Crystal Madrilejos

Design & Creative

Ever since the babies started arriving in our family almost 13 years ago, Andrew and I have been hand-making gifts for the holiday. It’s something we enjoy doing because we like to be able to make things that are really personal and specific to their personality and interest. But also, we like that it’s not something that they can go out and buy themselves. In the coming weeks, I’m going to highlight some projects we’ve made in the past in case you want to give them a try yourself. (more…)

I wrote an slightly different post this morning but in my early morning haze, I realized that I was mixing up my sources and facts. So here is the revised (and corrected) version!

Breast milk is an amazing thing and something we may not ever fully understand because its mysteries are infinite. The properties of its makeup can be dissected and broken apart, but there is an uncountable number of connections and interactions between the properties themselves and things that we cannot see that it would be almost impossible to fully unravel. It’s a whole food that has evolved specifically for the purpose of nourishing a baby.

Just like if you took an apple and broke it apart into only the seemingly beneficial ingredients, it would never have the same nutritional impact as the whole apple itself because there are so many connections that we can’t see.

A great example that I came across that shows that we are still learning about all the benefits of breast milk was in a small section of another article I just read by Michael Pollan. He writes about how for years researchers have tried to unravel the mystery of breast milk. In their breakdown of the makeup of breastmilk, they found it contained a complex carbohydrate that babies were in fact unable to digest. Without any apparent benefit to the baby, these complex carbohydrates weren’t taken into account until recently.

Upon further research, it turns out that there is actually a very good reason for the existence of this particular property and the baby’s inability to digest it. It is a very important aspect of a baby’s development. This component was undigested by the baby so it could be a source of food for a certain type of bacteria that helps to keep the baby healthy and to promote the development of the intestinal lining.

When it comes to Nature – there are reasons for everything!


P.S. And, as always, this post is coming from a point of love and support for those Mamas who are thinking about nursing, are currently breastfeeding, or have in the past and want to encourage others to give it a shot. In no way am I trying to discourage or make anyone feel bad about the decision they made/make. Either way, I SUPPORT YOU.

On Family, Uncategorized

My Loves

We’ve all been hit with a bit of the sniffles this week in our house. Which has resulted in missed work, kids with runny noses, babies that are thrown off their sleep schedules, a Mama who can’t sleep because her nose is so stuffed up (I even tried those breath strips thingies. Didn’t work.) lots of crying and whining and a return of a feeling I had when our little ones were newborns: dread for the nighttime with its unpredictable events. A baby crying, someone waking up thirsty, someone is hot, or cold, or a 3-year-old is in our bed who is like liquid, filling up every space you vacate as you happen to turn onto your side, resulting in not being able to flip back.

But at the same time, have you ever in your life been this comfortable? The kids have taken to making “nests” in the middle of the living room floor.

Days like these remind me of this poem that I saw on a Cup of Jo awhile back:

“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return.” ― poem by Mary Jean Irion


[Image via Flickr]

After my long breastfeeding post, I thought it would be a good idea to start a tip section on nursing. I realized afterwards that there were so many other tidbits that I had forgot to mention. Breastfeeding is a learn-as-you-go type of journey, with different things popping up at different milestones. It’s hard to remember everything, especially after you’ve settled into it and it becomes second nature.

This tip actually came to me after seeing a post by BirthRoots on Facebook about nursing and the importance of a foremilk and hindmilk balance.

So, just a brief description: Foremilk is the thinner milk with a lower fat content that comes out first during a nursing session (usually blueish/clearer in appearance). Hindmilk is the high-fat, creamier milk that follow and comes usually during the end of a nursing session (usually white/cream colored and opaque) If you pump, you will be able to see this distinction very easily. In my mind (which might not be completely accurate) but I see it as Foremilk being like a beverage – used for hydration- while the Hindmilk is the food that is used for nourishment and weight gain. Below is a photo for comparison:

[Image via Wikipedia]

With both my kids I had issues with a fore/hind milk balance when they were very young because they had a tendency to fall asleep at the breast before fully draining it. This resulted in gassy babies that didn’t gain as quickly as they could have in those early weeks. But with that said, it’s something easily remedied if you can read the signs.

For me, a good indicator on whether my babies weren’t getting enough hind milk was their diapers! If their poop was greenish rather than the normal seedy/yellow, I could tell they weren’t getting enough hind milk. Another indicator was if they were gassy, or fussy, or seemed unsatisfied shortly after nursing. If these things seemed to occur in tandem, I would be sure to not switch breasts during feedings and to continue nursing longer on each side.

The first time I saw the green poop, I called my sister Maria and was like – ack! what’s going on? She was the one who mentioned the foremilk/hindmilk thing, which I had never heard about! And, sure enough, after nursing longer on each side it went away.

Anyone else have issues with foremilk/hindmilk imbalance with their babies?


[Photo: Mother and Daughter, Yushu to Serba Road, Tibet, by Raul Gutierrez via Beautiful Breastfeeding]

In honor of last week being World Breastfeeding Week, I thought it would be fun to do a post about my adventures in nursing.

So, breastfeeding, yeah. It’s can be daunting topic to discuss. Mainly because I know that among some parents, it can be a hot button issue these days. I don’t want to come off as preachy or holier-than-thou. And I definitely don’t want it to seem like I’m judging anyone who hasn’t or doesn’t breastfeed. I also don’t want to brush it off as something that is trivial or unimportant. Because it is important and I want this to be a happy post to celebrate this wonderful thing that a mother’s body is capable of doing.

 [Photo by Käsebier Gertrude (1852-1934) via Historic Photos & Prints of Breastfeeding]

I’m here to tell you my personal experience and how the people in my life have helped me. And that’s what it comes down to – I hope that my experience can, in turn, help another Mama out there make the decision to breastfeed her babies or help her power through what can be a very difficult time.

I have a number of friends and family members who are pregnant, or have had babies recently. Some who have nursed, some who haven’t, some who are currently trying and other who tried their best. I think the one thing that most of us can agree on is: breastfeeding is not easy. (Though I do know a few who had no problems whatsoever, the lucky ducks!)

And though I had a rough time getting started, I have to admit, I am lucky. I have three older sisters who, combined, have nursed and pumped milk in some capacity for seven kids before I even had my first. Some nursed better and longer than others, some hardly at all. But for each of their babies, my sisters gave a fair shot at nursing. I also am lucky that when I was six years old, I was able to witness my own Mom nurse my brother. Also, during my first pregnancy, one of my co-workers was also pregnant and we delivered a month apart. When we both were back at work, it was great having someone else who was sharing a similar experience and was also dedicated to nursing. (Thanks, Andrea!) So, basically, I had great role models and support, women who had forged the path before me and along side of me, who understood how I felt in those early days when nursing was the hardest.

There are also a lot of interesting things about nursing that I had no idea about until my sisters and friends enlightened me and which I got to experience first hand. Things like:

  • Your nipples can crack and bleed and it can be painful (yikes!)
  • Milk creation can burn hundreds of calories a day (like 500+!)
  • Nursing helps keep your baby from getting sick
  • You can get infections in your milk ducts (ouch!)
  • Milk supply is dependent on demand (nurse more, produce more. nurse less, produce less.)
  • Nursing makes the uterus contract in the early weeks post-pregnancy, which in turn allows the body to heal faster and get back to normal quicker
  • Hormones in breast milk can cause baby acne (which goes away once the post-pregnancy hormones die down)
  • It may take a few days for your milk to come in (and even longer if you’ve had a c-section, like I did for both my babies)
  • Once your milk comes in, your boobs get rock hard (engorged) and can squirt milk like a crazy milk fountain
  • Milk comes out of many ducts in the nipple like a spray, not just one (this totally surprised me the first time I saw my sister pump)
  • You can feel your milk filling in your breast (my best description of what “letdown” feels like)
  • If your baby cries (or any baby, for that matter) it makes your milk come out. Sometimes just looking at a photo of your baby will do this.
  • Nursing delays your ovulation after giving birth. I didn’t get my period back until Quil was four months old, and not until Ellis was 11 months old. Note: This is not a reliable form of birth control!

I can honestly say I love nursing my babies. It hasn’t been without its hardships though. With our first, I had a way harder time than with our second. Being a first-time mom, a bad first latch coupled with a c-section and a low milk supply made for a very stressful first couple months. I almost gave up. I cried many times. It seemed to take weeks (even months) before I felt like I could nurse with ease. The bad first latch caused blisters and cracks in my nipples that made it super, super painful to nurse and the low-supply just made it super frustrating. I’m pretty sure I had either a baby or a pump attached to me for the first two months.

But once my supply was up and I was healed, it was so wonderful! I stopped pumping around two months and nursed exclusively until I went back to work at three months. And that month was the best. No pumps, no bottles, no washing and sterilizing pump parts!

 [Image: Madonna and Child, Orazio Gentileschi, c. 1609]

Fortunately, it only took about a week of nursing before I was pain-free with Ellis, our second baby (again, due to a bad first latch).

I think the thing that made me really stick it out through everything was the fact that we didn’t give ourselves any other options. For Andrew and I, formula just wasn’t in our plan. Which was stressful, but at the same time, it just forced me to do it regardless of the circumstance (like nipples that hurt so bad from being cracked, it was unlike any pain I’d felt before.) We just knew that if we made it an option, in those hard times, we were going to do what was easiest and not necessarily what we thought was best.

It also helps that Andrew holds me accountable and expects a lot from me as the mother of his kids. He feel breastfeeding is best for our babies, so wanting to respect his wishes as a parent gave me even more incentive to not give up. For the sake of full disclosure: we have had extremely fortunate situations for both our kids. Andrew was home with me for my entire maternity leave. I realize that in our country, this is extremely rare. It would have been infinitely more difficult had I been trying to do it alone, which I know is the case for a lot of breastfeeding Mamas.

[Photo by Dorothea Lange]


For both kiddos, I went back to work full-time after 12 weeks on leave. I pumped at work for both (and am still pumping for Ellis) but when at home I nurse – so mornings, nights and weekends. Ellis will be one year in a few weeks and doesn’t seem to be weaning. Quil started weaning around this time. He just lost interest. Our approach to weaning is pretty similar to how we approach most things, we just go with it and see what happens. Ellis eats a ton of food but hasn’t gotten any milk other than breast milk yet. We’ll start introducing other dairy products in the next couple months, then see where things lead. I’m in no rush to stop nursing, but damn, am I ready to be done pumping!

Nursing in Public

I know this is also another hard aspect of breastfeeding, which is unfortunate because it shouldn’t be. I completely blame it on our society’s notion that bodies should be private and hidden from view, not always for the benefit of the person “exposing” themselves, but to not offend the viewing party. I think the thing that helped me overcome this was nursing in front of people I know and love and who I know respect me and my choices. I think everyone in my family and Andrew’s family (and many friends) have seen me nurse, and I think that’s helped me to feel more comfortable in public. As much as I am a supporter of being able to nurse in public freely – I still cover up most of the time because there is a part of me that doesn’t want to make others feel uncomfortable no matter how comfortable I may be. Though, if I don’t have a cover-up for some reason, I don’t hesitate to just do what I gotta do!

Nursing Gear

You really don’t need anything but boobs to do the job, but these things did help make my journey a bit smoother:

Nursing pads

You will definitely want something to protect from embarrassing milk stains across your chest – imagine huge pit stains but right over your boobs – especially in the early months; though I still have to use them occasionally if I go a long time without nursing or pumping. I’ve used disposable ones in the past, but the cloth ones are the better option, in my opinion. You can wash and reuse them over and over. More cost effective in the long run and better for the environment. I bought a set of Rebourne Nursing Pads on Etsy and they are super soft and comfortable.

Spit up cloths

I use Gerber cloth diaper/spit up cloths pretty much for everything. Obviously good for spit up, but also good to have on hand if you are engorged and the milk is just… flowing freely.

Breast Pump

If you are going back to work and planning on pumping, a good-quality, double pump will help speed things up. I use the Medela In-Style pump, and it’s worked well for me. I didn’t try other kinds so I can’t tell you if others are better. With the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies are now required to pay for breast pumps, at least in part. Definitely worth checking into since those suckers can be pricey! Also, I got one of these crazy looking pumping bras by Simple Wishes. Strange looking, yes, but worth not just sitting with your hands tied up for 30 minutes.

Nursing Bras

I tried to get away with just wearing a regular bra and it’s a pain in the ass to nurse in. You can get nursing bras anywhere these days, even Target. They also have nursing camisoles that look like some sort of strange bondage outfit. Andrew can never figure out how to fold them, they are like the fitted-sheets of clothing.

[Photo Credit: Southworth & Hawes/Courtesey Buhl Collection]

Also, neither of our little ones have ever had to take antibiotics, have never had diarrhea, and have only had fevers from teething – maybe we are just really lucky – but part of me feels that, in part, it’s because of breastfeeding.

Even after nursing two kids, I still don’t consider myself any sort of expert on the topic. All I know is my experience and that it’s been one of the most beautiful and rewarding things I’ve been able to do for my kids. 

Did you or your partner breastfeed? Would love to hear about your experiences!

I went back and read this post again today and wanted to add in an afterthought. I don’t feel like I give enough credit to those Mamas who tried to nurse only to have it not work out or to those Mamas who chose not to nurse at all. Being a Mama can be hard business regardless, so let’s hear it for ALL Mamas! They deserves to be commended for bringing a beautiful life into this world.


Ever since Ellis arrived, it’s been non-stop craziness. Not in a bad way. Just really, really busy. Andrew and I always wonder what we did with all our free time before we had kids. We were productive, for sure. But, I can’t even fathom that much free time anymore. My perception of free time has forever been altered. If I can offer any advice to any person who doesn’t have kids yet (and plans on having them in the future), it would be: Don’t waste time. We did a lot before we had kids. We traveled, we played music, we built things, we renovated a house. Many of these things we still do now, but with much less frequency and a lot less spontaneity, and I STILL feel like we didn’t take advantage of our kid-free days!

Becoming a parent has been one of the most fulfilling and joyful experiences I’ve had thus far in life. And I wouldn’t want to be this busy for anything other than my two babies and Andrew. It’s just a fact that our lives are busier now that we are a family of four.

How does a family balance work, keep the house under control, spend time with the kiddos, not to mention the spouse, and still do things that make one feel whole (for me, that means gardening, crafts, making stuff and having eternal side projects)? It’s a challenge, to say the least. But somehow with the million things that have to be done everyday, we manage.

I admit that we have a unique situation; a situation that in recent years probably became less unique due to the recession. I’m a working Mama and Andrew is a stay-at-home Papa. It was an arrangement that we would have never imagined, but has turned out to be a true blessing. Andrew is an, honest-to-goodness, domestic genius. He somehow manages to take care of the kids, take care of our home, cook, clean, do laundry, grocery shop, check the mail, take out the garbage and compost, mail our packages, pay our bills, bake bread on a regular basis, and still do freelance work on the side. I don’t know how he does it! I work 40+ hours a week as Creative Director at a start-up, and can barely manage regular bathing. Also, a one-income household is no joke in this day and age. So, there are a lot of things that we go without because of this choice we made. But having one of us home to help keep our lives intact is well worth the monetary sacrifices we make.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about specific things we have found that help balance work and life. This is what I came up with:

1. Sharing the load
Neither of us is above doing anything that helps keep our family sane and happy. Andrew may not work a traditional 9-5, but he does so much at home that I don’t have to worry about working at the office AND at home. But I also realize that Andrew has a tough job too, so I try to keep my mess to a minimum and give him a break from the kids as often as I can.

2. Not owning a television
We haven’t owned a TV in years. Not because we don’t like television or think it’s evil or something. There are lots of television shows that we enjoy. We just prefer to watch TV shows when a series is over and we can get every season on DVD (Six Feet Under box set, yes please!) There are just a lot of other things we would rather be doing than watching TV.

*One note for the sake of transparency, we do have multiple computers AND a movie projector for watching Netflix or DVDs. Andrew watches documentaries and movies at night before bed on an iPad and Q loves watching movies and Yo Gabba Gabba. Also, Andrew loves sports. So, we aren’t completely screen-free. I watch hardly anything at all, but I also sit in front of a computer all day at work and the last thing I want to do when I get home is sit in front of another one.

3. The hours between 6am to 8am and  9pm to Midnight
These are the only hours we have to ourselves to do the things we need/want to do, without relying on each other to watch the kids. AKA the time to get stuff done (AKA showering.)

4. Accepting that our free time is limited for the next few years
This was a hard one for me. After Andrew telling me this over and over, and me being in denial, it finally sunk in after Ellis was born. Time has sped up double time these past 7 months and this made me see that Quil and Ellis will only be babies for such a short period of time! It makes me and Andrew both a little misty eyed to think that they are growing up so fast, and this makes it a much easier to devote every waking minute to them. Because we know we only have so much time with them before they grow up and don’t need us like they do now. Also, whenever I complain about not having time to do “stuff I want to do,” Andrew reminds me “that’s what retirement’s for.” Thanks, honey :P

5. Waking up early
This is just par for the parenting course. We don’t even set an alarm anymore. It’s amazing how much you can get done before 9am.

6. Talk to one another
We struggle with this one still, and it’s probably the most important. We lean heavily on one another and the last thing we want is for any resentment to build up between us. Sometimes our lives can get so chaotic that it’s like we are in the same room but we can’t see each other. And that’s never good. It can lead to feeling unappreciated and overwhelmed, with each person feeling like they are going it alone. Sometimes, we just have to step back and breath and remind each other that we’re a team.

7. Give up control
If we’re going to expect each other to make decisions for the family, we have to trust each others judgement and not try to control everything. This was another thing that was hard for me because I’m a slight control freak and I like to do things my way (who doesn’t?!) But just like Andrew wouldn’t come to my work and tell me how to do my job, I’m not going to come home and complain about how he does things, even if he doesn’t do things the way I would do them. He has our family’s best interest in mind, and that’s good enough for me.

How do you guys keep balance in your family life? We always welcome new ideas and suggestions because we don’t have it all figured out! Does anyone really?


P.S. Here is a great series that ran on A Cup of Jo on work/family life balance.

I’m a working Mama. I’m also nursing a 5-month old baby, so that means I have to pump while at work. When I went back to work in November after my maternity leave, my co-workers gave me a potted Amaryllis bulb as a “Welcome Back” gift. Turns out, this is the PERFECT gift for a pumping Mama!

Pumping isn’t the most glamorous or the most fun thing to do with one’s time. It’s a lot of just sitting there (thank goodness for smart phones and this bra.) And you look and feel like a milking machine with tubes and bottles and plastic breast shields. It’s quite a sight.

However, I’m fortunate to at least have a pumping room at my office with a lot of natural light. When they gave me this potted Amaryllis bulb I decided, rather than put it at my desk, I’d put it in my pumping room. These past two months I’ve been back at work I’ve been able to watch my plant grow and it’s been absolutely fascinating, calming, and peaceful. Since Amaryllis are very fast growing it gives me something to look forward to every time I have to pump. This week, it bloomed (as you can see in the photo above.) Here is a rough time-lapse from the past two months:

This could be a great gift for a non-working Mama as well. It’s easy to care for and has a big impact when it blooms.

Any working Mama’s out there who pump during their workday? How do you pass your time while pumping?


Living in an old farmhouse has its charms, but freezing cold floors is not one of them. However, this can easily be remedied with super cute slippers!


I crocheted and felted these for Quil and Ellis (though cold floors are the least of her concerns) for these chilly months that are upon us. Last year, we got Quil a pair from H&M that worked well enough but I decided to make them this year after seeing this pattern on Ravelry.

You can purchase the Easy Felted Crochet Kids Slippers by Sarah Lora pattern on Ravelry for only $3.50. It comes with directions for sizes Newborn to 4T and directions on felting and making the slippers non-skid.


Q wears around a toddler size 7-8 shoe and I made the medium-sized slipper. They fit but still have some room to grow over the winter months. The non-skid works great on our hardwood floors. Ellis’ are still pretty big even though I made the newborn size. Luckily for her, Andrew’s brother’s wife made an adorable knit pair that will fit until she grows into the ones I made.



I used Cascade Ecological Wool yarn in Natural and Silver and they felted up beautifully.

If anyone else decides to make a pair, I’d love to see photos!

I eventually had to cover the puffy paint soles with suede as a more permanent non-slip solution. I found that with our hardwood, the puffy paint would get dusty and eventually harden up and become slippery again. I would occasionally wipe them down and the stick would return for a short time, but the leather seems to work much better (though a bit hard on the fingers to have to sew through! Excuse the terrible color of the photo below. Bad lighting!)

2013-09-08 21.51.28 copy

I started this jumper back in 2010 when I was pregnant with Quil and didn’t get around to finishing it until a couple months before Ellis was born (2 years later -yikes!) I used the Tutu Onesy and Hat – Crochet pattern, sans the hat, by Lion Brand that I found on Ravelry. The pattern is sized for an 18-month old, but I modified it so that it would be for a newborn.

Ellis is about 3 and a half weeks old and it fits like a glove. I initially brought it to the hospital thinking she could wear it home, but it was still too big. Luckily, I tried it on her a couple days ago for the first time. Had I waited much longer, she might not have fit!
I used black Lion Brand Microspun yarn instead of the multi-color stripes in the pattern photo and removed the little skirt/ruffle thingy since I didn’t know if I was having a boy or a girl when I was pregnant with Q. Honestly, I probably would have removed the ruffle anyway because I’m not a fan of it to begin with. Also, I added snaps in the crotch area for easy access when changing baby’s diaper because it would be a pain in the butt to have to take this entire thing off every time.

Look at that cutie! If anyone else makes one, send me a photo! I would love to see :)


On Family, Uncategorized

She’s Here!

Hi hi! Apologies all around for being MIA. Finally getting around to sitting in front of the computer to do… computer-y things. Since Ellis was born (2 and a half weeks ago!), I have been solely connected via my iPhone and I can’t stand typing on that thing. My main interwebbing activity has been done through Instagram.

Slowly, slowly, slowly I’m getting around to emailing people back and such, but we’re still finding our balance around these parts when it comes to free time. Free time meaning free-of-baby-and-toddler-time, which is basically non-existent. I’m constantly having ideas for things that I want to blog about, but have resorted to just making lists of things to blog about.

Also, my grey hairs have seem to multiplied exponentially in such a short period of time. I wonder why…

So, without further ado, I’m happy to introduce the newest member of the clan, Ellis:

It seems like just yesterday we were announcing Q’s arrival. *Sigh*… they grow up so fast!

-c + a + Q