The A to Z Stress Project

atoz-theme-reveal-2015If you’ve been around my blog for a while, you may remember that I participated in the A to Z Blogging Challenge last April. I know I haven’t blogged much at all lately, but, somehow, the A to Z Challenge popped into my head. I really liked doing the challenge last year and learned quite a bit about myself and blogging in the process. When I set out last year, I hoped to grow my blog, fuel my desire to blog regularly, and, perhaps, transform my blog into something with a regular readership. I was also testing the waters of my dedication to writing, since someone had invited me to write a book. In the process I learned that I didn’t care about any of those things, and would much rather stay true to my original reasons for having this blog. Aside from being a great learning experience for me, I really did have fun doing the challenge and really like many of the posts I wrote for it.

So I’ve been thinking about what I might want to write about this year.

The reason I haven’t posted anything on my blog recently is because I have been too busy drowning in my life to do anything else. I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s how I’ve been feeling lately. I have just been so overwhelmed, and I just can’t seem to get a handle on anything. I have been praying and reading and talking to my husband and anything else I can think of to try to drag myself out of this pit, but I just haven’t managed to do it yet. I am perpetually exhausted and so stressed out that the smallest, little every-day-incidents induce major freak-outs on my part. Somethings gotta give.

I’m not the person I want to be. I’m not the mom I want to be. I’m not the wife I want to be. I’m not the member of my community that I want to be. I’m just a raving lunatic who is in desperate need of a nap.

SOoooooo….

This year for the A to Z Challenge, I’m going to write about ways to relieve stress. Practical ways. Ways that even a crazy busy homeschooling mama of five wild kids can handle. Not only am I going to write about them – I’m actually going to do them. Or at least try them. And, hopefully, in the process find some new ways to relieve my stress. Because I desperately need to decompress.

L is for Labor

All April long, I’m blogging alphabetically about Adjusting to Life to Life with Baby Number 5. Click here to see all the posts in this series.

My first moments as a mommy.

My first moments as a mommy.

Every labor is different. That’s what they say. After being in labor 5 times myself, I completely agree. This is what I’ve experienced:

Baby Number 1: I woke up having contractions in the wee hours. We hung around my house until mid morning, but still arrived at the hospital way too soon. I was only dilated to 4, but they decided to admit me. I got an epidural a short time later. It completely stalled my labor. The nurses kept saying I needed pitocin to get things going again. They called the doctor-on-call several times; he was golfing. He didn’t want to come in, so he wouldn’t order the pitocin. My doctor finally came in at 8:00 the next morning.  He started the pitocin and everything got moving again. I was so hungry and exhausted after being chained to the hospital bed by the epidural for so long. Finally, after 32 hours of labor, 2 hours of pushing, very little sleep, and no food, my sweet Andy arrived and made us a family.

Baby number 2: I went in for an office visit and was already dilated to 5. She sent me home, and I came back the next week with no change. My doctor ordered an induction because she said the baby might just “fall out” whenever I finally did go into active labor. Oh how I wish I knew then what I knew now. I went to the hospital, got induced, and took the epidural. About 8 hours later, after 20 short minutes of pushing, my sweet Jack was born in front of an audience of about 15 people. It was the first day of nursing school and apparently my delivery was just the spectacle they needed to get things going. It was absurd.

Baby Number 3: Supposedly, my baby was getting too big to deliver vaginally, so my doctor ordered an induction. I went to the hospital, got induced, and took the epidural. 8 hours later, after 2 quick pushes, my Ben was born and placed in my arms. This was the first time I had ever been given my baby right away. It was the most beautiful moment of my life. At 8 lbs 6 oz, he was the smallest baby I’d delivered up to that point.

Ben's delivery

Snuggling Ben right after delivery.

Baby Number 4: I learned a lot between baby 3 and 4 and decided I was done with all the unnecessary medical interventions. I woke up in labor around 1 AM. I was timing my contractions and  soon realized that this labor was moving very quickly. I woke my husband. He went to wake up all the kids and get them loaded in the van. In the meantime my water broke. We rushed to the hospital and arrived just in time to push the baby out. We dealt with the most unprofessional medical staff that night, but my baby was born safe and healthy after only 3 hours in labor and a few excruciatingly painful pushes.

Baby Number 5: My husband and I took a Bradley Class together to prepare for natural birth. This was the best labor experience I’ve ever had. I started having mild contractions at Lowes around 6 PM. They never started progressing so I finally went to bed around midnight. I woke up around 3 AM with more intense contractions. We went to the hospital around 7 AM.  I was already dilated to 7, but still had 6 more hours of labor ahead of me. After being told I wasn’t allowed to push because the doctor needed to go down the hall to check on someone else, my baby practically delivered herself. I guess the doctor didn’t realize that you can’t just tell the baby not to come out yet.

So that’s my labor experience in a nutshell. There’s so much more that could be said about all of my labors and deliveries, but I think you get the general idea.

If we are ever blessed with another baby I’m getting a midwife and having a home birth. I’m so over all the nonsense the doctors and hospitals put women through.

I is for Immunizations

All April long, I’m blogging alphabetically about Adjusting to Life to Life with Baby Number 5. Click here to see all the posts in this series.

vaccine clipartI don’t think there’s any parenting dilemma that makes me crazier than immunizations.

The pro-vaccine crowd is quick to tell you that if you fail to vaccinate your children in the exact way, in the exact order,  and on the exact timetable they tell you, your child could contract a terrible disease, suffer, and even die.

The anti-vaccine crowd is quick to tell you that if you do vaccinate your children, the effects caused by injecting all those foreign substances and chemical preservatives into your very small child could cause some horrible consequences, causing your child to suffer and even die.

Dammed if you do. Dammed if you don’t.

In the eight years I’ve been a parent, I have never seen a good, balanced article that fairly weighs the pros and cons of each individual vaccine based on facts. All I’ve ever seen or heard is a bunch of fear mongering encapsulated in all or none mentalities. That makes me crazy.

Parenting is hard. There’s an endless supply of information and advice about what you need to do to be a good parent and raise a safe, healthy child. Many times parents will have to make tough choices, sometimes choosing between the lesser of two evils. Parents deserve to be able to make these decisions based on facts, not fear.

This is precisely why no one is capable of having a rational discussion about vaccines. Because regardless of which way a parent leans, they think they’re protecting their child from suffering and death. If you challenge their mindset by asking for supporting facts, even if it’s just because you’re curious or trying to make the decision for yourself, people freak out. They assume that by questioning their decision you’re suggesting that their child should suffer and die. No one can have a logical conversation when they think the alternative choice would cause their child to suffer and die.

Parents deserve better. We should base our parenting choices on facts not fear. And we should be offered information that enables us to do so.

Four Little Changes

The first time Josh used the juicer. 12/26/13

The first time Josh used the juicer. 12/26/13

Since my last two posts were about food, I thought I’d keep up the trend for one more post to tell you about some major food-related changes that have taken place at our house. These have probably been brewing in the background for quite some time, as Josh and I love to watch food/nutrition documentaries, but November and December collided together in the perfect storm to effect real change in our household. I’ll spare you the details, but Josh has really spearheaded this change within our family. He has struggled with some health issues since college, and, after a trip to the emergency room, followed by a recommended physical, he decided that it was really time for things to change.

To gear up for our big change, we revisited some of our favorite documentaries. (My favorites are Food Matters and Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.) Next, we looked at the recommendations offered by Josh’s doctor, did a some internet research and discussed our nutritional goals for our family. We were able to come up with some new nutritional guidelines for our family pretty quickly. It was a smooth process because we found ourselves agreeing on what was important and what stood out to us the most. We’ve been implementing and tweaking our new guidelines over the last couple of months, and here is where we’ve landed. We’re both pretty pleased with what we’re currently doing, but that’s not to say our nutritional habits won’t continue to evolve and mature.

  1. We’ve started juicing. We were really lucky to be able to “purchase” an amazing juicer for free through the “perk points” program at my husband’s company. Basically, he earns points for meeting various goals at work, and we get to “spend” the points on awesome stuff. Without the upfront cost of investing in a juicer, we were able to implement this immediately. We aren’t juicing as a cleanse or a meal replacement, rather as a means of acquiring much needed nutrients. Every morning before work Josh makes a green juice. He consumes a full juice, usually around 30 ounces, but he makes me a slightly smaller juice, around 20 ounces or so. Most mornings, it’s Joe Cross’ Mean Green juice, but other mornings, we just juice whatever fruits and veggies we have lying around. Sometimes we get creative, and sometimes we find inspiration on juicerecipes.com. Some days we juice more than once, but we always do it in the mornings.
  2.  We’ve eliminated most grains from our diet. For us, this means no bread, pasta, or rice. In the interest of full discloser, I’ll admit that I still have a canister of white flour on my counter, although it only gets used for thickening soups and whatnot. We also chose not to eliminate oatmeal or granola. That being said, we’ve cut out a huge chunk of the grains we were consuming. It’s taken a bit of effort on my part to adjust to this, as we relied very heavily on grains at meal time. Nearly every lunch and dinner contained rice or pasta and often bread too. Breakfast was very bread heavy: muffins, biscuits, pancakes, etc. Learning how to cook without such a heavy reliance on those grains has been a bit tricky for me, but I’m finally getting the hang of it.
  3. We’ve eliminated all processed food. I’ve been working on this one for a while now. I had already implemented a “5 ingredient rule.” That being, if the label had more than 5 ingredients, it was too processed and we wouldn’t buy it. There were also a few no-no ingredients that automatically disqualified a food, such as high fructose corn syrup or chemical sweeteners. However, I often let this rule slide when it was convenient for me. For example, we still leaned heavily on frozen waffles, breakfast cereals, and frozen pizzas. Convenience was often a trump card here. Now the trump card has been thrown out the window. We’re not eating any processed food. When we go to the grocery store, we only shop on the perimeter of the store. Pretty much everything down the aisles is off limits.
  4. No fast food. This is another one that has been slowly evolving. We had already eliminated most fast food chains, but there were a couple (okay, one in particular) that I truly loved and wouldn’t cut out. I rationalized that their ingredients were much more legit than other places, but, after reading their actual ingredient lists, I realized I was so very wrong. The chicken may actually be real chicken, but it’s so chemical laden that it doesn’t really matter. Anyway, we were eating at my beloved fast food establishment at least once a week, but no more. It has finally been banned for good, along with all other fast food places.
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This is what the kids chose for lunch one day recently. SO much better than frozen pizza!

These four little changes have made a huge impact on our health in the very short time we’ve been faithful to them. Josh has lost 30 lbs, is sleeping better at night (probably because he’s no longer snoring), and has more energy than I’ve seen him have in years. We’re very much looking forward to his next doctor appointment to see what his blood work has to say about all of this.

I haven’t lost any weight (which was never my goal. I’m not trying to diet, just get healthy.) but I also haven’t gained any weight since the end of November. Considering I’m in my third trimester, that’s rather remarkable. At this point, I should be gaining weight, and somewhat rapidly. The baby is measuring great and is strong and healthy. This means that the reason my weight isn’t changing is because I’m loosing fat on my body while my baby continues to grow and be nourished. This is the only conclusion that makes sense to me, since I no longer have those pesky love handles that make it so difficult to look good in anything, pregnant or not. Also, people who see me all the time keep telling me that I’m “glowing.” I know this is something people supposedly say to pregnant women, but this is my 5th pregnancy, and no one has ever told me that I’m “glowing” before. All I can figure is the increased nutrients I’m consuming must be having a positive effect on my skin and complexion. I also feel better than I’ve ever felt this far along in a pregnancy. While I am obviously tired and achy, it is much less pronounced than it has ever been before.

Just to be clear, neither of us are “dieting” or restricting our food intake in any way. We both eat whenever we are hungry and we consume all we desire to fill ourselves up. The only restrictions we have imposed are the 4 little rules above. Despite that, we both feel great and are loosing weight in the process. Imagine what will happen with a little exercise or strength training added!

We are both so very pleased with the results of these changes that these guidelines have truly become lifestyle changes, despite the short time we’ve been following them. There is no reason that we would ever go back to the stuff that we were consuming before. If anything, we may continue to evolve and mature to eliminate even more (such as the oats and granola, or maybe even some dairy!) as we fall more in love with the benefits of living in a properly nourished body.

The Value of Silence

keep-calm-and-stay-quietI keep promising to write a post on the value of silence, but it just hasn’t happened, yet. I still want to, as I have a lot to say about the topic (perhaps that’s a bit ironic…), but, in the meantime, please enjoy this lovely article from Psychology Today. It sums up a lot of what I will say, if I ever really get around to writing about it.

“In order for the sounds of life to have meaning, we need to consume our minimum daily requirement of silence.”

~ Galen Guengerich, Ph.D., Psychology Today

For the full article, click here: Getting Your Minimum Daily Requirement of Silence

As an interesting side note, it was really difficult for me to find an image for this post. When you google “silence” or “quiet” most of the images that come up are really quite loud. 

My Cleaning Dilemma

These aren't my cleaners but this is what my setup looked like.

These aren’t my cleaners but this is what my setup looked like.

After nearly a year of making my own orange vinegar cleaner and using it to clean the kitchen and bathrooms and anything else that needs cleaning, I’m calling it quits.

It all started when a well-meaning friend came to visit. She walked in the door and the first words out of her mouth were, “Oh. I can smell you use bleach to clean your house.” The words were dripping in disgust. “I quit using bleach years ago. I just can’t expose my family to that.”After she left I did a little internet research to see what all the fuss was about. She was right; bleach is scary stuff.

Around the same time I saw something on facebook about how to make your own orange vinegar cleaner. This was good because Josh hates the smell of vinegar. Truthfully, so do I. Just about the only thing I like about cleaning is the fresh, clean smell afterwards. Vinegar just doesn’t do it for me. It’s incredibly useful in more ways than I ever imagined, but it just doesn’t smell good. The orange vinegar cleaner promised a fresh citrus scent.

Sadly, it didn’t deliver. I tried several different methods, each with varying success, but never really achieved the fresh citrusy scent I longed for. Terrified to return to my good friend bleach, I tried to convince myself I’d learn to love it. But I didn’t. Yesterday, while I was scrubbing and scrubbing and scrubbing the shower (vinegar takes more elbow grease than bleach), I literally threw in the towel. I hated the smell; I hated the extra work; I just don’t like this approach to cleaning.

I dug through the cleaning cabinet, desperately hoping there was some chemical I accidentally left behind when I rid our house of all the toxic cleaning agents I was so very attached to. Success! In the very back there was a can of Scrubbing Bubbles. I sprayed the shower down and mere minutes later I had a lemony fresh, sparkling clean shower stall. “That’s it,” I said, “I’m through with green cleaning. I’m too busy for it and not satisfied by it.” I went and threw out all the jars of orange vinegar cleaner that were marinating in my pantry. (Perhaps that was a tad dramatic, but what’s done is done.) I told Josh about my reversion. He laughed and said something along the lines of, “I told you so.”

I was liberated! I was relieved! I was going to write a blog about how you can still be a good mom and clean with bleach! (And Pine-Sol, which is my very favorite cleaner in the whole world!) Then I made the mistake of linking the harmful effects of bleach to the beginning of this article.

no toxic cleanersI really don’t want that in my house. (Even though I already had Josh bring home a bottle and have used it several times in the few hours it’s been in my house.)

What’s a busy mom to do? I’m riddled with guilt either way. I don’t want to be slowly poisoning my family. But I also don’t want my family living in filth, which tends to happen when I take the naturally cleaning approach. Because it takes extra work and doesn’t leave me with the victorious smell of clean, I just put it off. And then things get nasty. Yesterday, there was pink mold growing on the edge of the shower when I started cleaning! I’m pretty sure I heard somewhere that that’s toxic too.

I clearly don’t have the answers on this one. Maybe I’ll go back to my baking powder pastes and vinegar sprays. Maybe I’ll give hydrogen peroxide a try. Maybe I’ll just use the cleaners I like, but leave the windows open those days. Maybe I’ll just use the cleaners and try really hard to forget what I’ve read about them. I just don’t know…

Who knew cleaning could be so problematic?

NFP Top 10 List

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I love this top 10 list! I stumbled across it on Facebook and it’s so true. The author discusses the top 10 reasons she and her husband have chosen to use natural family planning. I can totally relate to all she says! Here are her top 10 reasons for choosing NFP over artificial birth control.

  1. NFP is good for the environment.
  2. NFP is good for my body.
  3. NFP is good for my marriage.
  4. Artificial hormones didn’t mess with my attraction to my husband when I decided to marry him.
  5. NFP is effective.
  6. I’m not always worried that there’s a chance I could be pregnant.
  7. NFP is empowering.
  8. It’s free!
  9. We have more sex.
  10. We have really good sex.

Read her blog for her support of each point. I couldn’t have said it better myself!