Solo Travels here I Come

As I prepare to take my first solo travel adventure in a very long time I am realizing a few things.

Firstly that I’m terrified to be away from my sweet little love for so long. But I also know that this will be so good for both of us. She gets some time to be alone with daddy which will definitely be so good for both of them. And I will get to be, well, myself. I will get to focus on my training (yes it’s a work trip) and not have to constantly be worried about what she’s getting into.

I’ve also learnt that I don’t remember how to pack for just myself. Why is my suitcase so empty? Oh because I’m not packing clothes for 2 people. I’m not packing diapers, bedding, toys, books and everything else. I get to use MY pretty hand luggage bag and not the dirty old backpack because I only have to take stuff for myself. I will have a free hand to carry a cup of coffee because I’ll only be carrying my bag. Not 3 bags and a teddy. I don’t need snacks, water and everything else that’s needed to occupy a toddler on a flight. I am actually taking a book, because I may get to read!

So while I am so sad and dreading the moment I leave my house without my family, I’m so excited to fly by myself. To eat by myself and to worry about only myself.

But there’s lots to do before that moment! To get myself ready and to get my family ready. Make sure the fridge is stocked with all the favorites and make sure I get as many loves and cuddles as possible.

Moms’ Trip to Kazakhstan … With Kids …

Recently a friend of mine and I decided that it would be a good idea to take a mini-vacation to Almaty Kazakhstan. The kids needed a change of scenery and we needed Starbucks.

Luckily our kids, (hers 6 and 12) and Mine (2) love each other and are best friends so they were all very excited about spending a few days together.

My first big realization on this trip was that Little Love is no longer a baby. And being 2, I now actually have to pay for a seat for her on the plane. I also have to figure out how to get her to stay in said seat with seatbelt fastened during take-off and landing. Cue ALL the snacks.

IMG_2106
Big girl seat now. Safety first!

She actually managed the short trip really well and with the help of our trusted friend “hIPad” there were no major meltdowns. No mom-shaming please, limited screen-time is often my only saving grace, #toddlermom.

We arrived at the airport on the other side to find out that the hotel had only sent one car to pick up all 2 adults, 3 kids, 4 suitcases and a stroller. After some broken English / Russian conversations and translation plea phone calls to the hotel we found another car and a hair raising drive into the city ensued – at least there were lines on the road!

We were very pleasantly surprised by all the green. There was no dust. The sky was blue and I could breathe (I think I only blew my nose like 4 times the entire trip!)

Being a former Soviet country, the use of the Russian language is huge. The use of English, not so much. We definitely struggled to communicate. We felt a slight sense of animosity towards us “Americans” and a definite refusal to assist us unless I broke out my very limited Russian and at least tried to converse. We struggled with cabs because we could not communicate and as soon as they smelled the foreigner on us the price quadrupled. I would strongly suggest getting a local phone plan so that you can use Uber and Maps to find your way around without having to actually speak to people unless absolutely necessary.

I won’t give you a day-by-day breakdown but will highlight a few activities for reference  and entertainment’s sake.

McDonald’s – The kids (yes all 5 of us) were very excited to see one a block away from our hotel. Lunch on the day 1 was the first of many visits. My favorite thing on the menu – ice cold Coke…with ice.

Zoe got to experience McDonaIMG_2109ld’s milkshakes. Unfortunately I think that there may be an allergy in there somewhere due to the fact that poop-splosions happened shortly after … every time …

We moms were even more excited to discover that a block away from McDonalds was in fact a Starbucks. Many visits were paid to this establishment too. My takes – Vanilla Latte, slightly different; Green Tea Lemonade – did not include Lemonade; Vanilla Chai Latte – Just what I needed!

After attempting to find the Zoo, we ended up at an Amusement Park (it had a petting zoo so I guess is kinda counts). Many meltdowns happened here. Most were because Little Love was too little to go on some most of the rides. Some because she did not get to ride in the Pink car, but had to go in the blue one instead.

When the moms couldn’t take it anymore we hiked through the city trying to find a cab, instead we found our trusted Starbucks, and with their free WiFi were able to get an Uber to the mall.  Of course we ended up at the wrong mall… but it had A/C, and Pizza Hut. Little Love feel asleep in her pram and we were able to enjoy some quiet time browsing the stores and realizing that we couldn’t afford anything. Thank you international mark-ups.

Next, the part I was most excited about – Dinner at Ocean Basket. Who knew that I would find a favorite South African sea food chain in Almaty Kazakhstan? But we went (it was at the other mall…) and we ate a lot! Unfortunately they didn’t serve alcohol and they ran out of ice for the lemonade but they had a kid’s play area and we got to eat in relative peace.

We did in fact make it to the zoo on another day. Not much to say about it except that my 2 year old did not love the zoo as much as I hoped she would.

We took a trip up the mountain which was great. It warmed my heart that when I told Little Love that she was going on a cable car she immediately associated that with Table Mountain. Her favorite part was probably drinking ice cold mountain water out of her new cup that mummy had to buy.

Of course there were many more delicious meals consumed and a few more meltdowns and disagreements that I wont go into. But it was a great break and a much needed getaway. I’m lucky to have great friends that I can travel with and I’m lucky that those friends have great kids to keep mine occupied so I can relax a bit.

Fed is Best

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week (1-7 August), I thought I would share my story.

I feel that with all the information moms–to–be are given prior to the birth of their babies, there is very little truth about breastfeeding, at least not unless you dig into personal blog sites and real life stories. Let me tell you this. Breast feeding is HARD. Maybe not for everyone, but for a very large number of women. It’s not something that always comes naturally. Not all boobs are built the same (Surprise!) and not all babies are built the same (Even bigger surprise!)

So here’s my story:

The first time I was able to hold and attempt to feed my baby was a very happy moment for me. It felt so natural and so right, until a stranger came in and essentially manhandled me so that baby could latch properly. I guess I needed that though. Apart from one pre-natal breastfeeding class, I had no idea what I was doing and apparently I was doing it wrong.

I was lucky enough to have a lactation consultant at the hospital that paid me a visit and gave me some great tips. She also informed me that unfortunately I didn’t have the best anatomy for breastfeeding and that Little Love had a small mouth and was a lazy eater.  So add all that together and we were in for a rough ride. And then she left. And I was alone.

As I mentioned here– breastfeeding hurts. I cried and I bled. I wanted so desperately to get to the hospital lactation class but never made it because ironically I was waiting for the nurse to come in and treat my bleeding nipples. I would highly recommend nipple shields – If not for every feed, then just for those times when the pain is too much and you need a feed or two to recover.

Once we got home, breastfeeding was still a hot issue for us. Our first doctor’s appointment told us that although Little Love was a chunker, she needed to be eating more she also had a minor tongue tie which was a concern but not enough to get it clipped. I was instructed to nurse and then bottle feed the last few ounces. Which meant I had to nurse and then pump, and bottle feed while I was pumping. Or nurse and then bottle feed and while baby was sleeping I pumped. It sucked. I was exhausted and stressed. The fear that your baby is not getting enough food is real.

Eventually it got easier, I don’t know when and I don’t know how but we figured it out. The pain got less and the crying reduced. Although there were still often tears during those midnight feedings when you feel like you are probably the only person in the world that has to be awake and sitting in the dark at this ungodly hour. I’ve said this before.

It got easier, until I started work. Another fact that I was not told was that I should start pumping WAY before I did, in preparation for going back to work. I had heard that you may not get as much from pumping as baby gets from nursing but I didn’t realize what a different that was. I immediately started having supply issues. I tried the teas, I tried the cookies, and I tried watching videos of my darling child while pumping. It didn’t do enough to relieve my stress. Being back at work, juggling meetings around pumping sessions, some which lasted 40 minutes just to get enough to barely cover the next day’s feeds.

Eventually after some strong words from multiple people I started to supplement with formula… GASP. I know, I know, breast is best. But what about when it’s not. What about when baby is not getting enough food and mom is not getting enough sleep because the few hours that she is able to sleep she’s either pumping or too stressed to sleep?

I kept pumping. I hated every second, but I kept it up as long as I could. Little Love got some breast milk bottles and some formula bottles. And she was OK. And I was OK. And then she got more formula bottles and less breast milk bottles and she was still OK. And then one day I just said I’m done. No more pumping. I wanted to celebrate and have a pump burning party but then I thought that would be wasteful and we may need that dreaded machine in the future. But I did have a moment of silence when I removed the pumping sessions from my work calendar and my world opened up. OMG I have so much time! To work, to eat, to not be attached to a machine.

I still nursed. In the mornings and before bed, and I treasured that time. We made it to 12 months. About 9 months longer that I ever thought possible. But that was my goal and we made it. We did not do it exclusively and the last month or so it was very sporadic but we did it. Thanks to formula I had the mental capacity to continue to have the treasured nursing moments without the stress.

I ask this of you. Please don’t ever assume that everyone can breastfeed. Please don’t judge when babies are getting formula. You don’t know everyone’s story and unless you have the nerve to ask and the capacity to care then the soapbox is not yours to stand on.

Why is potty training so terrifying to me?!

Little Love was 2 in April and I know that she is ready to be “trained” but I am struggling to fully commit to this and say goodbye to diapers forever. Part of it is that I feel that my baby isn’t a baby anymore and I’m in denial. And part of it is just well … It’s a big pain in the butt!

It all started with Little Love signaling to me that she had a wet diaper. She didn’t care that it was wet and she still fought when I tried to change her, but she was noticing that something was happening. So of course I jumped on Amazon, bought a potty and a couple of books and waited 2 weeks for them arrive (FS Life) so we could get started on this!

The books had me terrified and I think that this is where my problem started. I really believe that as with all things parenting and child related, you have to find out what works for your family and your child. Surprise! All children are different! We lead a pretty busy life. We both work full time and our weekends are often jam packed with activities and/or events/ so the whole three day potty training boot camp thing just seemed impossible. When would I be able to find three full days to stay at home and clean up pee puddles? And three days is if things are going well!

I know, I know, I should put my schedule aside and focus on her needs etc etc but there’s enough mom guilt happening here so no need to point that out.

I decided that we would use some of the advice and ditch the rest and eventually we would find something that worked.

We started with random nakey time around the house. After bath and in the mornings and pretty much whenever we were at home.

I looked for the signs that pee-pee was coming and tried to get her to the potty in time. Of course there were lots of accidents and lots of “Mummy I Peed!” and pointing to the floor. But eventually she started to realize what the signs were and “Mummy I peed!” turned into “Pee coming!!” We celebrated every trip to the potty and rewarded (also read as bribed) the successes. Once we were seeing more successes than failure’s and consistent potty use during nakey-time we progressed onto phase 2: Commando or Big girl panties! And that’s where the road block happened. I don’t know if she associated panties with diapers and didn’t see the difference, but she just would not pee on the potty when she was wearing panties / shorts / pants / anything other than a bare naked booty.

There is a huge possibility that we are confusing her by being naked sometimes and wearing diapers at others but that is just the reality of our life. We kept at it. I started putting just t-shirts and dresses on so that she would still be “dressed” but she could get used to the thought of using the potty with clothes on. Thanks Mom for this suggestion. She got it. She started peeing in the potty with “clothes on”. We then progressed to loose shorts. She got that too. We put on tighter pants and she didn’t get that…

So this is where we are now. 100% potty trained, depending what she’s wearing…

My next step, when I get the guts, is to just ditch the diapers. Deal with accidents and apologize to those whose floors we pee on over the weekends…

WM > > SAHM > > WM

I’ve always been a very busy person. Like I discussed here, I have always had a career and that was always very important to me. Then I became a mom and my priorities changed. I still enjoyed working and I could manage being a pretty decent Working Mom (WM), I just didn’t want to spend as many hours doing it.

When we moved to Dushanbe I found myself in the position of not having to work. Not only could I not get a job (hiring freeze) but financially, for the first time EVER, we did not have to rely on a second salary to survive.

And so I gladly accepted the position of Stay At Home Mom (SAHM). Let me tell you that this job is no walk in the park. Entertaining a Little Love for that many hours every day is hard work! But I loved it. I loved our routine and I loved having adventures and play dates and learning things together.

I probably worked more hours per day than I ever have in my life and had to be more focused and attentive to my “client’s” needs than ever before but it was definitely the most rewarding job I could ever have asked for.

When the US Government lifted their hiring freeze I threw my applications in hoping to get a part time position so that I could get out of the house and have grown-up conversations again, but also so that I could also keep some of my precious hours at home with Little Love.

Of course, as fate would have it, I was offered a full-time job in the real world. I really struggled with my decision of whether I should take on this challenge. I was so racked with mom guilt that the when I received the phone call with my start date I cried,
sad tears, for hours.

I debated (with myself) for many hours. Wondering if taking the job was the right thing to do. Would Little Love resent me when she was older because I worked outside of the home? Both my parents had full time jobs when I was little and I turned out OK. I don’t have any harboring hard feelings towards my parents because our housekeeper picked me up from school and made sure I did my homework. In fact that special lady became part of our family and I am forever grateful for the things she taught me.

So I took the job. I started on Little Love’s second birthday (oh boy did that elicit even more mom guilt!). We found a wonderful playgroup to keep her entertained each morning and a very caring nanny to take care of her in the afternoon.

And she’s OK. And I’m OK.

She loves her school and the friends that she’s made. She’s learning Russian, playing games and singing songs. Aziza is her new best friend and she welcomes me home very day with smiles, laughs and “Mummy! Mummy! Mummy!”

I’m using my brain, my skills and my experience. I’m enjoying being my own person and eating lunch without trying to coax a toddler to eat too.

I consider myself very lucky to have been given the opportunity to be a SAHM for 6 months and I am thankful for the support I received with my decision to go back to work.23231426_10155172925527877_6042871362319264525_n

New Job and a Baby on the Way…

Something that most people have been able to calculate is that I found out I was pregnant right around the same time that I was offered a new job…

I went through some huge internal conversations about whether I should go ahead with the new job or if I should just stay within my comfort zone at my current place of employment.

On one hand, the new job meant better hours and better pay and it would also hopefully open up many doors into a new industry that I was excited about. The old job offered the comfort of working with friends that I’d made over the course of the three years I’d been there. Friends I knew that I’d want around during this whole terrifying pregnancy thing. (Spoiler alert – they were still around even after I didn’t work with them anymore)

But then on the other hand I was thinking about how my new boss would react when I thanked him for the job and told him I would need 3 months off before I’ve even worked there for a year. Of course there’s the whole legal side of things where companies cannot discriminate against pregnant women and they could not retract their job offer. And I technically didn’t have to tell anyone right away, I could start the job and wait the recommended 13 weeks before telling people, at which point they would do the math and realize that I must have known about this at the time of hiring. I knew I couldn’t get fired for not disclosing this information but what kind of impression does this give?

As I mentioned HERE, I was trying to make the climb up the corporate ladder, and reputation is a huge part of that process. Did I want to tarnish that by being “The Pregnant Girl”?

I decided to take the job. I also decided that I was going to be completely honest with my new boss and let him in on my little secret right away. I was really lucky that he was super understanding and offered some great words of encouragement. I was happy, and definitely felt that I had made the right decision and I was excited to jump into this new chapter of my life.

Another side of things that I had to think about was maternity leave. I would not qualify for Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) as I would not have been in my position for a year by the time the baby was due. I would also not be eligible for company maternity benefits as these followed the same stipulations as FMLA. Husband and I sat down and ultimately decided that I could file for Short Term Disability and get paid a reduced salary for 10 weeks and we would then be able to survive on a mixture of the small amount of PTO I had accrued as well as some unpaid leave.

Of course we didn’t save as much as we were hoping to during the pregnancy and I now have zero vacation time available but I was able to take the time that I needed to look after my Little Love when she arrived.

Bottom line with this is follow your gut (and maybe your heart). Don’t worry about what other people will think. You are making the best decision for yourself and your growing family.

Who Is This Person?

I feel like I’ve always defined myself by what I was doing or what career path I took. As a child I was a dancer, then I was a horse-rider. Then I found my career in Public Relations and loved every second of it. I was constantly planning and attending awesome events. My events could be spotted in the social pages every other month and I felt that my career was something to be proud of.

Then I fell in love, which prompted the universe to tell me to pack up my life and move to a new country… twice. I will never forget my boss at the time asking me if this guy was really worth giving up my career for (Of course my answer was yes and here we sit 9 years later).

I had always considered myself a career woman. Work was first, and babies would come later. It was very important for me to establish myself and climb that proverbial ladder. This turned out harder for me as I had to make a complete career shift a couple of times and constantly felt like I had to start over again, thereby pushing my baby timeline further and further away. I had very strong opinions about the fact that the third bedroom in our new house was NOT a baby’s room, but an office for myself.

I always knew that children would be a big part of my future but career was also a very important part of who I was and what I was striving for. I was one of those people who was always willing and happy to work late into the night and a large part of my many jobs was working 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.

I was constantly trying to “plan” the best time for us to start trying to have kids. Looking at calendars and working things out as if there is a science to how long it would take to get off birth control and get pregnant. Then planning the gestation time and when I would be back at work. I was soon brought to my senses and told that there IS NO GOOD TIME and that there is no true way to manage this process and it’s just something you have to either do or not do… So I did.

And here I now sit, trying to climb that ladder in yet another brand new field. Except now I have a baby, a family, I’m a mom. I’m torn between feeling the need to be a powerful and successful career woman and wanting to stay at home and cuddle my Little Love all day long.

I never thought I would even consider being a stay-at-home-mom and yet now the idea is oddly appealing to me. Luckily I cannot afford to quit my job so the decision doesn’t actually fall into my hands but it’s a strange feeling trying to get to know this new version of myself. This person who turns down happy hours and exciting events to get home at a reasonable hour to bath the baby and put her to bed.

Who is this person who turned her home office into the most adorable nursery?

tgif