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My 3 tips to adjust to pumping breastmilk at work

My 3 best tips on how to adjust to pumping breastmilk at work

Last week, I texted my cousin-in-law about her transition back to work after maternity leave. She was holding up but hating pumping at the office. It brought back a lot of memories for me, too. Here are the 3 tips I gave her on how I adjusted to pumping breastmilk at work.

First, my street cred

I pumped for a year-and-a-half in total. My kids are 19 months apart, so I never got out of the swing of things. I pumped on airplanes, in other countries, with a manual pump and an electric.

My first baby clusterfed…look that one up if you (like me) never heard of it before…and as a result, I had so much frozen milk, I donated 271 oz to babies in need through the Mother’s Milk Bank Northeast.

Credentials verified.

Here are three key tips I learned that I hope will help you or someone you know who might be struggling with pumping breastmilk at work.

Tip #3: brighten up the place!

My company moved offices when I was pumping. The first place I pumped was a dirty, dusty storage closet that shared a wall with our main boardroom. Pause. You know what that electric pump sounds like? Well, my firm’s all-male Investment Committee does.

It was depressing and embarrassing to pump in there.

In our new office, we upgraded to a room with a couch, sink and mini-fridge! But, that’s not what I remember most about it. People collected artwork and put it up in the “wellness room”.

It turns out, lots of people have one-too-many works of art in their office. Ask for donations. All of that artwork brightened up the room and the experience.

I understand that not every company dedicates a room to pumping moms. Sometimes, I pumped in bathrooms, in my car and underneath a blanket.

Just think out-of-the-box! Brighten up the experience with a blanket or nursing cover with a bright, bold fabric on the inside. Something that makes you smile.

Put some art in your pumping bag. Line the zipper flap with a laminated print (I like Rockwells) or put finger paint on your baby’s feet and make a sweet print of your own. Baby feet positioned just so can look like a flower, sun rays, butterflies, hearts, and more!

Tip#2: reframe your break time

Unless you’ve got some seriously odd ducks at your work, no one is gonna bother you while you pump. Enjoy your me-time.

Shut the door on all the craziness. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Relax your jaw. Roll your head around; loosen up your neck. If it sounds like a meditation, that’s fine. If you want it to be an effective pumping session, you should start by making an attempt to relax.

You’re going to spend the next 20 minutes connecting with your baby, not with your coworkers and the typical office nonsense like, having a meeting to plan the next meeting.

And anyway, it’s all temporary. In just a few months, you’ll be back to your old schedule. You can remind your coworkers of that fact if they’re fussy with all of your breaks.

Believe me, coworkers’ fussiness can’t compete with a 3 year old’s fussy time. Get ready. Actually, when baby is a preschooler, re-read my #1 tip to get kids to listen. I hope it helps.

For you, when the end of pumping comes it might be bittersweet…it might be a relief…either way, the end is not far from now.

I know it’s hard to plan for those break times. I know you might pump on the way to work in order to minimize your break times. Rushing to forced break times can be stressful.

The truth is, you’ve got to reframe it as a little calm respite. The more relaxed you are, the more you can focus on your baby, the more milk you’ll get.

Tip#1: get a good book!

I never read as much as I did while I was pumping breastmilk at work.

In retrospect, I was bored of tv.

Between waiting for the baby to arrive and taking some time off after, I watched shows and series and wanted something new. Books!

Someone left a copy of Gladwell’s The Tipping Point in our “wellness room”. That was the first book I read while pumping. It’s interesting and easy-to-read, but I quickly graduated to fiction.

I read American Gods by Gaiman (thank you to my friend, also named Tiffany, for that recommendation) and finally caught up with other moms on Fifty Shades of Grey.

Then, I started the Outlander series…but it took me over a year to read and listen all the way through to book 8. If you don’t mind not having a paper copy, your Audible app will sync with your Kindle or Kindle app on your phone or tablet.

To get through all 15,000 pages of the Outlander series, I listened on Audible during my commute and read on my Kindle app while I pumped or nursed. 

Oh gosh, and if you want nonfiction, the best books about pregnancy or childhood are by Dr. Emily Oster. Hands down.

Hey, you can always download a tv series and watch that instead of reading. I know plenty of great people who don’t read.

But, I’m still completely nostalgic for the feeling of anticipation I experienced when I knew that I would be near the end of an exciting chapter. I hurried to the “wellness room” to slap on my pump and pick up my book!

The anticipation to get back to a good book stays with you. It lingers. If you have any great book recommendations for other readers…please leave them in the comments! Thank you!

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The best, simple way to get kids to listen to you

smiling emoji

Back in the Fall, I posted an article about getting kids more involved in gardening with six simple garden tasks. Of course, if they are unlikely to listen, you might never get them to the garden to try out Step 1. With two kids, two nephews, a niece and a Godson, I’m no kid-whisperer, but I’ve learned something really critical about how to get kids to listen.

Whether the kids in your life are toddlers or teens, the time will come when you need them to do something. Give this idea a try.

Hey, I can’t guarantee you’ll get results the first time you try this technique. In fact, it’s more likely you will have to practice. But, once you get the hang of it, expect to get kids to listen more than half of the time…within 5 minutes of asking with no yelling, badgering, whining or door-slamming.


Imagine that you started learning a brand new language three years ago. You practiced every day. You feel pretty good about the effort you put into learning this new skill. You still might not be completely fluent, but you follow most simple sentences and can ask questions in your new language.

Now, imagine you are a guest speaker at a high school where the students are native speakers of your new language. You grab lunch in the cafeteria before your scheduled speaking time.

Great, it gives you a chance to listen to the native chatter. It’s noisy, but you manage to hone in on conversations happening all around you.

You catch some words here and there. You hear words that sound close to the words you know, but are they? You try hard to focus. Even so, by the time you translate a phrase in your head, the conversation moved so quickly, you’re lost again.

Your head starts to ache. You get cranky. You tune it all out. I know because it happened to me.

That was pretty much my experience when I lived in France with a roommate who spoke no English (except the word “jump”…um, unexpected).

We drove through Northern Italy in a tiny car with two of her friends. Every once in awhile, they stopped talking to take a breath and explain some slang to me. My head ache. I couldn’t translate fast enough. And, it turns out native speakers use a lot of slang. Whatevs.

Words, words, words

I remembered that car ride years later when I heard my husband (sorry, babe) speaking at our kid. For some reason, my loving, wonderful man-of-few-words saves them all up for fast-paced conversations at our kids.

Like, take a deep breath and read this quickly…”what are you doing? Why are you still playing with that toy? We’re late, again, and you don’t seem to care. You’re just sitting there, and oh my, oh come on, you took off your shoes? Why aren’t you wearing shoes? I spent 10 minutes picking apart the knots in those laces, and why do I even bother? Ok. Did you use the potty? Where are your boots? Just wear those. Let’s go. Let’s go. Put down that toy. No, just bring it with you. Oh man, where’d I put the keys? Has anyone seen the keys? Ugh, we’re late. Come on.”

People do this all of the time, don’t they? Put yourself on the receiving end of that loooong string of words, words, words. How do you respond when this happens?

I know, when I’m on a conference call and someone is speaking a mile-a-minute, dropping business buzz-words and going on and on, barely breathing so they can make every last point…I tap my phone on and look for a distraction. Or I just zone out, stare out the window, maybe raise my eyebrows and blink, hard. And, that’s after 38 years practicing English as a native speaker. The kids only started learning English a few years ago.

Get kids to listen

To a kid, it must sound like an auctioneer…or a bunch of slang-speaking young people chatting incessantly. There has to be a better way, right?

If it was you, how would you want to be treated?

Once I made the connection to the way I felt spending hours in that car with those native Francophones (fancy way to say people who speak French…you’re an Anglophone, btw), I decided to try getting my point across to my kids in one word.

When I really need the kids to do something, I think of the key word I need them to hear. It’s a fun challenge to try to convey what you need to in one word. But, with practice, it’s really possible.

For example…

Take the example of my husband trying to get the kids into the car. If I see that they took their shoes off, I look at them and say, “boots”. I don’t get mad. I don’t say anything else. I just calmly and say, “boots”.

The kid might start chatting about the toy they’re into, but I just smile and repeat, “boots”. Sometimes I have to say “boots” five times, but most of the time, with no frustration, the kid puts on the boots within a few minutes with minimal complaining.

One step at a time

Once the boots are on, I say, “car”. When we’re in the car, I say, “belt”. And so on. It’s not a perfect system. Of course, it doesn’t always work.

You get a feel for when the kids need you to squat down to their eye level and really listen to them. If they don’t feel like you heard them and you keep repeating just one word at them, it’s annoying. That would annoy you, too, I bet. Actually when that’s the case, I do more listening than speaking.

But, under ordinary circumstances, when I want them to do something…pick up a toy, throw something away, eat their dinner, go potty, wash hands, put on a coat, get in the car or buckle up…I say “toy”, “garbage”, “eat” (that’s a useful one), “potty”, “hands”, “coat”, “car”, or “belt”.

Sometimes, I do start with their name to get their attention. Then, I say the one word that conveys what I need them to do.

Find balance

Kids need regular conversation from you, too. I am NOT advocating for a steady stream of one-word commands to be spat at your kid like sunflower seeds. Find a balance between sincere conversation, active listening and the simple commands I mention here.

One of the best things you can do is look right in your baby’s eyes and talk to her. You should talk with your children about their feelings, their day, their art and anything important to them. Ask your kids to tell you the funniest thing that happened to them today. Have great conversations.

But, when you are running late, don’t get frustrated, don’t escalate and don’t get agitated. Just think of the one word that conveys what you need. Repeat it calm and clear.

Consider visiting that post I mentioned earlier, about encouraging kids to garden with you. And, you bet…in the summer, when the kids wake up in the morning, I pop my head into their rooms and say, “garden?”

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Gifts for kid gardeners – all gifts under $20

Let’s get the kids started early! These gifts for kid gardeners are interactive, educational and help teach patience. You can feel good that you aren’t just adding to the buckets of toys. Your gift can stand out and stand the test of time.

If you enjoy “theme gifting” for a family, gardening is the perfect theme!

Keep scrolling to find gift ideas for children of all ages, from babies to teens and all in-betweens. Some of these ideas would work for grown-ups, too, but that wasn’t my focus when I researched this list.

I put the work into compiling this collection of great gardening gifts for kids because, well, I’m buying these gifts for the kids in my life, too. As you read through, I’ll let you know in the comments if I bought one of these gifts or if we already have it.

It was a lot of fun to put this together. My imagination goes wild when I see these ideas. I hope you have fun scanning through this ultimate list of gifts for kid gardeners.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

A few tips to give you the best experience possible:

Just click on the photos to get more details and to see the prices. When I put this list together, all of the items were under $20. TIP: Make sure you read the expected delivery date before you place orders to be sure it will arrive in time! Check to see if you need seeds or if it already comes with seeds and soil.

If you need seeds for any of these gifts, I recommend these organic micro-greens for kids. TIP: Organic micro-greens are mild, sprout quickly and can be eaten right away. You can pour 50 of them into a little cup and most will sprout. Other herb seeds, like basil and parsley, are much more recognizable, but they take forever to grow.

More than 20 unique gift ideas for kid gardeners

Ok, enough of my tips and thoughts…here’s the ultimate gift list for kid gardeners:

Real, tiny succulent in a necklace

Whether the kids you are shopping for are five or fifteen, this real-life succulent growing inside of a tiny necklace is sure to be unique and memorable! I’ve never seen anyone with anything like this. Bring the garden with you wherever you go.


We have this toy! My kids loved it. First, they decorate the plastic jar. Then, they plant the seeds and watch them grow. You get enough seeds to grow the garden twice. TIP: to make the stickers glow in the dark, hold the jar up to a lightbulb for 10 seconds.

Baby book with a gardening theme

Perfect for those adorable little chubby fists to grab at this book. Baby can use all of her or his senses exploring these soft, interactive pages.

Grow plants and see the roots

A root viewer garden takes window sill gardening to the next level. Your kid gardener can see what’s happening above and below the surface of his or her garden. That actually gives them something to look forward to when the outdoor garden season ends.

For a toddler – Garden stickers for bathtime

Don’t worry. There’s nothing sticky about bath tub stickers. When these squishy foam flowers get wet, a toddler or young child can stick them to the tub or tile walls. I wouldn’t recommend this gift for a small baby. They might bite through the foam.

Great author for a gardening book

Here’s one I must have for my kids. We love reading books. We love gardening. Let’s put the two things together and imagine a garden in the world of wonderful rhymes and rhythms!

Complete grow kit

A little garden in a cup. These peas will sprout pretty quickly. The kids will think it’s a ton of fun. But, just to set your expectations, the plants likely won’t grow long enough to become edible pea pods.  It’s possible because peas don’t need a ton of light, but the chances that a kid will keep them watered and cared for long enough…low.

TIP: If you really want a garden the kids can eat quickly, keep scrolling an choose a DIY window garden, egg carton with grow lights or the stackable countertop garden with organic micro-greens.

Fairy garden

Who wants a plastic garden when you can have a plastic-live plant hybrid? Imagination goes wild!

Engineering a flower garden

Any gardening gift could be considered a STEM or STEAM gift (Science, Tech, Engineering, Art, Math), but this is a double-whammy build-able gardening gift with a heavy engineering component.

DIY Coloring Pillow Garden Scene

My kid would spend hours coloring in every little garden detail of this pillow. It’s a fun craft that becomes a useful pillow. Sounds like a win-win.

How do I buy one of these gifts?

Just click on the pictures!

Farmer’s Market board game

My kids beg for family board game night. Here’s a game for ages 3+ that brings the garden theme full circle to my favorite place…a farm stand!!  Double exclamation points for the first farm stand idea in my list of gifts for kid gardeners.

Grow light

No matter what time of year, if a kid feels the urge to grow plants, he or she can use this grow light. The light clips to a desk, table or chair. You might want to check Pintrest for craft ideas on how to make your own DIY planters. A couple of good ideas: egg cartons, plastic bottles, or disposable cups. Don’t forget to add a little sack of seeds.

Blocks that make flowers

Genius twist on the typical kid gift…blocks. These creative blocks grow into a mix-and-match garden. No messy soil for the parents to clean up.

Click on the pics to buy the gifts.


A doll with a garden and a farm stand!

You may be more familiar with her big sister, but this little set is the second farm stand themed toy on my list of gifts for kid gardeners. I love it. When I first saw it, I thought, “this is the perfect gift for all of my little farm stand lovers!”

750-piece Farm Stand puzzle

Another farm stand themed gift, a puzzle. Hey, I admit it. A puzzle is just an ok gift. Unless you catch a kid or a family who is really into puzzles. Like my dad and me! On my summer vacation to Cape Cod, I did two 1,000-piece puzzles. It’s a great way to spend quality time together.

Seed starter kit

If you’re going to get a seed starter kit, I’d say stay on the small side. There are 120-pod and 78-pod seed starters out there. Speaking from experience, that is so much work for the parents. This 24-pod seed starter is much more manageable. And, if the tray tips or gets knocked over, there’s so much less water to clean up.

Also, if you’ve been reading carefully, you know what I’m about to recommend…

TIP: Consider buying organic micro-green seeds instead of the totally tempting traditional herbs and veggie seed packets. Traditional herbs and veggies are great, but require a lot more care and patience than most kids have.

Best, most useful and tolerant live herb plant

But, if you love kids who have a 75% probability of not watering their plants enough, consider a live bay leaf plant. I love mine. L-O-V-E it. I forget to water it all the time. It doesn’t mind. It needs very little light, and you can add the leaves to soups, sauces, roasted chicken, and baked veggies. It’s not much of a gift, I know. We can fix that. Give them some creative craft supplies like stickers or decorative tape to decorate the container!

Farmer’s Market card game

The 750-piece puzzle I recommended a short scroll ago is way too advanced for little kids. But, this “learn your colors” farmer’s market puzzle would be great for the younger folks.

Secret Garden coloring book

Hidden within these intricate pen-and-ink garden scenes there are all kinds of little “treasures” to find. Good for school-age kids or older kids who are into the adult-coloring book craze.

Paint and plant garden

I promised to let you know when I was recommending something I was also buying. My daughter is 5 1/2. When I saw this gift, I knew she’d love to paint and plant a flower garden. Chances are, the flowers will never make it to a full bloom (marigolds take months in full sun), but the hand-decorated, farmhouse-style galvanized potter can be reused over and over.

Farm stand cart and market

Know anyone who loves lovable ice queens? The sequel to this famous movie is expected to come out in 2019, which means her popularity will go on and on for years to come. With this toy, kids can pretend this queen is just a humble farm-stand owner. Another great gift for my kids. Hint, hint Santa.

Seriously sprouting stacking mini-garden

Sprouts are great. As advertised, they sprout quickly. Kids can taste them, if they are a mild blend like this one. These four stackable trays are designed to save space and limit mess with super quick growing results.

Need more gift ideas. I recommend looking through a special site on called the Handmade Marketplace. Sellers in the Handmade Marketplace are reviewed by Amazon to be small, batch handcrafters. You’ll find lots of unique gifts from jewelry to goat milk soap to whiskey glasses and farmhouse ornaments.

To go directly to the Handmade Marketplace, click the banner above or stop by my latest review on the 10 best-selling handcrafted items on Amazon that aren’t booze glasses.

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How to be pretentious at a preschooler’s birthday party

My kids went to a private preschool. The place is awesome. It is in a custom-built, self-sustainable little schoolhouse on the grounds of a nature preserve. Tuition was more than the taxes on my home.

The teachers are kind and loving. The kids are learning and exploring. The parents range from frumpy to stuck-up. Fitting.

There is a series of sticky notes on the refrigerator in their little kitchen identifying a list of 20 items that cannot be in any of the snacks due to allergies or lifestyle choices. There are only 18 children in the class.

For the record, I am heart-broken for the parents who’s kids have allergies. It is terrifying to think that an accidental exposure could make your child scary sick. It is an absolute blessing for them to find a school as conscientious as our preschool. It is no trouble for me to make a sunbutter sandwich instead of peanut butter. Small price to pay.

True confession – I was a vegetarian for 10 years. I pass no judgement on vegetarians, vegans, keto, gluten-free, or just people who don’t like tomatoes. I applaud freedom and acceptance of healthier eating in almost all its forms. Do whatever works for you.

Ok, then, where is this going?

When you have a kid, you get a lot of birthday invitations. (If you don’t, check to see if your kid is kind of a jerk.)

Most parents at a kid’s birthday party hang back, chat to new people and check their phones. Some parents view a preschooler’s birthday party as an opportunity to boldly impress upon the world just how normal and fulfilling a low sugar lifestyle can be. You will come across more of these Fire-and-Brimstone Sugar Preachers if you send your kid to a self-sustaining preschool on the grounds of a nature preserve. These people are intense.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like the idea of my kids over-dosing on sugar. I don’t think a high-sugar lifestyle is healthy. Parents who are diligent about watching their kid’s consumption of sugar should be commended. It’s hard work to be consistent.

However, I have seen parents who take it to the next level. Parents so inherently judgmental and high-strung that they clearly view a preschooler’s birthday party as their golden opportunity to lead by example with a passion. As the party progresses, their voice becomes elevated. Their breathing grows shallow; their behavior is increasingly frantic.

Truth be told, a kid’s birthday party is just not the best place for a Sugar Preacher. But I’ll probably never convince one of that. I don’t think they are good listeners.

In reality, the more frantic the Sugar Preacher appears to be, the more the other parents brush off their words and actions. Hey, if you want to tell me about a delicious new bakery that makes low sugar, gluten-free cupcakes, I’ll listen up. After all, you had me at “delicious”. I appreciate some low-sugar eating tips. But here is a real-life, jaw-dropping example of extreme Sugar Preacher behavior.

The Sugar Preacher

Once upon a time, a Sugar Preacher was invited to a four year old’s birthday party. It’s no one’s fault. It just happened.

It started off well. She walked into the party room with a sweet little package wrapped in hand-stamped brown paper, what a cute and personal touch for a present. Lovely.

Then came the first sign of escalation in her behavior.

There were three metal bowls filled with rainbow goldfish crackers in a line down the center of the table. She shot them the stink eye.

The goldfish just smiled back. Way to antagonize, guys.

She strolled over to her daughter and, loud enough for the other parents to hear her, reminded the little girl not to eat any crackers. They’re not good for you.

When her daughter went over to check out the cooler, she hovered above her, “No juice, Honey. It is full of sugar.” Yeah, that was loud enough. We heard you, Sugar Preacher.

She seemed to hold it together through the fun and games. When the kids were called over to the table for pizza, she quickly whipped out a little snack pack of healthy food she had brought from home and set it down in front of her daughter. No problem, lots of parents bring their kids food from home when they are worried about allergies or ingredients in the party food. But by then, I think the warm scent of vanilla cake looming in the background sent her over the top.

She began a well-practiced sequenced with her little girl. “Now, Honey, there is watermelon here. I’m going to let you have a piece if you eat your healthy lunch but not too much.” The little girl replied, “I know, Mommy, because fruit is sugar.”

Too far, Sugar Preacher, too far.

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