Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Is there life outside of old nursing bras?

I've been having lots of these mom moments lately.

Not the cutesy ones with the perfect memories with my kids. I actually have been having lots of those lately too, which is nice because it makes the crazy mom moments not as hard. It's a lot more difficult to be mad at my 2 year old when she poops on my hand when its after she's made me laugh hysterically rather than after she's stayed awake and hyper on a cross country flight.

But those moments where you wonder if this is all you are anymore...a mom. And when I say it like that, it sounds bad, right? Because being a parent is THE most important job in the world, and incredible, and a gift...which makes you then feel guilty (MOM GUILT IS THE MOST REAL THING EVER IN LIFE, EVER) for questioning it.

But. The other day I was folding laundry and I realized the nicest and sexiest underwear I own are my new Thinx PERIOD PANTIES. Period fucking panties. I mean yeah, there's lace on them and they're black. They don't look like period panties. They're pretty cute, actually. OK. Ok. This is not self care, my friends. Even better is I have about six bras, one of which fits properly, and three of them are nursing bras. NURSING BRAS. Haddie is 3 in December and she was weaned at 13.5 months. I mean, come ON. Though, I will say, one of the best things about nursing bras and tanks that I didn't realize until just recently (which is ironic, considering how insatiable your appetite is when breastfeeding) is if you drop crumbs down your tank or bra, all you have to do is undo those little clips and stand over a trash can and you're good to go!

IS THIS WHAT MY LIFE HAS COME TO? Excitement over a removable shelf bra that doesn't even fit properly? Plus I'm pretty sure my neighbors think I have some weird fetish about standing with what looks like a shirt up to my boobs over my trash can and bouncing a bit.

Yesterday after I dropped my kindergartner (How is she in kinder already? Wasn't it just yesterday I was wearing nursing bras? OH WAIT. Yes, yes it was.) off at school, one of the other moms and I were having a conversation when she really kindly commented on "how beautiful" I looked that day. I said "Oh thanks, I showered." I didn't just think it, I said it. Like that's a normal response.

I love my kids. I love being a mom. But there has to be more to me, right? Is there? Heck, even this blog, where I come to write every 2.68 months, all I write about is motherhood. Which is great and lovely and fulfilling and to be honest, really good material because kids are crazy and I live in a nuthouse, but I'm not even sure what my interests are anymore. I'm starting to realize, in order to be a more patient, happy, present mama, I need to take care of ME too. I just need to figure out who that person is, outside of my role as mommy. When my kids are old enough to have a more "equal" relationship (I'm assuming in 20 years they won't be calling for me from the toilet to wipe their butts but NEVER SAY NEVER, I know!), I want there to be a person for them to have a relationship with...not just a shell wondering why I'm not sure what to do with myself outside of packing those lunches and planning those play dates.

So I have some goals for the rest of 2016 and I need you all, my average of 8.6 readers, to 1) hold me accountable, 2) tell me what your self care/discovery goals are, and 3) tell me who I am and I guess that's it because I think this is crap I have to figure out for myself.

1. Get properly fitted for some bras and throw away the ones stabbing me or with weird removal systems...unless the weird removal systems is some kind of cool, kinky thing I'm totally ignorant to and it's unrelated to nursing.
2. Wear earrings at least four days a week. FOUR DAYS A WEEK. Earrings make me feel pretty.
3. Read a book that isn't related to motherhood.
4. Plan or attend at least one girls night out a month, even if I have to hire a sitter. But no way in hell I'm promising not to talk about our kids, because hello...baby steps. I can't even go to a non-kid party and find something outside of poop and ballet classes to discuss.
5. Continue to exercise 3-5 days a week.
6. Clean out my car. It's gross and there's a film covering everything...with goldfish stuck to it.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

You may not remember me...

Dear Monica,

You may not remember me, but I will never forget you.

As excited and expectant new parents, we took the advice of many friends and interviewed and hired Dr. Gvozden in 2011. On August 14, 2011 our first daughter, Clara Hope, was born. Dr. Gvozden was out of town so we saw another doctor in the hospital. Clara and I were having breastfeeding difficulties, but I had done a ton of research and was very reassured by the nurses, Doctor, and lactation consultant that while we were off to a rough start, things were on track. When she was 4 days old, Kim Knight IBCLC came to our house per my request as I wanted to be assured we were doing all we could to make this work and have Clara thrive. I knew between my PCOS, her tongue tie, and the use of a nipple shield that we had an uphill battle so I wanted as much support in place as possible. Kim and I made a plan, she watched me nurse Clara and told me she had never seen a new mom so comfortable nursing - I was lounging and walking around while feeding her and she reiterated how impressed she was with me. I didn't know that I was doing anything special but it was certainly nice to have the reassurance of a professional that I was doing it right.

If only the support continued when we took Clara into your office that afternoon. You immediately told me she was dehydrated, grabbed her from me, grilled me, and told me you were going to get formula for her to eat in the office. Before I could ask questions, before I could understand what the concern was. You didn't know I had done all my research. You didn't know I was aware of possible slow weight gain or low supply. You didn't know because you didn't ask. Luckily, my husband and I were able to gather our thoughts as you were grabbing nipples for the formula bottles enough that I could say "Wait, I don't think I want to introduce formula this early. It could hurt my supply." You very, very hesitantly said I didn't have to feed her the formula but insisted I bring it home and make an appointment for a weight check in two days. When I brought up her tongue tie, you denied that was an issue. The only concern you showed was when I started crying, you asked if we had support. Because obviously a mom at 4 days post partum whose breastfeeding goals are being stomped on isn't reason enough to cry, it must be because I don't have enough support at home. Because a mom getting emotional when someone she's never met but is supposed to trust with her daughters care is running around frantic acting like my newborn was knocking on deaths door, but that went against everything every nurse, pediatrician, and lactation consultant said, shouldn't be crying. Something must be wrong with the mom, right?

Well that is certainly how you and the front office staff made me feel. When I called back to cancel the weight check because I immediately found a new pediatrician (after taking her to Annapolos ENT who confirmed that yes, she did have a tongue tie), the office told me if I didn't bring Clara back in, it was "illegal." I had no idea what that meant so I brought her back in. It wasn't until years later when discussing awful post partum medical care with a friend, that I came to the realization that you were going to report me to CPS if I didn't come. Because maybe you thought I was starving my baby? That thought never even entered my mind, ever, which I was I was so confused as to why you were acting so harsh. Which is why when I talked to Kim (a lot - I worked with her for the first month of Clara's life), who said she saw you over the weekend and you mentioned you were concerned about me and "that baby", I legitimately had no idea why.

I'm almost five years and another child into motherhood now so I know now that you see awful things. You must see newborns starve, sometimes at the hands of their own parents. You didn't want that to happen to Clara; I get that now. But do you want to know what else happens a lot? New moms are loving, hormonal, scared, excited, determined, confused, knowledgeable, and vulnerable. You were probably concerned I had post partum depression, but what you don't know is that you triggered post partum depression in me. You, as a pediatric nurse practitioner, have the ability to support and learn from and guide new families, but acting out of fear, you did the opposite. And I've talked to friends who have had similar experiences with you.

I didn't manage to breastfeed Clara past 6 weeks. I couldn't get over feeling like I might be starving her, because you had put that thought into my mind, and rather than offer support, you offered condemnation. And my next child? We are back home living in Alaska now, and my children see the same pediatrician I saw as a child. I worked with midwives, lactation consultants, and that amazing pediatrician and I nursed her until she was 14 months. It was hard. It was extra work for everyone involved. And when that pediatrician looked me in my eyes that were welling with tears because I was worried history would repeat itself and said "I trust you, we want you to breastfeed, keep doing what you're doing." My heart swelled, and yet - a voice in the back of my head said "what if he doesn't trust you? What if he treats you the way Monica did?"

I know that you can't help that I was predisposed to get post partum depression and anxiety. It's not your fault that I wasn't able to continue to breastfeed Clara. But you triggered fears in me I didn't even know I had, and you have the ability and opportunities to do so much better.

I know there's a good chance you'll read this letter, roll your eyes, and throw it away. I know there's a better chance you'll write me back and passively apologize that "I had a hard time" but defend your actions and insist Clara was sicker than I realized (and maybe she was - but you still didn't handle it appropriately), and the thought of getting a response like that is what's kept me from writing this letter for nearly five years. I don't want to open up old wounds that I've worked so hard on healing for myself. But you know what? There's a chance, albeit small, that maybe the next time you see something other than the typical newborn or new mom who breastfeed a perfectly or goes straight to formula, that you'll ask questions, hold hands, provide proper support, or refer her to someone who can. And if this letter makes you think twice next time that mom of a 4 day old comes in, wearing s nursing tank covered in spit up, then I can't regret sending this.

Sincerely,

Erynne

Monday, May 23, 2016

If you would have told me...



If someone told me eight years ago on May 24, 2008 that Ian and I would be spending our eight year wedding anniversary him working, and me traveling with our two kids from our home in Alaska to Maryland to celebrate my youngest brother's wedding, I would have smiled. I would have said "Yes, that sounds right. Back living in Alaska, two kids, Ian working and me a stay at home mom." On paper, everything we planned for. On paper, everything I wanted.

If someone had told me I actually wouldn't have trouble having children (as I was initially told by my doctor), I would have cried tears of joy. I would have asked this prophetic messenger questions about the kids. How old, their names, did they get Ian's eyes, did they get my skin, did they get his athleticism, did they get my hair? What about their personalities? If I was told that Clara inherited my sensitive and empathetic nature, but Ian's creativity and artistic ability, I would have beamed. If someone told me that Haddie got my sense of humor, and Ian's quirkiness, I would have been overjoyed. I would have nodded when I was told that Clara got my tendency to worry and Haddie got my hot head. If someone had said "And they are both stubborn and hard headed, like both you and Ian." I would have agreed. Wait a minute. What? Ian's not hard headed and stubborn, I would have thought. I've spent the last four years dating him, I would know by now.

So much I thought I knew at 22. They could have reminded me that your brains aren't even fully formed until 25 and I would have said, sure, but how much difference can three years make? I want to be married. I want kids. I want the white picket fence and the soccer mom van.

And if they continued and said, you will worry every day that they'll inherit his ADHD and your OCD, I would have said...Hold on! So he does have ADHD? How will that affect our marriage? And my tendency to fixate on worst case scenarios and seemingly inability to stop worrying is OCD? I don't even make my bed in the morning; I can't have OCD!

If they told me I would suffer from post partum depression and severe post partum anxiety, I may have been disappointed but I would have believed them. If they'd gone on and said the depression was triggered by your inability to breastfeed your eldest, I wouldn't have believed them. I would have said "As long as you work hard enough, it's possible."

I went into our marriage with the same thought, eight years ago. "As long as you work hard enough..." What if I was told that I would start to wonder when it wouldn't be just work? What if they told me that there are some things you can't prepare for? Some things that require emotional, intrinsic work that you'll be reluctant to do? Some things that require the same of your partner, and you won't be sure you trust them to do the same?

I would have said that Ian and I had our issues but I could trust him. And they would have responded "your trust in him will be tested, more than once. It will be broken, more than once."

Would I have hesitated to start painting that white picket fence?

If eight years ago, I was told that I would inadvertently hurt him, I would bring him into my worst fears and anxiety and pain and take it all out on him, I wouldn't have words to respond.

If someone told me that my views on marriage, the world, raising children, faith, God, and life could change drastically, more than once, between now and my 30th birthday, what would I think?

I would have said that Ian and I would grow together, because we were both determined to do so. And then I would have been told that I was too young and naive to fully understand what that even meant. "But I want it to work! It's a choice!" Would I have then been told I would question that choice? Some days more than ever?

If they had said that marriage would rub both of us raw, into better and more self aware people, I would have breathed a sigh of relief. But I wouldn't have thought about the damage we may do to each other and our relationship in the process. I wouldn't have considered that once we get to the other side of some of that hard work, that we would still have some doubt, pain, and questions.

If eight years ago I was told that I had amazing kids with the amazing man that I was choosing to marry, I'd nod enthusiastically. If they said that we would struggle to be good parents, both carrying baggage from our own childhoods, I would nod sadly. If I was told that most days we did a great job, I would be comforted by that.

If I was told there'd often be days I believed we'd be better parents apart, I would have called the messenger a liar. And then they'd remind me of all the views I was set on, and how much they may change. If I'd known if watch friends go through painful divorces, friends unable to have their loving relationships recognized, and that I would learn to not judge as harshly families and their choices...

If I knew then what I know now...would I have made those vows? Does anyone know how much their marriage or lives could be rocked?

I'm grateful that we don't have a seeing eye glass in our lives. That we don't have messengers warning us "danger ahead", because if we did, how could any of us go on? How could we ever make a decision or live our lives?

Because if we did...




Happy Anniversary, Ian. We aren't where either of us expected in reality, but in many ways we are. I'm grateful for you and the children we are raising together. We don't know where we'll be in the future, but I'm glad for where I am today. I am learning to just have to be ok, today, and worry about where tomorrow takes us later.






*disclaimer: I always ask Ian to read my posts before I publish them. I would never post anything he's uncomfortable with.



Friday, February 5, 2016

I'm grateful for my OCD

I'm grateful for my maternal anxiety and OCD.

There are words I never thought I'd say. I'm doing the 365 grateful project on Instagram and Facebook, but decided today's grateful picture and post needed a whole blog posting. I'm not known for being long winded or anything. ;)

Anxiety presents itself a little differently in each sufferer. It preys on your deepest, darkest fears and insecurities. So what does that look like for me? The worst thing I can imagine is someone hurting my kids, me not being able to protect them from that, or something happening to me that leaves me incapable of caring for them...so anything that falls into those categories (and it can morph and change) has the potential to trigger a panic attack for me. I'll have an intrusive thought ("what if I have a mental breakdown and can no longer care for my kids?" "___ looked at my kid funny. What was that about?" And my brain latches onto it. This is where the OCD part kicks in. People make jokes about being "so OCD" or that it's all about cleanliness, and sometimes it is. It isn't for me. It's not the "compulsion" or behavior part for me either. It's the obsessions. My brain latches onto those intrusive thoughts and replays them over and over and over and tells me I need to analyze every situation or scenario, oh and when you're done here's 23 more reasons why you should worry about it. It's my own personal hell, being played out over and over and over.

And the real problem is, sometimes moms do have gut instincts about people or scenarios, and they do help you keep your kid safe. Sometimes the fear is real, most of the time (for me), it's not. So how do you tell the difference?

CONSTANT VIGILANCE (sorry, had to have one mad eye moody reference!)

You tell the difference by processing the fears. Anxiety is the opposite of instincts but sometimes they feel the exact same. And so by processing? I muddle through and sometimes give the fear more power.

And today I'm telling you, and myself, that I'm grateful for it.

It's been hell sometimes. During a panic attack when I feel like everything is foggy and I can't think straight, and all my worst fears are coming true...it's awful. But today, at over two years post partum (because hello HORMONES, did you know post partum anxiety is just as common as post partum depression?!) I have far more good days than bad. And I have learned to appreciate the good days so much. Anxiety is like the little devil on your shoulder, never fully going away, you know he will make his presence known soon enough, but if you can just turn to God on the other side more days than not...you'll be ok.

Because of my anxiety, I am more compassionate. More compassionate for all parents, my parents. People who get divorced without a  "good reason" that is clear to the rest of us. More compassionate for anyone suffering from a mental illness, or what's sometimes worse - the people who love them. It's made me a more compassionate mom.

My anxiety has helped me create boundaries. That's not always fun, but they're necessary sometimes...and when you have a heart for other people and relationships, they're especially hard to implement...sometimes I think God used my anxiety to help push me to create hard but necessary boundaries.

My OCD and Ian's inability to cope with it nearly destroyed my marriage. Turns out when you have marriage issues, most of the time it's not just one of you contributing to it. (Hey, I only paid a therapist a shit ton of money to learn that.) Ian made a lot of mistakes in handling it, and a lot of mistakes as a husband and friend too. Those actions hurt me and continue to some days; he will admit that to anybody, and it wouldn't be fair not to acknowledge that. But my OCD...it was like this huge magnifying glass on all of our other issues. And yet, I'm grateful for it. We are both so much more self aware now. We have both grown so much. We are both better communicators. And it's my OCD and anxiety that forced that to happen.

If it weren't for my anxiety and OCD I wouldn't have joined a gym in order to have some "cheap" therapy, and therefore wouldn't have lost weight and been a lot healthier and happier.

On the bad days my anxiety makes me disconnected, angry, and impatient. Most days, now, it makes me sympathetic, empathetic, proactive, and a constant student in this thing called life. It makes me
 lean on God more. I've learned coping skills, and those coping skills have become more than that;
they've given me new life. Exercise, church, time with friends, prayer, music. I no longer just enjoy those, I have learned I need to make them (and me) a priority - can I get an Amen from the other mamas out there?! ;)

So today, I'm grateful for my maternal anxiety and OCD. I don't believe God only gives us what we can handle, or that all things are a part of His plan...I think we have free will, shitty stuff happens, and there's a lot of evil in this world. Anxiety is one of those for me. It's one of the ugliest, most hard, crappy things I've been handed. But, like all of the ugly and the evil in this world, God can make it good.


Sunday, January 31, 2016

Things I Never Expected to Hear, Say, See, or Do...

...as the parent of two girls. Sometimes I think that parents of boys think that parents of (only) girls got out of some of the gross and weird stuff that comes along with having kids. Maybe it's just my kids, but girls are gross and weird, too. It's probably their genetics and heritage (hi, yeah, the other day I burped while discussing poop consistency with someone I haven't known very long) but my "girly girls" gross me out all the time.

Things I Never Expected to Hear, Say, See, or Do as a Parent of Two Girls:

  • I didn't expect to clean pee off of my daughter's face. Her own pee. There's a story there that later in life I'm sure she'd kill me for putting on the internet.
  • I never expected to be discussing private parts this much. Yeah, I get from an anatomy and safety perspective, parents and kids talk about this stuff (or should.) However, I did not expect my then 3 year old to name about 20 people in our life and ask if each one had a penis or a vagina after she learned that Daddy didn't have a vagina like the rest of us (MIND BLOWN.)
  • "Get your finger out of there, please."
  • "And there."
  • "But mom, boogers are so yummy!! Want some?"
  • "OMG NO NO NO!!! PLEASE STOP LICKING THAT LINE OF SNOT. OMG NO PLEASE GRAB A TISSUE; OH THIS IS THE MOST DISGUSTING THING I'VE EVER SEEN."
  • "Why is there poop on your foot?"
  • "And your finger? Never mind, don't answer that."
  • "WHERE MY DIAPER? I NEED POOP; WHERE MY DIAPER?! No! I no poop in dat potty!! WHERE MY DIAPER?!?! I NEED POOP!!" (Running around naked with a clenched butt!)
  • This conversation: "...and so that's what mommy was doing in the bathroom. All mommies have periods." "But what happens to daddies?"...."NOTHING."
  • "I just wanted to watch the pee come out."
  • "It's ok if you want to do...that...but, please do it in the bathroom or in your bedroom."
  • "Yes, dear, the same rule still applies at the dinner table."
  • "I don't need to wash my hands! There's no poop or spit up on them!"
  • "I cuddle your boobs, Mom." #boobpillow

And the hundreds of other experiences that are too embarrassing (for my kids...not for me, of course!;)) to put on the internet!



Tuesday, December 29, 2015

While I'm already being too honest and on a roll with my oversharing...

Nine months and my entire second pregnancy of six weeks away, two weeks home.

A year of four weeks on, two weeks off . (The "best" year of this job.)

Nine weeks of "Oh you're coming back in a week. No, never mind. Ok you're coming back in two weeks. No, never mind..."

Eight months of anywhere from four to six weeks on, averaging one week off. No consistent schedule.

Alternating between gratefulness for the opportunity and the ability to move our family back to Alaska, and (probably irrational) pure hatred of the slope, everything it stood for, and what I felt "it" was doing to our family. But I knew, deep down, it wasn't doing anything to our family. Maybe some families are strong enough for that lifestyle. In fact, I know a lot of thriving slope families. Our was not one of them.

For everyone who thinks that the money is "so good" on the slope, I have a couple thoughts for you. First off, he isn't paid when he's home. The normal 2/2 schedule averages out to similar to what one would make during a 40 hour work week at home. In addition, that "extra" money? It goes to a babysitter so I can have a "break" once every 6 weeks, or have completely unheard of one on one time with one kid. It goes to someone to plow our driveway while I'm pregnant and alone with a toddler. It went to a kid or lawn service to mow our lawn because I couldn't figure out how to mow the lawn while both kids were awake (and it woke them up if I tried while they were asleep.) It went to an expensive gym membership with extra childcare fees. It went to therapy. It went to cable, which we used to not have, but I decided it was a necessary evil during the long  dark evenings during the winter months. It paid for smart phones with the ability to FaceTime, which we didn't have until this job started but suddenly felt necessary. Yes, these are all luxuries I'm grateful for and most people don't have, but please don't assume we were ever rolling in the dough.

Even if we were, would it have been worth frequent panic attacks over the responsibility of parenting two kids alone 80% of the time?

Was it worth the damage that anxiety did to our marriage, before I learned how to channel it outside of him?

Was it worth the fighting between every family member during every transition? Because when he came home, we were all torn between being happy about being back together and having no sense of consistency, unity, or communication anymore?

Is it worth having to receive a call that your daughter was in an ambulance and you were 800 miles away and had no way to help?

Is it worth the unhealthy influence of some of the people and the atmosphere up there, and the dishonesty and mistrust that resulted from that?

Was it worth worrying if our kids were going to have to look elsewhere for a father figure they wanted and technically had, but really didn't?

Would the money have paid for the divorce attorneys?

Do you think it's worth the magnifying glass on every single issue you, your partner, and your marriage ever had?

Was it worth hearing myself nag, over and over, to try and find a job in town? I know what I sounded like, and I didn't care. Was it worth the resentment building in him because I didn't fully appreciate the position he was in?

Is the money worth the bitterness that continued to grow, and still lingers, inside each of us for not understanding or appreciating the other's sacrifice(s)?

Someone recently said to me "an electrician on the slope! No wonder you're a stay at home mom. An electrician makes enough money but on the slope...dang!" I KNOW, without a doubt, how blessed I am to be able to stay at home with my kids. Don't think I don't appreciate that for a second. But I couldn't get a job if I wanted to - the guilt. The never ending mom guilt, we all know it. Mine just presents itself in this way...if my kids are already missing one parent, I'm not going to leave them for 40 hours/week if I don't absolutely have to because they deserve the other parent to be with them. One consistent family member. They don't have grandparents nearby, they don't have cousins or aunts and uncles less than thousands of miles away. They need me. All of the time. All.of.the.time.

Did I mention the fucking panic attacks?

I know how lucky we are and were. I know how much better off we have it than most families, and how easy I have it compared to single parents, military families, people living in poverty. I know, and I thank God every day for our blessings...but you can go ahead and add that into the guilt for every horrible feeling I had too. You shouldn't feel bad. This is what you asked for. This is what you wanted. You have everything you ever wanted, my thoughts told me, and you're ungrateful.

On December 10, 2015 he came home early from the slope and I told him "You can't go back. You can't. If you go back, one of two things is going to happen - I'm either going to check myself into a psych ward or we are getting a divorce. Maybe both." I was not threatening him, and I think he knows that. I had reached my limit and I was telling him what I knew to be true. What almost happened at the end of 2014 and all the way through most of 2015.

On December 12, 2015 he got a call that he was laid off. I told someone recently that it was hard to feel happy about a layoff but that was essentially how I felt. It was scary, but it was time. He had to find something in town now. Had to.

Today is day two of his electrician job in Anchorage. It is not perfect, but it is a job. In town. The wage? Almost laughable right now. The insurance? Double the high rate we were already paying. But yesterday he left right before the kids woke up and was home in time for me to make dinner with minimal clinging to my legs (by the kids, not him so much.;)) We played a family game of Doc McStuffins dominoes, more than once. He bathed them while I sat on my butt playing on my phone. He put one of them to bed while I put the other to bed. And today, when I told the girls that their daddy was going to work, they didn't cry. He'd be home for dinner.






Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The REAL Christmas Letter

It's come up in discussions around me a lot lately, whether it's in church classes or just with friends. Christmas letters. And our tendency to brag, show pride, or gloss over the reality of our lives. Now, don't get me wrong. I LOVE Christmas letters and cards. I wish more people sent them, I love reading them, and I love writing them. I also try to be "real" when I write them...this year, instead of a typical letter, I decided to put our top quotes of 2015. Hence, why the words "vagina," "wine," and "poop" (twice!) are on our Christmas card this year. I don't try to sugar coat our lives or our reality in real life, and I try to be pretty honest online too.

However, reading this brutally honest Christmas card made me realize that I really was not being as honest about the brutal parts of our year as I could be. And yes, we want to be uplifting and positive and not complain or drag people down...also, as someone who suffers from anxiety, I am very conscious of trying not to trigger someone else's anxiety. But don't we also want to let others know they aren't alone? And most importantly...don't the brutal parts of life make the beautiful parts even more beautiful? If going without the brutal means I don't see as much of the beautiful, or I don't appreciate as much as the beautiful...then bring on the ugly, hard crap. I can take it. In 2015, I learned I could take a lot more than I thought.

So here is our REAL Christmas letter. The ugly and the beautiful and everything in between.

2015 was a HARD year for our family. There was laughter and joy, but more tears and hurtful words than" normal.". In 2015, either for the first time or more than any other year...

The word "divorce" came up. More than once.
Therapy was attended. Hard work was done. Individually, as a couple, and as a family.
Panic attacks. A lot of them. Fuck you, anxiety/maternal OCD.
We had no income for over nine weeks. And our boiler went out during that time.
I had to ask my parents for money for the first time, ever, as an adult. Ever. That includes college. It wasn't much, but it was something.
As we were starting to get back on our feet, he was laid off.
Someone tried to break into our house. We don't know who. Cue more anxiety.
I made a lot of parenting decisions I'm proud of, and a lot I'm not proud of. Even more that I question.
Bitterness grew because I was making most of those decisions alone.
Bitterness grew for him because I was burnt out at home, and all he wanted to do was be home.
We questioned if we got married too young. If we shouldn't have gotten married at all. If we were better off apart. If we were good parents, either way.
I questioned my faith.
Our daughter took a trip on an ambulance, and we had a lot of medical bills as a result.
I didn't get a job I wanted.
He didn't get a lot of jobs he wanted.
I cleaned up a lot of pee and poop and vomit.
Lots of sleepless nights, and not any of them cuddling a milk drunk newborn.
I lost 40 pounds, but I still question if it's ok for me to drop my kids off at the gym daycare as often as I do. If they feel deserted, if they're safe there, if I should just work out after they're in bed when I'd rather be sitting on my ass eating the cream cheese divinities I just made as teacher gifts.
We thought our oldest might have anxiety issues too, only to discover she's "just" a cautious kid who has a hard time with the slope lifestyle, is extremely intuitive and was picking up on our stress, and doesn't like change. Insert more guilt. And more anxiety.
We paid my parents back.
I got a job I wanted.
Our daughter came home happy and healthy from the ER/ambulance ride. Others are not so lucky.
He missed birthdays, anniversaries, trips, and holidays.
He gets to be home for Christmas.
We taught our oldest some coping skills to better handle transition.
We learned some better communication skills.
We all apologized. A lot.
Honestly was improved upon.
I cleaned up less pee and poop and vomit than in 2014!
Our kids really do tell us everything. Everything. (Thanks for telling me you tooted, again, dear...)
I feel safe with them at church and school.
We are both more self aware than in prior years.
We spent a lot of time at church.
I lost 40 pounds!
We went on vacation and watched friends who are family get married.
I visited my best friend for my first trip away from the kids.
Our youngest learned to walk. And talk.
They play together. Quite a bit actually, and it's pretty much the cutest thing I've ever seen.
I've peed alone a couple times this year.
I've showered more days than not.
We have a friend who is a plumber and was able to save us a couple thousand bucks.
I grew in my faith.
We ate lots of meals together as a family. Some happy, some tense, some angry. Some where mom or dad didn't get to eat at all because we were up and down so much. Some where the kids didn't eat at all because it wasn't chicken nuggets or grilled cheese. But we broke bread together.
We hiked a lot, and only one with a complete tantrum and meltdown.
My children taught me about God.
We donated to some of our favorite charities.
We performed simple acts of kindness, and we were the recipients of many, many acts of kindness.
We laughed more than we cried. Maybe. It was close.

Looking into 2016, I'm not sure what will happen. Maybe it will be harder than 2015 (God, I hope not) but I know we will get through. I'm not sure how or what it will look like, but we will be ok. We are ok. Some days, we are even better than ok. Merry Christmas from the REAL S'more family. The good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful.