The title should probably also have read something about being cheap AF, also, but I decided on brevity. Pick a room in our new house, and it needs some work. I work beyond full-time, earning less than I need, so it almost goes without saying that repairs need to be cheap AF. I want to begin in the room that is truly the most horrendous, which would be any one of our 2.5 bathrooms. Seriously. I’ve seen cleaner toilets in third-world countries, and that is not even hyperbole. To date, we’ve tried bleach, scouring scrub, soaking bubbles, and a pumice stone to try and chisel away years upon years of accumulated… mineral content. Let’s just go with mineral content. Continue reading “DIY Kitchen Redux”
It’s been just over two years since we became parents. In that time we have watched our little girl turn into one of the most sassy little angels on the face of the planet. We have documented just about everything she does, from giggling to walking our dog. There must be a few thousand photos of her in my iCloud account, alone. Multiply that by about another 1,000 times and you’ve still got just the tip of the mountain of baby girl memories captured by family members over the past two years. Seriously. She’s like a minor celebrity.
We have a son, too, you just might not be able to figure that out by looking through our photos.
In fact, we held our daughter’s second birthday party just one month before my son turned one. We rented a pavilion by a small lake at a park and invited family. It was not a huge deal, but it was something, and we got loads of photos from the event.
Just one month later on my son’s first birthday, New Year’s Eve, we did nothing.
In fact, I think we were asleep by 9 o’clock. Poor little guy didn’t even get a cake.
Of course, part of the reason behind this was that we had just moved into a new house. We closed on the 22nd of December, but allowed the sellers to stay in the house through Christmas so they wouldn’t have to spend Christmas in a hotel room (I know, I know. We’re practically ready to be canonized for our generosity). This pushed back our move-in date to just before our son’s big number 1, and we were exhausted.
Sorry, bud, but at least you have a new house?
At any rate it is a house that has much, MUCH better insulating properties. We’re actually able to keep it above 60 in the winter now, so you’re welcome for not needing to worry about hypothermia anymore, little guy. Happy birthday.
(Aside: while the insulation might be much more effective, just about everything else is going to need replacing/updating in the near future. Stay tuned as we post about redoing our home on a shoestring budget, most likely fueled partly by need and the rest by Pinterest)
What really kills me about this is his persistent happiness. I thought our little baby bird was a sweetheart, but it turns out I had no idea what a sweetheart really is until my little boy came along. He is all smiles, all the time. He coos, he giggles, and he lights up when he sees me.
And just look at that f**king dimple!
What kind of parents would let such a kid breeze right past his first birthday without so much as a smash cake?
In our case, the kind that want to overturn mountains in order to correct such an oversight.
While I believe that the willingness to work hard for everything is a value that must be learned and appreciated, I also believe that entering adulthood under a mountain of debt is not exactly the best way to get started. Our currently accepted debt-funded college approach to releasing our children from our homes into the real world is just unreal and unsustainable. What a ridiculous way to set our kids up for a miserable life of indentured servitude, right out of the starting gate.
So while I think that nothing should just be handed out, lest we raise a generation of sluggish leeches, I also believe that a firm foundation is a necessary part of a peaceful and rewarding life. I’ve been meaning to write a more intensive post on the importance of saving for college/trade school/a house, but as go first birthdays, so also goes the actual writing of an intended post: prioritized somewhere behind sleep.
If you are a friend or family member and you want to throw down on some shared-guilt gifts for a sweetheart’s much-belated first birthday, you are most certainly welcome to do so. If not, don’t worry about reading on. The post pretty much ends right about… now.
I spent the first part of my military career on active duty, single and without children. Time spent deployed was an opportunity to set aside cash that would have been otherwise spent on vodka and rent (in that order), so I viewed it as a kind of positive thing. The deployment itself almost always sucked, but I did not have anything waiting for me at home except for my two pups, and I could always be sure that they would be happy as hell when I got home and forgive me for ever leaving them at my mother’s place for so long (note: this is a tall order. If someone ever left me at the mercy of my mother for that long I would dis-own/embowel them, and it would probably be followed by a rash of structure fires). I knew that it must have been hard for the fathers and mothers with whom I was serving to leave their families at home, but I could never fathom just how difficult something like that could be until I started a little family of my own.
I’d started out with the first column of this list titled “Need”, but then decided that that was a very loose use of that word. I mean, really, we don’t need almost anything to take care of and raise a baby. I think our culture and the marketing industry does a stellar job of making us feel like we truly must have all of the best things in order for our children to have happy, healthy lives, but the large majority of what we purchase when we have a baby is fluff. Nice fluff. Very convenient fluff. But still… fluff. That being said, our family also has PLENTY of it. This post, and the following posts, are in no way casting judgement on what parents choose to purchase/register for for their kiddos. It is merely my personal point of view on which items you should get, which ones are nice to have but not necessary, and which ones you can definitely live without. After doing endless research pre-baby, thinking I’d found all the best and most necessary items, I still found that we ended up with a lot of things that were barely/not used and a lot of things we ended up wishing we’d had on hand.
Continue reading “Baby Items: THE NURSERY”
It’s been about 3 months since I wrote about The Dreaded 4-Month Sleep Regression, so I thought it would be appropriate to update on how our sleep is going and what we’ve learned since then. When I wrote that post, I was so exhausted and so emotional. I was, quite literally, crying on my keyboard. I spent a great deal of my time consumed with worry about her sleep and so unsure of myself about how I was handling it.
Something I read time and time again when scouring websites and blogs regarding sleep regressions was to be careful to NOT create a new bad habit or sleep crutch during regressions. It’s easy to do when you’re desperate and feel out of options, but it’s a really easy way to make a temporary sleep regression turn into a permanent problem. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that’s exactly what we we did.
For a slight and welcome change of pace, this post will actually have gloriously few words. Instead, enjoy this photo of our baby girl, Wren Marí. She recently passed another monthly benchmark and wants you all to know about it. Continue reading “Our Little Angel’s Seventh Month”
I’ve only got the one little baby at the moment, just turned 7 months-old a few days ago, but that doesn’t stop me from looking far into the future. Today, my little girl is a mewling, helpless mess. She is as sweet as peach pie, but without us she would be lost. Tomorrow, she will grow into a completely unique and independent person.
I am not fooling myself into believing that I have control over how she turns out, that I can somehow shape and mold her into my idea of a perfect little human. She will fight, she will rebel, and she will eventually come into her own. Best case scenario: it all goes off without a hitch and she catapults to the top of the moral order like Mother Theresa. (Almost) extreme worse case scenario: she figures out who she really is while serving some time in prison for patricide. Either way, that day will come.
I don’t need to explicitly state which route I prefer that she takes. Continue reading “The Moral Uprightness Imperative, or Why We Spend Sundays in Church Instead of Bed”
Before I start this post, I just want to preface with this:
My intention here is to show postpartum depression and anxiety in a way that can be real to you & for anyone out there struggling with it (or any baby or non-baby-related mood disorders) to not feel ashamed or alone. Please do not feel sorry for me! I am the luckiest mama, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, & friend on the planet and I’m so privileged to have the love and support of such awesome people!
So here we go.
It’s funny, we’ve been talking about starting this blog for a while, so I’ve been keeping a list in my notes on my phone of topics to write about for months, even before Wren was born. On this list was “postpartum anxiety”. I put it on the list before I even had Wren, because I knew it was going to become a reality for me.
There are a few different types of “mood disorders” that can occur postpartum. According to americanpregnancy.org, the “baby blues” is considered the least severe of the forms of postpartum depression and typically subsides within 2 weeks of delivery. This affects nearly 80% of women, which isn’t incredibly surprising considering the rapid shift in hormones that occurs after the baby is born and the mother is no longer pregnant. Postpartum depression is more severe & longer lasting than the baby blues. It includes more intense symptoms & postpartum anxiety is often umbrella’d under it. “Symptoms usually develop within the first few weeks after birth, but may begin later — up to 6 months after birth.” The rarest and most severe form of postpartum depression is postpartum psychosis. “This can lead to life-threatening thoughts or behaviors and requires immediate treatment.”
General anxiety is something I’ve struggled with for years. I think it’s probably been hanging around for most of my life, but it’s just always kind of been my normal. In an effort to be totally transparent- I will share that I was on anxiety meds for about a year (while Aaron was deployed- way too much for me to handle without some help) & I have gone through two rounds, for lack of a better term, of counseling. At the time, the meds were the right choice for me and really helped take the panicky edge off of my feelings. Both times I went to counseling were incredibly helpful & I definitely learned great skills to help manage my anxiety and keep it mostly at bay. At any rate, I knew my anxiety would be fueled by the hormones, exhaustion, & fears as a first-time-mom.
After Wren was born, I was definitely hormonal and emotional. Like most new moms, I was overwhelmed & exhausted. We’d had a complicated delivery (you can read that story *here, here, & here*) and were about to embark on a cross country move with a newborn and 3 dogs. I felt like most of my feelings were totally in the normal realm of the baby blues, especially considering the huge changes we had coming. After the big move and once things settled down, I felt pretty okay for a little while. I had some (what I could consider) normal-first-time-mom-anxiety about if Wren Marí was eating enough, if I was doing things right, etc., but it didn’t feel out of control. I was able to let these things pass and generally enjoy my days and my time with little girl & my husband.
Then, about two months ago (about 3.5 months postpartum), it started to get worse. What had worked for me in the past to keep my anxiety in check was no longer sufficient. I definitely did not realize it at the time and can only now look back and see when the change happened. It didn’t occur to me that I could be having postpartum anxiety & depression so long after her birth. I was generally not enjoying my days and I was spending a lot of time preoccupied in fear, which made me depressed. I’ve been asked what it is that I worry about, but truly, that part is unimportant. It’s the irrational, overwhelming feeling that can allow what was once a “normal” concern to snowball into 480 worst case scenarios that play on repeat in my mind. It’s the fact that feeling this way interferes with my life & my relationships — preventing me from being the best mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend, etc., that I can be. The best way I can think to describe it is as if I’ve somehow ended up stranded in rough surf, fighting to stay above water, but exhausted from the struggle. I won’t give up, but I’m so tired.
So anyway, let me tell you a story. This is embarrassing for me to admit, but it’s just part of my truth. A Friday morning, about two weeks ago, Aaron was out running errands. He’d seen an ad for the local roller derby that had a game (is that what they’re called?) that evening. We’d been talking about going to one of these for seriously years, so he excitedly texted me about it & suggested we go that night. I responded that yes, that sounded fun & we should check it out, but I immediately started to worry. What if we got into a car accident? What if someone flew off the roller rink (?) and smashed into us? What if Wren picked up some kind of awful illness while we were out? What if? What if? What if? I spent the entire day silently worrying about all the possible awful things that could happen on our way to, & at, the event. I couldn’t focus on anything. Thankfully, some tiny, rational piece of my mind stopped me in my tracks. “Do you realize you’re avoiding going out in public because you’re afraid?” Woah. How did I get here? This is not who I am or who I want to be. I was so overwhelmed with fear and guilt. I knew something had to change.
So I told Aaron. I’m sure he could tell that I’d been off for a while, but probably didn’t realize (just as I hadn’t) how far away I’d gotten. Just sharing my feelings lifted such a huge weight off me. It can feel so very isolating to be so lost in your own head. We talked about it and I decided I wanted to go to the roller derby. It was really fun & I’m so glad we went. In a way, I’m so thankful that my anxiety reached this extreme because it helped me to see just enough through the fog to help me find my way out of it. I also found out that a previous hairdresser of mine is apparently a roller derby champ. Maybe I should go see her instead of getting my hair cut at Great Clips again… (hashtag mom probs).
Since then, I’ve been very intentional about being aware of my thoughts and trying to stop myself when I begin to stumble. Some of the things that I’ve found that help me are:
- Spending time outside with my family
- Working on projects/hobbies
- Staying in frequent communication with family & friends
- Ice cream & cookies (let’s be real)
Sometimes these things work & sometimes they don’t. This is a process that I know I’ll be working on for a long time to come, probably forever.
In doing some of the research for this post, I came across something that said “This isn’t about positive thinking — it’s about being rational,” and that really says it perfectly for me. This isn’t about being glass-half-full or empty. This is about staying conscious of when my fears and worries “overshoot reality.” I certainly don’t have the answers, but I know that with the support of my family & friends, I will continue to push & grow through this.
I hope that if you are experiencing depression or anxiety, you know that you aren’t alone! Finding your happy again looks different for everyone, so don’t give up until you find the thing(s) that works for you.
We are all connected in some shape or form, of that much I am fairly certain. Even if we are connected in ways no more evident or profound than that fleeting moment we lock eyes with a total stranger in line at the grocery store and feel that sudden, subtle “click,” we are still an influence on and are affected by the people around us.
I compare this feeling of connectivity to the way in which gears work and fit together in an old grandfather clock – a finely tuned piece of very precise workmanship that you can rely on to function exactly as it should. Although, at times it may be more appropriate to compare this connectedness to the way two cars fuse together in a fiery collision, or get tangled in a shared knot of metal and glass in a miles-long pile up, but the point remains: we do not live isolated and independent lives the way we think we do.
I am by no means insisting that there is some deep cosmic or spiritual bond uniting us with our fellow humans that we are powerless to escape, but sometimes it’s just undeniable that people can affect those around them simply by being present. People give off a sort of tune, a note in an ever-changing symphony. Just being there, playing your notes in a volume too quiet for the ear to hear, is enough to affect someone else’s rhythm.
In our home of three humans and three dogs, we usually play our notes in harmony. I would compare the connectedness at home to the relationship between the keys on a piano or strings on a guitar. On most days, we play our song well and we complement each other with our tunes in a sweet, flowing harmony.
But a few days ago, in a break from the norm, we played an awful noise – like nails on a chalkboard. I forgot the basics of which musical steps create a dissonant sound, but it is safe to write that we were not playing the soundtrack to a Broadway musical. We were all over whatever frequencies create that agonizing, dizzying, and wavering tremor that we hear when notes are played out of harmony… like when you’re driving with the car windows down just enough to distort the pressure in a way that makes it seem like the air is boxing your ears over and over again.
Well that day our ears were getting boxed in, over and over and over…
My wife started the day stressed and emotional, on the verge of crying and screaming for no apparent reason. It’s easy to chalk this up to “lady problems,” but you do so at your own peril. I woke up from a really rough night of sleep feeling that I had only gotten about a 20-minute nap, depressed and lethargic.
And to cap it all off, our little baby girl refused to nap at all until after 5pm that day, and by then she was a horrible cranky mess who chose not to share with anyone her precious smiling eyes.
There was no external stimulus that pushed us all toward this funk, and there was nothing on which to put the blame for it, at least not that we could identify.
We went through the day like this, basically just going through the motions trying to keep ourselves together. That night, while in bed, our little girl was finally contentedly nestled up against her mom’s chest. I leaned over her and smiled, trying to get her to laugh, but instead she winced, puckered, and started crying.
This actually hurt my feelings.
Rather than being an adult, though, and taking this snub for exactly what it was (just a baby being a baby), I took it personally. I knew I was reacting inappropriately, but the little voice that was telling me to grow the hell up! was fighting against the droning, raucous shrill of our off-kilter home vibes. Instead of kissing my girl goodnight and leaving her be in her mommy’s arms, I flopped over onto my side, my back to the daughter who had just so coldly shunned me, and scooted as far away as the edge of the bed would allow.
I actually had a tantrum, staying like this until I fell asleep.
Just as suddenly as this funk had come over our home, it departed. We woke up the next morning feeling remarkably okay. Everything was normal. Nothing was slightly left or right of center. The air stopped boxing our ears and the chaos of the discordant chords subsided, the harmony returning to our home.
We do not know what tipped that first domino that knocked the rest of us over. We may never understand what makes this sort of thing happen. I guess, when all is said and done, we don’t really need to understand why we are sometimes all a little “off,” it just matters how we react.
I, of course, failed miserably in my reaction. You don’t take it personally when your 4 month-old baby cries instead of laughs. That’s ridiculous. You act like an adult and bitch about it on Facebook.
That’s where that stuff goes, right? Facebook?
Anyway. If there is a moral to this story, it’s this: try to remember that everyone around you has a head full of dreams and ideas just like you do, and all of them are be-bopping along to their own subsonic music of the soul. If you feel like you’re playing out of tune, fix yourself before you bring the whole orchestra down with you.
And if you see someone out of tune, give them a pitch to match. Smile. Say “good morning,” or “god bless you,” or something to that effect. Be a conductor, don’t be a critic.
If you don’t know how to fix yourself or find it hard to smile, then in the very least don’t throw a fit when your infant daughter hurts your feelings. You’re better than that.