Returning to Work After Baby

January 30, 2019

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Organizing my thoughts about going back to work after maternity leave has proved to be more of a struggle than I realized. Between trying to carefully word things so as not to offend anyone (LOL) and struggling with my own feelings and guilt about the issue has made it nearly impossible to start writing this post. And every time I get started, I end up going down a path lamenting parental leave in the United States, which is a massive post in and of itself, so I’m not even going to touch that here. But after a sweet follower on Instagram reached out to me about wanting to hear about my experience, I knew that it was worth working through those issues and putting my thoughts down on paper… er… screen (?).

But before I dive any further, I just want to lay a few things out there:

1) This is not a “how to” guide. I’m simply sharing my experience, so please don’t mistake this for me telling you what to do (except for vaccinating your kids, because you should absolutely 100% do that.)

2) Let’s get one thing clear… whether you’re a SAHM, WAHM, or WOTHM (work outside the home mom) you are amazing and wonderful and cherished and nothing about your status of “working” or “not” can diminish that. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Both are equally hard and rewarding at the same time.

3) Fed is best. Breastmilk or formula, bottle or “from the tap,” as long as your baby is healthy, you do you.

Alright back to our regularly scheduled post…

I returned to work one day after Maggie turned 12 weeks old. I started dreading leaving her in the weeks leading up to it, but to be honest, I was so excited to be able to be out in the world again. Until Maggie received her shots at her 2 month appointment on Dec. 19, she stayed at home 95% of the time. With it being cold and flu season, we didn’t want to risk her contracting something that may cause a serious illness. I’m insanely lucky because Nick works from home and if I needed to run errands during the day, I could leave Maggie with him and work out my cabin fever that way. Still, I felt a little bit like a mom in secret. Never taking my daughter anywhere or interacting with people who I could talk to about her was a strange feeling.

So when the day came for me to return to work and for her to go to daycare, I didn’t cry like many people said I would. I was told by probably half a dozen people that I needed to wear waterproof mascara that day because I would cry, but surprisingly I held it together. Sure, I felt sad leaving her, but I knew that 1) she would benefit from this new environment and 2) I needed an outlet to do something outside the home. I love my job, and looked forward to going back.

For me, getting back into a routine was a huge help for my mood. I really enjoyed being on maternity leave, but I knew it would end eventually, so I didn’t spend tons of time doing housekeeping or other tasks. Instead I soaked up the time I had left to spend with Nick and Maggie. Now, even though I only see them for 4 or 5 hours a day, it really makes me cherish the time we do spend together. I haven’t exactly gotten a handle on the whole housekeeping thing yet… hopefully that will come eventually. (Though I can say, outsource as much as you can if possible. We needed our king sized comforter to be washed and instead of spending an hour or two at a laundromat, we used a laundry service. Definitely worth the money, and we only had to spend one night without it.)

Something that helped tremendously with the transition was the fact that we were comfortable and confident in the daycare we chose. In addition to being one of the highest rated daycares in the area by the state’s DSS, we knew one of the women who worked there, so we immediately felt good about taking Maggie there. After three weeks of it so far, we’ve all been sick (of course) but Maggie seems to like it and we still feel like we made the right choice.

As for breastfeeding, we’ve been exclusively pumping since Maggie was about three weeks old. Because of that, going from pumping at home to pumping at work really hasn’t been a huge adjustment for me. In fact, I’m able to take a few minutes each day at my desk to think about Maggie (as if I don’t think about her constantly already) which helps tremendously. I’m extremely lucky in that I have a private office with a door that I can open and close as needed. I simply place a sign on the door (a very cheeky one featuring a photo of a cow) and plug in like normal. I do find that when I’m pumping, it helps to look at photos of Maggie instead of continuing to work. But the number one thing is to be comfortable.

As for gear, these have been the most helpful:

Hands-free pumping bra – If you don’t already have one, what are you doing with your life?! The first few days of pumping without this thing were miserable. My hands cramped and I was so bored not being able to use my phone. I tried a pumping bra from Target but it wasn’t large enough for me, so I ended up buying this adjustable pumping bra from Amazon. Highly recommend it!

Pumping tote/backpack – Many pumps come with a super cute and portable tote, but I registered for this Bananafish backpack and it has been super helpful.

Medela Quick Clean Breast Pump Wipes – Since I don’t have my full cleaning set-up at work, these wipes have been incredibly helpful. I use two per day, once for my morning pump and one in the afternoon.

Breastmilk cooler bag – Since I have to store my milk in a shared fridge, I’d rather keep it hidden (not that there’s anything to be ashamed of, just my preference) so a cooler bag has been a great thing to have. I’m using one that a friend passed down to me, but this one is super cute too!

So far, things have gone well and it hasn’t been as big of an adjustment as I expected it to be. I’m lucky to have a supportive partner, a fairly laid back baby (knock wood) and understanding co-workers. Ask me again in a month if I’m as optimistic as I am now, and we’ll see if my answer changes.

Thoughts On The First Trimester

April 16, 2018

If you don’t follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you may have missed the big news… we’re having a baby! Obviously I’ve had a lot of feelings in regards to this, so I figured the blog would be as good of a place as any to talk about some of them.

This past Sunday marked the beginning of my 13th week of pregnancy, and with it, the second trimester. I haven’t talked much (read: at all) about pregnancy on the blog and haven’t done much of it on social media either.

Why? Well, a few reasons…

To be honest, I feel like the less I talk about it, the less people have to judge. If I don’t share my meals or what I’m doing (or not doing) in my free time, people can’t make snide comments or offer up unsolicited advice about my choices. Right now, the biggest accomplishment for me is just being able to eat at all. I’ve been extremely nauseous and so the fact that I’m able to have the energy or desire to eat anything is a pretty big deal. If it’s a Pop Tart or a (hot) sandwich or a burger from McDonalds, honestly I don’t care what people may have to say about it. I’ve lost ten pounds since finding out I was pregnant due to my lack of desire to eat and so eating, whatever it may be, is important. Not to mention my decisions on breastfeeding, circumcision, daycares, working full-time versus staying at home… the opinions are out there in full force and no one really needs to know how I feel about that stuff. At least not yet.

Secondly, it still doesn’t really feel real. I don’t know when that will happen, and maybe it won’t be until I actually hold the baby in my arms come October. I always wanted to be a mom, but the fact that it’s happening sooner rather than later is a little overwhelming. People keep asking me how I am or how I’m feeling. I’m honest with them. I tell them that I feel like crap or that it’s “weird” or “surreal.” That’s because it is. I haven’t had any of these super warm fuzzy feelings about anything so far, and I think that goes into the third reason why I haven’t shared much.

I feel like if I speak about it or get too excited, I’ll end up jinxing it somehow.

I’m extremely extremely lucky in that this is my first pregnancy and things seem to be going okay so far. (I won’t even begin to unpack that guilt I feel about *that*.) But I know so many friends who have had losses and I’m terrified that it will happen to me. I know if it did, I would have friends and family there to support me. But the horror stories are always in the back of my mind and a constant reminder of what could happen. A weird feeling in my stomach? Maybe something’s wrong. It’s very reminiscent of a certain character’s pregnancy experience on “This Is Us.” A reluctance to allow myself to be excited.

As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I stopped taking my anxiety medication at the recommendation of my doctor. However, without the help of that plus the crazy pregnancy hormones, I’ve been a little bit of an emotional wreck.

I’m not sure how to bring this blog post to a close, as it’s one of the most vulnerable that I’ve ever written and kind of came out in a whirlwind. Sorting through the thoughts going on in my head right now is quite a feat. But if you made it through all of this, thanks for reading!

Universal Thread Try-On Session

February 21, 2018

When I lived in Texas I almost exclusively shopped at J. Crew and Madewell. Mostly out of ease (they were right across the street from my office) but also because I found their tees, jeans, and tanks the perfect fit for my on-the-go (and in the heat) wardrobe.

So, when Target debuted their Universal Threads line, I was absolutely in love. Thanks to my good friend Rachel, I was able to get a peek at how some of the pieces fit before I went to try them on myself. (I can’t stand shopping for clothes online. I have to try things on in person.)

Since my body type isn’t exactly what you would see in an ad, I thought it might be a good opportunity to try some things on and show you what I loved and what I didn’t love as much.

Knit Stripe Tank Dress – $19.99

I wanted to love this dress so much. I pretty much live in dresses during the summer, and they are a great option for the office too. But… I don’t know why the arm holes for this dress are so BIG. I tried on a large, but probably could have gone up to an XL if it wasn’t for the arms. Otherwise, I think I definitely would have left with it.

Crew Sweatshirt in Olive – $19.99 | Mid-Rise Skinny Jeans – $24.99

One of the main things I wanted to get from this collection was a sweatshirt and it did not disappoint. In these photos I’m wearing an XL, but I ended up sizing down and getting a large instead. These run big, so I do suggest sizing down. Plus the arms were super long on me!

I tried on a 14 short in these jeans and while the waist felt great, on my 5’3″ frame, the jeans were still a bit long, not to mention somewhat baggy. I prefer “super skinny” because I have major chicken calves. Although I will say, the price for these jeans is awesome. They are great quality.

Ruffle Sleeve Stripe T-Shirt – $17.99

You guys, I’m obsessed with this top. Ruffles? Check. Stripes? Check. Comfy? Check. Blue? Check. it’s like it was made for me. I will say that it is a bit shorter than most tops I wear, so it would probably look better tucked in. Needless to say this definitely came home with me. I’m wearing an XL in this pic.

Short Sleeve Button Down Shirt – $17.99

I was really on the fence with this top. I have a super short torso, so it came down really far in the back. So much so that it started to go over my butt. Not very cute. But, I love the color and the sleeve length. I might try this on again. I can’t remember if I tried on a L or XL!

V-Neck Short Sleeve Shirt – $8 | High Rise Skinny Jeans in Black – $27.99

Y’all might think I’m weird, but this t-shirt was actually too *thick* for me. I much prefer tissue tee shirts. It just felt bulky and uncomfortable. Unfortunately the jeans were a “no” as well. Too long and overall just loose. The t-shirt is an XL and jeans are a 16 short.

Tie Front Tank Top – $12.99

Honestly I’m kind of kicking myself for not getting this top. I love the color and I love how it falls. I may be going back to pick this up! I suggest sizing up. It is pretty sheer, just FYI.

I wanted to try on more, but I was on my lunch break, so I was limited on time. Hopefully I can go back soon and try on more! Overall I was really impressed with this line and think it may soon become a staple in my wardrobe.

Have you tried on anything? What was your impression?

(There are affiliate links included in this blog post. A small amount may be returned to the blog by you clicking on the links. Thank you!)

10 Can’t-Miss Shows in Charlotte This Summer

February 19, 2018

If you haven’t been around me or the blog for a while, you might not know that when I lived in Texas (2012-16) I worked for a live music venue. I probably averaged at least 30 concerts per year. Live music became part of my lifeblood.

Since moving back to the Carolinas, I haven’t had as much of a chance to go to concerts. In fact, I’ve only been to one: Ed Sheeran at the Spectrum Center last year. To be honest, it’s hard to pay for shows after years of going for free.

But, it seems like 2018 is the year that wants to empty my wallet. There are so many amazing acts coming to Charlotte this year (plus I already have my tickets for Taylor Swift in Atlanta).

Here are 10 that I think any music lover shouldn’t miss (in chronological order)

1. Fleet Foxes – March 7 – The Fillmore Charlotte:

YOU GUYS. I’ve been a fan of Fleet Foxes since college (maybe before) and I can’t tell you how badly I want to see this awesome band. Unfortunately (or fortunately? Depending on how you look at it) I’ll be in London so I’ll be missing this show. Go and enjoy it for me?

2. The Avett Brothers – April 6 & 7 – Township Auditorium (Columbia)

I know, I know. I’m majorly cheating here. This isn’t a Charlotte show. But The Avett Brothers are one of my favorite bands of all time (not to mention the bassist is a fellow Winthrop University alum) so I’m going to take the one hour drive down to Columbia to see them in April. They are playing 2 shows, so there’s no excuse to miss out one of the biggest music acts out of North Carolina.

3. The Decemberists – April 18 – Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheater:

Another one of my favorites for the past decade. Can you tell I have a favorite genre of music?

4. Kate Nash – April 29 – The Fillmore

Again, I’ve been a fan of Kate Nash since her album Foundations back in 2007. Seeing her live would be one of my bucket list items for sure. Also, fun fact: Kate is on GLOW as our favorite British lady wrestler. Don’t miss out on this super-cheeky show.

5. Beck – April 29 – Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheater

How am I supposed to choose between Kate Nash and Beck? Well, I’m a huge of fan both, but I’ve already seen Beck but if you haven’t, I encourage you to check out this musical legend. Seriously, when he won the GRAMMY a few years ago for Album of the Year and no one knew who he was, I almost lost my mind.

6. Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness – May 5 – The Fillmore

OK, so this show is already sold out so it doesn’t need any help. But for those of you who have tickets: I’m extremely envious. I’ve loved Andrew since his Something Corporate days and I saw him in Houston just before we moved back to the Carolinas. He puts on an amazing show. My husband, who knew nothing about him before the concert, was impressed by his story and showmanship.

7. James Taylor – May 16 – Spectrum Center

I had the pleasure of seeing James Taylor in 2014 at the venue where I worked and it is the only concert that has brought me to tears. Why you ask? Because as he sang “Carolina in My Mind,” my heart was broken into a million pieces. I would love to experience this again.

(Edited on 3/1 to add) 7.5. Ray LaMontagne with Neko Case – June 19 – Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre

Two performers that I absolutely love but have never seen perform live going on tour together? Looks like the perfect combination for me. “You Are The Best Thing” is one of me and my husband’s “songs” (as I know it is to like 5,000 other couples…)

8. Thirty Seconds to Mars (with Walk the Moon and Misterwives) – June 27 – PNC Music Pavilion

Yeah, I love Jared Leto (as himself and not the Joker). I was 20 feet from him when he stripped off his shirt for the Ice Bucket Challenge (remember that??) But I really really love Walk the Moon. So if I’m being honest, I’d be going to the show for them. I’ve seen them twice and they put on a fantastically energetic show. Don’t miss this one.

9. Weezer & Pixies – July 25 – PNC Music Pavilion

Think I could get my husband to go for our anniversary? Ha. But seriously. Weezer is on my music bucket list and one of the few acts out there that I haven’t seen. And I won’t lie: I first got into them because of the Mary Kate and Ashley movie “Holiday in the Sun.” Don’t judge me.

10. Jason Mraz – August 14 – Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheater

Another one on my musical bucket list that I’m dying to see. I noticed the other day that I still have my original Jason Mraz CD from 2004. He is one of my favorite artists of all time and I can’t imagine a better way to spend a summer evening.

Sticking to only 10 was an extremely hard feat. Runners up include New Politics, Dashboard Confessional, and many more.

What concerts are you hoping to see this year?

Ten Things To Do in The Woodlands, TX

December 6, 2017

This post is sponsored by The Woodlands Resort and Conference Center, but all thoughts and opinions are my own!

If you’ve been around the blog for a while now, you’ll remember that Nick and I moved back to the Charlotte in 2016. Before that, we lived in and around the Greater Houston area for about five years. Part of that time was spent in the Houston suburb of The Woodlands, Texas. Located about 30-ish miles north of Houston’s center, the suburb was recently named one of the best cities to raise a family in the country. And while we are a bit biased, we have to say that we definitely agree with that ranking. The Woodlands is a family-friendly community bursting at the seams with fun things to do, both indoors and outdoors.

A couple of weeks ago, Nick and I went to The Woodlands to celebrate the marriage of two of our very dear friends, Sarah and Jeff. While we were there, we did a sort of “greatest hits” style trip and made sure to visit all of our favorite haunts and even some places we missed during our time we lived there. Whether you live in Texas or not, a trip to The Woodlands is well worth it for a weekend getaway or even just a day trip from Houston, Dallas, Austin or San Antonio.

During our trip I took a bunch of videos, and put together a little recap of our trip! It’s the first video I’ve ever made for this here blog that actually required editing. I’m moving on up!

Ten Things to do in The Woodlands Texas - The Observant Turtle - Lifestyle Blog

1) Concerts at The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

In the interest of full disclosure, I had to pleasure of calling The Pavilion my employer for most of my time living in Texas. However, don’t just take my word for it. Pollstar magazine recently ranked The Pavilion as the number 1 outdoor music amphitheater in the WORLD. Yes, you read that correct. There’s a world-class venue located in The Woodlands. Some of my favorite acts I’ve seen there include James Taylor, Elton John, Paramore, Bruce Springsteen, Fall Out Boy, Heart… really the list just goes on and on. If there’s a big tour, it’s likely that The Pavilion will host that artist. The Pavilion’s season runs March-November, and while the Texas summer heat is brutal, it’s well worth the visit. (Not to mention that the venue holds FREE events with the Houston Symphony, Houston Ballet, and Houston Grand Opera throughout its season!)

2) Hiking/Biking Trails

One of the things I loved most about The Woodlands is found right there in its name: the woods! The town has over 160 miles of hiking/biking trails woven in throughout the town limits. It’s easy to ride your bike from place to place, though you may get a bit tired if you’re as out of shape as I am. We often used the trails near our house and having all of the trees and brush around me made the walk even more relaxing. The best part? There’s tons of wildlife in The Woodlands, and it’s likely that you’ll stumble across it on your walk. On our most recent trip, we saw multiple turtles, an entire family of ducks, tadpoles, snakes, and rabbits!

3) Spa Day at The Woodlands Resort

Nick and I had the pleasure of staying at The Woodlands Resort for part of our trip, and while it wasn’t our first time staying there, it was an experience we will never forget. The team there gifted me a 50-minute massage and guys… I could barely stay awake afterwards, I felt so relaxed! If you pop in for a spa service, you’re able to use the sauna, steam room, showers, and jacuzzi. I definitely hit those up after my massage because I just couldn’t stand to go back out to the “real world” just yet! Whether you’re a guest at the resort or not, you should definitely schedule some time at the spa.

4) Bowling at Bowlero

If bowling takes you back to your days as a middle schooler, you will be floored when you walk into Bowlero. This place is a bowling alley, but on steroids. We never made it there when we lived in Texas before, so we had to check it out this time and we were not disappointed. They have a full bar, individual servers to help you at your lane, ping pong, pool tables, arcade games and giant TV screens where they play everything from family friendly movies to whatever sports are currently in season. Be sure to check out their website for specials – if you go on an “off night” like we did, they will likely have specials like unlimited bowling and shoes for a set price!

5) Shopping at Market Street

Your significant other might be like mine and run the opposite direction when I mention the word “shopping” but Nick was a great sport and agreed to walk around Market Street with me on our trip. They have high-end stores like Tory Burch, Kate Spade, Johnny Was, and Trina Turk, but also favorites like Kendra Scott, LUSH, Lululemon, Madewell, J. Crew, and Francesca’s. In addition to amazing shopping, they have some of the best restaurants in The Woodlands, including Jasper’s and Tommy Bahama, and an amazing movie theater that shows movies that range from the latest indie-flick to chart-topping blockbusters.


6) Ice Skating at The Ice Rink

Open from November-January and located at The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, The Ice Rink is (you guessed it) an indoor ice-skating rink for the whole family. For many years the rink was held inside a giant tent across the street from its current location, but last year was opened for its first full season at The Pavilion. We know that Texas isn’t known for white Christmases, so this may be the closest thing you’ll get.

7) The Lazy River at The Woodlands Resort

If you ever have the opportunity to stay at The Woodlands Resort, we highly recommend it, not only for its exceptional service and immaculate grounds, but also for the awesome lazy river! It’s fairly new – only a few years old – and it was a highlight of our last trip to the resort. I’m just sad that it wasn’t open for our trip just a few weeks ago! The entire pool area is just insane, but the lazy river is good for all ages.

8) TopGolf

Okay, so TopGolf isn’t “technically” in The Woodlands… but it’s just a ten minute drive! Located in Spring, TopGolf is a three-story indoor driving range that is fun for golfers and non-golfers alike! Much like Bowlero where you have a dedicated server, TopGolf’s friendly staff is there to serve you delicious drinks and house-made food while you play. We took family and friends there whenever they visited and they always had a blast! There are multiple “games” you can play, but typically I just swing to see how far I can get the balls to go. TopGolf is an international chain, and there are two locations in the greater Houston area.

9) Explore The Woodlands Waterway

Located right in the heart of Town Center, the Waterway is one of the most iconic features of The Woodlands. You can rent kayaks and float along the Waterway into Lake Woodlands, or you can take a river cruise! Our favorite thing to do was to park at one end and walk along the side of it, usually heading to a restaurant or bar on the other end. If you go at night, there are some particularly gorgeous lights to enjoy! The Waterway isn’t deep, but keep an eye on the little ones so they don’t take a tumble into the water.

Holiday Photo Shoot 2014 at The Woodlands Waterway (credit)

10) Dinner at Robard’s Steakhouse

There are many fine steakhouses in The Woodlands, but for me, none of them compare to Robard’s. Not only is the food exceptional, the decor is the restaurant is my favorite. Much of The Woodlands, including the resort, is owned by The Howard Hughes Corporation. Yes, that Howard Hughes. Being the movie buffs that we are, Nick and I love the old Hollywood style of the restaurant and the movie posters and memorabilia hanging on the walls. We enjoyed some happy hour bites while there on our trip recently and I can say that they easily have the best calamari I’ve ever eaten, and the baby bisque (with hunks of succulent lobster) was to die for. The restaurant overlooks the 18th hole at The Woodlands Resort, and has a beautiful patio where guests can enjoy a drink or two (or three) after golfing.

Robard's Steakhouse - The Woodlands, Texas - The Observant Turtle

There you have it! There is so much more that I could have included, it’s hard to narrow it down! Have you ever been to The Woodlands? What is your favorite thing to do, see, or eat there?

Planning a trip to Houston? Visit The Woodlands, just 30 miles north of Houston's city center!