Chicago Trip

Jack had a Rotary conference in Chicago earlier this month.  We all tagged a long and had fun while he sat in meetings.  I had a few items on my agenda: Lego store, Shedd Aquarium and maybe Legoland and of course play in the pool at the hotel.

The Lego store was my favorite part of our trip.  Each dot is the head of a Lego person, it was really cool!

Lego sign

The Chicago skyline was made out of Legos and they had a few super heroes hiding on the top of the buildings.

Lego Store outside

There was a cool table that Henry was interested in playing on.

Lego Store little kid play table

I think Charlie was in heaven at this table!

Lego store play table 1

Robbie was busy for a long time hunting down these fence pieces to build this huge wall.  I was helping Charlie pick out his container of Legos that I bought for him.  One time when I looked over at Robbie I saw one of the employees sitting by Robbie.  By the time I got over there to see what that guy was doing by him.  My first thought was that the employee was talking to Robbie about hogging all those pieces.  I was wrong the employee was helping him because he thought the wall was cool.

Lego Store play table tall fence

Robbie was next to pick out his Legos from Lego wall.  It was so awesome!  He looked at all of them and asked if he could go back to the building table to plan out something.  We didn’t have time for that because we were planning to meet my brother and his family later.  I suggested he just look and see if he could imagine something.  Within three minutes he had a plan.  I helped count out pieces for him.  I was impressed with his vision, math skills, and planning.  I had no idea what he was going to build.  He needed 20 of certain pieces, 40, 60 and 80 of others.

Lego Store Lego wall

When we finished doing what we wanted to in the store I checked my phone messages and found a message from BJ, my sister-in-law, telling me they have arrived at the aquarium.   The boys and I sat down at a table in the mall that was loaded with people. I called BJ back and made some plans, as I watched Charlie and Henry walk towards the escalator.  My free-range parenting was keeping me calm.  I waved them back to me and just as I was getting off the phone Henry stepped onto the escalator, ALONE!  Oh my God!  My heart stopped!  No more free-range parenting thoughts floating in my head! Thankfully I was wearing Nola Mae in the ring sling and she was sleeping.  I handed Robbie the camera and my purse.  I sprinted to the escalator.  When I got to the escalator Henry had reached the top.  The escalator was loaded with people so all I could do was breath deeply and remember my first escalator ride with my Grandma Schroeder.  We got back to the table where the two older boys were waiting and they were taking pictures of everything around them.  This is Henry’s pouty face as I explained how worried I was and how important it is that we stay together.  That little stinker wasn’t frightened one bit.

Lego Store pouting face 1  Lego Store pouty face 2

I thought I could drive in downtown Chicago and I did without getting into an accident, and with a lot of bad words coming out of my mouth.  What was I thinking?  Chicago has one way streets just like Milwaukee and tons of traffic and tons of people crossing the streets and city buses that don’t care where you are, the difference is I didn’t know where I was going.  I think I circled the darn mall/Lego store at least six times before I found the parking ramp for the mall. When we got back to the hotel Charlie made sure to tell Jack that I said many many bad words that day in the car.

We didn’t go to the Shedd Aquarium because at 12:30 there was a two-hour wait to get in.  I was hungry, hot, tired, tired of people, frazzled by the thought that I almost lost my three-year old and stressed out about driving.  I dropped $88 in the Lego store and $27 on parking.  I couldn’t bring myself to pay $18 for parking, stand in line for 2 hours, pay $90 for the four of us and walk around the aquarium for a few hours.  I was dying to see my brother and his family, especially the newest baby in our family.   We decided we could wait until the next day to see each other and not have to pay a lot of money to hang out.  I would bring the boys back when we could start our day at the aquarium.

Our drive back to the hotel took 1 1/2 hours (it took me 40 minutes to get downtown).  I took a wrong turn and ended up on some road under the city streets along the river.  It was a really cool place but our GPS didn’t work.  Thankfully, I remembered what highway we were looking for.  Once we got out of the city we saw this car that Charlie wanted to take a picture of.

Chicago jewel car  chicago jewel car 1

I brought food, because I really can’t go anywhere without it.  And we found a great grocery store close to our hotel.  If you know me well, you know why I was in heaven, the produce department was 50 times bigger than the IGA and had fruit that I only have heard of  and have never seen in person!  The boys had a huge plate of fruit after swimming both nights.

chicago hotel snack time

Here they are building things with the Legos we bought earlier in the day.  You can see at the bottom of the photo Robbie’s vehicles that he designed in his head.  He bought enough Legos to make 10 of those vehicles.

chicago hotel legosHere is a close up shot of one of those vehicles he had a imagined at the store.

Lego store Robbie's vehicle

Later this evening we were looking for Papa before heading to the pool.  We were unable to find him instead we ran into another Rotatarain from Clintonville.  She was excited to see that we came along for the weekend and she asked if we were having fun.  I said,  “Yes! We are having fun!”  Then she made a comment assuming this was a relaxing trip for me.  I didn’t think she would want to hear the whole story about our day, so being the honest person my mom raised me to be, I just said “this kind of trip isn’t relaxing to me.”  I don’t think she knew what to say.  I gathered up my wild boys and walked very quickly to the pool!

Henry at home with some of his Legos.  He loved playing with the white fence at the store so we filled his container up with a lot of those pieces.

Lego store Legos

I know I am crazy for letting our boys get these tiny Legos especially with a baby in the house.  At least these Legos will pass through Nola Mae if she were to swallow them (I hope).  I encouraged them because they fit in the tiny spaces in the container that we bought and because these are my favorite pieces of Legos when I build things and we never have enough of them.  The red jewel looking piece and the purple one were ones that I haven’t seen before.

Lego store small Legos

Since our trip I haven’t seen these on the floor or in a diaper!

Our next trip to Chicago will be during the week and in the summer.  We will visit the aquarium.  There will be two adults (at least) with our four kids.  We will buy tickets ahead of time to avoid standing in line.  If Charlie can convince me to take him to Legoland I may go to that big city again.  Otherwise, I think I am done.

I realized after we got home from this trip that I really am a small town girl.  I should add to my Small Towns post that I love it that you can park anywhere you like and it is free, I can go anywhere in town and know someone and someone would grab my child if they saw he was getting away from me.

Happy Birthday, Jack!

Jack’s birthday was this past week.  The boys and I were planning days in advance to get things done.  Everything was going perfectly.  I baked the cake while the boys were in school.  Henry helped make it.

Jack's b-day Henry

The night before Jack’s birthday he had plans to go to a movie with friends.  Perfect!  We would have all night to get homework done, piano practiced, frosting made and colored, a cake decorated and his present wrapped.  At 3:00, Jack called me to tell me his movie night was cancelled and he would be home at his normal time.  Yikes!

I whipped up the frosting before the boys got home from school.

Once the boys got home we got right to decorating.  Charlie came up with the design and helped stir the colors.

Jack's b-day Charlie frosting

He drew the design onto the cake with a toothpick.

Jack's b-day cake Charlie's design

Robbie did some of the decorating.

Jack's d-day Robbie decorates

Nola Mae was getting into the fruit on the counter.

Jack's b-day Nola Mae kiwi

I was impressed with the team work of all three boys.  Henry was okay not decorating (maybe he was sneaking frosting), and Robbie was totally okay doing whatever Charlie wanted.

Jack's b-day boys w cake

Next they each made Jack a birthday card.

From Robbie

From Robbie

From Charlie

From Charlie

From Henry - front cover

From Henry – front cover

From Henry - inside

From Henry – inside

We hid everything away until the next day when we would celebrate Jack’s birthday.

The night of Jack’s birthday the boys helped get things ready for dinner, fed the dogs, unloaded the dishwasher and got right to doing their homework.

I made one of Jack’s favorite meals – fettucine alfredo with shrimp and then we had cake.

Jack's b-day kids

Happy Birthday, Papa!

Milk Making Cookies

Milk Making Cookies

These can be eaten by non-lactating people!


When I was having trouble producing milk for Nola Mae I found this cookie recipe.  I never made them when I “needed” them.  I was too stressed out to do any extra things at the time.   I breastfeed her more often and took fenugreek to increase my milk supply and that worked.

My sister-in-law recently had a baby and I thought it would be fun to give her some of these cookies.  I finally made them!   I forgot the chocolate chips at first so some were made without chips, which my 3-year-old nephew enjoyed.

I made a few changes to the orignal recipe (rearranged the order of the list of ingredients for easier making, added more cinnamon and used peanut butter and coconut oil).  I didn’t add nuts because I rarely cook with nuts and really didn’t know what kind to add.  I thought about chopped garbanzo beans because I have done that before.

What kind of nuts would you add?

Milk Makin’ Cookies
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 t baking soda
3 t cinnamon
1 t salt

3/4 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. coconut oil (or butter)
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 t vanilla
3 T brewer’s yeast
1 c. ground flax-seed
1/3 c. water + about 2 -3 T

2 large eggs

1 3/4 c. rolled oats

2 c. (12 oz) chocolate chips
1 c. nuts (optional) or maybe chopped garbanzo beans

Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a bowl.
In a large bowl, beat peanut butter, coconut oil, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, brewer’s yeast, flax and water until creamy.

Mix in eggs.

Gradually beat in flour mixture. Slowly mix in oats. Mix in nuts and chocolate chips.
Place Tbsp.-sized balls of dough onto greased cookie sheets. Press down each ball lightly with a fork.

Bake 12 minutes at 350F. Allow to cool.

Freeze already made cookies or dough for eating and baking later.

IBCLC Day! (Revised 2013)

You may be wondering what that means.

Last year I learned that today is IBCLC Day and wrote this post!   Today I have revised it a bit.

An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is a health care professional who specializes in the clinical management of breastfeeding. This person has demonstrated competence to practice by passing an internationally recognized criterion-reference examination.

In my opinion, one of the most important people in health care!

The IBCLC in my life is an amazing woman named Sandy.  Sandy saved my breastfeeding relationship with Robbie almost eight and a half years ago.  We spent many hours with her during the first year of his life.  Sandy helped us on an individual basis by phone, visits to the hospital and at her New Baby Support Group.

Before Robbie was born I knew I wanted to breastfeed.  I read every book our library system had on breastfeeding.  I didn’t take the breastfeeding class that was offered at the hospital because I was too cheap to pay for the class and too busy to schedule it.  Instead I read all I could about it.  My main motivation wasn’t the health benefits to me and my child it was the gut feeling I got about the yuckiness of formula and the cost.  Breastfeeding is FREE!

I had good role models in my life who breastfed. One of them was my Mom. She breastfed five out of the six of her children. Three of them, triplets, who were born prematurely. My mom pumped milk for them and even had extra milk for the other babies in the NICU. She pumped for four months until the triplets finally latched on.

At the hospital where Robbie was born the nurses and lactation consultant tried to help us.    Robbie never latched on while we were there.   The staff kept telling me he will and they continued to “slam” his face into my breast trying to get him to latch on.  All he would do was scream bloody murder and pulled his head away from me.  Did this cause his strong-willed personality or was this the first sign of it?   The staff at the hospital insisted on me watching a 45 minute video on breastfeeding before I went home. All I can remember about that video was “I am doing that” and “I already know this”.   I think they sent me home thinking I was a lost cause and would fail at breastfeeding.  The lactation consultant there found out that we lived closer to Waupaca than Neenah and told me that I would need to get in touch with Sandy the IBCLC at the hospital there, because “She is the best lactation consultant in the state!  Waupaca is lucky to have her there.”

Robbie’s bilirubin was high when we left the hospital at two days old and the numbers kept climbing until he was 5 days old.  We met Sandy after seeing our family doctor when Robbie was three days old.  He was sleeping all the time still not latching on.

I will always remember my first meeting with Sandy.  She reassured us that we could make breastfeeding work.  She asked me to show her how I was trying to breastfeed.  Sandy’s exact words were, “Jenny, you are doing everything right!  It’s Robert who needs some work.”  I thought to myself Thank you for not making me watch another video!  I fell in love with Sandy during that first meeting.  I could feel her love for mothers, babies and breastfeeding.  That is when I knew then that I had the best lactation consultant in the world!

Sandy set us up with a breast pump, supplemental finger feeder, a chart to chart everything: ounces of breast milk pumped, Robbie’s intake and output, minutes of latch, minutes of drinking my milk with the finger feeder, Robbie’s mood or reaction and what time all of this happened.

The supplemental finger feeder.

The bili-blanket.

Because his bilirubin was still climbing he was hospitalized for more lights and monitoring when he was 4 days old.

After things settled down and Robbie got the hang of breastfeeding.   The largest benefit I got from Sandy’s wisdom was attending her New Baby Support Group twice a month for his first year of life. I rarely missed a meeting! I went to many of these meetings when Charlie and Henry were new babies too.  Sandy has specific topics for each meeting and always had a scale to weigh your baby.   She always stayed later to answer every mom’s questions.  My babies were breastfeeding a lot.  I always wondered if they were getting enough.   I was reassured by the scale that they were getting enough and were gaining weight.  I learned something new about breastfeeding, how to take care of my baby and myself, and how to be the mama I wanted to be at every meeting.  On top of these wonderful things I also met many other mamas who have become dear friends to me.

Because of the support I got from Sandy, Jack and all of my family and friends I was successful with breastfeeding Robbie, Charlie and Henry.   Between our three boys I have been able to breastfeed for a total 76 months.  Baby number four will add to my number of months of total breastfeeding.

Added: March 6, 2013

As you know, Nola Mae arrived about 11 months ago.  We had a good start to breastfeeding.  And then things started to go down hill.  Four kids knocked the wind out of my sails for many months, my milk supply dropped drastically and Nola Mae wasn’t gaining weight.  We discovered this by visiting Sandy often for weight checks and she got us back on track.  I feel like there are many more details to share about the things I learned during the first 6 months of Nola Mae’s life – I do have a blog post drafted about this topic  I just need some time to work on it!

I am now up to about 88 months of breastfeeding and still going strong thanks to all the support I have gotten from Sandy, Dr. Charlie, my family and friends.

A related post I put together for World Breastfeeding Week in 2011:

February 2013 – Month 2

February 2013 – Month 2

In late January the boys had a two-hour delay for school due to bad weather and then a snow day.

The morning of the two-hour delay caused some craziness.  Every morning if Nola Mae and Henry are still sleeping when it is time to go out to the end of the driveway I walk out there with the boys.  I take care of the dogs.  This morning I turned on the water to fill the horse’s water tank.

I didn’t know there was a two-hour delay until we were outside waiting for the bus by 6:30 and we were waiting for about 10 minutes.  I saw the county bus go by very slowly, usually this bus is going pretty fast.  I realized then that maybe the wasn’t any school because the roads were probably too bad.  I went into the house to check the school’s website.  In all this craziness I forgot about the running water in the barn.  The nice thing about our old barn and the placement of my water tank is when it overflows most of the water goes to the stairs.

flooded barn

After the two big boys were off to school I scooped the water out with the 5 gallon bucket and the grain shovel.  If I didn’t wear my baby I am not sure when or how I would have gotten this cleaned up.  I was concerned about it freezing and needed it to get cleaned up right away!

flooded barn clean up

flooded barn clean

When we had a snow day I was thinking ahead so we made Valentine cards for school.  I refuse to buy the crap that is in the stores.  I cut hearts of all sizes and all three boys glued and colored whatever they wanted, signed their name and we taped a small package of Smarties or a sucker on each card. Thanks to Granny we had a good supply of Smarties!  Henry signed all of his with one big “H”, up until this time I didn’t know he could write an H.  He saw the boys writing their names and he told me he could do his.

Valentine making

The innocent playing on the kitchen stool has turned dangerous.  Remember last month’s cute photos?  Now, I put the stool away and only bring it out when we need it.

stool Nola Mae 1  stool Nola Mae2

Henry’s preschool does a cake raffle at four high school basketball games as a fundraiser.  These are two of the three cakes I made.  The preschool raised a total of over $400.

Basketball cake   cake heart cake

Henry has watched us play Battle Ship.  On this day he was set on filling every spot and not interested in getting up until he was done.

Henry battleship

I heard the piano keys being played.  I stopped what I was doing in the kitchen to tell Henry how beautiful and gentle his fingers were playing and found Nola Mae standing at the piano.

piano Nola Mae reaching

Henry thinks she needs to sit down to play and put her on a chair.  Nola Mae likes it.

Piano Nola Mae

My friend, Asherrie’s mom made this little hair hat for Nola Mae.

Nola Mae w hair

During some cold temps this month we were unable to start the tractor to bring firewood into the house.  Robbie and I brought this load of wood into the house.

Robbie firewood load

We have had excellent skiing this month.

A snowy day made it a lot more work to ski and pull the sled.  It is a good thing Nola Mae sleeps the whole time because on this day she wouldn’t have been able to see out of the sled.

ski sled w snow

Henry’s skiing skills improved drastically in a week’s time.  He went from me skiing next to him while going down hill, and skiing behind him doing the “duck walk” up the hill to him climbing up hills and zooming down hills all by himself.  He has also gotten stronger during the month of February.  We always went on the green loop.  By the end of this month we going out on the blue loop.  One day he skied for over 1.5 miles.  And another day he skied the entire blue loop (distance?) in 1 hour 45 minutes.

skiing Henry down

I had a few days where Henry would ski as far as he could and when he would get tired I put him in the sled with Nola Mae.  They would both fall asleep within 10 minutes and I could ski as long as I was able to.  On this day I didn’t bring any water with me and had to go back after 1.5 hours.  They could have napped longer and I could have skied longer!

Skiing sled b&w

Aunt Becca came to ski with us during one of our Saturday morning lessons.  The youth ski group skied to the shelter on the green trail for hot dogs, hot chocolate and the reading of  the book called The Race of the Birkebeiners.

skis at shelter

skiing w Becca

Skiing w Becca 1

Three of my sisters met at my house for skiing and visiting.  While they were here it was too beautiful to be inside.  I got the boys out to try to do some sledding.  Kayla and Skyler came outside to play with us and they had an idea to make a snow fort.

Kayla & Nola Mae  Henry and Skylar

Snow fort building

The snow fort started to lean when the temps warmed up.  Notice the leaning sides of the fort.

Snow fort melt down 1

snow fort meltdown 3

The day before it fell to the ground.

snow fort meltdown 5

During this same weekend the youth ski group skied our re-enactment of The Race of the Birkebeiners where the kids brought their babies or stuffed animals and carried them on a special trail that I had groomed for them.

Birkie ski

I had someone interested in buying my Ellaroo wrap.  This was my first wrap.  I haven’t been using it very often so I considered parting with it.  We wrapped with it and I decided I couldn’t sell it just yet.

Ellaroo Ysabel wrap smiles

Nola Mae doing “The Big C” and still staying in the wrap!

Ellaroo Ysabel wrap back arch

I made this ring sling for myself after finding out that I like the ease of getting Nola Mae in and out when going places.

Ring Sling DIY Plum

I got this wrap hammock idea from my friend, Brianna, the one who got me into wrapping.  She has made forts, swings and hammocks with her wraps.  Charlie’s friend rode the bus after school to work on her science project with Mystique (Click here to see her mom’s blog post).

Wrap hammock G

Charlie and Robbie took turns sleeping in the hammock.

Wrap hammock sleeping Charlie