March 30, 2015

Maternity Leave and Motherhood

I am now back at work after a 14 week maternity leave.  While I anticipated tears and immense heartache, neither occurred.

For one, I work from home a couple days a week and have a nanny who comes over to watch Zoey so if I want, I can see Z and/or eat her cheeks by way of giant kisses.  This saved some serious emotional breakdowns.  Two, I have a great nanny who, during her trial gave me peace and confidence.  Three, I am pretty sure some crazy God miracle is happening.  Honestly.  Because how could any mom not be a crazy wreck?  The fact that I am not is either a) because of aforementioned miracle or b) because it hasn’t happened YET and will or c) I’ve lost all of my emotions.  I’m going with A.  Final answer.

Okay so anyways.  Maternity leave.  Was amazing.  Like beyond amazing.  I loved every single solitary second of it, including the no sleep and raging hormones and wanting to punch Rick in the face sometimes.  Okay, not really on that Rick comment but no sleep + raging hormones has to end in some level of physical outrage, right?  Yeah.

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In all seriousness, I am SO thankful for the time I had with Zoey.  And I thought I would share with you my top 10 takeaways from maternity leave, including a few pieces of advice (since I am this expert mom now).

1.  Plain and simply, I just love spending time with Zoey.  I love changing her diaper.  I love going on walks.  I love the snuggles.  I love the tears.  I love it all.  And on maternity leave, you are with child, pun intended, basically 24/7 so I am happy that I loved it.  Yeah, I know, you are reading this and thinking “um, yeah, no kidding, Ann!  Every mom loves spending time with their kids!” Well, it’s not true.  I have talked to moms who couldn’t wait to get back to work.  That wasn’t me and I would have given my left arm to get another 14 weeks with her.

2.  I logged into my work email a total of 4 times in 14 weeks.  I’m considering that a huge win and it was so worth it and good and right and healthy.  I’m sorry, Starwood and all companies, but, the U. S. of A. hasn’t caught on to what true maternity leave should be (my vote would be one year) so the fact that us ladies who give birth only get 8 weeks, legally, is nothing short of an awful joke.  And these precious moments come and go in what feels like ten minutes.  So, work truly was put on hold for me and I focused totally on this little girl.

3.  A lot of women told me to rent a bunch of movies on netflix or watch a lot of TV and all that jazz.  I am not so sure about that.  While, yes, the TV was on in the background sometimes and yes, I caught some HGTV, Rachel Ray and The Pioneer Woman, I really didn’t watch that much TV during the day.  I guess maybe because I don’t watch TV in general and would prefer to read blogs or blog myself.  Maybe that’s why.  But I am here to tell you…don’t worry if you don’t watch a ton of TV.

4.  I met moms.  Moms that live in my neighborhood.  And moms that are great and loving and smart.  Enough said.  All you moms out there get this, I am sure.  And if you are a mom and you see a new mom with a baby, reach out.  Say hello.  Ask her to have a cup of coffee.  You could honestly change someone’s life by doing some of these simple gestures.

5.  Before having Zoey, I dreaded the sleepless nights and sleepless life to come.  After Zoey, it doesn’t bother me for a second.  Two reasons why.  First, I may be the only one BUT, I think God gave me some crazy hormone or weird adrenaline thing that completely got me through my days, no problem.  I can count on one hand the amount of naps I took.  BTW, that whole “sleep when the baby sleeps” advice is a cruel joke…more on that later.  Second, I loved my nighttime feedings with Zoey.  They were intimate, peaceful, quick and thankfully she is a great sleeper at night.  She fussed a little, I feed her and 15 minutes later we are all back to our deep sleeps.  Yes, I am lucky.

6. The schedule saved me.  And will save me.  I had basically one giant goal with Zoey and that was…a schedule.  Admittedly, I pushed a bit too hard when she was like 2 weeks old and I wanted to get her to get an eating routine and sleep 12 hours straight (is that too much to ask a 2-week old?).   Kidding, I wasn’t that crazy, people.  But at around 6 weeks we solidified the schedule and stuck with it and forged through and it has been a life saver.  I used a few resources including a book called 12 hours by 12 weeks, a book called Babywise, a book called Happiest Baby on the block, some friends and my own gut.  Combine all of those and we have a solid schedule for her feedings and naps.  She loves her crib, sleeps well, eats well and therefore, all is well in the Ueno household.

7.  Living in Miami while on maternity leave during the best 14 weeks of the year, weather-wise?  Yeah, that was amazing.  The walks and fresh air and dining al fresco on Lincoln Road and shopping with Zoey and sun and did I mention fresh air?  I won’t ever forget those outdoor moments!  So my advice?  Move to Florida, in April, while you’re 3 months pregnant, have the baby in November and take the rest of the winter off to raise that precious child.  :)

8.  Apart from my new mom friends I met in Miami, I had two friends (one in CA, one in NY) that both had babies around the same time as me.  They have been an awesome part of my journey and it has been great to share and laugh and joke and complain and give advice and get advice and text at 3am and then again at 5am and then again at 7am.  Never underestimate the power of super long texts.

9.  I took my first weekend trip away from Zoey just a couple weeks before going back to work.  And it was one of the best decisions of my life.  First, it was for the IF Gathering which in-of-itself is made being away worth it.  But second, it was just so great to step away from my 24/7 Zoey life and do something else for 72 hours.  And third, Rick and Zoey had an amazing weekend and bonded and he loved it and she loved it.  Fourth…sleep.  I highly recommend getting away, even for 24 hours.  To take a breath.  To get your head above the water and the bags removed from under your eyes.  To reflect.  Yes, it’s hard and yes, I missed Zoey.  But it was worth it times a thousand.

10.  I had so many women and moms and friends and family cheering me on.  Ladies, we have to cheer each other on.  I will never forget the phone calls, the visitors, the neighbors who dropped by, the words of wisdom, the ears that listened to me, the emails written.  I felt encouraged, inspired, connected.  I felt fortunate.  I felt known.  I felt understood.  And when you are a first-time mom having no clue what you’re doing, having hormones that consume you, in a city where you know virtually nobody, having women step into my life, slowly and intentionally was incredible.

March 24, 2015

Words of Wisdom

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March 17, 2015

Design in Color // Pink Living Spaces

Maybe it’s because of having a little girl or maybe it’s because I love the tones and variations you can get with pink, but, either way, I sort of love how the below spaces incorporate pink.  Sometimes subtle, sometimes bold.  In all cases, chic, bright and colorful.  Love.  What do you think of pink living spaces?  Yay or nay?

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March 15, 2015

My Thirty-Fifth Birthday

Cheers! Salute! Cin cin! Salud!  I’m 35, alive and well.  And boy does it feel good.

Here’s a secret about me, in case you didn’t know:  I love birthdays.  Love them.  I love celebrating people and giving gifts and being reminded of how awesome life is and how fortunate we should feel being one year older.   I love the candles and balloons and hugs and cards and cake (and/or cupcakes; both are perfectly acceptable) and wine and cocktails and food.  And most importantly, I love the moments, the oh-so-special and intimate moments with those you are celebrating with. Because let’s be honest.  Blowing out candles, eating cupcakes and drinking wine alone is just another Thursday night, right?!  Ha.  Maybe the cupcakes and wine part. 

But blowing out candles, eating cupcakes and drinking wine with friends and family (or friends you consider family), celebrating life, is truly a gift in of itself.  It’s a blessing.  A blessing that, this year, for me, made my heart explode.

Rick, knowing I love hosting gatherings in our house, had an idea to hire Mr. Paella for my thirty-fifth birthday.  Mr. Paella is an alleged true Miami experience…a right of passage, if you will.  So.  I invited some of our new-found, special Miami friends to come over, drink Sangria, eat paella and toast to 35.  Backyard, candles, dining al fresco, good food, even better people.  Birthday perfection.  Well, except that it rained and so the party and paella cooking had to come inside. #improvise

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And an hour before party time, I was welcomed at my front door with our dear friends from Chicago.  What?!  Surprise!  And then moments later, two more friends from Chicago came in through the back door.  Double surprise!  Oh my gosh…

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And then one-by-one, more people came through the door.  And drinks were served.  And worlds started colliding like fireworks on the fourth of July.  And my heart began to do a little pitter-patter.  Because looking around your house and seeing the faces of people you call friends, people you love and people I never even knew existed six months earlier is remarkable.

And we toasted.  And I opened gifts.  And we ate.  And talked.  And my Irish friend talked to my Cuban friend.  And my friends from Palestine talked to my friends from the Ukraine and Russia.  And my Chinese friends talked with my European friends who talked with my Argentinean friend who talked with my Japanese husband.

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And this is the beauty of birthdays.  Of celebrating life.  Of taking a risk and moving to Miami where just months earlier, I didn’t know anyone.  This is the beauty of people coming together, in our house, and remembering, God does all things for good.  And God is creative and awesome and faithful.

I am so incredibly thankful to be thirty-five.  To have a husband that plans super fun parties and surprises me.  For friends that show up, near and far.  For a sweet daughter who slept 12 hours (best birthday present ever) that night…and the next.  For cupcakes and food and wine.  For a reason to toast and celebrate life.  For Miami.  The weather, the people, the paella.

Here’s to a brilliant year ahead.

February 26, 2015

Halfway to 35

Hellllooo!  I am still alive and well in the absence of social media, if you can believe it :)  Yes, I know, it’s crazy to think life goes on and can be lived just as well, if not better, without it.  Remarkable, ha?!

17.5 days ago, precisely, I started a little 35 day journey of writing, reading and fasting.  Writing about whatever comes to me in the first 45 or so minutes after waking up and before little Zoey gets up.  Reading through the book of Joshua.  And fasting from social media.  I have received texts, emails and phone calls from people cheering me on and asking me how it’s going.   So today, I thought I would share with you a few things that I am learning.

The first thing is this.  God has to be first in my life.  It’s no coincidence He asked me to get up before my whole family and spend time with Him.  First.  I’m not going to lie, what it means to have God first is huge and scary and I actually get a little uncomfortable writing it down right now.  Because what does that even mean, how does it really work and do people think that I am crazy?! But instead of going into freak out mode, I am going to just continue making Him first each morning and not worry too much about it.  He has definitely spoken to me, inspired me and challenged during these mornings and that, my friends, has been remarkable and gives me a thirst for more.

Second.  I am learning to live a bit more in the present.  Living for right now, for today.  Listen.  I actually cannot stand the clichés of “one day at a time” or “be present” or “present over perfect” and the list goes on.  Sometimes I think people post those quotes and actually have no clue what it means to live them out (ahem, guilty as charged).  Because I would argue that 99% of human beings struggle with this.  Actually, I change my mind.  100% of human beings.  Living right now, for today, without worrying about tomorrow or the next day is borderline impossible.  At least for me.  But for some unexpected reason, God is slowly (double emphasis on the word slowly) showing me how to do this.  One example I’ll give you is this.  We recently took our first trip to Chicago.  With a newborn.  For a  work conference.  Sandwiched and squeezed in between visiting friends and family.  My brain couldn’t help but go into the stress of it all.  How will we get to Brenda’s house?  When will I pump?  (sorry, TMI)  What if Zoey doesn’t sleep?  What if I don’t sleep?  And the list went on and on and on.  And God intervened, like he usually does, but this time I was listening and hearing.  And he stopped me.  And said, Ann, today.  That’s all you have to face. Just today.  And I’m with you today and my mercies are new each morning.

So instead of STRESSING about today and tomorrow and the next day, I started to live today, appreciate the  moments and be thankful for them.  I remember nursing Zoey and having a couple of hours with her before visiting like 74 people over the course of 3 days and my mind started racing.  And then I stopped.  I soaked up that moment while nursing her and told her that we were going to have a mommy/daughter morning in the hotel.  We snuggled and played and laughed.  It’s quite amazing what happens when you just stop and change your thinking into the present moment you are in.  Needless to say, my days have been substantially different and noticeably better and more peaceful. 

And the third and final point I’ll share with you (I have many more, but, just giving you a little insight into what is happening!) is regarding my social media fast.  I literally have not been on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter or my blog in 17.5 days.

I would be a big fat liar if I told you I didn’t miss it.  I do feel disconnected.  And I do feel a little bit that I am missing out.  On what?  I guess just being a part of people’s lives cyberly (yes, I just made up that word and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be the word of 2015).  Or sharing pieces of my life.  Moments that I want to desperately communicate as I think a few words or a picture could inspire or help someone.

And with all that said, conversely, I do feel a little less handcuffed.  I am able to be more present.  My mind is clearer.  I go to bed earlier. (Before, I would go on Facebook before bed and next thing I knew, 30 dang minutes had passed!  People, sleep is precious when you have a newborn and I would literally lose 30 minutes, sometimes more, on Facebook when I should have been sleeping!)  It is making me that much more focused in these 35 days and does, absolutely, help me to pay more attention to real life.  I can’t say something crazy remarkable has happened but, I am still in the midst of the fast and going to forge ahead.

So there you have it, friends.  A little sneak peek into what God is doing and what I am learning.  I have about 8,000 words typed.  15 pages.  Many new thoughts, some messy, others inspiring and exciting.  A few clear takeaways.  Small triumphs of clarity for my life.  Awesome, intimate time with God.  Some disappointing mornings where I feel nothing, hear nothing.  Tired days (getting up at 6am often times makes for a delirious, emotional Ann…just as Rick…it’s super fun).  Purposeful mornings.  Confusing moments.  It’s awesome and I have to say, I am excited for the next17.5 days of this 35 day journey!

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