Saturday, August 30, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Chub, Cobbler, and Traumitization

Awkward....a few weeks ago when Mary was 2 weeks old, a woman came up to me at church and asked when I was due. I explained to her that I had given birth two weeks prior, and she was completely mortified. I wasn't actually offended because I knew she wasn't trying to make me feel bad, and after all, that belly doesn't just magically disappear overnight. It made me wonder how I would react if I made that mistake with someone.

Mary is changing so quickly. She's more alert and she's becoming an adorable chubby baby. The chub warms my heart because Elizabeth had so many weight gain, Mary, eat!!!

Christmas gift planning. DONT JUDGE! Yes I know it's August but hear me out for a sec. My goal this year is to be completely done with all Christmas gifts before Advent. That way I can really focus on the actual season of Advent, rather than spending Advent worrying about what I'm going to get everyone for Christmas. Plus, since we are living on one income now, I plan to make a lot of gifts myself. This is going to take time, obviously, so I figured I'm going to kick my procrastinator self in the butt and try to get going early.

This recipe: Berry cobbler. It's not actually real berry cobbler, since cobbler technically means a dish with fruit and sweet biscuits dropped on top. This recipe is actually more of a berry "cake" of sorts. But oh my it is soooo good (it's 3am while I'm writing this and talking about it is making me want to go into the kitchen right now and make some) and it pairs wonderfully with vanilla ice cream. It's also ridiculously easy to make. It's my "go-to" cobbler recipe. I strayed from it yesterday when a friend and my mom came over for lunch, and I tried a different recipe. Gross. I will never again abandon you, my delicious cobbler friend. don't talk to your food? Right. Carry on.

Room decorating...why am I so terrible at it? We are in the process of planning Elizabeth's room decorations for when we move her out of the baby room. I was thinking ocean, just because that's what I like. But then I remembered that Elizabeth really doesn't like being in the water all that much. So perhaps surrounding her with pictures making her feel like she's underwater isn't the best idea. Traumatized child for the win!

There are actually four girls living in our house: me, Elizabeth, Mary, and our 100 lb Bernese Mountain Dog, Cocoa. She is a great family dog. The other day, Elizabeth climbed on her back like a horse and started pulling Cocoa's hair out. Cocoa just sat there and didn't care. The problem recently has been that the poor dog needs exercise. Annnnd it's been grossly hot and humid outside recently. 90+ degree weather + massive dog with fur coat meant to brave the harsh winters in the Swiss alps = not a happy dog. So what are some other ways my horse can get a small workout?  

Nap time, the most important time of day for baby and mom. Elizabeth has always had meltdowns of epic proportions starting at around 4pm. Trent usually does not get home until around 6pm. That's TWO HOURS, you guys...the longest two hours I have ever experienced. And by the time Trent walks in the door I shove Elizabeth in his arms and lock myself in a closet just to be alone for a few minutes. So recently I've been trying to give Elizabeth a later nap, starting around 2:30. To avoid morning meltdowns, I also put her in her crib around 10am for a bit of quiet time (even if she doesn't actually sleep). It seems to be working really well so far. 4pm meltdowns have not entirely vanished but they happen at a much, much smaller scale. So now probably only our neighborhood can hear her scream, rather than the entire city. Progress!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Not Everything Happens For A Reason

I'm sure you've all heard or said at one time: "Everything happens for a reason."

And I say to that: nope. Not true.

Before you dismiss me, thinking I'm trying to depress everyone, take heart! This is actually good news!

Harry Belafonte singing 1954.jpgLet's take a journey back to my college days. I was struggling immensely in my faith. But I was also struggling on a basic physical level: I was having extreme vocal pain every time I sang or talked for an extended period of time (anything longer than 15 minutes). I was seeking vocal coaching and was going to a voice therapist, learning exercises to help, and trying to figure out how to relax my throat muscles. I went on vocal rest, where I couldn't sing or talk for awhile. And let me tell you, vocal rest sure makes you appreciate your ability to talk.

Nothing was really helping. For months and months, I was trying to figure out how to solve the problem. It eventually got to a point where I had to seriously consider whether or not I should continue my degree in music education. Because let's face it...a music teacher who can't talk or sing can't really teach at all.

I began to get angry. I resented the fact that something that came so naturally for everyone else was a daily struggle for me. I didn't understand why this huge obstacle was preventing me from doing what it was a knew was the right path for me: becoming a music teacher.

It got to a point where I became angry with God. After all, He was the one who gave me this burden, right? In my mind, it just wasn't fair. How could a loving God bring harm on anyone, even if it was for a greater good?

I reached a breaking point at a Mass I was supposed to sing at. I knew I was supposed to be resting my voice, but I wanted to try and sing to see if things had gotten any better. As the Mass went on, and the searing pain in my throat became worse and worse, it was clear that things were not better. If anything, they were worse.

It took all the concentration I could muster to not break down in tears in the middle of Mass. Afterward, I ran out and drove home. I needed to be alone.

I went outside and sat down, looking heavenward. I started to mentally tell at God...I couldn't, after all, actually yell, so yelling inside my head was the best I could do. "Why are you doing this to me? What kind of God are you?"

After holding this anger in my heart for awhile, I realized I needed to talk to someone about this issue. I also needed to confess my sin of harboring anger in my heart. So I decided to kill two birds with one stone and go to confession. It is, after all, kind of like free therapy.

I explained to the priest what my issue was. And I said, "I know God is giving me this burden for a reason, but I just don't understand it yet." The priest then said something that completely altered my view on God, and life in general.

"God does not cause bad things to happen to us. He does, however, bring good out of any bad situation. But the root cause of any bad or evil situation is not from God, because God is only good."

I thought about it. And it began to click. God's original plan did not include anything bad or evil. It did not include death, sickness, sin, disaster, or evil. In Adam and Eve's free choice to sin, they opened the door for all this. And we continue today to suffer from those consequences. Some bad things happen as a result of original sin that are out of our control, like natural disasters and serious illness. But these are not from God...they happen because we live in an imperfect world as a result of Adam and Eve's choice. And other bad things happen because of our own choices, not God's: health issues from poor nutrition (assuming we actually made the choice to eat poorly) and lack of exercise, losing a job because we were lazy, relationship problems from us refusing to swallow our pride, etc etc etc.

The point is, none of it is caused by God. He allows bad things to happen, yes. But He does not cause it. He does, however, make good come out of any bad situation if we allow Him to. But it is only because He is infinite goodness, not because He put us in a bad situation only so that He could make something good come out of it.

So what good did God bring out of my situation? Well, for starters, because I went through a period of over a year where I could not use my voice (talking or singing) without extreme pain, I certainly do not take this ability for granted now that I can. Using our voices is something most people don't even think twice about, but I am so incredibly thankful for it. My struggles have also made me a better teacher. I had to learn, from scratch, about how to correctly use my voice and relax my throat muscles. This means that I can better explain to students exactly how to sing and use their voices, which is something many teachers simply assume students know how to do. 

So next time someone says, "If God leads you to it, He will get you through it," think twice. God is not "leading" us anywhere bad. But in His loving goodness, He always finds a way to bring us out of the storms.

Photo credit:
"Harry Belafonte singing 1954" by Carl Van Vechten - Library of CongressPrints and Photographs DivisionVan Vechten Collection, reproduction number LC-USZ62-103726 DLC (b&w film copy neg.).. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Gardens, Milk, and the Best Chicken Ever

To help me get back into the post-baby blogging routine, I'm going to try something new! I'm linking up with Jenn at Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes Friday. And I'm doing it on a Saturday because I am a rebel like that. Basically, it is what it says: I write 7 short blurps about whatever I want. Random=me, so this should be fun. At least, it will be fun for me. It might make you want to run away and gouge your eyeballs out, who knows? Don't say I didn't warn you.

Newborn sounds are so wonderful. I forgot almost everything about what newborns are like, and all those adorable grunts, squeaks, sighs, and snorts were some of those things. I think God gave newborns the ability to make those sounds so that the cuteness factor overweighs the neediness factor. So when your newborn has been crying for hours and hours, and you're about to march right in and inform your husband that he needs to start wearing thick iron underwear with a lock and key because you are never, ever going to have another that moment, your baby decides to make a little squeak, and your heart melts and you forget (for a moment) about those hours of crying. I really do think newborn sounds are part of what has preserved the human race.


When I first saw this, I was skeptical. I thought my laziness would far outweigh my desire to save every ounce of precious breastmilk that I could. But, without giving too many details that actually will make you want to gouge your eyes out, the leaking I was experiencing began to resemble the breastmilk flood of '93, and ain't nobody got time to do all the laundry after every single feeding. So I got this milk saver thingy, and I put it on the side that Mary is not nursing, and voila! The mess is gone, AND I save between 4-6 ounces every day! Laziness for the win!

Book I am currently reading: A Sinner's Guide to NFP by Simcha Fisher. If you are confused as to what NFP is, and are thinking "what the heck does that mean? Never Fish Plankton?" (Hey now, don't judge my acronym. I wrote this at 4am and it was the best thing my sleep deprived brain could come up with) then wander on over to Ye Old Blogge Post that explains NFP.
This, in my opinion, is one of the best books about NFP out there. It is hilarious, real, and doesn't sugar coat it. I actually LOL every 2-3 minutes when I read it. This sentence I think sums up the book: NFP: The worst method out there, except for every other method. People who use NFP to avoid pregnancy hate it...I mean, who wouldn't hate abstaining? Probably the same people who enjoy saying no a delicious chocolate shake. But they also love it at the same time. If NFP had a Facebook page, its relationship status would read "It's Complicated." This book acknowledges the very real struggles of NFP (in a hilarious way), while simultaneously explaining its benefits.

You absolutely must try this recipe! My mother in law made it for us last week and it is DELICIOUS. It's a simple roast chicken, and I know what you're thinking: "What's so exciting about roast chicken?" But you guys, the flavor in this chicken was UH MAY ZING. I was almost jealous that Mary would be tasting it later through my milk. Trust me on this one.

Visiting with out of town family is one of my favorite things, right up there with whiskers on kittens and warm woolen mittens. Yay for cousin time!

Plans for my garden next year: off the charts! The level of failure my garden this year has reached could possibly beat a world record. I planted corn, green beans, carrots, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, potatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe, and pumpkins. What it has yielded: one tiny zucchini, two cucumbers, and lots of corn. Everything else is dead. So things are gonna be a-changing around these here parts. Stay tuned for the progress! For now, here's pitiful pictures of my mostly dead, weed filled garden:

Elizabeth conquered a fear yesterday: riding the carousel. Those Polar Bears can be pretty terrifying, you know.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Boobies and Cow Duties In Public: Yay or Nay?

Hi! My name is Ashley. I used to have a blog that I updated on a regular basis. Then this little thing happened where I had a baby. Here I thought copious amounts of time sitting and nursing would equal a PLETHORA of amazing posts! Buuuuut Trent and I started watching Downton Abbey. Annnnnd our Amazon Prime subscription was about to run out and we aren't planning on renewing it. Annnnnd we wanted to finish all four seasons before our subscription ran out.

Mission accomplished. Anguish level from events in show=high. Blog production level=nada. Well, never fear, I am here, and I'm going to TRY to get back into my blogging groove.

Mary Ellen, so far, has been a dream baby. She only cries when she's hungry or very tired, she sleeps pretty well for a newborn**, and she's sweet as pie. She's only 3 weeks old, so I do realize that this could all change. But for now, I'm thanking God for giving me such a calm, sweet baby.

**except when it's time to go to sleep at night. Then she only wants to be nursing at all times.

Almost every aspect of my pregnancy, birth, and postpartum experience with Mary has been completely different from my experience with Elizabeth. A big difference I have noticed (so far) has been with breastfeeding. I've written a post before about my past experience. With Elizabeth, I struggled greatly with the transition to full time breastfeeding and had many issues with milk supply and Elizabeth's (lack of) weight gain. So far, Mary has been a great nurser and we haven't had any big issues. I'm now having the breastfeeding experience that I always envisioned, and I am so very thankful. I think having had a bad experience before has made me appreciate the good experience now so much more.

Lately, I have been noticing a lot of talk about breastfeeding in public. I'm wondering what people's thoughts actually are on this topic. It seems like there's always a few people on both sides who feel strongly about their opinion, but how do the majority of people actually feel?

I'll tell you what I think. Personally, I do not feel comfortable nursing in public without a cover. This can pose issues sometimes, since Mary does not seem to really like the nursing cover. But regardless of the annoyances that come with using a cover, I still am glad that I have one and will use it when I nurse in public.


BUT, I also think people who do not want to use a cover should have a right to do so. Unfortunately, we live in a society where magazines of mostly naked women on the cover can be displayed at eye level in grocery stores with no issues, and PG-13 movies can contain graphic scenes with nudity (or almost nudity) with no complaints from anyone. But whoooooooa there, cowgirl, hold on one sec...if a woman decides to nurse her baby in public with no cover, suddenly everyone is uncomfortable and offended.

I was at the Science Center with my husband and two children (it sounds so weird to say the word "children" when referring to my family) and I sat on a little bench to nurse Mary. I used my cover. This woman came up to me and said, "I just want to thank you for giving nursing a good image. I was here a few weeks ago and this woman just popped out her boob for the whole world to see, and it was extremely offensive. So thank you." I just kind of left my mouth open in response, because while I personally don't feel comfortable with nursing without a cover, I have absolutely no problem with women who do choose not to use one.

I don't necessarily blame people who feel uncomfortable with the practice of uncovered breastfeeding. It's a societal problem, and it all stems back to our unhealthy and over-sexed view of the human body. We are so saturated with images of nearly naked men and women (nearly always meant to portray sex appeal), but when a woman is using her body part for something it was actually created to do, we suddenly become more prudish than the Victorian era.

My view is: if you don't like it, just don't look. Some babies are extremely finicky and have a very difficult time latching on. Covers just make it worse. So why can't a woman feed her baby without having to get nasty looks and comments from others?

What do you think? Are you uncomfortable with uncovered nursing, or do you think it's fine? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Photo credit:
"GhazanBeingBreastfed" by Rashid al-Din - Rashid al-Din, "Djami al-Tawarikh", early 14th century. Reproduction in "Ghengis Khan et l'Empire Mongol", Jean-Paul Roux. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
"Breastfeeding-icon-med" by Matt Daigle - Via Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Answer Me This: Volume 12...Special New Baby Edition!

Hey everyone! I'm happy to announce that we had our baby girl, Mary Ellen, on August 1 (ON my due date...can you believe it???)! She is named after my grandmother. She was 8 lb 8 oz and gave me the birth experience that I always wanted but never actually thought would happen! And, guys, she's the most laid back baby I have ever seen. I didn't know God made babies like this. I had a hunch she would be laid back, based on what my pregnancy was like, but...dang! Her sweet nature just makes me melt!

I'll write more specifically about her birth story later...but for now, pictures!!

What can I say...we have large lips in our family

Daddy's girls :-)

Elizabeth LOVES Mary...HUGE wave of relief from me!!!

I've got a lot of hot topic issues I want to write about in future blog posts, now that I'm trying to get back into the swing of things. But for now...this week's installment of Answer Me This from!

1. What do you still want to do this summer?

Well...the rest of my summer plans pretty much consist of nursing my newborn while making sure Elizabeth stays alive  is provided with plenty of enriching and educational activities. BUT...if I am feeling particularly productive, I would like to can and freeze some of the produce from my garden (shouldn't be too difficult since most of my garden is dead....don't worry though, I have grand plans for my garden next year!)

2. What's your favorite kind of pie?

Strawberry Rhubarb

I have mentioned this pie in previous posts....there is absolutely no contest: strawberry rhubarb pie. It actually is in my top 5 favorite foods of all time. It is SO delicious...a mixture of sweet from the strawberries and sour from the rhubarb, all tied together with a sweet buttery crust (which actually is not technically a pie crust, but my motto is if it tastes good, who cares?). It really is perfect. Maybe someday I'll post the top secret recipe.

Chocolate Cream Pie
If I'm looking for a completely rich, delicious, I-feel-like-I'm-going-to-have-a-heart-attack-after-three-bites kind of pie, it's going to be this chocolate cream pie. It's a lot of work, but oh my goodness, it is so worth it. I usually make it during Christmastime every year. If you love chocolate, you absolutely must try this pie.

Ok, I know, I know, the question only asks for one favorite. But food is kinda my thang, so I must answer three times. If you are looking for a creamy, delicious pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, this is the ticket. Like the chocolate pie, it is a lot of work. You actually use fresh pumpkin. But it is SOOO good. I actually did a scientific test (what? me? SCIENCE? Yes, it's true!) to see which pie people prefer. I baked two identical pumpkin pies using this recipe, with only one difference: in one pie, I used fresh pumpkin. In the other, I used canned. Then I had about 10 people over, and they had a blind taste test and wrote down their thoughts about each pie, and which they preferred. 9/10 people preferred the fresh pumpkin. Sooooo it's official must make pumpkin pie with fresh pumpkin! (Seriously, though, try this's REALLY good)

Pumpkin Pie

3. How much sleep do you need each day? How much do you get?

Honestly...I don't know the answer to this question. I have a newborn, so my sleep is getting disrupted, but honestly I feel pretty good most days. Right now I'm getting about 6 hours of sleep per day, broken up into 2-3 hour chunks. So maybe 6 is the magic number for me.

4. Do you prefer to swim in a pool, lake, river, or ocean?

I think saltwater pools are the best. I love the ocean, but I'm kind of terrified of all the sea life that is potentially swimming underneath me. It doesn't stop me from swimming in the ocean, but a pool, I know what's in there. There's lots of lakes where I live and I find them to be muddy, smelly, and gross. Rivers are pretty cool but I've never been in a river that's good to "swim" in...I'm more familiar with floating, canoeing, or kayaking rivers. Or dangerous don't-set-foot-in-that-river-unless-you're-completely-nuts type rivers.

5. Do you know any poems by heart?

Roses are red, violets are blue...pretty much the only one. I'm terrible with this sort of thing and as much as I hate to admit it, I have absolutely zero interest in poetry. I think it's a really great thing, and I admire people who can write it and appreciate it. But I'm kind of impatient with poetry because I feel like there's always some really deep meaning, and when I read, I just want to relax. Me=uncultured and lazy.

6. Do you use the public library?

Unfortunately, the city in which I live does not have a public library, so I have to pay for a library card from a nearby city if I want one. However, now that I have two babies, I'm going to get a library card soon because I absolutely love libraries. Especially the way they smell. Come on, don't say I'm weird...doesn't anyone else like the smell of libraries and old books??? ***cricket noises*** Anyone????