Graduated Learning: Life after College

I got my degree, I got a job…now what?

Maternity Leave: Plans vs. Reality April 24, 2016

I had big plans for my maternity leave.  I was going to read a ton of books!  I was going to use the bread maker every day!  I was going to binge watch Psych!

This wasn’t quite how things went.  My first days after giving birth were quite overwhelming.  I was either sleeping or nursing or eating.  Actually, that pretty much describes most of my maternity leave.  Oh and changing diapers.  Though I didn’t actually change any diapers until we got home from the hospital (husband or nurses did it while we were at the hospital) and I briefly got overwhelmed when I got home when just trying to change diapers.  But more on that in a post about diapers.

I tried to take advantage of “sleep when the baby sleeps” but at the very beginning, she only really fell asleep if you were holding her and then it was tough to put her in her bassinet after she fell asleep.  So, having family around to hold her while I got some sleep came in very handy.

I very much appreciated visits (and food) from family and friends.  Trying to make meals on top of everything else that needed to get done was just not feasible.  And it was nice to be able to socialize.   A few visitors also helped clean the house a bit, since at times trying to tend to dishes and other chores was also overwhelming.

As time went on and it was just me and the baby at home every day (husband was able to take a week off after we came home from the hospital, then my mom stayed with me for a week), the the routine of sleep, nurse, eat, also got a bit of laundry thrown in, and occasionally dishes (I could handle loading and unloading the dishwasher, but doing the big pots and pans was a bit much at times).  And I started making some simple dinners if the baby managed to fall asleep at the right time, or if I could wear her while working in the kitchen.

As for those big plans at the beginning:  I only fully read one book, and read part of three other books.  The book I fully read was recommended to me by a fellow new mom.  I’d recommend this book to other new moms planning to return to work and pump breast milk.  It was Work. Pump. Repeat.  It was very helpful to help me figure out how to get ready for pumping when I went back to work.  The other books I partially read included another book for working mothers, Working Mother Nursing Mother.  It came recommended to me by a few other folks.  I also found it helpful, but didn’t get to finish reading it before going back to work (I still have it and will probably catch bits of it when I can).  I also started reading Your Baby is Speaking to You, which had some fascinating insight on what exactly a baby is up to in those first few weeks.  It helped me understand a bit more the different movements and reactions the baby was having.  The other book I had started reading before the baby was born but I gave up on reading a week or so into maternity leave was The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  I had put it on hold at the library months earlier but it finally became available a week before I had the baby.  I am in definite need of tidying in my house, but I don’t think I can get through this book any time soon.

I didn’t use the bread machine once.  My husband did use our rice maker to make overnight oatmeal, which was delicious, filling, and easy to do.

Instead of rewatching all of Psych on Netflix, I went ahead and rewatched all of Parks and Recreation.  Totally worth it.  The last few days of maternity leave, I did actually start watching Psych.  Most of my Netflix watching happened when nursing or if the baby was resting but I wasn’t able to fall asleep.

I did manage to get out of the house a decent amount.  In the beginning most trips out of the house were for doctor’s appointments, either mine or the baby’s.  We didn’t leave the house much.  But after the first month, I did try to make the effort to get outside.  I put the baby in the stroller and ran local errands (drug store, library, etc.) or otherwise just explored our neighborhood.  I also met some new moms at the local “Baby Cafe” events.  These are meetings hosted by lactation consultants and other trained professionals for nursing mothers.  It was helpful to get out of the house, meet other mothers and hear about their experiences and what worked/didn’t work for them.  Plus the professionals had plenty of advice and would answer any questions new moms might have.  Here are a few north of Boston-area ones but if you live elsewhere you can find out about Baby Cafes (in the United States) here.  They were started in the UK, so there are quite a few there, but there are also some in a few other countries as well.

I went back to work this past Wednesday.  Unfortunately, my husband had to travel for work starting that same day, so I had to juggle daycare drop off and pickup, and then tend to everything at home.  But luckily I had prepped a huge amount of food before Wednesday so I could just reheat and eat when I had a moment to myself.  But very glad he’s back home!  And I am very grateful to my boss for allowing me to work more flexible hours in order to accommodate my schedule.  So I didn’t have to worry about how I was going to be able to do everything!

I’ll have plenty more to say about being back at work, having my child in daycare all day, and other observations about being a working mother, but for now, that’s a good starting recap for what my maternity leave was like.

How did your maternity leave plans compare to reality?

 

 

 

The pregnant scientist March 1, 2016

Filed under: Pregnancy — Stephanie @ 9:10 am
Tags: , , ,

The convenient thing about this pregnancy was that I finally got a smartphone only a few weeks after finding out I was pregnant.  This meant when I was out at a restaurant and wanted to know if I could eat something or not (was it one of the “not while you’re pregnant” foods?) I could go ahead and google it really quickly.  Of course, googling other pregnancy related topics while pregnant can lead you down a rabbit hole of panic and worry.  DON’T DO IT.  Even though I did.  The few times my OB/GYN mentioned a minor concern, you bet I googled the topic until I was basically in tears with worry.  And then of course there was no actual issue after all.

This all being said:  searching online for answers during pregnancy can be both useful but also misleading if you’re not looking in the right places (Avoid pregnancy forums!  Stick to trusted sources!)

So, I got a pretty good idea of what foods I should stay away from.  I even read the book Expecting Better before getting pregnant, so I got a good idea of why certain foods were on the restricted list, and what foods were actually okay to eat.  Basically:  listeria is one of the top worries for foodborne illness, but it’s also the most difficult to reliably prevent😦

Another (of many) upsides of reading Expecting Better was finding information about other potential hazardous exposures, like mercury (i.e. what fish I should eat and what fish I should avoid) and what medications and products were safe to use while pregnant (I found out about safefetus.com which I checked whenever I was prescribed something new or wanted to use something over the counter).  Of course, you can also ask your OB/GYN or Midwife if you have any questions about medication (or other concerns!)

But one other concern that came up for me was the safety of my baby while I worked in the lab.  I spend a good part of my time in a research lab, so I wanted to make sure I wasn’t exposing my baby to anything in utero.

I reached out to one of my twitter friends, @Chemjobber , who had in the past posted a link to a reddit page where people discussed the potential hazards of working in certain environments while pregnant.  I asked him if he knew of any good resources for figuring out what to avoid besides using MSDSs.  He in turn reached out to a colleague who wrote a post on additional advice for scientists who are or plan on becoming pregnant.  He also sent along a few other links to check out.

Now that we have our adorable baby and I’m breastfeeding, I’ve found yet another resource for what medicines and other products are okay while breastfeeding, LactMed.  Similar to safefetus, it reviews what medicines and other chemicals are safe or dangerous while breastfeeding.  (I also came across this list of other resources from Kelly Mom) Again, don’t be afraid to ask your OB/GYN, Midwife, or Pediatrician if you have a concern about what you can or can’t use while breastfeeding!

What were your go-to resources when you had questions about what you should/shouldn’t eat/do/be around while pregnant?

 

 

 

 

Everything’s Different Now February 12, 2016

Filed under: Pregnancy,Uncategorized — Stephanie @ 8:52 pm
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I’ve been a bit MIA on the blog.  Partially because I didn’t feel like I had much to say.  But partially because I was nervous to blog about my pregnancy.

So, the good news is:  I had a baby!

My husband and I are overjoyed!  And also exhausted.

The pregnancy definitely had ups and downs, including a few moments when doctors thought things might be wrong with my baby.  But in the end, we have a healthy baby and couldn’t be happier!

In the words of Mabel from Gravity Falls:  Everything’s different now.

I’ve been unsure about blogging my birth story because a) I’m not sure anyone would actually care to read it and b) maybe it’s just a bit too much oversharing.  Let me know if you’re interested in reading it (or think I should skip it).

I’m not sure how much I will continue blogging.  There are bound to be things to write about (we’re still house-hunting, and of course there are lots of money things to discuss when it comes to raising a child) but I’ll look to you guys for feedback and thoughts on what I write.  As always, you can see my thoughts about baby farts and naps by following me on twitter.

 

 

That time something cool happened on the internet April 11, 2015

Filed under: Just for Fun — Stephanie @ 7:37 pm
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So, this really has nothing to do with personal finance or fitness or any of my usual topics. It just is a fun story I wanted to share.

I now have a theme song.  For the details behind how I gained a theme song, read the rest of the story below.

 

You may or may not know I love listening to podcasts. I especially like listening to them on car rides, on my jogs, or even during tedious tasks like doing the dishes.

Well, one of the podcasts I really enjoy is How to Do Everything, which is made by Mike Danforth and Ian Chillag, producers of Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me.  It’s a super fun podcast where people submit questions on, well, how to do everything, and they get experts to answer the questions.

Another podcast I’ve been enjoying is Reply All, the first podcast to come out of Gimlet Media (not including the podcast exploring the starting of Gimlet Media, Startup).  I also like TLDR,which is a podcast that came out of On the Media.  The guys who started TLDR are now the guys who do Reply All.  Both podcasts explore strange and interesting things related to the internet.

Another thing Reply All and TLDR have in common besides their co-hosts Alex and PJ is the creator of their theme song.  In the credits for both shows, they’ve told the audience that their theme song was written by “the mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder“. (in case you’re curious, here’s the TLDR theme and the Reply All theme).  A lot of music heard on Reply All is made by Breakmaster Cylinder.

Well, one day, I suggested on twitter that the HTDE and the Reply All guys should interview each other.  The Reply All folks said they love HTDE, but claim they don’t know how to do anything.  So I suggested that they could tell them how to get Breakmaster Cylinder to write a theme song for you.  And that’s when Breakmaster Cylinder chimed in, initially by typing out what my theme song could sound like.  Then, a day later, he sent me a link to MY THEME SONG!

Like I said, it’s just a silly fun story about how interacting with people on the internet sometimes results in something fun and awesome.  Now that I have a theme song, I feel like I should have a podcast of my own.  Would you listen to a personal finance podcast from me?

 

Walk for Hunger: Because it’s not over yet April 9, 2015

Filed under: Boston,Fitness,Food — Stephanie @ 7:42 pm
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CIMG0259 In less than a month, I’ll be joining thousands of others in walking 20 miles throughout Boston and neighboring cities for Walk For Hunger.  The Walk for Hunger is an annual fundraising event run by Project Bread to raise money and awareness to combat hunger.

This will be my 4th year participating in the Walk For Hunger. I’m happy to say that for the past 3 years, I’ve raised more and more money each year. I passed $1k my first year, $2k my second year, and raised over $3k my third year. I’d LOVE if we could raise over $4k this year, but we’re still a ways away.  I believe in this cause, and I love that this program allows me to help people gain access to healthy, nutritious food.

So, again this year, I’m asking for your donations.  Any amount you contribute can help!

As in years past, my blogging friend Joe Taxpayer has put forth challenge funds. This year his challenge is the same as last year: When we raise $1k, he’ll contribute $500, and when we reach $2k, he’ll contribute another $500. It’s a great added incentive to get everyone to donate!

How can your contribution help?  Below are just a few examples:

$25 Provides a nourishing hot meal for 15 people at a community supper program
$50  Helps a low-income family purchase $100 worth of fresh produce at a farmers’ market through double value coupons
$100  Provides grocery gift cards to low-income seniors.

The good news is, any donation, big or small, helps get healthy, nutritious food to those in need!  Even $5 or $10 makes an impact!

And if you donate, you can see if your employer will match your contribution.

Also, if you’re local, you can also help out by volunteering, either before, during, or after the Walk!

Or join me in walking!  You don’t have to walk all 20 miles if that’s too intense for you!  You can sign up as an individual walker or join a team (look to see if your company has a team!)

If you have any questions about how you can help, let me know!

Thanks for all your support!

[Edit:  For those of you wondering, we didn’t hit $4k this year, but we did raise $3016!  Thanks for all your support!]

 

Our Honeymoon to Ireland: Day 1: Dublin March 16, 2015

Filed under: Travel — Stephanie @ 7:40 pm
Tags: , ,

I suppose I should actually start this trip with Day 0:  leaving Boston.  Our flight left Boston at 9pm Monday night (June 30th), and we tried to get a little bit of sleep on the flight.

We arrived in Dublin July 1 at 8am Dublin time, which is equivalent to 3am Boston time…so we were a little bit sleepy still.

Picked up our rental car, making the executive decision that I would be the sole driver experiencing driving on the other side of the street.

We drove to our hotel, and attempted to check in, but we were too early.  We got advice and a map from the hotel concierge so we could explore Dublin for a bit before our room was ready.  Got our first Irish Breakfast of the trip at Candy Cafe per the recommendation of the concierge.  It would be the first of many Irish Breakfasts.

We continued on our walk, stopping by the Garden of Remembrance, and heading down Parnell Square East–>Cavendish –> O’Connell Street Upper.

Made our way to the Trinity College campus, and hung out in a lovely courtyard.   Saw a very cool sculpture commemorating the Nobel Prize won by Ernest T.S. Walton.

Apples and Atoms

At this point, we sat down in the courtyard to review our next steps.  It was at that moment that we realized just how insanely exhausted we were.  While I tried to read through my guide books, my husband fell asleep on me.  Then I started nodding off.  So we made our way back to the hotel to take a nap.  We weren’t really going to make much progress without some sleep.

After a nice long nap, we headed back downtown the same way, and briefly popped into the National Gallery of Ireland, but they were just about to close, so we got only about 15 minutes worth of art.  We then explored the fun sculptures and lovely greenery of Merrion Square Park.  Then we made our way to the Temple Bar area to meet up with some of our friends!  They had actually been at our wedding, then flew out to start their Ireland vacation as well!  We had dinner at at The Port House.  It was a traditional tapas bar.  Not the most Irish option, but it was really delicious.  We laughed when we saw that one of our “vegetable” options on the menu was deep fried cheese with honey.  Of course we ordered that as one of our options!  (and that wasn’t the only time we had fried cheese that week.  Because why not?)

We grabbed some gelato nearby for dessert, then explored more of Trinity College, including watching some of the World Cup game at The Pav, the campus bar.  We started feeling sleepy again during the game, so we made our way back to our hotel.

Great way to kick off our honeymoon!

Here are a few photos from our first day in Ireland!

 

This snow makes me want to move! February 25, 2015

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 10:18 pm
Tags: ,

I can’t believe we’re finally in a week where no major snow storms are predicted for our area.  You’d think after growing up in Buffalo, and then living in Boston for most of my adult life, I’d be used to all this snow.  NOPE.

I know I should count my blessings.  There are many people living in Boston who have been hit much harder by these storms.  Our public transit system is still not back to normal and may not be for days or weeks!

But it does get me thinking about wanting to move.

I actually don’t mean moving to Florida or California or Hawaii.  I just mean moving to our own house.

I love our current apartment.  The landlords are great, with adorable kids, and they’ve been really accommodating during this storm.  During the first Blizzard (Juno) they even helped me dig out my car, then moved my car into their driveway (where they’ve been letting us keep one of our cars overnight since the snow emergency went in place February 2nd) and that day they even invited me up for some tasty soup and a movie!  They’re good people.

And I love our location:  close enough to public transit and good restaurants but also pretty close to the highway so we can hop on the highway easily for our daily commutes or a trip up to Vermont.

But one of the issues that has made me a little bit crazy is the winter parking situation.  I’ve been dreaming of a place with a garage.  And even with a driveway, as long as we got a snowblower.  I know this makes me sound spoiled, but one of the things that makes me stress out beyond having to shovel out my car after a storm is worrying about if there will still be a spot available when I come back from work or the grocery store or visiting a friend.  There’s plenty of argument around whether or not space savers should be used (and in many cities, they’re technically illegal).  With a parking ban which was in effect for 3 weeks (which means we couldn’t actually park on the street in front of our house, or on the odd side of the side streets), there’s mathematically not enough space for every car that needs to park.  So any time I left, I worried I’ll come back and have nowhere to park my car.

Phew.  See, it’s this tiny issue that makes me go from calm and collected to raving mad.  Again, I realize how lucky I am otherwise (at least I have a car that I need to park!), but it just stresses me out!

So.  I’d love to buy a house somewhere, in part, so I can have a garage.  It’s not the only reason, of course.  After we got married, we’ve been thinking more about those “next steps” (having kids, buying a house, etc. etc.)  So, we’ve started scanning Zillow for potential houses.  Of course, within this search is trying to figure out WHERE to move to.  Like I said, we like our current location for convenience to all sorts of things.  But buying a house much closer to work (~20 miles from our current location) would be convenient, especially if we’re thinking ahead to kids (preschool, school, etc.).  But moving away from our current area means moving away from most of our friends, including quite a few who are car-less.  I have faith they’d manage the public transit or Zipcar option, but I worry we’d see a lot less of them.  Then again, they say when you have kids, you don’t see much of friends anyway, so maybe that’s where we’re headed?

Beyond location, my husband and I have to start thinking about what we want in a house.  We know we want a back yard (and of course, that coveted garage!) but how many rooms?  What style?  A move-in-ready house or one that requires lots of work and upgrades?

I think our next steps, if we decide we want to start seriously considering buying a house, is to get pre-approved for a mortgage.  We’ve both been saving up money for ages for a down payment, so hopefully we’ll have enough to buy something when we do start looking!

How has the winter storm impacted you?

p.s. special thanks to Anne and Alison for their tweets that got me started on this blog post!

 

 
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