parenting anxiousness

Deseret News is currently running a series on anxiety and I think it is SO important. They asked if I would contribute to the series and you can find my essay here. I felt impressed to write how I wish I would’ve been parented when I was a teen with anxiety. So in that essay you’ll find tips and encouragement if you have a loved one dealing with this disorder — I think it applies to any age, they still all certainly apply to me! It breaks my heart to hear statistics of just how rampant this disorder has become in the last several years – especially in adolescents. I think any conversations we can have about it will help those suffering find their best plan of action and remedy!

by Erin Hanson.

CLICK HERE FOR THE ARTICLE!

#worldmentalhealthday

World Mental Health Day. 10.10.

I remember the first time I had a (recognizable) panic attack. It was the 3rd of July, I was 18 and my now husband and I had broken up for the umpteenth time. Except this time was different. He moved on. He was dating someone else and when I dropped off a box of his stuff I saw her name written all over a piece of paper on his bedside table. I was being left behind. Probably because I was too much. Too many emotions, too much of a rollercoaster. More trouble than I was worth.#worldmentalhealthdayphoto by Brooke Palmer.

On the 3rd of July basically everyone I know goes to the parade route for the next day, where there is music and drive-bys and carnival food and boys checking out girls and girls pretending not to notice. My best friend and I went down to check it out and saw him there. We hung out on a patch of grass and he was nice. Nice, but distant. Like a flight attendant, smiling, but smiling for anyone and not for you to know. Then before I knew it he was gone. I saw him in the distance with her. Opening the car door for her and driving away. I drove a scooter at that point and so my friend and I hopped back on it and very casually sped past them. Just hoping to be seen. In the process hitting the side of his car with my longboard that was sticking out under me a foot on each side. Smooth, Em.

The memories after that point are fuzzy. Time passes but the next thing I know is I am alone running home. Not to my college apartment, my actual home miles away. I am in booty shorts and high top converse and I am hurtling down the biggest, busiest road in my town. My legs are begging to move forward and I can hardly breathe. It is too much now. All of it.

This very same Summer my parents are splitting up. My dad has chosen someone else, too.

A few cars pull over to see if I am okay. “I’m fine, thanks!” I squeak out.

I am not fine.

“Are you okay miss, can I give you a ride somewhere?” – “I’m okay, just on a run!” They look me up and down and surely are thinking who runs in Volcom shorts and Chucks? #2004

I am not okay.

When I finally get home I fall into my mom’s bed. Not my dad’s anymore. And my body erupts. I am sobbing, I am not breathing, my heart will beat out of my chest, but I don’t know how to slow it down anymore.

After this night my heart races like I am running down that highway for three more days. I can’t eat, parts of my body go numb, my fluttering stomach doesn’t relent. These are my symptoms. And I’ve had them a thousand times since.

Anxiety is the answer to so many of my questions. I desperately want control and can’t have it, anxiety arrives. I can’t predict an outcome, so anxiety offers me the very worst options and makes it seem like a done deal. If I feel happy, anxiety lurks to remind me how quickly it can be taken away. I have a flash of a memory where I did it all wrong, where I uncovered too much, bam, anxiety. I get a voicemail. There it is again.

If you don’t know, you don’t know. It is the worst of clubs to be in, yet I feel peace with my membership. Knowing so when someone tells me they have it too I can grab their shoulder and we can pass the knowing around. Of all the things I wish I could give back, I will keep the deep empathy.

I think I resent it most because my baseline is so much higher than anyone else I know. When you have a full pot of water and it finally spills over, how can you know which drop of water was the one who caused the spill? My kids feel the weight of it because they’re who I am with the most. And they’re usually the drop that spills it, even though so many other cups filled it that have nothing to do with them. I can’t think about this too much or I get swallowed up by shame. I just do my damn best. And I have to tell them how it feels to be me and I am sorry and I did it all wrong, and they always hug my neck extra tight and say “It’s okay, mom.”

I don’t know why I felt compelled to write this at 5 in the morning the day after mental health day. Maybe that I couldn’t sleep because my anxiety was through the roof? Maybe because I am so tired of everyone walking around like they are okay when they’re not.

It’s okay to not be okay. What is not okay is to push your-self down, down, down, so deep that you can’t escape. If you are dealing with these things, come back up where you can be seen. Where you can feel and be felt, you might feel like you are too much, and I get that with my whole heart, but this is your life. You get to live it, wholly.

Here’s what I’ve tried and what has worked, for the helpful or not.

  1. Don’t stir the beast. I do my best not to rile myself up. I avoid the triggers, I don’t get excited for good or for bad. I stay leveled and I try not to spike either way. This is why so many people who don’t really know me say “She’s super chill, she’s mellow.”  And I am, but also I am not. Ya feel me?
  2. Breathe, gosh dangit. Someone told me how to breathe right and this helps 100% of the time. You breathe in slowly for three seconds and you exhale slowly for 4 seconds. Keep doing it until you calm.
  3. Post panic attack it is really hard for me to get the symptoms off my back and I was prescribed a tranquilizer that I can take to help me fall asleep in those occasions. I am deathly afraid of medication, but I feel a little safer knowing it is there. I tried anti-depressants and I found they weren’t worth the daily side effects, for me. I recently started using CBD oil and that is actually super helpful. I feel like it takes my baseline back down to the land of the living making it a whole lot easier to navigate the spikes. The point of this being that it takes some work to find what will help you, don’t give up.
  4. Mediate, talk yourself through it out loud. Do yoga or run it out or find a kick boxing class. Eat right, dance to top 40 with your kids, say no and bow out and don’t feel bad for taking care of yourself in all the small ways, everyday, and have your arsenal ready when you need more grand gestures.
  5. If my husband had said this any year before 2017 I wouldn’t have been able to sort it out but this year he said “You just have to change the way you think” and at first I waved him off – you just don’t get it. But the more I think on it, the more I know it to be true. I know there are chemical imbalances and instances where this does not apply but for me, I am trying. To slow down enough that I can field my thoughts, validate them, re-write them, analyze and question them. To be inquisitive to my reaction of things more than I am to outside forces. To not believe everything I think, and try and give myself the benefit of the most helpful inner dialogue. Find you someone that will talk you through it out loud, too.

All my love, and mess, and heart,

Emily

 

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why small fry?

There are images from history books that stay with us: a group of women washing clothes together in the stream, a line of mothers walking with tall pitchers of well-water perched on their heads, babies wrapped tightly to their backs. Painting their faces and dancing around a fire. Gray haired women in rocking chairs sitting around a bucket shelling peas, shucking corn. Praying together, reading together, cooking together.

Living in a modern culture that builds walls and fences around our kitchens and laundry rooms can make motherhood feel intensely isolating. So we reach out to see ourselves in others, to extend our view and break past the walls we build. To spend time outside ourselves, for us, and most importantly, for our children.

Small Fry is a declaration to ourselves and to our boys that every moment with them is a gift and also a choice. A choice to let the magic of childhood find us, and to look for it in everything we do. That the world is ours and there is adventure around every corner. To make the daily decision to look past the things we did not check off the list, but focus on the simple things we can do to illuminate our lives. To let the hard moments, minutes, phases, heartaches come when they may, but not break our stride or our desire to live vibrantly.

We’ve been told this season of our lives is fleeting. What if we could say that we soaked it all in, let it envelope us, looked into those big beautiful eyes of our children every morning and said “let me show you something amazing today.”

What if?
Welcome to Small Fry.

Moms You Should Meet: Oryana

This post is in partnership with Uber. Sign up here to become their newest driver, where you can earn extra money driving, on your schedule.

By Emily.

I talked with Chicago-based Oryana on the phone and within minutes the purpose of this post changed. I was inspired, I got the chills, and I even teared up at one point, not at all what I expected when we were planning this post. So much of Oryana’s story resonated with us, whether it be Nicole making it work as a single mom, or Jenna being far away from her family, or myself. If I listed how many different jobs I’ve tried or number of times I switched my major, you’d see we all (and maybe you as well!) have a little Oryana in us.c21WebOriginally, we wanted to share with you readers how working for Uber has become an amazing flexible income for so many mothers just like us, just like Oryana. We get asked all the time how to work for yourself and make a good living. But that purpose instantly became secondary once we started talking to Oryana. Here’s some backstory…Hayley Anderson PhotographyOryana is an analytical thinker. On top of that when she makes up her mind to do something, then that is that. At 17 years old she had decided after seeing others experience it, that getting pregnant was no reason to marry someone. If she herself were to find herself in that situation, other alternatives just didn’t work for her. She would be a single mother. So when this simple session of daydreaming  became a reality 12 years later, she didn’t have much thinking to do. She knew and that was that.Amelia Lyon

In between the ages 17 and 29 Oryana went to college in Chicago and studied theater. She acted on stage and onscreen and worked hard as a waitress to make ends meet. She went to hair school and worked as a stylist. She moved to New York, she always worked hard. Then, Amelia.

When Amelia was born of course everything changed. With her family spread out around the country, her friends were everything. But as so many of us know when you have a child, interacting with people who don’t “get it” becomes tricky. As Oryana said, from the very start until the day I spoke to her, that it’s just been the two of them.Natalie NortonThen, Oryana decided to finish her degree in theater. With only three semesters left she didn’t see why not, and thought that having a degree as a single parent would help her get better employment. 10+ years older than every other graduate she was also the only one who sobbed as she crossed the stage to receive her diploma. She never knew how much it meant to her until she had it in her hands.Hayley Anderson Phtoography // Sand DunesWith a degree in hand, and small child in her care, employment didn’t come any easier for her. She struggled to make ends meet. Her next venture would be into the world of realty. She got her license and started working with a brokerage firm. She was getting around from showing to showing solely on public transportation. That was when she knew she needed a car. Enter Uber. At that time they were financing their employees car lease and purchases and it was truly the only way she could make it happen. She began driving for Uber and still does. She logs in when she has a couple hours to spare. If she needs to take her daughter to guitar lessons (which is where they were headed when our call began) she logs off. She makes her own hours, doesn’t have to ask anyone for time off or vacation. She doesn’t have to make excuses or feel guilty when Amelia is sick and needs her or if she has a busy day showing apartments. She loves driving for Uber Eat because it’s a condensed and busy couple hours during lunch or dinner.Amelia LyonOryana said during our call that she decided from the beginning that she would never miss out on an opportunity sent her way because her mom was a single parent. Oryana has the drive and motivation, Uber gave her the freedom and mobility to pursue whatever dream she might have.Natalie NortonSo you see now why this experience caught me off guard! Oryana could’ve focused on the struggle, because the struggle is certainly real and her life has never been easy, but she never did. This hard-working, single parent, funny, strong, ambitious, woman is Oryana, and she’s definitely a mom you should meet.

If driving for Uber sounds up your alley you can check out more here!

Note: We certainly wish we could’ve met with Oryana over lunch in Chicago and gotten some pictures of her there, but hopefully some of our latest family photos will due as eye candy for this essay. Thanks again, Oryana, we’re huge fans!! Nicole’s photos by Natalie Norton // Emily’s by Hayley Kaze // Jenna’s by Amelia Lyon

heart awareness month

For Valentine’s Day and also Heart Awareness Month we are grateful to have Kierra, mom to Evanna sharing their story with CHD. Congenital heart defects are the #1 birth defect, with nearly one of every 100 babies born with a congenital heart defect – ranging from a small hole, to extremely complex. Congenital heart defects are the #1 cause of birth defect related deaths, and the leading cause of all infant deaths in North America.

More than 50% of all children born with congenital heart defect will require at least one invasive surgery in their lifetime. Little is known about the cause of most of them, and there is no known prevention or cure for any of them. In the United States, twice as many children die from congenital heart defects each year than from all forms of childhood cancer combined, yet funding for pediatric cancer research is five times higher than funding for CHD.
(American Heart Association)

IMG_5759 Our heart journey started with a simple routine ultrasound. In November 2013 at 19 weeks pregnant, we had an appointment for a regular detailed ultrasound, but all I could think about the fact that we were about to find out if we were having a boy or a girl. I had made plans for a gender reveal party for later that evening, and was giddy with excitement to find out what we were having. I was surprised at how long the appointment took, and looking back, I definitely felt like the ultrasound technician took forever, especially on the baby’s heart. We were brought into a private room, and told to wait for the radiologist that would be with us shortly. I assumed that he would just come in and tell us that everything a-okay, and send us on our merry way with gender results in hand. The radiologist walked in and stated that there was a problem with the babies heart, and that we needed to come back the very next week for fetal echocardiogram done by a pediatric cardiologist. My husband and I were in shock. We were two healthy individuals with no medical issues, and had no trouble conceiving.
We left the office without saying anything to each other as we each digested the news. We cancelled the gender party, and once we were ready, we opened the envelope to reveal that we were having a baby GIRL.
The following week, it was confirmed at the fetal echocardiogram, that our baby would be born with Pulmonary Atresia with a VSD.Processed with VSCOcam with s1 preset

My pregnancy continued without any further complications, and weekly ultrasounds and obstetrician appointments became my new normal. As the pregnancy progressed, they started to suspects few other things with the heart, but we would have to wait until she was born before we would have a concrete diagnosis.

At 36 weeks pregnant I relocated to Edmonton, Alberta and moved into the Ronald McDonald House. Though we were from Calgary, home to it’s own children’s hospital – only two hospitals in Canada could deal with the complexity of our baby’s heart, and pediatric cardiology was not something that our local children’s hospital could deal with.
After being induced at 39 weeks, Evanna Verena Irvine was born via emergency c-section on April 29, 2014. She was taken by ambulance to the Stollery Children’s Hospital with my husband following, while I stayed behind, healing from my own surgery. The few days following Evanna’s birth were a bit a of a blur. They did a CT and ECHO on Evanna, and confirmed their suspicions that Evanna’s heart was much more complicated then initially thought. She was officially diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot, with Pulmonary Atresia, VSD, ASD and MAPCAs. Due to the MAPCAs, we were told surgery would have to be put on hold, and if they didn’t grow, Evanna would be considered terminal. Her heart is so complex, that it’s actually intertwined with her lungs, making it impossible for even a transplant to be an option.IMG_2092

Originally, I had prepared myself for a surgery to be done within the first few weeks of Evanna’s life, followed by a couple of months in the hospital before we got to bring her home. Now we were being flown back to Calgary, were we spent just one week in the NICU and discharged home.
We spent 5 amazing months at home where Evanna grew, thrived and did extremely well. We also confirmed that a mircodeletion on her 22 chromosome called 22q11 (also known as DiGeorge Syndrome) is what caused her heart defect, among a few other minor issues. Considering her very complex heart and DiGeorge Syndrome (it’s the second most common chromosomal defect next to Down Syndrome), our medical team was constantly amazed at Evanna’s progress and growth.

On October 6, 2014 we handed Evanna over into the surgical teams arms, as she underwent her first Open Heart Surgery. The surgery went well, but since then we’ve experienced a few bumps on our journey home. Our 2-3 weeks in hospital has now turned into over 4 months in the PCICU, 1 code blue, 4 additional surgeries – including a 2nd open heart surgery, 2 ICU transfers, multiple blood transfusions, drug addiction, and 6 failed extubations – as we’ve had major issues taking the breathing tube out. Evanna has developed Tracheomalacia (weakened trachea), and so she requires extra pressurized air to keep her airway and lungs open, and has had to be supported by a ventilator for over 4 months. While we’ve come a long way, and her trachea has slowly gotten a little bit stronger, her body and lungs have become incredibly weak from being bed ridden and intubated for such a long time.

IMG_20150113_153043It has been an incredibly long year for our little family, and this chapter in our lives is far from over. We still don’t have an idea of when we’ll be able to bring Evanna home, and whether or not she’ll need a tracheostomy for a period of time. Evanna faces many more surgeries later on in her life, and our lives have been forever changed because of this diagnosis. She’s a true fighter, and continues to amaze us with her strength considering everything she has gone through in just the first year of her life. It’s been a difficult journey, and being in a different city, away from our closest family, friends and supports hasn’t been very easy, and would put any marriage to the test – but one thing I’ve learned, is that “we can do hard things”.

Kierra (Evanna’s Mom)

Follow their blog and Instagram for more updates on tiny Evanna!

Plate Glass at my Party

Today we have an important post by one brave reader and friend, Marylin. We feel really fortunate that she was willing to come forward and share her experience so candidly. We also wanted to note that while we were prepping for this important post we learned some information that we thought might be beneficial to share. We tried at first to contrast baby blues with Postpartum Depression, put them on a nice neat little chart, but after consulting with family physcian Dr. Erika Noonan we learned an important piece to this puzzle. Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression are nearly exactly the same in symptom. The differences are merely onset and duration. Meaning that the only way to tell these differences at times are that your symptoms last longer than two weeks, or can manifest themselves at any time during the first year. With Baby Blues they usually spring on within a few days of delivery, and will be resolved within the first couple weeks. We wanted to share with you all, as we weren’t aware of the differences and maybe some of you were in our boat! Now, back to Marylin:
Postpartum Depression, those two words shouldn’t be together, side by side as partners. Having a baby is the best day, you’re finally face to squishy face with this amazing, tiny person that your body carried and supported life for, for 40 weeks. You’ve waited for this moment and it’s everything you wanted it to be. Then when you are home and adjusting to a new life, filled with one or more of these little people, visitors have gone home, meals have stopped coming in, and you’re sitting in your white wicker rocking chair with the handmade cushion, holding this now three week old baby boy, and the only emotion is sorrow. It sneaks up on you, even if you have met this darkness before, became well acquainted with it’s toxic nature, sent it packing, and now it’s returned with luggage and intentions of an extended stay.
Postpartum Despression Essay
That was me with my 4th child who is now 3 years old, although I’ve had postpartum depression with all four of my children. With the oldest I was going through a divorce within ten days of her arrival, so it’s hard to discern the PPD from the divorce so I will speak mostly of the other three experiences I’ve had. My second child was a pretty easy baby, she slept really well, which in my book gives her angel status. I wasn’t sleep deprived, my house wasn’t full of other young children since my oldest was already in school, so it took me off guard when the vivid yet intruding thoughts began when she was about 2 weeks old. They would interrupt my thoughts while carrying her down the hall, or watching her sleep in her crib, thoughts of dropping her, or her suffocating in blankets while sleeping. I was shocked by how real they appeared in my mind as if watching a movie. I cried alone and ashamed on many days, I wondered what was wrong with my mind, it was betraying me and my child. I had days that it was all I could do to get us showered and dressed. I didn’t tell anyone, and I suffered for a long time on my own, in fact I don’t remember ever getting outside help, I was scared of what others would think. I never spoke up but I know I used yoga and other types of exercise as my coping method and eventually it subsided, the horrible thoughts ceased, as did the paranoia, crying and sadness.
 Postpartum Depression Essay
With my third child, and first son the postpartum came on much stronger than previous times. I remember one evening I was sorting laundry and sobbing simultaneously, my husband walked into the room and asked me what was wrong and I simply said “I just want to die.” I meant it. There was no hope, no open door or light at the end of the tunnel. During the day I would go about taking care of my son, the house and the other two kids like I was on autopilot, the horrible thoughts, the bouts of crying, and this feeling of numbness in my head all returned with a vengeance. I was out of my mind and yet stuck there at the same time. One afternoon we pulled up to a park and I watched as my husband got all three children out of the car, he asked if I would be joining them and I just shook my head. I sat there in the quiet thinking about how it might be better for them if I wasn’t there, and then in an instance of clarity the real “Marylin” picked up the cell phone and sent a text to our amazing doctor that said “What happens if I feel like driving my car into a brick wall?” he simply replied, “Oh Marylin, I am calling in a prescription right now and you are going to pick it up.” He also requested I come back to see him. I followed through with both suggestions and it helped to a degree. For me, the medication didn’t completely fix it but it became “manageable” as they say, I was able to get through the days without the crazy thoughts and endless tears and the ideas of suicide, but I wasn’t all me.
After 3 years on medication I was wondering if I would ever find my way back when a thought came to me about the birth control method I was using. I did some quick online searches and found that a pretty large percentage of women that used the same IUD had, reported depression and excessive weight gain, both of which I was dealing with. I made the decision that day to have it removed and after talking with my doctor I decided to discontinue use of the medication as well. It took a few months but I began to see the sun again in my life, I knew that for me the increased PPD from that pregnancy was very likely related to my birth control choice.
With my last child there were so many extenuating circumstances that contributed to the PPD, a VERY sick first 22 weeks of pregnancy, a move to a new city, Preeclampsia and an early delivery in the cold, dark winter set it up like a house of cards. I was better prepared mentally though, I knew that it would come and so I began making preparations, I looked into local yoga studios, tried to make friends, found a rec center with a gym, and talked lots with my husband. I thought I was ready for it, but once again it showed up with it’s joy stealing ways and brought me to my knees on more than one day. I was sleep deprived, completely overwhelmed with a newborn that screamed from 8pm-5am and then sure – wake up and get two children off to school and entertain a 3 year old – no problem. It was survival of the fittest though and I had fight in me. I went on an all elimination diet when he was 8 weeks old and he and I began to sleep again, I added as much yoga as I could at a nearby studio and I confided in my husband instead of shutting him out. While it was far from glamorous and my knees were bruised from praying, I didn’t quit, even in my loneliest, darkest moment I knew I was going to be OK.Postpartum Depression Essay
Postpartum depression is like a thief in the night that robs you quietly, and leaves you feeling the shame. It doesn’t play by rules or care that you were supposed to be breathing every moment of that perfect newborn that you tried for years to have, suffered multiple miscarriages, prayed for, yearned for. It doesn’t care. It will linger sometimes for years after your child is born, you will have months of beautiful weather and then like you moved to Seattle it will rain for weeks on end. The most difficult part for me about PPD is how isolating it becomes. I was supposed to be bursting with rainbows and glitter after these miracles in my life and it felt more like watching the surprise party through plated glass, I could see all the good in front of me and yet I wasn’t able to fully enjoy it, it was out of my grasp. I love my children endlessly and there were definitely times of bonding and absolute bliss, holding them and sticking my nose in their necks to inhale. I know that for some, nursing becomes difficult with PPD, but for me, it was essential to bringing me out of the looking glass for periods of time when I could feel and taste every last drop of blessings being poured into my life. My husband was gracious and kind, he would give me space when I needed it, but then pull me back when I was away too long, he remind me of why it was worth staying. He is truly my living, breathing hero. He carried more than I wish he’d had to and if he ever resented me I never knew it. Anyone suffering with PPD needs a Jimmy, they just do.
I can now say that I am on the safe side of PPD, our family won’t be growing by way of my womb at any time in the future. The sad, but honest part is that it’s a huge relief, like the deep breath after a scary movie, I breathe in the new chapter of my life without postpartum depression. Of course I would never trade my children, well except that time when #4 dumped an entire gallon of milk into my carpet next to a dozen cracked eggs, I thought about it, but I wouldn’t trade them. I won’t even ask for those years back, I mourn them from time to time but I work to live right here and now with the four most important purposes in my life. I don’t talk about what I went through very often, or really at all, this is the first time I am bringing it to the surface with my face to the sun knowing I will never have to dive to those depths again, it didn’t beat me and I didn’t drown. I have learned to know that it wasn’t my fault, there is no blame. I am a believer of hope and grace and a power beyond my own. Telling my story feels strangely like I am letting go of this toxic friend, one that has taken up too many years as it is and feels good to move on and let go.
Photos by Marissa Moss.

why i chose to bottle feed

Breast versus Bottle feeding is a long time hot topic that is sure to fire people up on both sides of the spectrum. One thing we noticed when researching for this post is how moms who decided to bottle feed largely felt and feel judged and looked down on not just occasionally but day in and day out. This is heartbreaking! Having a baby is a roller coaster of intense emotions and if this post can help spark even a little understanding and compassion in others, and allow parents to let go of some of that guilt, we will consider it a success.  As parents we’ve all had those moments when we’ve felt judged for our methods, and we all agree it’s a terrible way to feel. Wouldn’t rearing children be so much more joyful if we all had the space to do it the way our intuition and stewardship dictated? A healthy and happy baby takes on many forms, just as the route it takes to bring them to your family does. Here’s what we heard from our very own readers on why they chose bottle feeding over breast.

It is what it is. This is a phrase my mom started throwing around after she had brain surgery during my high school years. It’s become a mantra of our family. My husband and I struggled with infertility and had our little double blessings on our seventh round of IUI (shame on us–they are “unnatural”!?). I knew when we got pregnant that these boys were a gift to us–not much of our own doing. I knew that it would be a complicated pregnancy and delivery and that my visions of a calm, drug free, home birth and my reclaimed beach body were out the window. I vowed early on to just roll with it. I couldn’t control potential complications, I couldn’t control my stupid gestational diabetes, I couldn’t control my ankles swelling literally to the size of my husbands thighs, I couldn’t control my transverse trouble maker of a baby B, I couldn’t control any aspect of my C-section (which was great), I certainly couldn’t control the fact that my babies screamed incessantly for the first three months of their life. Surrendering all of this, trusting my spouse, myself, our ability to make informed decisions and, in our case, leaning into our faith might as well start now because this whole journey of parenting is a crazy uncontrollable ride. So here’s some of our dirty laundry: we never fed on demand, we bottle feed and I love it, our babies sleep with their “lovies” on their faces, we make our own baby food not cause we’re healthier than anyone, but because we can’t afford the store stuff, and sometimes my boys cry — a lot. And no, they aren’t hungry, and no, they don’t have a dirty diaper. There is a lot outside of our control, but there is more than one way to raise healthy, considerate, joy-filled and honorable little humans and while there is a lot that I don’t know, I do know for certain that they will never doubt the love we have for them — a love that is forged by much more than breastfeeding or co-sleeping or any other parenting approach or tool…” — Jessica

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Find six more stories after the jump! Continue reading why i chose to bottle feed

a new us

In January of this year my little family took a turn for the different which caused this year to be a bucket full of firsts. I’ve recently stumbled upon a couple quotes that interestingly seemed to define the last year for me perfectly. Both by M. Scott Peck. While reading The Road Less Traveled this one stopped me dead in my tracks:

Benjamin Franklin said, “Things that hurt, instruct.” Peck goes on to say “It is for this reason that wise people learn not to dread, but actually to welcome problems and actually to welcome the pain of problems.” Now I’m not saying I am wise, and if this is the definition of wise, then most of us are not. Who welcomes problems with open arms?

End of 2014, Thoughts on divorce

However through 2014 I have seen problems come and go. Some much harder than others, and although I’m not happy to see them, I have found it easy to quickly see the blessings that have come to my family from each, taking them, learning from them and letting them go. I’ve seen people around me become stronger through these trials and hardships, and I’ve seen the light at the end of the tunnel for everyone involved. In a sense, it has taught me to embrace tribulation, because we have only come out better people.  The hardest part of these trials has been watching my little ones suffer. I have spent many hours on my knees praying for their happiness. I’ve been given strength to be strong for them, and that has helped them to stay positive, happy, innocent and full of love for life, even when that life got hard. This brings me to the second life changing quote, which says “If my parents are willing to suffer, then suffering must not be so bad, and I should be willing to suffer with myself.” Boy, did this hit me hard. Our family has most definitely suffered together this year. I have done my very best to be strong for the little ones, but they undoubtedly have seen and felt my pain. And felt very real pain themselves. I do feel, however, that pulling each other through and watching one another work through the hard times has made us quite the team. I have learned a lot of self-discipline through it all. I’ve learned the value of facing problems head on, really going through it, and the value of doing so when I see those problems and trials resolved successfully. Successfully hasn’t always meant that what we want to happen actually does. But it means that somehow we have bettered ourselves and the world around us through it.

I am wrapping up 2014 in gratitude for my family and all the people in my life. Every last one of them. Grateful for the joy and the pain and welcoming a new year and all it will bring, with big open arms and a kiss. Happy happy New Year everyone!

another chance

By Emily.

Earlier this month I found myself staring at a big screen TV’s image of my empty womb. “Where is the baby?” I trembled, expecting to hear that horse galloping heartbeat and a tiny adored bean. I went to my 9 week appointment solo, as I insisted, because I avoid being high maintenance at all costs, and assured my husband that he was more needed getting our boys dressed and fed at home (instant regret on that one.)  As the OBGYN and Midwife talked at me of next steps, possibilities, statistics, its-not-your-faults, my mind drifted off. My thoughts were dark and treacherous, and then in an instant shards of light broke through.Thoughts on a Miscarriage

Like those montages in movies, a slideshow of events shuffled in front of my eyes. While someone, I believe to be a loving Heavenly Father, whispered to me, “I could not protect you from this, but Emily, look at your life.” My little family’s happy and healthy smiles, our able bodies working hard toward learning, goals and dreams. I had taken for granted something so basic yet critical as my family’s health and safety for the past several years. Families all over the world fight for the things I rarely gave a second thought to. I was instantly filled to the brim with gratitude. I stifled back sobs not just for this empty sac, a Blighted Ovum, but for the miracle that two healthy children, ages 3 and 4, truly represents. I can’t conjure up a memory where I have felt more loved or protected than at that moment in the most unexpected of situations.

It didn’t always stay with me through the long weeks since, even walking from the exam room to the elevator felt bitter and lonely. Happy framed pictures of women with bulging bellies seemed to be mocking me with every step. That day I joined the quiet ranks of women, who 30% of the time they try, have to mourn the loss of what and who might have been. It scooped out another level of compassion and understanding that I could not arrive at any other way and will Take It With Me into 2015.

So now, saying see ya later! to a roller coaster of a year, there is definitely One Thing I’m Leaving. And that is the complacency I settled into that life is anything other than a wonderful miracle. An adventure I am so fortunate to be able seize every day. Living in a place with the freedom to do and say what I feel, to spend my time at home, to share my ideas with you, to feel safe in my own skin, is a luxury that I don’t want to take for granted in 2015.

a new year

By Jenna.

2014. In a way I can’t believe it’s over, in another I look back at these 365 days that felt at times like 30,000. It was the hardest year of my life but also the most blessed. Isn’t that how life works? It gives, it takes and in the end you’re left in a introspective balance that causes you to pause and humbly thank the trials that refined your heart.Image-1

I’m leaving in 2014:
Self Doubt. In a year of weaknesses, miss-steps, struggle and absolute bare bones humility I learned that we’re all just people. Real life people. Pushing through the muck of night to taste the sweet of the morning sunshine. None of us are exempt from the hardships of existence and so I no longer allow myself to believe that my trials are from lack of strength on my part. I may not handle all that’s thrown at me with grace, but I face it, and in 2015 I plan to give myself (and others) that credit.
I’m taking with me in to 2015:
Simplicity. I cut out much of the fat of my life in 2014 because I was forced to, but I ended up cultivating a real love for what is simple. The quiet moments playing with my children without a staged Instagram photo, a belly laugh with my husband while we cook in the kitchen, helping a friend even when I feel helpless. Those are the experiences I cherish. As it turns out I don’t really prefer wearing heels or attending large parties. For now anyway I feel more content at an intimate dinner with friends or an early night in watching food documentaries. I’ve always felt that way, but never accepted it about myself. Am I not the life of the party? Am I not fabulous? Should I wear more fur?? Nah. In 2015 I’m taking the real Jenna with me. She’s fun, cultured and happy, but she also rarely likes exiting her sweat pants.
I have much to be grateful for as I reflect on this past year and much to look forward to in 2015. I am thankful for our corner of the Internet, for the opportunities it’s given me to grow, change and evolve as a mother, wife and friend. Thank you for reading our little blog, for your support and friendship.
To my partners in crime, Nicole and Emily, you are two of my most prized 2014 gems. Without you it is fair to say I would have made it out beat to hell rather then just bruised and scuffed. You’ve saved me when I needed the most saving and all along encouraged me that I’m not doing so bad. I love you.
Happy New Year to all of you. I hope it brings a fresh start, insurmountable love, relief from pain & exciting days full of laughter.
xo
Jenna