Who’s Who of Boobs

I’m here at the Annual WALC conference in Appleton.  WALC is the Wisconsin Association of Lactation Consultants.  Their conference is the annual gathering of breastfeeding professionals from all over the state (plus a little Michigan, Minnesota, and Illinois) right here in Appleton.  To talk about babies and breasts.  Lactation Consultants, RNs, MDs, WIC Counseors, LLL Leaders……..it’s a veritable Who’s Who of Boobs.  And me.

This is maybe my 5th year attending the conference.  I started attending when I was a La Leche League Leader.  At the time, I was in waaaaaay over my head.  It’s a technical conference.  Packed with really smart, really experienced professionals.  I was afraid they’d figure out what a poser I was.  But I learned SO much.  And I left completely fired up over lactation.  I was ready to conquer the world, one nursing mom at a time.  The speakers were so inspiring.  They still are.  Many of them are authors and doctors that I feel like I “know” from their writing and their advocacy.  Lactational Celebrities……..It’s great to hear them speak in person.   (At a different conference, I met Jack Newman.  I love Jack Newman.  So much.  Everyone was having him sign their copy of his latest book.  I didn’t have the book with me.  But I was SO tempted to whip out ……something else….. for him to sign.  SO close.  And I bet he would have done it…..)

I digress.

My exhibit/temporary-home/schmooze station.

Anyway, I love this conference.  Each year has a new highlight.*  I now attend as an exhibitor.  I set up a booth for Mom and Pop Place and I get to show off all the products we offer for breastfeeding, baby wearing, diapering, teething, playing and more!  I get to schmooze all the breastfeeding professionals in the state and (hopefully) convince them how awesome my store is.  I love this conference because it’s a chance to see so many people that I only get to see once a year!  LLL Leaders I used to work with, LCs that refer clients to me, nurses from all over the state.  Our paths sometimes never cross in person, except here at WALC.  We dish about what’s going on at their hospital or on their unit.  We talk about all the new products and services I have.  They suggest useful products I might consider bringing in for their clients.  It’s like a big Boob Reunion.  I even get to chat with the “Other Adria”.  The Adria from Madison who works in lactation.  We were both LLL Leaders at the same time for a  few years.  The existence of 2 Adrias in LLL seemed to blow people’s minds.  We got a lot of each other’s mail and messages.  Now, we have a nice name-bond that we get to renew once a year at WALC!

It’s a big conference this year, about 300 attendees!  It breaks down as about 294 women and 6 men.  Of the 6 men, one is usually a speaker and one is the AV guy.  Usually, we close down the men’s bathroom and take it over for ourselves.  This time, there is another conference in the facility and we had to let them use the men’s bathroom.  Let me tell ya, 12 stalls is not enough for 296 tea-drinking women of child-bearing age with a 15 minute bathroom break.

But, I digress.  Again.

I love this conference.  I sell a bunch of stuff.  I talk to old friends.  I hear amazing speakers.  I still leave fired up to change the world, one nursing mom at a time.


*Highlight:  When we’re in the middle of a session on Nipple Trauma which includes an amazingly graphic slide show and the young hotel workers are trying to quietly set up the beverage service in the back of the room.  And simply hearing the word “nipple” might make them snicker, both they are surrounded by a video feed of larger-than-life pictures of bleeding breasts NO ONE wants to see.  They don’t know where to look.  It’s like the usual nursing in public dilemma.  In IMAX size.  There ain’t no Hooter Hider for that………


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Third Time Burn

Why not? Tell me. Why not?!?

So, I own an independent retail store.  And I personally choose and order all the stuff I sell.  That makes me a “Buyer”.  (I only know that because it’s what my name tag says when I go to trade shows.)  Big giant chain stores have professional Buyers.  Buying is their job.  They went to school for marketing.  They know spending trends.  They track market demographics and geographical trends and make quarterly buying decisions a year in advance blah blah blah.

I run a small independent business.  I wash dishes and balance checking accounts and shovel snow and pour whole milk into sippy cups.  When I get a chance, I do some “market research”:  I talk to moms.  I surf the web.  I talk to other business owners.  In my own way, I am a Professional Buyer.  In my years of Professional-Buyer-Awesomeness, I have learned many things.  I have learned these things in My Own Way.*

Yet, some things I apparently refuse to learn.  Ask my staff.  They almost refuse to let me go to buying shows any more.  Last time, they made me bring my mom and TWO sisters with me as a safety net.  And my team did talk me down from some seriously ill-advised new products.  There are certain products that just won’t sell.  But that I just will not give up.  So, I’m throwing this blog out there so all you readers will hold me accountable.  I need to stop buying…….

1. Shoes (specifically SeeKaiRun)

2. Clothing (specifically Zutano)

3. Diaper Bags (specifically ANY)

There I said it.  These things do not sell. At least not in my store.  No matter how much I want them to sell.  No matter how awesome they are.  No matter how pretty they look against my brick wall.  I can’t sell them.  Professional Buyers learn their lessons the first time.  I learn my lessons the third time.  (The “charmed” time, if you will.) Why don’t they sell?  They don’t sell because my customers are thrifty and they are smart.  My store is not a boutique or a high-end registry store.  My store is more like a hardware store.  I pride myself in having really useful, really high-quality, really important baby products.  I stock things that moms tend to buy for themselves, because they need them.  And they know it.  You people are thrifty.  And you are smart.  Smarter than me, apparently.  If you want fancy expensive clothes and designer diaper bags, you will find them in Excellent Used Condition on Craigslist.  I love that about you.  You people use cloth diapers, for goodness sake!  You don’t want $45 booties for your pre-walker.  I know this.  But I forget…….

OMG!!!!!!!!! LOVE!!!!!!!!

I came home from the last trade show with a huge order for Newborn clothes from Zutano and a strong (but unconvincing) argument for why THIS time would be different from the first time.  And second time. That we got burned on Zutano.  Dang, I love Zutano.  SO SO SO cute.  And, when you go to the trade shows, their booth is so pretty and colorful and welcoming and they play nice music and they serve ham and brie crostini and brew espresso right there for you and offer you a chair and you’re so tired from walking and…………..see what I mean?   They get me every time.  I love Zutano.  You love Zutano too.  But you don’t come in to Mom and Pop Place to buy Zutano.  You need Snot Suckers and giant nursing bras.  That’s cool.  We’re not a fancy boutique.  We don’t want to be a fancy boutique.  We want to offer useful, quality products we can vouch for.  I can vouch for Zutano.  That stuff is adorable and solid.  It will last you through 14 children.  You will cry over the cuteness.  But the outfit is $56.  You will also cry over the price.  I can’t, in good conscience, suggest to your mother-in-law that she buy you that size 0-3 month outfit for $75, when I really think she should get you a Moby and a Sophie Giraffe.


You should ask my staff about SeeKaiRun shoes.  I love those shoes.  But, like I said, third time’s a charm.  Or a curse.  If you’re gonna sell $45 shoes, you have to have every size and every style and every brand.  Oh well.  We still get the catalogs.  I like to wander around the store holding the SeeKaiRun catalog to see how long it takes before a staff member rips it out of my hand.  Cute.

Diaper bags still mystify me.  I’m having a harder time letting go of diaper bags.  We should be able to sell diaper bags right?  Well we can’t.  But we should, right?  Right?!  That third time was close.  We did sell a few.  And, when we clearanced them out, they sold out in 1 day.  (See, you people are smart.  You’ll wait for the sale.)  It was the Third Time Burn………….But, since then, four people have stopped in asking about those diaper bags we used to have.  Wishing they would have bought one when they saw it.  Wondering when we will get more.

These people are not helping.  My resolve is slipping.  Maybe I need to bring back diaper bags.  Maybe THIS TIME will be different.  Fourth time’s a charm, right?

*”My Own Way” is to repeatedly buy large lots of ill-advised things on impulse only to regret them the moment that arrive by UPS and then try to talk them up on Facebook only to end up marking them 70% off and finally throwing away the remaining items just so I could stop them from taunting me from the back of the store.

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Picture Day Postscript

There they are! Gage and Solon in all their long-haired, chicken-necklace, crazy-toothed glory. They're beautiful. 🙂

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Picture Day Prelude

In honor of my last post regarding School Picture Day, my mom has (lovingly) provided me with copies of several of my old school pictures.  So, here I am in all my glory.  From back in the days when School Pictures were a BIG DEAL.  I know that’s true, because my mom has written (lovingly and gently so as not to dent the picture) on the back of each: my name, my grade, and the year.  So enjoy……

1. Mushroom Haircut with ribbon hairclip*(1982, 1st grade)

2. Ruffly Rainbow Shirt with Oddly Poofy Hair (1983, 2nd grade, beginning of the tooth-loss evolution series)

3. Big Picture with No Bangs and Red Little House on the Prairie Shirt (1984, 3rd grade, check those teeth!)

4. Tasteful Bobbed Haircut and Ribbon Collar Blouse (1985, 4th grade, growing into those teeth)

5. Ruffly Denim Cowgirl Shirt with Ponytail and Real Breasts (1987, 6th grade, hello puberty)

*1982 was the year of weave-your-own ribbon barrettes with dangly beads.  They were so so so awesome.  On this particular day, my mom picked out my clothes, poofed and sprayed my hair, dolled me up, and told me that there was NO WAY I was wearing that ribbon barrette for School Pictures.  And I actually snuck it on the bus and clipped it in my hair on the way to school.  Can you imagine my mom’s reaction when the pictures came home weeks later?  This was SCHOOL PICTURE DAY, after all.  Oh, the horror.  I remember it as my first act of evil treachery.  I think I said confession for it.  I’m over it now.  And, ironically, glad for the memory.  See how Picture Days work?

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I remember PICTURE DAY from my elementary school days.  My mom would mark the calendar and make sure we got a haircut about a week before-hand.  She picked out the perfect clothes, usually coordinating ensembles for all the sisters.  She would actually blow-dry and style my hair in the morning.  Starting in 5th grade, she would even let me put on some blush and lip-gloss.  This was PICTURE DAY, after all.

So, yesterday was Picture Day at my sons’ school.  Big deal, right?  For me, not so much.  Count this as yet another entry in my Mom-of-the-Year application.  I did make a mental note of the date.  I did consider getting the boys a haircut.  Although, Solon declined (vehemently) the suggestion that we go in for a trim.  He thinks he wants long hair.  I even gently accused him of looking a little Bieberish, but he stands by his desire for long hair.  And Gage couldn’t care less.  He has to tilt his head up to see himself in the  bathroom mirror, which renders that giant spiky cowlick invisible to him.  So, his hair lays perfectly flat, as far as he’s concerned.  (Side note: Please don’t ever point out that cowlick to him.  He’ll notice it in a year or two when he’s tall enough to see in the mirror.  Let me enjoy this year of peaceful morning grooming.)

So, no haircuts for the boys.  No big deal.  I started to think about what would be the PERFECT SHIRT for them to wear…….flattering neutral color, no patterns, no collars.  The problem is, I started thinking about this the night before.  Around 10PM.  It turns out that the PERFECT SHIRT is whatever is clean and doesn’t have any holes above chest-level.  Solon decided that he wanted to wear his favorite purple shirt.  The worn out T-shirt that is 2 sizes too small and has white graphics all over it (as well as not a small amount of cat hair).  And, as usual, Gage couldn’t care less.  He chose a striped green polo shirt with a collar that lays mostly flat.  (When he returned from school that afternoon, he was wearing a striped green polo shirt with a taco meat stain all down the front.  Let’s just hope his pictures were before lunch………)

So, I felt guilty all day.  Don’t I care about PICTURE DAY?  Don’t I want beautiful school day memories?  Aren’t I good enough mom to wash laundry more than once a week?  Don’t I love my kids?  The answers to those questions are, respectively; no, yes, no, and yes.  The truth is that I don’t care a lot about school picture day.  I have tons of pictures of my kids.  And I have wonderful memories of their school days.  Memories I made  by hanging out with them.  By helping them dot their “i”s and get their “g”s facing the right way.  By getting (pretend) excited about the rules of Four Square.  By taking one million pictures of them myself with my iPhone.   By making fun of their cowlicks on the internet.

I also think it helps that photography has come a long way in the past 20 years.  Back then, school pictures were some of the only affordable portraits that families got. There was a ton of pressure to get it right.   There was no instant gratification of images on a digital camera screen.  You didn’t get to share uploaded photos with all your family members and “tag” each other’s kids online.  You couldn’t simply print out high-quality photos in your own home.  You had to actually own a camera.  A camera with film, batteries, and flash cubes.  You had to take 24 pictures with the hopes of getting one “keeper”.  You had to drive across town to the photo store to pick up your developed film, only to find that your kids’ eyes were closed in every picture.  So, the only pictures I had of my friends were the ones we traded at school.  I still have most of those pictures.  I wonder if my friends do too?  If so, I’m glad my mom did my hair on PICTURE DAY.

When my kids’ school pictures come in, I will love them.  I always do.  Because they always look like themselves;  silly smiles, taco stains, long hair, purple T-shirts, and all.  That’s how I will remember them.  To me, school pictures are a wonderful chronicle of goofiness, a rite of passage in the cattle-call of grade school, another step in the tooth-loss-evolution photo series.  And I love them all.

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I just got back from 4 days in Louisville for the All Baby and Child Expo!  This is the annual trade show for the juvenile product industry.  Once a year, anybody who makes, sells, or reports on baby products (all 8,000 of us) descends upon a major convention center for 4 days.  Sellers try to convince us that their products are the NextBigThing.  Buyers try to pretend that we don’t care unless they give us a steep discount.  And everyone tries to pretend that they’re there only to work and not to drink free margaritas at the Industry Reception with KC and the Sunshine Band.  This year’s show was in Louisville, Kentucky.  It was a refreshing change from the past 5 years, when the event was held in Las Vegas.  Las Vegas is……..fine.  For about 2 days.  Then it begins to slowly suck your soul and your will to live.  Which makes it hard to compare nursing bras and admire organic swaddling blankets.

So, we walked and walked and we talked and talked and we tried to learn all there was to know about new products.  We want to find you the NextBigThing.  At least 6 months before Target finds it.  (Target and I have a real love/hate thing going on).  We definitely noticed some trends.  One thing we saw a lot of was reusable training pants.  Most of the diaper companies we work with are coming out with a new training pant this season.  Some are cooler than others.  We’re most excited about the Flip Trainer coming from BumGenius.  The design is…….well…..genius: cute colors, sturdy construction, lots of size and absorbency flexibility.  Which we were excited to see.  Since we pre-ordered a whole ton of them before we even saw them.  We should be getting them before the end of the year. BumGenius also has a new All In One diaper coming out, called the Freetime.  Totally revolutionary design in an All In One.  I think it’s gonna be even awesomer than their current pocket diaper!  Which is pretty awesome.  Also, new prints and colors for all their products.  We’ll keep you posted!

Another trend we saw a lot of was Angry Birds.  On toys, on swaddle blankets, on bags.  Everybody knows babies LOVE angry birds, right?  I thought that the design trend this year was Owls.  But I guess Owls aren’t ANGRY enough.  We won’t be ordering any Angry Birds products.  But we weren’t too proud to snag up all the free Angry Birds samples we could get, for our kids.  We still did see a lot of Owls.  And robots.  Owls and robots are the  new princesses and pirates.  And that’s a trend I can get on board with.  Watch our store in the next couple months for owls and robots on clothing, baby carriers, wet bags, and more.  Can’t wait!

A big new category this year was birthing gowns.  These are beautiful nighties you can wear to the hospital when you give birth.  They have pretty bows and easy access for breastfeeding.  And snaps for dealing with IVs and the occasional “back-door” exam.  Tell me your thoughts on these gowns.  I think they seem like a really expensive one-time use item that’s just gonna get blood all over it.  But I can see the appeal of having something special and pretty for the most amazing day of your life.

Finally, a big trend I saw this year was FEAR.  I saw all these products preying on the fears of new parents.  There was a heavy, metallic belt for moms to wear over their pregnant bellies to protect their fetus from radiation.  Not nuclear-power-plant-radiation, but sending-your-husband-a-text-message radiation.  They had a larger than life picture of a mom using a cell phone RIGHT NEXT TO HER PREGNANT BELLY.  Terrifying, right?  We also saw a bumper for pregnant bellies.  A big padded belt to protect your pregnant belly from………..banging into things, I guess.  First of all, unless you’re a kick-boxer, how much trauma does your pregnant belly take?  Also, how many of you actually want to add MORE padding to your pregnant silhouette?  We saw a sort of medic-alert badge for pregnant moms.  Something you can wear to let medical professionals know that you’re pregnant if you’re unconscious for some reason.  Not really a terrible product, but the marketing showed a woman jogging and wearing her magic-pregnant-badge.  Implying that, if you’re active during pregnancy, you’re gonna somehow end up unconscious, and the medics will do something terrible to your unborn baby.  And you might not be wearing your belly bumper……..  Another entry in the category of reasonable-product-with-terrifying-marketing was a rescue sack for lowering babies out of burning or evacuated buildings.  I can see the rationale for this product.  The unnerving thing was that the exhibit for the product featured a larger-than-life graphic of a baby being thrown out the window of a burning building.  I assume that it was photoshopped.  I’m gonna just have to believe that……….

All in all, it was a fantastic show.  We had so much fun meeting new people and seeing old friends.  There are so many amazing new products out there that we can’t wait to share with you.  We saw and ordered new items that we are REALLY excited about!  In the next weeks, we’ll be announcing entire new lines of high-quality nursing bras, cold weather baby gear, newborn clothing, diapers, training pants, nursing pillows, toys, car seat covers, art supplies, diaper bags, and more!

We promise to tell you all the details as the products arrive.  But, we don’t want anyone to steal ALL our ideas.  🙂

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My boys are fishermen now. Grandpa bought them their own fishing poles, brought them to the lake, and taught them the joys of throwing expensive lures into trees and weeds and each other’s hair.  And they are absolutely obsessed!  They each got their own tackle box (with their own money).  And they each have their own pole  (one of them is already on Pole 2.0).  They have even started reading old Field and Stream back-issues Shiloh brings home from his waiting room.  Here’s a picture of Gage after the caught the biggest perch I’ve ever seen in Lake Winnebago.  Granted, I’ve only seen 2 non-breaded perch in my life.  But it looks pretty big.  My boy has some fish-catching skills!  He’s still working on his fish-touching skills though.  That’s his friend Sam actually holding the fish.

We pulled this beauty out of the channel near our house.  I can’t tell you what kind of fish it was.  Solon said it was a striped bass.  And he’s usually right.  All I know is that it seemed like a very nice fish, but pretty angry.  Shiloh was working late that night, so that’s my hand you see.  Actually touching an angry fish.    This was early in our fishing experience, so the boys had not yet developed any worm-touching or fish-touching skills.  It was a busy, slimy night for me.

I brought Solon and Gage to Gander Mountain for the very first time.  The overwhelming selection of bait and lures rendered them catatonic for awhile.  Once they came to, they got busy choosing the biggest, spinniest, most shark-like lures they could find.  For catching sheephead off the dock in Menasha.  It’s all good.  They were so excited by the selection, I let them choose whatever they wanted as long as it was under $10.  Solon also chose giant rubber crawfish that smell like butt and pepper.

Solon has learned to bait his own hook.  I’m so proud.  Here he is impaling a worm on a bloody hook in order to catch a fish that he will immediately throw back.  So as not to make it suffer.

I’m very proud of my fishermen.  Fishing such a wholesome, nostalgic summer activity.  I love it that they can’t wait to get out on the water as soon as Dad gets home.  I love that they know where Walleye like to feed and what bait to use for panfish and how to tie on a lure so it won’t fly away on the first cast.  If I could get either one of them to actually eat fish, even in stick form, I’d feel like we’re making progress.

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