Tuesday, October 18, 2016

When one is enough

Photo by Robin Skievaski Photography
Last week I had my annual gyn exam. My midwife asked what birth control I was using, and when I said "none" she looked at me surprised and concerned. Then, I proceeded to tell her that my husband had gotten a vasectomy and thus, I did not need any type of birth control. She continued to look at me surprised and concerned, then paused and slowly said, "well, I respect your decision".

"I respect your decision" was the professional thing to say, but it was frustrating for me when that comment was followed by pauses and concerned looks. No one says that when you say you are pregnant again! I am tired of defending this decision that Andy and I have made to not have any more children. Why can't we be happy for people who make responsible decisions?
"So you've decided not to have any children? Congrats, I'm so happy that you know what is right for you."
"So you've decided that one child is enough? How fantastic that you can make that decision and act on it responsibly."

Yes, we only want one child. One child is enough when we still have goals, dreams, and aspirations for ourselves. One child is enough when the trauma of pregnancy, childbirth, and bringing a newborn home is something that you never want to experience again. One child is enough if you've suffered from debilitating postpartum anxiety. One child is enough when you have a great community of like-minded friends who don't judge you for it. One child is enough when you want to be able to offer your child greater opportunities, rather than stretching the finances across multiple children. One child is enough if that is the decision that you want to make.

I am happy with our decision. I have not and will not regret it. Sure, there have been moments holding another persons baby where I think I could do it again, but I have made a decision NOT to do it again, and I am happy to stand by that. Please respect that. Don't judge me, don't feel bad for me, don't feel bad for my child. We chose to have one child, a vasectomy, and made a responsible family planning decision. We should be applauded because we are making decisions and being responsible about it.

Here's to responsible family planning, no matter what that means to you. I applaud you, for whatever decisions that you have made regarding your body and your family. Let us not judge, but be happy for each other!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Year of Rejuvenation!


Many of you know that we have moved AGAIN! Yes, it is true. How many times can one move in a year...apparently a lot. And this time it is to another state. Unfortunately, Andy doesn't have one of those live-in-one-place kind of jobs. He usually travels all over the place for work, which means Hazel, me, and Mr. Buckles (the dog) are left at home doing our own thing, eagerly awaiting his return.

Our move to Maryland is a long story, but hopefully it will mean that we will see more of Andy since the majority of his projects are here in MD. We are also hopeful that this move will only be for 1-year. At which time, we will happily move back to Harrisonburg and Andy will once again work remotely.

A lot of our moves are chosen by us, such as buying a new house, but a lot are also dictated by Andy's job. It is somewhat of a nomadic life, which I used to like, but have just decided that I am over it. Moving with a child and dog multiple times in a year is just draining. Back in our childless days, Andy and I would rock and roll a move! We'd put on some loud tunes, pack up our things, throw them into a truck, and off we'd go. We could be 100% moved in just 24 hours. Now'a'days moving isn't so simple. One of us has to watch the toddler, the dog gets anxiety so we have to pay special attention to him, so only one of us can move things until nap time, then nap time for the toddler is when we crank out the real work (no rest for parents), and so it goes until we are all moved. Shew, it is draining!

In the past year and half Andy and I bought a new (old fixer upper) house, completely renovated it ourselves while living in it and then living with friends, part of the renovation was during my pregnancy, then we brought our new baby home to that house, finished the renovation, bought a different house (a duplex!) in our favorite part of town, lived in one part while we rented the other, worked on updating and maintaining the part we were in, then moved to the other apartment and found new renters, fixed a bunch of things in that apartment and landscaped the backyard...and now we are moved yet again! So while we currently live in a tiny RENTED apartment in Maryland, we own two houses in Virginia, of which we have poured our blood, sweat, and tears into. This was not our original plan...but alas, it is life. And the hope is to get back to our home in Virginia (and houses) in a years time.

So all of that said, we have decided to make this year of living in Maryland a year of rejuvenation. We are planning for it to be a year of cooking fun healthy food, exercising as a family, and enjoying more of the outdoors, all the while living in an apartment and not worrying about renovating a house or doing yard work. (Not to say that we won't maintain our houses as rental properties, we just won't actively work on them.) I'm also making a monthly list of things that I would like to work on during this year of rejuvenation:

October......write more letters
November......meditate every day
December......get better at wine tasting
January......yoga/hot yoga
February......do more drawing/art
March......learn new recipes
April......exercise outside every day
May......hike a new trail every weekend
June......go to bed early
July......photograph something every day
August......no sugar
September......drink 10 glasses of water a day

May it be a healthful year of rejuvenation in Maryland!

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.