Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Cleaning the Green Way With Norwex

  Over the past couple of years when this blog transitioned from "food blog" to "Army wife and crunchy Catholic mom moving every two years please Lord help me" blog, I've mentioned several times that I'm kind of fanatical about housework. I do not like a dirty house. Period. When my house is cluttered, my mind is cluttered. Dust, dirty floors, mold rings in the toilet...it sends me right over the edge. Not to mention, I'm fortunate-I suppose-to possess the gene that allows me to actually enjoy housework. All that being said, my idea of a grand old time generally doesn't involve scrubbing the hard-to-reach area around the toilet on my hands and knees. I'm always on the lookout for products that not only make my life easier, but are safe to use around small children.

  I've become uneasy about the lingering effects some of the cleaning products I've used in the past may have on my family's health. For instance, none of our bathrooms are well ventilated. When I scrub with bleach and heavy duty cleaners, the strong sanitizing odors linger for far too long in the bathrooms, hallways, and bedrooms. I tried using "green" products (I won't specify which ones, as I don't really want a brand war appearing on my blog), but the issue I have with the non-toxic, environmentally safe products that are available in the grocery store is that they just don't work. My dishes still had food stuck to them after a heavy duty hot wash in the dishwasher. My bathtub still had a ring around it, which stubbornly refused to vanish despite me scrubbing away at it. What good are "green" products to me if they won't clean my house to my standards? 

  About two months ago, I was introduced to Norwex by a friend. I had heard about their products, but I decided to use the knock off brands (again, not naming any names) first. They were cheaper, and I figured that the off-brand products would work just as well. Right? 


  I still had streaks on my mirrors and windows, I still had a ring around the bathtub, and I had the uneasy feeling that while yes, I was able to sweep the crumbs off my kitchen counter, I wasn't sure how much bacteria was actually being picked up. After a week of valiant attempts, I admitted defeat and ordered a few Norwex items from my friend. 

  I'm sure I don't need to tell you that I was almost giddy at the results. Not only were the products effective, non-toxic, and easy to clean, but you need SO FEW things to get the results you're looking for. Norwex cloths have silver micro fibers, which clean the surface and eliminate bacteria at the same time. Cleaning the cloths is a breeze; just run the cloth under warm water for a few seconds, squeeze out the remaining water, and hang it on the line to dry. For cloths with extra dirt on them (or cloths I use to clean the bathroom, because bathrooms are gross), I just throw in the washer with a tiny bit of detergent and run them through a hot water cycle. I can honestly say that my cleaning time has been cut in half. Another bonus is that these cloths-the Enviro cloth in particular, which is a Norwex best seller-is so effective that I don't have to throw my back out from bending over the bathtub for twenty minutes. 

  One thing I did initially balk at was the price. I won't lie, the initial investment was more than I had hoped to spend. However, unlike commercial cleaning products, Norwex cleaning products will last forever if you care for them properly. Not to mention, when I actually sat down and took inventory of the cleaning products I used to use everyday vs. the Norwex products I use now...well, there's really no comparison. Observe, if you will, my crate of bathroom cleaning products from "the old days." 
Most of these products are relatively cheap, but I would go through them quickly. Even with the occasional coupon, I still spent a ridiculous amount of money on bathroom cleaners. 

  What I use now:
Pictured from left to right: Enviro cloth, window cloth, bathroom scrubber, and Blue Diamond All-In-One Bathroom Cleaner, which I use for particularly tough scrubbing jobs. Think tile grout, stains on the linoleum, and stubborn traces of toothpaste in the sink. Hey, speaking of which...

  I don't know what it is with my children. They seem to be on a mission to squirt as much toothpaste as possible into the sink, and then they summon some kind of bathroom demon to make sure it hardens as quickly as can be, making it impossible for mom to scrub off with a sponge and bathroom cleaner. Enter Norwex bathroom scrub cloth and Blue DIamond cleaner. 
  Voila. And as the old timey commercial goes, "A little dab will do ya!" You seriously don't need more than a dime-sized drop of the cleaning liquid. It took me all of ten seconds to scrub away a week's worth of stubborn toothpaste from my children's bathroom sink. 

  Now, on to the Enviro cloth. As I mentioned, this is the most popular Norwex item, and with good reason. You can seriously clean your entire house with this amazing piece of fabric. I've cleaned my stovetop (normally a three step process with multiple cleaners), baseboards, kitchen counters, dresser tops, you name it. You can use it as a dry dust cloth, or run it under warm water to scrub out the more stubborn stains. For example: 
  This is the wall above Gianna's changing table. I don't know what those stains are. Frankly, I don't WANT to know. All I can say is they're there on the wall because small children. Here's what the wall looks like after a quick wipe down with the Enviro cloth: 
  Not perfect, but much improved. (I have since discovered the lingering stains are essential oils; specifically, after I put a tiny drop of diluted Gentle Baby on Gianna's feet and she promptly pressed her toes up against the wall). Since oil stains can be a bit tricky, I'm going to add a little bit of the Norwex Cleaning Paste to the Enviro cloth and report back with the results. But still, at least it no longer looks like someone smeared a horrifying substance across my bedroom wall. 

  I can tell you with the utmost certainty that using these products has:

A. Made my daily cleaning routine a thousand times easier.
B. Given me peace of mind; every single product that Norwex puts out is non-toxic, and 100% safe to use around small children, animals, what have you. 
C. Made my inner hippie rejoice. Norwex products are environmentally friendly, and by using them, you're reducing your carbon footprint. I no longer use paper towels. I'm no longer throwing away aerosol cans every week. I feel better knowing that cleaning my home does not have a negative impact on the environment. 
D. It saves me a LOT of money in the long run. I'm no longer spending hundreds of dollars a year (seriously) on cleaning products at the grocery store or Target. Plus, as a consultant, I get a super sweet discount.

  Interested in ordering Norwex for your home? Visit www.MarisaTenney.norwex.biz to learn more about the company, the products, Norwex history, etc. Want to earn free products? Contact me about hosting a party (either online or in your home, if you live in Colorado Springs). Want to become a consultant? Great news for you; during the month of February, Norwex is running a special promotion. You can sign up as a consultant and receive a FREE starter kit (which includes 1 Enviro cloth, 1 window cleaner, 1 dusting mitt, and 1 SpiriSponge). All you have to pay is shipping and handling. As a consultant, you also receive a discount on any Norwex products you choose to purchase in the future.

  If you have any questions, please leave a comment for me on this blog post, or send me an email at mareeesa@hotmail.com. I would also encourage you to check out my Pinterest board for all the ways you can use Norwex products. I hope I've given you enough information that will encourage you to "green clean" your home! 

*Full disclosure: I am a Norwex representative and I earn money through sales on my website. I was not compensated in any way for this blog post. All opinions are my own. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

On Lent and Sacrifice

  The season of Lent is quickly approaching, and as always, I've been thinking about what I should give up-or add to-my daily routine for these forty days. Without fail, this always leads me to what I call the "oh, s&$#" realization; there's a LOT of things in my life on which I spend way too much time (hello, Facebook), addictions I didn't even realize I had (I can neither confirm nor deny that I purchased a can of whipped cream at Trader Joe's yesterday, because whipped cream straight from the can sounded SO GOOD), and the sinking knowledge that I really haven't done a whole lot of reading in the past year, with the exception of the books we read at our weekly Catholic Women of the Chapel meetings. So, to put it mildly, I have a lot of room for improvement in my life. 

  I remember the first year I chose to really celebrate Lent, by making sacrifices, doing penance, and spending extra time in prayer. It was 2007, and Will and I hadn't even been married a full year. We were living in Germany, he was deployed to Iraq at the time, and I was very involved with our church on post. I played my violin at Mass every Sunday, and while I don't remember what I gave up that year, I do remember the peace that I had been so desperately searching for finally coming over me. That particular deployment of Will's had been hard on both of us. Will had gone on some very dangerous missions with his bomb dog, Cris, and Special Forces. I was worried about him all the time, and since he was stationed in a remote area, communication wasn't always the best. I was living by myself in a foreign country, and there were many nights when I wouldn't fall asleep until 3am, if at all. I was an exhausted mess at work the following day, and I dreaded the weekends, when I knew the silence in our house would become deafening, and the loneliness I was able to ignore during my work week would overwhelm me. 

  I remember when the season of Lent began that year, I was more worried than ever about Will. There had been several blackouts (for those of you not familiar with the military, when a soldier is killed in a combat zone, there is a "blackout" across the country. Phone lines and Internet are shut down, so the government is able to send someone to the home of the deceased soldier, and notify the family before someone else can call them or message them online). I was always sick to my stomach when Will said he would call or email me and I wouldn't hear anything, because I knew that more likely than not, someone died and there was a blackout. I would pray incessantly that my husband was spared, and I would cry in relief when I heard from Will again. Then, of course, I would cry for the family who wasn't so lucky, and I felt so ashamed for being grateful that I wasn't the one who lost her husband. I don't know why, and maybe I never will, but that deployment was a particularly dark time for both of us. It was the worst (as in, the most dangerous) one Will ever went on, and it was hard on me for a variety of reasons. 

  Despite everything, though, I drew closer to God during this time, and I remember during the season of Lent, I finally found peace. I don't remember what I gave up that year, but I do remember adding three Hail Marys to my prayers every night. I would pray for Will's safety, recite the Hail Marys, and fall asleep with my rosary wound around my fingers. For the first time in months, I started sleeping through the night. Since I wasn't an exhausted mess in the mornings, work became easier and more enjoyable. I met some new friends, and started hanging out with them in Frankfurt on Friday nights. I began volunteering at our church, in addition to playing my violin there every Sunday, and I went to confession for the first time in a long time. I slowly began to emerge from a place of sadness and fear, and find joy in everyday life once again. 

  While I certainly don't wish to return to the state of mind I was in during Will's deployment, I do feel that I need to approach this season of Lent, and my faith in general, with more passion, more enthusiasm, and more gratitude. I worry that I've become complacent these past few years (because let's face it, even with some of the challenges our family has faced in the past five years or so, I really believe that once you get through multiple deployments in a war zone, everything else pales in comparison), and I need to snap out of it. I have a beautiful family, and a beautiful life, and so much to be grateful for, yet I often forget to be grateful. I'm not proud of it, but it's true. 

  I haven't decided yet what I'll be giving up for Lent this year, but I do intend on bringing back my three Hail Mary's every night, and volunteering more in our community. I want to set an example for our children, and most importantly, I never want to forget the sheer gratitude I felt during Lent/Easter 2007, when my husband came home safely to me. 

      Home again!!! April 2007, Hanau, Germany

Saturday, January 2, 2016

7QT-I Need Coffee

1. Haaaaaay, looky looky. I'm actually following through with my pseudo-resolution to blog more in the new year. Two posts on the first two days of 2016? Not too shabby. This is the last weekend of Will's block leave, so naturally he's downstairs making the kids breakfast and making coffee for us whilst I sit in our bed and type away. Well, what can I say, I've been nursing a hungry baby all night.
      Yes, this hungry baby.

2. November is eleven months away, and I'm already sick to death of politics/anything about the election. I don't particularly care for any of the candidates (or I outright dislike them). Just once, it would be nice to NOT walk into the polls holding my nose. 

3. Some other things I would like to do this year (naturally, with all my spare time).
  A. Make myself a reading list and read alllllll the books. Not that this is any kind of hardship; I just usually end up with a grand, ambitious list of books I've been meaning to read forever, and then I always forget to pick up the books at the library. 
  B. Learn to knit. I will not be intimidated by Pinterest projects, I will not be intimidated by Pinterest projects...
  C. Sign my two older kiddos up for an activity of their choice this winter. And swimming lessons this summer. 
  D. Branch out more with recipes. I feel like we're stuck in a food rut...please tell me I'm not the only one who has been making the same recipes overandoverandover again.

4. As much as I despise moving, we've had it up to HERE with our landlords and we're considering looking for a new house. One with a decent backyard, a good-sized kitchen, enough bedrooms for our brood, and (my own stipulation) no carpet in the bathroom. Why? WHY??? Who thought that would be a good idea? It's not 1955. 

5. Thanks to my oils, the first floor of our house continuously smells like cinnamon and pine. I have Treasure of the Season going pretty much non-stop in the diffuser. It is glorious. 

6. You guys, I'm going to have a 5-year old next week. I am so not ready for this. 
  What's on Tony's foot, you ask? The result of a 4-day stay in the hospital over Christmas week. That's a story for another day, kids. 

7. I am anxiously awaiting my Christmas present from Will; much to my mother's chagrin, it's a Tula. A customized Tula. More specifically, a customized The Walking Dead Tula. Don't judge me...it's going to be awesome. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year And All That Jazz

  So, 2015 is over. Imagine that. All in all, it was a pretty great twelve months for the Tenney family. We moved to one of the most beautiful states in the country. Will became a platoon leader, and really enjoyed his new job. I met some amazing women through Catholic Women of the Chapel. Tony started preschool, we had a beautiful, healthy baby girl, and I finally got some answers-and a solution-about my back problems. (I realize my blog updates have been pathetic, at best, so for those of you who don't know, I have a "massive" herniated disk and degenerative disk disease. I'm having surgery on Wednesday the 6th). We were reunited with our close friends, and Gianna's godparents, after bidding them a tearful goodbye in Germany five years ago.

  I have to say, despite the happiness that 2015 brought to our family, I've been pretty disappointed in myself. I've struggled a lot this past year, spiritually, and in my vocation as a wife and mother. My back pain has been so intense, and many times it rendered me absolutely useless. In addition to working a demanding full-time job, Will had to pick up a lot of the slack at home when I was unable to do so. I became depressed from the chronic pain, and I found it harder and harder to turn to prayer when I was feeling down. I felt like I was failing my family, and despite the fact that Will told me this was part of the whole "sickness and health" part of our vows, I felt terribly guilty that he was doing so much and I was doing so little. There were many days when even getting out of bed proved to be too much of a challenge for me. I didn't want to update my blog, because really, who wants to hear someone complain all the time? And as ashamed as I am to admit this, I didn't want to pray because I felt angry and frustrated all the time. I feel like I've been in this perpetual funk for the past 12-15 months, and I didn't know how to dig myself out of it.

  To be honest, I still don't. I have days when I'm overwhelmed by the house and kids, days when my back hurts so badly I get tears in my eyes when I stand up, and days when I'm just angry at the world. All that being said, I needed a serious reality check, and it came in the form of Time Magazine.

  Someone posted THIS link to the top 100 photos of 2015 on my Facebook news feed the other day. As I was scrolling through the pictures, I felt my chest tightening at the photo of two children sobbing  while trying to break through a police barrier in Greece. A grieving mother, whose adult sons were killed in a double homicide in New Orleans. A boat overflowing with refugees in the Mediterranean Sea. Granted, not all of the photos were tragic (I could stare at the aerial view of the tulip fields in the Netherlands for hours) but the majority were. As hard as it was for me to see some of those images...it was something I desperately needed. I've spent the majority of 2015 giving in to the physical pain I felt every day, and I allowed it to bring me down. The fact of the matter is, while my back problems ARE serious and need to be fixed, they CAN be fixed. I'm not dying of a terminal illness. My family and I didn't have to flee our home and our country to escape terrorists. I didn't lose my beautiful children to violence. My husband has a secure, steady job, and he is able to provide for us. When I look at it from that perspective, frankly, I'm ashamed of the way I acted this past year, when I have so, so much to be grateful for.

  I never make New Year's resolutions, because I never follow through with the typical "I'm going to go to the gym every day and lose weight! I'm going to avoid Starbucks drive-thrus for three months in a row! I'm going to write every day" pacts. Just won't happen, and after many years of feeling like an epic failure by January 15, I've finally learned my limits. However, I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility to try and think of ways I can be a better person in the following year. What can I do, to be a better wife to Will, a better mother to our three children, a better friend, sister, daughter, Catholic, etc?

  First and foremost, I can begin every morning with prayer. It makes SUCH a difference, and it doesn't require more than 5 to 10 minutes. I can catch up on some quality reading, rather than browse Pinterest or Facebook. Instead of obsessing over the house being perfect (because lol it won't be), I can take an extra 1/2 hour to play games with my kids. I can rest when my back is causing me too much pain, and pick up where I left off when I'm feeling better. I can make an effort to update my blog more, as writing is good for my mind and my soul. I'm not trying to be Martha Stewart, or Mother Theresa, or paint an unrealistic picture of our everyday life. I'm just trying to do my best, and to be a better person than I was this past year.

  Here's hoping. Happy 2016 from our family to yours.
(This is what happens when we attempt to adult). 

Friday, December 4, 2015

7 Quick Takes-Still Here

1. So. Umm, yeah. A little bit of blog neglect going on around here. Every time I start to excuse my pathetic blogging skills by the way of, "but I have THREE kids now!" I remember that some of my favorite bloggers are breezing through their seventh pregnancy and still updating on the regular. So in reality, I'm just lazy. I do, however, want to start updating more (and what better time to do so than the month of December? Nope, nothing going on this month at all, right folks?!).

2. All that being said, having three children under the age of five has been much easier than I anticipated. Sure, there was an adjustment period, especially with Tony going to preschool four days a week, but I settled into a routine early on, and for the most part, I have things under control. Or at least, that's what I tell myself. 

3. After promising myself that I wouldn't fail at Advent this year, I'm failing at Advent. We meant to start decorating the house last weekend, but, well, that didn't happen, so our Advent wreath, Christmas decorations, what have you, are still in the basement. I DID manage to pick up candy at the grocery store, but without the Advent calendar displayed in the living room, I did the only responsible thing I could think of, and ate my kid's chocolate for the first few days of December. You gotta do what you gotta do. 

4. This face. Makes those multiple night feedings a little easier when Gianna gives me one of her baby smiles. Oh, the feels.

5. For those of you who know the whole story with my back, well, I have an update. I had an MRI about two months after I had Gianna, and I had an appointment with my neurosurgeon a few weeks ago. In addition to degenerative disk disease, I also have a "massive" (his words) herniated disk. I officially need surgery, and while I'm not thrilled about it, I'm also not surprised. I'm glad I finally have a diagnosis, and a solution to the problem. I'll have the surgery either this month or the first week in January. I have to say, the thought of NOT being in excruciating pain all day every day is pretty dang appealing.

6. I made my annual trip to Penzey's yesterday, and spent way too much money on vanilla extract and spices. If you receive a gift in the form of baked goods from me this year, you can sleep easy at night knowing it was prepared with a $23 bottle of single strength vanilla.

7. After spending the last three years in the South, I insist on having a white Christmas. We haven't had one since we lived in Boston. C'mon Colorado, don't let me down. 

Okay, one more. Because you know you want to see the hair.
Happy weekend!!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

And Then There Were Three

  Wow. It's been a crazy couple of weeks, and I have a very valid-and adorable-reason for not updating. A reason of the newborn baby variety! Allow me to start from the beginning..."the beginning" in this case being 40 weeks and 4 days pregnant. Because OF COURSE I once again went past my due date.

  My mom came to visit on August 13th, and in my mind I'm thinking, "This is perfect. My back pain is now at the 'unmanageable' point, and this is my third baby, and while I certainly don't believe I'll deliver early, I'm hoping for my due date at this point. That way, mom will be here to watch Tony and Alessandra, Will can take me to the hospital without any issues, and my mom will get to see her new grandbaby." Well. I'm sure I don't need to tell you what happened. Naturally, the 15th (my due date) came and went, and on August 17th, my mom unfortunately had to make the trip home to Wisconsin. I was so discouraged, and in so much physical pain, and I was slowly entering panic mode because Will was scheduled to leave on August 31st for Fort Irwin, CA for 5 weeks of training. Not to mention, the baptism was scheduled for August 29th. To say we were beginning to stress is probably the understatement of the year. I went in on August 19th for an appointment with my midwife, and voiced all of my frustrations and concerns. Seeing as how a membrane strip spurred me into labor with Alessandra, my midwife offered to do the same since I was already over my due date. I happily agreed, she did her thing, and I left her office already beginning to feel some fairly strong contractions.

  I stopped by Fort Carson to relieve a very exhausted looking Will from Alessandra Babysitting Duty, and I had three more intense contractions right there in the parking lot. (Picture this, if you will. Lunch time on a crowded military base, a veryvery pregnant woman clutching her belly and moaning her way through contractions in the parking lot while soldiers in my husband's platoon walk by gaping at me. Not my finest hour). Will was becoming increasingly concerned, and he cautiously suggested that he talk to his commander and come home for the rest of the day, because this could very well by the real deal. I was about to tell him not to worry, I'm sure I had plenty of time, when "OHMYGOSH I NEED TO REMEMBER MY BREATHING MY FREAKING LOWER BACK IS KILLING ME AAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHH."

  Suffice to say, Will told his commander he was pretty sure I was in labor, and he was sent home.

  I was pretty sure it was going to be another fast labor, like Alessandra's, and I wanted to be prepared. I made sure all of the things I wanted to take to the hospital were packed up, I texted my doula and let her know that I wasn't in active labor yet, but we would probably have a baby within the next 12 hours, and I got to work on getting this thing going. I did the Miles Circuit. I bounced around on the birth ball (and updated Instagram...thanks for all the prayers, everyone!), kept myself hydrated, and took a walk around the neighborhood with Will and the kids.
Last belly shot!
  By nightfall, I was cranky. I was having intense contractions every 10 minutes, but this had been going on all day, and the contractions didn't seem to be going anywhere. I was exhausted (not having slept very well the night before, and unable to relax knowing that another contractions would be coming up soon). Will put the kids to bed, and around 9:00, he called Madison over in hopes of just getting me to relax. I put some relaxing essential oils in the diffuser in my room, put Gregorian chant on my iPad, and attempted to relax as Madison rubbed my back and used the rebozo wrap to take the pressure off my hips. I eventually drifed off to sleep, and Madison told me that she was going to go back home, but she was on standby if I needed anything. For the next couple of hours, I woke up frequently to contractions, and then fell asleep again. 

  Until 4am. It seems as though the second the clock struck 4, I jumped out of bed, feeling the contractions coming one on top of the other, and shook Will awake. "We have to go to the hospital and we have to go NOW," I begged him, as Will flew out of bed like a man possessed and began running frantically around the room. I was no longer aware of anything "normal;" getting dressed, trying to figure out what in the world we were going to do with Tony and Alessandra, packing the remaining items in the car, etc. I knew with a sinking feeling I was experiencing back labor (because degenerative disk disease isn't quite painful enough). I was swinging my hips back and forth, moaning and breathing my way through contractions, but I just couldn't relax. It felt like someone was shooting a nail gun into my lower back, and tears actually came into my eyes when I thought of the long car ride I had ahead of me. 

  To be honest, I remember very little of what happened next. I knew at one point, Madison showed up at our house (while I was actually yelling at the contractions to leave me alone while standing next to Will's car in the driveway), and she stayed at our house until her friend, Karissa, could show up to watch our kids. Will made it to the hospital in record time, with me crying and yelling my way through the contractions. At one point, Will was convinced I was about to deliver the baby, so he called the hospital and told them he needed someone out front with a wheelchair. Once we arrived, I was silently making a deal with myself; "okay, they're going to check me once I get up to the room. If I'm fully dilated-and I MUST be, because I can tell I'm in transition-I'm going to tough it out and not ask for an epidural, because I know I can do this. If I'm not fully dilated, well, I'll see how far along I am and take it from there." The nurse checked me, and cheerfully informed me that I was at....a five. A FIVE???!!!! I didn't ask, I yelled, "please get me an epidural! I can't last through one more contraction! My back is being ripped in half!" The nurse informed me that she had paged the anesthesiologist, but he was tied up with another patient and I would have to wait a little longer. 
Pictured: Me.
  In the meantime, Will and Madison arrived, and Madison immediately set to work trying to calm me down and take some of the pressure off my lower back. At this point, I was crying, practically scaling the walls in pain, and cursing my body for giving me both a long labor AND a posterior baby. The anesthesiologist finally arrived, and I was thrashing around so much Will had to put his entire body weight on me and forcibly hold me down. (Side note-I'm sure I was an absolute favorite of the medical staff that morning). I kept having contractions one after another, and at one point, I started pushing my way through contractions. Wait a minute, why was I pushing, I was only dilated at a five...The epidural finally, FINALLY kicked in, and according to everyone in the room, I started apologizing profusely to everyone there. "I'm so sorry, Madison! I'm so sorry, Will! I failed!" I don't really remember this part, but apparently everyone just kind of backed away and gave me the, "...okay, crazycakes" look. My midwife came in, checked me and told me that I was fully dilated (hence the pushing during the placement of the epidural), and congratulated me on making it so far with my terrible back pain and back labor. At that point, I could still feel the contractions, but they weren't nearly as severe, and Madison helped me through them. Megan (my midwife) suggested that I lay on my left side, and we got some essential oils and Gregorian chant filling the room. 

  I remember finally feeling ready to push, and since it happened to be the shift change, my second midwife appeared, and things started to pick up. I didn't push for very long, and I remember both of my midwives encouraging me, and Will saying he could see SO much hair, and the baby was almost here, just one more push...
Yep. Definitely worth it.
  I couldn't even process what was happening; I could only focus on the beautiful baby who was placed on my chest. I heard Will say, "It's a boy!" and I thought, "AHA! I knew it all along!" Then my other midwife, Jolene, gave Will kind of a strange look and suggested he check again. Will looked between the legs, and said, "Wait! I mean, it's a girl!" And now I'm all, "What? A girl? We have another daughter? I was wrong again??" We were just in absolute awe over our healthy, beautiful baby girl. I stared at her, kissed her face, and exclaimed over her full head of hair while Will told the nurses we were naming her Gianna Maria (after Saint Gianna Beretta Molla and the Virgin Mary), and once the cord was cut, I passed our new daughter over to Will.
True love. *
   Later in the day, Will went home to pick up the kids, and he brought them back to the hospital to introduce them to their new baby sister. They were both over the moon with excitement (Alessandra was slightly jealous, but still enamored with baby Gianna), and we managed to get some great pictures. I spent the night at the hospital after sending Will home with the kids, snuggling and nursing our precious new baby. There's just something so special about those first 24 hours; the newness, the awe, the newborn smell, the overwhelming love...it's truly impossible to describe, but every new mother knows this feeling. The moment Gianna was placed on my chest, I thought my heart was going to burst. This beautiful little soul whom I had carried for (over) nine months, through a physically painful pregnancy and long labor, was finally here. We had prayed for her, worried over her, all the while without knowing anything about her at all...and she finally arrived, and she is ours. It's truly indescribable.

  Despite my sadness at the thought of saying goodbye to Will so soon after the birth of his second daughter, I can't even begin to describe how blessed we have been with all the help that was bestowed upon our arrival back home. Our good friends came over on Friday evening to meet the baby and bring us food. On Monday, our dear friend Jessica flew in to Colorado to stay with us for a while as a nanny/postpartum doula. Our longtime friends Chrissy and Jared flew IN FROM GERMANY (trust me, that warranted capitalization) to stand up as godparents for Gianna's baptism last weekend. The amazing women from our Catholic Women of the Chapel group organized a meal train for our family, which is awesome because I once again totally bombed the whole "prepare a months worth of frozen meals prior to baby's arrival!" thing. I am grateful beyond words to everyone who prayed for us, offered their help, visited us, brought us food and gifts...we are so blessed. Thank you, thank you, thank you, from the bottom of our hearts. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

If You Have Kids, You Will ZOMG Ruin Your LYFE!

  Oh, Washington Post. I'd like to say I expected more from you, but that would definitely be a lie. Here I am, perilously close to delivering baby number three, and I just so happened to stumble upon this little gem. At first, I thought it was a joke. Okay, I hoped it was a joke. Naturally, it wasn't, and as I read the article, my eyebrows kept raising so far towards the sky I'm pretty sure I now have permanent lines on my forehead. So, WP, if people mistake me for a woman in my mid-40's instead of my early 30's, I'm holding you personally responsible. 

  For those of you who don't have the time or the desire to read through the article, I'll sum it up for you. A group of German parents were interviewed about their overall happiness from the birth of their child up until the child's second birthday. The results? Dismal. According to this particular "study" (and I use that term loosely), raising a child was found to be more stressful, more taxing, and more devastating than divorce, unemployment, or even the death of a spouse. The parents reported trauma from the physical exhaustion during pregnancy, to the strain on their relationships, to general depression. While I'm certainly not dismissing those very valid points...all I could do was shake my head.

  First of all, the study only focused on the first two years of the child's life (otherwise known as the SWEET BABY JESUS SEE ME THROUGH period). Well, thanks, Professor LOL. I'd be hard-pressed to find a parent who wasn't overwhelmed with a newborn who wanted to scream instead of sleep at night, a teething infant, a formerly fantastic sleeper who went through the famous four-month old sleep regression, and the Terrible Twos. Even if you have a baby who came out of the womb with the temperment of Mother Theresa, it's still a major adjustment in your family. And let's be honest, not everyone is going to have the same experience; you can't say "everyone hates the newborn period, but don't worry because it gets better!" No, not everyone will hate the newborn period. Personally, I love it. But I've also never had a colicky baby who screamed uncontrollably for 23 out of the 24 hours of the day. Just like I've never experienced HG during pregnancy, or dealt with severe food allergies with a small child, or faced a crushing physical or mental diagnosis with either of our children. OF COURSE all of those things will add a tremendous amount of stress to a new parent. But...to suggest that the depression that comes along with having a baby is comparable to (or worse than?) the death of a spouse? I don't say this often, mainly because I'm not a teenager anymore, but I'm officially going there.

  I. Can't. Even. 

  Even though I love the newborn period (and I do! truly!), it was very, very difficult with Alessandra. She never wanted to sleep, nothing made her happy, and I felt mentally ill from sheer exhaustion. However. Even in my darkest moments when I wanted to jump in the car and drive to the opposite end of the country, I kept repeating to myself, "This is a transition period. It's hard, it's exhausting, but it WILL get better." And of course it did. Not overnight, but within a few months, she began sleeping more and settling into a routine. Sure, sure, I was still tired and had my crabby moments throughout the day, but I could definitely see the light at the end of the tunnel. The more sleep Alessandra got, the more everyone's lives improved, and by the time she was six months old, we finally felt like we had settled into a comfortable routine as a family of four. The transition period had passed, and life had greatly improved. 

  I'm fairly certain that if I lost my husband, I wouldn't be sitting here writing about how much my life improved six months after the fact. 

  I've noticed a disturbing trend these past few years; in a desperate attempt to make parents (frequently, mothers) not feel so alone and overwhelmed, we've gone from the 1950's "put on a happy housewife face no matter what!" mentality, to "here's everything that absolutely sucks about being a parent, and hold on to your hats because it's a wild ride!" One unhealthy end of the spectrum to the other, in my opinion. Look, I'm all for keeping it real. I've blogged many, many times about my lack of the crafty Pinterest mom gene, the tantrums and antics I've had to deal with in public, and how my house is generally neat and clean, but won't be showcased on the cover of Good Housekeeping anytime in the near future. But I try to keep in mind that:

a) I love my children fiercely, and I don't ever want anyone to get the impression that they're a burden to me (or worse, that my children read this blog one day and break down sobbing because they think I don't love them)

b) There's a difference between light-hearted humor and thinly-veiled contempt, and

c) While everyone appreciates a humorous parenting moment, I truly don't want to scare people away from having children. 

  I have a few friends-men and women-who are at the point in their lives where they're considering starting a family, but they're legitimately afraid to have children because of these kinds of articles that are constantly appearing all over the internet. Or they read a post by a mommy blogger who is trying SO HARD to be "relatable" and "edgy," but they just sound bitter and resentful. One thing that really struck me was the mention at the end of the article about the concerns of many European goverments, regarding the declining population rates in their countries. Gee, ya think? When you're constantly bombarded by articles pretty much promising you that if you have a child, you'll lose your looks, your sanity, your marriage, and your individuality? Who in the world wouldn't be terrified of procreating after reading articles and blog posts like this one? 

  Fellow parents, I beseech you. Let's make a pact to focus on ALL aspects of child-rearing: the wonderful, the good, the not-so-good, and the flat-out ugly. I'm by no means suggesting that we revert back to the days of our grandmothers, when you were supposed to put on a happy face no matter what, and everything was expected to be super duper perfect with a cherry on top. Of course not; that's equally harmful and unrealistic. What I am saying is that if you had a wonderful, relaxing, rewarding day with your children, go ahead and share it! If you have a child who potty trained in three days, go ahead and shout it from the rooftops (expect to have rotten food thrown at you, but hey, WORTH IT), and if you have a child who volunteers at a soup kitchen in his free time and prays the rosary every night and asks if he can clean up the kitchen after dinner, heck yes take pride in that. 

  By the same token, if having a child HAS negatively impacted your marriage, don't feel as though you have to keep everything bottled up inside. Having the support of a trusted friend, a therapist, a religious leader, whoever, can do wonders. If you have a child with special needs, and you're just DONE at the end of a particularly rough day, don't be afraid to reach out for commiseration. If your normally well-behaved child acts like you just shot them up with meth before you head into the grocery store, and they're pulling items off the shelves and shrieking at the top of their lungs because you won't buy them expensive bakery cookies and they have a potty accident in the cart and pee all over the groceries (not like I know anything about that), please understand that that one hour is NOT a reflection on your parenting, and feel free to give the stink eye or sassy comeback to anyone who so much as raises their eyebrows at you. Like I said before...I'm all about keeping it real. Some days are wonderful, and my heart feels like it could burst from the love and pride I have for my children. Other days, I consider the wisdom in buying stock in my favorite brand of tequila. 

  But in the meantime, go right ahead and give the publishers of this "study" the major side-eye. 
Look at us...we never cause our parents a single moment of stress!