Monday, May 21, 2007

Plane Tickets!

I'm very excited, I looked again at prices for plane tickets and was very happy to see they are very cheap for our trip to Chicago!

I can't buy them today (have to wait until Thursday, when the next credit card cycle starts...), but we're going to have no trouble getting to the midwest. We'll get two tickets for frequent flier miles, one will be covered (and then some) by the money my Area is offering to Area Council members, so that leaves just one, not-very-expensive plane ticket left to buy. It was even more shocking to see the prices because we're using multi-destination tickets -- flying into Chicago and out of Grand Rapids, Michigan, where we'll be visiting friends at the end of our vacation.

In other good news, I have a few free nights to use at the Hilton, too. We've traveled a lot for work in the last few years, and we get hotel points on every trip. It's time to cash in!

Monday, May 14, 2007

The sessions

So, the day I downloaded the registration booklet for the conference, I cried! I was overwhelmed with several emotions: excitement that I am actually going, incredible enthusiasm for what I am going to have the chance to learn there, and...a giant sense of being overwhelmed. How on earth was I supposed to choose only ONE session in each time slot?

I had a really hard time deciding. So many sessions jumped out at me, but I had to choose the ones I thought I might get the most from. Having been to a few conferences already (not LLLI conferences, but LLL NY-E conferences and local lactation consortia conferences), I felt like I had already heard a lot of what the "big names" on the roster had to say. I'm also an avid reader of LACTNET, so I feel like I could really ask a lot of very wise, knowledgable people any question I ever have right there online. So, I would need to choose the sessions that might benefit me in my LLL work right now, and in my quest to become an IBCLC in the future, as well as a few that might feel personally applicable to me in my own parenting journey.

I'll be discussing the unique needs of military mothers in a pre-conference session (as a military mother on active duty myself, I expect to have plenty to contribute to the discussion!) on Friday. Saturday, I will enjoy hearing about how to evaulate and solve difficult breastfeeding problems, and the anatomy of the nipple. I'll start my Sunday morning with a session on the vital role of nutrition in a variety of medical situations (I just had to go to something by a Sears!), followed by the philosophy of advertising and the brain development of children (I'm looking for more defenses from skeptical family members and friends who think we not only feed our kids "too well," but are sheltering them by not allowing TV or videos in huge amounts), and a session on jaundice in the breastfed baby. Having had two severely jaundiced (ABO incompatibility) newborns, I would love to get some information to bring back to my pediatricians on this issue. My experience so far has been that I know more than they do about this complex subject, and that's a little bit upsetting to me. On Monday, I signed up for Karen Gromada's mothering multiples session. I should mention that I did this knowing that I would be pregnant at the conference, and having a certain strange feeling that I might be carrying twins (in fact, I am currently presenting very large for dates and have an OB appointment scheduled tomorrow...). Even if I am not, there are more and more mothers of twins showing up at my meetings and I feel at a loss sometimes when they discuss their unique situations. My Monday luncheon will be a learning experience as well, as I hear about new research on the anatomy of the lactating breast. I know there is a lot of controversy over exactly how the breast works and makes milk, and I want to hear the latest information. I'm especially excited to attend Sheila Kippley's session on the seven standards of ecological breastfeeding. An avid (and successful) user of the Natural Family Planning method, I find that the more I know about all of it the more I want to know. My husband and I are considering becoming our parish's teaching couple for the NFP method, and I already get a lot of questions about breastfeeding and NFP.

Of course, there are lots of general sessions to attend. Admittedly, I'm going to be craving a little downtime beyond the hour each afternoon and dinnertime. I'm something of an introvert and I know I'll want to take a walk or go for a swim or take a nap at some point (and not at 6 a.m., thank you very much! I'll definitely still be "rejuvenating" myself by looking at the backs of my eyelids at that hours...). I'll have to see how I do with that.

Because I am a scholarship recipient, I am going to be on the lookout for ways I can transfer the knowledge I gain at this conference into a more universal learning experience for many. A LEAVEN article might be nice, a series of inservices I could present at my local community hospital for the nurses is something else I've been thinking about (even though many of the nurses see me coming and duck for cover...I'll have to tell you the stories of my jaundiced newborns someday). I'm open to suggestions, so if anyone's got 'em, I'm listening!

Monday, May 7, 2007

The choice to go

I knew the very minute I learned there would be a big LLLI conference that I had to be there -- but I had lots of questions about how I could make it happen.

First, I needed to be able to get off of work. I'm a clarinet player in a military band and, while we get 30 days a year of leave time, those days are usually chosen for us (2 weeks in the summer and 2 at Christmastime). No problem! The LLLI conference in Chicago was to take place during the last few days of my already-prescribed summer leave!

Next, I needed to figure out how to pay for it. Most of our travel budget is spent taking our children and their caregiver (a fantastic au pair we've had almost a year now) on trips when the band travels. Last year, we spent an inordinate amount of money flying everyone out to Montana for a series of concerts. Our vacations are usually to drivable locations where we can make our own fun, like the New Jersey Shore. Since we live away from family, we also need to budget at least one trip each year to visit grandparents -- my parents moved to South Carolina 4 years ago, and my husband's parents are in Iowa. We could (and we will!) combine this conference trip with a visit to his family.

I received the LLLI News email about scholarships in early August of 2006. Like I'm sure everyone else who read it, I initially thought "I'd never get one of those" but I decided to apply anyway. Right then and there (there was extra credit for early submissions!), I wrote up my application and asked my co-Leader to write me a recommendation. I emailed my application less than a week after receiving the LLLI News announcement...and then I waited.

Due to a glitch in email servers, the scholarship committee chair had trouble reaching me, so I got the news from my co-Leader by cell phone, in November while my family was finishing up another trip for work (that one was a car trip, plus 3 hotel nights to some concerts in upstate NY). I had won a scholarship, covering my conference registration and meals. My Area was offering some funds to Area Council members (I'm a DA), and we have enough frequent flier miles for me to get there for free. Hooray! I could go to Chicago!

Of course, it wasn't going to be that easy. When I was sharing the news with a friend at work, she let me know that, just a week eariler, our leave weeks had been changed. Now, the conference fell on the few days BEFORE my leave started. I was crestfallen! What would I do? I felt reasonably sure that my request to miss a concert (in order to attend a breastfeeding conference) would be denied. I was stressed out for a few weeks while I waited for the response. There are 5 people in my chain of command who had to approve (or disapprove) my request. One wanted "more information" about the scholarship -- why had I applied knowing I might not be able to go? I explained that before they changed our leave time, the conference fell within the prescribed 2 week window. Another wanted "more information" about the conference itself. I passed along the website link to the conference information. Finally, I received word that my leave request had been approved.

Then came the planning with my husband. Now, we couldn't all go as a family because he won't be on leave (we have the same job, and they made clear that he would not be allowed to go). My girl, Anna, would definitely be OK staying home with her daddy for the few days I was gone, knowing she'd be joining me after Sunday, but what about Simon? He'll be 9 weeks shy of his 3rd birthday. Will he be OK staying home with his daddy until they all fly out to meet me?

We're still not sure about that one, so we're putting off buying our plane tickets until I can come to a decision. On one hand, I know my participation will be somewhat limited if I have Simon in tow. I really value the educational aspect of going to conferences, and I learn very well by listening and taking part in discussions; I won't be able to do those things 100% with Simon along. If he were a little baby in a sling (like he was for my first Area Conference), my decision would be easy, but he's almost a pre-schooler. I can't bring our au pair because she'll be needed at home to take care of Anna while Bryan goes to work. We can't afford to bring another caregiver.

I'm also going to be right at the stage of my pregnancy when my milk will dry up and go away, if things are as they were during Simon's pregnancy. Would 4 days away from Simon encourage him to wean? Is that what I want? It's difficult to find feedback about this decision because most people, not really understanding our commitment to attachment (most of our co-workers can't believe we travel with our children...don't we want "a break" when the band travels?), tell me "He'll be fine." Maybe he will be, but what if he isn't? It's a tough decision.

Either way, my husband (and whoever stays home with him) will join me on Monday, after the conference is over. We're planning some time as a family in Chicago (enjoying the reduced rate on a great hotel!), then driving to Iowa to visit with Bryan's family. After that, we're going to drive to Michigan to see some friends of ours who recently retired from the band. It should be a great vacation for all of us.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Welcome to my blog!

Greetings!

I'm Diana, a LLL Leader since 2005 in Cornwall, New York. In addition to my work with La Leche League of Highland Falls, I'm a District Advisor for new York-East's District B-3. My favorite part of being a Leader is taking the helping calls and emails; I'm still not really loving leading meetings...so I'm fortunate to have a co-Leader who is amazing at that, as well as two fabulous Leader Applicants (almost accredited!).

I have two children; Anna, born in December of 2002 and Simon, born in September of 2004. I'm expecting baby #3 after Thankgiving of this year (on the same day Anna was "due") so right now, morning sickness and the hormonal joys of early pregnancy are high on my list of thinks I think. Also high on that list is the wonder whether Simon will wean during this pregnancy. I tandem nursed Anna and Simon for nearly 2 years and, while I'll do it again if that's what Simon needs, I'm sort of hoping not to have to. Of course, the thought of Simon weaning anytime soon also does not completely appeal to me. I'm very undecided about all of it, so I guess it's good that I'm not the only one with a say in the situation!

I'm very, very excited about the LLLI Conference. It will be my first. I've attended two excellent Area Conferences here in NY-E, as well as a really enriching Leader Development Seminar last July, so I'm already a well-confirmed "conference junkie." The social aspect of the conference is always fun, but since I someday want to work as an IBCLC, I devour as many informational sessions as I can possibly fit into a single conference. I just love to learn about lactation and I never get enough information! I also really enjoy speaking at conferences -- I did a session at the LDS, as well as at my last Area Conference. I've contributed a session for a local lactation consortium, too.

I will write a bit amore about myself in my next blog entry, and I'll tell you about my experience so far preparing for the conference! Please feel free to leave comments, I'd love to know someone's "out there!" :)