Friday, March 16, 2018

Keeping it Real: Part 2 Post Partum Depression

Over a year ago I started a series of posts called Keeping It Real....I posted one time. WHOOPS! As I had said in the original post, most of the topics I wanted to post about are already saved drafts of blog posts I'd written in years past, but never got the courage to actually publish. I'd like to finish what I started (albeit a year later) without further ado, here's installment 2 of Keeping it Real: Post Partum Depression...

Remember how I said year 2 at home was a story for another day...? Well, I guess today's that day. My second daughter, Lil Lil, was born in August of 2013. Her labor/delivery were amazing (although Aaron probably thinks otherwise), she latched immediately, I had no issues with transitioning her to home and she was a dream of a chill baby. We had thought that Keira was pretty relaxed, but the first few weeks of Lily's life were just awesome and she was proving to be even more relaxed. She slept insane amounts from the beginning and ate like a champ, and didn't fuss with the constant prodding and "help" of her big sister. I felt so, so blessed that she was ours.

Unfortunately, I also felt a lot of other...well, junk, that I just did not talk about. I remember she was maybe three weeks old when I first felt like something seemed "off" with me. I figured I was just still adjusting to life with two and figured if it kept up, I would, I dunno, rest or pray more. My 6 week appointment came and went, and I didn't say anything about the anxiety I was feeling about everything or how I felt like the world was caving in on me all the time. I kept trying to talk myself off a ledge and trying to talk myself down...I kept saying to myself, "You are fine. Buck up."

Well, I wasn't fine. Small, mundane tasks began to feel like marathons. Waking up and getting out of bed became a challenge every day. I didn't feel like doing anything, I didn't feel like going anywhere, I didn't feel like seeing anyone. (Side note: this was also during a nine month stretch in which we functioned as a family of four on one vehicle...I spent my days with 4 children 2 and under without the ability to leave.....NOT RECOMMENDED!!!!) I knew there was something "wrong" with me but instead of dealing with it, I decided to try to just make it go away and put on a good front. I still cared for our two girls during the day, as well as my two daycare kiddos. I always put forth my best effort with the kids, but just collapsed when my work was done. I talked about it a little bit with Aaron and a little bit with a couple close friends and my sister. But if I'm being completely honest, no one really got me. They were amazing, and supportive and listened, but also didn't understand the deep dark pit that I found myself in the bottom of. I finally went to the doctor and broke down like a bawling mess to the nurse that I felt like I was going to die (not because I wanted to but because my head was making me think I needed to) and felt the worst I'd ever felt in my life. She said the words that I was dreading to hear but that I already knew full well,
"You are suffering from post-partum depression and anxiety."

They immediately put me on an anti-depressant and sent me off to counseling. I was annoyed by both of these things. They had me do blood work, and my hormones were all kinds of out of wack, so that made me feel a *smidge* redeemed in a sense that I wasn't making this up. I knew I wasn't making it up, but I also had tried SO hard to fix it/ignore it/handle it on my own and it just wasn't going away. I had heard of PPD before, but I always assumed it wasn't *that* bad or that people didn't really suffer from wrong I was.

I still didn't tell many people about what I was going through, though I did make some changes at home which helped. I would say within 3 weeks I started to feel more normal...NOT right, but more even-keeled. The counseling was helping, and apparently so were the meds. I started to care a lot more, and a friend of mine and I started working out. I made some dietary changes and I just started to feel SO much more normal. Within 5 months I had weaned myself off the med, and the counseling was down to only 1x a month. Even though it had been a complete roller coaster of a year for me (and thus my family) as Lily was getting closer to her first birthday we knew we wanted another baby. It was amazing how just being aware of this being a part of my post-partum history made me SO much wiser with baby #3. I talked to Aaron about what I was feeling and he checked in constantly throughout the pregnancy and the first few months of Teagan's life to be sure that I didn't feel like I was struggling again. Right after birth, they gave me some hormones and I went back a few times after that to help keep hormones in check, but I kept breathing deep sighs of relief when I WASN'T feeling those suffocating and awful feelings I felt when going through PPD after delivering Lil.

Recently I talked to a dear friend and somehow we got on the topic and I told her about my former struggles with this, and she said something that struck me, "I would have never known." Because of the stigma around post-partum issues, I really didn't and haven't talked about it with too many people. But here's what I've learned when I have spoken up...SO many women suffer in silence. You guys, PPD is a real actual thing. And it sucks. And it's not fun at.all. But it's treatable and curable and possible to overcome!! I had no idea the number of women out there that have gone through this. If you are someone who is struggling, or know a new mom, PLEASE reach out and check in often. It was easy for me to stuff it and hide it for 5 months, but I am beyond thankful that I finally decided to (well okay, that Aaron forced me to) see a doctor.  I am thankful that this is something I overcame!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Keeping it Real Part 1: Mamahood + Career = ?

Alright full disclosure: This post is mostly written for mamas. I'm writing about my experiences with the ups and downs and highs and lows of work and mothering. Second disclosure: It's long. Sorry. ;) Skim down through the background or don't read it at all...haha!

Some background...
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be two things: MOM & TEACHER. I was (am!) that super nerdy kid in school that was annoyingly excited for Mondays to roll around again, always admired my teachers and went into full-blown withdrawal mode at the beginning of each summer. Each new school year, I had a transition period where I was uncomfortable with my new teacher, his/her new methods, and the environment of the new classroom....and then soon after, discovered all the positives about that new year and new person. Motherhood has proven to be similar. :-) I'm apparently a slow-to warm person.

When heading off to college, I was too conflicted in choosing elementary education or special education, so decided to do both and double majored. I was SO excited to get out there and get started in my own room! My teaching career began straight out of college when I accepted (which was presented to me as) a learning support teacher in a nearby district. Very quickly I learned that I would be teaching emotional support and upon starting, had my classroom moved three times, my aide removed and not replaced, and had very, very minimal support from my administration. I felt like I was barely surviving, and sadly, decided to resign as it was not at all what I'd signed up for. I figured I would day-to-day sub until it was spring and I could apply to other districts. God always knows what's up though, as there was a 3rd grade contracted position that was posted in the district I was most excited about, Mechanicsburg, and I went into those interviews determined to get that job. I loved my new district, loved my classroom, loved my students, loved my principal, loved my co-teacher and colleagues, loved the building...honestly, it was an amazing fresh start and it was exactly where I wanted to be! I felt respected at Mechanicsburg SD and felt like I was making a positive impact on kids. I began working on my masters and we also began talking about starting a family.

It sort of got tricky from there...I was only in my third year of teaching third grade. Then, the opportunity to become an instructional coach opened up in the building, and I wrestled with applying for this position. I was in the midst of completing graduate work, and the idea of having the chance to work with an amazing group of teachers that I already knew and respected was appealing to me. I figured it would be something that would challenge me professionally for a few years and then I could head back into the classroom! I enjoyed coaching, but if I'm honest, I didn't enjoy it as much as teaching. It was a lonely position, and it made me miss my students...a lot. So, in turn, it likely made me want to have a baby more, too. Half way through my first year of coaching, I found out we were expecting Keira! We were over the moon excited, and I did everything I could to maintain my responsibilities and duties while pregnant. Keira was born in Nov of 2011 and I took a 3 month maternity leave. Every day of that leave I loved my time with her, and every day I dreaded returning to work and being away from her. I started to seriously consider staying home, but I was determined to finish out the school year. I had made a promise to Aaron that I would try it, and I wasn't about to go back on my word. A good friend watched Keira for the 3.5 months left in the school year, so that I could try my hand at the working mom gig.

Well guys, I HATED it. I felt like a failure at school and I felt like a failure at home. I felt exhausted all the time, and couldn't blame it on my snoozy newborn who wasn't waking up during the night. I felt like I never had time to just be, and just all in all felt very disjointed trying to maintain a positive attitude at work, and an ounce of sanity at home. Prior to going back after maternity leave, the coaching team learned that two of us would need to head back into the classroom. So that had been rolling around in my brain too upon going back. Aaron and I had lots to consider with the prospect of me changing positions again, along with finding permanent care for Keira. Long story short, I decided I would make the transition back into the classroom and teach 3rd grade again, and find somewhere for Keira to spend her days (our friend was no longer an option for full time). The school year ended, we began seriously looking for daycare options for Keira and came up disappointed every time with the people/places we considered....Then, things changed at school, and I was asked to stay in the position of coaching and coach in two buildings. Since we had previously decided me becoming a full time classroom teacher again would be the best move, I was feeling very, very conflicted at that not being an option anymore. At this point, it was kind of the nudge I needed to know I should just take a step back, and really consider what I was doing. I asked for a year's leave without pay, because we honestly weren't sure what was happening with our family at that point, but I wasn't ready to walk away entirely.

I knew I needed to bring in $$ somehow and was able to find an amazing family to provide care for. That first year home honestly was amazing. It was just Keira and her little friend, and we spent our days singing and playing, and reading books and having fun. The girls were inseparable, and I felt like I had a true purpose and meaning in caring for them. I missed school, yes, but I was in Heaven caring for them both. We found out we were preggers with Lil after Keira's first birthday, and score! I found out I could ask for a second year's leave without pay since this was a new child. I felt like that gave us time to be completely sure that me staying at home was the route I wanted to follow. The second year home was, well, much harder...but more on that for another day.  As we reached the end of the second school year home, and we knew we wanted to try for one more baby, I knew I needed to officially resign. It was extremely difficult, because I felt like I was walking away from an amazing position, but at the same time, I was walking towards fully embracing my life as stay-at-home-mama. That third school year home was also (overall) fairly wonderful as I continued to care for Keira and Lily as well as two other kiddos. Teagan was born in April of 2015 and the fourth school year home was a bit of a whirlwind as we decided to move to Mechanicsburg, purchase a foreclosure and sell our home, all while maintaining the daycare kiddos. Currently, we're in the middle of my 5th school year at home and the last one before Keira heads off to kindergarten. It is insane to think we're already there! [End background...see I told you it was long]

So now I've been a stay-at-home mom/daycare provider for as long as a was a teacher. 5 years. I blinked and literally 5 years flew by teaching. And then I blinked again, and another 5 years have flown by with these three babies and the kiddos I've been blessed to care for during the days. I would have thought by this point in time that I would be able to say with complete confidence which way is "better"-- teaching (or working out of the home) or staying at home. Well guess, what?? Much to my dismay this is what I've finally come to..

NEITHER IS BETTER! You can read about 19,273,874 different blogs and opinions about the two online. And everyone and their mother has judgments and feelings about working away from home vs. staying at home. I have some "truths" (for me) on life as a SAHM that I blogged about in a previous post a few years back, but the fact of the matter is: Whether you work, or you stay-at-home, you are first and foremost a mom. Your kids are your life! I don't know anyone, and I do mean anyone...working and stay-at-home mom alike, who doesn't go through mom guilt, struggles, challenges, regrets, the complete and total exhaustion, doubts, questions, etc. We moms are so, so freaking hard on ourselves. And honestly, working-outside-the-home mamas, you are my heroes. I don't know how you do it! I did it for a whopping 3.5 months with one easy-going baby, and I sucked at it! My encouragement to anyone currently questioning staying at home vs. working outside the home is this:

1- Know yourself. Know what you want in terms of goals for yourself, your family, your career, your future. I took a long time to truly own that I resigned from teaching after only 5 years, and that I'm a stay-at-home mom. That's it. While I do provide daycare for a few girls I adore, I'm "just" a mom right now. It's took a long time for me to really feel like that's OK, but I also know myself well enough to know that this won't be what I do forever.

2- Do what works best for YOU (and your family). Who cares what people think? There are sacrifices either way. There are pros and cons either way. *See aforementioned 19,273,874 posts/articles online*. And those pros and cons also change and grow with time..Where there's a will, there's a way. You can honestly make anything work if you put your mind to it. If continuing to work while having your family is what you want, do it!! If you want to try your hand at staying at home, know that you CAN do that too. Do not let anything hold you back from following your heart & finding what will work, even if that may change. Which leads me to number 3...

3- If it's not working for you, find a way to make something else work. I still 100% am committed to being at home with my girls, and want very much to be able to stay home up until Teagan is in kindergarten. But truth be told, this school year I've done more questioning and wondering than ever before in terms of what the heck am I doing, and what the heck should I be doing...and I have been trying to sort through some options that could allow me to still be home, but also allow me to use my degree again. I'm not sure yet what that means for me or for my family...but I'm also just trying to keep my options open.

4- Believe in taking care of yourself first. Yeahhhh, so, I know this is cliche and I am the worst at this. So I don't think I have much room to encourage this in others, but I truly believe it makes all the difference in the world when we first take care of ourselves. Just find an outlet and a way to provide yourself some time that is just yours. Not your job's time, not your kid's (or kids') time...but yours, and yours only!!

5- Stay on the same team. This one is big for me...sometimes I feel like it's an "us vs. them" game....the working moms vs. the moms that stay home. The stuff you read or see online or the experiences you know you've heard about (or have happen to you!) where you feel completely out of place with the "opposite mom". We are all just moms!!!! Last time I checked we're all dealing with the craziness of raising little humans who have never-ended demands and changing emotions. We're all trying to do the best that we can for our families, and we need each other!!!! We need the support of each other to know that we'll be okay.

You're doing a good job. If you're anything like me, you've questioned that a few times this year, or month (or week or day!) But keep on keeping on. You are doing amazing things, no matter where you are! :-)

Friday, February 17, 2017

Keeping It Real

Lately...well okay, this past week....I have been feeling this desire to be more transparent, more vunerable...more REAL with people. The other day, while thinking about this, I made a list of the things that I struggle with or the things that are my obstacles in life that seem to hold me back or come up again and again in some form. They are things that you may or may not know about me, but they're real life, and I feel called to be more real. I was thinking about how best to do this and remembered I had this blog that I literally never write in! So I signed on here and, low and behold, found several half-written posts pertaining to the exact topics I had written on that list. Coincidence? I think not. They are posts that I had started to write over the years and then chickened out in actually ever publishing...Over the next few weeks, I'd like to try to revise and post some of expose some of those things that make me human. I won't get too weird or too crazy or too personal, of course, but sure, there's some discomfort in revealing and dissecting issues.

To keep myself accountable, here are the topics I hope to blog on:
-Career/Stay-at-home mom gig
-On being enough
-On body image
-On finding joy and contentment

The first unpublished post (dated 9/15/15) seems to kick this concept off well & is quoted below:

"This particular topic has been on my heart a lot lately: Everyone has something. Everyone has some burden they are carrying, some load to bear, some thing that is driving them crazy, some issue that is unresolved, some problem to solve, some bill to pay, some health concern, some pain, some SOMEthing! There's not one of us that doesn't walk around stuffing or holding onto the things that we're struggling with! I've been reading an awesome book lately: Trophy Chid: Saving Parents from Performance, Preparing Children for Something Greater than Themselves by Ted Cunningham. It's really great-- you should check it out! And I've been feeling convicted about the fact that so many of us as parents want to feel like we've got it all together and like everything flows so smoothly in our lives and our kids' lives. A section of the book discusses social media and the image we put out about ourselves and how the world sees our best, even at our worst. I'm certainly guilty of posting happy, glowing pics of my girls and don't post (or take!) the pictures of the tantrums, arguing, talking back, messes, issues, crying and more... It's really easy to forget that on my "worst" day, someone else is dealing with something too!!

But here's the deal, since we all have different thresholds, my best day may be someone else's worst. My worst day may be an awesome day in someone else's life. We don't KNOW what someone else is facing, because we aren't living that life. Sure, we have friends and family we confide in. And we talk to people that we love, but even then, we can't truly know what someone is facing or how they feel because plain and simple, we aren't them! 

So my prayer and hope is this: Maybe instead of hiding our things, or worse, comparing and trying to "one up" our worsts and our struggles and our "oh I have so much stress in my life" etc, etc, we could try to just love and just listen. To just love each other. To just take a moment and have a conversation. To just get to know the heart of someone else. Everyone has something, friends. Everyone struggles with something and everyone has limits. Let's stop trying to dissect whose life sucks more or who has a bigger problem, and let's just love."

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Three truths (for me!) to the stay-at-home mom gig

So I apologize in advance for this blog post...It's likely riding on the heels of a rough night last night. Our girls are generally pretty awesome sleepers. (Major props to you parents out there who have kiddos with sleep troubles!!) Last night the two big girls had a revolving door of issues & needs between midnight and dawn. Unfortunately, I hadn't gone to bed before these issues started sooo it made for a long (and mostly sleepless) night. Aaron and I tag-teamed the craziness and we had to just laugh at one point as we were moving one girl back upstairs from our bed after the other girl realized she was missing...songs, tears, water cups, wash/rinse/repeat etc. Again, major kudos to parents of young kiddos with sleep issues. Wowzas!!

This isn't a post to discuss the stay-at-home mom vs. working mom. I wish there was less division between moms in general! The struggle is real-- we are ALL trying to do what is best for our babies! I was a working mom for a whopping 3 months with my first and that was (more than) enough time for me to see that it just wasn't for me. Working moms are my heroes, seriously. But that's not what this is about. This is just an encouragement for my fellow stay-at-home mamas who may or may not feel me on these points. This has been on my heart for some time, and I just want to get it out in words. This isn't the be all/end all to being a stay-at-home mom. I could likely write a post 5x in length & besides that, I am no expert! Certainly, things like this have been written about, blogged about, discussed before...but this is just from my little corner of the world. :-) It is written out of love & again meant for encouragement mostly to other mamas out there going through the daily grind from home!! Or for anyone wondering...

So this morning, we were in Poo Purgatory around here and after working through THAT fun, I loaded up the girlies and headed to Target to get a slue of things (mostly related to said Poo Purgatory). While there, an elderly woman was making small talk with with me. She meant no harm, and one of the things she said was this: "You are so lucky that you get to stay home and you don't work." I, of course, responded normally and kindly, and this post is NOT a result of that comment to me, but just sort of the tip of the ice burg to some things I've been feeling lately. And so I write for my fellow stay-at-home mamas, in case you've ever felt this way, too....

Three truths (for me!) to the stay-at-home mom gig

1. Being a stay-at-home mom actually IS work. Unless you are someone with a disposable income, live-in nanny, personal chef, housekeeper, etc, you actually ARE working every day. Sometimes I get the impression that people feel like stay-at-home moms lay around sipping coffee and watching daytime TV, and I can assure you that is not the case! Little people have endless needs, and actually demand your time, attention, and care 100% of  the time. Even if you have figured out a way to have built in down time in your day, you are still working....getting little people back in their napping space, negotiating, refereeing, playing, teaching, guiding, doing housework, meal prepping, paying bills, laundry, or whatever...:-D Chances are pretty good that you aren't sitting around twiddling your thumbs wondering what on earth you will do next.

2. Your co-workers are emotional, irrational, demanding little humans who you simultaneously love with all your heart and despise at the same time. If you are someone working outside the home, chances are, you are working with fully developed, grown, rational adults. You may not LIKE everyone you work with, but you likely have a few people with whom you can relate and have adult interactions and conversations with throughout your day. Staying at home with the kiddos you birthed is AMAZING...seriously, incredible. And completely emotionally & physically exhausting at the same time. And if you are home with more than one kid, it's like you have a herd of crazy little people following you around and observing your every move. You go to the bathroom with an (encouraging & excited) audience, you are covered in bodily functions... most of which are not your own and the people you interact with all day long are just, well...crazy!! :-P If you get the opportunity to interact with adults during the day, your interactions are limited, and you crave time to express yourself intellectually.

3. Every day is the same. I'm sure this one will get interpreted the wrong way. Sure, weekends are different. My husband is home and we do life together. Most evenings, he is also home for the majority of it, and is very helpful with our kids. (P.S. I'm not lucky for this fact...he's that way, because he wants to be involved in our kids' lives. Turns out I wouldn't have married him if I got the impression he was going to be an un-involved father. A favorite blog post on this topic is here, but I digress...) Holidays are spent with family and vacations are time away from the daily grind. But if you work from home (be that as a stay at home parent or in conjunction with something else!) your work is your home and your home is your work. So when you are "off", you are still at work. In the evenings, you are still at work. On the weekends, you are still at work. There is no separation or change of scenery!! So unless (and until) you are away from your home and someone has your kiddos, you aren't really can't really check out. (Again ,working mamas-- I know you go from the daily grind of life at work to the daily grind of life at home and have VERY LITTLE/NO down time...I'm not disputing that fact at all! Simply stating that as a stay at home parent, there's very little difference to the days!) They are all blurred mundanely & wonderfully together.

This is what I have always wanted. I have always loved kids. I have always babysat and adored little ones. I've known, for as long as I can remember, that I have wanted to be a mom--to many! I would trade this life for nothing. I would not want to be doing anything else with my time right now. I can't stress these things enough. Because they are 100% the truth. And yet, I feel like the stay-at-home mom gig is under-appreciated, misunderstood, and simply a lost part of our society today. I would love if every mom (or parent!) chose to do this for a portion of their child's early years because it goes so flipping fast. And it is so worth it. So crazy....draining, difficult. But so worth it.

That is all. :)

Thursday, December 3, 2015

All my ducks are (not!) in a row

I have always been someone that likes to have their ducks in a row. Likes to have their junk together. Likes a plan. Likes to know what's next. Type A. Organized.  [Anal, obnoxious, overbearing, detailed, whatever you want to call it]. This has been said to be an immense strength of mine and now, as a mom I find...likely my biggest weakness. Here's the thing that I've learned: My ducks were never in a row in the first place, so why on Earth, with three demandingly :) wonderful children, would they be now?!

I will forever strive to keep up with everything, but at some point, something's gotta give. I have not figured out how to simultaneously: be a good mom, be a good wife, keep up with bills, keep up with cleaning & household duties, maintain friendships, volunteer, work out, plan and execute healthy meals, grow spiritually, have adult time, have alone time (what is that?), do engaging and educational things with my kiddos...much less work outside the home. (You working mamas are my heroes, particularly you working teacher mamas). I feel like I go through phases where I rock at one (or more!) of these at a time...but, as much as I'd love it, never seem to figure out how to have all my ducks in a row in ALL areas of my life... I just sometimes feel like there are a billion balls up in the air, and I'm juggling them and dropping them one by one until they sort of feel like they are all crashing down at once. This used to drive me crazy. But it just doesn't anymore...

The past two days my middle kiddo has been sick-- like sit-on-the-floor-holding-her-while-nursing-the-baby-because-she's-ralphing-everywhere sick. And things didn't get done, and things were a mess, and I was exhausted. BUT she was clean, and she was cared for, and Mom was there while she puked. Today we didn't DO anything...we 'just' played, 'just' read, 'just' were...and that's OK. Because that's what everyone needed. It's 3:30 in the afternoon and all the girls are still in pajamas. There are messes in every corner of my house, laundry unfolded, sheets that need to be re-washed because they were yucked on again, piles on the counter, dishes in the sink, a dinner to think about and make, etc, etc. My ducks aren't in a row...

But I'm okay with that! I'm okay with that because my three beautiful babies are sleeping soundly in a home filled with laughter and love. The fingerprints on the windows can wait. They were there yesterday and they'll be there tomorrow. The dried on gunk in my toddler's highchair can stay there. It was there yesterday and it'll be there tomorrow. The piles on my counter will disappear eventually. The laundry will get folded, the dishes will get done. And tomorrow it'll all be there again. I think as moms we are SO hard on ourselves to be everything to everyone all the time. And that is exhausting & impossible. It's never done. It's never finished. It's never perfect. And that's okay.

If you're reading this, and feel like you have found a way to keep your ducks in a row, please fill me in. ;-) But I'm guessing (okay, maybe hoping!) there are others of you out there that feel this way too...With how precious and short life is, who cares that everything isn't figured out? Who cares if everything isn't done? I know I don't anymore. All  my ducks are not in a row. And that's okay with me! :-)

Quack, quack! :-)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Laundry Room/Mudroom Makeover

We're a lot like If you Give a Mouse A Cookie around here when it comes to our home projects. One thing leads to another, leads to another and before you know it (or over a long period of time...) much more than was originally planned has happened. That was sort of what happened with this project. You see, our laundry room was more of a laundry closet & was situated right at the rear (and most frequently used!) entrance to our house. Right next to our laundry closet was a closet containing our furnace and finally after that was a door that led into the there were LOTS of doors to work around. Pictured below is from our hallway-- the door to the right led into our hallway, the folding doors are the laundry doors, the gap to the left was where there was a furnace door & the white door in the back is our back door.
While working around the multiple doors was annoying, it was livable, and the doors housed things that we needed (our furnace & washer/dryer). And actually, thank goodness for those laundry doors or you would have seen an ugly furnace or THIS when walking through our home...

The orientation of the washer/dryer always drove me crazy as well, because the washer was on the right and turned perpendicular on the left. The shelves were frustrating because I couldn't reach anything (and thus, was always climbing on the appliances to reach things on the top shelf). Additionally, anytime I was doing laundry and the doors were open, you couldn't enter or exit our house without them getting in the way. But again, these were all just annoying things...

Once, a long time ago, we were chatting about our furnace and how stupid it was that it was on our main floor when we have a huge unfinished basement that it could take up a little section of. We decided years ago that when/if our furnace ever died we would put the new one down in the basement and gut the entire space to make more room. After all it was impractical and ugly!! This is looking at the space from inside the back door-- it was basically a small hallway with lots of annoying doors!

Well last November the furnace finally died & the project began! We had been saving & planning for this for awhile so appliance shopping was in order (Yay!) Aaron's dad helped Aaron rip out the old furnace. Aaron and I worked hard a removing walls/doors/studs etc. We got rid of our old washer/dryer, put in new tile to match the bathrooms we re-did, put up new drywall, patched, painted, etc. We chose a light teal color (that isn't displaying exactly true to color in the pics). It's brighter than any other walls in our house, but we love it and it reminds me clear ocean water. We wanted to start the long, tedious, never-ending *wonderful* process of painting the rest of our oak trim on the main level to match what we re-did upstairs, so we figured we'd start with this room. We were able to have our new furnace installed in the basement with a return air exchange needed up in the new room, but we ended up using that extra space to our advantage and added a counter top in. We are thrilled with the results and while the bones have been mostly done for a few months now, we finally finished up the details. Here's what it looks like now!
Looking into the room from the back door

Again looking in from the door--We removed the door that takes you
into the hallway and put a gate up for now. Where there aren't toddlers
in the house the gate will be gone too!
The white box hides our furnace exchange
and doubles as a nice counter to throw mail,
lay out things for errands, etc. The bench
houses shoes for the fam. I covered it with
some brown/white fabric instead of using the
tan cover it came with.
The large white storage unit houses coats,
our vacuum and then storage, etc on shelves. Our laundry
bins fit nicely on top of this shelf, and I can still reach them. I
always "challenge myself" to keep the bins empty up there
because that means the laundry is DONE & AWAY! Ah :)

Here is the room looking out from the hallway. You
can't exactly see but another nice thing my hand husband
did was install a new back door & a retractable screen door.
We like both but we LOVE the screen door-- lets in so much
light & fresh air!

There used to be an ugly oak box hiding
the electrical box. I covered the box with batting
and fabric instead and made this to hang
pictures, cards, etc. 

Bible verse on the wall across from the bench & shelf
The shelf & baskets was another amazon find.
We chose deep plum baskets to offset the bright teal.
    And they are handy for keeping hats, gloves, sunscreen,
      etc organized and away! The hooks rarely ever have jackets
       on them, but now there's a space for friends to put their coats!
Another look from the hallway-- so much
more space now! The bench comes in handy
for putting shoes on and off. 

And that's that! Another room done in our house....We should be moving onto the kitchen/sun room makeover which is the only space in our house we haven't renovated yet. But we never do what we SHOULD instead we're making over our master bedroom. Not much changing there but paint & furniture, but VERY excited about the changes to come in there! Stay tuned (ha, in like a year apparently!!) That's what happens when you are working on house projects with little kids! :)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

On going Vegan

Three Thursdays ago I became a vegetarian. :) Over the course of the last few months many things have contributed to me wanting to make some eating changes. They include: health, environment, animal welfare, influences from friends & overall improvement of life. I was essentially raised vegetarian, as we ate very little meat and had a huge garden, eating mostly from the garden & beans/rice or pasta dishes. Many members of my immediate and extended family are vegetarian so it's certainly familiar to me. And overall, we've always eaten fairly well. I've always tried to provide good choices for Keira and she loves herself some fruits & veggies, as does Lil. But a few things fell into place around the beginning of this year and after doing some research (through mostly documentaries, many of which we'd seen before in past years but just didn't sink in the first time) I just decided that I was going to become a vegetarian, and while I was at it, I wanted to give veganism a try, too. The movie most impacting this decision was Vegucated on Netflix. If you haven't seen it, check it out.

I am 100% committed to staying vegetarian, and have many reasons for that but probably the biggest one being that I don't even enjoy meat all that much to be consuming it. And more than that, the mainstream meat market and production of meat in this country is rediculous and extremely disgusting. I certainly feel better about consuming grass fed, free-range, organic, etc, etc, meat, but I still just don't feel good about it, so I just decided if it had a mama I won't be eating it. I wanted to try the vegan thing just for kicks and giggles, but I assumed that I wouldn't be able to keep it up and would jump right back to cheese and milk and eggs, etc.

Three weeks later, here we are! I wanted to do a post 3 weeks out (and then again in weeks to come) as I have been amazed at how much better I have been feeling. Aside from the elimination of dairy helping to improve the symptoms of my Crohn's disease, I also have loads more energy, feel much less sluggish and achy, feel like my complexion has improved and have even lost a little weight. (Bonus!) When people find out that I'm doing this, there are generally two questions: What do I eat? and Don't you miss foods?

I feel like I have SO many choices of foods to eat and things that I like, that I most certainly do not feel like I'm living without. I don't miss anything, because I feel like a much better version of me, and because I didn't cook meat all that often to begin with. I'm not a big fan of meals that take a long time to prepare and are huge productions (plus with 2 kiddos and a hungry husband, my dinner prep needs to be fast!) but we have had several yummy meals that we all (L & K included!) have enjoyed including peanut pad thai, beans & rice bowls, veggie wraps, various salads, quinoa, couscous, etc. Thankfully my hubby is supportive and fine with me not cooking meat at home, and the only thing I've asked of him is that he's honest with me when I try a new recipe or make something a different way. So far he's been all in! We have still been buying cheese, milk and yogurt for he and Keira, but Keira is really the only one consuming much dairy around here. 

Now please hear me...I know there are health benefits to dairy and animal proteins, and I'm not trying to knock anyone who consumes meat and dairy, but I have just learned a lot over the course of the last few months about how I really don't NEED meat and dairy to meet my nutritional needs, and how I can actually survive just fine without them and feel fulfilled and even better than I felt consuming them. If you are at all interested in learning more about vegetarianism/veganism, the web is FULL of amazing resources. (I should compile a list of my favorites!) And if you like documentaries, there are so many good ones on Netflix to check out: Forks over Knives; Food Inc; Foodmatters; Vegucated; Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead; Farmageddon. 

I still feel like I'm in the beginning stages of this and would love any additional resources-- books, websites, recipes, or films that you have come across. And no matter your food choices, I hope you'd consider going veg even for just a day or a week or a month to see what happens for you!