Climb Out of the Darkness 2015

When despair for the world grows in

me

and I wake in the night at the least

sound

in fear of what my life and my

children's lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood

drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and

the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with

forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still

water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am

free.

The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry

Climb Out 2015 was beautiful.  Thank you to all who joined us! Especially, thank you to Katie Jenks who rocked as my co-leader, raised over $1,000, and passionately shared about our cause for freedom for suffering moms. 

Thank you to Melissa and Brianne and Ashly, who came and climbed even though it wasn't easy (I know.) Thank you for standing on that mountaintop with me and declaring that we have overcome so that others may as well.

Thank you to my sisters, who always show unwavering support, and have made my cause their own.  

Thank you to my mom and dad who strut their stuff 2.2 vertical miles in their 60s! And thank you for reminding me that you would do anything for me. 

Thank you to my husband - and the other husbands - who pushed us up that mountain, carried our kids on their shoulders and backs, and never complained. Thank you for rising up, again.

Brianne, thank you for your encouragement and bravery. I still get a lump in my throat when I think about what you said... "This baby in my belly is here because of your blog."

Now I know I can never stop writing! 

And a final thank you to my warrior boy, who at age 3 climbed the entire way without whining. I am so, so eternally grateful for second chances. 

Last but not least, thank you to all who supported through donation! Our team raised $2,200!

You can visit our fundraising page here

one year.

June 5, 2014 was the day we left Mexico. Today has felt surreal. A year has passed. So much life can happen in a year. 

Here is the post I wrote almost exactly a year ago, a goodbye to our life and our home in Mexico. I haven't read it in a year... and now... chills. 

I'm reminded today of how fragile and complex and, well, transient, life is. It sounds so obvious, but we don't always stop amidst the daily comings and goings to really appreciate how much can and will change, and how quickly. One year ago today, eight years of life sorted and packed away in suitcases, filled to the brim with hopeful expectation for new adventures, inward growth, good change. Much of that time is a blur, commonly known as "survival mode." 

And we did; we survived. We have more than survived; we have thrived. I feel thankful EVERY DAMN DAY because I know that everything can change and at any moment. 

We spent the afternoon at the beach today with a friend and her kids. I brought two plastic cups for the boys to use to play in the water and sand. My friend brought a giant beach bag filled with shovels and buckets, scoops and rakes, bowls and plastic silverware. Solomon's friend looked at my two cups and asked innocently, "Why did you bring those?"

"For you guys to play with, in the sand."

"But.. why didn't you bring your sand toys?" he questioned.

"Because we don't have any." I responded.

"Wow. Really? You don't have sand toys?"

"No... we don't. Where we came from was a big city, and there wasn't much sand." I said with a smile. 

I was reminded that it is June 5, and a year has passed since we started brand new.  I was reminded of Mexico, and making do with what you can find.  (like a plastic cup and all of its purposes!)  I was reminded that we don't have any sand toys. And I was reminded to always remember where we came from. 

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A better late than never Thank You.

I often wonder what it would have been like. 

To have an untainted, unbroken beginning to motherhood. Often, I want to find something to blame for the way it went down. Mexico. The c-section. My doctor. The move to Florencia street. That flight. 

But, the truth is, having something to blame doesn't make it go away. And it doesn't make it any easier to let go of. 

Babies never stop being born, and so it is, the reminders will never, ever go away. The flashbacks will never, ever end. The what-ifs will never be silenced. The pouty pink lips and sausage wrists of a newborn will always leave me with questions swirling. I wish the sight of them could be pure and innocent, as it seems to be for everyone else. But the questions are still there, haunting me.

Six plus years later, I am finally realizing what the grief is mostly about. It's many things, but it's mostly about feeling robbed. It's the trauma of a stranger in your house, stuffing your beautiful treasures into a burlap bag and running off into the night.  And you are left standing there, alone in the dark and emptiness; your screams silent.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I try to write in its honor every year, something to make me stop and remember what we survived and what others are still clawing their way out of. I don't know what I would have done without the help I found on the internet. Truly. 

Thank you, Katherine Stone. Beth Plyer. Suzanne Stanard. Katie Sluiter. Miranda Wicker. Deborah Rimmler. Amber Koter-Puline. Yuz Rozenblum. Kate Ferguson. Amy Brannen. Esther P. Kim M. 

And, to my in-real-life family and friends, who stepped up to support us in ways I'm forever grateful for, especially when Rainer Marco entered our world. Mom & Dad, my sisters, Elizabeth & Tammy. 

The final stage of grief is hope. It's the stage that never ends. It's what motivates me to press on for awareness and advocate for suffering mothers everywhere. Depression does not discriminate. It does not fit a mold. It is not always predictable or explicable.

I love what I read in this blog postIn honor of all the mamas who have recovered, please don’t just look at the new babies. Look at the new mamas. Are they ok?

_________________

  • This is part of a BLOG HOP over at Postpartum Support International. 
  • If you need immediate help, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • If you are looking for pregnancy or postpartum support and local resources, please call or email us:

Where angels go to rest.

Mr. P & I tested out the Angel's Rest hike that we plan to do as Team Oregon - Portland on June 20 for Climb Out of the Darkness. 

It. 

Is.

Awesome.

About 1/3 of a mile from the summit, you arrive to a large patch of boulders where there is a beautiful 180 degree west side view of the Columbia River stretching to Portland in the distance. I stopped and breathed it in. The breeze sent goosebumps up my sweaty arms as I turned my face to the sun. This is it, I thought.

A couple approached from the other side of the rocks. "Is this the top?" I asked. 

"Nope! You've got a little ways further," was their response.

Really? I thought to myself. Can't be much better than this view. I was tempted to just find a flat rock and plop down to enjoy the view. I mean, how much could another 1/3 of a mile improve this glorious sight? 

A teeny tiny urge within prompted me onward. I re-started my stopwatch and dug in for the final ascent. 

Rounding the final corner, I gasped. 

The panoramic view of the gorge was simply breathtaking. YES. Pushing the last 1/3 mile was worth it. I couldn't imagine cheating myself of this experience had I stopped at the rocks. I felt wispy; my muscles quivering and my eyes pooled with tears. This. This is what awaits us when we keep on going. The water and the sun and the mountains and the sweat and the tears and the wind on our cheeks. This is my wish for each and every mom in the valley of the shadow of death today. To keep going. Just a little bit further, a little bit longer, even if it leaves you breathless. 

The view from the top will be worth it. 

Support our Climb, here.

Thank you! 

you are.

You turn around nervously checking on the bikes hanging on the bike rack.

Don't worry, child.

You peer out the window at the cliff below, your knuckles are white gripping your seat.

Don't worry, little boy.

Your eyes grow wide with fear and you ask again and again where daddy and brother are.

Don't worry, sweet one.

You quickly say No! at any prompt to play soccer or baseball or piano. 

You are capable, my son. 

You tell me how sad you are when your buddy says he doesn't want to be your friend.

You are kind, little boy.

You ask me what would happen if robbers came in your room at night. 

You are safe, sweet one.

You don't want to go into the hallway or the bedroom or the bathroom by yourself at night.

Don't fear, my child.

It's not fair that you can own so much of my heart, and yet I am incapable of taking away the worry or pain or fear that engulfs yours. I wish for you joy and peace and confidence. Do you see these traits in me? Do I see these traits in myself? 

Tomorrow is a new day. For you, I will seek 

Joy

Peace

Strength.

You are loved.

So am I. 

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Dawn to Dusk

This is a personal essay I wrote and submitted for an anthology on maternal mental health called Mothering Through the Darkness. My essay was not accepted, so I am publishing it here instead. I haven't written longer pieces like this in quite some time, but this one just might help someone out there, so here it is. 

________________

I came unraveled.

In Mexico postpartum women wrap their stomachs tightly with thick ace bandages and tape, or with wraps specifically made for this purpose of turning us back to our better, flatter selves, called fajas. This daily ritual of laying down on the bed while my husband twists the wrap around me, pulling and tugging at it until my mid section became a stiff cast-like mound, made me feel inferior, inhuman, weird.

For five months my entire being was squeezed - shoved - into this faja, until one day it snapped and I literally unraveled.  

It started slowly, a gradual fixation with my lack of sleep, lack of free time, lack of semblance of my life before baby. I loved him, but did I like him? I loved my son, but did I like being a mother? Postpartum bodies are fragile, and people bring us soup so we can breastfeed on the couch for hours. But, postpartum minds are like crystal chandeliers, hanging from a vaulted ceiling by a thin wire embedded somewhere the eye cannot see. My mind wandered places I had never been before; frightful and dark places.  Fortunately, my baby’s dimples brought me back each time. 

In the mornings I would force myself to stand outside on our miniature balcony that overlooked a busy Guadalajara street, a shortcut between two major avenues, where people flew over the speed bumps, the undersides of their cars protesting like grumpy toddlers. There was a popular gym across the street, and I would watch the people park their cars hastily and bounce down the sidewalks in their bright colored sneakers and hip hugging yoga pants, seizing the day like normal, happy people. 

My baby was on my hip, satisfied to people watch as the sun warmed our bodies. I would drag out his changing pad and lay him on it in his diaper. His thick sausage legs would kick happily, his arms flapping, and his petite rosebud mouth overflowing with coos. Why am I miserable? I thought to myself. Why can’t I sleep? Why is something so natural for everyone else, so unbearably hard for me?  I began to resent everyone I saw. The sun became annoying, too warm and too bright, such a contrast to my aching insides. 

Dawn gave way to morning gave way to afternoon gave way to dusk gave way to nightfall. And I would do it all again and again and again and again.

We took a red-eye flight from Oregon back to Mexico in January after spending the holidays with our families. The night before our travel day I obsessively watched the clock. I moved to the bedroom farthest away from my baby, downstairs on the other side of the house. I took Melatonin and put earplugs in. I played classical music softly in the background. The entire night I did not sleep. I went into panic mode, and there was no turning back.

From that day forward my body would fill with dread as the afternoon turned into evening. Like a child afraid of the dark, I would curse the moon outside, the soft midnight hum of a city going to sleep. I feared more than anything those endless hours of isolation and darkness when time seemed to stand still. My mind raced, as the rest of the world rested, inventing scenarios for the following day; in each scenario I lost, I failed, I fell short. In each scenario I was afraid, anxious, a terrible mother. The night became my enemy, convincing me I was never meant to do this one sacred thing. And yet, my baby would rise with the sun, without fail, and his wails would call out to me, his mother.

I didn’t know anybody who had ever felt like I did after having a baby. I was desperate to understand, to make it all better, to somehow end my 10 hour daily nightmares. In a stroke of luck, I found a support group online, and I devoured their words, hungry for companionship, even if it came in the form of black letters on a 13 inch computer screen. It’s ironic, and perhaps dramatic, but in a way, the internet saved my life. At my darkest hour, most afraid and most alone, those strangers were there for me. 

Another mom on the discussion board read in my profile that I was living in Mexico, and she private messaged me. She was Mexican, living in a state to the north, and wanted to help me if she could.  Yes… Please. I needed a medical provider. What was I supposed to do? Open the yellow pages to “Shrinks” and randomly pick one? She said she would ask her doctor for a recommendation in Guadalajara. Okay, I wrote. Gracias. I was both terrified and relieved at the same time. Being drug into Urgent Care by my exasperated husband was one thing, but voluntarily going to a psychiatrist was another. It was admitting that there was something wrong with me that I could not control and that I could not fix. 

For type A-ish perfectionist goodie goodies like I was, this was rock bottom.

In a few days she sent me the doctor’s phone number. I knew I couldn’t hesitate or I would lose the nerve to call. The receptionist scheduled my appointment, and then I asked for the address of the office. She told me the street number and neighborhood, including the closest cross street. I choked back tears, and managed to squeak out a “bien, gracias.” 

I fell back onto our couch and stared at my trembling hands. I struggled to swallow. The psychiatrist’s office was two doors to the left of our townhouse. Two doors down. In a sprawling metropolis of six million people, my psychiatrist was my neighbor.  I closed my eyes and exhaled slowly. Is there serendipity like this in every sad story? I wondered. 

After five intense months, I finally began to heal. Postpartum depression and anxiety broke me but also somehow restored me to a more complete version of myself. For me, the journey from brokenness to wholeness was not vertical or horizontal. In fact, I am uncertain if I can refer to “it” in the past tense, yet, or ever, because are we not always at work to restore our scarred selves?  I may always feel an inexplicable ache deep within at the sight of a baby bump, and newborns though pure and sacred, may forever frighten me in a way that I can’t quite explain. Perhaps I will always compare myself against the mother of five, of four, of three… the mother who had natural births, the one who home schools, who doesn’t raise her voice.

My firstborn son is six years old, strikingly handsome and kind. He has big brown eyes and thick eyelashes like me and my pointy nose. His attention to detail and desire to please people comes from his daddy, and he’s the best big brother. He always wants his daddy over me, and I understand that’s because of the months I spent hiding in the back bedroom trying to cope with my anxiety while daddy cuddled him to sleep. My heart aches at what I lost, but it is what it is. I try to be happy that they have the relationship they do, and remind myself that he loves me, he loves me, he loves me. Becoming a mother was not the bravest thing I ever did. It was mostly a blind decision, an instinct, the next step after four years of marriage. I remember sitting in the backseat on the drive home from the hospital with my baby on my lap, clutching his tiny body against my fresh uterine scar as we weaved through Guadalajara traffic. I felt so small.

The bravest thing I’ve ever done is give my firstborn a brother; to risk another spiral into despair, knowing it would be worth it, somehow, someday. 

It was.

We named him Rainer, which means warrior, because we would both have to put up a fight. It was not easy, as having a child is never easy, but it was the gift of a second chance.

We recently moved back “home” to Oregon after eight years in Mexico. We all left pieces of ourselves there, and rediscovered other pieces here that we didn’t know we left behind. I’m re-learning how to properly recycle and be on time to parties and drive politely. I’m overwhelmed with the amount of choices and resources for every aspect of life. My boys are flourishing as they make new friends who have already taught them new English slang words. 

The other day I found myself googling “postpartum support in the Columbia River Gorge,” and ended up emailing Postpartum Support International to ask for an application to be the coordinator for my region, which was lacking one. Where are you in your postpartum journey? the application asks. Six years, two children, and an international move later, I’ve come full circle. Am I completely healed? I suppose it depends on how you look at it and how you define healed. But, I don’t think it really matters, because it’s our brokenness and imperfection that draws others in. It took me a long time to realize that.

Now I’ll be the one typing those words to the woman so very afraid who finds me inside her computer … You are not alone. You are not to blame. With help, you will be well. I know, because it happened to me, too.

Convos with Rainer....

8 am, I'm eating granola with my hands out of the bag.

Rainer: Mommy?

Me: What?

Rainer: Are you being like a dog? 'Cause you don't have no milk! 

___________

Rainer, to Daddy: Daddy, I don't like kid girls.  I do like Mommies, but not kid girls.  Yuck!

___________

Me:  Yay! It's Friday night and we're going on a family date!  For pizza! Do you know what a date is?

Rainer: Yes, but mommy? Dates are not for pizza. Dates are for dates. They are for eating. Eating a date! Like in our fridge.  And, if you want pizza, then you have to have a date-pizza!

(we have Medjool dates in our fridge)

Me:  Of course! 

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This kid is something! 

Hair saga

Solomon hates haircuts. 

He has this thick, straight, never-ending head of brown hair that grows like weeds. It seems to grow in all of the least flattering ways, with emphasis on the sideburns and neckline, always making my otherwise gorgeous six-year-old boy look like a neglected delinquent.

But, haircuts. HATE is the word I'm using, people.

Mr P has a deluxe haircut clipper set in its entirety, and we even offer the haircuts in the comfort of our own home, in front of the TV, snacks at our disposal, distractions galore. There has been bribery, and when that fails to work, logic and reasoning, and inevitably back to bribery. He legitimately LIKES his long, floppy hair; the way it falls into his line of vision, the straggly ends approaching his ear lobes, the rat tail out back. I haven't been able to figure out why, or where this preference comes from, because it's baffling. He has not been gifted with the wispy surfer locks or skater side swept bangs. It's a hot mess.

Over the weekend, we coaxed him into the clipper's chair. Octonauts was playing, popcorn was popped, and peanut butter balls were rolled as reinforcements. Daddy managed to complete the haircut mostly without a hitch and at record speed. He was complain-y and whiny when he looked in the mirror, but nothing beyond the usual. We went on with our day.

Cue Monday morning. Two words:  MELT DOWN. 

He physically would not, could not, did not move his body off the floor, as he wailed, flapping at his head, screaming MY HAIR IS TOO SHORT! This kid is not high on drama; he's mellow, even keeled, agreeable and easy for the most part. I stood there, frozen. 

Here I am, watching the scene unfold, feeling completely small. It was one of those moments when I think to myself, "Who left me in charge?" More frequently than I would like to admit do I have these split second inner dialogues, where I genuinely feel transported to my nine year old self, scanning the room for my mommy, or any responsible 'Adult' who can take charge of the situation. I mean, really. When did the growing up actually happen? It's all a blur. 

I'll be the first to admit, I'm not stellar at keeping my cool. Mr P will walk around our chaotic play room as the boys pull each others' hair, and he'll be talking in this soft, soothing monotone voice, while I'm all "STOP THE MADNESS, LITTLE HUMANS!"

But, Monday mornings are teacher in-service, so he goes to work before the sun comes up, and I'm on my own. 

I took a few moments to breathe deeply and actually think about how to approach this situation. Instead of simply reacting, I paused. (This is rare; hence the need to include it here.)

"Sweetie, I want to help you get through this. I know you don't like your hair. But, nothing can change that right now. If I let you stay home from school today, what will we do tomorrow? And the next day? And every day until your hair grows back long?" 

"I don't want to go to school tomorrow either! ::sobs::  My HAIR IS TOO SHORT!"

My mind is racing at this point.  Bullying is real. Someone might say something. What if the kids tease him? What if his teacher embarrasses him? Maybe he should stay home. That instinct to want to protect our children from all potential threat of harm, large or small? That's real. 

What came next wasn't the prettiest or most eloquent moment of parenting. I saw my son shift from genuine stress about going to school with a new haircut, to being just plain naughty. It is a fine line, but when it's crossed, it's usually plain as day.

And, you better believe at that point, I decided in my mind that he was going to school. 

There is never anybody around in those moments to teach you how to confront the (daily) complexities of your child's manipulation, fears, worries, insecurities, or outright defiance. Most of the time, all we have in our arsenal is our gut. So, we react and hope for the best.

"How about this? I'll meet you in the cafeteria at lunch time, and if you are still unhappy, you can come home with me."

He glared at me from the backseat, face blotchy and wet. But, when we pulled up to the curb at the main entrance, he wiped his eyes and confidently grabbed his backpack to walk to his classroom alone. 

I realized in that moment as I watched him walk away that I unknowingly gave him a very special gift. I gave him the knowledge that he could overcome his insecurity. And that knowledge is power.

A few hours later I waved at him from the cafeteria entrance. He smiled sheepishly, as he packed up his things to go to recess. 

"So, here I am. Do you want to come home, or do you want to stay?"

"I want to stay," he answered without hesitation.  And with that, he ran outside with his friends. 

It's certainly not everyday, but this day, I patted myself on the back as I walked to my car, smiling. We can do hard things!

 

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Tiny Adventures

We've enjoyed for the past several weeks going on mini adventures as a family. Mr P bought this book Curious Gorge , written by a local guy and geared toward local people exploring "our gorge." It's been so fun! Our new challenge is to visit each of the 116 entries. We don't have a timeline and we don't have an agenda, except to open to the table of contents each Saturday, pack snacks, and GO. 

The boys have whined and protested each time, but without fail they end up not wanting to leave where we end up. It helps that it's been a spring-like February here in the gorge!  

I'm grateful that I still find myself in awe of this region's incomparable beauty, and I hope it never becomes normal or boring to explore our home. My trusty iPhone comes along on our adventures, but without fail the photos disappoint. It seems the mystery and lure of the gorge is that photos will never be able to capture its glory; you must come see for yourself. 

(We love to entertain.) 

(We have a laz-y-boy pull out bed.) 

 

 

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three little words

I'm reading a very powerful memoir (thanks for the rec, Eli!) called Three Little Words.  Ashley tells her story of growing up in foster care, living in 14 homes before she turned 13. It's one of those books that you think about as you are driving, laying in bed at night, and rocking your babies to sleep. Read it.  (I'm planning to read her adoptive mother's book next, I speak for this child

Little Rainer is sick. He woke up at midnight coughing like a seal saying "I can't breathe!" I pulled him in close and stroked his head for close to two hours as he struggled to fall back asleep. Someone did that for me when I was sick (thank you, mom), and now I have the incredibly fortunate privilege to do it for my son in his most vulnerable hour. 

My mind wandered to the 500,000 children in foster care. I couldn't help it. 

Today you can find us on the couch, wrapped in blankets, watching veggie tales. I won't be letting go of his hands all day. 

the state of things.

Lately I've been struggling a bit with this blog. I'm not really sure where it has been going, where it should be going, or if it's going at all. Our expat experience in Mexico has been over for almost 8 months now, and we have basically adjusted to our new "normal" life in Hood River. There seems to be less to write about as the little guys grow, and maybe that's because life is more uneventful or life is more personal or life is more full. I'm not sure. 

Part of me knows I will appreciate even the smallest, briefest snapshots of our daily lives, thoughts, and tiny adventures as I read them years from now.  And, another part of me sees a blank page, all day, everyday. Call it writer's block, call it normalcy, call it good old fashioned boredom, but I guess I just don't have much to say these days. I've been focusing on other hobbies beyond writing, and that is a beautiful and very good thing. I'm so blessed to be able to divide my attention neatly over the span of several interests of mine. 

Today I volunteered for a couple of hours in Solomon's classroom. It was basic stuff, but I was smiling inside that I CAN DO THIS. I'm so lucky. Tonight I go to my first training to become a volunteer CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) for Hood River/Wasco counties. This work is all about advocating for children in foster care; being their eyes, their ears, their voice in the court system. I'm scared, but again ... so lucky.  I'm sure I'll have stories to share in the coming months. I'm hopeful for many happy endings.

February is around the corner, and we are coming up on 6 months of home ownership. Part of me is shocked, and the other part confused. It feels impossible that we've only lived here for six months, and also Mexico feels like last week and another lifetime. It's all very strange. I love our home. LOVE. IT. 

I continue to plug away at my 30 miles a week, and almost every run feels like a mini vacation from life that I'm ever so grateful for.  I listen to my audiobooks and podcasts (Serial, anyone?!), and sometimes I just space out to Pandora.  In the evenings I read Harry Potter (I'm on book 2) as I fall asleep. 

I've also recently become sort of obsessed with vegan cuisine thanks to a stack of cookbooks from the library. (Oh She Glows is my favorite)  I've been meal planning and making all sorts of crazy nut bars and date balls and stir frys and veggie burgers and rice bowls and tofu and tempeh and it has all been AMAZZING.

Solomon invited his first friend over from school the other day, and it was adorable. We ate chips and salsa and went to the park and played legos. Rainer tried desperately to keep up. The boys love each other so much I think it hurts. The pendulum swings so darn fast from the hugging and kissing to the under the table kicks and slaps of the head when I'm not looking. It's exhausting and wonderful, because it is life. The fighting over legos has indeed pushed me over the edge, however and they are currently hidden somewhere I'll never, ever tell.

So. That's basically the state of things over here on the Heights of Hood River. 

Cheers! 

a tiny little thought.

Lately I've noticed I'm thinking more and more about myself.

((GASP))

Well, let me back up.

Aren't we conditioned as women, especially as mothers, that our needs come last? That to think about ourselves is selfish, appalling, embarrassing, wrong? 

It could be now that Rainer is 3, and preschool has crossed my mind, and school is on the horizon, I am realizing that there will come a day when I won't have little ones demanding my attention nonstop. I will wake up one morning and after 7:40 am, the house will be silent. What then?

I want my boys to believe that women can do anything they want to.  But, I realize that first I must believe it. I must think about myself. I must think about my capabilities, my gifts, my strengths and my weaknesses. I must think about where I can grow, who I can help, how I can serve. 

I must believe that I have a lot to offer, and then refuse to let it go to waste. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Climb out of the Darkness is coming June 20!  Click here if you would like to join us for an urban hike in Portland, Oregon to raise money for Postpartum Progress! (non-profit that educates and advocates for maternal mental health)

Convos with Solo (and Rainer)

Talking about careers and what people do for their jobs

Me: What does Daddy do?

Solo: Daddy is a principal. He gets people in trouble.

Me: What does mommy do?

Solo: Mommy, you are a mom! 

Me: But, what else do I do?

Solo: Hmm... Oh! you are a mom who helps all the babies.

Me: What does Nonna do?

Rainer: Nonna is a sewer. She is a fixer. She fixes pants.

Me: What does Gram do?

Solo: Gram is a teacher!

Rainer: Gram gives us snacks! 

Me: What does Aunt Jessica do? 

Solo:  Um... She goes to work! 

Me:  But, what does she do? 

Solo: She cycles?

Me: What about Grandpa? 

Solo: Grandpa is a feeder. He feeds birds.

The end.

on falling off the wagon...

So, that Whole30 thing? Remember that? Confession time: I re-named it the Whole20. Ha! The night of day 20 I caved and went for the homemade Christmas caramels given to me at a work party ... the sea salt, almond and coffee kind. And before you ask, YES, yes they were worth it. 

However, my inability to enjoy in moderation was also confirmed. And one caramel turned into three turned into mint truffles at my mom and dad's house turned into German pancakes with powdered sugar. So, I fell off the wagon, and I fell hard. I'm not proud of it, but it has taught me where my weaknesses lie (in case there was any doubt before). And next week I'm going for a round 2 of clean eating. I'm not looking forward to detoxing again, but I am ready to clear my head of the fogginess that comes after a sugar binge. 

In other more positive news, I'm rounding out 1,280 miles run this year, which is almost 30 miles a week! You can find me on Strava, if you are so inclined. I'm thinking that for 2015 I would like to run a half marathon, and break 1,200 miles again. I would also love to run another sub 47:00 10K, but I am a bit turned off by the price of most races around here. I'm hoping to find a local Gorge run in the spring.  

And while we are on the topic of goals, Mr. P and I have talked about setting family goals and eating together daily. I read this awesome article that really resonated with both of us. I love the idea of having a mission statement, and trying to talk less so that the boys talk more. 

 "the amount of time children spent eating meals at home was the single biggest predictor of better academic achievement and fewer behavioral problems."

Pretty interesting stuff. Of course right now my 6 and 3 year olds sort of have to eat at home, and I sort of have to be there to supervise. But, it's encouraging to read that these little daily habits are actually laying the foundation for lifelong values. And it matters. RIGHT NOW.

This past year was one of change, transition, and growth. But, if I had to choose one word, it would be:  Blessing. (synonyms: protection, favor.)  Through every up and every down, through each goodbye, transition, purchase and decision, I have felt blessed. I have felt blessed for the experience of a painful goodbye, because that means we loved deeply and without reserve. I have felt blessed to have a family to move home to, one that cares tremendously for our kids. I have felt blessed to find the perfect home in a beautiful community that has embraced and welcomed us beyond our wildest expectations. I have felt blessed through the provision of a car, a job, a nanny, a friend. I have felt, and continue to be, blessed by our health -- emotional, mental, physical, spiritual. I want to remember that this especially is longed for by so many, all the time, everywhere. 

I am eager and excited to begin anew in 2015, in ways far beyond clean eating and running miles.  I cannot begin to imagine the surprises that await our family, and I hope that 2015 can be a year where we seek and find ways to give back these abundant blessings. 

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Lately

This is our first Christmas "home" in 8 years. Our boys are at the most magical age for the season. They believe in it all, and it's So. Much. Fun. 

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Our nanny bought a little stuffed elf and told the boys he has a camera in his belly and he reports daily to Santa on their behavior. And then I gave her a raise.  

I kid.  

But, seriously that elf has kept busy! All day long I discreetly move him around the house when they aren't looking. And every time their reaction when they realize he moved is awesome and priceless and will never get old. I love that they believe in it, without hesitation. There is no analyzing or questioning or doubting. It just is what it is in their little minds, and I love it. 

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For the first weekend of Christmas break we surprised the boys with the 2nd set of Star Wars movies. Let me just say our entire house has converted into a galactic scene of sci-fi violence interpreted by a 6 and 3 year old. I get to drink my coffee in peace, so it's a win-win. But, seriously, Rainer will find a pen lying on the counter and it suddenly becomes Darth Maul chasing a granola bar wrapper that is Chewbaca! What?! They can't get enough of it.

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Last night we had a holiday party at our house, complete with homemade soups and chocolate and a rousing game of boys vs. girls charades. I look around the room, and I can't believe how lucky we are. It's like everywhere we go we find the best, most awesome people. And I don't know what we've done to deserve it, but we are thankful. 

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We have been building epic forts in the living room and going out for hot chocolate and making bird feeders with pine cones and peanut butter and visiting the history museum and the library and let me just say CHRISTMAS BREAK IS ON!!! This morning their nanny came so Mr. P and I could get some work hours in before our family holiday parties, and she came bearing gifts. REMOTE CARS!!! IT'S WHAT WE ALWAYS WANTED! exclaims Solomon, and all is right in their world.

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Teaching those little humans

You know those moments when you realize you are responsible for teaching your kiddo major life lessons and you fear you are failing miserably? The moment when you look at your child and all you can think is, Dear God, help us? 

I bought Solomon a few shirts at a second hand store recently. They were in good condition, looked comfy and "cool." I was excited to give him his little surprise, just-because gift. 

His reaction appalled me.  

"That's not new. I don't like those."  

Long story short, I came to the realization that my child had never experienced wearing a hand-me-down. While living in Mexico, we were not close to family or friends whom would potentially share used clothing with us.  He only has one older male cousin, but the age gap is much too large.  

I remember last year at his school in Guadalajara they had a "green" day when all the children were supposed to wear a hand-me-down. Shoot.  

But, of course, time just goes on and we forget about these things.  Until my son rejects a gift I bring him because it is not NEW.  We had a conversation about how lots of kids never have new clothes, and how when something is a gift we accept it and we are thankful.  But mostly I just fumbled over my words in frustration while inside I seethed with anger. Mainly anger at myself for somehow letting it come to this point. 

Since this day, we have had two not pretty outbursts related to wearing these shirts. Seriously. The other day, the most recent, I lost my mind. I was boiling mad inside that I had somehow allowed my child to become a spoiled brat. It was shame that I felt, but instead I directed my anger at my six year old. I knew in my heart it really is not his fault. But, I simply reacted. And then instantly I felt awful. 

I guess I don't have the answers for how to instill gratitude and simplicity in our children. Or whatever else it is we are missing over here at our house. I know that it's not by flipping out like I did. (I'm sorry Solomon.) Rainer and I went to the school to have lunch with him that afternoon because all I could think about was hugging him and saying I'm sorry... I'm broken... We all are. 

At work that night I asked my colleague for a family my boys could buy Christmas presents for. She gave me a list of four little girls, and you better believe my boys were walking the bright pink aisles with me, picking out dress up heels and Dora puzzles. Did it hit home for them? I don't really know yet. But, it's a start.  

 

week one.

I have completed over a week on Whole30. It has been harder than I thought in some ways, and easier in others. For instance, breakfast cravings surprised me by being probably the toughest time of day. I just want to wake up and not have to think so much about what the heck I can eat. I just want yogurt with granola or cereal or toast or a simple English muffin!! And COFFEE with WHITE STUFF that actually tastes good.

So that's been a bit of a struggle.  Meat, veggies, or eggs are not my favorite thing in the morning, let me just say. A favorite breakfast has been homemade applesauce, fresh or frozen fruit topped with walnuts, pecans and shredded coconut. I have a feeling that's going to get old in a few days, so any ideas are welcome.

Sugar cravings, on the other hand, haven't been nearly as difficult as I expected them to be, as I have a major sweet tooth. I've managed the urges with lots of fruit, blended up mangoes or bananas and raisins from time to time. 

I'm only a 1/3 of the way through, so I realize I need to give it more time, but I haven't noticed any significant improvements or benefits... Yet. Other than feeling super proud at the checkout line of how healthy all my groceries are. 

I'm eagerly awaiting the bursts of energy and glowing skin...

To be continued...

 

Turkey and detox

What a lovely week we have had! The boys and Mr. P were off the whole week for thanksgiving break. We enjoyed some time to ourselves while our sitter stepped in. Wednesday - Sunday we were lucky enough to host our loved ones. My niece and my parents feasted with us, and my sister and brother-in-law joined for Friday. We ate a ton, went running everyday, played games and watched comedy. It was good. 

Yesterday we drove the boys up to Rowena Crest viewpoint and saw this: 

 

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That's an iPhone shot with no edit. It is really that beautiful. It also happened to be 26*F so we found these:

 

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And these:

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and it was gorgeous and freezing and a simple, but wonderful memory. 

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I also got my wish of a Christmas tree on Saturday. I bought the first one I saw...And it's perfect. 

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Last night in bed I asked the boys what their favorite part of the week was. Here are some responses:

solomon- the turkey!! 

rainer- the Christmas lights! 

solomon- the Christmas tree! 

rainer- playing the robot game! 

solomon- reading books with Nonna

rainer- playing play dough and making stuff!

We didn't go anywhere or do anything, really, but they could care less. It was a full week with people who love them.  

 

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This awful shot may have been the best one we got! 

This awful shot may have been the best one we got! 

And, lastly, because you are probably wondering why the word "detox" is in the title....Yes, I'm crazy and have decided to do a 30 day cleanse (Known as the "Whole30" program) for the month of December. For 30 days I am only eating whole, clean food -- unprocessed, no alcohol, no dairy, no grains, no legumes, no soy, and no added sugars or sweeteners. Bless my sister for doing this with me. 

My grocery store haul from yesterday: 

 

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And my breakfast today:

 

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I've weighed in, taken the before photos and measurements... So here goes something that will hopefully break my bad eating habits and energize me for the holidays!! 

We awoke to a dusting of snow this morning and my beautiful white view is (sorta) making up for my black coffee. Sigh.  

Happy Monday to all, and here we go, December!! 

 

Musings from a newly 33 year old.

I turned 33 on Sunday. I think 33 might be the best life has to offer. 

It was a beautiful snowy day spent with people I love, eating delicious food and dessert (and coffee), getting kisses and gifts from my boys (boxed up toys from their room). Perfection. 

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I treated myself to new snow boots, because that is my reality now. We went running in 18 degree weather and I lived! 

 

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I'm one of the extremely lucky ones. A beautiful home, healthy body and mind, and a family to love and hold.

This will be our first holiday season spent with extended family in 8 years. I plan to relax and take it all in. There will be no stressing out or worrying or over thinking. Just calm.  

Im feeling really thankful these days; its a good thing.  

 

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