Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015


This year was a year of hard work and new beginnings.  I suppose now that we especially have children, every year will be a year of hard work, but if I take a look back on the last few years this one stands out in particular.

I didn't waver in pushing and challenging myself which resulted in a chunk of debt being paid off, writing goals reached, and (slowly) getting back on the road.  I cooked a whole chicken and didn't kill anyone (a huge accomplishment, I thought).  I took the exhausting and demanding journey of going to therapy in an attempt to conquer anxiety. I worked with a brand for this blog.  I had my writing picked up and featured.  I birthed another human.  There are more than a few notable things that stand out about this year.

Ella celebrated her first birthday, took her first steps, said her first words, had her first plane ride.  She became a big sister, discovered her love for coloring, and developed more of that Miss Independent personality.  She grew (and continues to grow) rapidly.  She's no longer that baby we welcomed into the world almost 2 years ago.  She's a full-fledged toddler who's running and screaming and always wanting cookies (her mother's daughter, clearly).

Tim's always growing in ways that amaze me.  I'm constantly learning and taking after his quiet example.  He added professor to his résumé, made strides at work, and continues to share his love of his craft.

We said goodbye to Southern California and hello to the Pacific Northwest.  We found out we were soon to be a family of four.  We became a family of 4.  We were blessed with visits from family and friends.  Having gone through the past year, we've become stronger as a unit.

I closed out last year feeling exhausted and a little discouraged, but hopeful.  This year I'm happy, relieved, and proud to say I'm ringing in 2016 breathing a little easier and with a lighter spirit.  Last year was about setting the ground work for hard work and accomplishment and this year was about working hard and achievement.  I'm excited for 2016.  I'm excited to simply to be with my growing family, to watch my kiddos grow.  But I'm also excited for the things that will come with 2016 -- our (highly anticipated and long awaited) trip to Michigan,  Archer will be baptized where we'll see two close friends as they are the Godparents.  A friend from college is getting married in June which will (hopefully) take us back to Southern California.  My best friends may take a trip out West in the Summer.  And then there's the lofty goal of traveling for the holidays.

Ever since Tim and I got married, it seems that our life has been full of constant change, a little uncertainty, and a couple curve balls.  I can't believe we've moved three times and have had 2 kids in a little over 2 years. These past couple years have yielded much growth, but I'm happy that our life seems to be leveling out a bit.  Some may read this and laugh.  The phrase just tell God your plans and He'll show you His may come to mind.  And to you I'd say, yes, more curve balls could be thrown our way, unforeseen events could take place, things we aren't ready for could happen.  All that could happen and we'd get through it.  I don't doubt my and Tim's teamwork and bond.  But for now, I'll simply be thankful for feeling settled, a full heart, and a peaceful mind.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

So that was awkward

 I work my butt off to overcome my anxiety and it's hard as hell -- I'm incredibly thankful for those moments with people where anxiety doesn't live.
The other day I was perusing Fred Meyer for some black tights for Ella.  Her wardrobe really lacks in the dressy clothes area, so I needed to get her something for midnight Mass.  I spotted the toddler section and pushed my wobbly, below average cart down the aisle when I thought I heard someone I knew.  I looked past the kiosk of men's socks and noticed it was a strange face and continued on.  A seemingly ...nothing sort of situation, yeah?  Who cares if it was someone I knew?  I'd engage in the short, semi-awkward chit chat of "how are you's" and "good to see you's" and move on without a second thought.  My internal reaction to this unknown person's voice clued me in though that that wouldn't be the case in the slightest -- my sweaty palms, increasing heart rate and overall oh shit what am I going to say vibe informed me that I'd probably attempt to hide behind men's sock kiosk.

It's the end of another year.  And per usual, I've reflected on this past year, have gone through my note cards, checked off goals reached and achievements made, and evaluated areas where I need work.  And that ridiculous situation in the aisle at Fred Meyer made me realize that while I've made strides in overcoming my anxiety in some areas, there are other areas where I haven't even scratched the surface.

Story time.

When I was in 5th grade (for the second time), I was at a friend's house.  My friend's mom told us that it might be nice to call this other friend and invite her over.  So we headed over to the landline with the long, curly cord (haha) and proceeded to debate who would call her.

You call her.
No.  You call her.
It's your house.  Why do I have to call her?

I, being the older and wiser (again, haha), ended up making the call to which I got the answering machine.  Panic set in, but my 12-year-old self pushed through, left a message and left it all at that. The friend never came over.  She never called back.  Later, I got a good reprimanding from my mom: did you leave a mean message for (let's call her Stacy) Stacy?  No, I didn't.  Apparently, this friend's mom called my mom saying I left a mean message and was upset and wanted me to apologize.

And so it all began.  My career of sounding mean, looking mean, enduring a lifelong battle of resting bitch face.  As absurd as all of this sounds, it unfortunately couldn't be more real.  And since it's real, since I can't tell you how many times I've been told I make a bad first impression or that I sounded mean or that I didn't come off nicely or that I (unknowingly) gave someone a dirty look, I've developed crippling anxiety when it comes to small talk, phone calls, running into acquaintances, meeting new people.

So there have been times when I simply haven't called someone back.  When I dodged the opportunity to meet someone knew.  And that networking event?  Please, forget about it.  There have also been times when I've tried to take opportunities in attempt to yank myself out of my comfort zone.  But over the years, I've gotten comfortable hiding in my corner looking angry but feeling fine instead of walking up to whomever and engaging in pleasantries.  Because who wants to sweat over .5 seconds of small talk with someone you're probably never going to see again?  It's too exhausting.

But I'm a mom now.  And there's no room for that.  I have a lifetime of phone calls, play dates, run in's with parents on a soccer field (or ice rink -- hint for my son to play hockey), parent/teacher conferences, doctors appointments, birthday parties ahead of me.  I can no longer let my anxiety get the best of me when interacting with people.  So in 2016 my top resolution, aside from putting my socks in the hamper, is to go to that mom's group.  Yeah, that one I wrote about weeks ago.  The one I said I was going to go to.  And to slowly, just like I did with driving, get on the road.  It could be colossally awkward.  I could be drenched in sweat by the time I get home (no big, I won't wear gray). And someone could walk away from me thinking that woman and her mean voice.  But I'll smile through it.

2016 is for putting aside a lifetime of that (to be frank) crap, and to look at myself through the lens that my best friend sees me, and walk with my head held high.  If I run into any more of those unpleasant comments?  Well that's what the "you don't know me's" and z-snaps are for.

Monday, December 28, 2015

A simply sweet Christmas









This Christmas was one of simplicity, perspective, and sweet blessings.  And it was the best ever.

After receiving hospital bills and some unexpected dental work bills, Tim and I had a conversation earlier in the month of what Christmas was going to look like this year.  We decided we'd put our budget toward the experience of Christmas -- nice Christmas dinner and breakfast, gifts for kids, and Giving Tree gifts -- and that we'd save any ideas we had for each other for Valentine's.

Having a conversation about finances around the holidays has the potential to be quite the buzz kill. Especially since gift giving is a way I love to show people I love and care about them.  And for some days leading up to Christmas, I worried about what our Christmas scene would be like come the morning of.  The days leading up to Christmas came and went and with each passing day it seemed as though we received a card or a package in the mail.  By the morning of December 25th, I was overwhelmed by the love wrapped in packages that laid underneath our tree.  It was a beautiful reminder of how truly blessed we are with incredible friends and family.

And so material things were set aside this year.  Tim and I spent the afternoon in the kitchen on Christmas Eve making pierogi from scratch and had a lovely candle lit dinner before midnight Mass. We kept up our annual tradition of indulging in a 2AM serving of coffee cake when we got home. We got up on Christmas morning and watched Ella experience Christmas and gave thanks for having another little one who couldn't be cuter.  Family came over later in the day for dessert and watching the cousins run around together seemed to make Christmas complete.  Tim and I talked about what we thought our Christmas's would look like 5 years from now and wondered what new traditions we'd have.

When Christmas night came, we both agreed it was our best Christmas.  There's something so beautiful about the young newlywed years.  Tough decisions are made, tough conversations are had.  We sacrifice and we budget.  These years can strip us of all the unnecessary and excess and can remind us that having each other, family and friends are the only gifts we need.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

From the weekend








It was a weekend of cleaning, errand running, candle burning, Office watching, and cookie baking. Since I've started to drive more often, I've picked up some of the errands that Tim and I either used to do together or Tim would tackle on this own.  (I don't know how he juggled all that he did for over a year - super husband, indeed!)  It's been great and exhausting.  I feel like I can breathe a little more freely having regained an independence I missed for so many months, but with the holidays, the stores are busier, parking lots are fuller, and friendly shoppers can sometimes be few and far between.

This weekend, though it was simply enjoyable to be out.  I had the intention of rising with the sun and getting out before the stores got busy on Saturday, but life with a newborn gave me a run for my money, and I didn't get out the door until after 10.  The stores were busy, sure, but I have to note how kind people were.  It was refreshing; peoples' senses of humor and smiles shined so bright, I felt a tug on my heart to thank God for the people I was encountering.  I ended my errands on an even happier note and sat in an almost vacant coffee shop which made for a perfect setting for taking a breath and relaxing. 

On a completely different note, where was I in 2005 when The Office was on?  Oh, that's right.  I was in high school, hating it.  I don't know why I ever disliked the show so much.  We're watching it now, and I'm dying over every episode.  At first, Tim couldn't stand it, but now he's dying with laughter next to me.  (But don't tell him I told you that.)

Anyway, we've finally reached Christmas week.  It feels like Christmas has been around forever since we (happily) decorated way too early this year.  I'm excited for the days ahead.  We've got going out to look at Christmas lights on our itinerary as well as (more) cookie baking (as well as eating more cookies).  I'm also going to attempt to make pierogi from scratch for Christmas Eve dinner (stay tuned on how that goes).

I hope your days ahead are bright and your Christmas preparations are stress-free and are filled with the perfect amount of caffeine.

Friday, December 18, 2015

A reminder

Ready to go!
Recently, I've picked up my fighting anxiety game.  I've driven more in the past six weeks than I have in the entire year.  And as I continue to get out, sometimes taking Ella, sometimes not, it gets a little easier.  But every now and then, it's not so easy and the anxiety starts to (quite literally) take over.

Yesterday was the deadline for getting the gifts under the giving tree at our local parish.  And I'm (admittedly) the type of person who has good intentions at the beginning of the season but then "life happens" (whatever that means) and I forget to grab a ticket or I miss the deadline or I forget to grab something from the store.  Thinking about our growing family and knowing what example I'd like to set as a parent, I was determined this year to get my butt in gear and have our gifts wrapped and under the tree.  Well, life's been a bit hectic around here.  Sometimes we sleep, sometimes we don't. We're juggling the new life of having two little kiddos.  So I let the shopping get by me until the day before the deadline. But I managed to get out and check everything off the list.  (Did realizing that I didn't have my wallet while at the checkout stop me?  No, it did not.)

I wrapped the gifts and thought it would be sweet to take Ella with me the next day to drop them off. Well when going out with kids, everything becomes an ordeal.  Let's get your shoes on, oh wait, we need to change your diaper, let's get your coat on, actually let's put your coat with the hood on -- it's pouring outside, alright take my hand, wait here, I need to get the gifts, oh I forgot the keys, do I have my wallet this time?  Etc., etc., etc.  And yesterday my anxiety increased with every realization and question and double check.  Fighting it, we got in the car and made it there only to discover the parking lot was full - not one spot left open.  Did I mention it was pouring?

Now I should note for someone without anxiety, these curve balls may not even seem like curve balls.  These things would probably go unnoticed.  But for me, put enough of these in my way and I'm working through a panic attack.

I prayed the church was open and Ella and I and our gifts made a run for it.  The church was open but the room was locked and in an effort to see if there was another place I could leave the gifts, I noticed the monstrance was on the altar.  Adoration was going on.

(Sigh)

I spotted an area where some gifts were placed, we dropped ours off, and then stayed for a bit.  I thanked God for reminding me I'm never alone, Ella said hi to Jesus, and I walked out feeling encouraged to keep on fighting.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The first



I knew so little when I had Ella.  I knew next to nothing about the challenges breastfeeding could present.  I knew nothing about how to look for a good formula.  I didn't know I would eventually feel like myself again - that the hormones, the postpartum depression and anxiety would eventually subside.  I didn't know just how fast time would go by when a child entered my life and just how quickly they grow.

I knew so little when I had Ella.  She was my first.  Everything was a learning experience.  I lost so much time with her due to the overwhelming feeling of not knowing.

And now, I'm calm.  Because of all that she taught me, I'm calm.

I now know breastfeeding doesn't work for everyone and what formula works for my little ones.  I know I will eventually feel like myself again even though on some days it may not feel like I will.  I know I will turn around and, like Ella, Archer will be going on two.  This new-found knowledge has enabled me to sit on the couch in total peace and contentment, present in the moment, and hold Archer without worry.  And as thankful as I am to Ella for teaching me all I need to know to have these peaceful moments, I can't help but to be heartbroken for missing out on that time with Ella.

I look at her now and hug her a little harder and cherish ever so greatly when she hops up on the couch and snuggles up next to Archer and me.

I now know the time we spend together is sweet and I should soak in all these moments as much as I can.  These moments pass by all too quickly.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Focusing on Faith



Incorporating new traditions into our family life has been something that Tim and I have been thinking and talking about lately.  With Ella getting older and with the holidays upon us, we've been talking tradition a lot.

Something that is important to the both of us is incorporating Catholic traditions into our family life. We'd like to raise our kids with the idea that our Catholic Faith isn't something we just practice one hour a week at church, nor is it something that we check at the door when we leave Sunday Mass.  It's something to be celebrated and lived out daily.

So yesterday, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, we made the day just a little more special by baking cupcakes, of course decorated in white and blue, and had a treat after we went to the evening Mass.

Ella understands that a treat is something special, so I figured a late night sweet would be the best way for her to grasp the day was a day to be celebrated.  She was hilariously skeptical of the cupcake. I've never seen a child so reluctantly put cake into her mouth, but it only took one bite before she began to devour it.

These things take effort, an effort that I hope to never waver in.  Yesterday was what I hope to be the first of many efforts to bring the Catholic Faith to life in our home.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Our first weeks home

It was two weeks ago that we welcomed our little Archibald (don't worry - it's really Archer) into the world.  What a joy these past days have been.  Having him during Thanksgiving week was a huge blessing.  Tim took the first part of the week off and then we had the long holiday weekend to spend together.  Tim's mom came out for the following week, so I've been a bit spoiled since Archer was born.  She helped with the baby and kept up on the cleaning, which left me to really bond with the little one -- something that was particularly important to me since my time after having Ella was difficult.  Tim and I even managed to squeeze a date night in while Grandma was here to babysit.

The house has been surprisingly quiet.  So quiet that I joked with my mother-in-law that I wasn't expecting it to be this quiet around here.  This guy sleeps a lot.  He eats a lot and he's a snuggler!  Ella has totally warmed up to him.  Where Archer is, Ella is.  She helps to hold the bottle when we feed him, she gives him kisses, runs his pacifier over to him if he starts crying, and insists on throwing away his diapers.

Now Ella.  Ella has become a whole new child since Archer came home.  She's deep in the throws of toddler growth spurts.  She is talking a whole lot more, her personality is showing more and more each day, and those emotional toddler tantrums are alive and well in our household.  She must do everything on her own, even the things she cannot yet do on her own.  She's mimicking nearly everything we do, drawing shapes, and though we've been teaching her she all of sudden one day knew how to do the sign of the cross.  It's been a bit of challenge to balance her growing personality and Archer's needs, but thankfully Archer is an overall calm baby, so we've managed.

I've felt weirdly on top of life.  Having a newborn around, I figured I'd let my thank you notes fall to the wayside or forget to schedule an appointment here or there.  But, no.  All appointments are scheduled and everything I needed to mail is in route.  We'll just pretend I didn't completely forget my address at the UPS store and shared a painfully awkward 2 minutes with the teen clerk who was clearly judging me.  So I haven't been totally on top of it.  I also left my keys in the door for the whole afternoon one day.  Apparently, anyone is welcome when I'm exhausted.

Growing pains, adjustment periods, larger than usual caffeine intake, doesn't matter.  These first couple weeks have been sweet.  And we're so beyond excited to have this new little guy in our lives.

Here are some moments from the last couple weeks:

We loved having Grandma here!

Date night out.  The best. 

Goodnight kisses. 

Trying to conquer some tummy time. 

Snuggling by the tree.  Also the best. 




Cousins chillin'. 

 Sibling love.  I'm already so happy they have each other.

Me babies.