Our Finished Dining Room

dsc_4080

I can with 100% certainty say that our dining room is FINISHED! Ah… it feels so good to say. It feels even better to know there is an entire room in our new house that is completely styled to our satisfaction. I liked the warmth of the farmhouse, but also wanted to incorporate the cool industrial look into our space since we live in the Steel Valley! In fact, our town is quite the juxtaposition being equal distance from cozy, family farms and steel mills. Speaking of contrast, I just can’t get over the before & after pictures of this space:

I like the actual place I’m living in to contain elements from what the area is notorious for. In San Diego it was pretty obvious: beach. My room had walls coated in a sand-like texture with the smallest flecks of gold, and I usually kept seashells on my dresser. This is starkly different from my usual beachy vibes, but this style feels earned. I really had to embrace not just Ohio, but this particular valley, and now I display it like a badge of honor in my home.

 

dsc_4082

The chairs are definitely what tied this whole room together for me. Despite them being a cold metal, which is some thing J was concerned about, they are actually quite comfortable and easy to clean. Even my curvy self sits comfortably in these chairs!

dsc_4077
These awesome chairs can be found here and are fairly affordable. The nice people at Anji Modern Furniture offered me a discount for reviewing these beauties on Amazon for them, as well as offering a little shoutout here, up on my blog. The truth is though, that I had already made up my mind that these were the chairs for us before we officially purchased them.

dsc_4076

dsc_4075

dsc_4083

Postpartum Depression

I have debated on whether or not I publicly wanted to declare that I am suffering with postpartum depression, and have since decided that it would be more therapeutic and healing for me to write about it, then to put effort into concealing it.

dsc_4049-1

I have been on a long and exhausting journey, and I wish I could say I have reached my destination but the reality is, I am still on the road to recovery. I don’t know when I will feel comfortable writing about my experience from start to finish, but today I wanted to reveal my very first encounter with a psychiatrist when I first started treatment. This doctor was horrible, and I’m not just saying that because I am “ill” or because she told me things I didn’t want to hear; I’m saying that because she had no clue about postpartum depression and was less than qualified to do her job. To any woman who has attempted to get care and been treated this way, I am sorry. I am sorry that our system failed  you. I am sorry that you may have even given up seeking treatment because of a bad experience. I am sorry that mental health care professionals carry stigmas against their own patients. I know; I experienced it.

quote-richard-j-codey-postpartum-depression-is-a-very-real-and-73166

I remember walking into her office, alone, afraid, and completely vulnerable. Her space was the epitome of a psyche ward: cold pale tile floors, white walls with various dents and scratches, and bright fluorescent lights that occasionally flickered.  As I explained my symptoms she interrupted me and in a very brash tone assumed “This is your first baby, huh?” I remember being taken aback that I would A) be interrupted just as I am bearing my soul and B) to have an assumption made about me by some one who had only known me for a total of 3 grand minutes. “No,” I replied, “This is my second child, which is why I didn’t expect–” Interrupting again, she just couldn’t hold back her surprise at being so painfully wrong. “Second child? That is very unusual. Are you sure you weren’t depressed with your first? It isn’t common to have depression with your second child and not your first.” And that’s when it hit me, I wasn’t going to receive a fair assessment and this doctor was going to do every thing possible, even imagine a history of depression in me, in order to make my illness fit her perception of what Postpartum Depression looks like.

dsc_3448-1

When I thought it couldn’t get any worse, she ended our appointment by asking me, “Do you want to have any more children?” I told her, “Yes, my husband and I would like to have a large family some day.” With a cold, domineering expression she said, “You may want to reconsider. I would probably stop having children in your situation.”

In a society where it is a CARDINAL SIN to tell a woman what she can and can’t do with her body, an incompetent doctor who had assessed me for only 20 minutes decided I should never procreate ever again. This was my first experience receiving psychiatric care for my postpartum depression. Perhaps to some it sounds dramatic, but I am completely serious when I say that the care I received was criminal. It amplified my symptoms of feeling like a failure, feeling guilty, feeling crazy

images

I have since found a therapist who specializes in Postpartum Depression, who cried when I told her of this account. She is the one who made me feel human again. She is the one who gave me hope that I could get better and go on to be an amazing, wonderful, loving mother [to even MORE children, if I wish!]

If you are struggling with this horrible, awful illness I want you to know 3 things: You are not alone, it is NOT your fault, and with the appropriate care you can get better. For great resources and tools to help you find a specialist, visit http://www.postpartum.net/

25

Citrus-Cake-From-Lauren-Conrads-LC-Celebrate

I remember joking a year ago that I was on schedule for my quarter life crisis, as I passed 24 and was heading for 25. It was just that: a joke. I have my “career” figured out for the time being, I have a wonderful husband, my fertility clock isn’t ticking as I already have 2 beautiful children, and to top it all off, we just purchased our first home. To any one else my age, it appears I have everything handled.

In a lot of ways I do, but just like your average human person, in a lot of ways I don’t. I had a pretty extensive self-knowledge when I got married. I knew who I was and what I needed to feel happy and fulfilled. I was active, working toward my degree, and I knew I would get married and start a family. At 25 my degree has long since been finished, the wedding is over, and I stopped being active during my first pregnancy. I still felt utterly fulfilled through the vocation of motherhood. Everyday had its frustrations, but I knew what to expect from Sophie, and I truly felt in control and in my element when it came to raising our daughter. Flash forward to Cora’s entrance, and any confidence I had in my ability to mother has completely gone to hell. I find myself in 24 years worth of ashes, wondering if I have the ability to rise and emerge into year 25.

It has been a difficult season in my life. I recently wrote that I am on a journey to find myself again, and I don’t care how cliche it sounds, because that is exactly what I am doing. I am on a journey of healing, rediscovery, and love. I am just thankful that I have my best friends [J and the girls] at my side, helping me navigate this new era in my life.

 

{image source: LaurenConrad.com}

Sophie and Cora Update

Cora is just shy of 5 months, and her personality is exploding! She loves watching Sophie run  around, to is easy to make laugh, and overall: she is a happy baby now. The colic is gone, and while she still gets into fussy fits right as she is about to fall asleep, I want to say the worst is behind us.

This is my favorite age… Babies are getting independent enough to have their own personality, but still dependent enough to be cute, cuddly babies! It had been awhile since I tried doing an indoor photo shoot with Cora, so we gave it a shot with this cute bucket and some summer time blooms. I wish I had had more natural light to work with, but there were thunderstorms on and off all throughout the day leaving us at mercy of my camera flash.

Now Sophie is at a stage where she has to coming running in and participate in whatever we’re doing. This also makes my little photo shoots more difficult as back drops get pulled down and props, well — destroyed. BUT I had the good sense to stick her on the potty chair, first.

Cora idolizes her sister. Even when Sophie is trying to bury her in toys, or poking her out of curiosity, she is always smiling with her eyes locked on big sissy. I love watching them interact, especially since I know there will be a day when they will fight. For now, it is sweet sisterly bliss.

Unconditional Love

13507000_10153736580756239_7903231466812574738_n

When you think of toddlers and babies, your first thought is probably not “unconditional love.” I mean, they tantrum when you won’t run on the TV, cry when you walk in the room, and even say “No like you, mama.” The unconditional love I’m talking about is one that doesn’t see my weight, skin color, or life accomplishments. My kids don’t care that I never went for my masters degree, they don’t care that I’m a solid 40 lbs overweight, and they don’t care that I’ve been swearing under my breath since 6 am.

All they see when they look at me, is the mama who has nurtured them from birth, snuggles with them on the couch, and plays with them during the day. Even on my worst days as a human being, Sophie still wants to give me a good night kiss. Her love sees beyond my failures as a mother. When I am at my limit, and exasperated because Cora won’t sleep, she gives me the biggest grin as I attempt to swaddle her again for the 1,000,000th time. At this stage in life, my babies don’t hold grudges (even if I WON’T turn the TV on). There is a bliss to their innocence and ability to be easily distracted. A simplicity and forgiving spirit that I wish I had, but one that I am thankful to be the recipient of.

13419084_10153710524896239_1722771659413064843_n

Our Favorite Books

DSC_4018

Right now we have a few, solid, favorite books that we enjoy rotating through every day. Now that we’ve transitioned Sophie into her big girl bed [don’t be impressed, it is still a nightly battle…] she asks for a whole  stack of books to be read to her every night. The English Major inside me is excited, the exhausted mama in me is usually annoyed, either way: reading books is good for children.

Sophie’s 2 favorites right now include the beloved Daniel Tiger, and an Eric Carl classic, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”

DSC_4021DSC_4022

I like the Daniel Tiger book as well, because this one is based on one of my favorite Daniel Tiger songs: “I like you just the way you are.” Sophie and I sing this to each other often. While it is a good, body positive song, the story that goes with it is cute too. Plus, Sophie is really into O the owl, who is a main character. Perhaps it has to do with his love of books? Also, most children enjoy the caterpillar book. It is silly, and they recognize many of their own favorite foods throughout the story. I like it because it is not a particularly long book. DSC_4023

DSC_4020

This author wasn’t familiar to me when I first had Sophie, but I received many of her books as shower gifts. The writing is quirky, calming, and creative. The sleep book is particularly relaxing to read, so I usually save it for last if we are reading bed time stories.

DSC_4024

This potty training books is extremely popular right now! It is short, simple, and educational. Sophie identified with it pretty well, then she pretty much memorized it, which was adorable because she often recites it while sitting on the potty. I’d highly recommend it for anyone trying to potty train.

Those are our favorite book choices as of right now. In a few months that will probably change as Sophie’s tastes usually evolve with her developmental stages. Hopefully they will be books Cora will come to love too.

 

Recovery

We had a busy weekend and J and I are still recovering. Summer is always a busy time in our little town, because the university puts on retreats for high school youth to rekindle their interest in the church. Honestly, those conferences are how I ended up in the Buckeye State to begin with. Anyway, J has weird work hours as the retreats take place over the weekends. Between that, the wonderful wedding we attended and Cora’s unpredictable sleep schedule, we are simply exhausted.

I stopped nursing Cora last week, and like many moms know, that decision came with a ton of different emotions. I went out and bought myself a few new clothes to help with the transition. No, I didn’t go to Macy’s or anything like that, just picked up a few things from Walmart to get me through summer, since the majority of my clothes are currently nursing tops and nursing bras with various clasps and openings that make it convenient to nurse, but aren’t overall that comfortable to wear.

The one thing keeping me smiling is Sophie’s amazing attitude. She is definitely bordering on the “terrible two” stage, but even with that being said, she is a total sweetheart 99% of the time. She is starting to interact with Cora more, becoming more responsible with the little chores and tasks we give her, and more affectionate (my personal favorite).

We have a busy week ahead, but I’m hoping to find respite by watering the garden with Sophie, cuddling with Cora, and going to the weekly moms group I recently discovered.

Nursery Reveal

DSC_3386

Ok so it is less of s nursery reveal, and more of a “corner of my bedroom” reveal. Either way, I wanted to show you all how we made room for our new little girlie despite not having an actual, available room for her sat the moment.

DSC_3387

Working on this little project has helped me to live in the moment, and suspend my worries and anxieties about the future. Yes, we are house hunting, and yes we may have to move with a newborn… but maybe we won’t. Maybe some thing will fall through, and that’s all apart of God’s plan for our little family. My husband reminded me that I can’t live my life preparing for every little “what if” because the possibilities are exponential and there is no way to prepare for them all. What is most important, is that you do your very best to prepare for what’s happening now.

DSC_3390

What’s happening now, is that I could logically go into labor at any moment. I’m 2 weeks away from being “due” but this baby can come whenever she feels she’s ready. I’m trying not to get my hopes up for that either, and at this point I’d actually prefer if our Little Miss would wait and come while my mother is out for a visit.

Again, numerous possibilities on how this labor could go down… So instead, I’ll lay some sheep skin under the cradle, clear the top of my dresser so that is can function as a changing table, and try to make room for the rocking chair.

DSC_3388

I also had fun making this cute little collage of things that represent our family on this little cork board. I wanted the baby stuff to still blend in with our current bedroom, while still personalizing the space for our newest addition.

Surviving the Last Weeks of Pregnancy

12193693_10153237579361239_1835197461999080744_n

Here I am, typing this and sitting pretty at 34 weeks. Apparently my baby is as big as a butternut squash and I’m thinking to myself, “I’ve done this before, how come I don’t remember it being so hard?” Ok, so I didn’t totally forget how hard the 3rd trimester is because I’ve secretly been dreading it ever since day 1 …but there is a particular intensity about reliving some thing you were so happy to be done with the first time.

baby

So since I’m not a ‘we have 2 kids and now we’re done’ kind of person, how do I handle the 3rd trimester and make it bearable? As a first-time-mom, I was able to lie on the couch as often as I wanted, nest or not nest to my heart’s content, and eat whatever I want. Now That I’m on #2 I have a shadow that follows me everywhere, insisting I share all of my food, leaving a path of destruction everywhere we go, and definitely does not let me lie on the couch all day. So here is what I do to make things a little easier on myself during these last several weeks

  1. Nap time – Nap time is time to treat yourself to anything you can’t do while the little ones are awake. If you prioritize eating a chocolate bar over doing a load of newborn laundry, I won’t judge. It’s all about survival.
  2. Spouses – When you got pregnant, *you* as an individual didn’t just sign on to be a parent, you spouse consented to parenthood to. That doesn’t start when the baby is born, that starts the second you start barfing in your 1st trimester. If you need help getting some thing done, or just need an hour to yourself to rest, TELL YOUR SPOUSE. I don’t care if he has a 12 hour work day, because you have a never-ending work day that involves a human person occupying your body, and you need the help. Contrary to popular belief, this is some thing you do together, and asking for help is one of the ways your spouse participates in the pregnancy: by making it more bearable for you.
  3. Indulge. I’m not just talking about the chocolate bar… if your back is killing you, go get a massage. If you want pink or blue toes for when your girl or boy comes, go get a pedicure. The 3rd trimester is a time to start getting excited for baby instead of just “being done with being pregnant.” Ask your spouse for help or hire a sitter if you have other kiddos. Whatever the case may be, do some thing nice for yourself that’s kind of a splurge. You’re almost there!
  4. Rubs. foot rubs, back rubs, leg rubs, anywhere you want rubbed, solicit your spouse or kids to rub for you. Maybe this sounds dumb, but one of the more vivid memories I have about the days leading up to Soph being born, include either J or my mom rubbing my legs and feet. I was just so exhausted but this helped to ease some of my discomfort. Get a nice lotion for this ritual.
  5. Tums and lots of pillows. Ok, so not every woman gets crazy acid reflux int heir 3rd trimester, but if you do, stash tums everywhere. Also, get a ton of pillows, grab some from the guest room if you have to. Even when I’m lying on the couch, I still like to have a pillow between my knees nowadays. Our bed is full of pillows too… really, any thing that will make you more physically comfortable, make sure you have those items in every room.

How do you survive the final trimester?

Christianity, Advent, and Family Traditions

advent-wreath

Most people think that there isn’t anything special going on between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Most people would be wrong. There is a whole season, rich with tradition, whose whole purpose is to prepare us for Christmas. I was raised in a Catholic home, but you may be surprised to hear that Advent isn’t exclusively a “Catholic thing” [though like Lent, it often is associated with our church]. In fact, more and more I am seeing evangelical and non denominal bloggers encourage Christians to celebrate Advent. 70% of Americans say they consider themselves Christians, so why don’t they know about Advent? What even is Advent?! The word “advent” loosely translates from Latin to mean “arrival,” pointing to our anticipation of the arrival of Baby Jesus at Christmas. So, we have a whole season dedicated to waiting for Jesus, and that makes sense right? I mean, we all except the secularized version of waiting for Santa to bring us gifts. But what is the difference between waiting for Jesus and waiting for presents?

Preparing ourselves for presents usually involves making a list of our wants and needs, lusting over beautiful items in store windows [or online…], saving up money to buy things for other’s, and anticipating the arrival of these things. Preparing for a person is much different. Typically you clean your house, make sure you have food to offer that person, and if they’re some one you love, you are excited that they are coming over! Advent allows us to clean up our hearts by focusing on how to improve ourselves and how we can be more charitable. Like the anticipation of company, the anticipation of Jesus warrants a whole tradition of special recipes; there are many traditional advent dishes I never knew existed, but fasting or abstaining from eating too many sweets is also a tradition people used to practice to ensure they had plenty for a Christmas feast. And of course, we wait in joyful expectation for the birth of Jesus on December 25th. See the difference?

When we had kids,  my husband very definitively said he did not want Santa to be apart of Christmas with our children. At first I was taken aback, but now I see the wisdom in this position. Of course, let me just say I don’t condem the practice of “Santa” he is a saint after all, and his bringing of gifts is arguably a Christian tradition. However, the way I want my children to view the Christmas season is more easily communicated, by me to our kids, when the focus of getting gifts and magical men in the north pole are absent from the equation.

Still, that left me wondering How do I get them to participate in Advent? Advent, though it starts long before Christmas, [it begins Nov. 29th this year…] does not warrant the halls to be decked with any sort of seasonal dressings. In fact, advent calls for us to abstain from most “Christmas” related activities until it is officially Christmas. As hard as this sounds, it is meant to intensify our anticipation of the coming of Jesus. So again, I’m left with the question, How do I celebrate advent? Well thanks to Christian bloggers everywhere, I’ve collected many different ideas and been inspired to create a few new traditions of my own.

Decorating even though “Christmas” decorations aren’t encouraged, the church is typically decorated with purple cloths, an advent wreath and candles. I plan to wrap the pillars on our front porch with purple tulle from the craft store, and hang a simple wreath on our front door, which will be symbolic of an advent wreath. Inside, I will have our actual advent wreath on our coffee table.

Music I know it’s hard not to bust out the Christmas music as soon as department stores begin playing it and putting up their festive decorations you know, the day after Halloween?] But did you know there is such a thing as advent music? Some songs may even be familiar to you like O come, O come Emmanuel. Songs about the joyful longing we have for Jesus can work as advent songs in addition to music about prayer, hope, and preparing the way of the Lord! That gives you a lot to work with in terms of songs you can listen to, leading up to Christmas day.

Traditions Lighting the candles on your advent wreath is the most common tradition, but advent calendars are a great way to get kids to participate! Also, making what is called a “Jesse tree” is another tradition that is new to me, but a great way to get little ones participating! You make ornaments that symbolize each of Jesus’ forefathers, and also important moments in salvation history. So one day you might hang an ornament of baby Abraham, and the next day you’d hang a rainbow ornament symbolizing Noah’s ark.

Feast days This is something that is definitely more geared for Catholics, but can be celebrated by others as well. St. Nicholas [aka Santa…] actually has a feast day in the church dedicated to him already. It’s on December 6th, and the tradition that goes with this feast is reminiscent of our Christmas stockings. You are supposed to leave your shoes out, and St, Nicholas will come and fill them with treats. This tradition came about because St. Nicholas would anonymously leave riches and food for the poor by placing the items at the doorstep, or in the shoes of the needy while they slept. Having grown up in San Diego, I know the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe is Dec 12th, which would be a great day to tell the story of Our Lady and St. Diego over a nice mexican food dinner. The next day, St. Lucia is a feast that’s popular in Sweden and Italy. Having lived in Italy, St. Lucy brought food and drink to her Christian friends, who were hiding in the catacombs from the Romans [it was not popular to be a Christian in her lifetime]. In order to light her way and still be able to carry the food and drinks, she places candles on her head. I’ve heard of some families who pick this feast day to put up their Christmas lights in honor of St. Lucia lighting her way to help the Christians.

The Nativity This is actually a festive decoration you can justify having out during advent, but there is a fun activity that goes along with it. Whenever one of your kids does some thing charitable, they get to place a piece of straw [or yellow yarn] in the manger, so that it will be nice and soft for Jesus when he arrives. Of course, this means you have to leave Jesus out of the nativity scene to get the full effect of this activity… but I love it!

Meditation Catholics are encouraged to go to confession in order to be pure of heart when Jesus arrives on Christmas, but even if you’re not a sacramental Christian, you can still prepare your heart by being prayerful until Christmas day. As mentioned above, you can use the season of advent as a time to work on a “new year resolution” ahead of time. Think about things you need to work on. Maybe take time to forgive some one you’ve been holding a grudge against. If nothing else, take time to relax and spend time with family instead of participating in the notoriously busy “christmas” that is advertised and pushed in secular society.

Sacrifice I know this one sounds scary, but I bet you do it already, even if you’re not a Christian! More people sacrifice entire paychecks to buy nice gifts for friends and family. Charity is a big part of preparing for Jesus. Whether you spend a little extra on a loved one, donate gifts to children in need, or offer your time to help the homeless, any sacrifice is a good way to honor the season of advent.

Did you know Christmas only STARTS on December 25th? That’s right, traditionally the Christmas season doesn’t even begin until AFTER December 25th! You know, the 12 days of Christmas? I think you’ve heard of it… Anyway, everything before December 25th is technically advent. So, while it’s tough to remove yourself from the green and red bonanza that begins November 1st in the shopping mall, give celebrating advent a try this year instead.