Tuesday, August 16, 2016

One year of Motherhood!

Photo credit: Robin Skievaski Photography
It is blowing my mind that I have been a mom for a whole year now! It is true what they say, that time flies when you have children/child. No other year in my life has flown by as fast. It has been a year of adjusting, learning, stressing, and growing. I have learned so much about myself this year. I can honestly say that Hazel has changed me, and for the better. I would never be who I am today if I had not had her.

Some things that I have learned in my first year of Motherhood:

Anxiety is real
I knew about anxiety and that I had it well before having a baby. (My story here.) BUT, anxiety became real in my every day life after having a baby, unlike it ever was before. Everyone talks about postpartum depression, but no one really talks about postpartum anxiety. I was prepared for depression. In fact, I had experienced a little pregnancy depression so I was on high alert for postpartum depression. It never hit though, instead, anxiety crept in and took over my life. I was so anxious that I struggled to leave the house for the first five months. Anxiety is SO REAL, and can be extremely debilitating.

Women friendships are huge
I feel so lucky to have given birth in my hometown. I had the support of childhood girlfriends, college girlfriends, and newer girlfriends from the last few years. The women in my life have been incredible and have shown me just how important it is to support each other. From meals, to long conversations, to rocking my screaming baby, to late night texting, to helping me get out of the house, to inviting me over for wine, I appreciate all of my women friendships 10x more now. I honestly could not have survived this first year without them.

Support is important
Yeah yeah, this one is a given, BUT REALLY, support from friends and family was/is so important. I was horrible at asking for help in the beginning, but I am getting better at it. What I am learning is that people want to help, it makes them feel good to help. So why not let them? They say it takes a village to raise a child and that is so true. I am happy to have our friends be such a big part of Hazel's and our life.

"Me" time is necessary
I'm not going to lie, I loooove "me" time. This was something that I worried about before having Hazel. The older I get, the more happy I am to do things by myself. In fact, it brings me joy and gives me energy to spend time on my own without other people. After having Hazel, my life was ruled by a baby hanging off of me that needed me 24/7. I quickly realized that in order to stay sane I would need to make time for me. It started slowly with 10 minutes here, then 30 minutes there, then an hour, a few hours, finally a whole day at daycare. I felt and still feel guilty about putting Hazel in daycare since she doesn't need to be there, but I am a better person for it. It allows me the much needed "me" time (even if I am just doing laundry and running errands) to regenerate energy, and it allows her time to be social and play with other kids. So really, "me" time is a win win situation for both Hazel and me.

Spouse admiration
This one is huge, whoa baby! I've known Andy since I was 13, and while we have both changed a lot through the years, I figured I knew everything about him. Not true though, I had no idea how he would be with a baby, but he has exceeded my expectations! I am learning just how great of a father he is. I love to hear him tell Hazel stories in different voices and rock her to sleep, I love that he airplane's her food to her mouth and plays with her toys. When I see Andy caring for Hazel and loving her it makes my heart grow for him in ways that I didn't think possible. Now more than ever, he is my partner and best friend. We are in this together and we are figuring out how to be good parents and how to support and love each other through it.

Flexibility is key 
Soo...I thought I was a pretty flexible person before having a baby, but I am discovering that is not so true after all. I am learning that I had a lot of expectations in my head about how having a baby would be. Then, things didn't go as planned (ahem, breastfeeding) and I fought the flow of things to the point of stressing myself out. So, now I am learning to go with the flow and be more flexible. Things will not always go as planned and in that case I just need to accept the change and move on or make adjustments. This is a work in progress. :)

Love is a learned thing
Being on facebook often, I see people announce the birth of their child by saying that they are already "so in love". This was not the case for me. Yes, I loved my baby, but I was not "in love" with her. In fact, I was not even attached to her. I had no problem handing her over to someone else for minutes or even hours. I also never worried about her until more recently. It was a huge concern to me that I was not "in love" with my daughter, but I learned that over time love grows. Despite the crying, the long nights, the frustration, I slowly began to love my daughter more and more. At about the 6-month mark I was happily (and finally) in love with my child. And that love just keeps on growing as our relationship as mother and daughter grows. I feel like our attachment is healthy and real, it just needed time.

Change is real
This is also a work in progress. Having a baby was the LARGEST life change that I have ever experienced. It was more of a change than I think I was ready for, but ready or not it happened. In a very naive way I figured life would go back to normal after Hazel was born. I figured my body would go back to normal, my social life would go back to normal, and I would just haul this little baby along in my normal life. NOPE, wrong. My body will never be the same again. While I have lost most of the baby weight, I am softer than before. This is a change that takes some getting used to. :) And as for social life, well that is constantly changing. When Hazel was a tiny baby we had about 1-2 hour increments to be social before she broke down and all hell let lose. As she gets older we have more time to be social, but now we work around nap and bed times. Going to restaurants is becoming difficult because she likes to throw food and make a huge mess. So I am learning that life with a baby (now toddler) is just constantly changing. As soon as we develop a routine it is changed because of teething or crawling or this or that. Bottom line, having a child means CONSTANT change.

All of these things I have learned and will continue to learn as I grow in Motherhood. But really, what a gift it is to be a mother!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Death and Remembering

(Spontaneous night of wine and face painting with Jenna & friends, about 2013)

Death is never a subject that I want to write or talk about, but a year ago a close friend of mine died. Since then, I have been learning to mourn, process, and remember.

I didn't know much about death growing up. When I was a kid my favorite Uncle Doug died. He committed suicide, and I don't remember my family ever talking about it after it happened. He died, his depression was mentioned, his suicide was mentioned, and then the whole subject was dropped forever. We never talked about it again. My grandparents and other aunt and uncle never talked about Uncle Doug in conversation, and we definitely never did anything special to remember him. His life and his memory were swept under the rug and forgotten.

Having that experience as a kid set the stage for how I would treat death up until now. Anytime there was death around me I ignored it. I didn't talk about it, I didn't remember the person, and I avoided funerals. It was as if the deceased person was erased from my life and I had no opinion about it. That is, until I married Andy.

Andy comes from a pretty tight knit family. After marrying Andy and spending time with his family, I very quickly learned about his Aunt Mim. (Mim short for Miriam, which is where Hazel, our daughter, gets her middle name from.) Andy's Aunt Mim was hit by a school bus and died about 10 years ago. Andy's family has a facebook page to remember her, they tell stories about her, they still have a lot of her things which are guarded in the family as prized possessions, and they remember her birthday and death anniversary every year. I have never experienced so much positive remembering of a deceased person. There is not much sadness either, the family finds joy in remembering Aunt Mim.

Now, I know that suicide and being hit by a bus are very different ways of dying, but does the way that someone dies affect how we remember them? I would hope to think not. A life has ended, and it is up to us to keep the memories alive of that life, or we will truly lose them forever. If they were a person that we cared about, then where is the shame in remembering them every year? There should be no shame in remembrance! That is what I am learning. Until now, I have felt deep shame and sadness in remembering people I've known that have died.

Just about a year ago, my good friend Jenna died. She had ovarian cancer and it took her life far too soon. At about the time that Jenna died, I was getting ready to give birth. I didn't have much time for processing and grief before bringing a new baby into this world and into my life. After the baby came, it was easy for me to do what I have always done with death, and "forget " Jenna. I was so distracted with newborn life that I didn't have time to process Jenna's death and figure out how or if I would remember her. Until a close friend of mine changed that.

This close friend of mine talked about Jenna nonstop. I think it was her way of mourning and processing our dear friend's death. She brought up Jenna in almost every conversation, even ones where I felt it was inappropriate. All of this remembrance and conversation of Jenna made me uncomfortable. The more my friend did this though, the more comfortable I felt and the easier it was for me to process everything around Jenna's death. All of a sudden, I realized that if I wanted to share a nice or funny story about Jenna, that I could! It was quite an amazing realization for me.

Between Andy's family and this close friend of mine, I have learned that remembering is ok, it is good, it is healthy and positive, and can even help others around me. I am still sad that my friend Jenna is gone, but I am SO HAPPY that I can remember her and all the joy and happy times she once brought to my life. She was a good friend who is now dead, but I will not forget her. I will continue to talk about her and remember her, because she is someone that I cared about. There doesn't have to be sadness and shame in remembering, but joy. That is where I am at, and I feel positive about it on this almost anniversary of Jenna's death.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Coconut Curry Soup with Chicken

I have had some DELICIOUS coconut curries in my past travels! Unfortunately, when I make a recipe, it never tastes the same as when I eat a coconut curry elsewhere. I set out a few months ago to figure out where I was going wrong, and to develop my own recipe that I would be happy with.

This recipe is perfect! (In my opinion.) I think I found the crucial ingredient to making it taste the way that it does. Fish sauce! I am not a big fan of fishy flavors, and fish sauce by itself is whoa fishy! In this soup you don't taste the fish flavor though, instead it adds saltiness and brings out the other flavors. I can't get enough of it, especially in this unseasonably cold spring weather we are having.

Coconut Curry Soup with Chicken
-1 1/2-2 lbs. chicken
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
-4 cups chicken stock
-16 oz. mushrooms
-green onions
-1 yellow onion
-4-5 cloves garlic
-1 Tablespoon freshly grated ginger
-1 Tablespoon fish sauce
-1 Tablespoon curry powder (more if you like a stronger flavor)
-1 can coconut milk
-1 can bamboo shoots
-1 can mini corn
-salt to taste
-garnish with fresh basil and lime juice

Cut chicken into small bite sized pieces and boil in a large pot of water until cooked. About 8 minutes boiling. You can use the water from the chicken as your chicken stock, or drain and add a store bought chicken stock.

In a pan, saute with the coconut oil: yellow onion, garlic, and mushrooms.

Add sauteed ingredients to the chicken and stock. You may need to add more liquid (water) to make the soup more brothy. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook on medium for 15-20 minutes.

Garnish with fresh basil and lime juice. You can add a scoop of rice to this soup as well.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Tips for packing and moving

I love to move, it invigorates me! A friend recently commented that since we move so often we must be pros at it. I have never given it a second thought, but yes, I guess we are pros at it. :) Through each move we learn something different, and have thus developed quite a few tips and tricks. Here are just a few of the handy things we do when we move:

-Out with the old and unused!!
First of all, sort through ALL of your things. Yes, this can be a tedious process but is so rewarding in the end. Get rid of those things that you don't use anymore, that don't bring you joy. By getting rid of these things first, your move will be lighter and you won't have to pack as much stuff. (I am always amazed at the amount of unworn clothes I am able to dig out of my closet!)

-Invest in rubbermaid containers
If you move often, it is helpful to just invest in some sturdy moving containers/boxes. A few moves ago we bought a whole bunch of rubbermaid containers and now we use them for each move. They are convenient, heavy duty (don't fall apart), and are even great for storage after you move. (Or, you can use them as furniture!)

-Use moving straps
We first borrowed these from a friend and after discovering how awesome they are, bought our own set. Since Andy and I don't hire anyone to move our stuff, these moving straps have come in SO handy. Andy and I are able to lift anything with them because they offset and distribute the weight. They are probably the most useful, awesome moving tool that we own.

-Wrap dishes and delicate things in plastic bags
Like most people, we have an excessive amount grocery bags accumulating in our house. I like to save them for picking up dog poop and moving! I use them to wrap our dishes and any other delicate things we may have. They provide great padding, AND if something breaks, then it is contained within the bag for easy cleanup.

-Find moving boxes in store dumpsters
We primarily use our rubbermaid containers for moving, but if we need a few more boxes I will go grab them from a store dumpster. Stores like the Dollar Store usually have tons of boxes that they get rid of. You can even call Lowes or Home Depot first thing in the morning and have them save you a few of their giant appliances boxes.

-Pack per room and label
This is probably a well known moving technique, but I figured I would throw it in with the mix. When you pack things by room and label the boxes, then unpacking at your next destination is SO EASY. 

-Use plastic wrap
We learned this trick by moving overseas. In the airport, they had a giant plastic wrap machine that would wrap peoples luggage for extra safety and protection. So we adopted that technique, especially for things like mattresses. We buy the giant bulk plastic wrap on amazon and wrap the mattress, couches, throw blankets over other furniture and then wrap them too.

-Use trash bags for items on hangers
Instead of taking our clothing off of hangers and packing them in boxes, we just put a hole in a heavy duty trash bag, and then stuff a bunch of hangers through the hole. Then we tape the hangers around the top of the bag. This allows you to keep your things on hangers, and they are also protected this way.

Friday, May 6, 2016

The benefits of moving often (yes we are moving again)

It is no secret that I LOVE to move! Maybe it stems from growing up as a missionary kid where we traveled and moved all the time OR, maybe I just hate commitment. (Though, that's another post altogether!) Either way, I am lucky to be married to Andy because he enjoys moving just as much as I do. We will see where Hazel falls on the moving spectrum...

So, why move after we put a whole years worth of work into renovating our current house?? Ha, why not? Andy and I have a pretty decent track record of moving every two years. We just so happen to hit the two year mark for our current house this June, so we figured it was time to move on. I have been dying to get back to the neighborhood where I grew up (old town, right next to downtown) and this move is going to take us there. We bought one big old house that is actually a duplex. No, it does not need any work. Yes, we will be landlords. The plan is to live in one half of the house and rent the other half. It should be interesting, but we are excited for a new adventure. This time, it is an adventure in being landlords! We are also excited to be spending LESS time working on a house and MORE time outside, downtown, and just enjoying life in general.

But really, there are huge benefits to moving often. The more I move, the more I enjoy it and realize how good it is. I feel like moving houses (or apartments) cleanses my head, my soul, my life. Yes, I may be weird, but I do believe there is something to it! When we move, it forces us to reevaluate everything. In order to pack our things we (Andy and I) first have to go through everything that we own and figure out what is worth making the move, and what isn't. I learned this the hard way when we moved across the US to California and took everything without evaluating first. Now, I know to sort through everything we have accumulated and keep only the useful important things, while getting rid of the rest. This allows us to move with a clean slate.

I have written posts before about living a minimalist lifestyle, but I often forget to take my own advice. It isn't until we move that I remember my minimalist desires. So with each move, I am able to think minimal again. I can see all of our things and decide which bring me joy, which do I use often, and then discard the rest. There is no sense in keeping things that I do not use. With each move, there is a large purge, and with each purge I get a sense of lightness and freedom from "stuff". It is fantastic! Almost addictive for me. Thus the moving every two years, I guess.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Zoodles, it's what's for dinner!

Zoodles! Yes, they are a thing. Zoodles are zucchini noodles. Zucchini, when cooked, can have a similar consistency to noodles and a bland enough flavor that they can mimic pasta noodles. Since these noodles are zucchini though, you get far less carbs and calories in your meal, and an extra blast of those good-for-you veggies. (Or a healthy pasta option if you are gluten-free!)

I have been cooking with zoodles for a while now and figured I would share the joy! First of all, zoodles can be created in a variety of ways. If you want to try zoodles before you buy a zoodle-making contraption then your best bet is going to be using a plain old peeler. Just peel peel peel the zucchini until you have used as much of the zucchini as you can. A mid-grade option for making zoodles, and the one that I have, is this one that is like a pencil sharpener. It is small, simple, and makes two sizes of zoodles without too much effort. Lastly, there is a much fancier contraption. This device seems to be even easier and more accurate in the making of zoodles. (You can also use these with other vegetables!)

How to:
Once you have used the contraption of your choice to make zoodles you will need to cook them. Since this is in fact zucchini and not real pasta, you will want to saute it rather than boiling it. I heat up a skillet with some butter or coconut oil and then toss in the zucchini. You can cook it to the firmness that you prefer. I like mine on the more crispy side. Then add whatever sauce or toppings that you like.

Mediterranean Zoodles with Chicken
-2-3 baked chicken breasts
-4 medium zucchini
-3 Tbs pesto
-feta cheese
-3 roma tomatoes (or 1 large tomato)
-6 garlic cloves
-3 tbs butter

Heat butter in skillet and add garlic. Cook until garlic is lightly browned. Add zucchini noodles and cook until desired consistency. Remove from heat and stir in pesto. Chop tomatoes and baked chicken breasts and add to zoodles. Top with feta cheese.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

My History with Anxiety

It seems like people are talking more and more about anxiety these days. I love it! It makes me so happy that issues kept quiet in the past are now common talk. I think it helps everyone to be able to openly discuss something like anxiety. I've said it before and I'll say it again, this blog has mostly become a place for me to process life and speak my truth. I am happy for other people to read it, and in doing so I hope that I can be helpful or even motivational.

So anxiety... I get a little anxious even just typing that out, ha! Anxiety can surface in a variety of ways. For me, it appears in jitters, stomach flips, vision loss, sometimes flushing of the skin, and last but not least, panic attacks. My anxiety didn't show up until my parents divorce when I was about 19 years old. Since then it has come and gone with the events that have happened in my life. Here is my story of anxiety thus far.

At 19 years old and a freshman in my second semester of college my parents decided to get a divorce. This divorce came out of NOWHERE! I had no idea my parents were having problems. My family was a solid missionary family, we were the model of the perfect Christian family. Seriously, I had often thought that my family was too perfect. Well, not so. I won't go into all the details, but long story short my parents got a divorce because my mom was gay and felt like she couldn't live the lie of a straight marriage anymore. Both of my brothers were upset so I felt like it was up to me to stay strong. I put on a happy face and pretended like everything was ok, but deep down everything was very very messed up. This is when the anxiety started.

I went to a small college in a small community where a lot of people knew me and my family. After the divorce I was afraid to look people in the face for fear that I would see pity in their eyes. I did NOT want to be pitied for the tragedy that my family had become. I also knew that people didn't approve of my mom's "gayness", so I also didn't want to see those looks of disapproval. (Though, I did see plenty of those looks.) Avoiding people that knew my family was impossible, so the anxiety began to creep in. Anytime I saw or spoke with someone that knew of my parents divorce I felt like my insides were rotting and on fire. My eyes would often blur or my vision just went black sometimes. It was an incredibly crippling feeling. So to get past it I just ignored as many people as I could. Or I drank, or smoked weed. Those helped for a short amount of time, but the relief was never long term.

The summer after my freshman year of college I moved to the beach. I had escaped! At first it felt really good. I didn't know anyone, the anxiety was gone, I felt like I could start over. As the summer went on though, I began to miss my family desperately. I felt like I had just abandoned them for my own sanity and it felt wrong. Then I had my first panic attack. I was driving and another car cut in front of me. It was nothing, no accident, not even close. But it set something off inside of me. I freaked out, then my vision began to go black, and all of a sudden my fists clenched. Luckily I was able to pull my car over and just barely got it into park before I lost all control of my body. From that point, my whole body seized up. It felt like every single muscle in my body was fully tensed. My fists were clenched so tight that my nails were digging into my skin. My chest was heavy and I couldn't breathe. I had to gasp for air. All the while my vision was blacked out and I couldn't see anything. I honestly thought I was dying. Everything inside of me felt like it was failing. Luckily a passing car stopped and called 911. An ambulance came and got me. They loaded me into the ambulance and calmed me down on the way to the hospital. Once my breathing was under control everything went back to normal in my body. I could see again and my fists unclenched. They told me I had a panic attack. After that, I moved back home for the rest of the summer.

Throughout that summer I had two more pretty sever panic attacks, both while I was driving. I began carrying a brown paper bag with me everywhere I went in case I needed to breathe into it to get my breath back to normal. It was a rough summer, especially as my parents finalized their divorce and put our house up for sale. I had anxiety for the rest of college, and a few more panic attacks. I figured out how to manage the panic attacks, but the anxiety never went away.

Since college I have worked SO HARD at managing my anxiety. It comes and goes. If there is a big event in my life it usually comes back pretty severely. When I got married, a wedding was out of the question for me. I knew it would bring on all sorts of anxiety, so Andy and I eloped. While I am sad that we never had a wedding, I do feel like I dodged a huge bullet and was able to escape a lot of anxiety and stress. Big family events still bring on a lot of anxiety, but at least I am not the center of attention, so the anxiety is manageable.

When I gave birth to Hazel I had an inkling that my anxiety may come back, and it sure did. After bringing Hazel home the anxiety settled in like a dark cloud. Not a depressing cloud, just an uptight anxious one. I was anxious about leaving the house, anxious about breastfeeding, anxious about visitors. Pretty much everything caused me severe anxiety, and I was so overwhelmed with having a newborn that I couldn't control the anxiety like I had in the past. When Andy had to go back to working out of town during the week, my anxiety would get so bad right before he left that I would vomit. It was embarrassing and I was so overwhelmed. I didn't even tell Andy at the time that I was anxious because I was embarrassed for feeling out of control of myself. While Andy was gone all week I would just hole up in the house with Hazel out of fear of leaving the house. If we needed something, too bad, I wasn't leaving.

I finally realized that my anxiety was taking over my life. I began setting small goals for myself to leave the house with Hazel. Slowly, little by little, I got out more. In the beginning it felt horrible and wrong, but I left the house anyway. Then I started to exercise and eat better. That's when I noticed a HUGE difference in my anxiety. I began feeling more confident, more healthy, and that helped with leaving the house. I didn't mind talking to strangers anymore, or doing multiple errands in one day. I still have anxiety, but I finally feel like it is under control again. I don't think my anxiety will ever completely go away, but I know how to control it for the most part. Now I also know that exercise helps with it, SO MUCH. I am happy to constantly be arming myself with little things to combat my anxiety.

Some things that I find are helpful when I am anxious:
-I have taken this before and helps calm me down in a very gradual way.
-I like to pop these (ha!) before a job interview. They really work with my stomach nerves!
-I've great things about Zenta, but I haven't tried it yet.
-I also like to put a penny or any other coin in my pocket and play with it as a distraction to whatever may be causing my anxiety.