Saying Goodbye Too Soon

Photo Credit: Dominik Martin

Photo Credit: Dominik Martin

Most of the people in my life didn’t even know I was pregnant.  Even those closest to me had only just learned the news when our baby left us.

Over the past year, I had seen so many friends miscarry that I thought somehow that I could be “safe” if I just waited to tell everyone.  But, safe from what?  Safe from the loss?  Safe from having to deliver bad news?  Nobody wants to have to say those words, but healing doesn’t happen in secret.  It doesn’t happen in darkness.

We had just begun to tell our closest family the news when the bleeding started.  I spent the second half of that day with my family in a complete fog…that day that was supposed to be so happy…that day we had decided weeks before that we would share the great news of a new baby on the way.  I dragged myself home to lie down, but sleep didn’t come.  I tossed and turned and in between tears and fervent prayers, I squinted at the blue light of my phone, looking for hope and answers on the internet.  I found myself straddling a fine line between hope and surrender, not wanting to allow either one to completely overtake me.  Michael was at work and I was home alone and mainly I was scared that I would lose our baby all alone in the dark.

I spent another half a day in a fog of sadness, trying desperately to keep my daughter from seeing my tears and from feeling my despair.  When the baby finally left me, it came as a relief.  Though not the resolution I wanted, it was at least a release from the unknown and the fear.

I was ten weeks pregnant and had six glorious weeks of planning and dreaming about who this new little person might be.  I swooned at the idea of Evelyn becoming a big sister and couldn’t wait for her to be able to feel little baby kicks in my tummy.  It’s amazing how quickly a mama (and daddy) brain can wrap itself around the idea of new baby.  The connection is almost instantaneous.  The love hits you like ton of bricks.

I wasn’t prepared for this.  I was so certain about this baby right from the start.  I knew I was pregnant long before the test told me so.

In the days leading up to my miscarriage, we had just started to tell Evelyn about the baby in mommy’s belly and she was certain that it was a boy baby.  I like to think that maybe she knew something that the rest of us couldn’t have known.  She proudly sported her ‘Big Sister’ T-shirt and announced the news to my parents.  It feels so unfair that she won’t ever get to play with him and boss him around.

We had started to plan for the nursery and I bought a few teeny tiny cloth diapers from a friend.  We even had the names all ready to go.  This baby was real to us, even though we hadn’t yet seen him on a screen or heard a little heartbeat.

My thoughts and words here are starting to ramble as I try to make sense of something that can’t be explained away.  I know I am only at the beginning of the grieving process, and I can’t fully articulate everything that I am thinking and feeling.  But, I feel like talking about this loss is a way of remembering my baby.  As Michael and I stopped for food after our long ER visit, I noticed the the other diners happily chatting away, waitresses cleaning tables and everyone just going about their business as the reality of our loss weighed heavily on our weary hearts.  It was a great reminder to me that you really never know what other people are going through, what tragedy may have just fallen upon them.

While I have no regrets about waiting to tell people about my pregnancy, it scares me to think that I could just go about my business and most people would never even know what happened.  They wouldn’t ever know that my baby existed.  But, he did exist and he was loved and cherished and dreamed about and prayed for.  For a time, however brief, he was ours.

Complete Lack of Focus, aka, Running to Stand Still

Photo credit:  Amanda Sandlin

Photo credit: Amanda Sandlin

I swear at times I have ADD.  My thoughts swirl in all directions and I have trouble focusing on a single goal.  I start an activity and then as my mind begins to wander, I think of other things that I need or want to do and I switch tasks.  In the end nothing gets completely finished.  Or, my mind becomes so overwhelmed with the number of things I’d like to do (or should do), that I end up sitting on my couch, wasting hours on the internet, accomplishing nothing.  I’m a whirling, swirling, flurry of activity and I’m at a complete standstill.

This morning it occurred to me while I was wasting another hour of my life scrolling through Pinterest with no real goal in mind, that my problem right now is not that I have a lack of focus, but that my focus is on myself.  I’m trying too hard to figure out what to do with myself now that I am a stay-at-home mom.  But, it’s really not about me.  I quit my job 2 months ago so that I could be a mom.  Not so that I could be a blogger, or write a book, or makeover all the rooms of my house, or preserve all the food to get us through the winter, or embark on some new exercise program, or learn how to use my camera, or sew a million dresses for Evelyn.  Didn’t I just write a post about how we can’t have it all, all at the same time?  I’m in this place because I want to be the best mom that I can be.

Now, I am not saying that doing any of those things is bad or that a stay-at-home parent can’t be an amazing parent and do those other things at the same time.  I believe that we all need to have a way to exist outside of our roles as spouses and parents and I believe that I will get there eventually.  I just don’t know what that is for me yet.  When I was preparing to leave work, my mind was buzzing with all of the things I would love to accomplish that I couldn’t really do while working full time.  Now that I have extra time to do some of those things, I don’t even know where to start!

This blog has always been fun for me and for about the past year I have been thinking about ways to build my audience and possibly use it to make extra money for our family.  But, once again, I have become so overwhelmed at the crazy amount of work that entails, that I have come to an impasse.  I don’t want to stop contributing to this space, but I don’t want to make it my job, and most of all, I want to stay true to myself and to my family.

So, I think it’s best for me to start back at the beginning, back to basics, and focus my energy where it needs to be…my faith and my family.  Everything else is just icing on the cake.

Apothecary Extracts Tea Tree Oil Review

 

tea tree oil

It seems like essential oils are all the rage these days.  I’m seeing them all over Pinterest and on the blogs that I follow.  I haven’t really been inspired to run out and buy a huge assortment of oils for a few reasons.  1.) They can be expensive!  2.) I really lack the time and motivation to do a lot of research about it right now.  But, I’m always looking for ways to replace products that are filled with toxic chemicals with natural equivalents.

Though I haven’t really jumped onto the essential oils bandwagon (yet), there are a few oils that I have been using for years (way before all the cool kids) that have a variety of uses and tea tree oil is one of them.  Tea tree oil’s antibacterial properties make it ideal for a variety of health and beauty, medical, and household cleaning uses.  I’ve used it on everything from beauty treatments to washing my daughter’s cloth diapers.  I’ve been collecting a bunch of recipes that I wanted to try, so when my bottle of Apothecary Extracts came in the mail, I was excited to get started.  The best part was that the bottle came with a free recipe guide that is loaded with ideas for ways to use it.  It also provides a really informative section on the oil itself, where it comes from, how it is extracted, and some history about how it has been used in the past and how it can be used today.  This product is 100% pure, so you won’t have to worry about having a reaction to any additives.

So far, I’ve created a moisturizer by whipping some coconut oil with some tea tree oil and I made a relaxing bath soak.  The recipe for Super Soft Protein Deep conditioner that comes with the recipe guide is awesome.  I’ve also been reading a lot about tea tree oil being used to prevent head lice by adding a few drops to shampoo and conditioner, and with school back in session, it can’t hurt to try it!

If you’re thinking about getting started with essential oils or you’re just looking for a natural, chemical-free alternative for many health and beauty treatments, tea tree oil is a great place to start!  It will quickly become a staple in your household.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Keeping a Visual Food Diary

Food Diary

Can I just gush a little bit about how excited I am that I discovered the app Two Grand?  No, they aren’t paying me to endorse it!

When I first started following a primal/paleo diet about 4 years ago, one of the ways I kept myself on track was by blogging about everything I ate.  No, I didn’t publish lengthy blog posts on a daily basis, but I did keep a private blog as a sort of food diary. It helped. A ton. I lost about 12 pounds in a month, gained a ton of energy, got rid of debilitating headaches, and got pregnant after 6 years of infertility.  I was finally happy with my body and happy to finally be expecting.

If you’ve ever been pregnant, you’ll know that not much can stand in the way of certain cravings.  During my pregnancy, I maintained my healthier eating habits for the most part, but succumbed to occasional cheats, mostly in the form of ice cream and french fries.  I managed to gain only about 25 pounds and take it off rather quickly, weighing less after about 4 months post-partum than I did before I got preggo.

Unfortunately, I guess I’ve never been fully “on track” since those food diary days.  I am definitely an all-or-nothing type of person.  A small bite of cake at a party can quickly turn into a slippery slope of daily bad choices.  Over the years, I have gone through phases of strict adhesion to the Primal lifestyle mixed with days and sometimes weeks of reckless abandon (c’mon, I was on vacation!)  But lately, I have been really kicking myself in the butt for not having a little more self-discipline, especially at night when I usually sit down with a glass of wine and some kind of snack after my cherub falls asleep. Oh yeah, we’re trying to have another baby too, so that’s really my biggest motivation for wanting to get back on track and get my hormones in check.

Yesterday, I started searching for a food diary app so that I could record what I’m eating a little more conveniently without having to fire up the laptop or actually enter it into a blog post format.  Most of the apps out there involve calorie-counting and some sort of database where you can search for every manufactured food under the sun.  I don’t count calories.  Ugh.  I also cook a lot, so entering in the individual ingredients for every recipe and then trying to figure out a portion size is just way too much work.  I was about to give up and then I noticed Two Grand.

This is basically the Instagram of food diaries.  You just take a picture of everything you eat.  Put a caption on it if you want to, then share it with your followers.  That’s it.  You can also follow other members who have similar eating habits or similar weight loss goals or who are at the target goal you would like to reach.  This way you can get ideas for meals or snacks from people who are similar to you.  Once you’ve added some photos, you can see your entire day at once and you can record other data like your mood, health status, etc.  You can also track your water intake and exercise.  All without counting a single calorie.  Hallelujah.

I am really excited to get started with this and I hope it will be helpful.  Do you find it helpful to keep a food diary to meet your health goals?  Would you consider trying this app?  If you do, you can follow me @AScenicDetour

Sensory Fun with Ivory Soap

Evelyn loves sensory play.  I think that most kids her age do, unless they are averse to the new sensations.  Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to provide a sensory experience in your home for very little money.  I just purchased a plastic wash tub at Walmart for a few dollars and that’s where she plays with most of the materials I give to her.  In this instance, I happened to have several bars of Ivory soap around because I use it to make my own laundry detergent and I decided to try this fun activity using a bar of the classic soap.

First we put the bar of soap in the microwave (in a bowl) for about 2 minutes.  We watched as it grew and grew into a big, puffy cloud of soap.  After it cooled slightly, I put it on an old cookie tray and let Evelyn play with it for awhile.  I encouraged her to break it up.  I gave her some tools to use, but it took her a few minutes to get accustomed to the texture of it and to figure out how she could manipulate it.  Awesome discovery and problem solving opportunity! Ivory soap

The next day, we added some water to the soap pieces and I gave her a whisk  and some scoops.  This was definitely the coolest part!  After the soap had some time to dissolve, the mixture became slimy and soft and slippery and gloppy.  Evelyn described it by saying, “It looks like slobbery mayonnaise!”  Michael described it as “viscous” (gotta introduce those new vocabulary words!)

wpid-img_20140729_145035_425.jpg   wpid-img_20140729_150220_608.jpg

We got about 3 days worth of play out of this.  We probably could have kept it around longer but it started to get bits of dirt and grass in it, so I just decided to get rid of it.

Have you tried any new activities with your little ones?

*Just a few words of warning about this activity:   At one point in the process after we microwaved the soap and before we added water, the cloud became very dusty and I was concerned about her breathing in the particles, so we stopped playing at  that point.  Also, we did play with the slimy, soapy mixture indoors and it made our linoleum floor very, very slippery.  Please use caution and place a towel down if you plan to play on a hard, smooth surface.*

These are the Good Old Days

good old days

I recently came upon a quote while I was perusing Pinterest and it made me stop and think.  Apparently, it was made by Andy of The Office, a show I’ve never really watched.  I know, I am probably one of the only humans on Earth who hasn’t.  Don’t judge me.  Anyway, it went something like this,

I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.

It made me a little sad to think that we sabotage so many moments of our lives by focusing on the negatives.  I’m guilty.  I’ve done it all my life and I still do it from time to time.  At least now that I am aware of it,  I can try to remind myself that one day I will laugh about today’s tragedy and look back on these times with fondness.

I suppose this is one of those lessons that one person can’t teach to another, so why should I write about it?  Argh.  It’s so frustrating to think that there are so many life lessons that can only be learned through experience, and even though I will try, I will never be able to pass what I have learned onto my daughter.  I will tell them to her and she will roll her eyes and she will never truly understand until she has lived it.  Just like you might be reading this now and thinking “Sure, sure.  My roommate sucks, my parents just don’t understand, I just failed an exam, I hate my job, these kids are driving me crazy, etc, etc”  Whatever you are going through right now might have you reeling or feeling like there is no light at the end of the tunnel.  But there is, and when you get to the end you will turn around and look back and see where you’ve been.

I remember my college days when I was working and busting my butt to pay the bills.  I had bosses and roommates who occasionally drove me crazy and the stress of trying to meet deadlines, complete my student teaching, staying up into the wee hours of the morning to finish lesson plans and papers.  I put on the next day’s outfit before bed (usually sweats) so that I could sleep in as long as possible before my morning commute.  It was HARD, but those were the good old days.

I think back to when my ex-husband first left and I laid on the couch for days while my brother fixed me things to eat and I couldn’t get through a day of work without crying.  Yes, I broke into a million pieces and it seemed like I would never feel “normal” again, but something in me died during that time and a new someone emerged, someone stronger than I ever imagined I could be.  And I actually miss those times now.  I get all nostalgic thinking about how I was forced to surrender everything I thought I knew and how close I felt to God in those moments.  Those were the good old days.

I think about the house that Michael and I lived in when we first got married.  It was small and didn’t have enough storage space and my kitchen window overlooked the neighbor’s yard, which was littered with a rusty old car and crappy lawn furniture that was haphazardly placed with no rhyme or reason, not to mention the hairy, sometimes shirtless man who lived there.  My patio there was half the size of the one I have now, but you know what?  I miss it.  It was our first house together, it was in that bathroom that I fell to my knees and thanked God when I discovered I was pregnant with Evelyn.  Those were the good old days.

Thinking back about the sleepless nights when Evelyn was a newborn sometimes makes me unsure if I want to have any more children, but I can easily fall into a trip down memory lane, remembering how I escaped to the bathroom when she was crying, only to return and see my hubby in his robe, rocking her and singing “Sweet Baby James” to get her to calm down and sleep.  I was exhausted, I was scared, I was in over my head, but those were the good old days.

Isn’t it weird how our minds tend to focus on the negatives in the moment, but when we look back, we tend to remember the positive things?  I guess the point I am trying to make here is that whatever you are doing right now, wherever you are, whoever you are with, stop for a moment and take it all in.

Breathe the air,

listen to the sounds,

look at the faces of the people around you.

Remember this, because these ARE the good old days.

 

Paleo Mug Cake

I have seen these recipes floating around the internet and I really had no interest in trying them.  Cake in a mug, cooked in the microwave.  It just didn’t sound appealing to me.  But, I got desperate to provide some semblance of a birthday cake for Michael’s big day and I didn’t want a huge cake sitting around my house to taunt and tempt me and since he’s not a big cake eater anyway, guess who would have consumed the lion’s share?  So, I decided to give this a whirl…

Paleo Mug Cake

…and I was pleasantly surprised.  These were super easy to put together and contain healthy ingredients, so it doesn’t really feel like a cheat at all.  I love that I can give my kid cake and it’s good for her!  I probably won’t be making these often, but they would be great for those cool evenings when you want a warm, comforting treat.

The best part is that you probably already have these items around your house.  To make this truly paleo, you would want to use almond butter or maybe cashew butter.  I only had peanut butter on hand, so that’s what I used.  I almost always have extra ripe bananas around too.  One of the local grocery stores sells huge bags of over-ripe bananas for 99 cents, so I buy bags and freeze them.  You could add a little sweetener of your choice to this recipe, but I usually just rely on the bananas for sweetness.  You could also mix in nuts or chocolate chips or top the warm cake with some vanilla ice cream if you wanted to be extra decadent.  I added a spoonful of the peanut butter to the top of Michael’s cake while it was still hot.

mug cake

I even stuck a few candles in there so we could have a proper birthday song.  Don’t repeat my rookie mistake though.  I put one candle in while the cake was still too hot and it melted!  Let your cakes cool before you add candles, folks.

mug cakes

The verdict was yes! We will make these again!

I found the original recipe at Wannabe Chef.

Paleo Mug Cakes

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 egg
  • 1.5 tbsp natural nut butter of your choice
  • 2 rounded tbsp cocoa powder
  • (optional) 2 tsp sweetener of your choice

Mash up the banana with a fork until smooth.

Add the rest of the ingredients and mix into a smooth batter.

Pour into a microwave-safe mug.  Make sure the mug is only about 2/3 full, because the batter will expand.

Cook in the microwave for about 2.5 minutes, carefully remove, allow to cool and enjoy!

Staying at Home: The First 30 Days

blocks A lot of people told me that staying at home would be a huge adjustment and I could see why it would be for many people.  Many first time moms decide to stay at home after the birth of a baby and getting adjusted to a newborn is definitely huge.  I can remember my two months of maternity leave after Evelyn was born.  I was in a constant state of shock/panic/exhaustion.  Learning how to read a baby’s cues and establish a routine is hard work.  Add breastfeeding to that and there is very little time left in the day to shower, eat, sleep and otherwise take care of the basic needs that keep us all feeling human.

Since all of that is behind me, transitioning into being at home has been pretty smooth for me, but I have had to adjust in other ways. I’ve probably been a bit like a kid on summer break. You know, no more work, right? Woo Hoo! I can stay up late and watch back to back episodes of Dexter while mindlessly scrolling away on Pinterest and Facebook. Before I know it, it’s after midnight and I know I’ll regret this tomorrow afternoon when I am fighting Evelyn to take a nap and I end up passed out on the floor next to her bed while she’s grabbing my face and whispering in my ear “Are you OK, Mommy?”

Time to get serious…

Establishing a routine is something that I haven’t really accomplished yet.  I chose summertime to leave work for a few reasons, primarily so that I could enjoy the season and all it’s activities with my daughter.  So, we’ve really been on the go since I have been home.  We’ve had guests come and go, a family staycation, and we’ve gone to visit family ourselves.  Needless to say, that hasn’t left much time for “normalcy” in our world and it’s something that I will be striving for in the next 30 days.  I know that Evelyn needs the routine and I definitely need a stretch of “normal” days so that I can really work at potty training with her.  I’d also like to develop a regular blogging routine, since I’ve got a pile of half and unwritten posts, a guest post, and a 50 Things book that I am working to finish.

One of the things I worried about most before I left my job was that Evelyn would miss school.  She’s 2 and a half, after all, and had been attending daycare for almost a year.  I was afraid that she would miss her friends and teachers and that maybe I was being a tad selfish for pulling her out of that social environment to trap her like a hermit at home with me.  After about the second week, I was feeling super-smug and proud of myself that she had not once mentioned school.  This wouldn’t be so bad after all.  Maybe she didn’t really miss school at all and I was just being silly to worry about it.  Then the harsh reality hit me one afternoon when we were driving home from an outing.  Her daddy and I had taken her to the new Children’s Garden that had just opened at Penn State.  It was awesome.  She got to play in water and rocks and sand, run through a tunnel in a big cave, bang on some musical chimes and climb on a happy caterpillar.

arboretumcollage There was a group of daycare children there with their teachers and she was eager to join the group and run and laugh with the other kids.  At one point, when the teachers were trying to round up the children to move to a different area, she wanted to go with them and was upset when she couldn’t hold onto one of the rings attached to a rope which is designed to keep them all together.  On the way home, I asked her, “Did you like the garden?  What was your favorite part?”  Her response…. “The KIDS!”  The doubts started to creep in again as I realized that even though she might not verbalize it, she did miss school and her friends there and playing with other kids.  Why wouldn’t she? So, I know I need to make sure she gets out of the house and has a chance to play with other kids.

I also haven’t really had a chance to feel the full effects of the financial consequences of my actions. I have still been getting paychecks and a payout for the vacation time I had accrued, so it’s hard to gauge just how broke we really are. To be continued in August…

Probably the biggest setback I have had was a severe case of sciatica that set in just about the time I was leaving work. I have been living on ibuprofen for the past month and visited the doctor last week. I’ll be doing lots of stretching and core-strengthening exercises, icing my back a few times a day, and I got a script for physical therapy. If you’ve ever had this kind of pain, I’m sure you can attest to the fact that it’s AWFUL and debilitating, especially when you’re trying to run after a little one who requires being hoisted onto one’s hip multiple times a day.

I guess I could sum this all up by saying that I don’t think it has completely sunk in that I left my job and I definitely haven’t exactly figured out how this new role is going to play out for me. My house is not suddenly sparkling and I haven’t put on makeup for weeks. But I can tell you…I am having a BLAST with my daughter. It’s so amazing to be able to be with her and see and hear all the funny things she says and does. Sure, there have been frustrating moments and I am sure that it won’t always be fun, but for now, I am loving every second of it.

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Cold Brewed Iced Coffee

iced coffee

This weekend I discovered the beauty of cold brewed coffee.  Oh my.

I am a coffee addict…with standards.  I love coffee, but I’m picky about how I like it.  I usually have a cup in the morning and, around 2:00 in the afternoon, I hit a slump and usually go for another cup then.  But, when the warm weather strikes, I tend to crave iced coffee in the afternoon, so I sometimes hit a drive-thru…lots of cream, no sugar (and then I add my own stevia to add just a touch of sweetness).

Now that we are living on one income, I’ve gotta curb my drive-thru habits.  I’ve tried making iced coffee at home and it usually sucks. In a pinch, I have brewed a cup of coffee, let it cool a bit and then just added ice, cream, and sometimes a sweetener.  I always regret it when I make it like this.  I end up with mostly melted ice, floating on the top of a watered-down, completely unsatisfying beverage.

Ok, so you would think that to solve this problem, you could just brew a pot of coffee and chill it in the fridge.  I’m afraid it ain’t so.  It’s just not the same.  The depth of flavor just isn’t there.  You need a brew that can compete with all the cream and ice that make an iced coffee so awesome.

So, I decided to experiment.  We have a discount store around here where I can pick up coffee for about $2-$3 a pound.  Last time we went, Michael accidentally grabbed an espresso, so it’s just been sitting in the closet because we didn’t really like it brewed in the traditional way and I rarely break out my espresso maker.

The method is simple.  Dump coffee into a pitcher or other container.  Add cold water.  Stir.  Allow to sit overnight or for about 8 hours.  Strain off the coffee grounds.  Refrigerate and enjoy!

I can’t believe I had this amazingness at my fingertips all this time and didn’t even realize it!  And it’s mine, all mine!  (Michael doesn’t like iced coffee…and he’s a crazy person, did I mention that?)

Let me guess…you’d like me to be a little more specific with my instructions.  I can do that.

  • I used a 1 gallon pitcher
  • I used approximately 1/2 of the bag of coffee (maybe a bit less)
  • To strain it, I poured the brewed coffee and grounds through a fine mesh strainer, lined with a paper towel (no fancy-schmancy cheesecloth over here).
  • That’s it.  Really.

If you haven’t tried this yet, what are you waiting for?  Don’t look at me, ’cause I’m not sharing any of mine.