Monday, December 28, 2015

Holiday Tips From Franceth Manor

I see a blog going around Facebook that's all the reasons Christmas sucks for moms. My kid is only 5 months old, so I don't profess to be an expert, but I am really not into busy bragging and negativity. Rather than share that link and be critical, I decided to tell you the reasons my Christmas was excellent.

1. My husband who doesn't suck. If you're going to have a spouse, you should pick one who doesn't suck. Mine helps with decorations, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, baby baths and poopy diapers, basically everything. Sure, maybe sometimes I follow behind him to make adjustments, but a husband who doesn't suck is a huge time saver!

2. My job that doesn't suck. Trust me, I know how a rigid office schedule and awkward holiday parties can make the holidays stressful. Become your own boss! The best thing about being self employed is that I don't have to shop when 90% of other people are shopping. I went to the mall for fun three days before Christmas, and I sang songs the whole time I was looking for a parking spot. That, my friends, is a low stress life. Plus, I sell stuff that is essentially a luxury item, and rarely am I yelled at for it.

3. ONE CHILD! I hear some of the weirdest reasons for having more than one kid. Your only child will have friends and a support network in life even if you don't provide them biological relatives, I promise. And it makes holiday travel so much easier!

4. My family is not crazy about gifts. The extended family does a $10 fun gift exchange, and the great aunts & uncles kick in for one present for the littles. For immediate family, this year I tried to buy almost all gifts from small businesses, direct sales, or fair trade. It made gift giving more thoughtful than it had been in years, which felt good! Francis and I have never really done gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, or Christmas. Instead, we travel, and this year we are going to Disneyland.  Experiences. Travel. Dinner out. Museum memberships. So many things that are not just buying random crap on Amazon or swapping gift cards.

5. I donate to charity and did a food pantry can drive because it makes me feel good. I hope I will teach Lilly to be charitable from the heart. I know for sure that me bitching about having to buy canned goods for poor people on my mommy blog would not be teaching her anything worthwhile. Kids aren't dumb.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Happy Holidays, I Can't Get My Sh!t Together

We (I) spent so much time trying to decide which photos to use, it is now too late to order, receive, address, and mail Christmas cards. Here are this year's contenders:

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Franceth Manor!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Newsletter: Month 4

Dear Lilly:

Today you turned 4 months old! The last couple weeks of October we managed to squeeze in a lot of fun, but November is not anyone's favorite month around here, so we have been spending more time indoors. You learned a lot of things this month! You are babbling like crazy, learning to play with toys, sit in your Bumbo seat and exersaucer, and have started to spit out your binkie just to get a hand to hug.

We had one week this month that felt like it was spent entirely in the pediatrics lab at Mercy. We saw a GI specialist about your weight, and you had to have several time consuming lab tests, two of which had to be redone. Mercy feels like a second home now! They have a nice play area in the lab, the staff is nice, and I like the chocolate Elvis smoothie from the coffee shop. I don't wish you to spend anymore time there, but for routine lab work it's not an unpleasant place, and you were really a trooper for such a little baby. We even spent naptime by a waterfall outside the lab one day, just because you fell asleep when I stopped to check my email. It seems all you needed was some more calories, and we are back on track now!

On the fun side, we had our first family trip to the zoo and went to Owlfest at Treehouse Wildlife where your owl hat was a huge hit. Sometimes we go out and do things just because you love to look at faces other than mom and dad, and your delight stops people in their tracks. I hope you spread that kind of joy your whole life!


Friday, November 6, 2015

Fightin' Weight

For the last six weeks or so I have been slaving to get Lilly's weight up. I started to type out everything we've been doing, but as with most things involving parenting and the internet, I had to go back and say, "Is this boring? Yes." If you have a 3 month old baby who just won't gain and you need some ideas, feel free to comment. For the purposes of today's blog, let's just say that my baby was sleeping through the night and then I had to go back to a newborn schedule, which is pretty much akin to torture. As I have mentioned before, though, hormones are a bitch and once you start the breastfeeding, your brain becomes convinced that there is no other way. Also, formula is EXPENSIVE. So I pumped.

After 6 weeks of weekly weight checks where she was gaining 1-2 oz a week when she should be gaining 5-7, the pediatrician sent us to a GI specialist, who started in with the "failure to thrive" and "we'll have to hospitalize her" talk. It's amazing that I did not cry. Lab work was ordered, including a sweat test for cystic fibrosis that was not explained at all, and I was turned away from the lab that day because they don't start the sweat test after 1pm. Then the next day, I was there for five hours because the bag for urine collection kept leaking, and then the third day it took two tries AGAIN. This week has been hellish.

BUT. But. The thing the GI doctor prescribed in the interim was just to add formula to the milk I am pumping. 1 scoop per ounce of breastmilk that I pump, and I pump about 6 oz a day. The rest of the time she breastfeeds. And do you know, according to our home scale, this baby has packed on 12 oz in 5 days? How is that even possible from a grand total of 30 oz of breastmilk with formula in it?? It seems impossible, but you can see it. She is fatter. I can't wait to hear how they explain this.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Counting Blessings

One of my favorite things about being self employed is that not being able to fall asleep is actually kind of pleasant. No longer do I have to lay awake wondering if I made a mistake on a job. Is that carpet going to ship on time? Is someone going to chew me out today for something I have no control over? You would think I would still find things to worry about, but no. This morning I fed the baby at 4 am and had a hard time falling asleep again, but I was happy as a clam under my down duvet in my drafty old house, thinking about how fortunate I am.

One of the things you hear over and over when you have a baby is "enjoy every minute. It goes by too fast." I was thinking this morning that I'm so grateful to be self employed, and to enjoy my work, because it really does allow me to treasure every day. We only plan to have one child, so I take a moment every day to remind myself that there is never going to be another day like today. I think that if I still had a stressful job, if I still had to be at an office at 8am Or Else, I wouldn't have this appreciation of the small things like early morning snuggles, the way she sticks her butt out and grabs my neck like a baby monkey when we go down the stairs, and her bright eyes intently studying my face.

I was telling Francis the other day that I nearly always cry when I hear Mumford and Sons song The Wolf, even though it has been on the radio every two hours for six months now. It's always this part:

Leave behind your wanton ways
I want to learn to love in kind
Because you were all I ever longed for

Hold my gaze love, you know I want to let it go
We will stare down at the wonder of it all

And I-I will hold you in it and I-I will hold you in it

I don't like to get into the meaning of lyrics, but I think that I get so emotional when I hear this song because my brain deeply associates it now with all the emotions leading up to Lilly's birth, and then the other side of it, actually being a parent and having this baby that I stare at in wonder every day. The bridge of the song is a crescendo that feels like Marcus's heart is exploding, and that really resonates with me right now.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

4th Trimester: Officially Over!

Dear Lilly

Today you turned 3 months old! I wasn't sure what to say about this month, so I stared at the screen for a bit before taking a break to feed you. That was when your dad said to me, "You're so good at this." He did not know I had started this letter, and I started laughing. This was the month where I doubted everything and didn't feel like I was good at anything.

At the beginning of this month, I suspected you had lost some weight, which is hard to guess at when you only weigh 9lbs. Typing out the whole saga would ultimately be pretty dull, so the nutshell version is that we've had four weight checks with the pediatrician and two meetings with a lactation consultant in the past month. For whatever reason, my milk supply had dropped, and we spent most of 3 weeks at home trying to solve the problem. Two days ago was the first time Dr Kebler was ok with waiting two weeks for the next check, and today was the first day where I was fully confident that you were getting enough milk again without frequent pumping and supplementing.

Through it all, Dr Kebler said that you were perfectly healthy and hitting all your milestones. You have been happy and smiling and even started laughing this month. Everyone thinks you are adorable and the lactation consultant asked how I ever get any work done when you are hamming it up. You might just be a skinny kid, and that's ok! It does make it tricky to find pants, though. 3m size pants fall off your skinny butt and newborn pants, if we can even find them, are too short.

I never thought that I would care either way if I couldn't breastfeed, but those hormones are crazy. There were points this month where I wanted to give up, but at the same time my brain was telling me that was not an option, and woe to the person who said "formula" to me. I still think that moms should not feel like they have failed if they can't continue to breastfeed, but now I understand why it is sometimes so upsetting for them. You just can't help it.

Of course, I have selfish reasons for wanting to exclusively breastfeed. It's so much easier to go on adventures! Even though pumping and bottles kept us at home more this month, you still went to two vendor shows with me, we got a Zoo membership and made new friends, we went to the Drive-In to see Gremlins, Hotel Transylvania 2, and Rocky Horror Picture Show, and we spent an afternoon at John G's again. We will always find ways to have fun, no matter what!


Monday, October 12, 2015

This morning during Lilly's 4am feeding, as I was browsing Facebook on my phone, I came across a post looking for crafters for an event at the Waldorf School in Webster Groves, which led from one private school website to another, thinking about all the options available to Lilly, and the staggering tuition that goes with them. This early morning jaunt around the internet coupled with a conversation I had with my sister in law last night got my brain spiraling out of control, and I finally got up at 6 am to get the laptop and purge some of it.

The convo with Sarah was about one of the major obstacles in my life in the past year and a half, which requires me to begin with a Stuart Smalley moment: I am good enough, I'm smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me! I am an open and honest person who enjoys connecting with people and helping them, and I won't be shamed for sharing my experiences, which I am going to do now.

At my last job, our household income was solidly upper middle class. A tuition bill of $1,000 a month would have been within our means. That job also meant 50+ hours a week at a company where everyone was bullied by one of the most unprofessional people I've ever worked with.  Monday morning meant you were going to get chewed out, and people trying to work in the conference room in the middle of the office were frequently pushed into conversations about race, religion and politics that were completely inappropriate for the office. I took a Xanax every Sunday night to fall asleep. There were less than 25 employees, and the turnover rate in the 27 months I was there was 30%. I didn't witness any unprofessional exits, but the ones who put in their two weeks did so only because they were staying in the industry and were smart enough not to burn bridges. They all quit for the same reason. The same person.

Here's a visual of Fall 2013. The Before picture was taking September 10. Francis and I had just returned from a trip to Disneyland for our anniversary. I had worked 70 hours a week from the day I returned from my honeymoon in May until this day in September, trying to manage $5 million in projects inherited from one of the aforementioned people who quit. I was docked the equivalent of a day's pay from my SALARY for that 3 day weekend, because I used my 5 (yes, only 5) vacation days on my honeymoon. You can see that I look pale and sick, and Francis looks pinched. Shortly after this photo was taken, I got pregnant, and then had a miscarriage. Low progesterone from the constant cortisol spike of being ambushed every day.

That short paycheck was the beginning of my new life. The two Disney trips in one year gave me the idea of becoming a travel agent and Disney specialist, which I did. I also read an article about how young people are turning to direct selling as a source of income in a difficult job market, and around that time I discovered Jewelscent on Facebook. That article opened my eyes to the idea that direct sales is the same as any other sales job, and that it's quite similar to a turnkey business or franchise. You buy a kit and you build the business you want. Eight months later, waiting in line for Aquaduck on the Disney Dream, I told Francis I was quitting my shitty job when I got back to St Louis, and I did. My last day was in June, and the "After" picture is September 10, 2014. As you can see, we were looking PRETTY HAPPY at the end of that first summer of freedom.

When you are self-employed and run a business, some days it is really, really tough to get around the haters. Some days it's not even hate, it's just a complete lack of support. It's even harder when you are working in two misunderstood industries and even "friends" say one is dying and the other is a scam. But at the end of the day, or rather, in the wee hours of the morning, I know my husband is happy and proud of me, I have a daughter who wouldn't even exist if I hadn't taken this road, I have made so many amazing, entrepreneurial, supportive friends, and I can always justify a Disney vacation. These days, Monday is my favorite day of the week.