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It's interesting to look at your life, past to present, and think: "It has all led up to this...." And then wonder where it will lead to next.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Pre-pregnancy Jeans

There have been a pair of jeans sitting at the bottom of my drawer since I first upgraded to maternity jeans 15 months ago. Worn out and patient. Glanced at. Pined for. Pulled out occasionally, only to be returned as quickly as possible. They have represented so much. My past. My future. The so much that has happened in between.

All the growing (all kinds of growing).

All the changing (all kinds of changing).

All the pain, sorrow, anger.

All the joy, freedom, and rejuvenation.

In a lot of ways the last 15 months feels the length of a life time.

I squeezed slid into my favorite pre-pregnancy jeans today--a day I have been waiting for for a very, very long time. After DANCING for joy while standing on top of the toilet to snap a celebratory pre-pregnancy-jean-butt picture (to which my three year old very disapprovingly said, "That's dangerous mommy..."), it began to register (as things so often do whilst upon the porcelain bowl) that though my body is "back" (the size anyway) there are so many things that aren't, and never will be. So much is different now. I feel very much a new person. In so many ways I will never be the same.

In so many ways I am thankful for that.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Thoughts on School

You want to know what's crazy? Almost every day I am thinking about kindergarten. I have a 3 year old. And I'm thinking about kindergarten. It's not that I'm an over-prepared, over-obsessed mommazoid, it's that I literally am at the time and place of life where I will have to make at least a few decisions about school for my little boy that could drastically effect his future. This is crazy to me! How am I here already? Here's the thing, if I want Aiden to go to kindergarten when he is five, then I need to put him in preschool when he is four to prepare him for kindergarten, and in order to get him into preschool at age four I have to register him well before the summer, which is when he is still only three. I have never been one to do things ahead of time, so this is still new and somewhat bazaar to me (even though I did it last year, this feels different as this is 5 days a week). And it all has me thinking about a lot of things I thought I had a lot more time to think about. I have plenty of time to change my mind, but if I want options, I need to make some decisions now.

For the time being, Aaron and I have ruled out public school for preschool and kindergarten. No matter how much we've tried and wanted to opt for public schooling (it is free after all) we simply do not feel like it's right for Aiden just yet. I believe Aiden will be ready socially and academically for school when he is five (he's loved preschool), but I just don't feel comfortable with the large classes and I don't necessarily agree with the government on everything when it comes to what's healthy for my son. This is not to say I don't think anyone should put their kids in public schools and I don't think any less of those who do. Basically, we are making our choice on how we feel about Aiden right now, and how we feel about our own educational experiences growing up. Also on what is available (we're having to really trust that God is going to provide a way to make private school affordable if that's the route we go!). So what does this leave us with? Private schools or homeschooling. Dun, dun, dun....

I have a lot of experience with homeschooling, and a tad with private schools. I went to private school early on; kindergarten and first grade. I liked it, but I am really glad I was in private because although I liked to make friends, I was also shy and somewhat anxious. I would not have been able to handle a big class, and I enjoyed the fact that I got a lot of one-on-one time with my teachers, otherwise I would have melted into the back round. After that I was home schooled. By the time I hit middle school I hated homeschooling. I was very social and completely unmotivated to do anything if I wasn't forced. Unfortunately, I didn't read or write Chinese well enough to go to a local school and I was much too young for boarding school (honestly I wouldn't have gone to boarding school even in high school so I am thankful it wasn't an option my parents were fond of either). High school was the same story, I did not like home schooling and did not do well with it. Lucky for me I got a lot of life experience in traveling and also attended an art school to study dance full-time which appeased my need for social interaction and structure. Aaron on the other hand, went to private school, public school, and was even home schooled for a year. He can't tell me which he liked better (or worse). What they seemed to have in common (minus homeschooling): he hated his classes but liked school. Regardless of our different educational backgrounds, Aaron and I both made good grades in college.

Aaron feels pretty strongly that he wants our kids to go to school, but he wouldn't be apposed to homeschooling if he knew I really wanted to do it. Do I want to homeschool? My gut answer is: No. I don't think I'd be very good at it, I don't think I'd really enjoy it, and I really don't think Aiden would either (can't speak for Gabriel yet). Would I consider it? Yes. Why? Other than if school was not a good fit for him, I'm not even sure. Besides the fact that I'm not completely ready for my baby to go to real school yet. So this leads me back to... He's three! Sigh! No wonder I'm not ready yet! Take a deep breath, relax... think about it more tomorrow.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Pleas of a Nursing Mother

Dear Lord,

   If I were meant to breastfeed my child till age 2, why do you give them teeth so young? I am thankful for the gifts you have given me. I love my child. I love my breasts, too. Help me to care for them both. Keep them unscathed through the perils of teething!


Dear Child,

   Please remember that those squishy milk goblets you are so very fond of are in fact still attached to my body. What they feel, I feel. Teeth not welcome here. "No biting!" is never intended as joke. As happy as I may be to amuse you in any other circumstance, when I pull away in pain, I am not trying to make you laugh. In fact, just stop laughing... Just so you are aware, these are pretty special to me too, and I hope to reclaim them as my own one day soon. Preferably with out teeth marks.
   I love you dearly, but be warned, the longer you keep this up, the sooner your day of weening nears. 

   Your loving-but-quickly-losing-patience-mother

Monday, March 19, 2012

"I'm lovin' it." - Old McDonald

I think I can officially say I am in remission! The scars from winter depression are still apparent, but as far as my current state of mental health, I think I am well on my way to recovery. I feel like I have learned so much, had my eyes and heart opened to so much, and have changed so much in the process. So many lies have been painfully stripped from the deepest parts of me. I have had to relearn what I believe. I have had to learn some things that I thought I knew for the very first time. Such a strange experience. As the days grow longer, the sun shines, and the grass begins to rapidly grow, I feel like I am waking up after months of a terrible nightmare. Life is still life. Many things are just as they were, but perspective and truth make all the difference.

Aaron's work is back full swing. I never thought I'd be able to say this again, but I think this year will be our busiest yet. I've been sick all week with Aaron gone all day, several nights, and all weekend. When he doesn't get a break, I don't get a break. Even if I am sick. This is our life and I have spent several years being pretty p-oed about it. But something is different this year. It's not that I don't get tired, or sad when I find out Aaron has to work Sunday (I've already accepted he will be working Saturdays for a long time), it's that I know it's what we have to do, and I know it's temporary. That was never good enough before. I felt we had this right to a "normal" life where Aaron works 9-5, is home every weekend, and where we actually have time and money for vacations and real hobbies. I felt it was my right and I was mad that life was not complying. See it's funny when we see the world (America included here) hurting, working day and night, doing all they can just to survive, and then just expect that if we work hard we deserve top paying jobs, shiny new SUVs, white picket fences, and vacations in the Bahamas. I am learning to praise God when we have much, praise God when we have little, and trust Him despite all inconsistency.

Being a mother has been very challenging here recently. Probably because it always is, but this is one of those times when I really feel it. Part of it is recovering from months of half-living. Part of it is having a 3 year old and a 10 month old. Trying to teach, feed, clothe, and entertain these two ages (one who requires continual interaction and lots of activity, the other who requires continual overseeing and choking prevention), plus do chores, shop, cook, and clean again? Not to mention night time duty. It feels like a full-time job on crack. I find myself looking back on the days when I was in school full-time and working three jobs and think, Ah those were the days of leisure. Aiden's new favorite thing to say when he doesn't like something is, "That's impossible!" while dramatically covering his face with his hands. Trust me, Aiden, I know the feeling. In many ways though, these new challenges are pushing me in a good way. I feel more alive than I have in a long time and I find myself actually trying again. That may sound like a silly thing to feel good about, but if you know what I'm talking about give me an 'amen', because it certainly feels good (even when you come so very short)! I've enjoyed walking to the park everyday with my boys, and waking up to a clean kitchen (most days anyway).

Besides the whole being sick thing, I have felt GREAT since going paleo. Like I said before, I am not 100% paleo, but I feel fantastic and it's the best I can do. This, my friends, is proof of how very terrible I have felt on a daily basis up until this point: I am sick (tonsillitis/strep) and I feel "normal" (sore throat aside) in terms of how I felt most days before I gave up grains (mostly gluten) and dairy. Lord, why did I wait so long to try it? I still get occasional headaches, but they don't seem quite so bad without the nausea, dizziness, and everything else. I am also a much pleasanter person. In fact, Aaron can tell over the phone if I've cheated on my diet. "What did you eat?" He asks when I'm being particularly snippy. To which I'll reply, "I'll do what I want!" Because ignorance is no longer a valid excuse when I eat the bad stuff that ruins my life and simply have to deal with it.

And this sums up my life right now.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Fruit, veggies, and meat. Oh my!

I first discovered the Paleo diet a few months ago from a blog I was following. I was in no place to even consider trying it myself, so I safely tucked it in the back of my mind (also known as: forgetting it till a future date). A couple weeks ago Aaron brought it up in conversation while we were talking about nixing our recent unhealthy eating habits. By recent I mean the last four years, and by the last four years I don't mean the entire last four years, but off and on rather.

Both Aaron and I were raised by health-nuts. We ate balanced meals and hippified health snacks. (I have actually often been asked if I was raised by hippies, considering my name paired with my granola eating habits. As a teen I was always slightly embarrassed to admit my descendance came from a much less cool club: missionaries. The only real difference in our case though were bras and shampooed hair, as living in China in the '90's involved more than enough bellbottoms and unshaved pits to qualify.) This pattern continued on into college where a large salad bar was ever present and where more green on your plate didn't mean less green in the bank (at least there wasn't a direct correlation). I didn't even discover the "hot food" line until well into my sophomore year once the stress of three jobs and full time school effectively wore down my better judgement and my cultured palate had lowered its standards considerably. I knew I had hit a new low when I started to look forward to overcooked tater tots and greasy card board pizza each Friday.

Things only continued to go downhill once we started our life together outside of the college bubble. For one thing, I realized how much it stinks to not have food prepared for you each meal of the day (how I miss you, Henry). Another painful reality was how much food actually costs in the real world (oh that's why we were served prison food in college, so we could afford it--with the help of scholarships and loans anyway). Much more pasta and processed foods were added to my diet than ever before. Soon we realized that these eating habits we once saw as temporary, were actually very much our regular diet! We weren't sure how to stop, our taste buds were addicted to fake foods and poisonously sweetened drinks, and our wallets addicted to a low grocery bill.

We temporarily broke the pattern once we moved back to NC, once it hit me that I did not want to pass down our new and terrible eating habits to our kids. I became little miss home maker and made all of our food from scratch. I perfected the blend of health and budget by shopping at an overstock grocer that specialized in organic/health foods and local produce. Although in the winter when money was tight we still had periods of excessive amounts of mac n' cheese, frozen veggies, and hot dogs (sometimes making traditional hot dogs with mac and veggies on the side, other times with the hotdog cut up and mixed in the with the mac--we liked to mix things up), but did our best to eat less processed meals whenever the budget allowed. After another healthy period, Aaron's work got even busier and I returned to school, we started eating poorly again. Too often we ended up getting take out or frozen pizza, and on days I had day class I began replacing my lunch with coffee and vending machine food. Needless to say, I gained a good 10 lbs that summer.

Long story short, our diet has been a yo-yoing of healthy and unhealthy seasons. Although even our healthy periods consisted of way more bread, pasta, and rice in an effort to keep the grocery bill affordable. Despite my efforts to keep us eating mostly balance meals, we are nowhere near as healthy as we used to be. Thus our recent conversation on nixing all bad eating habits and starting a new healthier way of living. Thus our recent conversation on the paleo diet. The paleo diet (aka caveman diet) is basically an all fruit, veggie, meat, and nut diet. I won't go into much detail here because I know you're going to google it anyway. When I first looked into it I thought, Impossible! Noway we could afford this, and we'd always be hungry! Plus, could I possibly wean Aiden off PB&J and quesadillas? Naturally my first thought was to put the entire family on the same diet, because there ain't no way in h-e-double-hockey-sticks I'm going to make more than one meal per meal. The more I thought about it though, the more appealing it became. Veggies.... fruit... meeeeaat.... food items just kept floating around my brain, seducing me with their healthy curves and positive side effects. I was sold.

I slightly modified the diet, because no matter how much I tried, I simply could not go 100% paleo with our food budget (I will keep trying and keep you updated though). I, myself, went almost straight paleo, except for one dinner which I used quinoa, and a lunch when I put my veggies in a wrap. For Aiden, instead of bread for his lunches I used a whole grain wrap along with the usual fruit side. We had various combinations of yogurt, nuts, fruit, boiled eggs, and raw veggies for snacks. It really was not nearly as hard as I thought. Aiden ate every meal I made, all of which included massive amounts of veggies (including kale and asparagus which he normally hates--what's going on here??). Aaron was gone most of the week and only participated in some dinners, so he didn't get the full effect, but he seems excited about bringing paleo lunches to work from now on.

So what was the "effect"? Well... nothing. By nothing, I mean: no nausea, no dizzy spells, no unexplained irritability. All the things I experience on a regular basis. I still had a few headaches, but they were so limited and minute, they were nothing a bit of caffeine didn't fix. The only thing was, I was pretty hungry in between meals, but I am even when I eat carbs so what the heck (I blame the combination of my genes and breastfeeding). To make sure that I wasn't imagining things (and because I ran out of all the good stuff), this weekend I decided to make meals including the usual processed flour/grains I normally use, like pasta and bread. Result? Well first off, Aiden would barely eat it, and he couldn't not take a nap (during the week he had no problem not napping). Secondly, I felt like CRAP! Seriously, I cannot even describe to you the magnitude of difference. I felt nauseated after every meal, I had multiple dizzy spells, and was incredibly irritable (really unpleasant to be around, just ask my family)! In other words, I felt how I normally feel, which felt so much worse after not feeling that way. To further test this diet, I will continue it this week until the weekend when I'll undoubtedly run out of veggies again. I'll let you know if my theory stands. I'm betting on it.

Bloggity-blog-blog (the awkward truth)

Sometimes blogging can be rather frightening. For one thing, you are putting yourself out there for, quite literally, all to see. It can be awkward sometimes after writing a somewhat personal post to see someone I don't know well and suddenly realize they read my blog. "Oh great, they now know what a freak I really am..." Is usually the first thought that enters my head upon that realization. I also have no idea who all reads my blog, which sometimes makes it difficult when deciding whether or not to write certain things. According to the blog's stats (and interaction I have outside the blog) I know that at least half the people who read on a regular basis are not actual followers. Do you know how terrifying it is to bare yourself and not know to whom?? Because of this I usually go with the tactic: if my middle school crush can read it, I'm in the clear. However, sometimes I overestimate what I want my middle school crush to know.

I have always been honest with my writing, and sometimes even quite vulnerable, but for the most part I keep a lot off the blog. I say this because it can be quite uncomfortable for writer and reader when people start assuming they know all that's going on. Most of the time I feel at least fairly confident about the things I share, but it can be a little disheartening when I receive supposed solutions to supposed problems regarding posts I write. Don't get me wrong, I love that people care and want to help, I really do. But sometimes I get the impression that I must come across as taking myself much too seriously or as someone who stresses too easily about silly things. This may be true. Be that as it may, there is also a whole lot of life that I don't share here that comes into play. Often times this leaves me with suggestions and advice that end up being more trite than helpful which in turn causes me to feel more like a putz than I already do on a regular basis (trust me, I need no assistance in that area). I appreciate advice, but please know that if you are coming with only information you get from my blog, you do not have the whole story.

That being said, if you are truly interested, and truly want to help, please just ask! I have more people to protect than just myself on this blog, but if you talk to me one on one, I will gladly give you a list of things you can pray for (or tell you honestly if I am not comfortable sharing more). I am so thankful for all who read here and share in my life, and I appreciate the understanding that personal life is both fragile and complex.