I Wish I Would Have Known…

I chose to write this post as part of Life With Levi’s Breastfeeding Blog Hop. This week’s topic is “I Wish I Would Have Known”. Enjoy!

Before I became a mom, I knew that there were a lot of things about my life that would change. My evenings were spent reading books, magazines, blogs, and websites about pregnancy and motherhood. I would soak it in like a sponge, but I don’t know that I took more than 10% of it to heart. Now that I am a mom, I know that there are a lot of things that no book, magazine, blog, website, or other parent (or in some cases, non-parents ::ahem::) could have prepared me for. These are the things I wish I would have known…

There is no greater love than the love a mother/father has for their child. For me, I knew I was a mother the moment I found out I was pregnant, but I wasn’t a MOM until I heard Arianna take her first breath of life. Five months ago, I got to feel that joy again when Evan was born. From that moment, for each baby, all I wanted to do was hold them and love on them. Every day when I look at my babies, I feel that love wash over me again.

There is a good deal of guilt being a parent. About four and a half weeks into Arianna’s life, I had a mommy meltdown and I needed a break from her. The second I dropped her off with my friend for the night, I immediately wanted to turn around and get her back–why should I want to feel any joy without my baby? But I needed it. I was a single mom, taking care of my baby pretty much alone 24/7, and probably would have gone crazy if I didn’t take a little break, have dinner with my friends, and sleep in. Now, I feel guilty when my family drops me off at work because I am missing some of the “new” moments in their life. I feel guilty when I eat cheesy macaroni or buttered popcorn in front of lactose-intolerant A. Will the mommy guilt ever let up? Probably not, but I think it’s a good kind of guilt…it proves you are a good parent I guess.

There is a lot of pain involved in the first few days, but it goes away. Since I had an “emergency” c-section with Arianna and didn’t get to try VBAC with Evan (I met my scheduled date too soon), I can only talk about the pain of surgery regarding childbirth. That and weeks of contractions makes a body weak, tired, and battered. Anyways, the surgery, the adjustment to nursing, followed by odd body reactions–excretions that don’t need discussed, lead to the need for a lot of healing. I can’t tell you how quickly the pain goes away, but it does. But it is also painful, so I am not going to deny that truth.

How great baby wearing is when A was little. There is a great feeling when I wear Evan in our Moby Wrap–it reminds me of when I was pregnant and cradled him close. This is an amazing feeling, and I think that not enough people know how convenient it is to cuddle a baby close yet have two free hands (because when you wear a baby, you really SHOULD have two free hands, not having to support the baby all the time). I’ve been able to shop without a meltdown and walk without a stroller. I’ve found it also helps with those people who like to come up to babies and touch and coo. They still love to look at the baby and compliment how cool it looks to “wear” a baby–but there’s something about the baby being so close to their parent that keeps the touchie feelies at bay.

You have to be willing to laugh, and laugh a lot. There are a lot of opportunities to laugh as a parent, and you have to be ready to do it. Both of our kids give us so much to laugh about every day–attempts to roll over, grunts, singing silly songs, eating pints of blueberries without abandon–and we are thankful. It makes life worth living.

Be ready to get flack about your parenting choices, but remain strong. You, the parent, knows what is best for you and your children. Be it breastfeeding, diapering, discipline, education, childcare, religion, television, diet…there is going to be someone who has something to say about your choices. It’s important to have atleast one or two other people to turn to who understand your choices; however, you can’t expect everyone to agree with you. Keep your head up, and be proud to make your own decisions. It will make your child unique, and the world needs more of that.

And finally, Babies really do grow up fast!I can’t tell you how quickly the last two and a half years have flown by. Our daughter has gone from smiles and coos to talking in sentences, counting by twos, and trying to write her name. It feels like our son is doing everything his sister did at lightning pace. The whole “Cherish them, they grow up so quickly” sure is one piece of advice that I wish I really would have taken to heart. Sadly, there is nothing you can do about this one–they just keep growing (which is in itself a precious gift)!

Las Vegas: Day 2 (Part 2)

…or the one also known as “Dinner and a Show”.

A trip to Vegas really wouldn’t be a trip to Vegas without taking in a show. Personally, I am not a fan of all the “Cirque” shows–I am really afraid of clowns, thus in turn, I take issue with the faces on the Cirque artists. When we started talking about what show we wanted to see, Mr. Burgher and I were a bit perplexed. We knew we “had” to do a show, but what one would we find worth our time and money? Our traveling group offered a few choices, and for Mr. Burgher and I, we think the final one was the best. We went to see Recycled Percussion, a “stomp-esque” group that plays instruments made out of recycled materials. The show was very interactive (you got your own instrument to play along with the show), and the guys were all high-energy and entertaining. Doesn’t hurt that they have a great taste in music!

Here is a slideshow of photos from our dinner at Gallagher’s (a very tasty steakhouse in NYNY), a stop at the M&M’s store, and Recycled Percussion.

Las Vegas: Day 2 (Part I)

Our second day in Las Vegas also happened to be Mr. Burgher’s birthday. We woke up early (technically late Pittsburgh time), and took a cab into town (because it was too early for our hotel shuttle). When we read the Vegas books, we had a mindset to “see the world” of Vegas in a day; however, on our first night we took a long walk through town and basically saw the outside of many of the hotels on the south strip. We changed our plans and allowed for some extra time at some of the hotels for Mr. Burgher to take (1000s of) photos.

Our Vegas Rule #10: Do the Free! Our morning and early afternoon consisted of roaming the hotels and casinos in the middle of the strip doing mostly free activities. This helped us figure out places we might like to dine, stay, or play on a future trip. It also provided for some interesting photo opportunities to fill up our hard drives.

Our Vegas Rule #11: The best is at the back! We found that the best experiences were always at the back of the hotels (like the monorail stops). Obviously, the casino builders are smart–the more you walk through them, the more you are going to see and do. One of my favorite experiences was Siegfried and Roy’s Dolphin Habitat and Secret Garden where we got to watch dolphins, lions, tigers, and jaguars. It was a very serene location and you forgot that you were in the middle of a desert city.

Our Vegas Rule #12: Kiddos, stay home. While we were at the Dolphin Habitat, we felt like it was something that would be really cool for our kids to see; however, we made the immediate decision that we’d never bring the kids there. They can save up and come out when they are 21. Seriously, there were kids of all ages walking around town. Yeah, I understand families vacation together and there is plenty for the under 21/non-drinkers/non-gamblers; however, there is too much “trouble” that we don’t want our kids to see. It just is a decision that makes sense for our family.

Our Vegas Rule #13: Easy Walking One thing you have to really think about while in Vegas is how you are going to get around. The best way to get from one place to the other (for free) is to walk. Unless you need to be on the (west?) side of the strip (Caesar’s, TI, Bellagio, New York New York are some of the properties on that side), the easiest side to walk on is the (east?). There are a lot of steps and escalators to get you across streets on the (west) side. You can pretty much cross every street without going up and down on the other side.

Our Vegas Rule #14: Snack! There are plenty of great places to stop and smell the roses (so many great floral arrangements inside and outside the properties), but there are even more great places to grab a snack! I was lucky to find my favorite candy, Cinnamon Gummy Bears, at “It’s Sugar” in NYNY. We also found Godiva in the Venetian…hence the amazing chocolate strawberry banana kabob. Yum.

Our Vegas Rule #15: Take it in! Our absolute favorite part of the trip was our gondola ride in the Venetian. We got to sit back and just look at everything along the route. Our gondalier sang three songs plus Happy Birthday in Italian. Truly a special moment, one we are glad that we stopped to take time to do.

Las Vegas: Day 1

Two weeks ago, Mr. Burgher and I went to Las Vegas for his birthday weekend. I was lucky enough to be sent there for a work conference, so it was perfect timing (neither of us had been). Before we left, everyone who’d ever been to Vegas, read about Vegas, saw a movie about Vegas, or wanted to go to Vegas was super excited about our trip. We heard lots of “you have to do this” and “this was awesome, you will love it”. All the thoughts were welcomed, but they prepared us for something LARGER THAN LIFE and the MOST AMAZING THING YOU’LL EVER DO. Maybe our first day we were just really tired, but neither of us really saw the “BIG” thrill of it. Sure, we had a great time, but when you’ve traveled to the Holy Land (Mr. Burgher) and France (Mrs. Burgher), it’s hard to beat that. Even though we’re not gamblers or attached to Vegas, we would definitely go back. Mr. Burgher and I would love to share with you some of our memories, tips, and thoughts about Las Vegas.

Our Vegas Rule #1: Always get sleep! We knew there’d be a crazy time adjusting to the time change (Vegas is three hours behind Pittsburgh), but the night before, we could care less. We had to leave our house at 5:15 to pick up my cousin and get to the airport for our flight. We went to bed at about 2 AM. Mistake, of course. There was always the flight to sleep on, right? Wrong. We had a connection, so our flight was broke up a little. On top of that, we were flying through storms and 170 mph winds, so I was pretty nauseated by the time we started our descent. It took us until Sunday night (three full days in Vegas) to get used to the time, and Mr. Burgher left early that next morning.

Our Vegas Rule #2: About the Taxis… It was my third time ever to ride in a taxi, so this took some getting used to. Frankly, taxis are expensive, and there are many other great options for getting around town (The Deuce–the bus system on the strip, the Monorail–at the back of the strip, hotel shuttles). After we grabbed our luggage, we went to grab a taxi. The system at the airport is actually pretty speedy–cabs wait in a long line to take passengers to their destination. There is a slight fee above and beyond the cab fare for trips from the airport (1.80), but frankly, this is the time you probably want to use a taxi. The shuttles to the hotels cost money (nothing in Vegas is free, lol) and are supposed to come every hour (but don’t necessarily). Take advantage, atleast this one time, of a cab. Another side to this rule–we stayed off the strip at the Rio, which was a fun hotel with nice enough rooms (they claim they are suites, but they’re really just big rooms). This choice had its pros and cons, but we saved money on the room and took a shuttle from the Rio to Harrah’s or Bally’s to get to the strip (and then took a monorail if needed). This was a good plan for our first time.

Vegas Rule #3: Traffic Honestly, this is one of the things that shocked me about Vegas. I was picturing constant 5:00 Friday evening New York-style traffic. The picture above was the strip at 5:00 on a Friday–nothing like the gridlock of the Big Apple. Sure, there’s traffic, but nothing crazy that we don’t have on 28 or the Parkway. Traffic is traffic. According to Rule #3, we didn’t really have any issues with traffic. Rule 3a: Be Prepared to Walk Alot of people warned me about this. Sure, we walked alot, but it wasn’t like I’d never walked before in my life. I wore a pedometer and my steps ranged from 15,500-34,000 steps per day; however, I don’t feel like I walked anymore than I would have for a day around Kennywood. I was fine wearing flip flops, flats, and tennis shoes at different points in the day.

A butterfly inside the garden at the Bellagio.

Our Vegas Rule #4: Explore! We really loved getting a chance to just take everything in.
After getting settled in the hotel, it was time to head into town for dinner. We had plans to dine at the Bellagio, and just walking to the restaurant was a great experience. Believe people when they say there is tons to look at. Everything is beautiful, even in the “cheesy” hotels. Take it in–it’s free fun!

Our Vegas Rule #5: Eat! If you refer to rule #3a, you will know that you need substanance. Buffets are usually over $20 and have a decent amount of choices, but you can get a quality meal that feels you up for just about the same price. Some of the meals are worth splitting (like Gallagher’s King Cut Prime Rib), but others are worth getting one that you want and that they want and tasting a little of this and a little of that. This way, you get a mini buffet and enjoy good food. Our first dinner was Mr. Burgher’s favorite of the trip–Noodles (at the Bellagio). Rule 5a: If you have a Smart Phone, use the FourSquare app for good tips as to what to eat.

Our Vegas Rule #6: Make it your own! We spent this weekend in Vegas with our friends from Colorado and my cousin, all three of which had been to Vegas several times before. Cousin J prepped me for Jean Phillipe’s, a chocolatier in the Bellagio which she gave a 10. Frankly, I would give it a 4–but I didn’t buy any chocolate there. Not that I am a chocolate snob, but I just didn’t want to shell out $8 for a piece of chocolate that (to me) looked “lesser” in quality than something I could’ve got at Sarris’, Market District, Oakmont Bakery, or Godiva. But hey, if Cousin J is good with the chocolate there, great! She made it her own experience, and I had my own. That’s one of the great things about our country–you are free to have your own opinion. Use it!!! The pic of above I LOVE! It is of S “drinking” from the Chocolate Fountain at Jean Phillipe’s, which I was under the impression was 3 stories high. It’s not, but it is pretty big. Sadly, you can’t touch it–it’s surrounded in glass. Again, it’s all in how you want to experience it!

Our Vegas Rule #7: Bring your ones…and find Elvis! We were totally unprepared and only had $20 bills on us. NOTHING is free in Vegas. You need to tip pretty much everywhere you go, and impersonators usually appreciate a tip for a picture. We didn’t see too many Elvis impersonators, so cherish the ones you see. This one, the first one we saw, was probably the best. He was really fun and could actually sing.

Our Vegas Rule #8: Be Prepared. It’s a great rule from the Boy Scouts, and you should listen to it. Before going to Vegas, I bought a book and checked a few out of the library. I downloaded apps to my phone, and followed Vegas Twitterati. Following tips from seasoned vets is crucial (but remember rule #7, make it your own). I post this photo of the MGM Lions that was taken while we were speed walking through MGM to get me to a monorail back to Bally’s to catch the shuttle back to the Rio so I could pump (I can’t even begin to give out #bfing or #pumping tips for Vegas–I did good for me, but it was a bit stressful). We knew the monorail stop was in MGM, but the signs point you to walk all over the casino (smart) when it may not be necessary. Just be prepared, and know your personal schedule. The monorail stops are at the BACK of the hotel properties, even though the signs are right out front. It will take about 14 minutes to get from the front to the back of the property, so give yourself that time. Mr. Burgher and I ended up figuring out routes that didn’t involve the casino grand tour, which was beneficial. Just know before you go.

Our Vegas Rule #9: Enjoy your hotel! Our hotel had a fun, free Mardi Gras themed parade/show every hour during the night. It also had a great pretzel shop (which was good because we’d eat a pretzel and one big meal each day). I hear our pools were great, but the weather wasn’t warm enough for me to convince Mr. Burgher to go for a dip. We also signed up for the rewards so that we (hopefully) get deals in the future for trips. Why not? Figure out what’s in your hotel, and take advantage. 🙂

In no way do Mr. Burgher and I consider ourselves Vegas pros, but we did learn a bit about each other while learning about Vegas. Can’t wait to share with you Day 2 and Day 3 memories (including the Dolphin Habitat, Gondola Ride, spa, and nighttime Vegas). Feel free to chime in (in the comments) with your Vegas thoughts!

Daddy’s Home!

Why hello there, Mr. Lil Burgher aka G!

As many of you may know, I am a stay-at-home father to two beautiful, amazing children. What you may not know is that this really is my dream job and in a way, a source of healing for my past.

Growing up, my father worked a lot and suffered from clinical depression so he wasn’t very involved throughout most of my childhood. I ended up resenting him for his absence (we have since reconciled), and vowed to never put my kids through that pain and be as involved in their lives as possible.

Every day I get to wake up to, “Daddy…MOOOORRRRNIIIIING!!!” A is ready to get dressed, eat breakfast and watch “shows”. While she eats, E gets a bottle and Daddy checks FB, gets a snack and lets face it, watches kids shows with A.

Now it’s not all snuggling and watching cartoons, there is still a house to be kept and work to be done. That is where our magical Moby Wrap comes in handy, especially when E doesn’t want to be put down. I wear our little man tightly to me as I sweep and vacuum floors, dust, wash dishes and do laundry.

Of course, all work and no play makes daddy, well, lame. We make sure to spend plenty of time out in the yard and in the pool (except in crappy Pittsburgh winter), painting, coloring, sliding (weee), playing make believe and all other forms of tomfoolery.

I have truly been blessed to have such an amazing wife who supports my choice to be our children’s caregiver and we are so lucky that her job affords me the option to do so. To anyone who doesn’t agree with or understand a man taking on a role that has traditionally been the mother’s, I say, it’s the 21st Century, any guy can throw money at a kid, it’s called child support, but a real father goes out of his way to get to know his children and be there for moments large and small. This is not to make light or take anything away from all the fathers who bust their butts every day to put food on the table, just saying, there doesn’t have to be a double standard.

At the end of the day, I have a job, and it just happens to be one of the best things in my world. My children have given me a purpose, a drive and a confidence that makes everything okay and anything possible. I’ve been good at many things but being a father is the first thing I can honestly say I am great at, and you can’t put a price on that.

An Anniversary

Today I want to give a shout out to my husband for quitting and inspiring me to quit smoking 2 years ago today. We chose to do it for our kids and our future. Our lungs thank us every day. It wasn’t easy–we quit cold turkey–but it was worth it.

In honor of our anniversary, here’s a few photos of us back in the friendship and dating days.