[Breastfeeding Buddies] Kari and Delaney

Meet Kari (her new blog, ‘Margarita in Pill form’ can be found here), I’ve known her from a distance for the last couple of years, through Live Journal and our mutual friend, Amber, but for the last 18 months or so, we’ve gotten to know each other a little better, and she’s not half bad at all ūüėČ

You’ll often hear the term, ‘Breast is best’, some lactivists will go so far as to say that a woman really shouldn’t do anything other than breast feed – I am not one such woman – I firmly fall in to the ‘if it works, great, if it doesn’t, there’s formula’ camp.¬† Having gone through a rather traumatizing breast feeding journey, I’m well aware that it’s not something that works¬†for everyone, as Kari discovered as she found that breastfeeding isn’t as easy as we are often led to believe.¬† Here’s her story:


Disclaimer:  Breastfeeding is an awesome way to feed your child.  If you can and have the desire, that is awesome.  This is just my personal experience.

Though growing up I have always wanted to be a mom, I have not always had the desire to breastfeed my children.  I was not breastfed.  Neither was my mother.  Neither my sister nor my sister-in-law breastfed my nieces and nephews.  It was not really something that was a big thing in our family.  Though intellectually I realize the ultimate purpose of female breasts, I have always had a sexualized view of them, so the thought of my child sucking on them for food was not appealing to me.
When I became seriously involved with my husband and knew that he was the man with which I would have children, he had a very different viewpoint of nursing.¬† He was convinced that since he was breastfed combined with the economic and health benefits of nursing, I should breastfeed our child.¬† What ultimately convinced me to nurse was learning that it would most likely make it easier to lose weight.¬† Seriously.¬† That’s why I tried it.¬† That is really the only reason I tried it.¬† I know; I’m selfish.
During my pregnancy I convinced myself that breastfeeding would be easy.  My friend Melanie had nursed all three of her boys and seemed to have it down pat.  She was a pro.  She was my inspiration.  When she came to work 12 weeks after having her third, she was almost at pre-baby weight.  Yes, awesome.  I was totally convinced this would be awesome.
Looking back, there are so many “shoulds” that go through my mind regarding my pregnancy and birth experience, but as always hindsight is 20/20, and as my postpartum group leader says, “Stop shoulding on yourself.” ¬†I took a childbirth class but not a breastfeeding class.¬† I never stopped to prepare for the possibility that nursing wouldn’t work for me.¬† But that’s the hard part of accepting my ultimate decision.¬† Nursing DID work.¬† My daughter had no problem latching.¬† I had an abundant supply (I think).
The problem was that I never thought that I wouldn’t absolutely love everything about being a mother and nursing my child.¬† I never expected to hate the first two weeks of her life.¬† I never expected to feel so numb and detached and awful all the time.¬† I never expected that I would be so physically anxious worrying about when her next feeding was that I would not be able to sleep ever, at all.¬† Because what if I fell asleep, and she got hungry and no one could wake me up.¬† I never expected to feel dirty and smelly all the time.¬† I hated the smell of breast milk, especially on me, and no amount of showering would get rid of the smell.¬† While Similac is not a pleasing smell, at least it’s not coming out of me.¬† Just looking at my pump produced a panic response in me.¬† I hated pumping.¬† I was alone in the nursery in a rocking chair for at least 20-30 minutes every time I did it.¬† I couldn’t distract myself because my hands were occupied, and it hurt because I had set it on a higher setting hoping to get it over with sooner.¬† I wanted to take my Xanax so I could relax enough to sleep a little, but benzos and breastfeeding do not mix.¬† I went to a psychiatrist based on the suggestion of my postpartum support group who wrote me a script for Klonopin, but he stated I could only take it if I totally stopped breastfeeding.
On my daughter’s 4th day, I was attempting for what felt like the millionth time to take a nap while my mother watched her.¬† Per usual, I couldn’t fall asleep, but as I lay there a thought came to me.¬† I don’t have to do this.¬† I don’t have to breastfeed her.¬† And just like that, a huge weight lifted off of me. (Not that it made it any easier for me to sleep that day.¬† BTW, if one more person told me to sleep when the baby sleeps, I was going to hit someone.) ¬†I went to tell my husband that I had decided to wean my daughter.¬† My that point and over the next few days I had pumped enough to give her two weeks of breast milk.¬† My husband’s response: “But you know breast milk is best for her, and formula is expensive.” ¬†In my head I said, “So you breastfeed her,” but of course I didn’t say that out loud.¬† I honestly don’t remember what I said or what the steps were that transpired after that.¬† I know that my mom went to get some Similac for Supplementation, and I called my pediatrician to ask what formula they suggest should I totally wean her.¬† My mom then bought some of that as well.¬† I started giving her every other feeding as formula.¬† By doing that, she got breast milk for two weeks and had no problem switching to formula.
I felt guilty.¬† There was no physical reason I couldn’t breastfeed.¬† I had selfishly chosen not to.¬† I wouldn’t lose the baby weight as quickly, and I would spend more money than I had ever intended on feeding her because I was selfish and wanted to sleep.¬† I saw all the breastfeeding moms with their camaraderie and baby-friendly mission.¬† Their National Breastfeeding Month.¬† Their Occupy Breastfeeding pictures.
But I also saw the Fearless Formula Feeder, and the I Support You movement. Their “The best way to feed a baby is to make sure the baby is fed.”
I got sleep.¬† I knew at almost 12 months old, Melanie’s son was still waking up at least once a night to nurse.¬† By the time I went back to work when my daughter was 10 weeks old, she was no longer eating overnight.¬† The only reason she woke up is because her pacifier had fall out of her mouth.¬† Plug her back in; she goes back to sleep.
I still have my days when I feel like a horrible mother.¬† I am an intelligent person, and I know that the thinking, “Well I wasn’t breastfed, and I turned out fine,” is kind of specious.¬† I also know, though, that formula has come a long way in it’s ingredients and how it’s made.¬† And I know that nursing my daughter was not what was best for me which in turn means it was not what was best for her.¬† What’s best for her is having a mother that is getting enough rest to be present for her life. for her firsts, for her smiles.¬† My anxiety would not allow me to enjoy her, and as long as I was nursing, I wouldn’t sleep, and as long as I didn’t sleep, I would be one big ball of anxiety ALL THE TIME.
My daughter is 6 months old now.  She is the happiest, prettiest little girl.  While I still and always will struggle with anxiety and depression, and I know she will be an only child, I love her so so much.  Motherhood is absolutely nothing at all what I anticipated.  Nothing.  But I am adjusting with help and love.  And being able to make my own choice about how to feed my daughter was the best thing I could have done in that moment.

[Breastfeeding Buddies] Sarah (Exclusively pumping)

I met Sarah years ago, on a website where I met a lot of my friends, Live Journal.¬† Don’t snark – it used to be the place to BE! Honestly, it was the bomb diggity!¬†As it turned out, she lived locally to my BFF Amber, in Iowa, we’ve met in real life a couple times, hung out, and she and her kiddies are some of my very favorite peeps on Snap Chat every day!


My one year journey is coming to an end, my love/hate relationship with my pump.

Let me begin by saying my daughter was born 5 weeks premature and I tried valiantly to breastfeed her, she had no latch.¬† So I tried to pump and failed miserably.¬† As a first time mom who was just learning all the new baby things, pumping on top of everything else? ¬†I just couldn’t do it.¬† Two months was as long as I made it with my first child.


I’m not saying formula feeding is bad in the least,¬† heck my daughter was formula practically from birth. ¬†So if you use formula, GREAT!¬† If you Breastfeed,¬† GREAT!¬† If you pump, AWESOME.¬† Doing what works for you is perfect, just do what feels RIGHT.¬† You are the parent, you do know best.¬† I just wanted to TRY with my son, my second child¬†to give him breast milk.

I was prepared at the hospital, I asked for a pump to be brought to me¬†as soon as I was admitted, told them my preference of brand.¬† They bring you the hospital grade pump while I was in the hospital, that thing is a BEAST. Think STRONG, Think SUPER SUCK!¬†¬† As soon as he was born, Maxon was a ‘no-latch’ as well. (Turns out he has tongue tie, at least we know now). ¬†The lactation woman at the hospital was older and not very gentle with me and helped me nada.¬† No different positions, or trying different things.¬† I am a Big girl and I worried about suffocating him, she told me to “figure it out”.¬† We never did, “figure it out”, that is at, the breast.

I would like to insert here that there are resources out there for breastfeeding moms.  GO on Facebook! Go into local baby stores! If you want to breastfeed GET HELP!

There are so many people out there that I didn’t know about willing to support you! Just look! They are there!!!¬† In fact now in hindsight¬†I wish¬†I would have put a plea out there for help, as I even have acquaintances who are lactation specialists and would have dropped everything to help.

What I’m trying to say is, you are not alone. ‚ô°

However, I did get the pump to work for me.¬† The first pump¬†I used was an Ameda. The Ameda was an Ok pump, I went through two motors and had to be sent a third when the second failed again, in the span of 1 1/2 months.¬† This caused me to change pumps, finally.¬† Don’t get frustrated pumping Moms, just go down a different path!

I got a Medela.¬† I Love my Medela.¬† This has suction like a champ and has NEVER let me down. (Little breastfeeding pun there, the moms will get it)¬† It is easy to clean and easy to transport.¬† Mine has been across the country in airplanes, in cars and across many states. ¬†I’ve pumped in airports, cars, vans, hotels, houses, apartments almost everywhere.¬† I pumped in the car trip, in the car hooked up to the car lighter.¬† Not glamorous but really not that bad.¬† It’s also not embarrassing, yes it makes a noise.¬† My daughter says it’s cheering me on “Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s go!”¬†¬† but yes, it has a distinct noise.¬† My sister in law once commented while I was on the phone, “are you pumping? Good Lord, I remember THAT noise”¬†¬†¬† It’s not hard, it’s time consuming.

The hardest part, other than the time commitment, for me, was the worry.¬† I worried about every drop,¬†every oz, every low night and full morning.¬† I took Fenugreek, ate lactation cookies, guzzled water, gatorade, and worried if¬†I didn’t make enough.¬† Here’s the thing, it’s normal.¬† Every mom is NORMAL.¬† You just have to realize that your body will make what it will.

The rest is time.

Time to drink water, time to pump, time to feed, time to pump and it goes on and on.

It gets to be a ‘normal’ part of your life.¬† So normal, when in passing my husband, I eventually¬†took to saying,¬†“time to pump my tits again”.

It’s normal.

It’s as normal as breastfeeding, and yes I consider pumping still breastfeeding!

The best thing that I was blessed to have is an extremely supportive family and friends.   They helped on car rides, family trips, and every day to support my breastfeeding journey.  Las was a constant sounding board, snapchat partner and ear to pull.  She listened when my supply TANKED, and I FREAKED.  She held my hand through my up and downs and i thank her for that, she was my light at times when everything was dark.   My husband also helped me by washing parts and making bottles and on and on.  I cant sing enough praises to my loving husband.  He brought me water and kept the kids entertained while I pumped.  He spoke words of encouragement to keep going, and pumped me up when I was so extremely close to stopping multiple times.  Tonight we have a date night to celebrate.  I will most likely have alcohol for the first time in 5 years, tonight we celebrate this hard and wonderfully rewarding experience that we have gone through together.

You, yes you reading this, if you are a breastfeeding mother.¬† Pumping COUNTS!¬† This Saturday I will pump for the very last time, and while I’m excited and happy it’s also bittersweet.¬†¬† I love knowing exactly what is going into my son’s body.¬† I have frozen stored so I will make his birthday and it will be one year. Since i have done this, I feel anyone can.


I’m open to anyone who needs a helping hand or has a question about pumping. I remember having a million questions and feeling dumb, too dumb to ask and i wish i would have asked.¬† So ask! Please ask! It’s a journey just you and your pump, but you don’t have to travel it alone.


Today, I needed a moment.

Just one.

Surprisingly, it was the first “moment” I’ve needed since AJ was born on Labour day.

Today, I needed to lock myself in the bathroom, just for an extra beat, take a breath and compose myself.

Last night was a little rough.

Around 11pm Amber texted me to tell me there was an issue with AJ’s catheter. It was past “visiting” hours, so I was stuck providing what little support I could from the hotel, via text.

Thankfully the issue wasn’t really an issue after all, but by the time we learned that, it was after 2am. ¬†It was an emotional few hours.

We expected surgical complications, but we didn’t expect a complication from something so routine as his catheter.

Today, we all slept in a bit, we took showers, we ate lunch and we went to the hospital a little later than usual, but it was needed. We are all running on empty. I have no idea how Amber and Aaron are functioning as well as they are, sometimes I feel pretty dead on my feet.

I needed a moment today, because when I saw my nephew lying on his little bed, pale, covered in wires, with his chest still open, I was overcome.

Overcome with love, he’s easy to love. He’s cute as a button to boot.

Overcome with awe. This kid is a friggin’ gladiator and he’s taking it all in his stride. Like. A. BOSS.

Overcome with relief and joy that he beat the odds and made it through surgery.

Overcome with sadness and grief that such an amazing and precious piece of our lives has to endure such trials when he’s so shiny and new.

Overcome with fear that he’s not yet out of the woods, and the constant need to remind myself that this is a marathon, not a sprint. ¬†That every challenge, obstacle and milestone he faces, and conquers should be celebrated.

Sitting in that place, in the cardiac ward of the Children’s hospital of Philadelphia, can be a difficult place to sit.

You’re surrounded by worried parents and family members. You’re surrounded by waiting. Families waiting for news of how surgery went, families waiting to go back and see their kids post-op, families waiting for their kids to get well enough to feed them, or hold them, or to take them home.

You’re surrounded by fear. Fear of loss.

You’re surrounded by quiet, many of the babies can’t cry, there isn’t much by way of laughter and even every day conversations seem hushed.

You’re surrounded by teenie tiny little people, who all have broken little hearts. Who are all on meds and machines and monitors, fighting for life with everything they got.

And then it hits you….they are fighting for life, with everything they got.

And then?

Then you’re overcome with hope.

Keep fightin’ lil guy. We’re all in your corner.

We love you <3

I salute you!


Yesterday, I spent some time in the family room at various points of the day.¬† In the cardiac unit, when a patient comes back to your pod from surgery, they ask everyone to clear out for a while, AJ had his arterial line put back in, so we had to leave then too, it’s just all a¬†little different to how things were done in the University of Iowa hospital in Iowa City last week.

Anyways, back to the family room.

So, I’m sitting there, with my phone plugged in to the wall, sipping on a diet coke that some kind soul has donated to the family rooms of the cardiac unit, watching kids come in and out to raid the snack basket, or watching staff come in to re-fill the baskets, or place out new baskets, this time with toothbrushes and toothpaste donated¬†for those families who need¬†them, while waiting for their kids in surgery and just, waiting for the ‘ok’ to go back to the ward and sit with my beloved nephew, when it occurred to me that we were sat waiting, with another family who was waiting.

Though, they were waiting a different kind of wait.

There was a mum and dad, their two young sons, one set of grandparents, and who I assumed were two aunts or other close family members.  It was abundantly clear that their precious little one was in surgery, that they were all balanced on a knife-edge, waiting for a whisper of news about their baby.

The parents were called out first and they came back in to take their boys outside the room to tell them how the surgery went, before telling the rest of the family.¬† Which the aunts assumed meant that the news wasn’t good and started to cry.¬† My heart broke for them, the uncertainty, the fear, the pain – and this was before they even knew the outcome of the surgery.

The parents came back in and told the extended family that their little girl had made it through the surgery and by that point, everyone was crying and they were all on their phones giving out the good news to whoever else was waiting with baited breath.

Later that afternoon, I was sat in the same room,¬†with a different family, in a similar situation.¬† The mother and father of a child in surgery, a set of grandparents and another family member or two that were there for moral support.¬† The nurse came in to update them mid-way through the procedure, ‘everything is going according to plan’, she said to the family, ‘I don’t see any drinks, are you all staying hydrated?’ she prodded with concern.

I left the family room before their surgery was finished.


That family will be us.

While we wait the four (+) hours for our little Anderson to have his first operation.

What I’m praying for most, second only to a successful surgery, is for strength for all of us, especially Amber and Aaron, who will be waiting – and I request that you do the same.

To any mum who has ever sat in the family room of a hospital, waiting, wondering, worrying about your child, who is in the hands of strangers (exceptionally well qualified strangers, but strangers all the same) y’all are freakin’ gladiators.

I salute you!

Don’t forget to give where you can:


That one friend…

This blog has been incredibly difficult to write.¬† I started it when I arrived in Iowa, and have been deleting it and re-writing it ever since.¬† Some¬†things are just hard to put into words, and my friendship with ‘The Girl’ is one of them.
I’m feeling a bit of a fraud this week.
I’ve had people far and wide tell me they’re so grateful for me being here for Amber, what they don’t know, is that she’s been there for me, every step of my life, for a very, very¬†long time.¬† She owes me nothing, I owe her everything, and being here, helping out her family in whatever small ways I can, is as much for me as it is for her.¬† I’m enjoying my time with my niece, Averie, don’t get me wrong, she’s a drama queen, diva, 6 year old, but she’s so full of love and cuddles that I could burst.¬† Let me tell you a little back story…

5k colour run, Cedar Rapids IA, 2015

¬†Everyone’s got “that one friend”.
The ‘Do you remember…’ friend.
The ‘This one time…’ friend.
The ‘Hold my hand and pretend to be my girlfriend cause I *really* don’t want anything to do with that guy’, friend
They may not be your longest serving friend, or maybe they are, but they are most certainly your very bestest.
The kind you have a suitcase full of stories about (that typically¬†all¬†come out in quick succession when you’re talking to other¬†people).¬† You’ve got a basket of dirty laundry together, a basket of secrets together and the biggest basket of all¬†is reserved for the¬†giggles, and hysterical laughter. The kind of laughter¬†that comes with tears pouring down your face, the kind of laughter that gives you hiccups cause you can’t breathe, the kind of laughter that hurts your ribs and has people looking at the two of you wondering why the hell you found what you’re laughing at, so hilariously funny.
Which just makes you both laugh harder.
They’re the¬†kind of friend you can sit up talking to¬†all night,¬†plan world domination with, karaoke with, shop with (and always find way more to buy when you’re together!)¬†drink with, dance with, cry with, get¬†questionable haircuts with, take a bazillion selfies with (you’re the same people, in the same clothes, with the same facial expressions, but bet your ass you’re taking alllllllll the selfies) and drive across country or fly across continents¬†to be with.

First trip to IA 2006 – ice cream, pjs and movies!

They’re the kind of friend you can often¬†tell what they’re thinking, just by the look on their face, or the subtle inclinations in their voice (or texts, or emails) or the un-subtle inclinations of them smacking you or throwing an inanimate object at your head.
There’s no better comfort than hugs from a friend like that, no better¬†joy than from the shared love and¬†laughs and no greater sorrow than when one of you are hurting.

Amber’s 1st trip to Ireland 2005

I’m asked at least half a dozen times every year, how I met my¬†‘that friend’ Amber.¬† I’m asked a dozen more than, that if we’re sisters.

She’s American, I’m not (though having lived¬†here for approaching six and a half years many people think I am, or at least Canadian) and we’ve known each other for ten and a half years.
On December 31st, we’ll hit our eleven year mark, and, we’re so close, that even her daughter Averie thinks we’re sisters.
Houston 2014

Houston 2014

I met her online (I’ll give you a moment to get past the shock and audible gasps), on a website called ‘LiveJournal’, an online journaling community.¬† You can post daily (hourly for some people) journal posts about anything/everything, join communities full of people with shared interests and add friends, who can comment on your posts.¬† Amber commented on my ‘Friends only’ post asking if I wanted to be her friend.¬† Little did I know that when I added her back, my life would change forever.
And then some.
A mutual friend said to me a very long time ago, ‘You guys are cute, you’re like sisters, mushy sisters, “I miss her” and “She’s having a hard time” and “I love her” and etc that’s all I ever hear.’. They also said ‘Good friendships prevail even in the shittiest of conditions.¬† I bet even your arguments are lame, I don’t think I can picture you two in a full out brawl, you know each other too well that you’d walk around and word things in a way that would keep each other from getting angrier’.
Our ‘arguments’ are about the only thing about us that is in any way boring, and oh the stories I could (and probably will) tell.
Chicago 2006 my first trip over to IA.

Chicago 2006 my first trip over to IA.

In the beginning, we were pen pals, with real, honest to goodness, pen to paper letters.  Pages upon pages, that we snail-mailed across the Atlantic.  Usually embedded in some kind of care package, a shoe box filled with the most delicious treats and snacks our countries had to offer.
We emailed about 239874529384729384572398 times a day.
Yes, that is a real number.
No, that is not an exaggeration.
That number doubled when she was on 3rd shift overnight at Yellow Book – we were on the same schedule for a while there.
My first visit to see her, came a year later, we’d even had a couple phone calls by that point, but I flew Dublin to Chicago, leaving a pair of anxious parents at home, praying to God they’d see me again.¬† We started in Chi-town (where I met Heather), drove through Madison (where I met Ange) and into Cedar Rapids (where I met a list as long as your arm of her friends, most notably the Stacks and Liz).¬† It was an amazing trip, I cried the whole way home, and I knew that I’d be busting my butt to save up enough so I could come back again soon.
Dublin 2005

Dublin 2005

A standard visit to Iowa consists of many basic elements, or, at least used to when we were younger, before children.¬† We’d bake cookies – something that’s ‘typically’ American to an Irish girl, we’d watch High School Musical (singing into hairbrushes or bottles – or just at the top of our lungs – poor Aaron!) while in our pjs and sharing a tub of Ben and Jerry’s Karamel Sutra (she’s allergic to chocolate, so she gets the vanilla, I get the chocolate and we fight for the caramel core! ūüėČ
There’d be a least one trip to Buffalo Wild Wings, more than likely two.¬† If we were visiting a city with a Chipotle, we’d go there too (Cedar Rapids just got one recently! Whoop!)
Before I moved to Texas, we’d visit WalMart and the Dollar Tree – taking at least an hour, sometimes three (right Col?) to do a thorough inspection of things I couldn’t get here, but absolutely ‘needed’ to take home.¬† We’d visit Michaels, Joann’s and, in Texas, Hobby Lobby – and buy any number of craft materials that neither of us ‘needed’, but more so ‘we could totally do this, with this’ – and, Lord knows, that Ireland isn’t overflowing with scrapbooking materials, and, as a knitter/crocheter, cheap yarn was never to be passed up.
The other thing we’d do? We’d drink.¬† Pretty much one night of my trip was spent drinking, occasionally with karaoke, though that bit isn’t a prerequisite (though I maintain it should be).¬† And when I say drink, we DRINK.¬† LOL!
Six years ago, my niece Averie Rose was born and we got a little more responsible, marginally more sensible (translation: our drinking was upgraded to cheap wine) and exceptionally good at our new found addiction of Pinterest parties.¬† I was her wing-woman for most of Averie’s birthday parties and have been to Iowa for four of her six to date, normally with some form of craft or food-creation in my suitcase that I’ve worked on in Texas to help out from afar.
We’ve road tripped together, we’ve baked together, we’ve sung together, we’ve gotten drunk together, we’ve gambled together, we’ve ice skated together (it’s possible I clung on for dear life to the arm of a poor unsuspecting Rough Riders goalie), we’ve camped together, we’ve been through drive-thru’s together, which may sound pretty benign to you guys, but to us they often end up with us crying with laughter¬†for one reason or another.
Stephen Kellogg and the Sixes gig

Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers gig

She’s responsible for about 75% of my music tastes and approves of the other 25% cause that came from Col (and she and him share an affinity for the 80s/classic rock), she’s responsible for my curly hair being as awesome as everyone tells me it is (seriously, I laughed at her when she told me about the Curly Girl routine, yet it’s kept me sane while battling the Texas humidity for years!) she’s responsible for my Midwestern accent (‘Las, you need to slow the f*ck down or people won’t be able to understand you’ and I’m responsible for her horribly poor Irish accent that’s passable enough to get her free drinks on St Paddy’s day) she’s responsible for my scrapbooking hobby, my obsession with Target, my baking and most of my wardrobe really, since there’s not really a fitting room I’ve been in, where she’s not been in with me (via snap-chat, pictures or even in real life when I come to visit).
We truly have had the best of times together and not to mention¬†she’s a Godmother to my little boy Lewis.
Lewis' Christening 2014

Lewis’ Christening 2014

She’s been there for me through the toughest times in my life too.
Boyfriend break-ups, college, health troubles, bereavement, fertility treatments, becoming an expat and moving away from home and even though there has always been a geographical distance between us (originally Iowa – Northern Ireland ~ 6,000 miles and now Iowa to Texas ~ 1,000 miles), we’ve never let that interfere with the strong bond that we have.¬† We’ve never let distance get in the way of being best friends, of confiding in each other, supporting each other, loving each other and generally being pretty inseparable – which, let’s face it, is a pretty great achievement, right?
Averie's 2nd Birthday party 2010

Averie’s 2nd Birthday party 2010

¬†So, I’ve told y’all how amazing she is, I’ve told y’all how much she’s been there for me, how she’s bugged me to eat, sleep, take meds and see doctors when I need to for the last decade.¬† I’ve told y’all I almost peed on her once¬†– oh, wait, what? I didn’t?
Ok, back up the truck.
There was this one night in our more recent history, where we went out drinking, on the way home, we made Aaron stop the car on a gravel road so we could pee.¬† It’s slightly possible that we may have been a little liquored up.¬† Amber went off on safari into the ditch and I stopped right next to the car to pee.¬† Before I could do my thing, she’s yelling at me that she’s standing ‘down stream’ and to get my ass down to her level so I didn’t pee on her.¬† As I was headed her direction, I fell on my arse and slid down the bank to land almost at her feet – thankfully, she hadn’t peed either, cause that’d have been unfortunate too.¬† More so really, cause I’d have been the one covered in pee.
We really do do¬†everything together! LOL! ūüėČ
I’ve told y’all I consider her to be family, because, when you get down to brass tacks? That’s what she is.

Amber came to Houston 2008

Basically we’re thick as thieves and I’m sure some days even our mothers wonder if we’re twins.
So, having laid a little of the foundation and given you some of the backstory of my friendship with this girl (really though? How impossible is it to tell an audience like y’all how much this girl means to me? As I’ve discovered in the last week, pretty bloody impossible!) I think you all have at least¬†a vague¬†idea of the kind of friendship we have.
Averie often despairs at the two of us ;)

Averie often despairs at the two of us ;)

Well,¬†eleven days ago, she went in to labour at 37 weeks gestation, with her second baby.¬† We said goodnight around midnight I think? And I slept pretty soundly – which is unusual at the moment – but I was woken up around 6am by Col saying ‘it’s go time’, to which I replied ‘What’s go time? Where am I going?’ and he said ‘AJ is coming’.¬† The plan of action had been that when Amber went in to labour I’d leave my phone volume on, but considering the amount of international phone ‘traffic’ I get on my phone, we figured that her best bet would be to text or call Col and he’d wake my butt.
She labored at home most of¬†Sunday night, because with Averie, she was sent home from the hospital like three times before it was really ‘go time’, so she waited for a while before heading in with AJ.¬† As it happened, she was 5cm dilated, admitted, epiduraled (only just, she almost missed that window) and had AJ by 10.45am on Monday morning.
It wasn’t long before they suspected something was a little off and they were running tests.¬† Test confirmed Trisomy 21/Downs Syndrome, as well as three congenital heart defects, he has hypoplastic left heart syndrome, an unbalanced AV canal and coartication of the aorta.
12019790_10155947490505411_6588613727493917160_n (2)
The last ten days have been an emotional rollercoaster.¬† He was ambulanced to the University of Iowa hospital (go Hawks!) where he has been ever since, hooked up to machines and on a fine balance of medication to keep his ticker working.¬† After a back and forward with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) they gave us markedly improved odds¬†(compared to U of I) of survival from the first of his (at least) three surgeries that he will require to repair his specific series of heart defects.
He showed signs of infection, had trouble with his IV sites, a swollen tummy and an issue with keeping his blood pressure stable – not all at the same time mind you, but he’s given us a couple of heart-in-mouth moments over the last few days which led us to wonder if he’d still be a viable candidate for the surgery at CHOP.
11204414_10155947491130411_634803832216868452_n (2)Today we heard the great news, that CHOP would take him, but they don’t have a bed available for him just yet, and we’ll likely have to wait through the weekend before Amber heads up with AJ and before Aaron road trips the 18 hours up to PA to be with AJ for his first surgery.
As you can imagine, I’ve felt pretty helpless over the last week and a half.¬† I came up to Iowa last Friday and have spent the majority of my time with my niece.¬† I’ve had a cough (and didn’t want to risk giving germs to AJ if it wasn’t ‘just allergies’) so the hospital has been out of bounds and we figured that she needed a little stability and ‘normalcy’ in her life while everything is going on around her.¬† We’ve had a pretty good time.¬† I mean, she’s had her sassy moments, her moments of sliding on to the floor in a puddle of ‘I don’t want it to be bath night tonight’, but, considering what’s going on in her life right now, she’s doing better than most of the adults I know would in her situation.
IMG_2657What else can I do?
Not much really, it’s a waiting game, and, while I wait, I’m doing a spot of fundraising for AJ’s medical expenses and for his family’s travel expenses to and from PA, recovery time up there, gas to and from the hospital in IA City etc etc etc.¬† We’re doing pretty good, too.¬† My first major goal is behind us, $10k!! That’s incredible – let’s keep the momentum going!
If you shake your sofa cushions and happen upon some cash you didn’t realize you had and have been happily living without, you should consider donating it to my nephew, if you could¬†take a time-out from¬†your daily Starbucks for the week and donate that money? That would be great too.¬† If you have any cash at all spare, we’ll take it – no donation is too small.¬† Every dollar counts!
Donate here:

Fireman Lewis to the rescue! (Free fire station tour, Sugar Land, Texas)


A friend of mine mentioned a while ago, that a few years back, SSA Houston organized a visit to a fire station. ¬†After a brief search I found the information, sent out the invite, and, before long, I was making the reservation for a group of forty strong (any more and we’d have had to split it in to two groups, so keep that in mind if you’re going to be looking at this event).

Ok, ok so it’s still pretty hot and sticky out there, and there’s more mosquitoes than you can count but although it wasn’t an indoor in the AC kind of activity, it was shaded, educational, fun and it was enjoyed by both adults and kids alike.


I wasn’t sure what to expect to be honest, but I was pleasantly surprised as to how the whole thing was set up. Lack of on-site parking aside, when we got to Station 3 in Sugar Land, we were met by an ambulance, a fire engine and a crew of five fire people. ¬†After introductions, warnings and reminders that we are, after all, standing in a live fire house and a little history, they began to talk to us a little about fire safety. Who to call, what to do, where to go etc. ¬†it was equally as educating for the adults as it was for the kids.


Next at up we learned a little fire procedure. ¬†The suit, the air tank, the number of firemen who go out on a call, how they search for and find any fallen firemen during a fire, what to do if you’re trapped in a room during a fire.


After the talk (which was interactive, so feel free to ask questions) the kids each got to take turns at sitting in the fire truck.  We all got to pose for photos with the truck and one kind fireman even took a group shot of our crazy gang.

11060005_10155472524550411_4838108004485431527_nThe kids got sent home with fire hats and safety information goodie-bags. It was a great experience for everyone.¬† I’d highly recommend you visiting your local fire station and meeting some of the bravest men and women in Sugar Land.¬† For more information on this free tour, go here.

[Breastfeeding buddies] Courtney and Sophia.

Oh! It’s been an age since I got to sit at my surface and type out some blog posts for the masses.¬† Visitors, a malady plagued house and more visitors have left me with very little ‘down-time’ to churn anything out.¬† Or even stop for a breath.¬† I promised a long time ago to share some real-life breastfeeding stories, from my nearest and dearest friends.¬† I think I’ll restart my blogging kick there.

No better person to start with than this¬†story from my girl Courtney, living in Cali.¬† Court is one of my very favorite people in the whole wide universe¬†and I miss her face.¬† We’ve been pen pals for a long time, but she came out to visit us last year for a few days and, in that time, we became BFF’s.¬† We clicked.¬† She is AWESOME and she’s a FAB-tactic mama.


I am going to be upfront with all of you and admit from the start that writing in detail about my breastfeeding journey was extraordinarily hard for me to do. Though, (for the most part) I’ve come to peace with the outcome of it all (SPOILER ALERT: I failed. Miserably.). I have been able to reflect on the experience with a positive outlook, but it was still difficult to find the words to describe everything without going on side tangents. So I will try my hardest, dear reader, to report just the facts and save the rants for another time.

This was my first pregnancy and like all first mothers, I gorged myself with all the baby related reading material I could get my grubby hands on. I was determined to breastfeed my baby. My husband and I went out and bought all the necessary supplies; we got a pump, creams, pads, containers, wipes, ointments, and anything else related to breastfeeding. We even got two of everything so we would be doubly set. I was ready for this!!!

My due date came and went and still no baby. This little girl was in it for the long haul. Finally, two weeks later I had to schedule a C-section.

I should also pause here in the story to note that at the time of my pregnancy, we were living in Wyoming. My husband, not being fond of the health care provided in the state, wanted to have the baby in California where we were from and where we had family. For some reason, still unknown to me, I agreed. Two weeks before the due date and with the Dr.’s blessing we drove to California and scheduled an appointment with a doctor I’d never worked with.

From the get go I was very upfront with my feeding plan. And I have to give credit to the hospital and all their staff for being supportive of my wishes and listening to my requests. I was lucky to have a good breast feeding consultant who ensured that the baby’s latch was good and I found out that she liked to cluster feed. With that knowledge, I took it to be the norm when feedings were lasting up to an hour or more on each breast. Other than that I did not have any other type of training. I felt like I was getting enough nourishment to my baby and from what the staff at the hospital told me, that was the case. During our stay at the hospital there were no issues and the Dr.’s were happy with our daughter’s progress.

Though my baby was a champion during the first week of her life, I was just beginning a free fall plummet to a mental breakdown. Unbeknownst to me, postpartum depression was playing a part in all of this, but the biggest push down the hill was the pain medication that was prescribed to me. The side effects of this drug was huge; I was unable to stay awake for more than a few minutes at a time, nodding off in the middle of texts or on conversations on the phone. The worst of the side effects were the night terrors, they were so dark and twisted even the most creative (or demented) person couldn’t think up the nightmares I was having. A combination all of this was taking a toll on my mental health.

After our hospital stay, we went back to my husband’s parent’s house. To their credit, they were very hospitable and made every effort to make our stay comfortable. My husband was going through his own adjustments and was very distant as he processed the emotions and change of being a new dad. I was in my own mental state of crisis with the pain meds messing with my head and dealing with postpartum. Staying at the house with a new baby was just plain rough. Everything else made for the perfect storm for failure and despite it all, I was trying my best trying to breast feed our daughter.

Feeding was getting extremely difficult and unimaginably painful. One does not realize the love a mother has for their baby until they are experiencing excruciating pain in their breasts. True love is, despite all impulses and instinct to throw their baby across the room to make the hurt stop, when you keep breastfeeding and holding on to your baby. I was cracking, chapped, bleeding, red, and sore. No amount of cream or ointment was going to heal me. I decided to switch to pumping to try and give myself a chance to heal.

Pumping in its own self was an adventure. While I had read everything about breastfeeding and the consultant at hospital guided me on breast feeding, never did it once occur to me to learn the logistics about pumping! So I did what any first time mother not in her right mind did, I just winged it. On the fly pumping, if you will. I mean honestly how hard could it be? You just hook them up to your milk dispensers and it ends up in the little containers! Working mothers did this every day, sauntering into the barn and letting the farmer hook up the pumps to their utters. If cows could be milked this way, why couldn’t I?!

I found out that, though in theory pumping is very easy, in practice it is not. I sat on my In-Law’s couch for hours in vain and only coming up with a few ounces of liquid gold in each breast. My journey into breastfeeding was looking very dismal. We were leaving back to Cheyenne in a few days so my mind (which was doing better after getting off the meds that were making loopy) was focused on the trip and I felt like finding a breast feeding consultant in a town we would be leaving was pointless. Supplementing with formula was our only option at that time, which we took because at the end of it all our baby needed to be fed.

I worked very hard at processing this failure in a positive way. It was not easy, as my first inclination was to beat myself up for failing my baby, being a mother, and in some ways a woman. But I was able to excuse my shortcomings at the time with the understanding that not all people were cut out for it (my mom was not able to produce enough milk as well) and at the very least my baby was able to get the most nourishing part (though all parts of breastfeeding are important) from the colostrum.

So there you have it, my breastfeeding journey. It was a difficult, though short lived trial, and it was ok for me to fail. The best way to handle that failure for me was to learn from it. Breastfeeding is challenging if you are not properly prepared for it. Despite my failures, my daughter is strong, smart, and healthy. My experiences and short comings have made me better prepared for our next child. To be honest, now that I am a little wiser, I am looking forward to trying breastfeeding all over again.


My first ever Busy Bag Swap!


Being an avid Pinterest-er¬†(yes, I may have made up¬†a word)¬†I can safely say that¬†I was overwhelmingly curious when I stumbled upon a pin about a ‘Busy Bag’.¬† I liked the concept, it was simple.

What is a busy bag? A ‘busy bag’ is a simple activity, that typically fits inside a Ziploc bag. It’s designed to keep your little ones entertained, teach them about things (shapes/colors/numbers/fine motor skill), but also¬†be cheap (the aim is to make them around $1-$2 each), and fun.

The idea, is so simple, in fact, that you can reduce it to a five-point-plan.

Step 1:  Pick a date (leave enough time for your attendees to buy supplies and create their bags).

Step 2: Invite mums.  I invited about 20-25 mums.  The more mums that attend, the more bags you get.

Step 3: Chose a bag to make – this could take a while.¬† There are any number of bag ideas on Pinterest, Google searches etc.¬† Consider the age of the children attending, and try to pick something age appropriate, or something they will ‘grow in to’ before long.¬† I made two bags, as I wanted to receive two full sets of bags.

Step 4: Make one of your bags for each mum in attendance.  Make an extra one or two in case you have any last-minute additions to the guest list.

Step 5: Get together and swap your bags.

It’s THAT simple.


We ended up with eleven bags, and we kind of turned the swap in to an impromptu play date.  It was during the day, each mama brought shareable snacks, their kids, and we spent the morning having fun, explaining how to work our bags and eating good food Рwhat more could you want from a morning?

Our Bags:


Top Row: Paper chain, personalized door handle, create your own caterpillar

Bottom row: Thread straws on yarn, put pipe cleaners into a container (both fine motor skill)


Build your own pizza and learn shapes with car tracks.


Counting and colors (pegs, buttons and pompoms)


Aren’t they FAB bags? I had a lot of fun, and I’m already planning the next busy bag swap for our group – there are hundreds of bags out there for us to make ūüėČ and you can be sure these little ones all slept well that night too!

Battleship Texas (15 things to do in Houston for under $15)


“Commissioned in 1914 as the most powerful weapon in the world, the Battleship Texas is credited with the introduction and innovation of advances in gunnery, aviation and radar.¬† She is the last surviving Dreadnought as well as the only battleship in existence today that fought in both World War I and World War II… In 1948 the Battleship Texas became the first battleship memorial museum in the United States.”


The USS¬†Texas is our third adventure aboard a¬†WWII ship, and, if I’m honest, I think the USS Kidd (Baton Rouge) and the USS Lexington (Corpus Christi)¬†have her beaten.¬† That said, it was¬†still a very enjoyable trip aboard.

Time and nature have taken a serious toll on this poor Dreadnought, she¬†needs some serious repairs (and some kind of shield from the harsh Texas sunshine!), the deck is rotting and the wood is coming up in places, I believe they’ve submitted a request for a rather large sum of money to do some fixing.¬† It’s needed.

Open 10am Р5pm daily, and at $12 per person entrance fee for anyone over 12 years old, it could get expensive to take your whole family.  It makes me wonder what the entrance fee is used for, if not to improve and repair the ship?

Anyways, my mum and I went on board for a nosy, in April, and it was HOT.¬† Especially in those lower decks.¬† Top deck has any amount of weaponry on display – some of which you can even climb up on to and pretend to aim and shoot.¬† If, like me, you have limited upper body strength, it’ll make you wonder just how strong and fit the sailors of the War’s were – those suckers take a LOT of work to turn!


You can climb pretty high up too, my mum was sad she couldn’t go all the way to the top, but she loved the climb and view from up in the rafters.

One deck below, they have a deck dedicated to the sailors lives, how they lived, ate, what they did in their spare time.


The deck below that, is the engine room deck, where you can get a real good look at the innards of this beautiful ship though, embarrassingly, neither of us went to that deck, we were both too hot and the ship was quite busy.  We opted to go back on shore and get some water!

My mum, who has never been on board a ship like this before, was very impressed and said it was worth every penny to visit.¬† We had good fun poking around, I’ll be excited to see her after her (hopefully soon) restoration.


Lewis’ ‘Time Flies’ first birthday airplane party.

The theme for this blog post, guys and gals, is ‘OTT’.¬† No, no really.

11010629_10155279509765411_8605921233011560039_nBut he’s super cute – and I just couldn’t help myself!

It’s no secret that I’m a Pinterest party person. I love event planning, hosting parties and crafting up a storm to make for an amazing party. Having helped my BFF out for the last five years on my nieces birthday parties, I felt confident that I could take doing one for Lewis by myself.

With the help of our photographer, we narrowed down a theme (I’ll probably use the runner up for next year!)¬† Airplanes.¬† She mentioned that she had happened upon a cute plane prop and could totally make an amazing set around that theme.¬† So we ran with it.



I had bought him a cute flight jacket at a local Just Between Friends consignment sale, wayyyyyy before he was born (Col thought it was cute) and after having gone to the Galveston Flight Museum (and Amazon), I grabbed some patches and send the whole thing down to my trusty seamstress, who turned out a FAB jacket for our lil guy.

His first birthday photo shoot was one of my faves, he was a lot more mobile than before, he was curious and yet hesitant to pick things up, so gave us unsure little looks, to make sure he could pick up the planes and letters around.

I ordered them (and the thank-you cards) from Tiny Prints (photo above was the one I used!), I had a coupon for a huge discount, but needed urgent shipping cause I stupidly left it too late.  Tip: schedule your pictures early, and order your invitations early.  BE EARLY! LOL!

Party bags


I went with brown paper bag ‘suitcases’, in keeping with the travelling/flying theme.¬† I got the bags and brown card for accents in Michaels.¬† The vintage travel stickers, and the thank-you tags came from Amazon, and the pilots wings I got from eBay.


Inside each bag, kids got a little aviator duck, a ‘grab bag’ from Target (either a Planes one, or a Minions one), mini bubbles, Disney Planes/Cars tummies, a foam glider, half a sheet of stickers (I couldn’t get a sheet each, Target was cleared!!) and some white chocolate covered pretzels.

Photo booth


I’ve wanted one of these for ages, and this OTT first birthday party, was the perfect excuse ūüėČ I decided to go with a fabric back drop.¬† I ordered a photographers stand from EBay for $30, it came in a little fold away bag for easy storage, it’s easy to step up and take down (if I can do it anyone can) and it worked out being cheaper, or at least as cheap as making a plastic pipe one from piping from Lowe’s or Home Depot.

For the back ground itself, I wanted a sky-theme, I had grand plans of making a cardboard plane for Lewis and his friends to sit on, in front of it, so I bought two yards of four different colors of fabric, which Col and I tore into 2″ strips one night while watching NCIS.¬† The clouds are made from $1 clearance tulle Pompoms from Michaels and fish wire/clear thread.


My props, aside from Lewis’ flight jacket, and a pilot hat from Amazon, were hand-held wooden props that I got from Michaels and painted one evening (glasses, mustaches, crowns, top hats) that were all $1-$1.50 each, but are so versatile that I can use them every year, regardless of the theme of the party!

I ran out of time (and thought I’d have more hands to help) so¬†I ordered an inflatable red airplane from Amazon.



Using my ‘old faithful’ cricut, I cut two different banners – out of regular, 12×12 card stock from Michaels.¬† In their ‘discount bins’, I got some matching twine and in their scrapbooking aisles, I picked up some coordinating clothes pegs, to make my lovely ‘Time Flies’ banner.¬† The intention was to have a plane pulling the banner, but it just didn’t get done.


The other, was a Happy Birthday Lewis banner Рpretty simple, but cute!


I picked up 48 WWII foam gliders on Amazon for $8, I didn’t realize there was 48 when I bought them, but, after putting one in each party bag, I didn’t want to waste the leftovers, so decided to do a hall of gliders – stringing them up onto fish wire was pretty bad, considering the string is INVISIBLE, but I think the hall looked cute.


Even now, weeks later, Lewis LOVES our hall of gliders.¬† Every morning we go downstairs and from the very top step, you’ll hear him exclaim ‘wow!’ They amaze him!



I considered having a cake made by a local¬†bakery, but, in a moment of stupidity, decided to do it myself.¬† I usually HATE boxed cakes, but, I haven’t find a white/vanilla cake recipe that I love better than the box (I will NEVER buy a chocolate box mix, for example) – if you have one, please feel free to share!


I went with a five layer orange ombre cake, covered in a light ‘sky’ blue butter cream, buttercream clouds and topped with a Sesame street cake topper (from Amazon).¬† It was pretty tasty – if I do say so myself, but, unfortunately, most of our guests were seemingly health conscious, and I was left with well over half of the cake! (This totally wouldn’t have happened in my home country!!)

Food and drinks


The ‘in-flight service’ savoury¬†menu, was pretty simple.¬† I went with two crock pots of ‘mains’, I had BBQ pulled chicken in one, and meatballs and smokies in a BBQ-tomato sauce in the other.¬† I had burger buns, with cheese, onions and lettuce on the side.

The sides were a veggie plate, crisps from home, chips and salsa and caprese bites (mozzarella cheese, basil leaves and cherry tomatoes drizzled with balsamic vinegar РI should have made more of those, they went very well!).


I even put together some cutlery/silverware packets, with Lewis Air labels that my BFF designed for me.


IMG_4749The ‘in-flight beverage’ drinks table, ¬†had some orange punch (Hawaiian punch and sprite zero), Koolaid drinks and small bottles of water (with personalized labels).


Our dessert table, was fun! I had my sister pick up a bunch of kiddies sweets from home, my best friend baked some Airplane cookies, I dipped some Oreos and made propellers from M&M’s and Jelly Beans and had some jars of color coordinated M&M’s and Jelly beans.


I’m very proud of this party, not least of all cause I did it myself, but also cause it came together very well.¬† I’ve already given thought to his next birthday party theme, and will be keeping my eye out for ‘stuff’ to stock pile for it! ūüėČ

What was the theme for your little one’s first birthday party?