is to step away.

Being away from my family is hard, but it also reminds me who I am.  I can just be Jill. I can breathe. I have so much more space in my brain to think and reflect.  I am not bouncing from one thing to the next and collapsing at the end of the day.  As Moms, it seems selfish to leave, but when you think about it, it can be selfish to NOT to leave.  My children and husband do not benefit from my presence if I am tired, emotional and angry.  They benefit from me being positive, energetic and present with them, which is who I TRULY am. And I cannot be that person if I don’t give myself a break sometimes.

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Maybe you feel the same way I do but still can’t bring yourself to leave. But know that It does not have to be an overnight trip, just taking any time for yourself is crucial. I am not talking sitting in the bathroom on your phone while your toddler bangs down the door (what- that doesn’t happen to you?).  I am talking about taking time to do things that bring you joy, taking time to breathe in nature, to dis-connect, sip coffee or eat slowly, and taking time to just let your mind wander.  I believe the single most important thing you can do as a parent is take care of yourself physically and mentally.  I know it is hard, but again, your family does not benefit from you being a martyr and doing it all, they benefit from you being the best you. So if you have lost yourself a little like I have, take some time to do that.  You won’t regret it.

I finish this post as I am waiting in the airport for my flight home.  On the way here I was so excited to just be able to sleep all night, now as I begin my journey home, I literally am hoping one of my girls wakes up in the middle of the night so I can snuggle them.  Motherhood man, it is so bizarre isn’t it? No wonder husbands think we are crazy 😉

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Confessions from the first month with two littles…

We have officially reached the one month mark in this house with two littles and it has been nothing short of interesting. After what seemed like a ridiculously long pregnancy and a million false alarms, we welcomed baby Maeve into our family on Friday morning August 4th.  I am a little bias, but isn’t she gorgeous?! I was positive I had to be hallucinating when I saw that hair.

     I will be honest, I did not have a hard time transitioning into parenthood with our first babe.  Sure, I had the typical first time worry and nervousness, but overall I felt so confident and happy those first few weeks.  Going from 1 to 2 children has been a different story.

Shain did not have much time at home this go around and he had to leave for a work trip when Maeve was just a week old. This left me feeling really overwhelmed and pretty isolated as I tried to figure out how to manage a suddenly emotional toddler and a newborn on my own…not to mention I did not feel emotionally stable either. I actually think my 1.5 year old and I were on the same emotional plane for a bit, you know the one where you are crying about absolutely nothing?  Yeah, that one.

I do want to share a few moments from the first two weeks, just because it was so ridiculous/hilarious/stressful/awesome.

Day 1:

Shain brought big sister Rocklyn to the hospital to meet Maeve.  She immediately wanted to touch her nose, eyes, talk to her, even gave her a kiss on the forehead unprompted. However, that sweet moment quickly vanished as she then became very emotional, throwing a tantrum in the hospital room and wanted to leave, repeating “no like it, no like it!”.  Our family laughed that she was referring to her new sister, but I think she was just a little overwhelmed by the environment of the hospital.  Even though it was a funny moment, part of me felt really heartbroken that Rocklyn might have some trouble adjusting to this change.  Insert mom guilt.  People warned me about that.

Day 2:

We got to go home, hooray!  Here is our less than perfect (yet perfect)  family of four picture leaving the hospital with yet again, the emotional roller coaster that is a 1.5 year old.  In this particular picture, she was upset that she could not run up and down the halls. Typical.

On the drive home, Rocklyn kept talking to Maeve and looking at her saying, “Hi baby, your’e OK.  What doing?”  Ahh, there is my sweet girl.  She will come and go a bit as it turns out the next few weeks…and maybe until she is in college.

Day 4:

Up until this day, Maeve had not made much of a peep or cry so we were all like, “sweet, another chill baby! Lucky us!”.  Then I took her to her follow up doctor appointment and she WAILED the whole drive there, apparently both my kids hate the car, thumbs up.  I am certain this is also the day she learned what crying was, and let’s just say has put it to very good practice since.  This girl can really belt it out, let me tell you. There are times I am certain she is damaging her vocal cords.

Day 6:  

Shain went back to work and all the emotions set in. Can I handle two kiddos?  Of course I can. My body was not feeling very recovered yet, so chasing around Rocklyn was not the easiest.  I was feeling really sad/overwhelmed/anxious about him going back to work already and even more so anticipating him leaving for his work trip that next week.

What did not help was that this particular day, every time I nursed, Rocklyn would have a meltdown.  Which was a lot, because Maeve was nursing constantly at this point. One moment, she even cried so hard she made herself puke, which was a first.  So that was awesome. That has since gotten better, thankfully. Otherwise Rocklyn is very much obsessed with Maeve and loves to constantly be around her…and also loves to wake her up from her slumber by shouting, “HI BABY!!!!!”, inches away from her face.  Sigh.

 

Day 7: 

My mom came over to help, thank GOD.  I took Rocklyn to the park that morning for an hour, just her and I.  This seemed to help her mood be a little more stable the rest of the day, so I made a note that I need to be sure to do that more often to fill up her emotional bucket.  Things were going smoothly until one moment I was tending to Maeve and Rocklyn managed to have her first ever pooplosion that required a mop to clean up off the floor, an immediate bath, and a disposal of the clothes she was wearing. Another first, awesome.

Day 10:

Shain left for his work trip.  Here we go. I cried a lot and felt way too sorry for myself. I also realized at about 9pm once I made it through bath/bedtime/newborn witching hour on my own (which of course all happen at the same time you know) that all I had to eat that day was a half eaten chicken nugget, coffee, and a granola bar. Yikes.

Day 13:

I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror this day and could not help but laugh.  I also realized in this moment I had not actually LOOKED in the mirror at myself for maybe a whole week- WOOF.  Hot mess express.  I ALSO accidentally put body wash in my hair instead of shampoo for the THIRD time. Officially losing it.  But hey at least I have been getting in the shower!  Maeve loves the sound of running water it turns out, which is good motivation to put her in her bouncy chair in the bathroom while I spend a few minutes feeling like a real human.

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I am happy to report, things have not been AS crazy as they were those first few weeks. I am finding my groove and gaining more confidence day by day on managing this chaos.  Unfortunately, we are gearing up for Shain to be gone again for a few weeks so I am starting to feel a little more anxious/sad again, but thankfully I have started the process of getting Maeve on a routine and figuring out her patterns.  This is making her a happier baby and me a happier mama. I love me a good routine.  We are getting there! Truly blessed in the mess over here 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Change is Hard, Change is Good.

One year ago, I took a bit of a leap of faith.  Not a huge one, people change jobs all the time after all, but it can be a scary change none the less. I left a place where I started my career in higher education fresh out of college, a place that taught me so much as a professional and that truly felt like home for the 8 years I spent there. Although about 6.5 years in, I started to feel a bit restless and in need of a change. I ignored those feelings for quite some time because of my love for the institution I worked for and because of the staff I was blessed to work with. I had opportunities for growth coming my way, I had a solid salary, great benefits, a good relationship with my boss, close proximity to home…I would be crazy to leave that, right?

Fast forward to December 2015 when I had my first child and like most children do…she changed everything. When I went back to work after 3 months of maternity leave, I struggled HARD. I struggled to be the employee I wanted to be and that my school deserved/needed… and being the Mom I wanted to be and that my daughter deserved/needed. So on top of the restless feelings I had been having for some time professionally, there was now mom guilt, total exhaustion, and the constant in-ability to balance the two worlds of work and parenthood successfully.  There were lots of tears and breakdowns, let me tell you.

I was very open about this struggle with my boss and he immediately assured me that I was still very much valued and he also offered me flexibility in my hours, which I was so incredibly thankful for.  However, it just brought more guilt.  I didn’t want to take advantage of our office or of other employees as I worked through this new transition as a working mom.  I didn’t feel that it was right or fair to my colleagues who also perhaps were having the same balancing struggles as I was.  What I  DID feel was right was a change, it was time.  I knew there had to be an alternative to allow me to continue my career in higher education/college admission, but have a better balance at home.  So I began my search.

I was lucky enough to have a few offers in this process and landed my current role as the Assistant Director of Admission for University of Colorado Boulder.  A role in which I am still in the same field, but work fully from home.

As I look back on this past year and reflect, I am so thankful I made this decision.  It was so terrifying at first and I was certainly met with some challenges and uncertainty in the process, but it has given me exactly what I need at this time in my life.  A new challenge professionally and more of a presence at home.  Don’t be fooled, I still work just as many hours as I did in my office job, sometimes even more, but there are little things that make it more manageable.  I can throw a load of laundry in anytime through the day, walk up from my home office in the basement and steal some kisses/snuggles or eat lunch with my daughter and I don’t have to account for commute time in my day very often.  For the majority of the year, I do not have to rush out of the house to get ready and coordinate drop offs or pick ups, which allow for relaxed mornings with my girl. It is still very much a juggling act to be a working mom, especially during the recruiting seasons of fall and spring, but overall I feel much more balanced. Overall, I feel I am able to be both a productive and valuable employee and a present Mom. This to me, is clutch.

There have most certainly been challenges with this new role, most of which I expected.  For one, working from home can be really lonely and isolating, which has been hard mentally/emotionally as I am by nature a social person.  So I do need to be better about getting out a little more.  Also, the boundary of work-life is kind of non-existent now that I work from home because I am able to constantly jump back and forth easily to each one.  Once Rocklyn is down for bed at night or if I am up extra early, I still tend to check in to emails and work on some things.  To be honest though, that in particular doesn’t really bother me because I actually like being able to have the flexibility to do that, but it DOES make it hard to “shut it off” and enjoy “home” fully at times.

The busy season of admission, is not just busy…it is total insanity. So, that has not changed. It makes it even harder that these are the same times of year my husband is very busy and traveling. As we approach having baby #2 soon, it will be interesting to see how that juggle continues during those particular seasons.  But for now, looking back, I have no regrets.  Again, not only does it give me the balance I needed but it also has given me strength and courage to know I have control over how I want my life to look like and I do NOT have to settle.  I think we often forget that we have the authority to change our situation when it does not work for us.  I am not saying that changing is easy, it is usually not, but it is always possible.  I hope if you are in a situation or work environment that does not suit you or fulfill you, you take the reigns and change it.  We only get one life, one chance to be with family, to raise our kids, to make our time count.  Do what works for YOU and forget about anybody else.

Stay blessed in the MESS!

 

Bottle to Sippy Cup Transition

I had heard from other mom friends that the transition from bottles to sippy cups could be a tricky one.  So, I tried to get ahead of the game and introduced a sippy cup with a straw to Rocklyn just for water when she was about 6 months old. She barely drank out of it at first but would just gnaw on the straw, play with it, then after about a month she figured out she could get water out of it and actually started using it. Before long she was sucking down water like a champ with her food. I gave my self a high five and thought, “great, when it is time for milk this will be easy peasy!”.  Not exactly.

Admittedly, I had a hard time making the decision to take the bottle away from her.  Mostly because I was being a sap about it. But Alas, I knew after her first birthday we had to get down to business.  So again, I figured I would just put milk into her usual water cup and we would be all good.  However, anytime I would put milk in the cup, she would push it away or throw it.  As if she was like, “um mom, milk doesn’t go in there that is for water only, duh”. I ended up buying a different sippy cup that also had a straw so as to separate the idea of water and milk for her.  So,  the one I ended up committing to for milk was this one:

Philips Avent My Twist N Sip Straw Cup, 12 Ounce, Pink/Purple/Green, Stage 3

At this point, she was only getting milk 2-3 times a day, therefore it was no longer her sole nutrition.  This was a good thing because when we took the bottle out cold turkey, she went from drinking about 15 oz a day to maybe 6oz.  She would take a couple sips and then throw it down.  But I would never swoop in with the bottle, we just kept trying and kept offering it to her.  I would say it took her about a week before she started taking all the milk out of the sippy cup. So, the first few days I was indeed a little panicked, but I was also more sad. I could tell she really wanted her bottle and was getting frustrated and that made me feel so bad.  But again, after a week she seemed to care less, I was just being a sap.

I have learned over the years of watching other people’s kiddos and now raising my own that consistency is key for all ages.  Especially when it is time to change something up or enforce a new behavior.  Giving in can take you a million steps backwards and these little buggers know how to play you!   I am pretty sure no adult has ever brought up in counseling how traumatized they were when their parents took away their bottle or pacifier, yet doesn’t it feel like that is what we are doing to them when we go through a change?  As it turns out, it is harder for us than it is for them, almost always.

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See picture above with my happy child drinking her morning milk out of her sippy cup.  Bottle?  What is a bottle?

My Breastfeeding Journey

Oh, breastfeeding.  The topic that seems to have been quite the “rage” if you have become a mom in recent years. I really do think it is so fantastic that normalizing breastfeeding has become such a big thing after it seemed to take a little bit of a hiatus. However, I also think sometimes it can be a little too much in our face.  One more thing for Moms to feel guilty about or pressured to do, because let’s get real for a minute here..breastfeeding is natural yes, but it is not easy. At least, that was not my journey.

There are three things that as a Mom I am very OCD and particular about.  Sleep training & schedules/routines being two of them…solid nutrition is the other. SO, that being said, breastfeeding was something that I knew I wanted to do if I was able.

I did not have supply issues.  Rocklyn did not have latching issues. It was pretty smooth from the get-go in that regard.  But I DID have weird anxiety issues.  I dreaded every time I had to nurse and to be honest I really could not tell you why.  I did not feel comfortable doing it in public as my milk tended to spray and make a mess everywhere, I would barely even feed in front of my husband at home.  During almost every single feeding I would take my daughter into the nursery to feed in private and I put music on every time to calm my nerves.  I knew that if she felt me being nervous, she would be nervous so I worked very hard to real that in.

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When she was two weeks old, we introduced a bottle at night.  This was my chance to pump a bottle and get to bed early so that my husband could stay up later with her and give her the last feeding.   Once we got in this routine, I always got a head start on sleep which worked out GREAT in those early weeks.  During that week in particular she did have a little confusion between nursing and bottles, but it passed pretty quickly and she was able to bounce back and forth as needed.

However,  when she was around 8 weeks old, we accidentally used a fast flow nipple on one of her bottles for a few days instead of the natural flow we had been using.  That week she fought me HARD for the first time when nursing and wanted nothing to do with me.  My assumption is that she got a little spoiled with the fast flow milk and did not like the slower pace of the milk coming from me.  So, at this point, I talked to a lactation consultant who recommended doing no bottle for 3 days to get her back on track. However, after really thinking about it, I decided to use this as my out and switched to exclusively pumping. Meaning, she would still be getting 100% breast milk, but it would be all through bottles and no nursing.  I won’t lie, this was actually a huge relief for me as I mentioned, I just did not like nursing.  I was a little sad when I nursed her the last time, knowing we would make the switch, but most of me was really relieved.  The first few weeks of pumping exclusively was great, it took a little juggling but I really felt so much better and less stressed  and anxious.  Then I went back to work.  OOOF.

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Once I went back to work, it took much longer for me to pump my milk since I was away from her all day, this is apparently normal.  When at home, I would pump 15-20 minutes and get 8-12 oz at a time.  Once I went back to work, it took me 45-60 minutes to pump the same amount. I rarely would take a lunch because of all the time I had to pump, and it was really stressful to find a place to go at work not to mention trying to fit it in between meetings.  My boss and other co-workers were very supportive, but it still stressed me out.  I also pumped on my drive to work and on the way home every day to free up time, which was a lifesaver.  In the morning since I would still workout at 5am, I would get up at 3:30am to get my hour long pump in BEFORE the gym, otherwise I would be too uncomfortable. It was so much work and I felt like a slave to that machine. It truly owned me. I tried to be as positive as I could while pumping and use the time to read, journal, etc. But man, spending 5 hours a day attached to a milk machine, just drives you insane sometimes. I had to miss out on a lot of things because of my pump schedule, and it certainly made doing fun things on the weekend difficult too.

I really wanted to have Rocklyn get breast milk for a full year, it was really important to me.  Luckily, I did have good enough supply to create a little stash but around the 8 month mark, I just had had it.  I wanted my life back.  When I did the math, I had about 3 months of milk stored in our freezer for her, which meant that she would need to switch to regular milk earlier or get formula during her 11th month.  I decided it was worth it and pulled the plug…literally.

My husband would tell you that the week I stopped pumping was the week I went back to my “normal self” again. I was less stressed, less irritated by him (I held some resentment issues for having to be the one to do all this at times) more rested and just had so much more freedom. It was awesome.  However, I did of course still have guilt for quitting early. I really was hard on myself for  not trying to push another month.  Especially because Rocklyn only ended up needing formula for 2 weeks before we switched to regular milk.  Really Jill, you couldn’t have done TWO MORE weeks of pumping after doing it for 8 months?  But to be honest, I really don’t think I could have!  The day I decided I was done, I was really at my limit.

There are very few things I am nervous about with bringing baby number #2 into our house but entering into this journey again is one of them.  Maybe I can try to enjoy it a little more this time around and nurse longer, the fact that I work from home now will certainly make things a little easier, but it will still  be a bit of a juggling act with a toddler running around.   We will see how it goes, send me your good vibes 😉

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