26!

I’m 26 years old today!

How is that possible?

I am so grateful for this wonderful, beautiful life that I have. It’s not always easy, and I find myself hoping for different things at different points in my life, but as I step back and look at what I have, I know that I am blessed beyond measure on this 26th year.

One year, I made a list of things I wanted to do in that year, and I wanted to do the same thing this year! I wanted to list 26 things that I want to do in my 26th year.

I love having my birthday in May because it’s almost halfway through the year, so I feel like I get a whole new New Years!

Right now, on my 26th birthday, I feel a little bit like I’m drowning. I have a (new) 10 year old, a 2 year old, and a (sick) 7 month old. I mostly want to record that here because I need to look back and remember where I was at at this point in my life.

Honestly, I debated trying to make this list right now. I’m trying to survive hour to hour and I hardly have the capacity to think about whats for dinner let alone 26 things that I want to do in the next year. But I know I will regret not doing in a year when I want to look back at where I’ve come from and where I’m going.

So here goes. 26 goals for my 26th year:

  1. Run a 10k
  2. Provide a foster home for two kids
  3. Visit 5 states
  4. Finish the current journal that I’m writing in
  5. Go to the Ohio State Fair
  6. Celebrate Christmas with family
  7. Celebrate Tera’s 3rd birthday, Kiah’s 1st birthday and Theo’s 27th birthday
  8. Start writing a book
  9. Teach Tera the alphabet
  10. Celebrate Theo becoming a police officer
  11. Run in a color run
  12. Have a kid-free weekend with just Theo
  13. Make a small income for our family
  14. Memorize two chapters in the Bible
  15. Read 35 books
  16. Cook with less processed foods
  17. Establish a family & friends game night
  18. Go backpacking as a family
  19. Send 3 cards a month by snail mail
  20. Find a cute haircut and actually maintain it
  21. Clean out my makeup and get better, functional things that I know how to use
  22. Complete basement Reno
  23. Renovate & revamp my blog
  24. Roadtrip to visit family (both DeValve and Hines)
  25. Complete a month of a marriage challenge
  26. Get family pictures taken and hung on the wall

I can’t wait to look back on this post in a year and remember where I was in life at this stage! I wonder what this new year will bring? Bring it on, 26!! 

We Said Yes (Again)

Well, I’ve been quiet on this ol’ blog for a week because we have a new placement in our home!

On Mother’s Day (Sunday) we got the call. I will admit that I was about to say ‘NO’ when Theo said ‘WHY NOT?’

And my life will never be the same.

She’s here. She’s 10. She’s beautiful.

And we once again took the bold step to climb into the roller coaster they call foster care, buckle our seat belts and try to hang on for dear life during the crazy ride.

Each day has been a unique cocktail of emotions ranging from an overwhelming feeling of blessing, to an overwhelming feeling of doubt.

I cannot believe that our family was chosen for this sweet girl, that we get to spend all summer together and that I get to be a second Mom for her (and not replace her first one). I can’t believe all the details of her case and how they have fallen on these lines of surrender.

Although we are in the honeymoon stage and have had no issues to complain of, it’s still been an incredibly challenging adjustment. My 10 year old is independent and sweet, and school drop off and pick up is not a big deal. My two year old is so incredibly intelligent and fun and soaking up absolutely everything she can learn. My seven month old is adorable and learning so much and finally sitting on his own and brings so much joy to everyone around him. But mix all three together and I feel like I’m always waking somebody up from a nap, taking all three kids to every appointment in the world, entertaining 2+ people while I change a diaper and try to keep up with my pumping schedule. I’m suddenly cooking for an extra person and the laundry is piling up. In and of itself, a 10 year old is EASY! A 2 year old is EASY! A baby is EASY! But put all three together and it’s not so easy anymore.

I have mad respect for Moms who do this all the time…Moms whose normal is always waking up the baby to pick up the older kids. I get that this is nothing new or even difficult to the average Mom with a wide age range in children (or a lot of children that span a wide age range), but for me it’s all new and it’s HARD to adjust.

I’m struggling with balance. I want to give our sweet girl the world, but I also don’t want to give her a world that makes hers seem ‘less than’. She has remarked several times how HUGE our house is and how small hers is. I have reassured her over and over that there is nothing wrong with a small house because love and learning can still live there. She has talked dreamily about Kings Island and I want to load her up and take her RIGHT NOW but I don’t want to take a trip like that away from her Mom. Yesterday she said that she had never received a package in her life, and I want to go Amazon and order every single item that would relate to a pre-teen, and fill her room up with packages so that she can receive package after package. But I don’t EVER want to give my children the idea that stuff can buy happiness.

I’m so proud of my Tera and Kiah who just take everything in stride. Kiah has been battling a rather nasty cough virus for a few weeks now, and I’m just so proud of him for being a trooper through all the crazy transition. Tera is resilient and loves her new sister so incredibly much (sometimes too much), but it has been the hardest on her, I think. She exhausted from being dragged out of bed every morning and doesn’t understand my urgency when I tell her to ‘put on your shoes RIGHT NOW because we need to go do pickup’. It’s an adjustment and she will be fine, but for these first few weeks we just need to rough and tough it out.

Theo, of course, is plugging away at the academy and emerged from last week with some battle wounds: cracked/broken ribs with misplaced cartilage. He is in excruciating pain for most of the day and yet he is still so faithful to help me out with the kids as soon as he gets home. He doesn’t get any time off, nor will they take it easy on him, so it looks like we will just have to power through during work hours, and rest at home as much as possible (ha!).

Since our sweet girl is 10, I will be sharing little to no information about her online. She is old enough to have her own story and it’s not mine to tell. I know that everyone has questions, and as usual you can feel free to ask any question you may have, but please know that I may not be able to answer them.

It is looking like she will be with us throughout the summer, so this afternoon I’m pulling out the pasteboard and making a summer bucket list!

Of course, your thoughts and prayers are very much appreciated in this time of transition. We are establishing rules, but at the same time we have never done this before and she has never had these expectations before. Up until this moment, we have always said ‘Oh, when our kids are 10 they will….’ Well, now we have a 10 year old literally plopped into our laps and the rubber meets the road. Of course, we haven’t had 10 years of training to reach this point, so it’s going to be a lot of frustrations and teaching and learning and making it work. I taught her how to wash dishes last night, and as I dipped my soapy fingers into the water with hers, I was overcome by the immense blessing, privilege and responsibility that I have to foster this sweet girl.

Your prayers are needed, friends.

 

 

Let Freedom Ring: My Struggle with Post Partum Depression & Anxiety

Let freedom ring.

“God has not given us a Spirit of fear, but he has given unto us a spirit of power, a spirit of love and a sound mind.” – 2 Timothy 1:7

This post has been a long, long time in coming. It’s the kind of thing that you don’t normally want to shout from the rooftops. It’s my experience and not one I have particularly enjoyed. Putting my story out there means that I risk unsolicited advice, pity and people who don’t believe me or brush it off as “nothing”.

But putting my story out there might also encourage one or two people who are going through their own battles.

Let me tell you my story.

I have always wanted to be a mother. I actually even enjoyed being pregnant the first time around. And I was horrified once Tera arrived to realize that I didn’t really like it. I for sure knew that I didn’t love it. At my 6 week checkup the doctor asked me if I was feeling sad or depressed and I said no because I really didn’t think I was. But in reality, the first six months of Tera’s life were pretty difficult for me. It was a combination of exhaustion, adjusting to being a mother and a crazy amount of hormones coursing through my body.

I didn’t put two and two together about my postpartum experience with Tera until Little Miss Abigail (our foster daughter) came along. She was far more challenging than Tera ever was, she was up most of the night and screamed her little head off for most of her first six months of life. It was so incredibly stressful, but I handled it fairly well. One day I suddenly realized that having newborn Abi was actually easier than newborn Tera because I didn’t have any postpartum hormones coursing through my body. Realizing that was REVOLUTIONARY to me.

To this day, I still don’t know if I really struggled with depression after Tera. But I know that I certainly struggled…a lot.

So going into Kiah’s pregnancy and birth I was more prepared to fight. I knew more of what to expect and how I could take it in stride. I understood better that the first six weeks were the hardest, then the next 6 weeks, and then once we hit around six months it would be smooth sailing.

And then things in our life started happening that left me spiraling out of control. At 36 weeks pregnant, our well collapsed and we lived without water for three weeks. I thought I was handling it fairly well, but looking back now the fear and stress worked its way into my heart and stayed there, playing a huge part in my PPA. Two days after we got our well fixed, our entire family came down with the stomach bug (I was nearly 39 weeks pregnant). That was physically draining, but even more emotionally taxing.

Kiah’s birth was beautiful and the first few weeks at home were wonderful. I was so happy and I was loving (almost) every moment with Theo and my two precious gifts.

And then Kiah’s weight issues popped up, the failure to thrive diagnosis was slapped on him and I spiraled almost completely out of control. Every moment was jagged with fear, I never knew what was around the corner or what tomorrow would hold for me and my boy. I was terrified we would lose Kiah and out of nowhere I became a huge germaphobe, terrified to leave my house and have Kiah get sick. My anxiety was not over huge, rational things like car accidents or cancer, but over tiny, inconsequential things like the stomach bug and Kiah not drinking his entire bottle.

It consumed me for days, weeks and months. I had no idea that I was going through PPA. No clue. I was just terrified all the time. I had several panic attacks around Christmastime and it was probably the hardest time in my life. The craziest part was that I acted perfectly normal out and about. I wasn’t necessarily ashamed of it, and probably would have talked to someone about it had I actually known what I was dealing with, but I didn’t know how to bring it up or what to really share about.

In January, I picked my word for the year and landed without hesitation on FREEDOM. I was living as a slave to fear, I was literally letting fear dictate my every action and interaction with those around me. I came into 2017 BATTLING with all my might for the FREEDOM found in Christ Jesus.

I finally had a “come to Jesus” conversation with Theo where I realized that I needed help. We started to look into Christian counseling and I even called my OB to start asking about medication. All of this was at around 5 months post partum.

And then, almost as quickly as it started, my anxiety started to fade. It started to fade about the same time that I started losing chunks of my hair, which is how I know without a doubt that my anxiety was all related to the postpartum hormones. You see, when a woman’s body starts to regulate after birth, her hair starts to follow out due to the decrease in hormones.

Everyone’s story is different, and I hesitate to share what “worked” for me, because I understand it might not work for someone else. I can honestly say that my freedom from PPA is a complete healing in Jesus Christ. There is no way that I could have overcome the battleground of my mind without the Scriptures or the power of the Holy Spirit. I did not end up receiving counseling or medication, but I think that is a completely necessary option for some people.

However, it is also important that we not discount the power of the Holy Spirit and Scripture in our struggles against the things of the flesh and the mind. That should always, always be our first step and one that we have to FIGHT for. Even Scripture and prayers doesn’t always just solve the problem overnight I have to commit those Scriptures to heart and when the thoughts of anxiety crowd into my mind I have to literally throw them out with the sword of the spirit and the word of it’s testimony.

 

I am writing my story here for several reasons. I am hoping that there is someone out there who needs to hear it. I am hoping that there is someone who is encouraged by my testimony and feels less alone because of it. If you have any questions, or have gone through the same thing, I would love to hear from you. You can leave comments, but if you feel this is too personal, you can feel free to email me and I assure you that it will stay between us. You are NOT ALONE if you are facing PPD or PPA. You have not done anything wrong and you as an individual are probably not equipped with the tools that you need to overcome it. Please reach out to a trusted friend to begin taking the steps needed to overcome.

I have actually had this post in my drafts folder for months now, but May is mental health awareness month and hearing that was the final push I needed to publish this post. Please feel free to share it, even if PPD and PPA are not something that you have struggled with. You never know who might be going through their own battle.

 

 

 

 

To the Mom Who Can’t Afford Mother’s Day

A few weeks ago, they started popping up on my social media feeds.

You know exactly what I’m talking about.

The Mother’s Day wish lists. The ads for the perfect piece of jewelry. The promotions for the weekends away and the fancy meals out on the town.

Mother’s Day is really hard for some people. For those who have lost a mother, or for those who are struggling to be a mother. Mother’s Day is hard for mother’s who are grieving the children they had but lost or the children that expected and didn’t get.

If you are one of those Mother’s, I want you to know that I am thinking of you and praying for you. I’m sure that you simply want the day to be over and all the people to stop talking about it. I know there are several sweet letters out there written to you, and I hope you know that you are not forgotten and it’s ok to be hurting on Mother’s Day.

There are some other Mothers that struggle with Mother’s Day, and this letter is for you.

To the Mom who can’t afford Mothers Day:

I know seeing those advertisements and reading another wish list of Mother’s Day items is HARD. It seems like everyone else you know is getting the latest and greatest gadget or piece of personalized jewelry and you know in your heart that while your husband would love to purchase something for you, you simply cannot afford it.

Turn off the voices, Mama. Turn off the social media and the blog posts bombarding you. Turn off the voices that are telling you that she has everything you could ever want. Turn off the voices that you are less of a mother than the woman who gets to go away for the weekend. Turn off the voices that you are less of a mother than the woman who can afford that new household appliance or piece of jewelry. Turn off the voices that you are less of a mother because your husband will probably end up having to buy a wilted bouquet from Walmart instead of a specially selected one from the florist.

Turn off the voices of all those around you and look instead at the gifts that you have been given.

Look into the eyes of your children and watch the smile spread across their faces as they draw the marker across the page to write “I LOVE YOU MOMMY”.

Look at the personalized letter that your toddler painstakingly scrawls on the page- a T for her first name. And while it’s not hung around your neck on a gold necklace, it’s drawn across that piece of paper with all the love in the world.

Look at the wilted flowers that your husband brings through the doors and be grateful that you have a husband who sees how hard you work and what you do for your children.

Look at the sticky hands and faces of your children as they devour the special homemade pancakes and make a face at the lunch that they worked really hard to put together with Daddy.

Look at the words of Scripture and remember the promises that God has put there for you as a Mother- promises that he is the Creator and sustainer of life. He is the gifter of these most precious gift and He loves to see you as you parent them day in and day out.

Look at the Scripture and the promises that the Lord gives us that he will be with us always- even on the lonely days, on the puke-filled days, on the potty training days, on the sleepless nights and the solo parenting days and the teenage years. Look at the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the promises that He will give us everything we need for life and godliness- even if sometimes life is too hard for us to handle as mothers.

I know, I know- those things are all true, but wouldn’t it be nice to just receive something special? Well, yes, it would. But we need to remember that Mother’s Day is actually not about who can receive the best gift.

Instead, it’s about celebrating the best gifts that we have been given.

April Life Lately

April warmth brings May below freezing temperatures

Wait, what? That’s not how it goes… unless you live in Ohio!

April was a gloriously warm month with all the trees bursting into bloom and so much park and playground time!

I love to pack a little picnic lunch and walk to a nearby park after Kiah wakes up from his morning nap.

Tera plays, Kiah just watches and I will sometimes read a book or run around after Tera.

I might take too many pictures of my kiddos, but I literally spend 24/7 with them, so they are practically extensions of my own body…with their own personalities and needs! Haha!

We started Kiah on solid food this month! He’s not interested- AT ALL. He has zero interest in opening his mouth or putting his own food in his mouth. ZERO INTEREST. It looks like he’s going to tackle eating solid food just like he does everything else: in his own time and his own way. And I’m over here just learning the exact same lesson over again. Let it go. Let it go.

We didn’t do too much to celebrate Easter, but I did attempt egg dying, and it was a blast! Tera loved “helping” me!

Don’t worry, not a molecule of that food actually made it into his mouth. I mean….food before one is just for fun, right?

We had the best Easter weekend that involved Theo’s first day off from the academy, warm summery weather and a glorious time celebrating Christ’s resurrection! And I got my favorite pictures of Kiah so far:

Tera got so many compliments on her beautiful Easter dress:

I got for $5 at garage sale, which should surprise absolutely nobody.

Kiah turned 6 months old this month!

We also went out for a family dinner at Bravo and got to do a review and promotion! It’s still going on, so if you haven’t taken advantage of free dessert at Bravo, make sure you do that before Monday the 22nd!

I took the kids to the United States Air Force Museum to watch an air show, and it was so incredibly cool!

It was a beautiful day and we had a blast!

Poor little man stuck with the pink flowery umbrella stroller.

It was surreal to have these WWII bombers fly right overhead. I cannot imagine how chilling it must have been to be in Europe or Hawaii or Japan and have these bombers fly overhead.

I bought this “pack-pack” for Tera so that she can start carrying her own stuff around now. I think she is officially graduating from the diaper bag and we are going to be working on taking responsibility for her own things when we are leaving the house. This backpack is tiny, though…does anyone have any recommendations on larger ones that are still super cute and kid-friendly?

On April 21st, my twin nephews were born and that was a HIGHLIGHT of the month!

A few days later, the kids and I loaded up in our car and hit the road…the GPS said 7 hours but it was closer to 9 hours including all the stops. It was incredibly challenging driving that far with two little kids but I did it to catch up with a friend that I haven’t seen in YEARS!

We both have two years old, and we both have less than one year olds! Haha! So fun!

We went to the science museum one day and spent the rest of the time just spending time together and letting our kids be crazy. Indeed, four kids under three was pretty crazy!

Let me just give you a small walk down memory lane…

High School…

College..

Weddings…

Pregnancy (Tera and Daniel)….

Babies…!!

It was so wonderful to see each other and catch up on life. It is also encouraging to know that we are parenting so similar and that we are faced with many of the same challenges.

While I was with Joy and her husband, we had a conversation about their mattress and where they got it from home. I arrived home on Thursday and on Friday a massive box showed up at my door. The UPS man looked at me and asked me if anyone was home that could help him carry the boxes inside. Um, nope. He explained that he had been dreading the delivery all day because the boxes were so big and heavy. I was SO CONFUSED until I noticed a little note on the side of the box that gave Joy away. My precious friend and her husband bought Theo and I a brand new mattress. The King sized mattress came stuffed into this box!

I somehow haven’t taken any pictures of the new bed, but I of course had to take some pictures of my kids playing in the box!

I got home on Thursday from visiting Joy and was wiped out, but our weekend was packed full! Theo’s parents drove through on Sunday and spent the night at our house in their RV on Sunday night! What a cool vehicle!!!

And Uncle Ethan delivered a wonderful package in the mail….

One of the two is enjoying this far more than the other….

We finished off April with some more warm weather and featured this amazing swimsuits on my blog! I can’t wait for the warm weather to come back and for us to get to spend some more time outside!

This is over a week late in being published because life has simply not slowed down since then. I’m trying to keep myself, my husband and my kids above water, but sometimes it really feels like I’m drowning. It’s 4 pm on a Monday and I have yet to be dressed (and I honestly can’t remember the last time I showered). I ran water for the dishes at 9 am this morning and yet the dishes still have not been washed.  The last time both my kids slept at the same time was sometime last week (Kiah has been up almost all night for the last two weeks, and Tera has completely quit naps). Phew. May is my absolute favorite month of the year and I’m hoping that it will only get better from here on out!