Sunday, April 17, 2016

When Facing the Unexpected


  I'll be honest...this may be the most difficult post I've ever written. It involves sharing a whole lot of personal information, going waaaaaaay out of my blogging comfort zone, and going in to more details about my body than I ever would have imagined I would share online. (I should probably take this opportunity to inform you that I'll be discussing my cycles, natural family planning, and as I said, a whole lot of personal information. If you're prone to getting squicked out by discussion of periods, post partum hormones, etc, you may not want to continue reading). For a long time, I thought about  avoiding this post altogether, and just posting the standard happy announcement. But...that wouldn't be honest. I've been making an effort this past year to share everything; the good, the bad, the ugly, and not just gloss over the trials and tribulations we face as a family, simply because it's not a neat and tidy story. So, honesty it is.

  For those of you who haven't guessed by the picture or the first paragraph, I'm pregnant. Twelve weeks. And this pregnancy was very, VERY unplanned. Let me back up a bit.

  After Gianna was born, Will and I agreed to wait before even contemplating getting pregnant again. We had multiple reasons for this decision, but the most important reason had to do with my health. I made an appointment with my neurosurgeon when Gianna was a week old (I had a excruciating back pain during my pregnancy with her, and I knew something was seriously wrong). My neurosurgeon immediately scheduled me for an MRI, and when I got the results back, he said that without a doubt, I needed surgery. I had a microdiscectomy when Gianna was 4 1/2 months old, and the second-no joke-I woke up in recovery, my neurosurgeon was standing over me. He said that when he actually opened me up, my back was far worse than the MRI had shown, and I was going to need spinal fusion surgery. His exact words were, "I don't know how you were walking, let alone carrying a pregnancy." Since then, I've been in a lot of pain. I've been attempting to manage the pain through weekly PT appointments and pain medication, but it really isn't ideal. So, Will and I both agreed that we needed to get my back fixed once and for all before even considering another baby. 

  As far as birth control goes, we use NFP. I understand there are quite a few, shall we say, strong opinions on the matter, but we use it for both health and religious reasons. We have used NFP successfully in the past, both to avoid and achieve pregnancies. No, it's not always easy, but it worked for us. Until, obviously, now. 

  I've heard many people (health practitioners, NFP instructors, friends) talk up ecological breastfeeding-in other words, exclusively breastfeeding your baby for as long as possible, babywearing, co-sleeping, not using a pacifier-as a fantastic way to delay the return of your fertility. Now, I realize that EB works wonders for many women, and I myself have many friends who WILL NOT get a period until their babies or toddlers are completely weaned. I am...not one of those women. Despite exclusively breastfeeding, babywearing constantly, and co-sleeping, my period returned at two months postpartum. Not cool, nature. Not cool at all. It was especially difficult for me, as I now had to worry about charting my cycle with an infant who had, at best, unpredictable sleep patterns, not to mention I was taking pain medication daily for my disaster of a back. I tried to chart, I really did, but it seemed like the universe was working against me. In addition to getting my period at two months postpartum, I was getting two VERY heavy periods every month. I was exhausted beyond belief, getting migraines constantly, and having painful PMS back pain on top of my already excruciating back pain. Will and I were being obsessively careful about avoiding sex during what I thought was my fertile time each month, but again, my body was doing all sorts of screwy things.

  At the beginning of February, I was looking through my CycleGoPro app on my phone, and realizing, "ugh. Lovely. Time for my first period of the month to show up. No wonder I've been craving pizza and ice cream lately." Well, a few days went by, and no period. I started to feel cautiously hopeful; hey, maybe my body was finally starting to right itself! Could it be that I wouldn't have to suffer through this nonsense more than once a month? Well, twelve days went by. At that point, I was confused, and I was starting to get nervous. I pulled Will aside one day after he got home from work, and asked him if he thought I should buy a pregnancy test. Will laughed, and said, "There's just no way. That would seriously be a one in a million chance. Buy one if it will put your mind at ease, but I really don't think you have anything to worry about. If you're not-and I'm SURE you're not-I think you should give your midwives a call to see if they can figure out what's going on with your body." That made sense, and I agreed that the chances of me being pregnant were slim to none, so I ran to Walgreens, picked up a test, and came home just as Will was getting Gianna ready for bed. I told him I was going to take the test immediately just so I could sleep that night without worrying, and Will agreed. I went into the bathroom, peed on the stick, and prepared to wait a few minutes for the results to show up. 

  I didn't even need to wait 10 seconds. The second line appeared almost immediately, and I burst into hysterical sobs. I was crying so hard I couldn't even see. Will, naturally, was in a complete panic, and he was yelling, "What's wrong? Are you okay? Open the door!!" I opened the door, handed him the test, and collapsed on our bed, still sobbing. "WHAT? How is this possible? There's no way...is a false positive likely?" Nope. False negatives are fairly common, but false positives are almost unheard of. Will was doing everything he could to calm me down, I couldn't stop crying, Gianna started crying because she saw her mama was upset...it was chaos. 

  I cried all night long. I woke up every hour on the hour, remembering the positive pregnancy test a few  feet away from me on my nightstand, and I would just burst into tears. Will would wake up, hold me, tell me that he loved me and he would take care of me, and tell me everything was going to be okay, and he would rub my back until I fell asleep again. I just couldn't believe it. The thought of going through another pregnancy with chronic back pain made me want to vomit. Even if I didn't have chronic pain, the thought of two under two (especially with two older children) was absolutely terrifying to me. Our families were going to freak. My neurosurgeon was going to think I was dumber than a box of rocks. And last but not least, how was this going to affect Gianna? I already suspected that my milk supply was dwindling, and I was taking a bunch of lactation-boosting herbs to continue nursing her. None of which were safe to take during pregnancy, so I had to immediately discontinue using them. 

  It took me a long, LONG time to come to terms with this pregnancy. I cried at my first appointment with my midwife. I cried pretty much every single night for two weeks straight. I felt selfish and ungrateful, knowing how many friends I have who are struggling with fertility and would kill to be in my position. I cried when I finally admitted defeat, realizing my milk supply completely dried up, and I had to switch Gianna to formula. I didn't want to tell anyone. I avoided talking about it with Will, and every time he gently brought up announcing the news to family and friends, I talked him out of it. After I got over my initial sadness, I felt anger. At everything and everyone. I was angry at God, for clearly giving me more than I could handle. I was angry at society, for making me feel embarrassed and needing to defend having more than the "acceptable" number of children. I was angry at NFP for failing me. Most of all, I was angry at myself. For not making an appointment with my midwives as soon as I realized something was kind of screwy with my body, for not making the time to take a Creighton NFP class (with my friend, who is a certified instructor and had offered her services to us in the past), and for not being more careful. And most of all, for seeing this pregnancy as a huge burden. I was so ashamed of myself when I realized I had resentment towards an innocent baby, a baby whom I knew I would fall in love with the moment he or she is placed in my arms. 

  I ended up confiding in one of my close friends, and she gave me some great advice. "Don't show your fears or sadness to those you know won't understand, but with those who WILL, don't hold back. " We eventually told our families, a few more of our close friends, and shortly thereafter, we made the official announcement online. For the most part, people have been very supportive and happy. We've had to field a few of those "hilarious" questions such as "ya know what causes that, right?" (Har! Good one!). I've also become more comfortable admitting that while yes, a baby is always a blessing, that doesn't mean I can't be scared about the timing, or sad about the circumstances. I had this (irrational) fear that I would be kicked out of some kind of Catholic club for not being over the moon about another pregnancy, and that couldn't have been further from the truth. My Catholic sisters were supportive, understanding, and as patient as can be with me while I cried about my fears and grumbled about our hyperactive fertility. 

  Everything is going to be okay. I know it is. I will make it through this pregnancy, and at the end, we will have a beautiful, and, God-willing, healthy baby to show for it. Yes, our life will become slightly more chaotic, but that's certainly nothing new. I'm slowly allowing myself to feel excitement over the impending newborn stage again, and buying tiny little clothes and hats for our newest addition. I'm doing everything I can to try and manage my back pain, and get as much rest (as possible) during the exhausting first trimester. It wasn't easy, but letting go of my fears, anger, and anxiety has given me the peace of mind I so desperately needed. I'm slowly but surely getting back into a daily prayer routine, and in the midst of my worries, remembering that I have so, so much to be grateful for. 

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A Lunch Crisis

The Airplane Restaurant in Colorado Springs. Loved by kids, tolerated by adults. 

  Y'all, I need help. Normally I pride myself on making most meals at home, and I do...for dinner. However, since I've been sick and dealing with awful back pain lately, many of our dinners have been kind of thrown together at the last minute. That, however, is not the problem. The problem is what I have dubbed my Lunchtime Laziness. 

  I can't handle planning more than one meal every day (you mamas who plan every last meal your husband and kids to eat...hats off to you. I have no idea how you do it). I generally try to keep this in mind when I go to the store, and I try to pick up lunch-y type things my kids and I will enjoy; sandwich stuff, fruits, veggies, goldfish crackers, hummus, chicken nuggets for the kids, what have you. Normally I let the kids put in requests for lunch, because I generally have everything they like on hand, and since I'm a "eat it or starve" kind of mom when it comes to the dinners I plan, I don't want to make a big deal about lunch. All that being said...I'm slipping.

  It has become far, far too easy for me to just have the "screw it, there's a drive-thru" mentality when it comes to lunch. I HATE eating out. Really, truly hate it. Eating out with small children is, for the most part, unpleasant. It's hard to find healthy options on the menus, and holy cow does it add up after a while. Sometimes, at the end of a very long week, it's hard for me to say no when the kids beg for a Chik-Fil-A lunch, or offer up healthier suggestions when Tony sweetly asks me for a "pickle burger" from Culver's. I think a treat once in a while is fine, especially on Saturdays, when Will is home for the weekend and we can spend time together as a family. But after looking through our purchases last month from our checking account...wow. The occasional lunch out has gotten a little out of control.

  Suggestions? I'm open to them. Obviously what I'm doing isn't working, so I don't know if I need to *shudder* begin planning meals for lunches to keep myself on track, prepare a small "eating out" budget for us to use as we wish a few times every month, or just throw all my cards up in the air and hope for the best (note: this has not worked out well for me in the past). Help me out, ladies and gentlemen. It's getting a little ridiculous when you have most of the Chik-Fil-A menu memorized. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Musings


Go big or go home. That's our mantra around here. 

Late last night (okay, late for me) I was messaging and later video chatting with a dear friend of mine, a former co-worker whom I met in Germany several years ago. Thessally and her husband are devout Catholics, and we all went to the same church on Ramstein AF base. One of my favorite memories of our friendship was Easter Vigil 2009, when Thessally and I both gave up sweets for Lent, and proceeded to gorge, er, celebrate by stuffing our faces with candy, cookies, margaritas, what have you, after the holiest day in the Church calendar. Her husband, who is in the Air Force, was deployed to Kuwait, and as I'm sure you can imagine, holidays were tough for my friend and her two daughters. Thessally decided to make the best out of a difficult situation, so she invited Will and I over to her home for a delicious pre-Vigil dinner. Then the five of us attended the Vigil (which is SO beautiful), and returned to her home, staying up until 2am, eating, drinking, and laughing. It's one of my favorite memories from Germany, and Thessally and I had a nice moment of nostalgia last night while FaceTiming. 

I haven't been to Easter Vigil in years, mainly because while it is the most beautiful mass of the year, it's also the longest. A possibly 3-hour long mass beginning at 8pm does not really work out when one has small children, so for the past couple of years we've braved Easter morning mass (having to leave for church almost an hour early if we even have the slightest hope of finding a parking spot). Naturally, last night I started feeling funny. Tired, achy, scratchy throat, and despite my fervent prayers not to get sick, well, I'm sick. There are few things I hate more than missing mass on a holy day of obligation, but I just don't feel right dragging my infected butt out of bed and possibly unleashing a swarm of germs upon small children, pregnant ladies, and the elderly. So, I am sitting grumpily in bed, bringing you a blog post while my brave, brave husband dresses the kids and prepares to take them to mass himself. That, ladies and gentleman, is a real man. 

One thing I always try to practice during Lent is humility. This...does not always work out. I know that as a Catholic woman, I *should* pray for peace, tranquility, the ability to accept certain unpleasant situations with grace, and above all, forgiveness. Forgiveness is especially difficult for me. I have a tendency to hold a grudge, to unleash the snark at VERY inappropriate moments, and to ruminate on things that I can never change. Take this past Christmas, for example.

I mentioned in a previous blog post that we spent our Christmas (the day, and the week of) at Memorial Central Hospital here in Colorado Springs. Tony had osteomyelitis, and Will and I were scared to death. It is a treatable illness, but it can become very serious very quickly. On December 23, the pediatric ortho surgeon informed Will and I that Tony needed surgery to drain an abscess on his ankle. We knew it was necessary, but that didn't stop us from worrying over every possible scenario. On Christmas Eve day, Will took the girls home while I stayed at the hospital with Tony, who was VERY upset because he hadn't been able to eat or drink anything since 8pm. The surgery was scheduled for 11am, but since we were on "hospital time," he wasn't wheeled in to the operating room until 1:00. By then, I was physically and emotionally wrung out. I collapsed onto a chair in the surgery waiting room for family members, and began sending a text message to Will to give him a brief update. 

Seconds later, a man pulled out a chair at the table where I was sitting, and started talking to me. I wasn't in the mood for conversation with strangers, but I politely answered his (somewhat intrusive) questions about who I was waiting for, what kind of surgery was my son having, etc. He asked if he could say a prayer for my son, and I said absolutely. He began to pray, and at some point looked at me. Or, more specifically, he looked at my cell phone cover, which has a picture of the Immaculate Heart of Mary on it. He launched into a tirade about the evils of the Catholic Church, how I follow a false religion, what have you. He paused long enough for me to say, "Excuse me. Maybe you didn't hear me the first time, but my four year old is having SURGERY. If you're under the impression that I'm going to get into a theological debate with a complete stranger on Christmas Even morning while my son is under general anesthetic, you're extremely confused." Unfortunately, that didn't stop him, and he began to get nasty. Oh, and it's totes cool, he knew what he was talking about because he USED to be Catholic. Well, clearly that meant he was more knowledgable than the pope, right? 

I know what I *should* have done. I should have excused myself, I should have said I would pray for him, I should have done a multitude of things. Instead, I told him to leave me alone so I could pray for my son in peace. When he stood up and told me that he would pray my son would be rescued from non-believing parents...oh, it was ON. My response? "You have no idea how lucky you are. If my four-time Iraqi war veteran husband was here right now, he would kick your ass!" 

Not my finest hour. 

You would think that my anger would have ended there, but newp. I spent the rest of the week stewing about the nerve of this guy, just who did he think he was, and did he honestly think that harassing parents in a surgical waiting room was the way to get them to join his uber fundie church? Oh, and did I stop there? Of course I didn't. I kind of wished in the moment, I had the presence of mind to show Mr. I'm So Much More Holy and Devout Than You this picture. 

Or this one: 

Much holy. Much Catholic. 

So, umm, yeah. Let's just say I had a lot of reflecting to do during this Lenten season. I am not very good when it comes to turning the other cheek, forgiving those who do my family and I wrong, and moving past hurt and anger. Or, you know, all the things that my faith demands I do. After the "incident" at the hospital, I came to an unpleasant realization over the next couple of months. I have, to put it mildly, a lot of work to do. I need to have more patience with my kids, myself, strangers, well, pretty much everyone. I need to focus on prayer, rather than spite. I need to forgive. I need to learn to move on, and accept that some people will never listen to reason or logic. 

On this Easter Sunday, whilst stuck at home in bed, I resolve to focus on what's important (for me, that means not browsing Facebook or Instagram and berating myself for not having a perfect Easter setup for my kids because I'm feeling so miserable right now), but rather watching mass on EWTN live, saying a few prayers, and focus on getting myself better so I can have the energy to do fun things with my kiddos tomorrow when Will goes back to work. This gig (parenting, wifing, being a Catholic woman in today's crazy world) ain't easy, but I always try to remember that we are called to holiness. Not perfection, not a lifetime of never making mistakes, but a life of learning from our mistakes, confessing our sins, and always striving to better ourselves. After all, as St. Augustine said, "There is no saint without a past, no sinner without a future." 

He is Risen! Alleluia, Alleluia. The happiest of Easters to you. 




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? 

  Wrong. 

  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).