Monday, September 22, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Being Real

This post from Kendra about dealing with a strong willed 18 month old. I pretty much adore every post she writes about parenting, because it validates the instincts I have about raising my own children (those same instincts that a majority if "experts" say are WRONG DAG NABBIT!!)

Seguey into this article. Well I occasionally like to finish a five minute task, such as switching loads of laundry, or chopping a few onions, or changing Elizabeth's diaper. And sometimes while I do that, Mary is screaming. And the screaming doesn't bother me at all. Because I know I will get to her, just not right this very millisecond. So I guess, according to this article, I need therapy to help me overcome some "hidden emotional scars." I think it's a good thing that now, instead of being all freaked out by an article like this and thinking I'm doing something wrong, I just LAUGH. Because it's SO ridiculous.

This post from Hallie. A great post about not letting social media bring you down, thinking that everyone else has a perfect life except you. I am definitely guilty of this sometimes. But I really like her perspective on this.

Real food, y'all. My husband and I are seriously considering taking a 100-day real food pledge. You can find the specific rules here, but the jist of it is that you are only allowed to eat...wait for it...REAL food. Like, no chemicals, preservatives, or highly processed junk. Only whole grains and natural sugars (maple syrup, honey, etc). And none of that LOW FAT crud. I don't like using low fat ingredients anyway. Honestly the only thing holding me back (I say this as I munch on a highly processed, chemical filled, delicious graham cracker) is my worry that it might affect my milk supply. So I might wait until this cow here has a more established supply.

Speaking of food, it's quite amazing how much slower my pre-baby belly is coming back this time around. I am definitely ok with this, and am in no way depressed or upset by it, because I know this is part of having children and I have reasonable expectations for what my body will look like after having 2 children close together. But still...meh.

This ice cream sundae. Not real food. Worth every preservative filled bite.

Sheridan's Pie in the Sky

Mary is 7 weeks old. It is during this time with Elizabeth that my milk supply started to plummet and she got really sick and she stopped gaining weight and I started having serious post partum anxiety issues and it seemed like EVERYTHING was going wrong. So I'm just kind of waiting for something bad to happen again...but it's not. Breastfeeding this time around has been going amazingly well, and I'm incredibly thankful. Mary is nice and fat, my milk is flowing like the land of milk and honey, and everything seems to be hunkey dorey. 

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

5 Things You Should Know About People Opposed to Homosexual Lifetyles

It has always baffled me that for some, saying "I disagree" can automatically mean "I hate you." This applies especially to the issue of homosexuality. I don't think living in a homosexual lifestyle is beneficial for anyone. And because I hold this view, I've been called names, I've been yelled at, and I've been misquoted. But most of all, I've found that people make assumptions about me that could not be farther from the truth. I want to clear up a few of these assumptions, and I hope it comes through in a loving, non judgmental tone.

1. I don't hate gay people.
Nor am I afraid of them. The term "homophobe" means to be frightened of homosexuals. I have friends who are gay, and I love them. I don't agree with their lifestyle, but guess what? There are aspects of most of my friends' lifestyles that I don't agree with. Does this mean I don't love them? I'm against contraception. I'm assuming that a great majority of people I know and love use contraception. I don't agree with their choice to use contraception, and I hope and pray that they stop, because I know it's not the best thing for them. But I still love them.

2. I understand that same-sex attraction is not a choice.
Same sex attraction can certainly be built in, and can be no different than my own attraction to the opposite sex. Most gay people don't choose to be gay. In fact, I have found that many wish they weren't, because of the obstacles they must face. I feel a great amount of compassion for my gay friends because of those difficulties.

3. I acknowledge that homosexual activity is wrong. This is not the same as "judging."
Thinking that something is wrong is not the same as judging. I do think, when done knowingly and intentionally, homosexual activity is not good. But guess what? So is using contraception. And heterosexual activity outside of marriage. And acting on anger. And gluttony. And laziness. Who the heck am I to look down on gay people, when I have a list longer than the Great Wall of China of my own problems? I don't look down on anyone who makes bad decisions. Because then I would look have to look down on every person on the Earth, including myself.

4. There is nothing wrong with having same-sex attraction. The problem is acting on that attraction.
Before my husband and I got married, we were attracted to each other. It's normal to want to have intercourse with someone even if you're not married. There is no problem in that. But that doesn't mean that we should act on those wants. So the idea that "being gay is wrong" is incorrect. If a person has no choice in the matter of having same-sex attraction, how can that be wrong?

5. I don't think your sexual orientation describes who you are.
I hate saying "So and so is gay" or "So and so is a homosexual." I don't like associating a person with their sexual orientation. That's not who a person is. It may be part of a person, but it's not the essence of him or her. People may have homosexual or heterosexual tendencies, but that's not who they are. They are much more than that.

So please understand that many people who don't agree with the homosexual lifestyle aren't haters, or ignorant, or mean, or judgmental, or any other negative adjective you might use. There's many of us out there. But to be quite frank, people with same-sex attraction are absolutely no different than the rest of us. Why is it nearly impossible to have a calm, intelligent discussion on this topic, without name calling (on either end)? I think it's because people on both sides of the fence make assumptions about the other that actually aren't true. Maybe it would do everyone some good if we could step back and look at all sides.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Grateful

I had my 7 Quick Takes post all ready for yesterday. I was about to post...and then, as I was reading through it once last time, checking for errors, I realized that I spent the entire post complaining and griping about stupid things. Now, granted, I did write it at 4am after an exhausting day and night of recovering from food poisoning and trying to get a sleepy baby to just FALL ASLEEP ALREADY! But still. No one wants to listen to complainers. And I am far too blessed to complain about the stupid little problems that I have.

So today, here is my 7 Quick Takes: Grateful Edition!

--- 1 ---

Starting out, I'm realizing that I complain way too much. So I'm taking a new pledge to try not to complain as much. Blessed are those who are meek and humble, they will inherit the earth. This is gonna take a LOT of praying but I'm really hoping to change this about myself.

--- 2 ---

I am SO excited about the change of weather! It's really starting to feel like fall, and getting me in the mood for soup and apples and cinnamon and all things fall related.

--- 3 ---

Speaking of apples, we are going apple picking this morning! First time for Mary, and first REAL time for Elizabeth (she did it last year but was really too young to understand what was going on). Coincidentally, one of Elizabeth's favorite words is "apple" (sounds like AH-PAH, usually said in some sort of gravelly monster-ish type of voice). So she's gonna lose her head when she sees all those ah-pahs.

Apple picking last year

--- 4 ---

I realized while I was sick with food poisoning how thankful I am to have so many people who care about me. I had dozens of people ask me through Facebook or texts how I was feeling, which was great because it made me feel not so isolated. My mom came and brought me gatorade and pretzels, and my neighbor brought soup for me and Chick-Fil-A for Elizabeth.  My uncle Jim and my mom came a few days later and helped clean my house. It takes a village, and I certainly love my village.

--- 5 ---

Speaking of non-complainers, I really respect my husband in this area. He does what needs to be done, with nary an eye roll or exasperated sigh. He does his duties with joy, knowing he is serving God and his family. I need to take a leaf out of his book. I am so thankful for him.

--- 6 ---

I recently finished the book "My Sisters the Saints." I'm in an online book club on Facebook, which has been a great motivator for me to actually finish some books that I wouldn't normally read on my own. What a fantastic book. It has helped me realize how important it is to really study the lives of the Saints and try to emulate them. And how most of them had very difficult lives, and did not have an easy time becoming close to God. Much different from what many people (including myself) realize.

--- 7 ---

My daughter Elizabeth is so much fun. I complain about her a lot, saying how she is a difficult child. And she is difficult sometimes. But she's also incredibly sweet to her little sister, always petting her and kissing her and covering her with blankets. She loves to sing and read and talk. And it's amazing to watch her grow and form her personality.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Me, Me, Me

I'm going to substitute my normal 7 quick takes for a post about humility, and how I need a big slap in the face sometimes when it comes to this virtue.

I am so incredibly thankful that God has given me my husband. Out of all of my gifts, including my children, I am most thankful for him. My list of important things in my life go as follows, in order by importance:
1) God (ideally God is always ranked first in my life, but if I'm going to be real, it's sadly true that this is not always the case
2) My husband
3) My children
4) Family and close friends
5) Chocolate milk*

*sometimes depending on my emotional state number 1 and number 5 are switched

My husband is patient, kind, gentle, and understanding. The exact opposite of me. I look up to him in a way that makes me want to be a better person.

People tell me ALL the time: "you are so lucky to have him. He is such a good father. He is such a good husband." I always nod vigourosly, agreeing. I can't believe sometimes that I am so blessed.

But. When people say these things to me, the ugly monster of pride comes racing into my head. Instead of simply agreeing with them and being thankful for what I have, and then moving on, the thoughts start to creep into my head. What about me? I think. Am I not a good wife? Am I not a good mother? Why does no one ever comment about that? Why do I never hear people telling Trent that he's so lucky to have me? That my children are lucky to have me?

Its true...I've only heard people say this about me a few times, compared to the hundreds of times I've heard it about Trent. It's not at all that I'm jealous of Trent. It's that I'm resentful that people don't often tell me that I, too, am doing a good job. That I am a good wife, and a good mother. Because in the 5 love languages (if you are married and have never read this book, READ IT. It's dripping with truth and wisdom and it WILL make your marriage better), mine is words of affirmation. I need to be told that I'm doing a good job. I'm kind of like a dog. Give me a treat for my good behavior and everything will be just dandy. Trent knows this, and is constantly thanking me for everything I do. 

But when does a need for affirmation become a pride issue? Here comes the infamous Catholic guilt. Why can't I simply be happy for what I have, and not get slightly upset every time someone gushes over Trent and not me? Why does it always have to be about me? Me, me, me. If I wanted to be affirmed, I shouldn't have become a stay at home mom, which is one of the most thankless jobs in existence.

There's not really a concrete answer to my problem. It's something that I have always struggled with and will continue to struggle with for a long time. It will be a two steps forward, one step back kind of process. Stupid pride. Go away.

Now if you'll excuse me I have to go hang a giant mural of my face on our front door wall. Because it's all about me.

PS: just so everyone is aware, I'm not writing this post so people will tell me that I am a good mom and wife...the point of it is to talk about our issues and how to get over them. Just attention seeking 'round these here parts. K thx bye.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Mary's Birth Story

Yin and Yang. Salt and Pepper. Hot and Cold. Chocolate and Vanilla. Mmmmm...chocolate...wait, what?

Opposites: this word describes my two daughters to a tee. Everything about them so far is so completely different. It's fascinating how two people who come from the same parents could be so different, but I guess it makes sense. Dramatic, outgoing, creative, emotional Elizabeth is just like me (Lord help us). Calm, observant, serious Mary is just like Trent. They even look completely different (except for those trademark lips...they both have those).

Right after birth. Left: Elizabeth, Right: Mary
About 1 week old. Left: Elizabeth, Right: Mary

1 month old. Left: Elizabeth. Right: Mary

Their pregnancy and birth stories are no exception. I wrote about Elizabeth's birth story here, and to fully understand Mary's birth story and how different it was from her sister's, you should grab some popcorn, sit back, and read that first.

During my pregnancy with Elizabeth, I was violently sick for about 5 months. To the point where it was difficult for me to function. With Mary's pregnancy, I felt a tiny bit sick from time to time, but it was very tolerable and it only lasted for a month or so. The rest was smooth sailin'. I almost felt guilty when people looked at me with pity in their eyes and asked how I was feeling...inevitably, I'd always respond with a big smile and say "great! No complaints here!" During Elizabeth's pregnancy, I felt her move very early, at about 12 weeks. And she moved like a maniac during the whole pregnancy. I didn't feel Mary until about 15 weeks, and even then, she was always very calm. I never really felt that much movement with her. It even made me worried sometimes.

We started setting up new baby's stuff about
a week or two before my due date...
because we thought we had SO much time.
(Oh...and Elizabeth was a bit confused and
thought it was HER bassinet...)
When July came, I knew time was ticking and my due date (August 1) was drawing near. But I reasoned with myself that I would probably have until the second week of August to get ready. After all, Elizabeth went 10 days late. And I was not going to be disillusioned this time that my baby would come on or near its due date.

I was mentally preparing myself for the worst. That probably seems like a depressing and/or ineffective way to think. But after what I went through with Elizabeth's birth, I knew that things don't usually happen the way we want them to. I knew now that birth is a complicated process and that the ultimate goal is to get a healthy mom and baby. And I knew that sometimes, the process of getting to that goal does not always happen the way we want it to.

I was making lots of plans for the week of my due date. The thought did not even enter my mind that it was possible for me to have my baby close to my actual due date, so I figured it would be fine. The last week of July came and went, and I was starting to get excited that I would probably meet my baby in the next week (but no earlier)!

The evening before my due date, I was baking with my sister-in-law and her boyfriend, having a grand old time. I excused myself to go to the bathroom and noticed lots of blood. Hmmmm...I thought. Maybe this means the baby will come in the next week! Maybe my baby will only be a week late, rather than 10 days! I texted my midwife just to make sure the bleeding was a good sign. Her response: "I bet you are getting really close! I'd be shocked if you didn't kick in in the next 24 hours! Keep me informed."


Um, hey baby. I'm not ready for you to come yet. I was mentally preparing myself for you to be really late. So....WHAT?! I mean, come on! What baby is born on its ACTUAL due date??? No baby of mine, that's for sure!

Mary's first bath
So I spent the rest of the evening in denial, telling my sister in law, her boyfriend, and Trent that they could go on their merry way because there was no way this was for real. I reasoned that just because my contractions were starting to actually feel real didn't mean that they actually were real. I reasoned that just because my baby was moving more in a 10 minute time span than it had in the past 9 months didn't mean that anything was actually changing. I reasoned that just because it was hard for me to go to sleep because the pain from the contractions kept waking me up didn't mean that they were actual contractions. "Don't worry," I told Trent. "Just plan on going to work tomorrow. There's no way this is going to happen yet." And I kept telling myself that as I lay there through the night, having to concentrate more and more as the pain kept getting stronger and stronger.

The next morning, Trent decided to call off work. "This probably isn't actually happening," I said, "But maybe you shouldn't go to work just in case it actually is. Which I'm sure it isn't. But just in case." We called my mom, who was a labor nurse and is now a labor nurse educator. And I must say, it is wonderfully convenient to have a labor nurse as a mother when you are actually going through labor. My mom came over and checked how dilated I was. "4 cm," she told me.


My pitocin/epidural baby meeting my natural
baby for the first time
You must understand that it took me 16 hours, 12 of which were pitocin-induced, gut wrenching, sweat filled mania, to even get that far with Elizabeth's labor. And here I was, at home, pretty uncomfortable, but easily walking around, taking a shower, and eating breakfast. And I had already dilated that far. I could hear the choirs of angels in heaven singing Handel's Hallelujah Chorus.

"Well..." I said, "This might not be for real though." Because I was still in denial. And my mom just looked at me incredulously and said in a way that only moms can, "Ashley. You're in labor." And the matter was closed, closed in a way that only moms can close it.

So I walked around at home, still in unbelief that this was not only happening, but it so far was happening in the exact way that I wanted it to happen. I wanted to stay home as long as possible, and I wanted to do this thing without any meds. So far, so good. But I was not so naive to think that I was home free yet.

My mom called the hospital to see what the labor floor was like. And apparently everyone and their mother decided they wanted to have a baby that day, because there was only one open room left. And Lawdy there was no way in Hades that I wanted to share a room with someone. So, at around 9am, we decided to hightail it to the hospital.

I got to my hospital room, and they checked to see how dilated I was. 5 cm.


Soon after, my water broke. On its own.


My contractions were getting stronger and closer together. The room was dim, there was calming music, I was sitting on a labor ball, and I was free to move wherever I wanted because I was not hooked up to any IV fluids or meds. This was all happening in the way I had always envisioned it.

WHUT. WHAT?! Is this real life??!

It got to the point where during each contraction I had to concentrate more than I had ever concentrated before. As my friend Kim told me after she went through her med-free labor just weeks earlier, I had to remember that the pain was a good thing, because it was getting the baby out. So during each contraction, I repeating the words "down and out" to myself, just like she suggested. I had to concentrate so much that I had to ask my mom and Trent to be quiet when they were talking during my contractions, because it was distracting me.

It was kind of like those labor movies that you watch during your childbirth prep classes, when they show you the stereotypical "natural" labor. The one where everyone rolls their eyes because there's no possible way that the stars would align so well that it would actually happen like that in real life.

Going home from the hospital. Most babies
scream when you put them in the carseat for
the first time. Mary was pretty chill about it all
But it did. It was kind of textbook, actually, in a way. Around 3 or 3:30 (I think) I started to get a little crazy. The pain was getting to a whole new level and I was ready to get that baby OUT. They checked me, and they told me I could try pushing. I don't remember a whole lot of details at this point because I all I was really thinking was "GET THE BABY OUT GET THE BABY OUT GET THE BABY OUT." They told me I would "know" when I was ready to push. For some reason this freaked me out because how would I really know? I wanted them to just tell me when I should push. Apparently I had a "lip," which meant that I was just about fully dilated to 10cm but there was a tiny bit of my cervix that didn't want to cooperate. And I remember that stupid lip. It made things a lot more painful. I think I even shouted, "Ahhhhh, that stupid lip!!!" But I'm not sure. I kept pushing, but I had yet to feel that insatiable urge that everyone had told me about, where your body just takes over and starts to practically push for you because there's no way you can hold it back.

And then, all the sudden, my body just took over and started to practically push for me because there was no way I could have held it back. It was weird, actually. It was like my muscles had a mind of their own and just decided they would do their thang, thank you very much. And once that happened, that baby came out like BAM.

It was pretty awesome because since there weren't any complications so far, my midwife let Trent deliver the baby. She was there, guiding him and telling him what to do. But he was the one who got to bring her out! I obviously don't remember this actually happening, because I was too busy concentrating on AHHH GET THAT BABY OUT OF ME PLEASE RIGHT NOW I WANT TO BE DONE!!!!!

About to go home from the hospital

Daddy with his girls

And then, just like that, at 4:37pm, my precious baby Mary was born. IT'S A GIRL! Trent said. We were all actually shocked. Because obviously we didn't learn the first time that even though we might have a "feeling" that it's a boy, it doesn't mean a darned thing. And I was sooooo happy to have another girl, because that's secretly what I really wanted (insert caveat that obviously I didn't really care, and I would have been just as happy if the baby was a boy, etc etc etc).

She cried two small squeaky cries, and then was done. She laid on me, so calmly and peacefully. I was so much more emotional with this baby and I actually felt that immediate connection that everyone always talks about.

And that's Mary for you. Punctual, by the book, and calm. Born on her due date. With a labor that I always wanted but never actually thought would happen. Sweet Mary. She's my little lamb. (Ehhhh? See what I did there??)