06 March 2017

New Year's Resolutions 2017: Family Edition

It's been forever since I blogged. The last 18 months have truly been some of the hardest months of my life. Actually, the last 8 months have been the worst. 

This year our family wrote our resolutions for the year on a little white board that is tacked to the door leading from the kitchen to the garage. We see it every day, many times a day.

Here are our family goals:

Tyson: 1) try the Keto diet; 2) focus on spirituality
Denise: find peace
William: 1) increase personal-habit skills; 2) do a sport (or swim lessons) and/or start learning piano
Matthew: 1) no more pacifiers (ACCOMPLISHED); 2) potty-train? (too young? maybe)

Matthew is winning since it's the beginning of March, he just turned 2, and he's totally off of pacifiers. It helped adopting Frankie because Frankie basically chewed all the pacifiers into oblivion and I didn't buy more.

You may notice my goal for the year is a bit vague. I only wrote that two-word phrase on the white board for brevity; I know my goal has more parts, though that doesn't make it any more quantifiable.

Good goals are supposed to be quantifiable. You must be able to record it and see your progress. Without any kind of measurement system, how can you determine your progress?

My goal is really this: come to peace with my exit from the standard workforce and find ways to strengthen my testimony (specifically, attend the temple more regularly, be more consistent in my scripture reading, pray every day, and use other Church resources for study, like General Conference talks, BYU devotionals, manuals, etc.). Part II is fairly straight-forward. But Part I has been weighing on my mind for the last eight months.

Part I: Come to peace with my exit from the standard workforce
In August 2015 I got my first full-time job. I had finished my master's degree, my second baby was 6-months-old, and things were going well. I LOVED that job. The first few months were interesting due to some unconventional team dynamics, but in January 2016 I was moved to a new area of the office, with actual people, and things got so much better. I was great at my job. I was finding ways to streamline and maximize our process. I made friends. My cubicle-mates were hilarious and I loved working with them.

In July 2016 the company decided to move in a new direction by effectively shutting down one side of their process. My side. I was let go. And it wasn't just me. Many people lost their jobs and it was very sad for a lot of people. I sort of knew it was coming. I could feel that things were changing. I had started looking on job sites for other opportunities. But when the day came, July 12, I was devastated. I was told that I was being let go because of the company's change, not because of my performance. In fact, they told me they thought I was wonderful and they really wished I could stay. They asked if I'd be willing to work as a contractor in the future. I cried. And I thought I understood. I thought I was fine.

I found temporary work quickly after that. And I found a part-time job I didn't particularly enjoy shortly after my temp work ended. That part-time job was as a teaching assistant for a professor in BYU's MBA program. The class was a leadership class, one of the first classes the new MBA students take. I was required to attend class and I learned a ton about leadership, personal missions, and something called the COP model. The COP model (Competency, Opportunity, and Passion) teaches that if you can find a job where you land in all three categories, you have found your career "sweet-spot". The more I thought about that model, and the more I learned about other models, the more I felt that my job I had been fired from HAD been my sweet spot. I was good at my job (Competency), I was getting paid for it (Opportunity), and I loved the work (Passion). After realizing this, how could I continue to work at a part-time job that wasn't in a field I loved, where I felt I wasn't using my skills effectively?

In November 2016 I was approached by a local marketing company with an offer to be an editor on their team. I was thrilled. They wanted me to work temporarily as a contractor until the new year when they finalized their budget, but then they would hire me full-time. I quit my TA job at the end of the semester, assuming I'd be working full-time in January. Then they decided to have me just work as a contractor. That was fine, too. I was getting 20 hours a week, I could work from home, I loved the work, I was learning new things, and I was getting to know the people I worked with. A few weeks later, the company found they didn't have the budget for contract work and they pulled all contracted work back in-house "for the foreseeable future". And I was out of a job. Again.

I couldn't help feeling like that was just something they told me. I didn't really believe that they didn't have the budget. I started to feel totally incompetent. I had applied for another editing job in October and was told I wasn't good enough. Now I was really starting to believe it. What was the point in even looking for a new job? I don't have the skills. No one would hire me. And, in the spirit of honesty, I'm still dealing with these feelings of inadequacy. 

In October 2016, the depression really kicked in. I had to see a therapist. I was taking anti-depressants. I had a pretty awful experience with a temple worker, which certainly didn't help anything. There were a few nights I contacted the Crisis Line. I tried to find new hobbies and practice new skills. I played the piano a lot. I started using some essential oils. I downloaded a meditation/breathing app on my phone. I tried coloring books. All my old tricks for relaxing. But no matter what I tried or how hard I prayed, I didn't feel any peace about our situation. And nothing seemed to get better. In fact, things got worse. 

In January, the day I lost my hours from the marketing company, my throat started to hurt. By the next day I had a fever and I could barely talk. I went to the doctor who told me it was just a virus, and he sent me home. Tyson thinks it's because I've been under so much stress that my body just gave out. I'm inclined to believe him. It's been almost two months and I'm just now starting to feel better. Some days are better, some days are worse.

In the meantime, I am trying to learn how to be an effective stay-at-home mom. I've been working at least part-time since before William was born. This is my first crack at being home full-time. I am trying to find a cleaning routine, cook more meals at home, plan activities with my kids, etc. I feel like I really don't know very much about keeping a house, especially when it comes to gardening, which is a challenge with the yard we have. It's one thing to maintain a home, but I want our home to thrive.

Today I came across a documentary on Netflix about minimalism. I've been reading about minimalism for a while now, and I've even tried implementing a few principles to de-junk parts of the house. I sorted through the kids' toys, cleaned out a bunch of old dishes/sippy cups, and donated a bunch of old clothes a while ago. But it wasn't enough. While watching that documentary today, I finally felt like this is what I need to do. For my sanity. For the health and well-being of my family. Minimalism is maybe not THE answer, but it's part of it.

So, now I have a project. Something to guide my days at home. I'm not a very sentimental person, so I don't think I'll have a big problem with most of our stuff. Except for our books. That might be harder. Our plan is to sort through all our stuff, and anything we want to get rid of will be listed online for sale or saved for a yard sale. Everything left after the yard sale will be donated. All our profits will go to paying off debt and increasing our savings.

After we de-junk our house, we have to instigate some rules to keep our things minimal. I don't yet know what those rules will be, but I think one will be no new toys for the kids unless they swap it out for one they already have. And maybe no toys as presents. Instead they can receive outings and experiences.

 I haven't talked much about what I've been dealing with in regards to my depression. It's definitely been a learning experience for me and Tyson both. We've been married for 6.5 years and in all that time I've played the role of caregiver while Tyson has struggled with his chronic depression, anxiety, and ADD. Suddenly, I was the one who needed the support. This trial has helped us see through each other's eyes a bit more. I am optimistic about our foray into minimalism because I've read that reducing clutter helps ease stress and the overwhelming symptoms of depression.

I'm definitely going to continue my research and continue to post about our progress. Any advice from those who subscribe to minimalism in any degree would be most welcome.

05 July 2015

Pump Master

In my previous post I mentioned that I LOVE my Medela Pump-in-Style double-electric breast pump. I received this pump after I had William so it's an older version.
Isn't that bag très chic?
The bag holds the pump mechanism and has two compartments. The left compartment is a cooler: put an ice pack in there and the expressed milk stays good until you get home and can put the milk in the fridge or freezer. The right compartment is for storing the other parts of the pump.
I love that the pumping pressure can be dialed down or up. The first time I pumped after having Matthew I started on the lowest setting. He's now almost five months old and I usually do the medium setting or a bit higher. By the time I was finished breastfeeding William (14 months) I was pumping on the highest setting. The variable settings help match the baby's sucking efficiency for more consistent feedings.
I didn't have any issues pumping with William but for some reason it hasn't been as smooth-sailing for me this time. Maybe it's because Matthew usually only nurses from one side at a time, I don't know for sure.
The first time I tried pumping after Matthew was born was about a week before I went back to work. I needed to start building up a supply of expressed milk to give to the boy's daycare provider. I thought it would be like riding a bike - easy. But it wasn't. I started feeling pressure in my chest and I was having trouble breathing; I had to stop after only a few minutes. I didn't stop trying to pump but the anxiety kept happening. I tried deep breaths, watching TV or a movie to distract myself, or keeping Matthew right next to me while I pumped. It didn't really make a difference. I asked my doc about it and she said it sounded like a small anxiety attack. I thought that was strange since it's not like I hadn't pumped before. I think I was having anxiety issues since pumping meant going back to work. Don't get me wrong, I love my job. But with a new baby, a toddler, and my master's program, adding work to the mix seemed like too much.
Luckily, it was fine! There is an extra office at work where I can pump. I just have to make myself do it. I get in the middle of my work and have a hard time making the time to pump. That's good for work but not good for my milk production. I missed a few days which meant that my body stopped producing as much milk during those morning hours. Well, less milk means less for Matthew and that's bad. 
(Side story: for a few weeks there were two student secretaries and me working the same shift with only two computer spots at the front desk. I would go work at the computer in the back office which was the best. When I needed to pump I could just close the door and keep working while I pumped. Less guilt for not working while pumping! There were a few occasions when I needed to pump twice at work and it wasn't a problem because I was still working while I was pumping. If I could just work in the back office all the time I would be one happy momma. But I guess I have to work the front desk, too. Wouldn't want the students and faculty to miss my happy face, right?)
In an effort to get my milk production back to what it should be, I have implemented a new routine (with the help of later work hours). I am pumping up to three times per day. Ideally, I will pump first thing in the morning BEFORE I feed Matthew. I can usually get 6-8oz first thing but today I got 10! Yay :) I don't work until 10am so I nurse Matthew right before we leave the house. I pump at work at around 11:30am. I feed Matthew right when we get home around 2:30pm. He eats every 1.75 to 2.5 hours for the rest of the day. If he is sleeping when my feeding reminder on my phone goes off, I will pull out the pump and get a third session in. Matthew nurses for the last time each night around 1am. Rarely he will wake up in the middle of the night; usually he sleeps until 8:30am or 9am.
Since I started this routine, I have been getting more milk during my pumping sessions. I don't freeze my milk since what I pump during one day Matthew will eat in the next day or two. I use Lansinoh storage bags which can be frozen.
I do like to have a few extra bags at home, just in case. I take my pump with me when we go to Ogden to visit Tyson's family. His parents will often watch the boys so Tyson and I can go on a date and I like to have milk ready for Matthew. I take my pump over the weekends to keep up my schedule. That session first thing in the morning is really vital. Since Matthew only feeds on one side at a time it helps my physical comfort to pump before he eats. I don't have to worry about him not getting enough if I feed him after I pump. Babies are more efficient than breast pumps are so he's all good.
I am glad to have an excellent pump with all the fancy features to make my life easier. And I'm really grateful for a boss who never makes me feel like I have to choose between pumping and my job. Seriously, my boss is the best boss on the planet. In the universe. For all time.