The Life of Bon: August 2014

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sponsorships: The Customer is Always Right?

About a year ago I wrote this post on sponsoring blogs.  I had been sponsoring for about six months and I had figured out a thing or two.  Now, with another year of sponsoring under my belt I have learned even more.  Unfortunately, a lot that I have learned about how to be a good blog to sponsor I have learned through negative experiences sponsoring other blogs.  I figure now would be a good time to share it with y'all so that A. it doesn't happen to you and B. you yourself don't do these things.  Ready?


1.  A good blog to sponsor treats their blog like a business.  This means if they say they are going to post five times a week, they have to post five times a week.  If they tell you a post is going up on a certain day, it needs to go up on that day.  If there are changes, they need to let sponsors know.  I map out the beginning of my month all my sponsored post.  I know what days are the guest posts, what days are the giveaways and what days are the group posts.  Then I email all my sponsors and let them know.  If I have to make changes to the calendar, I email all sponsors before the change happens.  It's a business and the people sponsoring my blogs are my customers.

2. A good blog to sponsor offers refunds.  Some may disagree with me on this one and I'm interested to hear what you think.  If you are extremely disappointed with a blog sponsorship would you ask for a refund?  What if you weren't given everything in the package that you were promised?  If your button wasn't put up on time, if the post wasn't put up the day it was promised, if you felt you had been lied to about numbers?  What constitutes for asking for a refund?

To me, asking for a refund is nothing.  I take lots of things back to the store.  The watermelon wasn't ripe, the toy broke after two days, the hemline on the skirt was shoddy.  Take it back!  Exchange it.  If the whole store is pot, just get my money back and be done with it! I think this should be the same with sponsorships.  If you are going to offer ad space and accept money for it on your blog, than you need to accept responsibility if people are unhappy and be accountable when you mess up.

Out of the 30+ blogs I have sponsored, there have been two times when I have asked for a refund.  One time I felt that I was purposely lied to about the numbers.  The day my guest post went up I got 26 hits from that blog even though I had been told that the blogger's traffic was up to 100,000 pageviews a month.  I felt that the blogger had been dishonest about pageviews so I asked for a 50% refund.  She said no. I dropped it.

Another time the giveaway I was participating in didn't go up the day the blogged had said.  I was counting on the giveaway for traffic and posted something special that day to catch new traffic.  The post didn't go up and no word from the blogger.  A few days later, when I had a guest post on my blog, the giveaway randomly went up.  I felt that I couldn't take full advantage of the giveaway because I didn't know the day it went up.  In addition to this, traffic from the blogger's site was extremely low as the blogger didn't post as frequently as normal because it was a very busy that month and there were many stressful things going on with her family.  While I certainly am sympathetic to the situation, I didn't believe I should have to pay full price if she wasn't able to give the sponsorship her full attention.  I told her my concerns and asked for a 50% refund.  She complied, but followed it up with a rude email saying that I had walked all over her.

Both experiences with these bloggers bothered me a bit.  They both replied to me that low traffic was not their fault, and that I take a "risk" when I sponsor a blog and basically I need to deal with the consequences.  While I certainly agree that what traffic comes to my site isn't completely their responsibility, they have made it partly their responsibility by accepting my money.  The blog is now a business, and part of that should be keeping me happy, right?

I suppose this is where I have a bit of a problem doing business with bloggers and small business owners (i.e. Etsy).  You ask for a refund and the way they react you'd think you threatened to kill their whole family.  They can get so defensive and mean.  I feel like yelling to them, "Hey!  It's not that big of a deal, girl.  I still like you!  It's just you sold me a product, I was not satisfied with the product, and now I would like some of the money back that I gave you.  No biggie!"  Businesses understand this.  Wal-mart certainly doesn't get all up in arms when I take back their pants that don't fit.  Neither should a blogger.

I have had a handful of times when sponsors have told me they weren't happy with sponsorship.  In July, I completely spaced putting Jenn's name down as my feature sponsor.  Consequently, I didn't put her ad up.  Halfway into the month she asked me where her sidebar ad was.  When I realized what I had done, I apologized and said I would put it right up.  She said she wanted a refund and I should take better care of her money. I agreed and said I would be happy to give her 100% refund or two months of free ad space, whichever she preferred.  She was much kinder to me in the next email, we worked out a compromise that made us both happy, and we are on great "blogging terms" now.  Anytime a sponsor has complained to me I have offered a refund or free ads.  To me that's just good business.  No need to get offended or defensive, just admit wrong and try to fix the situation.

This month I had one of the best sponsoring experiences with Heather from Just  She has a huge readership, but I wasn't getting views from her site.  She told me straight up how many people were clicking over to my blog versus how many people normally click over on the blogs.  My number was very low.  She explained to me that she didn't think our styles match up. She focuses on DIY and beautiful homes and recipes.  I focus mainly on making fun of seventeen year old hoodlums.  We didn't match.

I was floored when she apologized for the traffic and told me she would offer me a 75% refund.  I didn't even ask her, she just offered it.  To me, this is excellent business.  Not only was I happy, but now I am eager to recommend her blog to others and will certainly recommend sponsoring her to those who have similar blogs to hers.  This is a woman you want to do business with.

3.  A good blog to sponsor tells you their monthly pageviews.  When it all comes down to it, this is the only number that matters.  Twitter followers, GFC followers, Bloglovin, etc is all useful only in that it should contribute to your monthly pageviews.  Some tell you their pageviews right out on their sponsor page,  but some don't.  If they don't, I ask them straight up.  You'd be surprised how many bloggers have 4,000+ GFC followers but aren't even getting 20,000 monthly pageviews. The big giveaways that took over our blogosphere there for a minute greatly inflated "follower" numbers and quite frankly, now they can't be trusted.  Ask monthly pageviews to really get a good idea of how many eyes will see your post.

4.  A good blog to sponsor tells you the day your post is going to go up.  As soon as I have paid my money, I want to know what date the guest post or giveaway will be.  I have had sponsors tell me before just to send the post and then they'll fit it in whenever works for them.  Nope.  Give me a date and I will send the post before the deadline.  I like to know when the post will go up and know that that day has been set aside for me.

5.  A good blog to sponsor is not shady.  I suppose this could go a lot of different ways.  I get that the term "shady" is totally vague, but I can't think of a better word.  Just be upfront.  Don't lie.  Return emails on time.  Explain exactly what a sponsor is getting.  If you say "social media love" then what does that mean?  Do you #ff them with a group of a bunch of other bloggers?  Or do you link to a specific post of theirs three times a month?  Because those are very different things.  I feel like with sponsorship, the vaguer a blogger is, the shadier a blogger is.  What time will the post go up?  Don't post a guest post at 3 in the afternoon.  Post it early in the morning.  I was pretty frustrated this spring when I paid for a guest post and waited all morning to see traffic coming from that blog.  It didn't come and it didn't come and it didn't come.  Finally, at noon, the blogger put my guest post up.  At 2:00, there was another sponsored post up.  She gave me two measly hours and I paid for a full priced sponsorship.

I would say that most people when they are doing a guest post on your blog expect the post to be up for 24 hours or close to that.  This month I have been emailing Jenni about doing a guest post.  She said she would be happy to let me BUT there would be a high possibility that there would be two posts that day.  She couldn't guarantee me 24 hours.  I respect this so much.  Instead of just taking my money and then posting two or three sponsored posts that day without letting me know, Jenni was upfront about it and told me exactly what the jig would be.

As I'm finishing this post, I realize it sounds a bit more bitter and negative than I meant it to. I'm sorry. This wasn't my intention. I just think that bloggers who operate this way with their sponsorship need to stop.  I think they need to be called out on it.  Sadly, there are  bloggers out there who are just all about making a buck.  They have discovered the wonderful fact that their "little corner of the web" can bring them in a pretty penny and their minds start racing.  I don't think they're evil in their intentions, I just think they get a bit carried away when they realize how much money they can make and I think us, as fellow bloggers, need to tell them to cut it out and treat the customer right!

And wow.  What a rant!  Excuse me, it's my grumpy time of month.

Peace.  Love.  Sleep.

Originally published August 11, 2013

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Bon's Book Club: BRAIN ON FIRE

I still have a few spots open for September sponsorship.  
Email me in August to receive 25% off.

Book club time! BOO YAH!

(If you are new around here and want to join in for book club, it's super easy!  Just read the book and then come back here on the last Thursday of the month to discuss.  Full details are here.)

SIDE NOTE: Make sure you pick up a copy of Eleanor and Park for September's book discussion on September 25.  It's all the rage with the young kids nowdays.  I have heard so many things about this book and I'm anxious to dig in.  (Parents at my school were up in arms after it was assigned for summer reading in a ninth grade honors class- can't wait to see what all the fuss is about!)  In fact, I am totally stoked for the four remaining books in the year- all four are ones I have heard great things about and have been excited to read.  If you haven't joined in book club yet or got too busy over the summer, it's okay!  Jump back in for the fall- there are some fantastic books lined up!

 (If you link up I'd love you to slap this image on your post somewhere.  Please and thank you!)

2014 Book Club Schedule:

January: The Husband's Secret by Liane Mortiary (January 30)  Discussion here.
February:  I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai (February 27) Discussion here.
March: Divergent by Veronica Roth (March 27) Discussion here.
April:  Night Circus by Eric Morgenstern (April 24) Discussion here.
May:  The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman (May 29). Discussion here.
June:  Matilda by Roald Dahl (June 26). Discussion here.
July:  In Cold Blood  by Truman Capote (July 31).  Discussion here.

August:  Brain on Fire: by Susannah Cahalan 

September:  Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (September 25)
October:  Z by Therese Ann Fowler (October 23)
November:  Wonder by R.J. Palacio (November 20)
December: My Story by Elizabeth Smart (December 30)

Brain on Fire is the true account of Susannah Cahalan and "her month of madness."  She essentially goes crazy.  I have to admit, I was a little skeptical of this book, and half way through I wanted to quit entirely, but I am so glad I stuck it out.  The last third of the book is extremely rewarding.  At the end of the day, it is a story of redemption.  (It also makes me grateful for this book club- it is a book I never would have picked up and read on my own.)

A brief summary- in February of 2009 (2008?) Cahalan, a reporter at the New York Post starts to go mad.  She hears voices, imagines people are stalking her, and suffers from seizures.  After a month in the hospital with her condition getting worse and no diagnosis whatsoever, the miracle doctor, Dr. Najaar, figures out that she has an autoimmune disease- her brain is swelling and is under attack from her own body.  After she is successfully diagnosed (she has to undergo a brain biopsy to confirm the suspected diagnosis) she is able to get treatment (which involves steroids, plasma transfusions, and something else I can't remember) and within time returns to her normal self.

The first 2/3rds of the book was really tough on me.  The first third is all about her descent into madness.  I struggled with it mostly because I felt like it was the same thing over and over.  "I heard voices.  Someone was following me.  I had a seizure.  The hospital didn't know what was wrong with me."  I understand that for her each detail was important, but to me it just got very repetitive.  And I also started to feel like I was going mad.

The second third of the book is about her month in the hospital and the attempts to find a diagnosis and cure.  This is where I really almost quit on the book because it got so technical.  I am not a medical student, nor am I terribly interested in the nitty gritty details of how the brain works, what diseases mean what, what each test does and measures.  I got lost in the technicalities, and I felt like the actual story telling suffered as a result. Most of this month Cahalan has no memory of it, so it was a lot of "the doctors said this" "my dad told me that this happened", etc. I was reading a second hand account of the events, and I didn't love it.  I ended up doing a lot of skimming during this part of the book.

The last third of the book talks about Susanah's recovery and her journey back to full health.  She also talks about how she has been able to help others, how she has raised awareness, and the good that has come from this terrible experience.  This was the most interesting and rewarding part of the book to me.  The last lines of the book read,

"Someone once asked, "If you could take it all back, would you?"  At the time I didn't know.  Now I do.  I wouldn't take that terrible experience back for anything in the world.  Too much light has come out of my darkness."

What stuck out to me throughout the entire course of the book is the support that Cahalan had from her family and boyfriend.  If anything, I thought the book was a testament to the power of family and relationships.  Her dad was with her all day every day in the hospital and her mom visited every day after work.  Her parents came together for their daughter despite a history of avoidance due to a rocky divorce.  Cahalan talks a lot about the toll that her disease had on her family and it was fascinating for me to read how each of them dealt with the trial.  Her boyfriend, whom she had only been dating a few months at the time that she contracted the disease, came to the hospital every night to watch tv with her and essentially functioned as a caregiver to her.  What a guy, huh?

At times the writing was a little tough for me.  Cahalan is a reporter and the book often reads like, well, a report.  I wanted it to have a little more storytelling quality to it, not so much just a presentation of facts.

One of the most interesting parts about the book was its explanation of memories and how are memories are made, preserved, changed, etc.  This is an interesting explanation as to how two people can remember the same event differently.

"When a memory is recalled, it's essentially remade, allowing new (and sometimes wrong) information to filter in.  This is normally useful because we need to be able to update our past experiences to reflect present information, but it sometimes creates devious inaccuracies."

 I also loved this explanation for how we retrieve memories:

"When the brain is working to remember something, similar patterns of neurons fire as they did during the perception of the original event.  These networks are linked, and each time we revisit them, they become stronger and more associated.  But they need the proper retrieval cues- words, smells, images- for them to be brought back as memories."

So when we remember something, we are, in essence, reliving it because similar patterns of neurons fire as they did during the actual event.  I think this is why I like writing so much- I have always felt like it allowed me to experience things twice, and turns out it really does!

I also loved Cahalan's take on our bodies, how fragile they all are, how we are essentially prisoners to the bodies we live in:

"The girl in the video is a reminder about how fragile our hold on sanity and health is and how much we are at the utter whim of our Brutus bodies, which will inevitably, one day, turn on us for good.  I am a prisoner, as we all are.  And with that realization comes an aching sense of vulnerability."

I can't wait to hear what you all thought of the book.  Was it too "technical" for you?  Did it scare you?  What people in the book did you most identify with?  Leave your comments and/or links to your own post on the book and let's get talking!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Newborn pictures

I have revamped my advertising options a bit. For new rates and options go here.  
To kick off the new system, I am giving 25% all ads bought through August. 
Email me at if you are interested.

This weekend we took some family and newborn pictures.  I cried when I saw them. My little family means everything in the world to me.


June Rebecca Larsen: A Birth Story (Part 1)

Tomorrow will be six weeks since little June came bursting into our world.  Six weeks of cuddles and kisses and 4 am feedings.

It hasn't been much of a six weeks of blogging.  I have taken more time "off" from my blog, than I ever have before.  I have tried to post consistently, but there have been many days when I just haven't gotten around to it.  Thank you all for being patient as I try to figure out our new routine around here.

That being said, I would never forgive myself if I let this phase pass without taking the time to write down the events leading up to and surrounding June's birth.  I want to record the story for history's sake, for her, for me.

And so, this is June's birth story.

It really started with our doctor's appointment on July 8.  For the past three weeks I had been having weekly non stress tests, and now the doctor wanted to do a growth ultrasound to check up on the baby since she had been measuring consistently small the entire pregnancy.  The ultrasound, at 37 weeks pregnant, estimated the baby at four pounds, seven ounces.

I could tell something was wrong when he was doing the ultrasound because he didn't say anything.  Usually they talk your ear off, tell you everything looks normal, say how healthy your baby is going to be.  There weren't any reassurances and when he left the room without a word, I looked at Greg with a pit in my stomach.  Something was up.

He came back in the room a few minutes later and laid it all out on the tableThere were two main problems with the babe:

1) She did not seem to be growing in my stomach at a very healthy rate.  Throughout the entire pregnancy she was consistently measuring two weeks behind schedule and was not catching up.  (Like a fool, I took this to mean that she would come two weeks late.  Nada que ver.)

2) She was breech.

"From here, our best option is to deliver the baby sooner rather than later," explained the doctor.  "We need to try to turn her, and the bigger she gets, the harder it is to turn her- the less space she has.  In addition, at this point she is far along enough and healthy enough that we can deliver at any time.  It may be better to deliver now and then monitor her nourishment outside the womb, that way we can ensure she is getting all the nourishment she needs, instead of not knowing for sure while she's still inside.  We need to deliver by next week."

As you can imagine, it was quite a shock to us.  I was literally planning on being pregnant into August- another month for sure, and the doctor was telling us we had less than week.

The doctor scheduled us another visit with the perinatologist (the ultrasound specialist) to confirm what the doctor thought.  The next day, the perinatologist confirmed.  

On Monday, July 14, Greg and I went to our last doctor's appointment to make a plan for delivery.  We were eleven days away from her due date.  The doctor looked at the results from the perinatologist and declared that the baby needed to arrive asap.

The doctor laid out the plan.  We would schedule to go to the hospital within the next three days- the earlier the better.  The first thing we would do in the hospital is try to turn the baby.  If the baby turned, I would be induced.  (Once a baby is successfully turned they go right into labor because it puts so much stress on the baby.  It's safer to get the baby out as early as possible.)  If the baby wouldn't turn, we would do a C section.  Easy enough, right?

We talked to the scheduling nurse.  She called the hospital to see if we could go in the next day.  My head was in an absolute spinning frenzy trying to wrap my mind around the idea that we could be having this baby TOMORROW.  Greg was nervous, but was much more calm than I was about delivering immediately.  He wanted the baby here as safe and as soon as possible.  (It made it extra sweet that the next day, July 15, was Greg's birthday.  "Having a baby tomorrow would be the best birthday present you could ever give me," he said.)

The hospital, however, had scheduling conflicts for the next day.  So it would have to be the day after, Wednesday, July 16.

One of the most stressful parts of this was that we were not in our new home like we had anticipated.  Instead, we would be welcoming our baby girl in our little half packed up, one bedroom apartment.  As soon as we got home we set to work getting everything ready for our baby who would be here in less than 48 hours.  We scrubbed, we disinfected, we got the bassinet ready, the diapers set out, etc, etc, etc.  My goal was to get everything done that day, so that the next day we could relax and celebrate Greg's birthday in style.  There's no such thing as relaxing the day before you know you are having a baby.

The weekend before, setting up the stroller.

Attempting to organize the baby's clothes.

We tried our best to celebrate Greg's birthday the next day, we did, but gosh darn it, we were just so distracted I don't know that we gave the day the Umph it deserved.  I booked a massage for him in the morning and while he did that I went and got my nails done.  (My advice to anyone having a baby- get dolled up before you go!  The best thing I did before I had my baby was get my eyelashes done and my nails done.  I felt feminine and pretty in the hospital, and in the hours and days after June's birth.  I know it's weird, but I swear someone should do a psychological study on the effects of feeling beautiful on women giving birth.) (Trent, you listening?!)

We went to the movie in the afternoon, and met Greg's family for dinner that night.  Even now, only six weeks later, the whole day kind of seems like a blurry dream.  We did our best to go through the birthday motions, but our minds were elsewhere, already at the hospital, already having a baby.

On the eve of parenthood, Greg's 26th birthday.

Last pregnant picture, taken after Greg's birthday dinner.

The hospital had told us that they would try to turn the baby at 7:00 and then either induce or go into a C section from there, so we were already preparing ourselves for an early morning.  On the way home from dinner, though, the hospital called to give us extra details.  "You will need to be here at 5 am" the lady said.  I remember looking at the clock in the car- seeing that it was already almost 9:00 pm.  Oh my gosh, I thought.  This is going down in eight hours.

We tried to go to bed as soon as we got home, but I think we were both so nervous and excited and anxious that we kind of just farted around the house pretending to get stuff done, but really just filling the apartment with nervous energy.  I painted my toenails.  Greg took out the trash and dinked around on the computer.  (I think he was making a playlist?  Very important stuff to do hours before your baby comes, you know.)  I packed the hospital bag.  (Procrastinators for the win!)  Sent an email to my sponsors saying there was no way in hell I could get the giveaway up for tomorrow, please understand. (They did.)

And then we lay on the bed.  It was almost 1:00, I remember, and we both kept saying that we should be asleep.  But you can't sleep when in the morning you are having a baby and when your whole life is about to get turned upside down.  I knew I wouldn't see an entire night's sleep for months and I should take advantage of this one last night of sleep interrupted.  But I couldn't.

As we lay there wasting the precious minutes we should be sleeping, Greg asked me, "Bon.  What are we going to name her?"  We still hadn't agreed on a name for our little baby, and the time to decide was quickly approaching.  

"I don't know.  How are you feeling about June?"  June had been a name that we had both thrown around since the beginning.  It had always been an option for both of us, and as other names came and went, June just kind of hung around in the background.

Greg looked over at me.  "Yah.  I think that's it."

"Really?"  We had sweated over this decision so long, certainly it couldn't come that easily.

"I just can't see her with any other name.  What do you think?"

I thought about all the names we had tossed around for months and the truth was, it felt like I was trying to choose a new name for someone I had always known by a different name. Her name cemented itself in my mind so easily in that moment, so clearly.  June.

We crawled into bed, exhausted and terrified, anxious and excited.  I thought sleep would never come to me, but the moment I curled myself up in the blankets, I was gone, off for one last night of parent-less sleep, ready to welcome June in the morning.

Three hours later, the alarm rang.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

What would you do?

Thursday afternoon found me pushing my cart to my car after an always exciting trip to Wal-mart.  In my cart I had three or four bags of food and June, sleeping peacefully away in her car seat.  I grabbed the groceries first and was putting them in the car when a man passed by.  He looked at June as he walked by, and turned around to look at her again.  He stopped.

"You know, you should really load her first."
"I'm sorry?"  I didn't know what in the world he was talking about.
"Your baby.  You should load her before you load the groceries."
"Oh. Ok."  Usually when strangers stop to talk to me like this I am so  thrown off guard that I don't know what to say. Ok was the best I could give.
"It's just a matter of weighing what's most precious," he continued, "Your baby or the groceries.  The baby is extremely precious. The groceries are not precious. So load the baby first."
"Ok."  I said again.
"I mean, that's just me. If I had a kid, that's what I would do."
"Umm. Ok. Thank you."  He wandered off, and I loaded precious June next to the not-so-precious groceries, and we headed home.

Now tell me, what would you do/say/feel in a situation like that?  Am I supposed to feel like a bad mom?  Should I be offended?  Do I need to defend my choice to load the groceries first?  (It was a hot day- the car was an oven!)  And why do men in Wal-mart parking lots think they should tell women the correct order to load the car?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Staying at Home: A Tough Gig?

Wednesday was the first day of school.  Any normal year I would be in the midst of it all, surrounded by anxious teens desperately trying to fit in, fellow teachers back after a not-long-enough summer, an opening assembly welcoming us all to the best years of our lives.

But on Wednesday I was not there.  I am currently on "maternity leave" and will not return to teach until September 10.  (Also, I don't really know why I felt the need to put quotation marks around maternity leave.  It just felt right.)  When I do return I will work part time, teaching three classes every other day.

I was surprised to find myself quite sad on Tuesday night.  Greg is teaching this year at the same school where I teach,  For the past few days I had listened to him fill me in on all the orientations and meetings I had missed, and trust me, I didn't mind skipping those one bit.  But then, as I watched him iron his shirt Tuesday night, pack his lunch, set his alarm early, a wave of sadness washed over me that I would not be participating in the first day festivities.  I felt so left out, so sad to not be there.

The first day of school is one of my very favorite days to teach at a high school.  There is such a unique energy, a tangible excitement in the air.  The kids come filing in, trying to act like they don't care, but it's so obvious how much they care.  They have on their brand new clothes, have their new notebooks and folders all organized, are determined that this year, THIS is the year they're really going to take school seriously.  I love to see them with their schedules in hand, looking for their classes, but trying to act like they're not looking, like they're cool, like they know exactly what they're doing.  I love to see all the other teachers after the summer break, refreshed and ready to go.  I just love everything about the first day of school.   (My other favorite days at a high school: the day of the homecoming game, Halloween, the day before Christmas break, Valentines Day, the day the students check out.)

The weather was absolutely perfect Wednesday for the first day of school- cool and rainy- the kind of days we rarely get in Utah in August.  The kind of day that makes you want to go to school, to pull our your notebook, to wear a light jacket.  I got up the same time as Greg did, mostly because I wanted to feel involved in some weird way. I made him breakfast and packed his lunch and then just like that he was out the door, on his way.

I sat on my bed and fed June as I watched the rain drizzle down out the window.  A school bus drove past, and I admit it's the saddest I've ever been to not be at work.  I don't know that it was a sadness that I was missing that one day, but maybe just an overall difficulty adjusting to a new life.  I will go back to work in a few weeks, but it's only part time.  I hope that part time will be enough for me.  I worry that the days that I'm home that I'll be bored by the monotony, miss teaching my classes, feel unfulfilled.  I know some people dream of staying at home, but I know myself well enough to worry that it will be a constant struggle for me.

Those of you who stay at home full time or part time, what do you do to keep yourselves busy?  Is it hard for you or do you enjoy the long, open days with your kids? Honestly, I think more than anything I will feel lonely.  I mean, I adore my little June bug, but she's not exactly one for stimulating conversation and you can only go to Target so many times a week.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Breast Pump: The World's Greatest Invention

Today was the first day of school, but because I'm on maternity leave until mid September, I didn't have to go.  Instead, I slept in and went to lunch with a friend.  I mean, really, it's a tough gig.

This is my friend.  Her name is Dallin and we met in the jungles of Argentina.  She showed me how to be a missionary six years ago and today she shows me how to be an all around good person. She's just one of those people who you are forever grateful that you know.

This was Dal's first time meeting June.  They really hit it off!  June demanded Dallin feed her, spit up all over everything, and then finished her meal with her famous Russian Mafia face. (She curls her lips downward, squints her eyes, and looks like she's about to kill you and all your family.)  It was great!

While we're talking feeding babies, I have to let you all in on a little secret that has made my post baby life infinitely easier in the past two weeks.


Last week I wrote about nursing in public, and while I have no problem doing it if I need to, I discovered that pumping is about one hundred times easier than nursing in the middle of a crowded restaurant.  Take today for example.  I knew June was going to be hungry about noon.  I pumped before we left the house at 11:00.  June got hungry right at noon.  Dallin was holding her.  Instead of starting the whole fiasco of taking the baby away from my friend, covering up, pulling my shirt down, figuring out the complicated business of the nursing bra, etc, etc, ETC- I just gave Dallin the bottle and she fed June.  So easy!

Sometimes I pump at home, too, just for the convenience of it.  The thing is it takes 45 minutes to nurse June and it takes 10 minutes to pump.  One thing I have loved about pumping is that it allows other people to bond with June through feeding her.  I do enjoy nursing her, but in a way it feels almost selfish for me to be the only one to feed her.  This way Greg can feed her, my mission buddy can feed her, my cousin at the baby shower can feed her.  I want June to develop lots of important relationships with the people that surround and love her, not just with me.  Pumping and allowing someone else feed her occasionally feels like a step in the right direction.

So, let's talk breast pumps.  I use the Ameda Purely Yours double electric breast pump.  It is pretty much the easiest and most convenient thing ever.  It took me about three weeks after June was born to start using it because it sounded complicated and exhausting, and quite frankly, I was intimidated by it.  But it wasn't complicated OR exhausting- not in the least bit.  It took me all of four minutes to figure out.  I just wish I would have started using it sooner- it seriously makes my life so much easier when I'm on the go.

The pump comes with four bottles to allow for a little bit of flexibility (and dirty dishes!) and lots of bags if you want to freeze your milk. (This I haven't done yet.)  It also comes with a perfect, discreet bag to throw all the gear into. (It looks like a lunch bag.)  I appreciated that the pump came with a DVD to show you how to use everything, but I'll be honest, the pump is so easy to use that I didn't need to watch the DVD.  Score.

Also, if your insurance covers a breast pump, (my understanding is that under Obamacare all insurances have to cover breast pumps...?) this is the breast pump that most insurances will cover.  If you are wondering if your insurance will cover this breast pump go here.

And, lastly, Ameda is giving away a free Purely Yours double electric breast pump with a retail value of $179 to all my Instagram followers.  If you are pregnant or know someone who is, enter below!  It is a total game changer.

(FYI:  I started writing this post SEVEN hours ago.  Welcome to life with a baby?)

I was gifted the Ameda Purely Yours Double Electric Breast Pump in exchange for this post.

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

David, Goliath, and a room full of ten year olds

Can anyone recommend me a great newborn photographer in the Provo to Salt Lake area?  I need one stat.  Pretty soon June isn't even going to look like a newborn anymore and I want a real photographer to get some good pics of her.

Today was a weird Sunday.

Greg was filming a commercial, (a national commercial for the Huntsman Cancer Institute- watch for him if you ever see the commercial air.  He'll be the sick looking chemo patient in the background.) so I had to go church alone.  Normally I wouldn't think much of it except for:

1) I have a newborn
2) We teach a class of six 10 year olds
3) Earlier this week the teachers of the 9 year olds asked if we could teach their class as well.  We stupidly said yes.

That left me by my lonesome to teach twelve (TWELVE!) squirrely kids and a newborn about David and Goliath.

I got up up early (8:30-  I realize "early" is a very relative term but come on, it's Sunday AND I'm on maternity leave) to get ready, to get June ready, prepare the lesson, and make treats.  A few months ago we started the terrible tradition of bringing treats for the little schmoozers.  Now they throw huge fits if we ever "forget".  We never should have gone down that dark road of giving food to kids, I realize that, but now if we don't come bearing brownies they're going to stage a revolt, I swear.

ANYWAY, everything was going great this morning, (and by that I mean I successfully took a shower,) until we hit a major roadblock.

Okay fine.  The road block was me.
Taking pictures.
So many pictures.
Of June.

I can't be blamed, it's what happens anytime I'm left alone with my baby.  I go ape with the camera. Greg leaves for an hour and I swear, I go all beauty pageant mom on June, staging photos, dressing her up, posing her like a doll, demanding royalties, the likes.  It's a mess.  I know in the deep recesses of my brain that I am acting totally batty when I take 226 pictures of my daughter just chilling on a Sunday morning, but I have accepted and embraced my battiness and I have to tell you, it feels great.  Long live crazy moms!

Moving onward.  The David and Goliath lesson did not go off at all like I had hoped- when you have 12 kids packed in a little room at 2:00 on a hot Sunday afternoon, I guess you can just expect that they are all going to have WAY too much energy to listen to bible tales.  I asked for volunteers to act out the story while I read it out loud from the scriptures.  That was a total disaster.  My Goliath kept going off script, quoting lines from Despicable Me instead, and my David just kept staring at June, exclaiming, "She's so cute!"

"Sarah!" I demanded, "You're David!  David can't get distracted by a baby!  You got a giant to fight!"  To which she threw her hands up in the air and proclaimed, "I give up!  It's too hard!"

Half of the kids watching in their seats looked bored to tears while the other half we're trying their darndest to get their own speaking part, jumping in their seats and ad libbing their own lines.  One kid rolled his eyes and listened to his iPod.  It was a mess, people.

Add to this all, my little June bug, fast asleep and farting in the corner every ten minutes, sending the entire room of ten year olds into hysterics.  Admit it, you would have laughed too.

By the time I got home from church it was all I could do to microwave some nachos and veg out on a couple of episodes of Shark Tank.  Greg got home about 7:00, reporting that he had mostly sat around and eaten treats all day.  It's a tough life, being in commercials.  I tried not to be mad.

The good news is that he should get a decent paycheck for his day.  I already informed him that when the money comes, I am cashing it and spending it all on myself.  As far as I see it, I earned every last penny of that check today.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

For Robin

In the three days since Robin Williams' death there has been much said, much written, much shared.

My initial instinct was to not say anything myself.  Sometimes I prefer to write about silly things than important things. The important things are too hard to say or too hard to process or require too much analysis and thought and it's easier to just write about breast feeding in line at Chick-fil-a.

But I keep thinking about Robin Williams, and about his death and every time I think about it I feel so darn sad.

The tragedy has sparked much discussion about suicide and the "appropriateness" of it, for lack of a better word.  A very popular blog post has been going around in which the author states that suicide is always a selfish act.  He states "there is nothing positive to say about it."  I did not read the article because sometimes you just know that you don't need to read certain things. But even reading a snippet of the post has made me think- how do we treat someone who ended his life "by choice."  Do we revere him? Do we condemn him? Do we honor him?

What about those of us who believe in God?  Where do we "put" a man such as Robin Williams?  In hell?  In heaven?  What does God say to a man who ended the life that He gave him?  Is He mad?  Is He forgiving?  Does He understand?

The truth is that the older I get, the less I understand about God.  I used to think I had the Man totally figured out, but I don't at all.  There are some things I have been told about God that I just don't believe anymore.  I don't believe he is a God to be feared or that he is a God of anger.  I don't believe in a hateful, punishing God.  I do believe in a fair God, and I do believe in a merciful God; how He can be both of those things, I don't know, but I believe He is.

A lot of the things I know and believe about God come from knowing my dad.  My dad put on a tough act, but the truth is he was nothing but love.  He disciplined his kids, he got frustrated with his kids, he about dang near lost it when we totalled his cars and put holes in the family room walls and brought home loser boyfriends. But none of that came close to comparing with the amount of love my dad showed to us. At the end of the day, He was kind. He was forgiving. He was absolutely overflowing with love for his eight kids- a love that always always outweighed the punishments, the discipline, the anger.

I guess I have to believe that God is the same way.  Justice and discipline, yes, but trumped by mercy and love every time.

I believe He understands perfectly our situations.
I believe He is kind.
I believe He is merciful.
I believe He has it all figured out.
I believe that maybe it is all much simpler than we make it out to be down here.

 And I believe that when God sees Robin Williams again, there is a look of understanding, a long hug, and a terrific joke.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Chick-fil-a drive thru breastfeeding. It's a thing.


The weirdest things are happening.

Greg wants me to watch Bachelor in Paradise with him.  He is literally sitting here asking me if I am almost finished with my post so that we can finish the episode.  It's a weird world.

Speaking of weird world.  I had a bunch of errands to run today.  Oh, errands!  They are going to be the death of me.  Get the electricity switched to our name, put down a deposit so the city will give us a garbage can, return library books, get June on to my insurance, pick up mail keys.  The errands never end!  I was at my school district office in the middle of a riveting conversation about flex spending and how to switch June to my insurance for a measley 45 days before we switch her onto Greg's insurance (It's a freaking circus!) when June let out one of her barbaric cries that means it's time to eat. Time to eat right this second, damnit!  I know her cry well.

My next stop was supposed to be the school to work on a bunch of sub plans.  I thought I would feed June there, in the comfort of my quiet classroom, no problemo.  Well.  Actually there was a problem.  First I needed to eat.  I don't mean to put my hunger in front of my child's, but let's face it, it takes June an hour to eat lunch and it takes me close to seven minutes.  I win.  Chick-fil-a is right across the street from my school, so a quick trip through the drive thru before I hit the school was to be my ticket to cure my hunger.

June usually calms down in the car, but she wasn't having it today.  I about had an ulcer when I saw the line- probably 20 cars in line for a little bit of chicken.  I considered going somewhere else, but at this point I just wanted to get my food and be done with it all. The dude came out to my car to take my order, June screamed bloody murder, and it was then and there that I knew I had no choice.  As soon as the guy was gone, I whipped June out of her carseat and began to feed her while we inched slowly forward in line.  It's not going to win me mom of the year, but we were going at most two miles an hour and that child needed to eat.  Sue me.

The highlight of the whole experience came when I finally arrived at the window to pick up my meal.  Who should appear to hand me over my nuggets and fries but a former student?!?

"Oh, hey Mallorie!" I exclaimed much too excitedly and over zealously.  You know how you get when you're nervous and maybe caught doing something you're not supposed to and start talking in a high pitched over excited voice?  It was that.  Mallorie looked at me with that apathetic look that is so typical for teenagers, and then glanced questioningly at the apparent bundle of blankets in my arms.

"Oh you know!  Screaming baby!" I quickly tried to explain.  She obviously couldn't have cared less, but I attempted justification anyway.  "I couldn't wait for the line! Had to feed her now! This little five pound sucker has got a pair of lungs on her!"

"Cool.  So you had your baby?"  She asked, semi interested.

"Yep!  Had the baby! Gotta go!  Thanks Mallorie!  Love my nuggets!" I chimed like the hot mess I truly was.  I put the car in to drive and inched my way into the nearby parking spot.  Forty five minutes later I emerged to change June's diaper, restrap her in a car seat, and throw away my empty chick-fil-a bag.  Mallorie waved from the now empty window.  "Good luck, Ms. Larsen!" she yelled.

Thanks, kid.  I'm gonna be needing it.  See you on the first day of school?

Now. (Enter smooth transition sentence here.)  Before I bid adieu to you all tonight, I've got eight ladies who have pooled a bit of cash together to give you some back to school spending money.  $130 is up for grabs in whichever form you want- via Paypal, Target gift card, J. Crew gift card, the sky is the limit!  Entering is super easy so get going!  If you're anything like me you might spend the whole dang wad on lunch at Chick-fil-a!  Hey, we can dream, can't we?!?

Giveaway ends August 19, 2014.  All entries will be verified.  Giveaway open to international readers given they are able and willing to accept the prize money via Paypal.

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Monday, August 11, 2014

NIP: Nursing in Public.

In September, Olivia Wilde is going to be featured in Glamour magazine as a proud breastfeeding mother.  She's got pictures to prove it- decked out in a gorgeous gown and strappy high heels, breast feeding her naked son in public like it's the most acceptable thing in the world.

I'm jealous of this picture not for the reasons you would think- I don't envy the dress or the perfect hair.  Mostly I want the total acceptance to nurse in public like Wilde is doing.  I've been at the breastfeeding game for a whopping four weeks.  I was lucky in that it was much easier for me than I imagined it would be- had it been at all difficult I surely would have given up.  (I'm not one to tenaciously insist on doing something that I am not good at.)  June is a good nurser and eats at a very consistent schedule meaning I really have no excuse to keep breastfeeding her as long as she decides.

Deciding to definitely be a breast feeding mom, then, now presents me with a new dilemma.  I am constantly on the go.  I plan to return to work.  I am not in a private setting every three to four hours where I can comfortably nurse.  June, a normally very chill and happy baby, goes all sorts of crazy when it's time to eat.  Panic mode sets in, and convinced that she will never eat again she resorts to high pitched screams of absolute frenzy until she is satisfied.  It's awesome.

I was at the library last week when this happened.  We have had trouble getting internet and cable into our new home so for the past week I've been doing all of my blogging business at the one open kiddie table at the public library.  I was blissfully typing away when June let out a hunger scream.  It was time to eat.  Now.

I had about 20 minutes left of writing and editing before I could publish my post.  June was not about to give 20 minutes.  I was not about to drive 15 minutes home, feed June, and drive 15 minutes back to finish the post.  I checked the bathroom, but it did me no favors in the breastfeeding department.  And so, desperate and tired, I whipped out a swaddling blanket to cover myself and fed June right then and there.  The cover was hot and obnoxious, but I didn't quite dare go at it cover-less.  June ate voraciously while I attempted to type one handed and finish my post. Besides the fact that she drinks about as loud as an elephant, I convinced myself that no one had the slightest idea of what was going on.

Since then I have gotten a bit more comfortable breast feeding in public, as long as the trusty cover is in place, of course!  (One site I read said to practice in front of the mirror.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like the only thing more awkward than breastfeeding in front of other people is breastfeeding in front of yourself.)  Greg and I spent an evening in Park City last weekend with his family and when June was hungry during dinner, I fed her right there in the restaurant. (Although as my sister in law pointed out as she watched me maneuver the nursing cover, the shirt, the nursing bra, "That's like a circus!"  Yep!  Welcome to the show!)  I didn't ask my in laws if they were comfortable with me nursing during dinner, I figured it was easier just not to ask because heck, I didn't want to miss dinner and I certainly wasn't going to make everyone wait 45 minutes for me.

After the successful dinner nursing, I figured I was in the clear.  I was a nursing in public prodigy!  I wouldn't be afraid of donning my obnoxious cover (It's so hot!) and feeding my child wherever, whenever.  But then yesterday at church Greg asked me,

"What are you going to do when June needs to eat this afternoon?"
"I'll just feed her."
"In the middle of church?"
"Yes...We're going to be in primary." (The class with all the kids aged 4-11.  Greg and I teach the 10 year olds).
"Yah, I'll just sit in the back and feed her."
"I don't know if the kids and teachers are going to be comfortable with that.  I think that's why they have the mother's room..."  Greg sounded hesitant.
"You're uncomfortable with me nursing in public?"
"I'm not uncomfortable with it, I just don't want to make other people at church uncomfortable."

I have to admit, I was kind of surprised by Greg's reaction.  He was totally comfortable with me nursing in a very public restaurant, but not comfortable with me nursing at church.  I nursed in front of his brother and dad, but not in front of a bunch of squirrely ten year olds.  Is there, then, some "public" nursing that is more acceptable than others?

In the end, I acquiesced.  Instead of nursing in primary, I banished myself to the "mother's room", a closet sized room with a couple of rocking chairs designated for breastfeeding moms.  I found myself in there with two other moms and we spent the last 45 minutes of church in there together, all feeding our babes under covers instead of sitting in the classes we were supposed to.  I couldn't help but think it strange that I had to miss a significant portion of church to feed my child.  The other two women were missing relief society- a class of only adult women.  Surely they didn't feel like they needed to leave a class of only women to feed their babies because the other women would be uncomfortable with their feeding?

I am interested to hear what you all think about the NIP debate- when and where is it acceptable? (And with what people?)  Do you feel uncomfortable when other women nurse in front of you?  Do you always have to have a cover to nurse in public, or is it ever acceptable to nurse your child freely? (Because boy, am I over the cover already!)  Sometimes I wish I could just go to Argentina, where women are bare breasted and feeding their babies on the back of motorcycles like it's nothing- now wouldn't that be the life?!

(The first time I wrote about breast feeding was here-  I can't say my opinion has changed too much over the years.)

Thursday, August 07, 2014

High School Reunion- to go or not to go?

That up there is a picture of me in high school, in case you were wondering.  
I was very into mascara and lip gloss and spent a lot of time 
with my flat iron trying to get my hair to flip just right.  
You know, important high school stuff.

This month is my ten year high school reunion.  I have debated and debated whether or not I should go, and I keep putting it off, promising to think about it tomorrow. Today is the deadline to buy tickets.  Decision day is here.

The truth is I was a bit lost in high school.  I suppose I hadn't quite figured out who I was yet.  I liked myself just fine, but wasn't quite convinced yet that anybody else should like me.  I had no confidence around my peers. I was the president of National Honor's Society, the piano accompanist for choir, and carried around a copy of David McCullough's John Adams to all of my classes just in case there was down time.  (There always was.)  A terrible driver from the get go, I wrecked my parents' old station wagon midway through my senior year.  My parents insisted I live with the consequences of my actions, and so for the rest of the year I had to resort to rollerblading from the high school to my after school job.  I carried the blades with me in my backpack during the day and to make the after school trek more fun,  I listened to Billy Joel's Greatest Hits on my discman while I rollerbladed.  I was the epitome of hip.

I had no idea how to flirt.  I was madly in love with a boy in my calculus class, and watched helplessly as he dated someone else for the entire year.  The friends I hung out with were all a year older than me, and I suspect they let me roll with them partly out of pity.  I had never kissed a boy.

That's not to say I hated high school. It was fine for what it was, I just didn't love it. I moved from the town I grew up in for college and never looked back. I found my confidence in college and met my best friends for life.  My mom moved from the town three years ago and any friends I had there have long since left.  Especially now that the place harbors with it so many memories of my dad, I have little desire or motivation to visit and tend to keep my distance.

Yet something keeps pulling at me to attend the reunion.  It's two hours away from where I live now, and it would cost $50 for Greg and I to attend. (Ouch!  Does this seem steep to anyone else besides me?)  I really am not close with anyone who graduated with me in 2004.  Part of me feels all my high school insecurities rushing back to me when I think of going and seeing my high school peers.  It's like I'm convinced all over again that I'll never be cool enough.

When I was visiting my sister in Germany I mentioned that my reunion was coming up.  She encouraged me to go, stating that she had missed her own ten year reunion and regretted it.  I still can't decide if I'll regret missing mine or if I should just keep the $50 and spend the evening cuddling up to Modern Family with my husband and baby instead.

I am interested to know how many of you attended/will attend your high school reunion.  Is it important to make that effort or is it okay to just accept you have nothing in common with 200 people who graduated the same time and place that you did and let it go?

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

These days

There must be something seriously wrong with me that a big part of me can not wait to have another baby.  It's just that the entire pregnancy/birth/newborn stage has been so much sweeter than I could have ever imagined.  I suppose I prepared myself for the worst.  I listened to everyone's horror stories about having babies and convinced myself that that would happen to me, too.

I would go two weeks past my due date.
I would have a terrible, traumatic birth experience.
My baby would have colic.
I would have postpartum depression.
Greg would distance himself emotionally from me and the baby.
My baby wouldn't latch onto me making breast feeding painful and miserable.
I would resent my baby.
I would have to stay at home all day every day because my baby wouldn't allow me to go out at all.
Sleep would cease to exist.
I wouldn't ever have time to shower or get ready.  I'd never feel pretty again.
It would take me three years to lose the baby weight.
Greg and I would fight constantly.
Post birth recovery would be so bad that I wouldn't be able to do anything for weeks and weeks.
My friends would all ditch me and I'd be totally alone without any social outlets.
I would resort to talking to wildlife and playing online poker for my social interaction.

I was ready.  Armed and loaded, ready to be hit with every single one of those scenarios right after birth.  (This is what happens when you live in a culture where ever single person your age already has kids and every single one of those people want to share their worst experiences with you to "prepare" you.)  So when I wasn't hit with those scenarios, at first I held my breath.  Certainly they were coming.  Four days of successful breastfeeding?  That doesn't mean a thing!  Two weeks of easy nights, with baby only waking twice to feed and then going right back to sleep?  It won't last!  Three weeks of loving everything about being a mom?  It could all go wrong at any second!

Just recently have I started to allow myself to think that maybe this is what motherhood is going to be for me.  Sweet.  Fun.  Enjoyable.  Maybe all these years that I was terrified of having children what I didn't know is that I would absolutely love it?

That's not to say that there haven't been bumps in the road.  The last thing I wanted was a C section and there is a part of me that still mourns that I couldn't deliver June normally.  My incision will strike at a moment's notice, causing me great pain and making me instantly grumpy and frustrated.  If I don't leave the house every day I start to feel lonely- like the world is passing me by.  My emotions have been all of out whack.   (See crying over tile back splash from yesterday's post...)

BUT.  Overall, it has been a very special, almost sacred time for me.  These days are incredibly sweet and tender.  There is a special spirit in our home with our little five pound newborn. Greg doesn't have to start working at the high school until August 14, and I don't have to go back until mid September (yea for maternity leave!) so these winding summer days are long and lazy for us.  We stay up late cuddling and cooing at June, eating nachos, watching Redboxes.  We sleep in, are lucky to take a shower by noon, run to the grocery store together, and take long afternoon naps.  Sometimes I take a step back and look at my family and am just overwhelmed at it all.  This is my very own little family- my future, my everything.  What in the world I did to deserve it, I will never know.

Next week Greg will start his job at the high school and my days will be my own.  June will grow and soon she won't be the still sleeping newborn that she is now.  I'll go back to work and life will go crazy again.  But for these days, these long dog days of summer, everything is just about perfect.

Can you blame me for wanting to do it all again?

 ^^My niece, checking out the baby.

^^ She hasn't quite mastered the hold yet.

 ^^ This is my friend's baby- born one day after June.  As you can see, there's a bit of a weight difference.

^^ With her grandma.