Monday, July 23, 2007

Lunch with a founder!


Here I am, just finishing up lunch with Mary Ann Cahill, one of the 7 founders of La Leche League. New Leaders (those of us with 2 years or less) were given the opportunity to sign up to have lunch with a founder. Of course I jumped at the chance.
Mary Ann was just delightful! I tried not to blab so much that neither of us could eat, but she was asking as many questions about me and my family as I had for her about La Leche League's first half-century and her 9 (that's right, NINE) children and 20 (!) grandchildren.
It was a once in a lifetime experience that I'll never forget!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Another amazing day!

I can't decide whether to write about yesterday (which was amazing) or today (which I'm quite certain will be amazing). So I'll satrt with yesterday!

I attended some fabulous sessions yesterday, including one on how to critically yet sensitively assess and assist difficult breastfeeding cases. The speaker, Karin Cadwell, emphasized letting the mother tell her story; getting the history and asking the right questions so that the mother can give you as much informtion as possible. By hearing what she has to say about her situation, we not only collect the necessary facts to help her solve her breastfeeding issue, we gain insight into what this issue means in her world, how she feels about breastfeeding, what she's willing or not willing to do, etc.

I ate lunch with strangers (I do this on purpose so that I can meet and hear stories from people I've never met before). It was lovely. I met another mom around my age who's expecting a baby around the same time I am (we were easily identifiable by our ravenous appetites, as well as our baby-bellies), as well as a woman my mother-in-law's age who told me the heartbreaking stories about her daughter-in-law who wanted nothing to do with her mother-in-law's advice when it came to her baby. I found myself relating to the daughter-in-law even though I'd consider it a blessing to have a LLL Leader as the mother of my husband...but I guess we mammas tend to want to be the ones in charge of how to care for our babies. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, but I'm going to try and be mroe sensitive to my mother-in-law's efforts to involve herself in decisions about my children (even though I think she's dead wrong most of the time).

I attended a session on nipple anatomy, presented by Kay Hoover. I sat in the company of many lactation "rock stars" as well as right beside a LLL Board Member, and saw pictures of interesting nipple configurations and learned how/whether those affected breastfeeding. I came away from that session very thankful I didn't have more problems with breastfeeding -- with one flat and one inverted nipple after Anna was born, we had some latch problems, but she spent the next two years preparing my breasts for Simon, who latched on and nursed like a pro from the word "go." I also learned that it's normal and OK for a Montgomery gland to leak milk!

I took a little nap before the World's Faire, and spent the bulk of my time at that event sitting at the New York-East table with my NY-E buddies. A few of us went to grab dinner (at around 11 p.m.) afterwards and it was lots of fun. I always enjoy the company of my NY-E friends! I am proud to report I got terrific gifts for each of my children, my husband, and myself at the World's Faire, and I didn't hurt my wallet too much.

Today is going to be fabulous, too. I started the morning off with Dr. Bob Sears' session on nutrition for kids. While I didn't learn a whole lot that I didn't already know and practice, it was nice to get the affirmation that what my family does nutrition-wise is smart. It can be difficult in regular society to deal with the fact that my kids seem like the only ones who don't eat Goldfish crackers or chicken fingers or fish sticks or fruit roll-ups, instead preferring wheat spaghetti with broccoli and garlic or bulghur wheat with chick peas and tomato sauce.

My next session will deal with the philosophy of advertising and brain development. Again, I expect to be affirmed for my family's choice and practice of not allowing media to invade the lives of my children.

Later, I'll hear about the latest research on jaundice and the breastfed baby. This is a topic dear to my heart, having had two newborns with severe early onset jaundice (ABO incompatibility). I see this as an area I'll help educate other caregivers about in the future, as my personal experience and hopefully, my knowledge, will be cutting edge.

The highlight of my day will likely be sharing lunch with a founder of La Leche League. I'm so excited! New Leaders (with less than 2 years) were invited to sign up for a slot for lunch with a founder and I jumped on it. I can't wait to just bask in the magic of that revolutionary woman!

I'm planning on a short evening nap again today, so that I can spend the later hours socializing with old and new friends.

The line for this computer is pretty long, so I'm going to finish this post now!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

So much to do, so little time...for sleep!

If you've been following this blog at all, you know that one of my major goals was to get some sleep at this conference, before my family comes to join me on Monday.

So far, I give myself a C+ in achieving this goal. I've gotten about 7-8 hours of good sleep each of the 2 nights I've been here so far. I haven't rested at all during the days. There's just too much to do, too many people to see, too many places to go!

Yesterday, I missed a photo (those of us who received Ripplewood Foundation scholarships were asked to meet for a photo) because I had to empty my bladder. As luck would have it, I waited and waited at the prescribed time, only to leave 40 minutes later to go potty, just before the photo ended up being taken.

I've been hanging out with my former co-Leader (slowly accepting that she's really not coming back to New York) in the evenings. Her friends are super nice and welcoming and I'm enjoying the time spent relaxing and chatting with them. I've been really good about getting to bed in plenty of time before midnight, despite how cozy and fun those late-night chats are.

Tonight is the World's Faire, where I'm hoping to pick up some fun surprises for Anna and Simon. I already have a red clown nose for Simon and a children's cookbook for Anna, but I want to find some more for them.

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Pre-Conference Workshop...

I had yesterday morning "off," so I scheduled a much-needed pedicure and manicure for myself. It was lovely.

Over a year ago, I expressed an interest in presenting a session at this conference on supporting mothers on active duty in the military. Even though my personal experience is unique, I feel I have a lot ot offer to Leaders who support mothers in the military. I was not contacted to present, so I signed up for the session that was being offered as a pre-conference workshop (4 hours) on "Supporting the Unique Needs of Military Mothers." I was looking forward to meeting the presenter, who has been very active and instrumental in enacting policy changes in the Department of Defense. I was also enjoying the freedom of going to a conference and not presenting a session...I've (happily) presented a session at every conference I've attended since my first in 2005.

About 70 minutes before the session was to begin, I received a cell phone call from an unfamiliar number. It was a member of the conference committee, asking if I could possibly present the session, because the originally engaged speaker could not be here.

Horrified, I heard myself answer "sure. I was going to be there anyway..."

I had no outline, no handouts, only a frantically moving brain that chugged and whirred in an effort to put together everything I thought needed to be covered in such a session (which was being co-presented and shared with the "Making Breastfeeding Work at Work" presenter.

People keep asking me how the session went. Really, I don't know for sure. I know I did a lot of talking, told a lot of stories, made a lot of what I hope were coherent and clear points. The 2nd half of the session was more discussion-based, which I preferred. I hope the participants got what they came for. I don't suppose I'll ever really know for sure, as there are no evaluations (unless people are really angry and ask for their money back and I catch wind of the negative feedback that way!).

I enjoyed myself. It was certainly not a typical conference experience, but I'm learning that very little in my life is typical!

Friday, July 20, 2007

You know you're at a La Leche League Conference when...

...the women outnumber the men at least 4 to 1 in most of the main areas...
...there are babies and small children EVERYWHERE, almost all in slings or being held by the hand, making happy noises...
...I've probably seen 100 babies already and not one single bottle...
...the women have peaceful, contented looks on their faces, whether they are with their children or not...
...Lucy Logo is EVERYWHERE!!!
...other women look at my pregnant belly with a nostalgic smile...
...I feel like I'm with "my people!" :)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Travels, and I'm here!

I'm here!

The traveling was OK. Of course, after almost 5 years of traveling with at least one child in tow, flying alone, under any circumstances, feels very easy.

We hit some traffic going into New York City, because a giant steam pipe exploded under Grand Central Station last night and these things kind of stunt Manhattan a bit.

My flight was slightly delayed, but I have a good book (Traveling Mercies by Ann Lamott). I was seated beside a doula on my flight, so we had planty to speak about (and I'm very happy to note that I definitely look pregnant now!).

The train ride into Chicago from the airport was largely uneventful until Tuberculine Tony sat next to me and began coughing every 15 seconds. OK, so I'm not totally certain his name was Tony and I do hope and pray that his coughing was stimulated by something other than tuberculosis...but when you're pregnant and on mass transit, the mind does amazing things. Worse than the coughing was his bag of lunch. It smelled awful.

I survived the train ride as well as the walking up and down a lot of stairs with my 30-lb. suitcase (I should mention that I fit everything I need for the next 10 days into one fairly small suitcase...and I'm very proud).

Arriving at the Hilton was a very strange experience. I was here in December of 2000 for the Midwest Band and Orchestra Convention. My concert band was performing. We were here for 3 days, I think, but I feel as if I was here, in every corner of the lobby and exhibition area, for months. It feels eerily familiar, and the memory of my life in 2000 comes rushing back every time I round a corner.

And I've rounded my share of corners today, because my room isn't ready yet! I tried to check in at 3:12 p.m. but my room is dirty, and they can't just move me because...I'm high maintenance. I'm allergic to down and need hypo-allergenic bedding. I did ask for this in February when I reserved my room (or was it January?), but the nice folks at Hilton check-in gave me a $25 meal credit to be used at any time during my stay.

With at least an hour to spend, I first went looking for the conference registration area. I found it after some wandering, and I now have all my good conference stuff, which I can't wait to sit and read! I'll read everything, cover to cover, because I'm like that. :)

Then I came straight to the technology room, to see my dear friend and (former) co-Leader, Shelly, who is working here. I'm still in denial that she ever left New York, so it's wonderful to be able to see her here. (Right now, I'm basking in the fact that she's right beside me, because once this conference starts cranking up, I doubt I'll be able to find her so easily.)

My feet are tired, but I feel good and excited. I'll run on adrenaline for awhile, for sure.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

All packed...and a bummer

I'm all packed! And it's just 1 a.m.! I'm leaving my house in 6 hours, so this will be short so I can get a little bit of sleep.

Lara won't make the conference after all. :( I'm really bummed. I guess we'll have to meet some other time.

Anyway, I managed to fit everything into one reasonably small suitcase. And that's everything for the conference AND for another whole week in the midwest with my family. Everything except the maternity swimsuit I won on eBay and thought I'd have by now...here's hoping my husband remembers to bring it if it arrives before he and our children leave for Chicago.

I'm bringing make-up. This amuses people who know me well, because I can pretty much count on one hand the number of times each year I apply make-up. Our annual family photo (Christmastime), if I'm giving a recital or performing a solo, if I have a speaking engagement. Occasionally I'll wear make-up to a wedding or a party or something, but not regularly. I'm not sure I'll wear it at the conference. I got a good laugh at myself when I thought about how I'm actually considering wearing make-up to an event that is largely attended by women.

Clearly, this make-up thing is not about making myself attractive to someone else!

Monday, July 16, 2007

I'm going to see Lara!

I'm just thrilled about this, and have to share.

Many years ago, when my older child was still an infant, I participated in an online community. This community, while centered on fertility and pregnancy, also had discussion forums for parenting, breastfeeding, and other topics.

Nine other mothers with children, who were practicing attachment parenting, joined me in a "buddy group," which we called "The Peeps." We Peeps posted daily with updates about our families, support when we had parenting dilemmas and bad experiences with society, and general friendship. My online buddies quickly became women I trusted as much as or more than mothers I knew in real life.

One of those Peeps is Lara. Lara's posts were always incredibly level-headed and warm, supportive and sound. We could always trust Lara to remind us on the hard days why we were motivated to parent the way we had chosen to. Even when her own life was difficult, she still kept us focused on being attached to our children.

I should have known she was a La Leche League Leader!

We had been buddies for a long time before I knew she was a Leader, around the time I was being accredited myself. We both knew that our Leader status wasn't a good thing to share online in a public forum like our buddy group was (but most of our buddies now know we're both Leaders).

The Peeps, while still in existence, aren't as active as before, but I've kept in touch with Lara via email. After Hurricane Katrina, Lara, from New Orleans, moved to another town. Last year, at a Leader Development Seminar, I met a Leader from Louisiana who knew Lara, and I almost started crying...this person had actually been somewhere Lara had been, at the same time! I spent as much time as I could with this Leader, because if she knew Lara, she had to be wonderful (she was).

A few months ago, Lara let me know she was coming to the conference, and again my emotions swelled up inside of me. Finally, we'd meet in person! I'd get to give this wonderful woman, who had supported me through so much, a big hug!

Then, she wasn't coming. Lara is pregnant with her 4th baby, and bringing her toddler, and wasn't sure she could pull it off. I couldn't let her off that easy...I knew of a Leader in her area who was bringing two pre-teen girls that wanted to be mothers' helpers! Maybe she knew them, too? Would that help? Please?

This week, Lara bought her plane tickets and will be arriving on Thursday evening to the conference. We traded cell phone numbers and made some plans to spend time together via email last night. Again, I cried! My husband would think I was crazy, but he has met a few "Peeps" already and knows how wonderful they are, and how much I once relied on their daily support. He's disappointed that he and our children won't arrive in Chicago until after Lara and her daughter have left.

We're both pregnant, she's just 10 days ahead of me! We'll have to find a way to hug around our expanding bellies.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The 18-hour day

I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by all I'll hope to do at the conference, and I'm concerned that I'll miss something huge or forget to go somewhere I'm supposed to be.

Enter the 18-hour day.

My former co-Leader, upon hearing that I'm stressed about the schedule, emailed me a color-coded breakdown of the conference, going from 7:00 a.m. through 10:00 p.m. (which, incidentally, is only 15 hours, yet it's called the 18-hour day). I filled in my sessions and other obligations, and can see more clearly now that, indeed, I will have time to sleep while I'm there.

The sleep thing is pretty important to me. My children, Anna and Simon, start each night off in their own beds, but, even though neither night nurses anymore, both end up in my bed by morning.

I should clarify. Anna and Simon don't just end up in my bed, they end up ON MY PILLOW. Of course, I enjoy and welcome this, but it's been, literally, almost 5 years since I've had more than one good night's sleep in a row. I can fall asleep standing up. My husband, being an incredible LLL Dad, allows me the freedom to nap if our family schedule permits, and encourages me to sleep in after the kids wake up for the day, if I'm not already committed elsewhere. This is how I've managed to survive the years since late 2002.

This conference will mark the first time since giving birth that I'll be alone for 4 consecutive nights, and I'm hoping to sleep soundly and restfully. Now that I've looked at my 18-hour day, I am feeling more confident that this is possible!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The countdown is on!

Two weeks, two days until I leave for Chicago! I can hardly believe it's coming up already.

I bought plane tickets last week. My hotel room was reserved back in January, but even back then not all room options were available so that was sort of a disappointment. I think I'm going to take the train from O'Hare to the Hilton, because I'll be traveling alone and I'm not in a big hurry.

I get giddy when I think about all the sessions I'm signed up for. I can't even decide which will be my favorite, I'm sure I'm going to just love them all! I have other plans, too...I get to see my former co-Leader, who moved away just a month ago. I'm still in denial that she's gone (we haven't had a Series meeting yet since she left), so I'm really looking forward to spending some time with her in Chicago. I'm also hoping to meet, in person for the first time, a friend from an online buddy group I've been part of for over 4 years, before I became a LLL Leader. She's from Louisiana and may be attending the conference. I get almost teary-eyed when I imagine that I might get to actually be in the same room as her -- she's been so incredibly supportive during my motherhood journey.

My current stand partner did his graduate work at Northwestern, and is a fellow "foodie." I shared with him some farm-fresh broccoli rabe and garlic scapes a few weeks ago; in return, he's going to give me a list of fabulous restaurants in downtown Chicago. He's never led me astray with a restaurant recommendation!

I'm also really looking forward to meeting my fellow La Leche League Helpline operators. We've gotten to know each other over the last several weeks since the Helpline kicked off on June 1st, and it will be great fun to put faces to names. What? You didn't know La Leche League has a Helpline? We need volunteers to take shifts. You can do 2 hours a month or 20 hours a week...whatever you have time for. I've enjoyed my shifts immensely both for the opportunity to feel like I'm making a big difference (the families who call are very thankful to have someone at their disposal, 24 hours a day) and the chance to improve my phone helping skills and breastfeeding knowledge. I'll be sitting at the Helpline table in the Alumni room on Friday evening, so please stop by and say hello.

Of course, there is a great contingent from my Area, New York-East, that is traveling to Chicago. I've had a few conference experiences with these women, and the only worry I have is that I won't hold myself to a reasonable curfew! I have so much fun with my LLL friends that it's hard to discipline myself to get enough rest. Since I'm pregnant, and this will be my first (and probably only) chance in nearly 5 years to sleep alone (therefore sleeping well), I'm going to have to set a limit on how much evening fun I can really have.

Since I'm traveling alone (which I LOVE and really miss about my former life as a single woman), I'm hoping to fit in some time for walks, people-watching, and a little bit of quiet. My family will be joining me on Monday, and we'll begin our family vacation in Chicago on Tuesday (traveling to see my husband's family in Iowa that week, as well as friends in Michigan). It's also the first time in 5 years that I'll be taking an actual extended leave from work...I usually save my vacation days to add to the 6-week maternity leave I'm allowed to take. This pregnancy, I am maxxed out on vacation days so at this point, I can use them or lose them. It's a great position to be in, and I'll still have plenty to take after the baby comes.

This is my first international conference, and I'm obviously aspiring to "do it all." For those of you who've attended before, what do you recommend as "don't miss" activities?