turning things around.

This past week has been one of the craziest, most stressful weeks Husband and I have ever had in our two years of marriage. Besides personal baloney, work really stressed me out between teething babies and frustrating co-workers. It got to the point where Husband and I blew up at each other Wednesday night, and harsh words were passed between us.

It’s been awhile since we’ve gone to bed so frustrated with each other and our situation. We each kept repeating, ‘I hate our life.’

Wednesday was one of those nights where you question everything you’re currently doing and everything that the future might hold. Where you can’t even click on any type of social media without raging at how ‘easy’ it seems others have it.

 

Before we got married, we did Engaged Encounter and Marriage Prep. However, we were so confident about our relationship and clicked on so many values and ideals that there wasn’t ever a real discussion about what to do when our lives would seem miserable.

Of course, I knew all the old phrases about not going to bed mad and such, but nothing that seemed to work in this situation.

The emptiness and despair I felt clogging my lungs and weighing down on my chest. I fought back tears on our way home from grocery shopping Wednesday night, because I couldn’t see a future where we’d be stable enough to feel secure, let alone add to our family.

We went to sleep miserable and facing opposite walls, listening to the hum of the air conditioner.

 

Thursday during work, I made a decision. Husband and I had been stressed and angry for what seemed like too long now. I couldn’t recall a recent enough time where we had felt genuine peace and contentment with each other and our lives. I made a decision that I was going to make that night special for Husband and myself. Planning the evening while I worked, I could feel my spirit lighten and the weight lifting off my chest.

Husband has softball on Thursdays, but all that did was give me more time to work. I cleaned up the apartment, sorted laundry, put away unused items, ran a load in the dishwasher, made chicken and rice for dinner, baked cookies, and took a shower/did my hair. I put on a dress he hadn’t seen me in in months. By the time all that was done and ready, I only had twenty minutes to relax and wait for him to get home.

He was so grateful and surprised when he walked in the apartment. A big flaw we both share is that when we’re stressed, we avoid housekeeping because it feels overwhelming on top of everything else. Therefore, seeing a clean dining room and empty kitchen counters was a big deal.

We ate dinner and kept the conversation light, happy, and about our days. We didn’t talk about anything from the previous week, but did finalize plans for the weekend. We watched a couple episodes from the new season of Arrested Development.

The calm that settled over us and our home was incredible.

We went to bed that night cuddled in each other’s arms.

Friday is my late start at work, so Husband offered to give me a ride. We held hands and talked about the business class he’s taking (for FREE! Alleluia) through work.

My work day flew by and I was engaged, patient, and focused the whole day through. Even though we had a full class I took down last month’s curriculum work off the wall and put up everything for June, something that usually takes me two or three days. I just felt inspired.

 

We still have a lot ahead of us. This summer isn’t going to be easy by any stretch, and one night of cleaning and cooking didn’t solve all our problems.

But it kept us together.

Sometimes, marriage is hard. Sometimes, you will not like the person you married. Sometimes, you will hate the life you are leading, even if just for one moment. Sometimes, you will wish you were somewhere else or with someone else. Sometimes, you will cry in pure despair.

In spite of all this, I keep the faith.

Faith that God never gives us more than we can handle. That things will always get better. That for every closed door, there is an open window.

 

Memorial Day we learned we have to come up with $500 for Stepson’s summer daycare. I started applying for a second job because I couldn’t imagine how else we’d get that kind of money.

Tonight Husband got a call that his one of his student loan payments ($300/month) was going to disappear for the summer.

 

Closed door, open window.

down in the 30’s – mfp

My weight keeps fledging daily back and forth between 136 and 135, so I finally split the diff the other day and marked 135.8 on My Fitness Pal, and damn did that feel good to see.

I am still having trouble realizing that my weight is in the 130’s, by the way. I do double takes often on the scale.

Sunday and Monday were spent by my parents. I will say it now that outside comments on my weight are nice, but I’m not trying to hook onto them, because for me this process has to come from within. Also, once people comment on your weight loss once, that’s usually it.

But anyway.

You know who is great? Husband.

Because while my sister and I went shopping for a bridal shower gift for her friend, my parents were home and Husband apparently explained how hard I have been working on my walking and calorie counting, and how much weight I’d lost so far.

To which my mother answered, ‘Well, she used to come over here and eat TWO HAMBURGERS, which I thought was crazy, so this is good.’

I have no regrets — they were delicious, and I was at a point where I was eating to prove I didn’t care about my weight.

Then my parents had this conversation with my sister’s fiance, who upon seeing me on Monday remarked about how good I looked and congratulated me on doing so well.

This thing is tough, you know? And the rewards lately are anywhere from 10 to 14 days in revealing themselves. But I also see a change in my eating habits.

Monday for lunch we went to McDonald’s, and I got a grilled chicken sandwich, and and and and — that’s it. And it was delicious and I had some water with it and I was full and okay. And then for dinner, which I was so worried about because POTATO SALAD — I had a hot dog (no bun), a handful of chips and dip, and one serving spoon of potato salad. And I was full. And I was surprised that I did not want to get seconds, and I only had a cupcake because my mom, for all her healthy talk, was a little hurt that I was thinking of not having one on MEMORIAL DAY. EAT ONE FOR THE SOLDIERS, I think was the gist.

But I sat there and listened to the conversation and stared at my empty plate and thought, ‘It’s becoming more. It’s in my mind now. And although this may not be an every day occurrence, the fact that I ‘survived’ this holiday is good enough for me.’

And by ‘survived’, I want to emphasis that I was truly not starving and did not feel deprived. I am just using a colorful verb.

But today my lunch was ‘eat my feelings’ themed and I ate about a cup and a half of potato salad. YUM! No regrets, and it worked out fine with my calories, it was just an example of how every day is not that easy, just different.

infants in summer

Total disclosure guys: I’m the ultimate cliche, writing this from a Starbucks with an iced drink and a million calorie (yet delicious) danish beside me. This post comes from a work assignment so I (unfortunately) have to do more than lazy around in blissful air conditioning this summer.

I can’t think of anything more awful for an infant than a hot summer day. For someone who has very little control over their body temperature and relies on us to help them go hot or cold, summer can be very uncomfortable. Even in air conditioning, non mobile infants quickly become little icicles from lack of movement. And what to do with them? Older toddlers to school age kids can enjoy building a sand castle, playing in a sprinkler, and eating summer fruits.

From that paragraph alone, can you see how I struggled with this assignment? Yeah.

Let’s start with activities that allow the infant to move, yet still incorporate the summer theme.

  • Misting Water: Fill a spray bottle with water and set it to mist; gently spray the infant from a distance of about two feet so that they aren’t getting the full blast of water, incase it startles them or they get to wet. Start somewhere neutral, like their hand, and depending on their reaction move to their arms, legs, top of head. Continue as long as the infant holds an interest.
  • Bubbles: Need I say more?
  • Laying Out: A lot of infants, especially non-mobile ones, rarely get outside during the summer because parents are afraid of the sun’s rays and hot temperatures. But by taking the right precautions, caretakers have little to worry about. No matter the temperature, limit time outside (that won’t be in a shaded stroller, strolling with a breeze) to 15-20 minutes. Apply sunscreen to any exposed skin and put on a wide brim hat to protect their scalp. Pick a shaded area and lay a blanket out for the infant to lay down on. Sitting on the sidewalk, grass, or playground surface may not seem like a big deal to us, but the change in sensory may be hard for infants to adjust to. They may also pick up tiny things (little sticks, pebbles, trash, blades of grass) to gum on. Just laying on the blanket and taking in their surroundings will be enough for most infants, but feel free to bring a toy or two if yours might be antsy.
  • Sand Toy Exploration: We avoid giving the infants any exposure to sand, but I think giving them sanitized beach toys to explore and handle would be a fun idea. Beach toys, to me, means sand buckets, shovels, sand shifters, and sand molds. Demonstrate how to shovel or how to shake the sand shifter (imitating others’ actions is an infant achievement).
  • Build a Sand Castle: Again, we avoid sand exposure, so use blocks instead.
  • “Mr. Sun”: Use finger play to sing the song “Mr. Sun” with infants.

I do an art project a week with my infants, so here are a few of the things we are doing for the summer.

  • Using dark and light blue paint, finger paint an ocean scene!
  • Encourage infants to paste down pre-cut fish on blue paper
  • Give the infants tissue paper to crumple (which they should automatically do) and then have them glue it down on tan or green paper to make a lake/beach scene.
  • Finger paint tan paint on blue paper to create the beach!
  • Stamp water animals on paper. (We have stamps with large knobs that we use for the infants.)
  • Cut tan and brown paper into squares and other shapes; encourage infants to paste them down to create sand castles.
  • Crush graham crackers and help infants sprinkle over blue paper to create another kind of beach art!
  • Set out a variety of different colored pre-cut shovels and buckets. Let the infant choose which one to paste down.
  • Take an empty toilet paper roll and dip one end in white paint. Help infant stamp ‘bubbles’ onto blue paper!
  • Paint the bottom of infant’s hands or feet with brown paint and have them do hand prints or foot prints ‘in the sand’ (tan paper)!

Finally, how to get that sensory exploration when you don’t want them in the sand, or think they are too small for a baby pool.

  • A small sensory table filled with a couple inches of water is fine for infants. I only fill it enough so if they put their hand in, the water can wash over the top of their hand.
  • One day, add cups to the water. Another day, find small water cans. If you have water animals, put those in one day. Another day, add sponges. Then, do something that will float — stacking rings do just fine. You could do water sensory play with infants twice a week, just add in a new item (and when you run out of ideas, start over again!).
  • This may sound silly, but I’m bringing in a couple beach towels, and we’re going to have the infants lay on them. Doesn’t sound like much? Actually feel a beach towel! Unlike your clothes or a bath towel, beach towels tend to have a scratchier feel because they are out in the sand and need to be more resistant. That texture difference is important for infants to feel.
  • Instead of sand, purchase some sandpaper and cut into squares. Paste onto paper and make into a book, give to the infants as is, or paste on a larger poster board and invite infants to crawl over and come feel.
  • Take a package of graham crackers and crush into fine crumbs. Put this in the sensory table as is or with some shovels and cups.
  • Make two different kinds of beach bottles. One, put in sand and shells. Another, put sand and water. Either way, make sure caps on bottles are securely closed. I’ve had sensory bottles with tops hot glued, taped, and super glued closed. All ways work fine.
  • Find a CD or MP3 of waves and other water noises. Play during your quiet and nap time. Yes, hearing this is a sensory exploration!

Another couple fun things we’re going to do with the infants that don’t necessarily fit into these categories.

  • Wear a summer color day — choose a color (I like red, orange, yellow, and blue) and invite everyone to wear that color!
  • Wear your bathing suit/favorite beach outfit! This is a good choice for the day when you’re doing water play or the ‘sand’ sensory day.
  • Have a variety of beach hats for the infants to practice putting on and taking off (fine motor skills!). Ask parents to bring in beach hats for the infants to try.
  • Instead of beach hats, do this activity with sunglasses. Take pictures; so cute!

 

Okay, typing this all out made me a little (a lot) more excited for summer with my infants. It’s always great when everyone can have a fun activity to do in the summer!

free write

I’ve been trying to write a post all week, and it seems like the more thought I put into what I want to say, the less I want to write it.

I’ve been having a crappy couple of weeks. There’s been high stress and low appreciation at work, Husband and I are living on a tighter budget while we wait for some financial things to pan out, and once again there is drama with my in-laws that is causing me anxiety.

Oh, and I’ve had a sinus infection all week.

I’m feeling flushes of anger faster than normal, and my mood immediately crashes at the turn of just one thing — realizing the apartment is a mess and Stepson will be here tomorrow, putting too much cooking oil in the pan when I’m making hash browns. The little shit stuff that I should be able to plow through and laugh off, but it just cuts right into me.

I’ve been going to bed at like eight every night and sleeping for nine, ten hours. It isn’t helping. I wake up, think things will be okay, and then – snap. I’m upset, and I can’t pull myself back out of the hole.

Part of it is my period. SOmetimes, it hits me harder on the emotional side than the physical end. Part of it is that my weight loss has hit a two week plateau, and between what I felt were crappy pictures of myself from Mother’s Day and a lack of funds to buy running shoes, my body self esteem has hit an all time low.

I don’t know what to do with myself, and Husband’s patience is growing thin.

Here’s to a better today.

money money money

It’s no secret on this blog that Husband and I don’t have the money.

In April, I felt the push of spending more on others and we’re currently living this week eating scraps for lunch and digging out the freezer for dinner to make up for that push. Thank God for Teacher Appreciation Week.

There was also an embarrassment moment where my sister, who to the naked eye has more on her plate than Husband and I, gave our cousin’s son double the money we did for a recent event.

I wanted to stand up, wave my arms, and go, ‘I know! I know! I know she has a kid and a baby on the way, a husband in school and currently getting a home loan. I know! I know! But I swear, we have less money than her!’

 

We did another valiant but fruitless sweep of ‘How can we cut down the budget besides the measly $8 a month that is our sole entertainment?’ on Sunday.

 

I need new shoes because the soles are giving out on the current ones and the lack of support is aching my lower back.

Husband needs $280 for new hearing aids.

I need tuition money so I can take two summer classes and get director qualified.

 

Husband and I talked about how this tight squeeze of money strain had left us, but here it was again, all because we wanted to shower a few people in our lives with a little extra.

Lesson learned: unfortunately, we’re not at that point yet.

quality vs. quantity

This time last year, I had already read over fifty books. I was beginning to pace myself, but excited about reaching my goal even earlier than anticipated.

This year, I set my goal ten books higher than last year, but at this point I’ve only read twenty-two books. I’m not going to lie, it is really hard to see such a small number when I knew I was so much farther last year.

However, I’m taking a different approach.

It all started over Christmas when my mom got Team of Rivals for a gift, and loaned it to me since she didn’t have a lot of time to jump into reading it right away. It’s almost a thousand pages, and it took me a month to finish it. I knew when I was done, and it was already the end of January, that any hope I had of making my 110 book goal was toast.

So I made a new goal for myself — start working on cutting down the mass amount of books in my to-read pile on GoodReads. I wanted to read only quality books — books that I had been wanting to read for some time, books that were more than a mere 300 pages, books that actually had true lessons to offer.

I say this because last year, my book list was lengthy, but not impressive — a lot of YA, a lot of fluff, a lot of easy, read in a couple days, books. If I couldn’t make quantity this year, I was going to make quality.

I still have read some fluff this year, some YA, and I read a book that was only 192 pages. But I’m trying to be more careful in my selections, and I’m pretty proud of the fact that a majority of my reads have caused cross offs on the to-read list.

Currently, I’m reading Gone With the Wind, something I have yearned to read since my mom first introduced me to the movie (a movie I have seen at least a dozen times). I always told myself it was too long, I need to set aside a chunk of time, it was too bulky to carry around. Well, after completing Team of Rivals earlier this year, I knew this was the year I’d be reading Gone With the Wind — and it is amazing.

Some of the amazing books I’ve been reading this year that garnered three or more (out of a possible five) stars:

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin*

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn*

My Year With Eleanor by Noelle Hancock

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

I’ll Walk Alone by Mary Higgins Clark

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld*

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters

I Don’t Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson

Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close

The ZooKeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman*

Crossed by Ally Condie*

Over You by Emma McLaughlin, Nicola Kraus

Not My Daughter by Barbara Belinsky

Split: A Memoir of Divorce by Suzanne Finnamore

Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult*

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

* = my favorite reads so far