Friday, July 3, 2015

Developing and Nurturing Friendships {as a wife and mom}

I hate advice-giving posts, but friendship is something that has really been on my mind lately, for reasons that I'll get to below, so indulge me this post please? Thanks. Correct me if I'm wrong (for real, I might be wrong!), but it seems like one of the hardest things about transitioning from single life to life as a wife and mother is making good friends.

I am a serious extrovert, and I need friends-- I mean I NEED friends. I need to see people on a regular basis, but I especially need a couple good friends, or even just one good lady friend who I feel comfortable just sitting with like I would sit with my sisters. I think that this is a really important thing for every woman, whether she realizes it or not, and I think that as hard as it can be, it is important to work toward.

A couple of years ago my closest friend, Marisa, moved away because her husband got a job. Our girls were very close and we were very close and it was really hard.

The curse of a community made up of grad students is that no one is here permanently, but everyone is here just long enough to get really close to them, and there are so many wonderful people to be friends with! After Marisa moved, I became really close with another wonderful lady named Sarah, and now I'm in the same boat I was in a couple years ago because- of course- she and her beautiful family are moving very far away and naturally just typing that sentence induced many tears.

While I am intensely sad that she is leaving, I don't feel the same kind of anxiety over the friend situation that I used to both because of this ideal community and because after 7 years of making friends, nurturing those relationship, and saying goodbye to so many friends, I am finally starting to feel comfortable with the process.

I am not a social expert by any means, but here are a few things that I have learned over the years:

1) Adjusting your exceptions will only serve to help you. When we first moved here, I was only one year out of college and found myself immediately only seeking out the type of friends that I had in college. Those friends were wonderful, but it didn't take long to learn that my new vocation would connect me with women with very different personalities and temperaments than those college friends and they would also be wonderful. Sticking with an arbitrary *idea* of the type of person I wanted to be friends with was just not something that was helping me, and as soon as I let it go, it got much easier. I ended up befriending so many great ladies in our first year here that I probably never would have hung out with in college- and many of those friendships I will have for the rest of my life.

2) Comfort zones can be traps. There are countless memories that I have of Mike telling me to "just send an email to her!". I would tell him about someone I met and got along with, and how I thought we could be friends, but then I wouldn't do anything about it, which usually resulted in very long lags between seeing any friends at all, but if I had just sent the email or made the call, I could have. I don't know if it's the case that children simply rob you of anything resembling a "comfort zone", but I don't even feel like I have one anymore and it's become much easier for me to initiate friendships and respond to others initiating them. I've had some really great friendships grow out of a quick swapping of info and setting up a play date-- sometimes it's really awkward, but most of the time it's entirely natural.

3) Parenting styles can be a total non-issue, if you let them be. This one is hard, especially if the majority of your interactions take place when you have all of your kids with you. I feel like I am notoriously the ultra-strict parent about a lot of things, but then I'm the one who lets her kids eat the most crap- and I imagine that is weird for my friends who are more laid back about the stuff I'm disciplining about and who don't want me loading their kids up with copious graham crackers. But you'll notice that neither of those things have much to do with lots of bonding elements in a friendship-- things like faith, political or personal interests, books you like, movies you watch, all sorts of things that you can chat about without even touching on the minutia of parenting. It means letting things slide when you're doing a play date, and not imposing your parenting style on others, and it means not letting it bother you if you don't do things the way your friends do-- this can be hard, but it's possible. Which brings me to the next one.

4) Hanging out when the kids are NOT around is the best thing ever. This is something I have started doing a whole lot more as more kids have come and as the older ones have gotten bigger. Play dates can feel so chaotic once each mom has more than 2 kids, and the big ones tend to dominate with their size and volume level, which makes any real conversation between mothers more challenging.
Case in crazy point:

Good and sweet, but also crazy and hard sometimes.
The solution? Margarita nights! Dessert and tea nights! My friend Sarah and I generally squeeze one night in a week when just the two of us get together after the kids are down-- it is super laid back, there is no other intention other than talking and connecting without constant conversation interruptions, and I would say it has been the best thing for our friendship, I am really going to miss it.

5) Staying away from gossip and/or husband bashing is only ever a good thing. Call me Captain Obvious, but I still think it is worth mentioning, because it is always a temptation and never good for a friendship.

These are a few things I have learned and I am learning more all the time about this. I am not looking forward to the challenge of doing this in a whole new place, with lots of new people when it comes time for us to move on too, but share your wisdom with me! Then I can come back and learn even more!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

5 Classic Favorites for Kids on Netflix {#StreamTeam}

Another Netflix post! I know, we need to lay off the television over here, but it is summer and there have been so many thunderstorms in our neck of the woods and what the heck is a mother to do with 4 kids alllllllll day?!

You can only have so many tea parties.

I know I have gone on and on and on about Leo, Quincy, Annie and June, and Lucy had her way with Netflix after her surgery, but there are a few shows that I think deserve honorable mention because they are classics and I actually feel good about letting my kids watch them (in a way). They're not too overly stimulating and they are sweet and well, I like old things.

I am specifying the primary story that I like to let my kids watch because some of these older cartoons are a little bit intense, for instance this collection contains the story of Chicken Little and Foxy Loxy, where the fox eats ALL the chickens in the end and it is just a little bit morbid (although apparently not morbid enough since I have let the girls watch it countless times, but you've been forewarned). These are nice because they are about 7-10 minutes a piece, so if you're looking for a short spurt of breathing time to throw some laundry in or take a speedy shower, they are perfect for that and they are all classic fairy tale stories, which I really like.

Again, I am specifying the one story in the collection that I like the best, this collection has a lot that are... weird, but I love the Mickey spin on Jack and the Beanstalk. This is a serious favorite in our house, and the Mickey and the Beanstalk story is only 25 minutes long, so your mom guilt won't be too crushing.

I love old school Mickey Mouse stuff, or really anything old school. I start to twitch when I see the new Mickey Mouse stuff-- over stimulating to the MAX. Not that I won't let my kids watch it when we're elsewhere, I am not that crazy, but when it comes to what I will put on in my own house for them, I am a little bit snobby and only the older stuff will do.

Say what you will about Walt Disney and his rendition of AA Milne's classic stories, but what I have to say is that they are good enough. I am not at all a fan of any Winnie the Pooh movies that have come after the Many Adventures, but I think that the cartoons that Disney did in this movie are wonderful. I think they are sweet and funny and not annoying at all, which is the most important thing as the parent listening in the background.

"Faint hearts never won fair ladies" -Robin Hood (and probably stolen from somewhere else), but still, any movie that has the main character saying stuff like that, I am A-OK with my kids watching. This was also one of my favorites when I was little, so there is just a ton of nostalgia wrapped up in my love for this movie.

And that's all I have for you today, and now you've got some gems to add to your kids' summer watch list, so you can hide on the porch and drink a cup of coffee, not that I have ever done that ;)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Small Saints for Little Hands Giveaway!

Every time I ever see those adorable saint peg dolls floating around on the internets or at friends' homes, I immediately asked where they are from in the hopes that I would find an answer that was A) not going to necessitate any painting whatsoever on my part and/or B) was affordable. I never got that answer, until now.

The answer is Small Saint for Little Hands.

My friend Mary (who I actually know in real life since we went to the same college at the same time, and who is good friends with my little sister) recently started a website called Small Saints for Little Hands where she sells the most adorable, AFFORDABLE hand painted saint dolls and they are just perfect.

When Mary asked me if I wanted to review some dolls and do a giveaway, I could not respond with a resounding YES fast enough. I was IN either way, but I was even more thrilled after I checked out her site-- her work is beautiful and her prices beat any other saint peg doll prices I have ever seen (you know you're Catholic when you type that sentence.)

The girls were ecstatic when the box arrived and spent the rest of the afternoon playing "Mass" with their little Saints and making up hymns which were somewhat heretical to go with their play.

C'est la vie.

Then we had an off Sunday and I had to take the 3 younger kids to Mass solo and started to freak just a little at the thought, but then spotted the stack of saint peg dolls, threw them into my purse and they saved the whole Mass experience.

They are so intricately painted and she has a great selection on her website. She sent us coordinating dolls for each of my kids' names and then some. The list of the ones pictured is as follows:

Our Lady of Guadalupe
Saint Therese of Lisieux
Saint Bernadette
Saint Joseph
Pope Saint John Paul II
Saint Lucy
Saint Maximilian Kolbe
Blessed Mother Therese of Calcutta

Next on my list of must-haves would be Saint Gianna, Saint Cecilia, and Saint Faustina

If you are looking for a good gift for a birthday, Christmas, any holy day, feast day, sacramental celebration, of just any time at all these would be perfect.

They really encourage growth in knowledge about the saints and creativity in play all at the same time, and while it may some times be at the price of our small ones spouting heresy, it keeps us on our Catholic-mom toes. Or something like that.

If you like what you see and you'd like to win some of your own, you are in luck! Sweet, generous Mary has offered to give one lucky reader 4 saint dolls of your choosing!! (!!!)

And if you don't score your own, hit up her site and stock up for all the above listed occasions, you will not regret it one bit!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

School Room Reveal!

There may be no "room reveal post" in existence that is as anti-climactic as this one is about to be, both because of the lack of build up, and the fact that the room is not really very revamped- only slightly. However, I always feel the need to pepper the blog with the tiny bits of home-renovation material that I gather, since we do very little by way of making our home Pinteresting, and we're fairly happy to decorate entirely with items purchased from yard sales and thrift stores.

So for fun, let me show you a little picture of what our basement family room/school area looked like when we moved into this house:

Then Mike and my dad worked their behinds off and made it into this:
A vast improvement!

On the other side of the room is the "home school area", which was a little bit limiting (teeny tiny table and chairs), and a lot un-cute (all school stuff stuffed into my sewing desk), and has been for the last few years, which was ok because I was doing pre school and kindergarten, aka, Little Einsteins.

However, now that we're moving to 1st grade, my stress levels at the thought of more legit home schooling have been, um, high, but the thought of a semi-cuter home school area sweetened the deal in my head greatly. After eying up a yard sale table that had been sitting in our garage, ready to be given to Goodwill, and scheming about whether to sand and stain it, and then settling on painting it, but debating over whether to go with brown or white or red, I finally took the plunge and the result is this:

After many days of this:

(Mom knee deep in painting project + 4 kids home most of the day = neglect neglect and more neglect.)

But I finally prevailed!

I found some solid wood chairs at a near by store that sells old furniture from buildings on Notre Dame's campus that have upgraded their furnishings, they were $5 a piece.

And repaid Lucy with lots of one-on-one time during the girls' VBS and let her have her way with the their school things without having to share:

Another before:
And after:

I made the fabric circles on the wall and the coordinating cork board on the other side.

The stencils on the table and chairs did not turn out great, which was entirely due to the fact that I just went for it without practicing on anything, I'm a smart one, I am.

But! My practice on the table and chairs made for perfection on the book shelves, and I learned a valuable lesson.

I am glad to have a desk that has a tiny bit more space to move around and stitch a thing or two on occasion, and a table that can hold all the beads in the world, and occasional school things. Now I am glad to be done, with the project and with this post, although certainly not as glad you!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Friday Ramble (7 QT)

How-za-bout a nice Friday Ramble in quick take form? Let's do it.

1) I feel like I've really entered legitimate motherhood now that my children have attended their first week of a real summer camp. Something about saying the words "the kids have camp this week" makes me feel like I am play acting and then I realize that I am really and truly an old mom. Farm camp was truly thrilling for all parties except for poor Lucy who screamed and cried every day that she did not get to attend farm camp, which was all the days.

2) While the older 2 girls rode ponies and played in swamps, I dragged the 2 youngins with me to Lowes and gathered supplies to dive into project School Room, 2015. Because the only way to make myself want to home school is the prospect of a cute school room.

3) At first it was just a table and chairs that were getting painted

but my the "Waste not, want not" part of me just wants to use up all the primer and paint that I bought so I keep finding more things to paint. I have added 2 small book shelves thus far and I am eying up pretty much anything that might look nice painted white.

The kids and Mike better watch their backs...

4) Speaking of things that make me feel like a legit mom, I had my first ever child-pooping-in-the-bathtub experience yesterday and boy was it exciting. Yesterday was Lucy and Josephs' once every week-or-two bath before nap time. It was all going swimmingly and I got Joe cleaned up and out of the tub when I heard Bernadette calling from the basement that she needed assistance on the pot. I pulled the plug on Lucy's bath water and told her she could play there until the water came out and I ran down stairs to "assist" Bernadette. Literally less than 2 minutes later, I ran upstairs to see Lucy standing in the tub-o-shit blaming the water for pooping everywhere.I grabbed her out and took a picture which I emailed to Mike after I cleaned up the mess.

All of Instagram should be thanking me for refraining from posting that picture because I had oh so many captions to post it with. You're welcome.

5) How about all these beautiful babies of the Internet? Grace! and Blythe!

6) Meanwhile I must refrain from looking at Insta too much lest I catch the fever, for which the only prescription is:

NOT A baby announcement-- I repeat-- NOOOOT

7) I think I've squawked your E-Ears off enough for today, have a fabulous weekend. And watch this if you know what's good for you:

Monday, June 15, 2015

let's talk about sleep, baby

So sorry for the inappropriate bad 90's song allusion, I couldn't help myself.

We are fast approaching a year since Joseph's birth, and there are a few things I have been wanting to add to the blog, not for any purpose other than for posterity's sake, but if perhaps you find yourself in a similar boat, it may prove helpful- or at least exist for commiserations' sake.

The first of the things is most and least exciting thing ever to blog about- sleep!

I wrote a post when Lucy was a baby about how tired I was, and how it was "all ok", and looking back I have had to chuckle a little at myself.

(if you caught the Office reference you win 5 Stanley Nickles)

I was pregnant when I wrote that post, and pregnancy fatigue is a type in its own class. I was definitely legit tired, but the thing that was absent from that post is the utter importance of sleep, and the heights of sleep loss that can literally turn a woman's world upside down. I didn't pay any attention to that because I had never actually experienced that level of sleep deprivation, and then Joseph was born.

I hope to blog later in the summer about some of the nitty gritty of the postpartum anxiety and depression that I experienced after Joe's birth-- and I will leave the details for later-- but looking back on the ordeal I can now say with perfect confidence that it was sleep loss and sleep loss alone that was to blame for the bulk of the mental difficulties I was experiencing.

Hormones are a major B after birth, and I know in the case of many women that is all it takes to send them into a tail spin of postpartum depression, but FOR ME, the trigger was the sleep.

I had 4 kids- I had done this 3 other times, I just kept telling myself that I had done this before and that I could cope. And maybe I could have coped if Joseph had been like my other new born babies and at least given me 2 hour stretches of sleep each night, but he wasn't and he didn't.

I existed for 3 months on barely more than 1 (maybe 2, if I got lucky) hours of sleep before he woke up screaming, and some nights it would only be 20 minute stretches. He had more digestive issues than my other babies, and would not even sleep in bed next to me, which was my coping mechanism with Bernadette and Lucy. I should have recognized that this was a different situation and called on Mike, who would have been more than happy to step in for help, but I just kept trying to manage on my own.

Finally the flu hit me in October, when Joseph was about 2.5 months old and I had to give in-- I pumped a bottle and gave him to Mike for a night and slept, but only because I had a high fever and the shakes and aches and I really had no choice. Once the flu left I went back to being the one up with Joe every night but it within a few weeks, the anxiety and depression that had been building up over those few months of next to no sleep started to spiral out of control.

I couldn't think straight, I couldn't control my thoughts, and it just kept getting worse and worse. Mike recognized that the sleep loss was taking its toll, and strongly urged me to either pump or get some formula so that I could get more sleep-- both of which we did a couple times a week for a while. Formula was hard on Joseph's already sensitive stomach and I was having trouble with my milk supply and having enough milk to pump during the day to give him at night.

Mike helping me out a few nights a week would give me a short respite and I would see an improvement immediately in how I was feeling. However, Mike had to work and couldn't take him every night, and as soon as my body went back to functioning on barely any sleep, I would go right back to the same depressed and anxious state I was previously in.

We had one terrible Sunday where I could barely breathe all the way through Mass, I had panic attack after panic attack and after Mass we made the decision that it was time to make major changes during the night so that consistent sleep could be gotten and we could get on top of things.

That night we started to sleep train Joseph (aka, cry it out) and within a few days he was sleeping for 4, 5 or even 6 hour stretches. I remember meeting my counselor for the first time a few days before we started sleep training Joseph and being a total basket-case and within the first week of sleep training things had changed to drastically that at my appointment only one week later I was an entirely different person. I am sure the medicine I had just gotten on was at least having a placebo effect, but it general takes several weeks to get into a persons' system and work, and I had only been on it for one week, so I was fairly confident that it was primarily the sleep.

This is NOT an endorsement of sleep training, this is not me saying that cry-it-out is the way to go-- CIO is what worked for us and it is what we needed to do to function and survive. This is me endorsing sleep for moms and encouraging moms to do whatever they need to do to get as much sleep as they can.

Obviously as mothers a certain degree of sleep deprivation is expected, and we learn to live with less sleep-- before becoming a mother I never could have survived on a two 3 hour stretches of sleep, but now I can. What I have learned through this experience is that I have a bare minimum amount of sleep that I need to function, and without which everything starts to fall apart.

If you're a mom going through something similar, the only thing I would actually recommend is not to take it lightly, but to really value your own physical health and your body's true need for sleep.

If cry-it-out is not for you, then maybe pumping and giving your husband a bottle is. If pumping is too hard or you don't have the milk supply during the day for it (as was the case for me), buy a can of formula and know that your baby will be fine and you will be a better person too. If your baby will sleep better next to you in bed and you will get some extra sleep that way- then DO IT!

This was one of those real life lessons for me, one that left enough of an impression that I felt the need to e-log it for future Ana. I feel sure that I would have had to get help for my postpartum issues either way, but I do not think that things would have gotten as out of control as they did if it weren't for the extreme sleep loss, and I hope they never will again.

But then if they do, there's always sleep training ;)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Summer Lovin {a link-up!}

I know I am the least original person ever, but summer is leaving me a little at a loss for blogging content, I blame the sun. We're already back from our lone summer vacation and I am looking ahead with wonder and awe that there are 3 more months until I have a legit 1st grader and kindergartener. 3 whole months! What to do, what to do!?

For me a summer following one where I am growing a person is always a little uneventful, which is a good thing and a bad thing. I love baby preparations, I love growing babies, but it is a tad high stress and I am really enjoying this summer's lazy feel, however, I am also trying to fill the daily schedules with things here and there so they don't feel too lazy.

Without further ado, here are all things you didn't know you had no interest in knowing about us and our summer. AND for kicks, if you're also at a loss for blogging content, know that I am morbidly interested in you and what you're doing, and I would love for you to write up a post a link it up! Or if you're bloggless (the horror!) leave some deats in the combox- it's sure to be tons-o-fun for all!

Wearing // My typical linen shorts + tee shirt combo, peppered with my new favorite accessory and these adorable numbers from Acute Designs, which I won from Anna's super generous giveaway.

Eating // Fruit, fruit and more fruit. Cherries, strawberries, grapes- all the fruit.

Also pasta salad.

Drinking // Still this, always and forever

Doing // The occasional Fitness Blender workout. Thank you to everyone who recommended them to me, I am completely sold.

Preparing for // The girls' first dance class. Bernadette actually already had her first class the other day and I was the worst mother ever and she was utterly unprepared with no tutu or ballet shoes (and all the ballet moms gasp!). I am in the process of remedying this and actually getting what needs to be gotten for Naomi's first class on Thursday so as to not embarrass more children. I am such a rookie.

Reading // Anna Karenina for my Well Read Mom book group. I have been a bit of a slacker and only read a fraction of the books, but I am all in with this one- it is so unexpectedly good!

Listening // To Anna Karenina. It is sooooo long, and read/listening is the only way to make anything close to a dent in it.

Watching // In realm of TV: Silicon Valley, one of the funniest shows, I am a huge fan (content warning though!). In the realm of children: Joseph tryyyyyyying so hard to crawl- you can do it lil brudder!

Creating // my revamped school room in my head. I have all sorts of plans to spray paint a table and cut the legs down and find new awesome chairs at yard sales and I am sure that if Mike was a betting man he would put all sorts of odds on being asked to do most of it for me this summer (winking emoji, Mike!)

Growing // The most pathetic little garden in Indiana. I have high hopes for my zucchini plant, which is looking like it is going to come alive and eat all of the other plants in the garden, and with my fancy new fence (erected by Mike, because I am what the French call Les Incompetent) I am really hoping the rabbits will stay away and not eat all the buds.

Going // To farm camp next week! 3 hours each morning with only 2 babes, I love you, summer.

Loving // Nursing. I don't claim to be anywhere near "Crunchy" in any way or about anything, but I have to say that if I didn't love my solo sleeping in my bed with ONLY a husband at night I could see myself being one of the co-sleeping, long-time nursing mom types, I just love nursing SO much! It's my one way to keep Joseph seeming more like a baby, because I am in denial that he will be 1 next month.

And that's all I have for you. Be sure to link up back here if you do anything even close to an informational summer post- it counts, really anything counts! I just want to hear all about all of your summers, which I can guarantee are probably way more exciting than yours truly.