Friday, February 21, 2020

Closing THAT Door.

Every single time that we've been in the thick of the newborn phase I have begged Tony to PROMISE me that we won't do this again. Yes... even with our first kid. The exhaustion outweighed the preciousness for me. It didn't negate the beauty of it all. But the beauty didn't take away the need for sleep either.




After our second kid, Tony thought we were really done. The spinal fluid leak issue I experienced certainly added to that for him. And again, the newborn phase that was chock full of sleep deprivation, I thought I was done, too. But then magically around the one year postpartum mark after having Molly, the baby fever started up again like it did around the same time frame after having Presley, too.

Can you blame me?!
I really had to talk Tony into trying for a third kid. But eventually he got on board. Even before baby #3 came, we pretty much decided this was it because we thought that would be the most responsible choice financially moving forward for our family. And then in the thick of the newborn phase and perhaps the worst of the sleep deprivation we'd experienced yet, I really pushed for Tony to have a vasectomy. Because I was done. He was done. 
{Reason #16 I love my husband: He was absolutely okay with going through with any potential pain from a vasectomy because he acknowledged the sacrifices and hardships I endured while bringing our children into the world. He looked at it as his contribution... this was something he could do for us.}

And so, he had one. The procedure was really simple and they even let me watch! It was fascinating and a little thrilling to be on THIS side of it all. (I was always the one on the table in stirrups with Tony watching and vowing to take care of me afterward.) I was FULLY prepared to tell Tony to SUCK IT UP because this was surely going to be a painless procedure and I'd had THREE KIDS and this was nothing in comparison. But as I watched it happen I FELT LIKE I WAS GOING TO PASS OUT AND THROW UP ON THE WAY DOWN. It did NOT look painless. So... if you find yourself in my spot then I actually do suggest watching your husband have his vasectomy because I did not pass out or throw up AND most importantly I was so much more understanding, empathetic, and compassionate to the pain that Tony was in afterward. (Of course also a nice reminder that measuring pains is stupid! Pain is pain!) Just like that we decided we were done and we closed the door on having more kids.

And for a while I was okay with that. Until I wasn't. I think we even talked about the fact that this would likely happen... that as time went on I'd open my heart back up to having more and that we'd better go ahead with the vasectomy BEFORE it got to that. And man, there have been some times where I've just felt heartbroken over it. How I wish we could have another. How I wish I wouldn't have insisted on it.  And honestly I wonder if that'll ever fully go away. It's gotten better but part of me still wants to have and hold another baby of ours.


For the first time I stopped to think of something today. Tony and I have been married for 8.5 years now and LITERALLY EVERY BIT OF IT I have been pregnant OR breastfeeding. 100% of our marriage has been about building and growing our family. Nearly nine years of my life has been dedicating my body to that dream.

(Yep, got pregnant on the honeymoon. Oh yeah, I'm still breastfeeding Crosby. I've whittled it down to just once in the morning after he wakes up/while I'm still waking up. If it was up to Crosby he'd still be breastfeeding morning/noon/night. Yes, he is three years old. No, I did not intend to breastfeed this long. Yes, this is the longest one of my children has ever breastfed. Yes, I'm a little sensitive to negative comments about it. No, I do not intend to breastfeed until he's school aged. And as always I'm absolutely open to talking about it if anyone has any questions!) 

So while I really do think part of my melancholy about not being able to have any more children is truly over the fact that I really would enjoy loving and raising another baby of Tony and mine... maybe it's also the unease of closing the door on this huge, life-altering chapter of my life. And back at the time of Tony's vasectomy, I didn't stop to reflect on how I would feel about it all at this point. Or maybe I thought I'd finally feel okay about being done having kids. But so far, I'm not feeling peace in our decision. I'm trying to navigate my own feelings and balance them with the feelings of my husband as well as the reality of what's best for our family.

So, our door is closed.

Both my home and heart are full. So many days I question how I am even going to be a good mom to the three kids I have today. And some days my heart aches for the kids I'd still love to know. I'm grateful for my husband who meets me where I am that day and loves me through everything marriage and parenthood and life in general has tossed our way. I'm looking forward to taking better care of this body that has put in so much work and seen a lot of transformations over these last 8.5 years.

I'm hopeful for this new chapter. For our marriage and for our family. And I'm grateful we get to navigate it together.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

One Lifelong Dream {thursday thoughts}



I started this {Thursday Thoughts} blog series three and a half years ago. And the latest entry? Yeah... I wrote that over a year ago. Mostly because I really don't write much anymore. Another big reason is because this last blog is so daunting. Name a lifelong dream. How do I begin to breathe life into something so big when so much of myself has been carved out when I became a mom. Gutted. To make room for the wants and needs of the others I helped bring into this world. I'm aware that it doesn't have to be this way but for me, it's just my reality. And I feel ashamed of it. Which is why I've put off this last one. BUT. I don't like to leave things unfinished... so here we go.

Here are the first nine of them:

Two of the biggest dreams I had for my life for as long as I can remember were to get married to someone I loved so deeply and to have babies. I don't really remember how many kids I envisioned for my life but three makes sense. I came from a family of three kids and several families in my extended family had three babies as well. As some of you may know I've got a bucket list on my blog as well that I chip away at every so often. Things like visit Times Square for New Years Eve, plant a flower & veggie garden, get tickets to a live taping of the Ellen show, etc. Many of them are "little" things. Or things that were important to me a long time ago that almost just feel like they don't fit me anymore.

I feel like this one lifelong dream has to be something big and sentimental or else it will seem superficial. (That I would feel superficial.) I could easily say one of the bigger things from my list like writing my own book series or going back to college for an additional degree. And while those are dreams of mine I wouldn't necessarily say they're something I feel super passionately for at this point in my life. But there is something I have felt ultra passionate about for as long as I can remember and continue to this day. I'll give you one guess.







Did you say DISNEY? Because if you did... you probably know me in real life or we've been friends for a while.

The first Disney Park we visited on our honeymoon in 2011 -- Magic Kingdom

I think the dream of working for Disney or visiting ALL of the Disney Parks would qualify as a lifelong dream of mine. I'd like to visit the parts of the world where each Disney Park is, too, so it really works out well.
Disneyland Resort -- Anaheim, California
Walt Disney World Resort -- Orlando, Florida
Tokyo Disney Resort -- Tokyo, Japan
Disneyland Paris -- Paris, France
Hong Kong Disneyland Resort -- Hong Kong, China
Shanghai Disney Resort -- Shanghai, China
So far I'm 1/6 and looking at my life now, both dreams feel a little impossible.

The second Disney Park we visited on our honeymoon in 2011 -- Animal Kingdom
I'm so grateful my husband is crazy in the same way that I am -- we both love all things Disney. I'm so happy I got to be with him when he experienced his first Disney Park and I hope we get to experience the rest of them together. And now we are raising some next generation Disney addicts... our kids have the same love for all things Disney that we do! I know that this lifelong dream seems really surface-level to a great many people. And perhaps it is. But it's something that brings us so much joy. It's the going on adventures and making memories. It's the having so much fun being kids together with each other and with our own children. (And our in-laws on our last two trips!) 

Hollywood Studios on our honeymoon in 2011
We've talked about moving to Florida near Walt Disney World. Or at least closer. It would be extremely hard leaving our family here but it's something we would love to try out someday.

Tony and I at EPCOT on our honeymoon in 2011
While writing today it really brought to the forefront of my mind how it's not okay to put myself on the back burner the way that I do. I can be a better me and I feel like it'll help make me a better mom and wife and household manager. I hope to cross off some bucket list items this year and add some more to the bucket list, too. I think we're our best selves when we keep dreaming. It's been a while since Tony and I did some dreaming together so I think that'll be something I try to address with him this month. Put the kids to bed at a decent time and just write out some dreams for ourselves. It's something I used to prioritize on New Years Eve. We would write dreams and goals for ourself, for our marriage, and for our family for the new year. The last several years I've planned to do this and we just get too busy. Just because it's not the eve of a new year doesn't mean it's too late to start again for this year.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Hot Ticket Item.

Oh my gosh.

So you know how when one of your kids has something and the other one wants it sooooo-oo badly and they just havetohaveitrightnow and you're like jeepers, ½ the reason you want it because is because your sibling has it right now!

But you're actually wrong.

IT'S ACTUALLY THE WHOLE ENTIRE REASON WHY THEY WANT THE THING.

I gave the kids one of my old flip phones that they really don't even understand how to use. Which is so sad and funny. But now the kids just take turns coveting it and FIGHTING over it and throwing the fits.

The funniest part of it all to me is that this phone doesn't have a battery and doesn't turn on. But they have one of our old iPhones that DOES turn on that they play games. Crosby has the iPhone and Molly has the flip phone. Crosby sees Molly has the flip phone and flips out. He is willing to trade her the real phone that works for the phone that doesn't actually work. She won't trade him because it's the hot ticket item right now.



Just a quick, funny glance into being a parent today. May your patience be plentiful today.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Beliefs.

Today's point of praise: "For the kingdom of God depends not on talk but on power." (1 Cor. 4:20) Day #11

I've been so intimidated on this topic, so I've just been putting it off. I even have a half-finished blog post from about a year ago on the exact topic. The hardest part of it for the longest time was grappling at what did I believe?

I had stepped away from the church in the last few years for several reasons that I'd love to delve into at some point - but probably not this post. One of the surface-level reasons was because going to church with little kids made me stressed and anxious. I felt like if my kids were being noisy and disruptive then I would be taking away from the people near me at mass. I didn't want to catch any grief from anyone else. And like I indicated before, for a few other reasons we just became a family who didn't go to church. I'm a cradle Catholic -- meaning I was born into it -- and I can't remember a time in my childhood when we didn't go to mass every Sunday. It really started to upset me that I wasn't instilling the same in my kids and making the same traditions in my family.

Another surface-level reason? We loved our church community in Illinois so much that when it came time to pick a new church here in Memphis... well let's just say I was beyond picky. The first two churches we visited didn't feel right and to be fair it was more me than them. After trying those few churches, I gave up. Thankfully my oldest daughter, Presley, really started asking if we could start going to church together. At the same time my big sister had been talking to me about getting our kids involved in PRE (Parish Religious Education aka Sunday school) so that they would be on track to make their first communion in 2nd grade. (Presley's questions about God and her desire to go to church increased tenfold when she started PRE this year. Again, thank God!) So my sister and I looked up mass times and PRE times and distances from our houses to various churches to try to find THE ONE church that would be the best fit and thankfully, we kinda did. Funnily enough one of the priests we grew up with at our childhood parish was now the pastor at the church that fit all our criteria... it just seemed like serendipity... which was probably God's hand. When it came time to sign the kids up for PRE we were so broke that it was easier to volunteer to teach every Sunday at church to have the fees waived for my kids.

All this long narrative to say: slowly but surely I dipped my toes back into the Church which became dipping my toes back into the faith. I feel grateful that our God is one that waits and prays that we come back. One that rejoices each time we open our hearts to Him and live for Him. Praise God for that. For His patience and relentlessness. For God not giving up on us. He worked through my bank account and my sister and my daughter and our childhood pastor and countless other ways to wake me back up. And he did it relatively slowly because this dude knows I am slow to wake up. Just ask my sisters. Waking me up for school every day was such a chore. God knows. 😄

It's super cool that one of the bible verses mentioned in today's devotional was the subject of Father Ernie's homily at church last Sunday:
Then he said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.' Thomas answered, and said to him, 'My Lord and my God!' Jesus said to him, 'Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.'                                                                    John 20:27-29 

Father Ernie said it best when he said we all have doubt from time to time like Thomas. It sure made me feel better for having doubts over the years in various ways. But he said don't let it keep you down. Don't lose your faith because of the doubts. We're not all as fortunate as Thomas was to be able to put our hands on Jesus' hands. We are the blessed who believe and yet have not yet seen.

Also fitting from the devotional today was this quote from Kim Boyce: "As parents, we must be convinced of our beliefs. We must know where we stand, so that our children will know where they stand." Hopefully my kids won't be able to remember a time when we didn't go to mass together every weekend. If our beliefs shape our values and our values shape our lives - am I living in a way that speaks that? Am I doing God's work for others in my life? That's the dream. Living what I believe so that my actions speak for me and ultimately give glory to God.

What God asks of us is both simpler and more profound than adherence to a system of beliefs or following a set of rules. He asks us to walk with him through the blood and guts of our real experience in an honest pilgrimage where we let him show us what real strength, and real love, are all about.                                                                      Paula Rinehart 
I'll be praying for you this week, bloggies, that you can find a way to embrace the things you believe in more fully. That God can do the work on your heart that you might be putting off. If you have any prayer intentions for me please feel free to leave them in the comments below or get ahold of me some other way and I'll be happy to add those into my prayer journal as well. PEACE.


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Notre Dame.

Yesterday a fire raged through Notre Dame -- the breathtaking cathedral in Paris, France.




Photos: Benoit Tessier, Philippe Wojazer and Charles Paliau/Reuters @ Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris

I feel so heartbroken for the people of Paris... for our Catholic brothers & sisters who look to this gorgeous church as a symbol of fortitude... and for people around the world who feel the loss of an irreplaceable piece of history. Like many of you I was able to see photos and videos being shared of the events that took place today as well as hear the reactions of my friends, family, and others on social media. It eventually lead me to dig deeper into my feelings as I watched.

I chose to take French in high school and was blown away by the beauty of the language and culture and history and the people thanks to my amazing teacher, Mrs. Westbrook at Germantown High School. The class genuinely brought me joy at a time when my life wasn't very joyful. I was also at a place in my life that I didn't yet see learning as an opportunity to grow. I saw it as an obligation I had no choice but to fulfill. So for any high school subject to excite me was rare. During my first year of French I had plans to continue the subject for all four years - even though that intimidated me - and that I would take the class trip to France that the upperclassmen got the chance to take part in. But of course, things change. I got a different teacher in my second year of French class and the subject ended up bringing more dread than joy. After I completed the first two years of our high school's foreign language requirement I decided not to continue. So getting to Paris before leaving high school didn't work out for me.

Even still, I knew I'd make it to France and see all the beauty with my own two eyes eventually. At 31, I'm now well out of high school and while I still haven't made it there, the feeling of wanting to visit has never gone away. And as a Catholic, the cathedral is among the places I'd go visit. It breaks my heart that such a wonderful, holy space filled with so much love and history that has been around for over 800 years could burn and crumble in hours. That no matter what type of rebuilding that could take place, we cannot make these new pieces old again.

It reminds me of the saying that trust is built in drips and lost in buckets. It took nearly 300 years to build this beautiful church and it took less than a day for so much of it to be burned away.

I have no doubt that Notre Dame will be rebuilt. And it will continue to be a symbol of resilience for Parisians and so many around the world. And that gives me hope. But so many people, myself included, will not get to experience the wonder and awe of standing before this beautiful cathedral -- that took so many hands and years and plans and triumphs and failures to become a reality -- as it once was. From this moment forward it will be forever changed. While that makes so many of us sad for good reason, we cannot get stuck there. God asks us to walk by faith and not by sight. We aren't able to understand why these things happen and we certainly can't control them. But what we can do is make the situation new. We can give thanks for what we once had, for the things we still have, and look forward to the beauty in what is to come.

Thank you God for the relics and artwork that were rescued from the flames. Thank you for reminding us once again that the story doesn't end here. Thank you for this opportunity to come together and make things new again. Thank you for the people of Paris.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Monday Mealtime Motivation: Easy-Peasy Chicken Spinach Stew

If you're anything like me then you are always looking for a really good, simple meal to add into your line-up of usual meals. This is one of my favorites! And sometimes all we need in life is a little extra motivation... either to step out of our comfort zone or to be convinced we can make a simple meal at home instead of picking up something from the drive-thru. So here is a little Monday Mealtime Motivation for you! I hope you enjoy this stew as much as I do!

Easy-Peasy Chicken Spinach Stew


Meat
  • 12 oz. Beef Smoked Sausage 
  • Cooked shredded chicken (either taken from a store bought rotessiere chicken OR a portion I've made ahead in the crock pot & grabbed from the freezer. I can totally share that recipe another Monday if anybody is interested!)
Produce
  • 1 (10 oz.) bag of baby spinach 
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 large sweet potatoes
Canned Goods
  • 1 box of chicken broth
  • 2 cans of petite diced tomatoes
Baking & Spices
  • salt, pepper, and whatever seasoning you like, to taste 

Instructions:
1. Grab your sweet potatoes and onion -- peel, cut, chop, dice them to your preference.  For the potatoes I usually do somewhere between a quarter or a dice when I chop them and I cut the onion into julienne strips... really just up to your preference.
2. Place the sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, and whatever seasoning you'd like in a 4-to 6-quart slow cooker. (Note on seasoning: I use what I have on hand. In the past some of the seasoning blends I've used and liked is either the 21 Seasoning Salute from Trader Joes, McCormick's Montreal Chicken blend, or Herbs de Provence. Use what you have and like!)
3. Cut the sausage to your preference. (This time I'm using Hillshire Farm Smoked Sausage.)
4.Add the chicken and sausage over produce; toss in tomatoes and broth.
5. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 hours.
6. Stir in spinach and let it sit a few minutes before serving. You don't have to use every bit of the 10 oz. of spinach... again just put in as much or as little as you prefer.

This is just what I use and how I make it. You can adapt it as you need or as you'd like. For example, if you'd like to adapt this to a stovetop recipe - you could easily do that! If you'd like to add different ingredients or take any away - you go Glen Coco! (Mean Girls reference for anyone wondering what the hell I'm talking about.)


We love Aidells sausage and have used several different kinds of their chicken sausage in place of the beef smoked sausage before. I've added canned green beans (drained and rinsed) many times in the past, too. I almost never make recipes the same twice. Mostly because I'm the type of person who eyeballs everything and just make things up as I go along.

 Here are photos of some of the things I referenced in this post and what they look like just for frame of reference:




Let me know if you make it and how you liked it or modified it!! This concludes our first Monday Mealtime Motivation... thanks for visiting! 

If you have any tried-and-true favorite recipes to submit or would be interested in guest blogging or sponsoring in the future shoot me an e-mail at aduggan520@gmail.com

Saturday, January 5, 2019

New Year.

Anybody else feel like life has been moving super fast lately? I really can't believe 2019 is already here. There are lots of joyful things happening this year for us. Tony and I are going to see Justin Timberlake when he comes back to Memphis this month and later in the year Amanda and I are going to see the Backstreet Boys! Both concerts we'll be sitting nosebleeds but I'm honestly just so excited to be there that it doesn't even matter to me. In between those shows we'll be celebrating our 8th wedding anniversary and I'll be in my happy place all year while planning our first family vacation in FOREVER for Walt Disney World for this Fall!!!!

Every year at this time I love reflecting in attempt to learn something from the last year about myself and potentially how I can make healthier decisions in the coming year. I haven't done as much journaling and reflecting as I'd like to, but the little bit that I finished so far I wanted to share here on my blog. Here is the list of prompts I followed. I picked them up from my sister who got them from somewhere else on the interwebs so here is a recreated version of the original list and then my answers below that.




This year...

A bad habit I'm going to break:
Being so quick to lose my patience. I know I can try a lot harder in this arena. I'd also like to make it to mass this year. I was originally going to say "make it to mass more this year" but to be honest, if I went to mass two times in 2019 that'd technically be more than I did in 2018. So. Saying more wouldn't exactly be clear enough. I'd like to make it to mass as a family this year. I'm hoping to break the bad habit of being complacent in not going.

A new skill I'd like to learn:
To live minimally.

A person I hope to be more like:
The "Girl Wash Your Face" girl (Rachel Hollis) and Glennon Doyle. Rachel seems to have refocused her energies on the things (as a wife and mom) that really, actually matter. She seems to have switched from being unforgiving of herself to loving and being kind to herself. That's the biggest shift within myself I could make this new year. I always want to be a bit more like Glennon but especially getting up and doing good for other people is what I wish I did more of like she does.

A good deed I'm going to do:
Donate blood. No excuses.

A place I'd like to visit:
Dallas. I'm not sure it'll happen this year but it's always on my list of places to visit someday.

A book I'd like to read:
A ton of books. I want to read this year. Last year I kinda fell off the reading wagon and it's something I miss so much. But the first book that came to mind for this was "Girl Wash Your Face" since I was just thinking about Rachel Hollis.

A letter I'm going to write:
Goodbye letters to Gramma Myers and Granny. The things I would have liked to tell them or talk to them about before they passed.

A new food I'm going to try:
I really can't think of one! So I'm going to go with a turkey leg from Walt Disney World. And macaroons. I've never had them and would like to try them. AND. I'd like to try sake. I know that's a drink but it's something I've always wanted to try.

I'm going to do better at:
Homeschool stuff for BOTH girls. Getting out of the house a bit more. Cleaning out and organizing the house to potentially move. Drink more water. Be more physically active.



Which leads me to my word of the year... BREATHE. I'd like to take a deep breathe and clear my head more often before responding this year. If I allow myself a moment to breathe before doing or responding or reacting then I'm hoping it'll give me a moment to grasp onto my reserve of kindness and patience. To respond more often with love instead of bitterness or anger or cynicism. To wait a minute and hear someone out completely instead of assuming the worst and jumping right in. Breathe. This is the first time for me to choose a word to focus on for the year and I'm loving the idea and the motivation. I'm looking for the perfect accessory so I can carry the word with me throughout the year.



Let me know how you spend the new year this year - did you reflect or make resolutions or did you choose a word? If so, what were they? I'd love to know! I hope it's a year for growth and reaching our potential.