Meet the Sullivans: 2015

December 31, 2015

2015, Looking Back...

2015 has blown right by us! When I think back on this year I'll always remember it as the year of "the baby" since I spent most of the year pregnant. We started the year not knowing if we'd ever be able to grown our family and now here we are ending it with our complete family -- it is amazing what can happen in a year! God has been so very good to us!

In January we celebrated Owen's 3rd birthday with friends and family at La Petite Playhouse

In February we switched Owen from his crib to a toddler bed,

In March we found out I was pregnant and that we'd be expecting our second child in early December!

In April we celebrated Easter with our families in Folsom and here in San Mateo. And my morning sickness kicked into full drive, which resulted in me not blogging much.

In May we announced that Owen was becoming a big brother

In June we celebrated Keith's 36th birthday in Disneyland!

In July we found out we would be welcoming our second baby BOY in December!

In August Keith and I celebrated 5 years of marriage and we went camping with family (always a highlight of Owen's summer)

In September Owen started his second year of preschool!

In October celebrated all things Fall, Halloween (Owen was Peter Pan!) and my 34th birthday!

In November I documented what a day in our life before Luke looked like and we celebrated Thanksgiving with our families!

And in December our sweet baby Luke was born and we celebrated Christmas together with our two boys for the first time!

We're ringing in the New Year at home this year, just us! Keith is picking up take out and our number one goal is to get everyone to bed at a reasonable hour so we can hopefully start the new year feeling somewhat refreshed! Cheers to 2016, it will be an exciting year!

Wishing you all the best in 2016! 

Here are our 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011 recaps, if you're interested!  

December 21, 2015

Five on...Tuesday!

Well, I tried to get this post up Friday, but just couldn't make it happen, so Tuesday it is! There are only days left until Christmas, my friends! Are you ready? I'm taking a laid back approach to the holidays this year. I didn't send Christmas cards, but we'll send New Year's cards instead. I haven't baked a single Christmas cookie. I've only managed to wrap half the gifts we're giving, and I haven't watched a single one of my favorite Christmas movies. But, that's not to say the spirit of the season isn't in our hearts. This is probably our most precious Christmas ever, the first one with our two boys!

Let's get on to my five...

one - We managed to make our gingerbread house last week! We went out for a family walk around the neighborhood, and Luke was still asleep when we got home, so Keith, Owen and I took the opportunity to decorate our gingerbread house together. There was Christmas music, coffee for the and more candy in our tummies than on our house! We let Owen take the lead this year and he made all frosting and candy placement decisions. It's obviously our best one yet!

two - My new Life Planner came right after Thanksgiving and I'm in love with the color, design and that extra name at the bottom. I've been spending any little moment I can filling in my calendar for next year and Luke's baby book (Little Animal Lover Memory Book). I went with the Lucy Darling baby book this time because it's entries are short and sweet -- there's no way I have time to fill in page long entries this time around!

three - Finding pj's that match for both a preschooler and a newborn is no small feat, but I've been able to find a few pairs. Earlier this week we dressed them in the stars ones at bed time and Keith and I died from the cuteness. I can't believe how HUGE Owen looks next to little Luke!

four - Luke and I went to his 2 week appointment last week! His weight is going up, he's almost 8 lbs now, and he's grown half an inch. His umbilical cord stump fell of this week and we finally gave him a bath Friday night. He did really well and cried just a bit, but also seemed to enjoy it for a minute. Last night after his bath we gave him some tummy time and he managed to roll himself over from his tummy to his back. Both our boys were early rollers :)

five - For the past few years I've tried to not buy any extra Christmas decorations -- we have SO much already and don't even put it all out each year, but the Christmas sales are calling my name and I'm pretty sure I'll be adding a few of these things to our collection this year.

 I hope you all have a Merry Christmas!

Favorite Meals to Make for New Mamas from Seeing All Sides

Hi there, I'm Sarah - a high school math teacher by day and mama to two adorable boys, Brantley (3) and Holden (1), the rest of the time!  I'm a born-and-raised Iowa girl, but have called Kansas City my home for about nine years now!  I love taking photos, math, the World Series Champion KC Royals, the Rose Bowl bound Hawkeyes, anything Bachelor-related, being crafty, and summer (duh, I'm a teacher!).  I blog about my family, among other things, over at Seeing All Sides (our last name is Sides in case you were wondering what that's all about!).  Congratulations to Colleen and family on your newest little guy, Luke, and thanks for letting me take over your space for the day!

One of my favorite things about having a baby (besides the obvious) was being flooded with meals from friends and neighbors!  As most of us know, caring for a newborn is enough to keep a mama busy and the last thing you want to think about is what to make for dinner!  Not only that, but it's always fun to eat something that somebody else prepares and it always tastes better!  Since having my own babies and loving every homemade meal sent my way, I've made it a priority to do the same for others.

Here are two of my favorite meals to take to new mamas.  Coincidentally, both of my go-tos are "pies"! 

1 | Chicken Pot Pie

I love this recipe because it includes a meat and a vegetable and it's one of those hearty, comfort-food type meals that's good for the soul.  It's quick and easy to throw together and it can be baked immediately or frozen for later use.  

What You'll Need:
1 family size can (23 ounce) of cream of potato soup
12 to 16 ounce package of frozen mixed vegetables
2 cups of cooked and shredded chicken
1/2 cup of milk
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 pre-made refrigerated pie crusts

What You'll Do:
Combine first six ingredients.  Spoon into prepared pie crust.  Cover with second crust.  Crimp edges with a fork to seal.  Slit top crust.  Cover with foil and label with baking instructions.

What the New Mama Will Do:
Bake at 375 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes.

2 | Spaghetti Pie

 This recipe is one I consider more kid-friendly, so this is what I typically make if there are older siblings involved. Like the chicken pot pie, it can be baked right away or frozen for later use.  I also usually include a package of rolls or breadsticks and a bag of pre-made salad for the family to enjoy alongside this.

What You'll Need:
8 ounces spaghetti
2 tablespoons butter
1 egg
1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese
1 24-ounce container of cottage cheese
1 pound hamburger
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

What You'll Do:
Prepare spaghetti according to package directions.  Lay in a 9x13 pan.  Melt butter; mix with Parmesan and egg.  Spread on top of noodles and mix in a bit.  Spread cottage cheese on top of noodles.  Brown and drain hamburger; add sauce and sugar.  Layer that on top of cottage cheese.  Cover with foil and label with baking instructions.  Don't forget to include the mozzarella cheese!

What the New Mama Will Do:
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  Add shredded mozzarella and bake 15 minutes more.

Thanks for letting me share with you today!  Feel free to come visit me at Seeing All Sides!  Have a wonderful day and an even better holiday season!

December 17, 2015

25 Days of Christmas Books from Chasin' Mason

Hi everyone! My name is Elizabeth and I blog over at Chasin' Mason. I mostly blog about the regular happenings in my daily life with my husband and my three year old son, Mason, but throw in some recipes and DIY stuff too if it strikes my fancy. I'm so excited to be guest posting today while Colleen takes some time to enjoy her new little family of four! 

Today I wanted to share with you one of my very favorite Christmas traditions : 25 Days of Christmas Books!

The 25 days of Christmas books is one of my favorite traditions. We started it in 2013 with Mason when he was about one and a half, but I think he was really too young to fully grasp what was going on. It was more me wrapping the books and then having fun opening the books in front of him and then reading him a different book each night before Christmas.

Why did I start so early if I knew he wouldn't really understand? I wanted to start his holiday library early to maximize the use of the lower reading level books.

But, if I'm being honest, I think one was still too young and two was a lot better.

Last year he was WAY more into opening the presents/books! In fact, he was so into it, that I once left him unattended for a couple minutes to get his bath ready and walked back in to find him opening more than his one book for the day.

Sweet boy. So excited about his books!

Speaking of being excited about his books... I had left them out on the stairs to be able to take a picture of them when I had an unexpected visitor. Mason climbed all the way up the stairs to find me and walked right in on my attempt to organize.

Can't say that I blame him for being so excited though. I would be too given all the Mickey books that I got him!

Here are the books that we've been using for the past couple years :

Mickey's Rockin' Christmas (from Costco)

(After taking the picture, I realized I only took a picture of 22 of the books... oops. The others included in the collection 

Last year I also set up our little, fake, pre-lit tree in his room and put all of the books under neath. And I plan to do the same thing this year. Each night I would ask Mason to pick a new book and we opened it together and read it. It was SO cute watching him unwrap the presents as he ripped the paper off and then tossed it behind him - totally unknowing of the huge mess he was making. He also hates when he gets the paper stuck to his hand and he shook it until the paper fell off.

We usually read at least two stories per night so we always read the new one as well as one that we have opened in the past couple days.

I just LOVE the way the whole thing turned out last year and was so happy that Mason was so into it. He thoroughly enjoyed opening a present each night and I'm hoping the excitement pours over again into this year. I'm so excited for Christmas with him this year because I know he is going to be so excited about his presents and I can't wait to see the joy on his face!

What kind of Christmas or holiday traditions do you love to do with your family? I'd love to know!

December 16, 2015

SAHM Time Management Tips from Secrets of a Stay at Home Mom

Hi everybody!  I'm Jessica, and I blog over at Secrets of a Stay at Home Mom!  I share about life as a SAHM, diy projects, and everything in between.  I'm thrilled to be guest posting for Colleen while she's enjoying her sweet new little bundle of joy!

When I gave Colleen my ideas for my post I was really excited when she chose for me to share about how I manage time and life as a SAHM.  It's something that has taken a lot of trial and error, throwing routines and schedules out of the window, starting over, and being okay with changes.

Here's how I try (try being the key word) to run our day.

7:00-7:30  Kids wake up 
7:30-7:45  Breakfast
8:15  Clean up, get dressed
8:30  Learning/craft activity 
9:00  Independent play
9:30  Outside play/walk
10:30  Snack and play
11:00  Family chores
11:30  TV/make lunch
12:00  Lunch
12:30  Lunch clean-up/books/quiet play
1:30  Nap/quiet time
3:30  Snack/TV
4:00  Music/Craft/Play
5:00  Dinner prep
6:00  Dinner
6:30  Clean-up
6:40  Family time
7:25  Clean-up
7:30  Baths
8:00  Bedtime

Every day does not look like the "schedule" above.  Cam has preschool three days a week from 
9:00 -11:45, so that changes things.  Also, we have fun plans with friends, errands and so much else that comes up at a moment's notice.  I'm not scared to change our schedule because it's not set in stone.  I do try to keep nap time as consistent and possible, but we roll with the punches when we have to.  Well, I should say Emerson does.  Cam is quickly moving away from naps.  Boo!!  I'll also admit that I'm not always the perfect Pinterest mom.  You are shocked and disgusted aren't you?  :)  There are days Cam watches way too much tv or movies because it helps me to get things done around the house.  There are days outside play doesn't happen because it's either too cold or we just don't feel like it.  Sometimes having two means you read a million books, heat up your coffee 12 times before you finish once cup,  and sometimes the tv helps you get one load of laundry folded.  Course, I felt that way when I just had Cameron too.  Ha!

When Emmy was born our schedule was thrown out the window.  Being awake, aware, and ready for what the crazy toddler needs while having no sleep due to a newborn makes life a little tough for a while.  There were a few days that I'd turn on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, put Emmy in her rock n play for a nap, and lay down on the couch.  Cam would come over, lean in my ear, and say, "Mommy, are you sleeping?"  Then he'd go play, come back a few minutes later and ask the same thing.  Ha ha!  Yep, we had those days.  I'm not perfect and with no family here to help day in and day out I had to figure out how to survive those tough days.  But after a few weeks and once we were past those really exhausting first few weeks or month with a newborn we quickly fell into our new daily routine.  It's definitely not perfect, but it works for our family.  

Here are a few tips for surviving as a mom of two (or more):

- Relax and have no expectations.  There is nothing wrong with staying in your pajamas all day, not showering, and throwing a pizza in the oven for dinner.  This goes for days when you have a newborn or not.  

- Have something for your toddler or older child to do while you are feeding the baby.  Books, puzzles, a short show, or blocks are good ones.

- Find alone time with your older child.  Cam did a great job rolling right into his big brother role, but I did my best to make sure I spent time each day with just him.  At the beginning we took quick trips to the post office or Starbucks while Emmy stayed with Daddy or Mimi while she was visiting.  I also played playdoh, read books, and built with Legos.  Anything to make him feel loved and not forgotten.  

- Let people help.  I was bad about the first time around.  Okay, the second time too, but I got better.  Just because you need help doesn't mean you are weak or can't handle things.  You are human!  I am still working on this one.

Bringing a new little one into the family is incredibly exciting, but also stressful.  I wanted everything to be perfect and that was stupid.  Nothing is perfect.  Being a mom/parent is hard work and no matter how much help I had from my hubby he wasn't there during the day, so I was on my own to find how to make our life easy once baby came.  I've been lucky to have a toddler who is really easy-going and loves his little sister.  That was my biggest concern.  Now that we have our routine we wake up and hit the floor running every day.  Whether you are a mom of 1, 2, 4, 7, or 10 you've got this!  You can do this!  You will find your new normal quickly and it'll be just right for your family.  Hang in there!  

December 15, 2015

Family of Four - the First 10 Days

I've been home from the hospital for 10 days now and our little family of four is adjusting quite nicely!

I was determined to come home a day early because I was getting pretty sick of being in the hospital -- I hate feeling "sick" or like I need so much help, and I was seriously missing my sweet Owen. He had a cold while I was in the hospital, so we only got to come visit once, the day before I came home. He made himself at home on the hospital bed and when it was time to go, he did not want to leave.

The hardest part of coming home was finding that Owen had come down with his very first ear infection. My heart broke knowing that I was finally home and reunited with Owen only to have to force him into the car to head to urgent care without me. It was awful. He begged me to come with him, and to let Daddy stay with Luke. That was my biggest fear / concern with having two children, that I'd have to choose between them when they both desperately needed me. Owen ended up going with Keith and his mom after being promised a trip to the toy store, and he was fine. He recovered quickly and he's finally done taking his pink medicine! We had to make it into a silly game about germ Army's making ouchie castles and buildings inside his ears and that the pink medicine helped wipe them out. That's parenting!

Breastfeeding Luke has been a breeze! He has a serious hunger and a good latch. Engorgement was rough, followed by a period of regulation that had me concerned about my supply but then a day or two later everything was back to normal again! 

Sleep has been okay too. Some nights are good some are not so great. What makes it really rough is when Owen is up too and comes into our room and wants to be in our bed. We've only had to kick daddy out of the bed once. And last night everyone slept great! Luke slept from 10 to 3, that's five straight hours!! And then nursed and went back to sleep until after 6! It was glorious, but I won't fool myself into expecting many more nights like that!

Owen has been adjusting beautifully into his role as a big brother! He loves to help with diaper changes by handing me wipes or diapers, but steers clear of the dirty part. Everyday when he comes home from being out the first thing he wants to do is find me and "the baby". He helps reinsert Luke's paci, sings him songs and asks to touch him and hold him. Last night he asked when Luke will be able to play with him. He's eager for his little brother to join in his fun! 

Luke is the sweetest baby, and loves to eat sleep and be held. He really only cries when he's hungry or needs a diaper change, and we haven't had to break out in a dance party to soothe him or use the physioball to bounce him to calm him. He had a very laid back personality, from what we can tell so far!

Keith is home with us until after the New Year and is has been such a huge blessing! With him home I've been able to recover from my c-section, take naps when I need them and he's been taking Owen to school and helping make our transition a smooth one. I'm already dreading when he goes back to work and having to find a new routine for us.

I went for my first post-op appointment yesterday and everything is healing up fine. I'm off the pain medicine now and I'm just taking an occasional ibuprofen when I feel like I've done to much. My scar seems to be much more discrete this time than it was before, which is likely due to this being a planned c-section where my doctor could take her time.

Of course, our adjustment wouldn't be so easy without all the love and care we've received from family, neighbors, classmates and friends. We've barely had to cook a meal since we've been home and it has been awesome! I'm really going to miss that part once it's over. I see many slow cooker meals in our future once Keith goes back to work.

We're getting into a great groove and routine. Keith takes Owen out for his activities and I hang at home with Luke, who usually sleeps most of the day away. Everyday he has more and more awake time though. Our bedtime routine is still a bit of a juggling act with dinner, followed by a bath for Owen given by Keith. I'm usually feeding Luke at that time so that when Owen is ready for bed I can have some time with him and read him a story while Keith watches Luke. 

So that's what's up with us lately! I hope you're all doing well and are enjoying the holidays!

December 14, 2015

Holiday Traditions from The Adventure Starts Here

Hi everyone!  I'm Meghan, from The Adventure Starts Here, where I blog all about my life as a wife and stay at home mom to our 3 year old son, Noah!  I love sharing about our family adventures, the crafts Noah and I do together, as well as some of my personal interests (fashion, decor, and organization to name a few)!  I am so excited to be here today while Colleen loves on her new baby boy and adjusts to life as a family of four!

As I mentioned above, I love sharing about my family's adventures. While we stay pretty busy all year long, like many, we go nonstop in December!  Hands down, my favorite time of year is Christmas, so I make sure to celebrate the entire month of December (or really as soon as Thanksgiving is over)!  For as long as I can remember, I've loved Christmas... my mom has always done an amazing job at making it pretty spectacular!  When we found out we were pregnant with Noah, the wheels in my head started spinning, thinking of all the traditions I'd want to start as a new family of three.  Noah was born at the beginning of November 2012 and I admit that our first Christmas was super low key.  But we made up for it his second Christmas and started some really fun traditions that we continued last year and will do again this year!  

25 Day of Books and Advent Calendar

Like I said, I love celebrating Christmas ALL MONTH LONG!  I recently posted all about our many Christmas Countdowns.  I love planning lots of festive activities to do throughout the month.  It's almost to the point that Christmas Day is just one of many fun and exciting days in December rather than the one big event!  And while Noah gets more than his fair share of toys on Christmas Day, I also love having little gifts/tokens for him to find in our Advent Calendar each day.  We try to keep it simple by giving stickers, matchbox cars, and candy.  Then each night, he unwraps a Christmas book (some new, some from previous years) to read before bed.  This is probably my favorite countdown because Noah loves opening gifts AND reading books... it's the perfect combo!

Spending the Day in New York City

We are fortunate enough to live just 35 miles outside New York City.  My husband, Chris, commutes there daily for work, but I have to say that going in for fun is such a different experience.  Before we had Noah, we would make a date to see the Rockefeller Tree when I was in the city for a client.  We wanted to continue the tradition with Noah, but now we go during the day instead of after work ;)  We love looking at all the decorations on 5th Avenue and of course getting a picture in front of the tree. Last year we stopped by FAO Schwarz and we are seriously bummed that they are now closed.  This year, we are super excited to take Noah to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular and visit the Macy's Santa.  Hopefully both will be added to our NYC tradition :)

Santa Train

This is something we did that I wasn't sure would become a tradition.  But considering Noah's love of trains, I think we will be doing it for a long time!  We may switch to the Polar Express as Noah gets older, but for right now, the simple Santa Train is perfect for us.  

Act out the Nativity and Sing Christmas Songs

This is one tradition that I grew up doing.  I come from a musical family (the boys at least are), so every Christmas, my dad would take his guitar out, print out the lyrics to all the usual Christmas songs, and we would sing as a family.  It's something I loved doing as a kid and I knew I wanted to keep the tradition going with Noah.  Sometimes we do it earlier in the month, while other years we end up doing it on Christmas Eve.

Another thing my family when I was growing up, was to act out the Nativity.  My parents have a simple script printed out that follows the Bible story of the birth of Jesus.  Sometimes we would invite families from the neighborhood to join us while other times it was just our family of 5.  While we don't act it out when it's just Noah, we make sure to do it whenever all the cousins are together at Christmas.  It's always funny to see who will play each of the parts and our homemade costumes (made from robes, towels, and ties) are pretty comical as well!  

Christmas Morning Just the Three of Us

While I love spending time with family this time of year, Christmas morning is something I want to keep for ourselves.  Since we live within 10 minutes of both sets of grandparents, we have the luxury of seeing both sides without having to give up our Christmas morning.  We usually spend Christmas Eve with my family and go over to Chris' family for Christmas dinner.  I personally love having Noah wake up in his own house and experience the excitement of seeing what Santa brought him.  We like to take our time, opening gifts as a family in our PJs while taking short breaks to have some donuts and hot chocolate.  I really cherish the memories we make just the three of us :)

I hope you have a wonderful day and magical holiday season!  I'd love to hear what some of your family's traditions are!

December 11, 2015

Luke's Birth Story

Are you ready to read a novel? I'm going to apologize in advance for making this so long, but for the sake of my memories I wanted to include as much detail as I can remember.

It has been nearly a week since our little Luke Robert Sullivan was born, so it about time I share his story!

On the day Luke was born we woke up and played with Owen, finished packing and showered. Keith's mom took two days off to stay with Owen while I was in the hospital, which was a HUGE help to us. I was pretty nervous about the surgery because my previous experience with Owen was so rough, and as weird as it sounds, the only thing that helped was that I couldn't drink anything after midnight the night before and my desire for water completely over took my concerns. Isn't it funny how when you can't have something it's all you can think of?

I spent some extra time sitting with Owen watching a movie and rubbing his feet. I knew we'd be missing each other while I was in the hospital and it was bittersweet knowing this was our last morning together before he became a big brother. We took a quick photo and gave Owen lots of hugs and kisses, and then we took off to the hospital! Owen seemed like it was no big deal to him, although I know he was feeling sensitive.

We arrived at the hospital right on time at 10:30am for my 12:30pm surgery. We checked in at the front desk and signed a few papers before being brought to our room. My nurse Pam arrived shortly after I got changed and asked me a ton of questions. My doctor was running a little late with another delivery, so we had some extra time to wait. We watched a little TV, talked, visited with my mom and sister who came to be with us for the surgery, and I went over my prayers.

 Like I said before, I was really nervous about the surgery this time around. It helped knowing that I would be in a better place going into it since I wouldn't have to have been induced or go through labor like I did last time, and I somewhat know what to expect from a c-section since I've had one before. My biggest concern was that I would freak out during the procedure and end up falling asleep, like last time. I wanted to be awake and present for Luke through the entire thing. My doctor suggested practicing some meditations to say during my surgery and I found that prayers are what work best for me. My favorites that really helped calm my nerves and keep me focused on the beautiful outcome of this surgery and experience were:

1 Peter 5:7 – “Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.”

Philippians 4:6-7 –Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”  

The anesthesiologist came in to talk with us about any concerns before the surgery and told us about what he does. He told me exactly what he would be doing to make my experience a good one, and it was so comforting knowing we were on the same page. My doctor popped in too to let us know she was ready and to touch base with me. They gave me a super tart tasting cocktail to help with some heartburn, and not soon after we got the go ahead to walk down to the operating room. Keith walked with me most of the way before having to head back to our room. They don't want anyone in the OR with you until they have everything set and ready to go. We walked right by the waiting room so I got to wave bye to my mom and sister. I could tell they were nervous, although they still kept a happy face.

It's such a surreal experience walking right into the OR and hoping up on the table. Once we were in the OR the anesthesiologist got right to work giving me my spinal tap. I had an epidural with Owen and I'd heard that the spinal was much less painful and easier on your body so I was not too worried about getting one. There were a few pinches and a bit of pressure but it was over quickly. They had me lay down on the table right away and got me positioned. The anesthesiologist moved the table around to get the numbness just right. At one point it got pretty heavy in my chest making me feel a little panicked but he was able to fix that right away. The spinal eventually set all the way in and I couldn't feel anything below my waist. I kept repeating my prayers and my nerves calmed all the way down. I actually felt so at ease and relaxed that I could have fallen asleep right there on the table.

The nurses and people in the OR had me all ready and the doctors scrubbed in. I had two OB's working on my for the c-section which seems to be the norm at our hospital, although I'm not sure it is every where else. After putting up the big blue curtain they got right to work on me. I don't know what happened on the other side of the curtain after they put it up because I requested to not be told any details. That's one of the things that freaked me out with my first c-section, hearing someone say they were putting my uterus back inside my body.

As they were getting to work I started to feel a little nauseous, which I was told could happen, and ended up getting a little sick right there. Again, my anesthesiologist came to the rescue and took care of it, and I felt fine again. A minute or two later Keith came in and sat up by my head and we chatted about all sorts of things. We talked about Owen and some extra Christmas gifts we wanted to get him and we chatted with the anesthesiologist about movies we've been wanting to see. It was SO smooth and actually not too un-enjoyable.

I started to feel like it was taking forever for them to work on my, but that's probably because my other c-section was an emergency one and that had to work fast. This time the doctors were able to take their time and I could even hearing them chatting about their hobbies on the other side of the curtain. It put me at ease hearing them just chat away while they worked like they were so confident in what they were doing.

Minutes later they told me I was going to feel a ton of pressure on my chest as one of the doctors pushed the top of my stomach to help push Luke out. It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it might be.

And just like that our sweet baby boy Luke was born!!! He came into this world weighing 7 lbs 9ozs and 21 inches long.

The first thing I remember anyone saying was, "Wow his head is huge!" and then "And it's still a BOY!". I smiling from ear to ear and felt and overwhelming feeling of JOY. He was here finally and he was screaming at the top of his lungs, which means he's doing pretty well and I was awake for it all and feeling great. Keith got to stand up and sneak a peek at him, and then kissed me on my forehead, and went over to the warmer and to be there as they weighed him. It seemed like I had to wait forever to see him or hear about him. He was totally fine, they were just taking their time with him. I asked the anesthesiologist, obviously my best buddy during all of this, if he could see him and what he looked like. I had been so curious about his hair and he said he though it was dark brown, which is so neat since my sweet boy Owen has blonde hair.

After a little while they brought him over and I got to relish in his beauty and kiss his face and just stare in his eyes. I was absolutely thrilled to be feeling so great and getting to spend time with him. He was all swaddled up and stopped crying as soon as he was placed on my chest. They let us hang out for a while and spend time with Luke before they had to take him to the nursery to be checked out. Sometimes they're able to keep the baby in the room with you the whole time, but it all depends on how many nurses are available and what else is going on in labor and delivery at that time. There was a baby coming up from the ER, so they needed more nurses in other places, so Luke had to go to the nursery. Keith went with him while I stayed to get sewn back up.

I was still so very thirsty and it was taking forever, or so it seemed, for them to finish up with me. We chatted some more about Halloween costumes and that my doctor had been a zombie that year, which is kind of funny since she seems pretty straight laced to me. Once they were done they brought me into the recovery room where I finally got to have some ice chips and water. It was heavenly!!!

A while later Keith and Luke came back to visit me and I got to have some sweet skin to skin and nursing time with Luke while we waited for my time to be up in the recovery room. It was about two hours from start to finish, but it didn't really matter because we were together with each other and our baby (only missing our Owen!).

So there you have it, Luke's nearly uneventful birth story!

Even Luke thinks his birth story was too long! Thank you for reading!

December 10, 2015

Breast Pumping Tips for Working Moms from Purple Laurel

Birthing classes, CPR classes, and even breastfeeding classes are virtually a requirement for first-time moms these days—myself included. But what always surprises me is how little attention is placed on breast pumping.

We all know that breast pumping is an option, especially for moms who work outside of the home. According to the CDC, 85% of moms will use a breast pump at some point, 25% will pump regularly, and 6% will pump exclusively. But the best information about successful pumping isn’t available at the pediatrician’s office or in most pregnancy or baby books. The very best tips are passed down from mom to mom, or hidden on private Facebook groups and on forums for moms who exclusively pump.
I’m not a lactation consultant or a physician, but I am a mom who pumped exclusively for my son when his posterior tongue-tie made it difficult to latch. I’m also the owner of Purple Laurel, a boutique that sells hands-free bras made for moms who pump and nurse, and I’ve had a chance to learn from the experiences of many of our fans. Here are some of the best tips I’ve picked up over the years.

Pick a resource.

It certainly doesn’t have to be this article, but if you plan on breastfeeding at all, then I would recommend browsing some books and websites that focus on pumping before your baby is born. KellyMom is the standard-bearer for all things breastfeeding, and it’s the first place I’d start. Underneath each article, you’ll find links to additional resources, often written by certified lactation consultants. If KellyMom isn’t your style, you can check out books like Exclusively Pumping Breast Milk: A Guide to Providing Expressed Breast Milk for Your Baby or The Breastfeeding Mother's Guide to Making More Milk on Amazon, or check out the forums on La Leche League’s website for great advice from moms in the trenches right now.

Start early.

Learn from my mistakes, and don’t wait until your supply has taken a nosedive before you start pumping. For reference, most lactation consultants recommend pumping once every 3 hours for the first 3 months. The more you stick to a schedule, and the sooner your schedule begins, the easier time you’ll ultimately have. If you’re hesitant to give your infant a bottle, like I was, you can freeze the milk from these early pumping sessions and use it as the foundation for your “stash.”

Pick up a hands-free pumping bra.

I was about 5 minutes into my first-ever pumping session when I realized that I’d need a hands-free pumping bra if I was going to do this more than once. I immediately cut up my favorite sleep bra to create a DIY pumping bra, but I soon realized that homemade pumping bras don’t hold the flanges as securely on the breast, and that can cause your milk supply to decrease. The money you spend on a high-quality hands-free pumping bra will be well worth it, since you’ll ultimately be able to pump more milk, more efficiently, over a longer period of time. I personally prefer pumping bras that double as sleep nursing bras to strapless pumping bustiers. Although strapless bustiers can hold down flanges just as effectively, I find that they usually aren’t as comfortable or as functional in the long run.

Massage while you pump.

Some moms prefer to massage their breasts 5 minutes before they pump, and some (like myself) have more success when they massage at the same time they’re pumping. Either way, lactation consultants frequently recommend massaging your breasts in a circular, downward motion to release more milk during each pumping session. Dr. Jack Newman—a superhero in the breastfeeding world—has some great videos showing different breast compression techniques. As long as you’ve got a hands-free pumping bra supporting your flanges, you can try those same techniques while you pump. For many moms, compression can release more milk in less time, and it can also decrease the chances of getting plugged ducts or mastitis.

Buy plenty of extra parts.

If you plan on pumping at work, or pumping for an extended period of time, then you really need to purchase an extra set of pump parts. Nobody with a baby at home has time to stay up washing pump parts each night. Medela, Avent, and most other pump manufacturers sell replacement parts very cheaply only. Buy as many sets as you can afford, and you’ll cut down on how often you need to wash, dry, and sanitize your parts each week. If you’re planning on pumping multiple times within the span of a few hours, you can also store pump parts in the refrigerator in between sessions. Most moms who pump at work will bring an extra set of parts to keep in their desks, as well.
My best advice to working moms who are interested in pumping full time is just to keep going. Every new mom faces breastfeeding obstacles, but we’re lucky to live in a day and age where we have so many great resources accessible online.

I’d like to thank Colleen for giving me the chance to speak to so many great moms today. I hope to hear more about what you’ve learned about breastfeeding and pumping, and also what your experiences have been with nursing and pumping bras. And of course, I hope you’ll check out for all your post-pregnancy gear, including belly wraps, shapewear, and nursing bras.

December 7, 2015

Postpartum Dressing by Whitney at Work it Mommy

Hey hello!  I'm Whitney and I blog over at Work it Mommy.  I do life with my husband Brian, our two daughters, Kinsey (4.5) and Brielana (1) and our Cocker spaniel- Dachshund mix, Stella. I share about life as a Girl Mom, our preschool activities, toddler fashion, Baby Led Weaning and whatever else tickles my fancy.  Congratulations to the Sullivan Family as they welcome their newest edition!  Thank you for having me, Colleen.

So, postpartum dressing.  What an endeavor.  All mom's have been there.  It's that awkward transition from baby belly to belly sag and usually spans a couple of months before fitting comfortably back into your pre-pregnancy clothes.  And though it has been well over a year since I gave birth to Brielana, I wanted to share my easy postpartum dressing formula, because it shouldn't have to be a struggle to get dressed! And I figured if I could be of some help to Colleen during her "4th Trimester" transition, then I have accomplished something.

I'm a planner by nature so I got down to researching and found some helpful sites through Pinterest (visit herehere and here) that got me excited about dressing during my fourth trimester and also got me in the right frame of mind when shopping for transitional pieces. 

The theme for this stage is camouflage; covering up in a flattering way and feeling comfortable while doing it.  I didn't use any slimming garments because for me comfort is key, but I know there are cheerleaders out there for them.  Use your own judgment for that call and let me know how it worked for you!  Here is that dressing formula:

Postpartum dressing formula

Adding layers will help to draw attention away from the middle and up to your face.  You can do this by throwing on a scarf (my favorite) or by adding a vest or jacket.  Bonus points if your layering piece includes ruffles, which help to visually cover more.

Anything that visually draws the eye away from the belly or covers it up in a flattering way is what you're aiming for. Ruffles, rouching, draping, a large print, dark colors, loose- flowing tops are all good!

Stretchy leggings, high waisted jeans with stretch, yoga pants, maxi skirts (basically anything with lots of stretch and preferably in black or darker colors for slimming) are your BFFs right now.  I had the best black GAP jeggings that I had purchased after having Kinsey 4 years ago.  I lived in them for two months before even attempting jeans. They were higher waisted, made me look and feel slim, and had a button and fly so they looked like pants.  Sadly, I had to retire them but if you have only one pair of comfortable and flattering pants, it's totally o.k to wear them every day!  No one will fault you for it and in most cases, you'll probably be applauded for getting dressed; people are extra kind to a new mom, ever notice that? 

If you're already wrangling a toddler like I was, having comfy footwear is a must.  I love flats, slip-ons and boots. If you like heels or wedges, go for it!  As long as you're comfortable (because comfort is key, remember?) anything goes.

I hope this helps dressing your new postpartum body! If you have any questions, please don't be afraid to ask!  I'm no expert, but being a mom of two has lent me some experience in this department, and I like to share :)