Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Take Me Home Country Roads!

We have done it again, we've moved! I know our moves are old news because they seem to happen every 6 months or so, but hopefully this is the last move for a while. We have been searching the past few years for a property with acreage so we can start a little homestead, and we have finally found that property!

We've moved back to the Shenandoah Valley and are so excited to call Linville, Virginia our home now! It is a property with 6.5 rolling acres. We also have a (distant) view of the mountains bordering West Virginia. Our hope is to grow a giant garden, get chickens, sheep, maybe pigs, maybe a cow, plant a variety of apple trees and grape vines, and get some wildflowers growing in the unused "meadow".

We have big hopes and plans, but of course no experience, so this will all be trial and error for us. And of course with everything, this will all take time. This year we are focusing on a small garden and hopefully chickens.

We have named the "farm" Whimsy Acres and I have started a separate Instagram account to document the property's beauty and of course our experiences. Feel free to follow the Instagram account: whimsyacresva. Also, I hope to write more about it here along with pictures. What an adventure we have gotten ourselves into!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Millennial Motherhood

A while ago a friend of mine posted an article about why millennials are refusing to have kids and I read it, enjoyed it, and agreed with a lot of it. What I didn't agree with though, was the part where they said:

"Not all women are preprogrammed with maternal instincts."

You see, I WAS pre-programmed with maternal instincts. My dolls were my babies growing up, my younger brother was my baby growing up, and at a ripe young age of probably 6 I remember begging my mom to have more babies so that I could take care of them. Yep, that was me. Obviously I grew out of that baby obsession long enough to make it through high school and college, plus 6 years of marriage, but that was as long as I could last.

When I turned 30 I could take it no more, the urge to procreate was strong and I finally gave in. I had a baby for selfish reasons, curious reasons, and biological reasons. It all seemed like a happy-go-lucky great idea at the time. That was well before the reality of blow out diapers, colic, breastfeeding struggles, sleep depravation, body exhaustion, toddler messes, screaming tantrums, etc...had time to take root in my life. Well...I've had a good solid year and a half of those things and I am drained! Exhausted. Pooped.

I was sure that the maternal instinct that I mentioned above would make it IMPOSSIBLE to stop having babies. I was convinced that I'd have one and that would fan my fire to have more and more. I'd start a whole farm with the fruits of my loins! Before having a child I could see it well and clear, Andy and me, and our house full of children all happily and peacefully running around while we had tons of creative energy.

These days the story is very different! I am so thankful that times have changed and I, in fact, do NOT need (or want) to have any more children, (despite the occasional baby-fever.) Like the Millennials article mentions, times have changed and children are no longer needed for populating the earth and helping to farm the family land.

My maternal and biological instinct does not need to rule my life. I can rule my life and make the decisions that are best for ME. And I am realizing/have realized just how draining children are. I love my child, but she drains me. Any creative, healthy energy that I have is absorbed by taking care of her. She has taken over my life. It is exciting to see her grow and develop, but along the way I can't help but feel like I am losing myself. Where have my hopes and dreams and creativity gone? What about my social life and career aspirations? This millennial mother is exhausted!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Baby Fever...ugh!

Hazel at 6-days old. Photo by Robin Skievaski 

I have been avoiding writing this post because in my last post I declared to the world that "one is enough". That I only plan to have one child, that Andy's and my decision was well thought out (it was/is), and that I would never change my mind. Well...this is a grand lesson in Never-Say-Never!

After having Hazel, I couldn't understand how people had more children after their first. I was overwhelmed, my whole life changed, I didn't like the change, and I surely would never put myself in that situation again. I was quite happy with that thought until more recently. I cannot pinpoint what has changed, but I have this growing desire to add to my family. (And have like 5 more children!)!

Despite an uncomfortable pregnancy, gestational diabetes, melanoma at the end of my pregnancy, being induced, 30 hours of labor, difficulty breastfeeding which resulted in formula feeding after 5 months, stress stress and MORE stress, sleepless nights, change in lifestyle, body-image issues, postpartum anxiety, solo-parenting...and the list goes on. So despite all of these things in addition to having a needy toddler, I WANT TO DO IT AGAIN! What?! How is that even possible?!

This cannot be me, something must have taken over my body. Why yes, something has taken over: hormones and biology. I've felt it before, twice in fact. Once when I was about 22 years old, and then again when Hazel was conceived. The urge to have a baby was overwhelming and took over my whole being. Luckily, I got over it the first time because I knew there was a lot that I wanted to do in my life without a child tagging along. The second time I obviously gave in because Hazel was created. But this third time is stumping me... I thought by having a child I had satisfied the biological urges and drives in my body. Not true though. Now that my body has done it once, it has this NEED to do it again. I can actually feel the need coursing through my veins. It is hard to explain, but that is what I have been feeling the last few months. to remedy this biological urge?? Well, seeing as Andy has had a vasectomy my options are limited. The whole purpose of a vasectomy was to prevent ourselves from having a second child, because WE ONLY WANTED ONE CHILD. So there's that. But- there are still options! Options enough that I am considering them!!! Seriously, I don't know how to handle this because my brain is saying, "No, you don't want to do this again, it will be hard and stressful, AGAIN!". But my body is saying, "Yessss, do it! Have another baby. You will feel gooood!" I could just ignore it all, and resolve that my baby making days are over...but the agony!

So this is baby fever, and my predicament. What an age we live in that we get to make these decisions for ourselves.

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 yoga 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 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.