Monday, June 30, 2014

Extended Breastfeeding & Weaning

Alternate Title: "All Done Mama Milk"

So yeah, my kid is so old I can't even count her age in months without doing the math, but she's been nursing since Day One. Until now. That's Day 823 for anyone who's counting. Save for a few days in there where I was out of town on a girls' trip. And yes, I feel somewhat brave for posting this photo (again). In part, because I can be somewhat modest about my body. But mostly because nursing, in general - and specifically, nursing a toddler - is not an overly common sight. Maybe this one photo speaks to an attempt to "normalize" the event, at least by US standards.

I certainly never set out to be the hippie parent who breastfeeds her toddler. If you'd asked my childless self five or 10 years ago, I probably would have told you that nursing a kid beyond infancy is freakish. That if a kid can walk and talk and poop in the potty, they are too old to be drinking from the teet. That it makes for needy children who never learn independence. That there's no way those kids can meet their developmental milestones, at least not the social ones. But now, obvi, I'd argue differently. And fortunately I live in Portland where several of my neighbors are still nursing their two-year-olds with nary a second thought. But I've been self-conscious about our "dirty little secret" since she was about 18 months old. That's not to say I've ever hidden the fact I'm still nursing, but I can't seem to confess this without a self-deprecating sidenote, or practically an apology.  "I still nurse the Bean to sleep ... yeah, sorry ... uh, um ... I'll probably have to go to college with her to help her sleep ... haha." I'm not sure where my subconscious nursing shame comes from, but I would guess it's just a factor of  society - behaving differently than the vast majority of my peer group. No one has ever made me feel embarrassed for nursing the Bean. Not when she was little, and not even now. But my awareness that it is atypical is enough for me to feel a bit funny about it all, leaving me a "closet nurser."

All that said, the "shame" did little to motivate me to end our very positive nursing relationship. While I certainly am one to respond to my own anxieties with a solid round of self-deprecation, I am not one to necessarily change my actions because of perceived "peer pressure." And part of me admits to liking being different, and taking a bit of inflated pride in the fact that my kid still nurses - meanwhile meeting, if not exceeding, all her developmental milestones, including being potty-trained relatively early; she is rarely sick; she thrives in daycare with a part-time working mom; and she is equally comfortable/attached to Daddy as she is to Mama.

But I have spent the past year wondering if/when/how our nursing relationship would come to an end. I've never broken up with anyone before. I've officially quit (without reasons like moving or returning to school) maybe one job ever. Getting the Bean out of our bed and "sleep training" her for my sanity was a significant challenge. I was assuming - and hoping - that the Bean would just wean herself; that one day she would just decide that milk is for Babies and she's a Big Kid. I originally thought she initiated weaning when I wrote about it here. But not so. And still, she has given no such indication that she would be weaning herself anytime soon. Contrary to my mostly "child-led" parenting style, I am having to initiate the process, because I'm officially, mostly, over it. And since we're kinda trying to get pregnant again, I'd rather do it now than when it literally is because another human is coming in to steal everything that Francie has come to know as hers.

There's actually not a lot of information out there on extended nursing. The recommendations are clear for exclusively breastfeeding for at least 6 months, then continuing to nurse up to 12 months, but then say "as long as mutually desirable for the mother and child," or something to that effect. So once you go over a year, there's little information about benefits, drawbacks, or approaches to weaning a toddler.

If you Google "extended breastfeeding," search suggestions such as "extended breastfeeding cons" or "controversy" also come up. I once wrote about that controversial Time Magazine cover, with the image of the hot young mom breastfeeding her large toddler boy standing on a stool. "Are you mom enough?," the tagline read. I provided a lot of the facts supporting breastfeeding there. But we're still talking about babies here. What about toddlers? Our pediatrician said that there aren't any well-documented physical benefits of nursing beyond infancy, but that there also aren't any well-founded reasons to stop. I read on the World Health Organization (WHO) website the following quote:

"If every child was breastfed within an hour of birth, given only breast milk for their first six months of life, and continued breastfeeding up to the age of two years, about 800,000 child lives would be saved every year."

I'm not about to argue the direct correlation of my nursing the Bean well into toddlerhood and saving any lives, but I do propose that it has made her life, and our relationship, better. I was only nursing her for 5-10 minutes each day, before naps when I was around, and before bed every night. It wasn't a lot to give, but I think we both got a lot out of it. Namely, wiggle-free cuddles.

I liked this article from the Huffington Post about weaning a toddler. And while I'm grateful to not have had too much push back from the Bean, I wasn't without my anxieties about the psychological/emotional difficulties of weaning a toddler versus an infant.

And here's another nice piece from Blossom about her experience weaning her 4-year-old.

So because there's no real instruction manual for weaning, I relied on common sense to lead the way. First of all, I had stopped nursing the Bean most all times but before sleep several months ago, so it wasn't as if she were going cold turkey. In recent memory, she nursed regularly before bed, and often before nap (if we were home together). In the last month or two, we started talking a lot about the differences between "babies" and "big kids." We more or less identified Big Kids as those who are potty-training, drink only from cups (not boobs), and sleep without a pacifier. We discussed how Francie is doing a good job becoming a Big Kid, but that she's not quite there yet (she was still nursing, and she still uses her "Neenie" to sleep). I reminded her that mama milk is mostly for babies, and that Big Kids don't need mama milk, because they get all their good nutrition from what they eat and drink, and they get all their mama lovin' from hugs and kisses and cuddles. She was amenable to this notion. So I set the stage for this well before I was "done" nursing. Weaning has been on my mind for many, many months now, but only very recently was I ready to call it quits. When it was time, well after we'd laid the ground work, I tapped into the indisputable power of stickers to create this really high-tech chart. I explained to her that after she got a sticker in each box, we would go on a special ice cream date.

It's been over a week now since she quit the sauce, and while she's asked for "mama milk" at bedtime, she hasn't protested when I offer her a cuddle or song instead. It might be weird, but I just feel so proud of her.

I will admit to a bit of anxiety about nursing #2, if and when that should happen. As in, what if we have breastfeeding difficulties, or my milk production is poor, or something about our nursing relationship isn't as sustainable. In 25 years from now, is #2 going to be in counseling saying, "Well, my sister Francie was nursed until she was older than 2, and I only got 6 months at the teet. That's the origin of all my problems."

And while I'm proud of Francie, I'm proud of me, too, for having taken this prolonged adventure together, despite the occasional internal struggle about being "normal." But truth is, it's actually easier and more rewarding to nurse a toddler than it is an infant. I just love the shit out of this little Bean, and am so glad to have had hours upon hours of her in my arms and on my chest. So I thanked her with a family date to Salt n Straw.

Francie & Cora

Two weekends ago we had the pleasure of a quick visit from college friend Anna and her adorable toddler, Cora. I had just seen Anna at our annual WR a few weeks before, but we had been sans kids this year (except for those inside bellies), so I hadn't seen Cora in person since WR 2013, when she was just about 5 months old. Francie and Cora had a blast running laps through our kitchen with shopping carts and strollers, blowing bubbles in the sun, and taking a bath together. It was the first time I've observed Francie to be a bit of a selfish bully, in that everything in her proximity was declared "mine!", but with some convincing she eventually warmed up a bit to sharing. Fortunately Cora appears to have her mother's laid-back-go-with-the-flow demeanor and was unaffected by Francie's little mean-streak.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

(27 Months) - 2 Years and 3 Months

For the Bean's 27 monthday, I compiled "A Day in the Life" from her perspective ...

6:30 a.m.
I'm calling for mama from my crib. It's daddy's turn to get me, so mama can sleep a bit longer. But I barfed all over my crib and now it is matted in my hair and I have poop in my diaper, so they are both attending to me quite nicely.

I know I threw up, but I actually seem to feel just fine. "Want Cheerios!"

6:38 a.m.
Because of that barfing business, I get a morning bath with Daddy! I'm really into laying on my back with my ears under water. I've also taken to touching my "'gina" a lot. Mama once said "please don't touch yourself in public, you can touch your vagina in the bath." So I do.

I found my daycare neenie and my parents won't take it away right now because I got sick. 

7 a.m.
I might have barfed, but I feel totally energetic. I prefer Daddy today, so insist that he read me Big/Little while I climb all over him. Next up, Once Upon a Potty for Girls, I like that silly Prudence girl.

7:10 a.m.
I finally get my Cheerios, and hum while I eat them. 

"Barf in bed. Okay now."

"Show mama. Finished it all."

"That burp. 
Turn on light. 
That light. 
Turn on light. Up. 
Off. On. Off. On off."

7:20 a.m.
Daddy's running, and because Mama is so tired, we watch almost 15 minutes of Sesame Street together on the couch, before I lose interest. This might be a TV record for me.

7:50 a.m.
Mama is napping, and Daddy and I eat a second bfast of waffles, look at pictures on the iPad, fix my ukelele, and daddy plays guitar.

Family walk to coffee shop. Not the close one where I ate that tiny cookies, but far away, so I ride in the stroller. "Mama push you." I still get my pronouns confused, you=me and vice versa.

10:45 a.m.
This isn't just any coffee shop, but an actual restaurant. When Mama's food arrives, I say, "Um, have some ice cream some egg." Turns out Mama isn't eating ice cream for breakfast, but cottage cheese.

11:20 a.m.
We stop by the local bookstore, and I touch my sticky food-fingers to all the grown-up books. Then I discover the kid section.

Mama: "You know who loved books?"
Me: "Grandma Nancy!"

I make Mama read to me lots. And then Daddy too. I choose one book I've never read and two books I already own (Goodnight Gorilla and Baby Beluga).

Mama: "Almost time to go."
Me: "Nooooo. Stay at coffee shop."
Mama: "This is a bookstore, but you want stay here?"
Me: "Yeah."
Mama: "Forever?"
Me: "Yeah."
Mama: "But we need to walk home soon."
Me: "Nooooo. Live at bookstore."

12 p.m.
Walking home, but I don't want to ride in the stroller. I see a cool frog I want to give a kiss.

"There's my water. There's my sunnies."

12:15 p.m.
I'm ready for a nap but my bed is not made so Mama is fixing all my sheets from the wash. Daddy has been my BFF all morning but now I want Mama. "Mama milk!"

1230 p.m.
We read the baby color book again - I'm loving this one right now. And then I'm ready for mama milk. My parents keep talking about some kind of weaning business, but I cry so loud I can't really hear them. 

And I'm out like a light and in my crib by 1245 p.m.

2 p.m.
"Daddy! Daddy! ... I'm wet."
Mama gets me from my crib, but I want to see daddy in the basement. I took a nap one hour shorter than they expected. Wahaha. 

My hair still smells like barf even though Daddy washed it twice.  Maybe I'm hiding the stench in one of my lingering neck folds. 

I demand more reading, choosing the chapter books that are on the top shelf. "Get bigger, read that one."

I play a bit, undressing the baby to change her poopy diaper, and a quick tea party with Daddy.

2:30 p.m.
Grocery store time. I want to wear my sandals and mama won't get off blogging on her phone to help me. Yet she says we are in a hurry. 

I tell Daddy "Want bacon" when we pass the butcher and make him proud.

I get a "bar" for being good listener at the store.

3:30 p.m.
Just enough time for a quick snack of bar and strawberries before I "Go airport" with Mama to pickup Anna and Cora. I talk to Mama the whole long drive.

"What you doing mama?"
"Show mama. All gone strawberries. Show mama."
"What doing mama?"
"Do work. I busy right now."
"Francie busy right now. Do work."

Me: "Where my sunnies?
Mama: "At home."
Me: "Why?"
Mama: "They're in the stroller."
Me: "Want sunnies. Want sunnies. Want sunnies."

Me: "What doing mama?"
Mama: "I'm having gum. 
Me: "Why?"
Mama: "Because I like it."
Me: "See?" 
Mama shows me.
Me: "See?"
Mama shows me again.
Me: "See?"
Mama: "Ok, last time thought."
Me: "Not very nice mama."

Mama: "You see the river over there?"
Me: "That Mimi Papa."

Me: "What noise?"
Mama: "Siren."
Me: "See siren."
Mama: "All went by so fast it's gone now."
Me: "Help buddy sick."

5:45 p.m.
Finally home with my old/new friend, Cora. I like showing her my kitchen and shopping cart. 

6ish p.m.
Dinner time. White bean and chicken chili. And cornbread. I like cornbread.

7 p.m.
Bath time, although my hair STILL smells like puke. 

7:30 p.m.
Night night time. Read Goodnight Gorilla and Baby Beluga.  Yet again.

7:40 p.m.

And because this post wasn't long enough, a few of my favorite photos from the last few weeks:

First Day/Last Day & End-of- the-Year DIY Teacher Gifts

My, what a difference a year makes. I Pin-trespassed this idea for the Bean, when really I should be doing it for Alex, too. Although we had another idea that he should wear the same button-up shirt for school pictures for every year of his teaching career. Can you even believe how much hair the Bean has grown since September?!? Maybe that's why she whines and sleeps a lot; it's hard work growing hair. I posted this pic on Instagram, too, and my cousin commented on her little chicken legs. She's still all chunky-monkey thighs, so the dress must hit her just "right" in this picture. She's so cute, amiright?!?

Although I've had my issues with her daycare - the name (could there be a cheesier childcare business name than Blue Skies and Butterflies?!?), the food provided (I still hold that canned mandarins are not FRUIT), and the low expectations for teacher's education backgrounds - I'm am very very grateful that they seemed to take such good care of my Bean, and she thrived in their care. They supported her potty training, they took her outside daily to play, and her communication exploded after moving upstairs with the big kids. I was SO very reticent about sending her to daycare in the first place, and in hindsight, I wouldn't have done it another way.

In order to say thank you to teachers Dani, Delilah, Jessica and the rest of the BS&B gang, I pulled together an all-staff gift I called the "summer survival kit."

Total cost = $28.53 for: Starburst candies, Dove chocolates, Sutter Home mini single wine, Starbucks iced coffee packets, nail polish, Pop-Its (of which I got carded for, thankyouverymuch), glow bracelets, animal crackers, popsicles to freeze, and the storage tub.

I wish we were the kind of society that placed higher value on our child care and early education, including higher expectations for knowledge/ training and higher pay to compensate those people who help care for the youngest generation. To the people who did this for my Bean's first year of institutionalization, I am grateful and hope my small gift helps you know so. Thanks. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

(Working Women ) - Lisha, CPA for

I'm a few days late here, based on my own arbitrary deadline of posting Wednesdays, but Alex is now on summer break and I worked Wednesday in the workroom rather than a private office, just to name a few excuses. But now I'm out of interviews to post ... casting call anyone?!?

Although Lisha and I technically attended high school together, she was a few classes behind me, we actually know each other because she's my BFF's hubby's sister. In other words, the boys I claim as my nephews are her actual nephews. We see each other, and her fiance Ryan, too, several times each year. Like her brother, she is tall with a propensity for athletic giftedness. And she's totally beautiful in that beach volleyball kind of way. I knew Lisha has been working successfully as a CPA for several years, but I, too, thought "all accountants do taxes." And our Thanksgiving conversations tend not to go into professional details, but go more like,
Me: "Hi! (hug) How's work and life and stuff?"
Her: "Great, thanks."
Logan: "Hey guys, watch this" (flies off the couch into a pile of blankets and then dances to the Fox Song; then Max sticks his fingers in his mouth and gags a bit; and then Francie cries because, well, she cries a lot).
Lisha clears up any assumptions about her job in this interview. Accounting, actually, sounds so NOT boring. Then again, I always thought that, like Ben Stiller in Along Came Polly, being an actuary sounded kinda interesting. Point being, her job requires a lot of her, but rewards her both intellectually, socially, and financially, quite well. And she gets to go live in Germany soon!

Thanks for sharing your professional experience, Lisha, and major congrats on multiple accounts - recent engagement, and awesome career opportunities abroad!

We got engaged mid-May in Kauai!

Bio info - who are you, how old are you, where are you from, where do you live, what's your living/family situation, what are your hobbies, etc. Essentially, what's your story?

Lisha. 29 years old. Grew up in West Linn, OR from 5th grade on, so therefore call it my home. I went to University of Oregon and loved every second of it. After graduating, I moved to Seattle for 1 year, moved back to Portland for 1.5 years (apparently I got a little homesick), and then back to Seattle again. I now live in Seattle, WA with my fiancĂ©, Ryan, and our two babies (i.e., mischievous cats), Mikey and Marley. 

My baby, Mikey.

Hobbies include traveling anywhere and everywhere, enjoying the outdoors (skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, boating, more traveling, etc.), finding great new books to read, movies, eating, drinking, watching football, singing along to songs … the list goes on. I used to play a lot of basketball and volleyball, most recently playing in a lot of women and coed rec volleyball leagues. However, most of my volleyball-loving friends have moved out of state, and therefore I haven’t played much in the past year.

What is your current job/profession? What path did you take to get there? Any required schooling or training?

I am a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and an Accounting Manager at, specifically working on SEC reporting.

Most people probably don’t know what SEC reporting means, so I will say this: When you invest in companies (i.e., if you have any money invested in stock), you have rights as an investor to know the financial health of the company that you are investing your money in.  My job is to prepare financial statements that we file with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that are available to investors in order to enable people to make educated decisions about whether or not they want to buy Amazon’s stock. Did I lose anyone yet?

I studied Accounting in the Business School at Oregon, while also double majoring in Psychology because I found it fascinating. While accounting may seem less than intriguing to most people, I really enjoyed it because I was good at it and it challenged me. So there I was, off on my path of being an accountant.

To be a CPA, you must have five years worth of schooling (credits) to be eligible to sit for the exam. (Side note: the CPA exam is a bitch. Essentially 16 hours of grueling and detailed accounting questions taken over four separate exams.) Due to the credits requirement, most people get a Masters in Accountancy. However, since I double majored, studied abroad in Spain for one summer, and had a lot of credits from high school, I only completed four years of school and jumped in to the accounting world earlier than most of my peers.

I applied for internships my junior year of college and literally had no idea what I was doing or getting myself into. I went shopping with my mom and bought two suits, filled out a resume in the business school, and got on-campus interviews with all of the big accounting firms in the Portland/Seattle area (six to be exact). From there, the public accounting firms invite all the students in-house for second round interviews. This is an all-day interview process with each firm, so I essentially spent my whole Spring Break of Junior year interviewing, alternating between my gray and black suit each day. I ended up starting my career with Ernst & Young, one of the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms, in Seattle. I progressed from a staff auditor to a senior auditor over the next few years, and then decided to leave EY after four years for an opportunity at I have been working in Amazon’s accounting department for almost three years now.

What are the pros and cons of your current position?


-          Working with wonderful and highly intelligent people

-          Salary

-          Visibility and opportunity to work directly with our VP Controller, CFO, etc.

-          Importance and significance of my work contribution (at least in the finance world)

-          Growth potential


-          Working hard, long hours (by hard, I mean that this job is very mentally challenging, which is a pro and a con)

-          “Busy seasons” where I know I’ll be working until midnight and working on weekends and can’t take any time off

Walk us through a typical day, week, or month ...

Hmm, I don’t really have a typical day, week, or month. It’s more like a typical quarter since we are quarterly reporting cycles. Here’s a brief breakdown though:

Sometime between 5 – 7 AM: Wake up and do some sort of exercise (yoga, barre, boot camp, or spin) or bike to work.

8 – 9 AM: Have a light breakfast at work and check all the emails that came in overnight, which are either from people in other countries since we are an international company, or from people that just worked later than I did the day before.

9 – 6: Attend meetings to discuss accounting issues. Perform monthly tasks such as preparing Amazon’s global statement of cash flows, reviewing our 10-Q, or researching what other SEC filers are doing. Keep up on recent accounting developments through webcasts or seminars. Work on projects and process improvements. I won’t get in to too much detail here so as to not bore anyone to death.

6 PM: Head home. Do whatever we feel like doing so we are not tied down by anything (happy hour, Mariners/Seahawks games, movies, relax at home, go for a hike, etc.)! If it is busy season, my heading home time could be much later. I think the latest I’ve worked this year is 2 AM, just to give people some insight.

What is something about your job that other people might not know or expect?

People assume accountants do taxes. MOST DO NOT. I use TurboTax just like everyone else.

I am never busy leading up to April 15th! This date has nothing to do with my job.

People assume accountants are really good at math. Also false. We are really good with Excel spreadsheets and using a 10-key for simple addition, subtraction, division, etc. People that succeed as accountants are typically excellent writers as well – yes, we do a lot of writing. (Did this surprise most of you?)

Generally everyone I’ve worked with at EY and now Amazon are young, intelligent, social, and fun people. Most of my friends in Seattle are accountants!

What other jobs could you work with your education/training/experience?

Any job in accounting at any company, really. Probably also any job in the finance world in general. The great part of working for a company like Amazon is I can rotate out of accounting relatively easily and try my hand at finance, operations, etc. I literally could become a buyer if I wanted and start going to trade shows as part of my job.

How much do you make? (Too forward?!? Probably. But let's be real, a large part of the reason we work is to make money - give us some deets about your income, as much as you feel comfortable sharing, whether specific to your personal salary, or generally speaking, as in, What Would Google Say).

Most people in this profession start as a staff accountant, either with a public accounting firm (like I did at EY) or directly working for a company (like I am now at Amazon). When I started out, I made about $45K, which I think is a pretty standard starting salary in accounting (although tax accountants generally make more, probably because less people want to do it). In public accounting, there is a pretty safe and clear career progression ladder, where you generally get promoted to the “next level” every few years, no question. When I left public accounting after four years, I was making around $60K.

Working for Amazon is a HUGE perk in terms of salary, and I make over six figures now but will opt to leave it at that. People tend to unfairly compare themselves against others, so I do not want to disclose how much I actually make! However, to give you an idea, we get compensated heavily in Amazon’s stock, which has historically done very well. To give you an idea, I started when the share price was around $185 and now it is at $325.

Do you anticipate making any career changes in the next 5 to 10 years?

An exciting change coming in the next couple months is that I have accepted a rotation to our accounting department in Munich, Germany! I will work over there for 18 months and get a better idea of operations and business in other countries, which I am very excited about. When I return, I will have the option to come back to the corporate accounting group at Amazon or rotate into another field, so I have yet to decide what I may do in the future.

If you could have any other job in the world, what would it be?

I used to say beach volleyball player. I’d also love to write a book one day, possibly a compilation of my very crazy and highly entertaining dreams.

If someone else was interested in your job, what piece of advice would you give them?

Start in public accounting. You will gain so much experience that is invaluable and make you a great catch for any future company. You will also progress further in your career faster. Accounting is a field where you can go as far as you want to, depending on how hard you are willing to work for it (and obviously you gotta have the smarts)!

How do you balance work life and home life?

Ryan and I are equally career focused and do not have children yet, so we essentially work hard and play hard at this point in our lives. I do imagine this will become a struggle in the future as Ryan and I start to have a family. I want to be able to prioritize raising my children and am not sure the demands of my current job will allow for that.

For more interviews with working women, check out this link.

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