As we begin 2017, how would you like to earn points redeemable for merchandise such as electronics, movies, books, clothes and more just by joining a free program through your insurance? It's as easy as 1-2-3!
I would first like to preface this by saying I have Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas. I can only assume that what I am about to explain is available to everyone with BCBS. And, if you do not have BCBS, you might want to see if your insurance company has a similar program.
Ok, back to the important stuff!
If you login to your account at www.bcbstx.com, you will see a quick link section on the left of the page. In that quick link section you will see Well On Target. Click there. You will then be directed to a separate page, which is the home page for Well On Target. If this is your first time visiting this site, you will have to sign up and fill out a health assessment. Mind you, this is a free program. And don't worry though. You will earn points for that health assessment!
The above image shows your home screen once logged in to Well On Target. You will see your health assessment, any connected devices or apps and your points. The points are the fun part! Let me explain.
There are 9 different ways to earn points through Well On Target.
Once you earn your points, you can click redeem which will take you to a separate shopping page where you can select from merchandise in dozens of different categories. They have items as simple as a DVD or a kitchen supply, or if you are like me, you can earn and save points for a camera! I don't need a super expensive camera. Ever since our garage was broken into this past February and both cameras were stolen, I want to get a replacement. I want to be able to take better pictures of Mark and better pictures for my blog. The one I have found is a Kodak Black PIXPRO Astro Zoom. I've seen this camera run anywhere from $155-$200. Yes, I could spend that money, but that would not fall in line with my goals for the year. Goal #4, if you recall, is work to getting out of debt (pay off 4 bills). So by doing something as simple as syncing my FitBit every single day, I can earn 20,075 points in one year. And, I already have 17,905 points.
Did I mention that this is COMPLETELY FREE?!
Cause it is!
Again, I would like to reiterate that I have Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas. I will assume that all BCBS users across the country have access to this amazing benefit. And, if your insurance company is smart, they will have a program similar to this. The healthier you are, the less you have to use your insurance. I happened upon it when I was looking at one of my medical claims after having Mark.
Yes, it will take me a year to get my camera, but, it will be FREE and I can say I earned it! All by giving a little effort by syncing my FitBit, going to the gym and taking a few online health and wellness courses. It's as easy as pie!
Does your insurance company have something similar they offer? I'd love to hear about it. And, if you sign up for Well on Target, let me know! I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!
Ever since Dustin and I moved to Texas from Florida in 2012, we have made the 15 hour drive countless times, typically around Thanksgiving or Christmas time. Amidst my "job" of getting Dustin gum, snacks, water, playing DJ and getting the movies going while on our trips, one of my favorite parts of the drive is the time Dustin and I have to talk about everything under the sun.
This trip from Wednesday afternoon to Thursday morning, we talked a lot about our lives the past couple years. In 2014 we got engaged and then spontaneously married 2 months later. Then in 2015 we planned our amazing trip-of-a-lifetime honeymoon where we flew to Hawaii, took an 11 day cruise around the islands, which included 5 days at sea and ended in Vancouver. That same year we went to my 10 year high school reunion. During that trip, we decided we wanted to try and have a baby. Must've been all the gorgeous blonde haired, blue eyed babies we saw while we were there.
At the end of 2015 we were pregnant. AH!!!! From January through August, my focus was to have a healthy pregnancy. I was able to workout consistently from about month 5 through 2 days before I went into labor. I have no doubt that doing that allowed me to have a great birth, two pushes and little man flew out. Literally. The doctor had to catch him. HA! Mark is such a blessing to our family.
Now that 2017 is quickly approaching, t-minus 29 hours until we ring in the New Year, I want to make sure I have an outline of goals for myself. I treat it sort of as a self performance appraisal. You typically get them every year at work to review your past years performance, why not evaluate yourself yearly?
If you've never ran before, you don't want to set a goal of running a marathon in 2 months. Just like if you've never been a writer, you probably shouldn't set a goal of writing a book in 6 months. Take a more measurable first step. Stick to a running schedule. Nike+ and Couch2 5K are good ones to start with. And, maybe sign up for a writing class first. You want to set yourself up for success. Be realistic.
After discussing my goals with my husband during our drive to Florida this week, I feel like my goals are all specific, realistic, measurable and within my reach.
I plan on doing a quarterly check-in for my goals. So check back later to see how I'm doing! More importantly though, what are your goals? I'd love to hear what you want to accomplish in 2017! And go!....
One hundred and thirteen days.
That is how long I have exclusively breastfed - not counting the two times we gave little man a bit of formula when he was 2 days old in the hospital to get him to wet his diaper.
One hundred and thirteen days is how long I have gotten up early to pump as needed.
One hundred and thirteen days is how long I have been at Mark's beckon call when he's hungry.
One hundred and thirteen days is how long I have been conscious about my schedule and how it will affect Mark's feeding schedule.
One hundred and thirteen days is how long dear husband and I have gone back and forth about how long we want to or can breastfeed.
In a recent post I did titled Breast is Not Best, we established that fed is best. Us moms need to stick together and more importantly support each other no matter what. Even if that means what's best for you and your child is completely different than what is best for me and mine.
So tomorrow, we supplement. And as I write that and say it in my mind, I am 100% completely OK with it.
Ask my husband, this has been a subject that has easily hit a nerve for me these past couple of months. All you mommas out there who have breastfed know exactly what I am talking about.
Sometimes it feels as if my life is not my own. Well...it kind of isn't.
Funny, and true.
I have given this breastfeeding thing my blood (not really), sweat (kind of when I am pumping while curling my hair - ha) and tears (yes, lots and LOTS of tears).
Tomororw is the day that we start to supplement.
We have decided to start supplementing now, while we still have a very small stash of frozen milk, to ease Mark into using formula. My non-negotiable is still pumping in the morning, which hasn't been a challenge since I get up early anyways. Then I will feed him at night time, and on weekends.
Here soon we are going to start introducing real foods to him, which is going to be a blast! And, my hope is that I can continue to breastfeed him every morning and night until he is a year old.
I'm very proud of myself for making it 16 weeks with exclusively breastfeeding. I'm kind of a super hero!!
For those mommas out there that have breastfed, no matter the length of time, KUDOS to you! And all other momma's who couldn't breastfeed, still MAJOR kudos to you! Don't let judge-y Janet get under your skin. Remember, FED IS BEST!
This story ends with me tearfully hugging my husband. But I will get to that here in a minute.
Mark tends to cluster feed on weekends when he is home with us all day. That makes sense since on weekdays I only feed him once in the morning from the source before going to daycare (I’m the source) and once, maybe twice, in the evening from the source before he goes to bed between 6-7 p.m. The rest of the time he bottle feeds pumped breast milk. So weekends it’s like he’s spoiled being around me where he’s able to feed from me anytime he wants.
Last night was like any other Sunday evening since having Mark. Lots of laundry, some cleaning, less organizing than we should’ve done, and plenty of baby cuddles. By the time 6 o’clock rolled around little man had eaten almost every hour for the past few hours. Thankfully in between feeds Mark is happy to lay on our bed with us, or in his rocker. He’s a very content baby and enjoys his alone time just staring at the white walls.
Not last night though. As he was laying in his little bassinet, which I was sitting beside trying to make him smile, out of nowhere he starts wailing.
And not the “I’m hungry give me a boob” wail, the “someone is hurting me and I’m in so much pain” kind of wail.
Without actually knowing who "they" are, I hear "they" say breast is best.
Well, almost 12 weeks in I call BS!!
Breast is not best. I repeat, as I stand shouting from a mountain top, BREAST.IS.NOT.BEST!!!
But I can tell you, as unequivocally as possible, what breast is.
Breast is hard.
Breast is stressful.
Breast is emotional.
Breast is exhausting.
Breast gives you anxiety.
Breast is time consuming.
Breast is (or can be) painful.
Breast makes you question your reasons. Daily.
Breast is getting up at 4 a.m. to pump to have adequate milk for the day.
Breast is starting petty arguments with your husband because of all of the above.
This is hard.
This will require lots of effort.
This will require deciding how important it is to you.
This will require a support network (for me, my husband, Dustin).
For all you moms, and especially new moms, you will know exactly what I'm going to be talking about.
The first couple times I attempted to leave the apartment sans Mark, I tried to time it just perfectly. Get ready to leave - i.e. get dressed, purse, shoes, hair, makeup, etc - feed Mark, give him to daddy, and then hightail it out of the house. While I never had anywhere I absolutely had to get to, my trips to Target or Market Street or Starbucks were a treat.
Buuuuut, they weren't really a treat.
It never ceased, I would be gone 30 minutes, thinking I would have at least an hour before Mark would even start to get hungry, even if then. But, then I would get a text from dear husband that little man was eating his hand. UGH! OK, no big deal, I will head home. See you soon daddy.
"How're my men doing?" I would ask upon walking in the apartment, only to be met with a sleeping baby and a husband who felt bad that I came home.
Oh well, I didn't really need to go out to get coffee. I have perfectly good coffee at home.
Now, repeat that same scenario but with me at the gym not even 6 minutes in on the treadmill.
We were all on struggle bus a couple weeks ago. But, we both know that this will not last forever.
Little man and I have really started to work well together, with the feeding that is. Because not only did I have to learn how to breastfeed as a new mom, but Mark had to learn to breastfeed as well. We sometimes forget that it's a two-way street with this.
Now that he is sleeping anywhere from 8-12 hours per night, I'm able to pump (if needed) at night time after he goes to bed, and first thing in the morning. He feeds on one side and I pump the other. Just in that one pumping session, I can get a solid 150-200 milliliters depending on how long I have to pump, which has proven to be one serving for Mark, depending on his hunger level and whether or not he is cluster feeding. However, yesterday he ate 240 mils in one sitting. WHAT!!!!
We also have about 15 frozen bags of pumped breast milk that I started to store up for when Dustin would stay home with Mark and I would be back at work. We were freezing about one a day, sometimes two, for a couple weeks. We only have to stick to that schedule for when Dustin is off for three weeks with Mark. Now that I am back at work, I pump in the morning and while at work. So far we have not frozen any more breast milk and have only had to use one frozen one.
Now that I am sort of a pumping machine, I am a LOT more comfortable with leaving the house since we have pumped milk that Dustin can use. Before I watched several YouTube videos on pumping and feeding techniques, I was struggling with both all the time. Feedings still hurt, and pumping wasn't really producing that much. (THANK YOU YouTube!!)
I would sometimes come home upset that Dustin had to use the pumped milk. Why? I was worried about whether or not we would have enough for little man for when Dustin is off for three weeks and I was back at work. It was either getting upset at Dustin using the milk in the fridge, or I would race home from the gym (a quick 5 minute drive) to feed him so we wouldn't have to use the valuable liquid gold, as they call it.
We are now in a good place with both feeding and pumping, I am in a much better mental state as well. Seriously!
Now that Mark is sleeping the night through, on weekdays I can wake up, feed Mark, pump, put Mark back to sleep, and head to the gym. Then on weekends, since I am a pumping machine, I can leave practically at any time to go to the gym and get a good workout in. And, I have to say, it really helps with my overall health and well being. That, and I am not texting Dustin every few minutes asking how little man is doing and whether or not I should come home to feed Mark.
Then once Mark gets big enough to fit in his jogging stroller, we can go on family runs together. And, once Mark gets to be three months old, he can go to the Kids Korner at the gym. That way Dustin and I can get back to lifting together (one of my favorites!).
I have to be honest, it is not easy fitting in fitness while feeding a baby, but with a little work - studying if needed - and a good and positive attitude, it is not impossible. That, and having at home workouts to fall back on. Check out my first baby wearing workout, which was a lot of fun, and very convenient too!
Then the biggest contributing factor in allowing me to fit in fitness is having such a supportive husband. He knows how important it is for me to get to the gym, and will assist in whatever way he can.
So, THANK YOU Dustin!
Pick out your outfits for the entire week. This is big. How many of you think about what you're going to wear, whether it's to work or out with your friends, and then change your mind last minute? I do it all the time! So Saturday I spent 30 minutes trying on clothes because, let's be honest, I don't actually fit in all my clothes still. I even asked my husband if some of them were professional enough or had too much cleavage, etc. I then hung them all up, in order of what day I was going to wear them. Yes, I even thought that through too. I looked at my schedule for the week and determined what outfits needed to be worn on what day (i.e. how easy of access do I need to the "girls" for pumping or feeding - LOL).
As far as a success rating of how my first day back at work went...I'd say it was pretty successful! However, I know I can do better.
The one thing I will continue to do is have a good attitude and stay positive no matter what is thrown my way (i.e. when I forget something - ha!).
P.S. I am going to gain some major strength from going to work every day. Today alone I had my purse, my lunch bag, my back pack and my work bag. Once I start taking Mark to daycare, I will have his diaper bag and him in his car seat. OMG! HA!
I shared on Instagram yesterday how, when I found a bunch of spilled breast milk in the fridge that I was beyond aggravated, annoyed and very upset. Yet, it was no ones fault, but still I was angry. I quickly realized once I defaulted to feeding Mark from the source (aka me) that I needed to choose my attitude. No harm, no foul.
Dustin always reminds me to not fret if there is nothing I can do about a situation. So, I didn't. I realized I was still able to feed Mark, and chose a good attitude.
Queue 6 hours later at dinner with my family, God was really testing me.
Mark was getting fussy and I proceeded to get the last bottle of breastmilk in our Tommee Tippee bottle warmer. And then, in an instant, which felt like forever, I saw, in slow motion, the bottle tip over and that liquid gold go all over the table. Gone forever. My eyes immediately swelled with tears.
Dustin said, "Glad you did that and not me or you would be mad."
I laughed a little because it was funny, but true. And sad.
In that moment I decided to choose my attitude. Wipe the tears away and remember there is no reason to cry over spilled milk.
Again, I was able to feed Mark from the source. It was as if the Breastmilk Spill of 2016 never happened.
Choosing your attitude can be trying, but it's so worth it when you choose a good attitude.
I don't need my husband to feel like I'm upset at him over something he had nothing to do with. And, I don't need to be upset at myself either.
So last night, I chose a good attitude, and am glad I did. I was able to enjoy my time with family and still feed my son, all while having a good attitude.
I was speaking with a friend about how life with baby is going. I told her if and when she gets pregnant and if and when she decides to breastfeed that we need to have a talk. A nice, honest, down-to-earth talk.
You see, I didn't have much information to go off of regarding breastfeeding outside of the one class we took two weeks before giving birth and information I found on the internet. None of that could prepare me for how hard breastfeeding was (and still sometimes is).
If I'm being completely honest, breastfeeding is a heck of a lot more difficult than giving birth was. Seriously. Below are my seven tips to you new momma's to be before starting the journey of breastfeeding (or not).
No class will really prepare you for breastfeeding.
I am an avid note taker in all areas of my life. My note taking abilities span from grocery lists to workouts to to-do lists. So when we went to the breastfeeding class, I was ready with pen in hand. Ha! The notes I took are meaningless, for real. It takes real world experience to really grasp the concept of breastfeeding. The questions you asked in the class will not even be close to the questions you will want to ask after you start breastfeeding.
Cluster feeding is a thing.
You will learn this by day 2. Apparently it is a known fact that babies cluster feed from day 2-3. So, prepare yourself. Wanna know how often Mark fed during that time? (Yes, I have lists of all his feeds and diaper changes from birth.)
8/15/16 - 14 times! - 5:50, 9:40, 10:05, 11:15, 1:15, 2:55, 4:05, 5, 6:05, 8:15, 9:05, 10:15, 11:02 and 11:30
8/16/16 - 18 times!!! - 12:30, 2, 3:25, 3:45 4:25, 4:40, 7, 8:05, 9:25, 9:45, 11:33, 1:30, 3:38, 5:57, 7:58, 9:45, 10:36 and 11:10.
Compare those feeds to yesterday (7 times) and today (10 times).
Schedule time with a lactation consultant.
Depending on the hospital or place you give birth, you might meet with a lactation consultant upon giving birth. Chances of you actually remembering what this LC says is slim to none, especially if this is your first baby. You are so enamored with your baby and preoccupied with pain in parts of your body you didn't realize could feel that level of pain. I endured 2.5 weeks of VERY painful breastfeeding, and then found the light at the end of the tunnel upon scheduling time with an LC. That changed EVERYTHING!
Ask your partner to go to the lactation consultant appointment with you.
This might be the most important one. Dustin was there with me when we took Mark to the LC. He was standing over me alongside the LC when she was showing me how to hold Mark's head for optimum results during breastfeeding. I could see him taking mental notes when she was telling me that it is OK to practically shove his face on the boob. After all, he does have a soft landing spot. And, most importantly, he was able to relay my struggles to the LC so she could better understand what we have been going through. Then, after we left the LC appointment, he was able to take what we learned back home. So when I was struggling at a 2 a.m. feed, he was standing over me telling me the latch looked good. Or reminding me that I needed to align his body better.
I can't reiterate this enough. BE. POSITIVE! On the days that it was most painful, before meeting with the LC, I would have to give myself and my son words of affirmation. Some examples - you are the cutest baby; you are doing so well; this will not last; we ARE getting better at this. I credit my positive and good mental attitude to my husband. He was my rock those first two weeks. He endured many nights of tears, and reminded me that we had to be positive. Mark can pick up on our demeanor and we don't want him seeing me get aggravating with breastfeeding when it's not his fault that we were struggling. Yes, breastfeeding is a two way street that needs to be learned by both parties; however, he is a newborn. Remember that.
This one is simple. The boob is for eating. Not sleeping. As cute as it is when baby falls asleep at the boob and you can stare so closely at their beautiful sleeping body, DON'T let it happen. If you continuously let your baby fall asleep at the boob, they are going to think that they can eat and sleep in the same place. If you want to be most efficient when breastfeeding, they need to know that once they fall asleep, the boob goes away.
Regardless of what you read on the internet, or hear from the people that know best, you do you. Do you want to breastfeed for a month? Six months? A year? Do it! Do you want to supplement formula? Do you. There is no right or wrong answer. Seriously. Yes, there are benefits to breastfeeding, but think of all the people who were not breastfed that turned out a-OK. There are so many factors that go into breastfeeding, whether or not you can or whether or not you want to. My only recommendation would be to at least try it.
Dustin has such a sense of humor, that is one of the things I love most about him. He always knows when and how to make me laugh. And, he can even make me laugh when I've been a real B-word. He can bring me back to reality when I'm an idiot. Knowing how rough I had it in the beginning, he found a way through humor to help lighten the mood.
He calls me the Bed & Breakfast of Kara. I'm Mark's food source, and boy loves to fall asleep on me.
When Dustin is holding Mark and I am eating, he will say, "Is your dinner eating dinner?" It gets me every time!
I'm happy to be my son's bed and breakfast. Now that we are 7+ weeks in to this, I feel 100% more confident in breastfeeding. I've gotten stronger mentally and Mark is really getting the hang of it. From my little notebook of the list of his daily feeds, they are getting shorter in minutes with more time in between. Little man IS getting more efficient, and it is so amazing to see. It took us both a while to get the hang of breastfeeding, but we did it!
What tips do you have for breastfeeding?
Mark is rustling. I can hear it. Maybe he's just moving around, or coughing. Yes, he's definitely coughing. OK, it stopped, I can get a bit more sleep. Darnit, he's making noise again. I will give it a couple minutes. If he is still making sounds in 3 minutes, I will get up.
I finally decide to look at my watch. You see, whenever I first hear Mark in the morning I sort of dread looking at my watch. What if it's only midnight and he's only slept for 4 hours? OK, just look at the watch.
5:00 AM - Sweet. I can deal with that. 3 minutes, that's what I will give him.
5:58 AM - I guess he stopped making noises because we both must've fallen back asleep. OK, there he is. This time is about right. 10 hours sleep. Guess I will get up now.
6:03 AM - Change and feed Mark (12 minutes)
6:18 AM - Lay Mark in bed next to daddy while I go pump.
6:55 AM - Make husband and I coffee
7:05 AM - Put Mark in his rocker (which is the best thing ever, he loves it!) While Mark is in the rocker, Dustin and I get to enjoy coffee together. I was able to post my New Mom Monday post. Husband and I also decided we need to take photos for Christmas cards. I immediately started to Pinterest ideas!
7:45 AM - Dustin leaves for work. I change Mark and re-swaddle him to see if he will go back down for a bit. I was able to do my makeup during this time. I like to have my makeup done, it makes me feel better; especially if I don't get out of the house all day.
8:15 AM - Realize Mark doesn't want to sleep anymore. Go in and change his diaper. While he is laying on the changing table, we spell his name over and over again. Above his changing table is his name, M-A-R-K. He loves when we spell his name and then say, "You're Mark!"
8:27 AM - Feed Mark (8 minutes) and play with Mark on lap after feeding.
9:00 AM - Put Mark in Glider in room. Make video of his sounds and laughing. No prompting by me for him to laugh. I put my phone on the tripod and walked away. He is just one happy baby. I absolutely love seeing his personality start to come through.
9:20 AM - He wore himself out from all the giggling and smiling and immediately passed out. So I started to tackle the mess of our room (TONS of laundry!).
9:47 AM - Mark wakes up hungry. Feed him for 11 minutes. Put him in his rocker so I can go take my vitamins and drink my meal replacement shake (my overnight oats didn't turn out too well).
10:00 AM - Change diaper then put Mark in his rocker. I then made more coffee and am sitting here blogging again.
This is about when I decided to stop with the exact timeframe of our daily routine. Why? Well, for a couple reasons. But, mainly this...
Whenever someone asks me about my day, I give them the honest answer.
"How'd Mark sleep last night?" "Great, actually, he slept from 8 p.m. to 5:30 a.m." "No way, you shouldn't be bragging about that. Other mother's won't appreciate that."
Yes, that is a REAL conversation a stranger had with me.
"Wow, you look really rested. I expected you to look frazzled and completely drained when I saw you." "Well, he slept really good last night so I did my hair today." "Well, that won't last, don't get used to it."
Too often, when I state a fact of how well Mark is doing, people (friends, coworkers, acquaintances and STRANGERS) will give me some rude and blunt comments back. Don't ask a question if you don't want the truthful answer.
So when I decided to do a blog post of what a day in the life of mom on maternity leave has been for me, I realized I will probably get backlash for this. As in, how do I have time to document my day?
It's easy. Dustin and I already keep track of his feeding schedule and diaper changes, so I can easily back into the rest of our day. Or I would text myself or make a note on my phone. But, since I decided I didn't want to document my full day, halfway through my day, it doesn't matter how often I fed, how many times I changed a diaper, how much he slept and what we did.
While our good days of sleeping a whole night through, self-soothing for hours on end and no crying far outweigh our restless nights, fussyness and wanting all the attention in the world, I have realized that you can't just win when it comes to talking about how you are doing as a new mother. Someone out there is going to make a judge-y or snide comment - most of the time to your face - whether you have good days or bad days.
This is my last week on maternity leave. I honestly cannot believe it. I have had some of the worst times (beginning breastfeeding where it was constantly painful, lots of biting and quite a bit of blood), and I have had some of the best times (watching my son giggle, hold his head up for a minute, enjoy his first bath, sleep through the night, and SO much more). It doesn't matter if I was able to document his day or not. Maternity leave has been a blast.
No matter how different your maternity leave has been compared to mine, just know that we have probably gone through a lot of the same issues! And, we all go through highs and lows. There's no way around that. Let's all just hope and pray the highs always outweigh the lows.
Hi there! I'm Kara, of taking KARA myself! I've dabbled in blogging off and on for a while now. Mostly off. But I'm trying to change that and make a dent in this side of the world wide web. Enjoy!