17 December 2016

PPD

It has been two months since I last had an antidepressant, four months since I last took a full dose. And I still have withdrawal effects. I usually have about one a day, but lately I can sometimes get two or three days per week without symptoms. A friend recommend a book called The Mood Cure, which I immediately jumped on. I read it in two days, started following the diet by the next meal, and rushed out to buy the recommend supplements. I have a soft spot for alternative/nutritional cures.


When I was 19, I was diagnosed with a colon disease and put on a battery of medications. After a while they stopped working, so the doctor recommend I increase my dose. "You might have to take four in the morning and four at night, or five in the morning and five at night, or even six in the morning and six at night. Just keep increasing the dose until the symptoms go away." Six pills twice a day was twice the manufacturer's recommended amount. And the side effects of the medication were the same as the symptoms of the disease. I was floored. How long would I have to keep up this dosage? He didn't know. Would it ever go away? Probably not. What if I did nothing? I'd have cancer by my 30s or 40s. Frustrated and angry, I went to see a nutritionist my mom was raving about. I sat down and told her my diagnosis.
"Oh my husband had that," she said turning around to grab a reference book.
"What do you mean 'had that'? You can't get rid of it."
"Oh sure you can," she said, like I was complaining about an acne flair up.
She wrote out a diet and made a list of supplements for me. The diet was tough, no coffee, soda, alcohol (not that I was a big drinker at 19), whole grains, raw veggies, nuts, granola, chocolate (that was a tough one) and a few other things. I drank daily protein shakes, took fish oil pills, and had an intense probiotics lineup. One year later, I was completely cured. 100%. I occasionally get flair ups, especially when I'm pregnant, but I just go back on the diet and within a few weeks, I'm back to normal.


I tried all the doctor recommended alternatives for depression after my first three pregnancies (including the miscarriage), but, as you know, they aren't working this time around. I'm ready to get really alternative here, flirting with essential oils and wondering if I can stomach enough needles to try acupuncture, so after I read The Mood Cure, I was pretty stoked. So many symptoms of a deficient amino acid are things I've had my whole life and never know were related. The grinding of the teeth, the anemia, the hypoglycemia, migraines. If I lived in the "olden days," I'd be one of those women wasting away in her bedroom of "consumption." Or at least it feels like that sometimes. So I jumped into the deep end with both feet.

I woke up the next morning like a new woman, or, feeling more like myself than I have in a really long time. I was happy, like, really happy, I could hop out of bed in the morning instead of dragging, I skipped coffee and didn't even notice. I didn't lose my temper as I got Abigail ready and out the door to school. I handled Eleanor's terrible twos calmly. I was available for Theodore. It was amazing. I took my afternoon dose and was still on cloud 9. Until about 5pm. When I started having a bad reaction to one of the supplements. It got really bad. Matt had to take the next day off work because I couldn't get out of bed. It took a full 36 hours to recover. But I'm going to try again.

I'm not going to give up - the author acknowledges that some people do have a reaction and recommends a few alternatives. So I'm going to give myself another day to recover, then I'm going to try the supplements again, much smaller dose and one at a time until I can identify which one is bothering me. Then I'll eliminate the trouble-maker and try an alternative. I'm not giving up. I'm still praying Rosaries and reading Mother Theresa's book. I'll try everything I can think of, and if nothing works, I'll start over and try the list again. I can't resign myself to depression and I'm not ready to embrace an SSRI (at least not after 12 months after birth). I refuse to give up hope.



08 December 2016

Happily Married

My husband had a meeting with one of his bosses the other day, one of those "how are you doing in achieving your goals?" check-ups, and said boss told Matt a story about how difficult the stress of private practice is/was on his marriage. 

It is really stressful, definitely more stressful than working in the public sector or being in law school. Lately Matt has been working on a huge project with a looming deadline that was just unexpectedly moved up. He has been coming home from work after the kids go down, working from home into the night, and going into the office on the weekends.

But our marriage isn't falling apart. It's really strong, actually. I want to call up his boss and have my own little meeting. "What was your goal in telling him that story? If he isn't willing to sacrifice his marriage he shouldn't be in private practice? Were you trying warn him of the dangers without offering any advice? Do you really want an office full of overworked, divorced assholes? Do you think if you supported your employees' families, you would have a team of people who are dedicated and loyal to the firm?"

We got married young and we had a baby in law school and my husband works 10-12 hour days and Matt has never spent the night on the couch. We've never been close to divorce. We resolve our arguments like respectful adults. For 8.5 years, we've been a really strong couple. The boss' story falls on deaf, happily married ears.


01 December 2016

Fertility, a blessing and a burden

Sometimes I have nightmares that I'm pregnant. But even on my darkest of days, even though I sometimes joke, I don't really want to be done having kids.

Physically, I need a break. I had a miscarriage in 2013, Eleanor in 2014, and Theodore in 2015. My body and my hormones need a break. And the toll that postpartum depression takes can be debilitating. Add in daily life: three kids in diapers, three kids who can't put on their own shirts, three kids who have trouble scooping up rice with a fork. It's exhausting. If I added a pregnant belly and then a newborn into the mix, I think I'd have a nervous breakdown. Sometimes I get really mad at the Catholic Church's stance on contraception. I furiously search Google trying to find some authoritative source somewhere that says that I am in serious enough straits to warrant something else. I never find it, instead usually stumbling upon something more uplifting. Somehow God always gives me the strength to persevere. We're doing a "belt and suspenders" method: mucus + cervix + the Clear Blue Fertility monitor. Theodore is now 12 months old and we are definitely not pregnant.

But I don't want to be done yet either. I don't want Theodore's first word to be my last first word; his first steps to be my last first steps. I'm not ready to sell the bassinet and part with the newborn clothes. I used to want to be a young mom, done having kids by my early 30s, but then I read a really interesting article about the benefits of having a family that spans a wider age range, and now I'm thinking maybe I want Eleanor and Theodore to be teenagers with little siblings at home and it be cool for my future babies to have older siblings as role models. A lot of lessons in love and compassion there. A lot of wisdom and responsibility to be taught. I need to carry more little newborns around in my carriers, milky breath and sleepy eyes.

But first I need Eleanor to be able to contribute a bit more. I need someone who can feed the dog, take the trash out, sweep under the table after dinner. Someone who can brush her own teeth and wash her own hands. I need Theodore where Eleanor is now: mostly listens to my commands, is able to fetch his own coat and shoes, can take his own plate to the sink. I don't know where Abigail is going to be. I think it'd be great if we could make it through 2017 without getting pregnant. Then for our 10th anniversary in April of 2018, maybe Matt and I can go away. A little all inclusive vacation package somewhere really fun, like Hawaii. Theodore will be 2.5, maybe he will even be potty trained? Or close? We'll leave all three kids with relatives for a few days. Then we'll try again. I'll be 31, that's not too old.

Anyway, I leave this out there for any other Catholic moms struggling with church teaching, finding it hard to keep going at times, contemplating the possibility of sitting in the pews instead of going up for communion. We can make it. I can make it. You can make it. We'll preserve.

30 November 2016

Buy and Purge

I am watching myself collect stuff. "Could you use this?" my 89-year-old grandmother asks me as she passes me a kitchen gadget that is older than I am. "Do you want our old Christmas decorations?" my mom asks as she lugs an old blue tote through the front door. "I got this in the white elephant gift exchange at work," Matt says as he hands me a Pepto Bismol pink cupcake maker with a broken handle. I take all of it, I find a place for it in my spacious closets, my full-size basement, the built-in cabinets in the hallway. It all fits in my spacious house and so now, after 7 years of various apartments in 3 states, I can finally keep it.

I think the squirreling away of stuff is inherent in human nature. I see it in two-and-a-half-year-old Eleanor who desires every Sophia figurine she sees and keeps them safely tucked away in her bright orange trick-or-treating pumpkin. I even see it in 12-month-old Theodore who speed-crawls to the bouncy ball that fits perfectly in his hand, his lovingly scattered pile of blocks, the Little People puppy with the red fire helmet, and his favorite bedtime board book. And so it continues into adulthood: I am free to nest away: I save the old, flat pillows so I have something to offer when snowstorms hit and people crash at our place. I take the crock pot that is older than me "but still works just fine!" so that I'll be able to make a vegetable and mac n' cheese at Christmas. I buy the mixing bowls on the Black Friday sale because I want to be able to start in on the chai bundt cake without having to do the blueberry bundt's dishes. I gaze happily at my match up shampoo stash and know that if the government collapsed or the zombie apocalypse hit, we would have clean hair.

But there is another side of me too, the quirk of my personality, the nurture meeting the nature. There is a part of me that desires minimalism and open space. A part of me is crushed by the overwhelming presence of too much stuff. And so I rampage through my closet and toss out everything I haven't worn recently. I dig through the wash cloth and old towel pile and throw away everything with a hole in it because rags never clean as well as paper towels. I go through the kid toys and donate the things no one has ever really liked. Even as I stock-pile clearance sheets, I allow no extra furniture in the dining room. I insist on no hall tables in the hallway. Open spaces, visible corners.

I marvel that we insist on buying and collecting things even as we don't need them and do need the money. We have 26 little Sofia figurines, yet we still want the mermaid set. Even with a cabinet choked full of yarn, I still squeal at a sale. I stock up on the good brownie mix when it goes on sale even though I don't need the calories, don't have the pantry space, know that it would be healthier to make my own mix, and want to save the money. Even as I secretly wish that a tornado would wipe out half the clutter that is building in my basement, I find myself squirreling things away. Such strange creatures we are.

28 November 2016

Quiet and (a little bit of) Peace

Her story went something like this: She was taking on too much, her schedule was jam-packed, and so God let her get sick, and so she was made to give up all her tasks and spend the week in bed.

I'd never thought of it that way before. And it fits in well with my God-designed-science philosophy: when we take on too much and become stressed, our immune systems are weaker, and we are thus more likely to be laid flat by a few germs. And God designed that too, so whether He smitted her with a green ooze while she slept or via ragged good intestinal bacteria, she was down for the count, with nothing left to do but rest and ponder God.

And so God (directly or indirectly) smitted me with inflammed vocal cords that have reduced my voice to a pathetic whisper and suddenly, not of my on volition, I am the type of mother who does not yell at her children.

And while the cat frolics on the counter and the dog pretends she doesn't know what my firmly pointing finger could possibly mean, I have learned that I don't always need to yell at my children, or even speak firmly to them, in order to get them to listen to me. A whisper from across the table yields the same results as a loud, angry command. "Use your spoon." "Don't feed Roxy Cheerios." "Stop taking Theodore's cup away from him." Still, no one used their spoon, Roxy binged on Cheerios, and Theodore screamed his brains out at Eleanor's retreating fingers clutching his big boy cup in a greedy death-grip.

I kid.

Sort of, but you get where I'm going with this.

I got Eleanor to stopped throwing the counting jungle animals and pick them all up without yelling. I stopped Theodore from tumbling down the stairs with a terrified whisper just as effectively as I did with a terrified shout. I couldn't scream angrily when Abigail locked me out of the house when I let Roxy out. My life is bumbling along as exactly the same speed whether I yell or whisper. And so I wish to stop yelling. Yelling makes me angry and bitter and petty. I don't like how I feel at the end of the day when I yelled all through it. And while I always meant to try to stop, being absolutely forced to quiet the volume has been quite an eye-opener.

16 November 2016

Updates and Housekeeping

I started an Instagram! You can follow me at Instagram.com/jak425, or check out the widget on the right side of your screen, the pictures will update as I update my Instagram. It's really just for my crafting endeavors, maybe even just my yarn crafting. I'm really just creating my own yarn archives so I can ogle them. I started about three weeks ago and I try to update once a day. Sometimes I post what I'm currently working on, sometimes it's a project I've already completed.



A photo posted by Jacqueline Kuschel (@jak425) on

I also want to plug my sister-in-law's new Etsy shop: Little Saints Chewelry. She sells the usual stuff, like pacifier clips and little toys, but she mainly focuses on teething Rosaries. She makes them all by hand - they're beautiful and made with FDA approved, food-grade silicone. If you're looking for a Christmas gift for a new little, I recommend checking out her shop.

This is one of my favorites.
Captain America's Rosary
Photo Dump! Okay, I'm out of words for today, so I'm just going to post a few pictures that were on my phone here. Sorry for the lack of gracefully flowing prose today.








My $25 garage sale find.


When you buy your house with Remax and your agent is a hot air balloon pilot, you might get a gift certificate for a hot air balloon ride.


It was so awesome. Yes, I was scared, and yes, I don't really love heights, but I was not going to let fear keep me from this possible once-in-a-lifetime experience. Totally worth it.


I was, however, too scared to look straight down, so I held my phone out and took a picture looking straight down and waited till I was on solid ground to look at it.







07 November 2016

The Contradictions

I'm back. Back to talking about the internal turbulence.

It's gotta be depression. Coming off of an antidepressant, even when you do it super gradually, results in a whole bunch of withdrawal effects and one of those is depression. The depression coming off an SSRI (an antidepressant) can actually be worse than the depression that put you on the medication! I have almost 100% of the withdrawal symptoms: dizziness, electric shock sensations (in my opinion, this one is the worst), fatigue, flu-like symptoms, headache, loss of coordination, muscle spasms, nausea, nightmares, trouble sleeping, anxiety, mood swings, and depression. The only two I don't have are tremors and vomiting.

Last week when I blogged, I'd been having a really bad day. But for some reason, I couldn't tell I was depressed. I know, it sounds crazy, but it's the truth. I had to write it all down, step away from it, hear someone else tell me flat-out "Hey, you're depressed!", and then look again with fresh eyes. Yup, totally depressed. I feel kind of silly for wandering down the spiritual path about something that I now see so clearly as a physiological thing, although it did lead me to Mother Teresa, and how on earth can that ever be a bad thing?

I don't want to be on an antidepressant long-term. I would be open to it as a last resort, but there are other avenues I want to try first. Bleh, even talking about depression is depressing.

The withdrawal symptoms are so awful and interfere with my daily life so much so that I'm definitely not going on the same medication the next time we get pregnant. It turns out Celexa is one of the hardest to stop medications, so I'll be trying something else next time around.

I also really appreciate the suggestion to try The Mood Cure. I hadn't heard of it before, but it turns out the author is pretty much a giant in the field of nutrient therapy. I read some reviews from people who really benefited from her techniques when coming off an antidepressant, plus I would love to see if it can help my anxiety and depression in my daily, non-pregnant, non-SSRI withdrawal life too. At $4.49 on Amazon after shipping, it's totally worth a shot. I'm a big fan of such therapy since I was able to cure my colon disease via diet/nutrition.

No Greater Love is an amazing, amazing book, though, and I'm really benefiting from it, especially in the motherhood department. I'm especially touched by the wisdom relating to accepting burdens with a joyful heart and not being disheartened by failure when you've tried your best. Life with a hyper-clingy infant, a two-year-old, and a special needs kindergartner often feels like one giant burden that I'm continuing to fail at, and, of course, depression, shock sensations, and dizziness hanging out in my brain makes some days feel impossible. The hope I'm gaining from Mother Teresa's wisdom is really powering me through what I recognize is obnoxious depression.

Thank you, guys, for listening to me and offering your honesty.


03 November 2016

Division of Labor

I'm taking a brief break from the heavy duty posts, but I'll be diving back in tomorrow. Writing everything down, taking a few steps away, and hearing other people's thoughts gives a girl a new perspective. I have some more thoughts that I'll totally be going over tomorrow.

So I had an interesting question a few posts back about how Matt and I divide up chores. I always find this an interesting thing to hear other couples talk about too.

Matt's regularly scheduled chores are to mow the lawn and do the finances. I actually want to mow the lawn as I enjoy it, but it's a really difficult thing to do accomplish with three kids, so Matt does it on the weekends now. He does the finances because I find it torturous and it really plays to his strengths. I'm not sure how we're going to deal with shoveling the walk this winter.

All the other chores are mine, by choice: cooking, dishes, sweeping, laundry, grocery shopping, etc. I delegate to Matt as needed, which obviously is pretty intense when I'm pregnant. I take the kids to all their doctor's appointments and stuff alone usually, but if I can schedule something for first thing in the morning or super late in the evening, I'll ask Matt to go in to work late or get home a bit early. It's a lot easier to just lug Eleanor and Theodore now that Abigail is in school, though. I rarely take the kids to my appointments, though, and if I can't get something at a convenient time for Matt to take off work, I'll have Grandma or a babysitter watch the kids. I can't exactly get my teeth cleaned or my stress fracture addressed if I'm holding Theodore, and Lord knows that boy will not sit quietly in a stroller in an exam room.

How we split up kid duty at home changes often. Right now Matt is working a ton, so during the week, I usually handle dinner and bedtime alone, although one day per week I go to Zumba and Matt finishes up dinner and does bedtime alone.

Lately Matt has had to put in a few hours on the weekend, so he'll go in to the office or lock himself up downstairs Saturday morning. The rest of the weekend, we takes turns throughout the day, so each of us can get a few other things done. This basically means that one of us has primary responsibility (the one who changes the diapers, reads the books, carries the grouch Theodore) and the other one only jumps in as needed, although I'm always in charge of meals. Some days we really explicitly spell out who will be doing what and when, but other days we just jive and things work out without discussion.

Matt has offered to help out more at home, but I don't want him to. I'm home all day and being "a good domestic" plays to my strengths. When he's home and doesn't have to work, I really want it to be family time, not "Matt catches up on chores" time. Obviously I'm not saying anyone else's way of doing anything is wrong. This is just what works best for us right now. In fact, when Matt wants to take a little pressure off my shoulders, I would way rather have him take the kids or bring home a pizza than unload the dishwasher or make dinner.

01 November 2016

The Contradictions Inside

My mind was totally blown when I realized that being a stay-at-home mom was a particular vocation. I don't remember when exactly I heard someone talking about it, maybe a year or two ago now, but it really helped me through a lot of things I was struggling with at the time. Then just a few weeks ago, someone pointed out to me that being a stay-at-home mom is also much like being a nun - we are "cloistered" away in our homes - no ability to go out into the streets to volunteer or serve, but tons of time to pray and ample opportunity to offer up little sacrifices during the daily routines. I take great comfort in this truth. That I have the ability to live a life of service to the Lord right here through my family.

Even though everything in my life is going very well right now, I am still struggling. Everything is totally fine, yet I feel like everything is falling apart. It's so bizarre and I don't even have the words to explain my discontent, my depression, my frustration. I don't know why the frustration is there, and I don't know how to ease it. I have no deep and blinding insights. I only have the knowledge that sometimes you are doing everything just fine and it is still hard.

It's like a movie scene: a car is driving down the street on a beautiful sunny day when suddenly it smashes into a telephone pole. The windshield explodes in shards of glass, the airbag bursts open, sending up plumes of dust and chemicals; the driver heads lurches forward, the seatbelt locks in place as the driver's body continues moving forward, every blood vessel along the seatbelt - from the shoulder, diagonal across the chest, above the heart - burst spilling blood beneath the skin, pooling up in deep black bruises. And then the scene snaps away and the car is still driving down the same pretty street on the same sunny day - nothing happened, the crash was all in the driver's head. She imagined it.

That is the best way I can describe my mind and my life right now. I'm loosing my fucking mind even though everything is totally and completely fine.

And so I have these two puzzle pieces. 1. I am living my vocation; 2. Within my heart, I feel both God's peace and a black hole. I know they go together, but I don't know how. 

I also can't explain it, but I feel very strongly that I need to read about Saint Mother Theresa. I remember hearing a long time ago that she very much struggled with depression. I could be misremembering, I guess I'll find out because I went to the store about bought a copy of No Greater Love.


Maybe I am just chemically imbalanced and need to go back on an antidepressant. Maybe I am being attacked by Satan. I don't know. I don't know anything. It has taken me an entire hour to write this post, but I am so glad I did because I finally, finally found the words to describe what is going on inside. Now I just need to figure out if it's going on in my mind or in my soul.

31 October 2016

Halloween 2016

Quick Monday morning post before I dive into my Monday blitz of cleaning. I have a new accountability system in my planner and I added "Blog" to my agenda for this week. I guess we'll see how well it works by how many times I blog this week, huh?

Happy Halloween, everyone!

This is honestly the extent of my Halloween decorations this year. Abigail painted the big one in school.

We're not doing anything.

I don't have any deep-seeded religious reason; I just don't have the energy this year. With three kids all still in diapers, I have to do everything to make anything happen around here. I just don't care enough about Halloween to waste energy and money on it. I'd have to buy three expensive costumes or try to make a costume on the cheap that would end up costing way too much anyway because it seems like DIY stuff always does. And I'm just going to bundle a winter coat over the costume anyway because rule #1 of Michigan Halloween is that it must be cold and/or rainy to go trick-or-treating. Then I have to lug a baby and convince two children that the scary music isn't that scary, the skeleton hanging from the tree is safe to walk under, the scarecrow/guy-thing propped up on the front porch isn't going to get them, and they should walk down the sidewalk with other kids in costumes and make up so gory it makes me cringe. All while keeping Abigail - the runner - safe.

Once we get home and I sort out all the candy the girls can eat (Reese's Cups, M&Ms, Twix) with the stuff that is too hard or difficult for little mouths (Laffy Taffy, Skittles) and the stuff I. Am. Not. Dealing. With. (Suckers. Who decided those were a good idea?) then I have a giant bowl of TEMPTATION sitting on my counter that I grab from every time I walk by, even though I don't even like half the crap in there.

The home front isn't much better. I have to buy a giant bag of expensive candy to give to all the neighborhood kids, lock Roxy up somewhere in the basement because girlfriend is not a fan of scary costumed people walking up to her house, and, of course, bedtime is right in the middle of trick-or-treating.

We didn't carve or paint or glue construction paper to pumpkins. We didn't go to the pumpkin patch. The only spider webs on my porch are the ones real spiders made that I haven't yet dusted away. ('Cause you know cleaning the porch is one of my top chore priorities.)

People keep asking me, "Are you taking the kids trick-or-treating?" as if my kids' childhood happiness depends on Halloween 2016; as if the decision I make this year will dictate our lives for every Halloween to come. When I voice my reasoning, they try to come up with solutions as if I was begging for help. I'm not saying Halloween is immoral. I'm not saying sugar is bad. We celebrated last year. All I am saying that I don't feel like dealing with it this year.

Phew, thanks for letting me get that off my chest! I had no idea how much pent up frustration I had over it all! Anyway, the natives are restless and it's 19 minutes past the start of the chore blitz. Blog!

20 October 2016

October Lately

I haven't blogged much lately, partly out of depression and partly out of busyness. Matt went up north for a weekend for his dad's annual whiskey tasting. He got home and three days later, I went up north for a few days of his mom's girls' crafting weekend. I got home on a Friday, sold at my first Mom-to-Mom sale on Saturday, and then Matt went out of town again on Monday for a work conference. He got back on Tuesday evening, but then had to stay super late in the office on Wednesday and leave today (Thursday) by 6am for another conference. He'll be back home this evening, but has to head into the office on Saturday to get caught up, all these conferences are making it difficult to hit his deadlines.

The big thing I've been avoiding talking about is that my milk dried up. I'm not sure what started it (about two months ago) and I tried very hard to resurrect it, but it's gone. I don't really want to get into details because I don't want to talk about it because it's depressing.

So anyway. Crafting weekend (actually Wed-Fri) was amazing.


I did bring Theodore, who pulled to stand for the first time and said his first word, "Mama."


Crafting-wise, I got so much stuff done! From when I first woke up until I fell asleep at night, all I did was crochet. I finished a cozy sweater, several items for the Mom-to-Mom sale, and crocheted a few new pieces to sell.


My mother-in-law is a devout Catholic and everyone in attendance was a devout Catholic and we had some excellent discussions. Just holed up all weekend listening to some very holy women share some very enriching stories while I just sit back and crochet. For three days.

Alright, I've run out of time- the natives are beginning to riot. The Mom-to-Mom sale went fabulously, I made more money than I expected. I came in with way too much product ($1300 worth), so I signed up to do two more sales and there is a third one I will sign up for when it becomes available.








04 October 2016

Cleaning: Blitz Style

I've adopted a new cleaning style and I'm totally digging it! And this is what gets me going nowadays: talking about cleaning. I know, but it (cleaning) is a huge part of my life as a stay-at-home mom/housewife, ya know?

So, Matt was telling me about this article he read in which the author works super hard one day a week. I think there's been a few books written on the topic actually, but it's finally getting around to us. Anyway, as soon as he told me about it, I had a sudden realization. That's totally me! That's exactly how I work! I strive to do a few chores a day, inspired the moms I most admire in my life, but in reality, I work really hard on Mondays, then randomly during the week, either I'm sick or the kids are sick or there's doctors appointments or someone is having a REALLY BAD DAY or I just plain don't feel like sweeping. So I sit around feeling like a lazy failure and the to-do list gets pushed off and off and off until suddenly the stars align and I blitz out a super productive day. Every week. So why not plan life to go like that?

So for the last month and a half, that's exactly what I've done. I picked Mondays because, for some reason, I am always feeling very motivated on Mondays. So every Monday after we eat breakfast and send Abigail away on the bus, I strap Theodore into the Ergo and clean. I do the dishes; I wipe down the counters with the special granite counter protector; I put away the random piles of stuff that have accumulated on the bench all week; I sweep, Swiffer (mop), and vacuum every room on the main floor and the basement; I put away all the toys and clutter than has gathered on the bookshelves, the coffeetable, and the bar; I clean all three bathrooms; I tidy up the playspace in the basement; I use the special wood protector on the kitchen table; I dig the missing toys out from under the bed and the dressers. I clean.


There are a few chores that Eleanor likes to help with, but mostly she just plays by herself in whatever room I'm cleaning. She gets the routine. I do have a few "special" toys (toys I put up high that she only gets when I really need her to be distracted that I sometimes break out, and I'm also prepared to let her watch Curious George and Sofia the First all morning, but I have yet to need the Babysitter Television for my Monday Blitz.

I'm usually done by lunchtime. I'm pretty organized anyway - tidying is just a matter of putting things back where they belong. Everything already has a place where it belongs. As much as it seemed like it during my old schedule, cleaning a 3 bedroom ranch house is not a marathon kind of feat. One Monday a month, I'll do a little extra work - completely clearing off the counters before I wipe them, moving furniture when I mop and vacuum, and on those days, I usually finish between lunch and naptime.

Cleaning reminds me how blessed I am to be out of that tiny apartment. I'm still in love with my house. I would definitely buy it all over again. Without a doubt.


Then during the rest of the week, I only have to do the dishes and pick up the toys before bed. We can run errands, be sick, be lazy, go to the park, whatever we want without guilt. I totally love it.

I don't do laundry on Monday Blitz, though. For some reason, laundry just gets forgotten amongst all the other chores. I used to do all my laundry on Thursday, but I'm going to try spacing it out and doing one load per day all week. I'll even set timers on my phone to go off at the same time every day: "Move clothes to dryer!" "Get clothes out of dryer!" We'll see how that goes.

30 September 2016

Before and After: The Girls' Room

I don't think I ever tire of rearranging furniture. And a little autumn rearranging is just what I needed today!

So Eleanor and Theodore are not very good roommates. They keep each other up until 9 or 9:30pm most nights and are complete grouches the next day.

I moved their beds together because otherwise Eleanor will just sleep on the floor next to his crib.
Abigail had her own room because she wakes up at the crack of dawn. Then then proceeds to empty, overturn, and clear out everything she can get in to and shove it all either under her dresser or under her bed. Toys, clothes in the dresser, blankets and sheets from the bed. As a result, there is a childproof doorknob cover on the inside of her room and the room is mostly empty. I do have a pack n' play in there though, and this is where Theodore took his afternoon nap.



The people who sold us the house did not have a door for the closet in this room, and, as it's an odd size, we haven't gotten one ourselves. Of the two non-master bedrooms, this one is the smaller one, and by a fair bit. It's also weirdly shaped, but since it shares a wall with the living room, I really didn't want to put Theodore in it. I'd prefer him to stay in the back of the house and with all the toys so I don't have to clean every single thing up every single morning.

So I decided to move Eleanor into Abigail's room, a space they haven't shared in this new house. I also decided to move their little arm chairs from the living room into the bedroom and buy a 3-shelf bookshelf. This will give them something to do in the morning before we get up, and it will give Eleanor something to do when Theodore is taking his morning nap in the room with all the toys. (Although there are also toys in the basement for the kids too.) I am hopeful that Eleanor's presence will prevent Abigail from emptying the bookshelf every morning. Plus we really needed the space on the bookshelves in the living room for our own books.

And, voila!


Super cozy! The girls have already maxed out a three-shelf bookshelf and I even pulled out the little baby books to put in Theodore's room!



I put an old crib sheet over two milk crates to form a small night stand. After a night or two to see if this arrangement works, I'll reorganize Theodore's room. I should probably rehang the pictures and decorations on the wall, but I am always moving rooms around, so I probably won't try very hard.

Lastly, I got a $4.50 tension rod to hang the girls' dresses in the closet, and hung up a curtain and rod we already owned to pretty up the closet. Only $30 for this room makeover!


Someday when we are done moving kids from room to room, I'd love to paint the walls. I have a beautiful pink-and-cream Parisian theme I'd love to do in the girls' room...but I really don't want to put the finishing touches on something dainty and feminine only to move Theodore into it.




27 September 2016

PPD

I have been attempting to wean off my antidepressants lately, and it has been a rather terrible experience. The side effects of withdrawing are so terrible I almost don't want to go on medication the next time I am pregnant. Physically they are just awful. Mentally/emotionally, I am suddenly drowning again in overwhelming feelings of failure and worthlessness. It is a tough battle, this depression stuff. I hate it. I don't have anything else to say right now. Writing just this has taken a lot.

22 September 2016

Shopping and Lunching

Now that I'm down to my two "easy" kids, I run errands during the weekday again, and while I don't hear it quite as often, I do still hear "You have your hands full!" a lot. Maybe because Eleanor and Theodore are so close in age? Anyway, I used to respond with a polite smile, but lately I've been trying out the "shock jock" method.

"You have your hands full!"
-"And I have one in kindergarten!"
-"Normally I have three, this is a breeze!"

"You have quite a load there!" to my full cart at Sam's Club.
"And I'm not even done yet!"

I can't believe how much food we are suddenly going through. Part of it is Theodore. He eats like a boy. A hungry boy. His record is 2.5 blueberry muffins. He wants in on every meal we eat and is more than happy to take down a spoonful of Mommy's food instead of his baby mush.

Part of it is school. Abigail eats more because she is more active and has the peer pressure of all her classmates actually eating.

And part of it is that a lunch - and two snacks - that works well in a lunch box is more expensive than lunch at the dinner table. Over the summer, if we weren't in the mood for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I could whip up something special: donuts with smoothies made from the fruit about to go bad in the fridge. If Abigail didn't eat breakfast, I could just let her finish off her cereal for lunch. I could buy a big container of yogurt and scoop some out in little pink bowls for a snack. If we ran out of granola bars, I could just make popcorn or muffins or whatever and in 20 minutes, we'd have a hot-from-the-oven snack. Now I need individual containers of apple sauce, I can't run out of pre-packaged granola bars, I can't send leftover mac 'n cheese in a tupperware with a kindergartner.

I'll find cheaper ways of doing things as time goes on, I'm sure. This is, like, my third week ever of packing a kid's lunch. But it does have me wondering: can I prepackage my own food? Can I make a couple batches of granola bars (these ones are SO GOOD!) and wrap them up individually? Is there a way to make my own no-refrigeration-needed apple sauce pouches? Do I need to buy a thousand feet of cling wrap? Sandwich bags by the thousands? Disposable tupperware? Is there a way to do this without filling up a new landfill every year?

20 September 2016

Waxing

Abigail, who is still on antibiotics for her latest cold-turned-sinus-infection has brought home another round of colds for all three kids to share. Combined with the cough, runny nose, and all-around grouchies, we have diarrhea. For all three. And Abigail got stung by a bee at school today. Her first bee sting. She actually told me about it, pointing behind her ear, "Bee." Said plainly, without pain. Lastly, Matt is working late tonight. Fun times. I'm actually doing really well despite the heaps of crapola. Morning Bible study is to thank, I think.

While most of the new house smell has worn off, sometimes I still can't believe all this space is mine, especially, for some reason, when I'm in the laundry room. I have so much space that I have a whole room dedicated to my laundry. It's been spruced up all nice by the previous homeowners, with a new laminate floor, fresh paint on the wall, lots of storage, a place to hang dry clothes, a laundry shoot, and even the unfinished ceiling has been painted black so as to make the space feel stylish.


It even has a cat door entrance because the previous homeowners had a cat too. I can put her liter pan and food and everything in the laundry room and keep the kids and dog out by closing the door. It's perfect.


Sometimes when I'm in my laundry room I think about what it will be like when we move out. I like to think it happens long after our kids are grown and we need to downsize. There will be so much stuff to go through! Years and years of wrapping paper and extra trash bags and lost socks. The closets will be packed with sheets and towels that we've had since we got married. Kitchen cabinets crammed with stacks of holiday bundt pans and glass Pyrex casserole dishes. I am watching my in-laws go through this process now, box after box emerging from the depths of the basement, bring long forgotten objects to daylight for the first time in years. Sometimes literally. I watch my friends who are done having kids sort through all the baby stuff: tossing, donating, selling, keeping for the memories.

While I, for the first time in my life, am letting things build up. Stockpile. Become a stash. A stash of extra pillow cases in a bin in the hall closet. A cupcake maker with a broken handle (that works just great!) from Matt's white elephant party at work finds a home in the pantry. The entire unfinished half of the basement. Oh goodness, I don't go in there when I'm feeling the OCD coming on. It's so full of extras, hand-me-downs, maybe-we'll-need-this-one-days because for once in my life, I actually have the space to hold on to it. We finally have space to wax. To build. To increase. To grow in space because our family is growing in size. It seems far-fetched now, but I can see it happening: we are filling up cupboards and cabinets and pantries and closets.

But when I stand in my laundry room, I can see the day when I will one day have to wane. When I will have to go through an entire house full of things I used to take care of my family. I am thankful that I can wax in my beautiful house. With my sick little Fox snuggled in his carrier.


19 September 2016

Thankful

A few days ago, Abigail's school called me to let me know that she wasn't feeling well and requested that I pick her up immediately. So I loaded everyone into the car and we drove up to school and brought Abigail home. She's fine, it turns out. But I couldn't help but think about how disastrous it would have been if I'd had a job. I would have had to stop what I was doing at that very moment and take half a sick day. Or I would have had to frantically call around and beg someone else to drop what they were doing at that very moment and pick up my kid. I can't imagine how hard it would be to hold down a job with the unpredictability of sick kids both in school and in day care. I'm really thankfully that I am not a single mother, a divorced mother, or a working-out-of-the-house mother. I'm thankful I can be available to pick up my not-sick kid from kindergarten at a moment's notice.

12 September 2016

Buying a (few) Wardrobe(s)

It's (finally) that time of year when we put away the shorts and the tank tops and the little sundresses and unpack the unicorn sweaters and sparkly jeans.

Did you think I was joking? Probably not, you know how I roll.
Anyway, Abigail - at 5.5 - has finally grown too tall for her 3T jeans.

Home sick from school today. Nothing more nutritious than brownies for breakfast on a day like that.
Eleanor's 2T clothes are too tight or too short on her 2.5-year-old body.

Believe it or not, this was actually the least blurry of all the toddler pics I snapped this morning.
And 9.5-month-old Theodore only has about a month left in his 9-month-size clothing.

He hates the back carry, but as an insufferable grouch, he can either cry on the ground or fuss in the carrier.
After taking everyone's picture, the girls then insisted I take the dog's and cat's pictures.

Hopeful: "Is the camera food? Can I eat it?"
Oooh, crappy lighting. Let's turn on a light and try again.

Blam-o. Secret Agent Cat exposed.
Okay, so Abigail and Theodore need entirely new wardrobes and Eleanor needs about a half a new wardrobe, as Abigail, who is extremely hard on her clothing, hasn't left me much with which to work.

While I might not mind skipping gleefully to the nearest conglomerate of baby clothing stores and throwing everything I think is cute into my basket, Matt - and the part of me that would one day like to retire - will mind, so I'm trying to set parameters and limits and budgets. There exists a lot of different opinions as to how much clothing a baby, toddler, and kindergartner need, so last night, I set out to make my own list.

Such lists need to be heavily personalized, I realized, because every mom runs her house a little differently. How often does she do laundry? How warm does she keep her house? How dirty do her kids get their clothes? Last night I drew up this rough draft:


I reliably do laundry every week, so I only need enough to get me through one week. The house is fairly cool during the winter, but Abigail is active in school, where presumably, they keep it warm. The kids all get their shirts pretty dirty, but not usually their pants. Theodore and Eleanor will certainly have a day or two (or four for Theodore) where they never change out of their jammies. In the light of day (while Theodore naps and the girls play nicely together downstairs) I mixed all this together, then I went through Abigail's 3T clothing to sort out what's pass-on-able. Then I dove into the 12 month and 4T clothing I've already gotten as gifts, hand-me-downs from cousins, and the few irresistible things I've already purchased. 

I put checks next to the things I have enough of. The number in parenthesis indicates how much more I need to get to my ideal total. 
Abigail needs jeans because she's hard on clothes, but Eleanor needs leggings because she likes to move and climb and jeans are too restrictive. I live in Michigan, yet no one has enough sweaters, but I actually have way more shoes than I thought I did, although I better double check that Abigail's church/dress boots still fit.

And winter coats. Freakin' A, winter coats. Last year, Eleanor outgrew her winter coat halfway through the winter and it was practically impossible to find her another one. The stores I normally shop - Meijer, Target, Old Navy, Carter's, Children's Place - already had their spring lines out. Their websites only offered the slimmest of pickings. It was rough. This year I'm buying coats that are a touch big on the girls and I'm getting a 12 AND 18 month size for Theodore.

I'll hit up a used children's clothing store I like (Once Upon A Child), but plan to fill in gaps with new clothing on sale. (I can just never find good shoes, coats, or jammies used.)

The wardrobe lists are one step above bare bones. I want to have some room to buy cute items randomly throughout the winter, room for gifts, and room to buy Sofia the First and Frozen shirts and whomever else the girls randomly decide they love and need a shirt of.

All this has me wondering about my own pathetic excuse for a wardrobe.


What does an ideal winter wardrobe look like for a stay-at-home mom? I need pieces that are really durable, that can fit as my weight fluctuates, that are easy to nurse in but still be worn when I'm not nursing, and I'd love to have something a little more feminine and a little less something I stole from Matt's dresser this morning. Hmmmm.