Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Baby Special: Things to remember for next time

Having a baby was a truly life changing experience, and while I'd done a lot (!!) of reading and other preparations, there are still a few things that surprised me or things that I'd like to remember for next time:

1) Trust your instincts and ignore the noise.  Everyone has advice and stories that they want to share with you - especially other moms.  There is a lot of good advice out there, but a lot of crap advice too.  Listen, absorb.. and then disregard what you don't want.  Your baby, your choices... it's that simple (and - sometimes -  that complicated).

2) Have a "support team" assembled for your time at the hospital and first few weeks at home.  This critical.  For me, the core included my husband and parents.  They did just about everything for me for the first week or two post-baby - cleaning my house, making my meals, doing my laundry, my shopping, etc.  The only things I focused on were establishing a routine with my baby, bonding with him and feeding him.  As much as possible I plan to do this again if I have other children - it was crucial to my mental health and physical recovery.  I think 2 weeks is about the right amount of time - there's a point where you have to "sink or swim" on your own, but you should be back on your feet (literally and figuratively) first.

3) Set boundaries for visitors.  For me, that meant that I didn't invite anyone to meet our baby at the hospital except our parents/siblings.  While there were a few people that disagreed with my decision, I count it among one of the smartest boundaries I drew.  It is so important to bond with your baby, and I simply couldn't do that with lots of people in-and-out.  Plus, I didn't want my infant to be susceptible to so many germs - each of the people who met our baby at the hospital had received the TDAP vaccination, for example.   I also drew boundaries over the visitors that we received at our home - in general, we kept visitors limited to close family.  Perhaps you'll enjoy having visitors more quickly than I did - that's totally ok!  Each mom is different - each BIRTH is different- and the important thing is to feel comfortable with your decisions

4) Accept help.  My parents came for the first 15 days of Jacob's life (and the two days that I was in labor).  I felt a little guilty accepting so much help at first (particularly since my mom had to use so much vacation to be here with me) but it made a world of difference.  Scott had to return to work when Jacob was just THREE days old, so this help was so needed.  It allowed me to take daily naps, and to worry only about being with my baby - they even did diaper changes so that I could do just the fun stuff.  After a week or two, I was back on my feet and needed a lot less help, but their presence allowed my to heal so much more quickly... and to really start enjoying these special days with my son.

5) Do something for yourself every day.  Take a shower, put on makeup, paint your nails, put on real clothes... any of these things work.  I got a pedicure the day that Jacob turned three weeks old... it seemed indulgent and totally crazy and I loved it.  I highly recommend it :)  It doesn't even have to be that big though - since Jacob was one week old, I have showered - and shaved my legs - every day, without missing a single one.  I don't wear makeup or do my hair every day, but a good shower makes me feel awake and fresh and so I prioritize it.  I also work hard to build a good routine for us- even in the early days, we got out of the house at least once every day.  It was usually a walk, and sometimes also Target, but it was really important to my mental health. 

6) Figure out what calms your chaos, and prioritize it.  It's a core value to me that my house stays clean, so I prioritize it, and it shows: my house is always pretty clean.  I have talked at length about how I do that, but in general, it’s always pretty clean, because a messy house makes me feel chaotic.  I don't prioritize a fancy or nice dinner, so I'm very cool with doing a crockpot meal once a week and eating leftovers all week, or eating a salad or sandwich for dinner.  Whatever makes you feel best, put your time and energy there.  (And on the weekends, worry about the rest).

7) Don't always sleep when the baby sleeps.  I slept when the baby slept for the first week or so, but after that, I found that it's important to capitalize on his sleep time.  At least one nap a day, I do something that doesn't involve me sleeping.  Maybe I clean my floors, or talk on the phone, or write my Thank You notes.  It keeps me feeling sane, productive and keeps our house afloat.  Plus, babies can sleep up to 18 hours per day... and I don't need quite that much sleep :)

8) Get through the first six weeks.  The first six weeks of Jacob’s life were the hardest for me by a LOT.  It was a radical change in life and lifestyle, learning how to care for an infant, breastfeeding, lack of sleep, the whole shebang.  Around six weeks, things got MUCH easier.  I felt back to my normal self, post-pregnancy hormones begin to regulate, and things start to be on autopilot (ex: you can practically change a diap in your sleep) :)  Do whatever you must do to get through the first six weeks – and, if you can, throw money at it.  Book a weekly housecleaning service.  Hire a “mother’s helper” to come for an hour so you can take a shower.  Ask your hubby or your mom or your MIL to take a random day off work here-or-there (more on that later).   Snuggle your baby as much as possible and don’t worry about establishing routines (those can wait). 

9) A father doesn’t babysit his own children.  Scott is a fantastic, hands-on father.  During my maternity leave, he’d typically get home between 5-6.  At 8pm, I went to bed.  I stayed up a bit later a handful of times (less than 5?) but at 8, I turned in.  He did that shift, and then gave Jacob a bottle at 11pm and woke me up just to pump (the next night’s bottle).  Jacob usually didn’t wake up again until 1 or 2am, so that usually meant that I got 5-6 hours of really good sleep – only waking up once.  Then anything I got from 2am-6am was an added bonus.  Scott would then go to bed around 11/11:30, and he’d get 5-6 hours of straight sleep.  That meant each of us could function the next day.  This was so awesome.  It gave Scott some alone-time with Jacob (where he was the primary caretaker, and had to change all the diapers, do the snuggling, calm a crying babe, etc) and gave me some quality sleep.  Win/win!   

Friday, September 25, 2015

Interesting Person Interview Series: Anne

This week's Interesting Person Interview is with my cousin, Anne!  Anne is one of my favorite people - she was in my wedding when I married Scott, and this summer I was in hers as she married her beloved, Harley.  

But just as importantly, Anne has been there for a series of especially epic nights - like the one pictured below.  From Margarita Monsoons, to getting a taxi-style ride in the back of a cop car, to marathon phone conversations and funny inside jokes (bubbly "babes").

Her interview, below! 

Monday, September 21, 2015

JSS: Six Months

Happy six months - half birthday! -  to our sweet Jacob Steil Special!

Six months ago was among the happiest days of my life, but each day of the past half year have beat the previous.  You are a true joy, and the highlight of my life.

Jacob wakes up happy every morning, and excited to start his day - like his mama, I think he's a morning person.  He was a side-sleeper for the first few months of his life, but he's starting to favor his belly (like his dad!)  The first few times I saw him sleeping like that I nearly lost my mind - but he prefers to be on his stomach when playing on a playmat, when laying on our bed, and ... when sleeping it seems. :)

Jacob sleeps through the night... sometimes.  We went through the dreaded "four month sleep regression" and then he got a pretty bad - and lingering! - cold from daycare and that has contributed to some tough nights.  Happily, the past week has gone quite well and we've all enjoyed it!  He averages one wake-up each night, where he wakes up, eats, and goes back to bed.

Jacob weighs 18 pounds, 7 ounces.  He wears size three diapers, and is consistently in 6-9/6-12 month clothes.  He LOVES to be outside, and I think he'll be a Boy Scout like his daddy.  We try to take at least one walk a day and often two - and on our walks, he is so curious and interested in the world around him.

Jacob is really adorable - I know I'm a bit biased, but people comment on him everywhere we go :)  I think even little Jakey recognizes how cute he is - he LOVES looking at himself in the mirror.  There's a spot in our master bathroom that Jacob can look in the full length mirror, and then turn his head to the other side and look at himself in our medicine cabinet mirror - it's the funniest thing.

I have always wanted to be a mother - but Jacob makes motherhood sweeter than I ever could have imagined.

Happy six months to our sweetheart - we love you more than words can say.  Here are some favorite pics of the past month:

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Scenes From A Week: September 20

First and foremost, happiest of birthdays to my Grandfather!

It was a wonderful week - with extra snuggles and playtime before school each day.  We spent the weekend at a birthday party, working on our basement decor, and spending family time.  I love weekends!  
snuggle selfies

tuesday twinning

early morning walks

dad to the rescue 

basement progress!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Interesting Person Interview Series: Shawn

This week's Interesting Person Interview is with my dad.  I've written about him at length (here and here) but it bears repeating: the lights came on in our family when Shawn Steil entered our world.  

His interview, below! 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Interesting Person Interview Series: Jenifer

This week's edition of the Interesting Person Interview Series is my sweet cousin and summer sister, Jenifer.  I lived with Jenifer and her family in the summer of 2007 when I first moved to Chicagoland... and Jenifer was one of the select few that watched JSS when I returned to work this summer.  

Jenifer's interview below! 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

24) Organize the linen closet

Man, I cannot even tell you how much I've been dreading this task.  Scott and my dad made these built-in shelves in our main-floor guest bathroom about a year ago, and they rapidly became a catch-all for anything beauty/health/sickness/cleaning related.   I pride myself on having a clean house, and this was just so... not.  It was bad.

part-way done

I wish I would have taken a true "before" shot - it would be embarrassing, actually.  Scott found a few of the white buckets in the "Dollar Spot" at Target, and they help to corral some of the odds and ends (OTC cold meds, nail stuff, etc).  I also took everything out, cleaned out the cabinets themselves, and then organized, threw out, and put back in.  It took about 2 hours start-to-finish, but I feel so much better about this space.

extra linens and blankets
cleaning gear

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

5) Make Baby Food

This is one goal that I've been looking forward to for months: making Jacob's baby food.  I totally recognize that there is a time and place for store-bought baby food (and I'm certain I'll buy plenty down the line!) but I was really excited to make his first batch.

On Saturday morning, my mom and I ventured to the local Farmer's Market, as I wanted to buy the freshest produce I could get my hands on.  I selected green beans, a large sweet potato, and 5 large carrots.  (I also selected a delicious iced coffee for myself - thanks mom - but that's beside the point).

When it came time to prepare the food, it was pretty easy.  I peeled and then chopped the potatoes and carrots.  I sliced off the ends of the green beans, chopped them in half and then gave them a good scrub.

Then, I boiled the vegetables (separately) until they were soft, and then pureed them in a Baby Bullet (blender - thanks to my SIL Katie who gave me that for Christmas last year!)

I purchased a bunch of small containers - 2-3 oz each - that are freezer, fridge, microwave and dishwasher safe, and had those handy to spoon the pureed veggies in to.  After the cooled down, I moved them to the freezer and - voila! - 24 individual servings ready in a flash.

Scott and I haven't decided when we will start Jacob on solid food (save for a serving of single-grain oatmeal he had a few weeks ago) but it will likely be in the next few weeks.  Can't wait!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Book Review: The Girl on the Train

I picked this book up last Saturday, and was completely finished with it by Wednesday.  In my old life, this wouldn't have been quite the feat that it was with an infant at home and working full-time! :)  Suffice it to say, I really enjoyed it.

The book was reco'ed to me by several different people - bloggers, friends, and my SIL.  I am glad my name finally floated to the top of the library reserve list because I really, really liked it.  It reminded me a lot of Gone Girl based in London.  I don't want to give away much, except this: I can usually predict the ending of even a good mystery - not always, but I often can guess who the culprit is or at the very least - who it absolutely is NOT.  NOT in this case - the ending really shocked me, and I liked it - except that it really came out of nowhere.

Any suggestions for others to read?  I'd gladly take 'em!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Interesting Person Interview Series: Jen

This week's interesting person is someone very near and dear to my heart - my mother.   In addition to being my mamabear, she is a half-marathoner (twice!), a devoted Grammy to my JSS, a delicious margarita-maker, and one of the hardest working people I have ever met - during the Fall of 2014, she painted my entire house single-handedly (thanks, BTW ;)  Her answers below made me laugh out loud in two places, and while our answers to numbers 1, 5, 7, 12 and 15 were uncannily similar, my interview was written before I received hers (and she didn't read mine until it was posted!)  What can I say - I am my mother's daughter.   

Her interview, below! 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

21) Go on a boat on Lake Michigan

I spent an afternoon earlier this month on a boat on Lake Michigan.  It’s interesting- I’ve lived in Chicagoland for over eight years (!!) and yet the number of times I’ve been on the lake is less than 10.  It’s so beautiful.  

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


During my maternity leave and now being back to work, I've received a number of questions (and compliments!) from visitors to my home about how I keep it so clean with an infant, and I decided to list it out in a blog post.  While there is some variance depending on what we have going on in a given week, here is how I've done it.

The number one reason that I can keep a "company-ready" home at (almost?) all times is that it's a priority to me - my life runs more smoothly when things are in order (my house, my work, etc).  A few minutes per day can make the next day run so much more smoothly.  It's worth the prep-time!  The below is a weekly breakdown of what it takes to keep my house how it is.  Note that I'm starting the schedule on Friday, as the weekend is typically when I do the heavy lifting for my clean house:

I work half days on Friday (during the summer), so I kick off the weekend doing a few things around the house. I throw in a load of laundry while playing with JSS, and I typically run the dishwasher and do other odds & ends while Jacob naps, or does a few minutes of independent play.
-  laundry (wash, fold, put away)
- run / unload dishwasher
- polish granite countertops
- dust the wood furniture on the main floor (bedside tables, bedframe, Jacob's dresser, Jacob's window, Jacob's hanging shelves, TV cabinet, all framed hanging pictures)
- gather trash & recycling and take out (kitchen, bathrooms, mudrooms)
- tidy entire main floor (straighten couch pillows, put away toys/teethers/etc, stock baby supplies in the nursery)

- deep clean master bathrorom (scrub toilet, wash countertops, glass clean the mirrors inside the cabinet and out)
- deep clean guest bathroom main floor (scrub toilet + tub, wash countertops, glass clean the mirrors inside the cabinet and out)
- swiffer floors
- vacuum carpet in the mudroom & Jacob's nursery
- tidy main floor (straighten couch pillows, put away toys/teethers/etc, stock baby supplies in the nursery)
- deep clean 2+ areas (more on this below)

- gather trash & recycling and take out (kitchen, bathrooms, mudrooms)
- run/unload dishwasher
- polish granite countertops
- lay out Jacob's clothes for the week
- lay out Kate's clothes for the week
deep clean 2+ areas (more on this below)
- pack and lay out Jacob's bag for daycare and Kate's bag for work

- wipe down granite countertops
- pack and lay out Jacob's bag for daycare and Kate's bag for work

- wipe down granite countertops
- swiffer floors
- pack and lay out Jacob's bag for daycare and Kate's bag for work

- wipe down granite countertops
- pack and lay out Jacob's bag for daycare and Kate's bag for work

- pack and lay out Jacob's bag for daycare and Kate's bag for work

A few other general notes and suggestions:

1) Deep cleaning a few areas per week
I mentioned above that on Saturdays and Sundays I typically deep clean two or more areas per day. This really helps keep your overall house clean - not just surface clean, but really clean underneath.  These areas are relatively small that I can accomplish in 15-30 minutes each - so they aren't things like deep cleaning the basement, but rather things like:
- mopping (with our Shark) the floors
- washing all of the sheets in the house
- reorganizing/deep cleaning my bathroom cabinets
- rotating Jacob's clothes stock
- cleaning under the kitchen sink
- scrubbing the shower tile
- organizing a cabinet or two in the kitchen
I typically like to have these be things that take 1-2 hours total (for all four items) each week - it keeps it manageable, and things that I can crank through during naptime or after Jacob has gone to sleep.

2) Don't put off for later
I almost never save something to do later - the dishwasher gets unloaded immediately after it has been run.  The clothes get folded and put away promptly.  I make the bed immediately after we wake up. I tidy up the whole house at the end of each day.  It's sooo much easier to keep a house clean than get it clean to start with, so I try really hard to not let the housework slide too much.  While I was on maternity leave, I'd dedicate the first 30 minutes that Scott was home from work to tidying up - he got to bond with Jacob 1:1, and I got to hammer through a few things to keep our household afloat.

3) Pick out clothes ahead of time
This isn't really a cleaning tip, but an organizational one.  Each weekend, I lay out the clothes that Jacob and I are going to wear to daycare/school for the entire upcoming week.  It takes about 20 minutes total - and saves a lot of really valuable time at the start of each weekday.  I lay out everything - pants, top, undies, shoes, etc.  Makes the mornings a breeze.

4) Handle correspondence quickly
I pay any bill we receive the night that we receive it - water bill, Jacob's pediatrician co-pay, etc.  As soon as we're invited to a birthday party, I buy the gift and card on my next trip to Target.  I basically try to handle any action items ASAP so that nothing is looming on the to-do list.  

5) Keep shopping lists handy 
I have a document on my phone for my to-do lists, and i update the shopping list frequently.  Then, when I go to Target, I can just pull up the Target shopping list and grab the items that I need rather than picking up a few things and realizing when I get home that I forgot the birthday gift for the party in two weeks.  Not the hugest deal if I did, but it can help save wasted time and energy.