October 11, 2016

Infancy Without Postpartum Depression, what we did this time around

At the end of October Baby Tee will be ten months old. He is crawling, pulling himself to standing, cruising, and saying "mama." He laughs at his older siblings' silliness and they love to perform for him. He likes cheerios, sweet potatoes, graham crackers, and his mama's milk. He has seven teeth and sometimes I think he looks like an elf.

Can I just tell you that I am completely smitten with him? Some things are tough, of course, like teething and night nursing and all the food he drops on the floor, but he is so sweet and so lovely and my heart bursts with love of him.

I've never had an experience like this before. All my other children's infancies were shadowed by postpartum depression and now that I see what life with a newborn is like without PPD touching it I am incredibly sad that we were all robbed of happier days and a lighter, more peaceful, more loving home. But I am also so incredibly grateful that this time I have not suffered from PPD.

There were moments I was afraid it was coming. One night in particular I was so tired and so anxious. My anxiety kept me awake after a night feeding and I paced the house, I sobbed in the family room, I shook with fear, and I kept seeing this picture of a spiraling, Wonderland-like fall of which I was standing on the cusp.

When exhaustion or stress crept up on me, as they did a couple of times, they showed themselves through anger and an inability to tolerate anything. In the past I would have succumbed - I would have gone crazy. I had...

... but this time was different. We were proactive and we had plans in place. We knew that exhaustion and stress triggered my spiraling into PPD and so my husband, my mom, and I decided what we would do. In the end I would say three things really helped me get through this postpartum period without succumbing to postpartum depression.

First, and probably most importantly: sleep. My mom basically moved in with us for the first few weeks, waking up with Tee's cries, tending to him until she had to get me to nurse him, sending me back to bed immediately after he finished eating, and putting him back to bed. She and Travis made the meals and with he and me sleeping well at night Mom was able to nap during the days. My mother-in-law also helped by relieving my mom and occasionally keeping the older kids at her home. I sat with the kids, rested, and nursed the baby  - and for months that was pretty much all I did. In the months that followed those first six weeks I did not hesitate to put on a movie for the kids and nap, ask my mom or husband to watch the kids so I could sleep, and / or go to bed at 8pm.

Second, I allowed for a lot of quiet and introspection. I spent a lot of time observing how I felt physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I prayed, I read my Bible and Beautiful Mercy, I asked for other people to pray for me, and I used Jenna Hines' book 30 Days to Calm.

Finally, I took pills, but not medication like before. My midwife prescribed for me to take Omega-3 supplements (EPA-DHA 720, 1-2 at a time, four times a day) and Magnesium Glycinate (300mg, 4 at a time, 4 times a day). They were amazing. They helped me relax and just... feel good. I know that seems like a vague statement but it's true. If I started to feel overwhelmed I would take my pills and within thirty minutes I was calm and relaxed. I felt little to no anxiety and I slept better with them. I don't think these pills alone would have worked for bringing me out of my former PPD, but they were wonderfully helpful for keeping it bay this time.

In the end, this has possibly been the best year of my life. I have six amazing children, a husband who loves me immensely, and a devoted mom (and mother-in-law). As a family we have hit our stride and we are thriving, happy, and full of love. That might sound cheesy but I don't care. I've always like nachos.

PS - Speaking of babies, I was invited to be a contributor to the Waiting in His Word: A Couple's Journey Scripture Study on fertility. Nell, Nancy, and Laura have done a fabulous job of bringing together women and men with a wide variety of experiences: loss, adoption, infertility, hyper-fertility, foster care, and more. You can learn more and buy your copy here.

PPS - Not to sound silly, but I would love it if you'd vote for A Knotted Life over at the Fisher's Net Awards. I mean, who else gives you blog posts about food allergies, miracle babies, parochial school, parties, and fashion for barrel-shaped bellies? I mean, when it comes to that combination you know that I am the BEST.

PPS - I am definitely not saying that these three things are all you need to do to beat PPD, and please, please, please know that there is no shame in getting help - be it a therapist, medication, a nanny, etc - to overcome postpartum depression or any mental illness. If you think you have PPD please talk to your doctor or midwife. If you are still pregnant and worried about suffering through another bout of PPD, as I was while pregnant with Baby Tee, then perhaps this post will inspire you to think about your own triggers and create a plan with your loved ones so you can get the best care.


October 7, 2016

Life Lately

I have finally caught up with my life and it feels really good. ~whew~ I needed a breather after the back-to-school rush of it all. Our family has hit a stride and as long as I can keep my act together and continue to fold and put away the kids laundry we should be okay.

So tons of wonderful things have been happening. Birthdays, the Blessed Is She team retreat (which deserves its own post, really), cooler weather in my neck of the woods, and all the little things that make life so great. So this is a bit of a highlight reel type post, but first let's start with a song. Catchy with depressing lyrics:

Ben lost his first tooth, right at bed time last week. He was so excited and we were so exhausted that we went to bed at the same time as the kids. In the morning Ben was disappointed because the Tooth Fairy hadn't come but Daddy saved the day. As Ben was eating breakfast Travis passed the kids room, still dark at 6:15am, and caught something out of the corner of his eye. He told Ben and L this and they immediately *knew* it *was* the Tooth Fairy and she *hadn't* forgotten him, she just didn't know that we'd be up already and he was her very last stop. So all's well that ends well.

He lost his second tooth after much wiggling, pushing, pulling, and apple eating at breakfast on Wednesday of this week. Big sister L was an active participant in getting it out (and I think caused him some pain, too. : /  )

Funny story: Last week the new Hatch Prints tote came in the mail. When I pulled it out of its USPS packaging it looked like this:
 And Ben asked, "Is it garlic bread?!" This kid looooooves garlic bread so he was pretty sure it was the best mail day ever.

He was unimpressed and uninterested when he saw that it was actually this awesome bag, but I was incredibly happy.
Currently it is holding: library books, LuLaRoe leggings, wallet, diapers, wet wipes, baby toys, and a pouch filled with rosary, kleenexes, pens, chapstick, and lipstick. It's gotta work hard at this house.

Baby Tee started pulling himself up to kneeling. And then he figured out crawling, abandoning The Worm to master the official crawl. He has great confidence and found his way to the bathroom for his first time to play with the toilet paper. Within two days of that he was pulling himself to standing and within a week he took his first "cruising" steps.

With all these accomplishments comes the need to constantly yell at people for leaving the bathroom and basement doors open and a little (or a lot) of sentimentality and mourning as my baby gets older.

Jofis is wearing big boy undies all through the day. I waited until he was well past three and interested, making potty training super easy. I bribed him with candy for pee and sorbet for poop and in no time he was good to go. I am down to one in diapers again and it is awesome.

Jofis is also becoming a master story teller. He will passionately tell you "ooooky" stories about ghosts and ditches (witches) and big, big, big scary monsters. He acts things out and illustrates size with his arms and hands. His face is incredibly animated and he gleefully smiles when he gets to the really juicy parts. In short, it is adorable.

Last week was a lot of fun for liturgical feasting. Michaelmas (the feast of St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St. Raphael - the archangels) was celebrated wholeheartedly. The kids and I read about St. Raphael in the Book of Tobit at breakfast becuase I couldn't quite remember what was up with the fish. Inspired by Molly's clever post about St. Michael's leggings, the girls and I wore our own leggings.  

Inspired by Haley's blog name and book Feast! we dined on roasted chicken and carrots for dinner with cake topped with blackberry compote for dessert. As Ben ate he asked, "Am I making the devil mad by eating blackberries?" eager to bring a bit of consternation to the guy.

When I was in college my chaplain was Fr. Gary Caster - a wonderful priest, preacher, and friend of St. Therese. He instilled in my friends and I a deep love of St. Therese and so October 1st cannot pass without some roses and something to honor my friends - Therese in Heaven and those on earth. I didn't get the chance to make something French for dinner or decorate rose cupcakes (like Tracy's - hers were gorgeous!)  but while all but the baby were with friends or family Travis and I ate Five Guys burgers and fries for dinner so I still call that a win.

St. Francis' feast day was this week of course and to celebrate our water heater broke and we had to buy a new one. We are following Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps so fortunately we had the money in savings to pay for it, but it's a big purchase. It seemed like a fitting day for it to happen.

In what I would describe as a parenting win, though, my school aged kids climbed in the car at pick-up and asked what we were going to do to celebrate St. Francis' feast. I had not even thought about it but it seems that I have established a precedent in our home: feast days = a special dinner, dessert, or activity. This has been my goal the whole time - for my kids to love living out their faith - and so we brainstormed on the way home. In the end spaghetti in honor of Francis' Italian heritage and cut out cookies shaped like animals were the winners. 
We used dogs, dinosaurs, butterflies, Easter bunnies, and Halloween bats and cats. Afterwards I found our Thanksgiving turkey; I'll have to remember that one for next year. 

So that's it. A pretty good couple of weeks. And now I'm off to link up with the wonderful Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum. Have a fun weekend, you guys! :)

October 5, 2016

A Potluck Post

You know, a potluck: a little of this, a little of that, everyone brings their best stuff?

In case you missed these blog posts, podcasts, and announcements in other parts of the web I thought I'd share the good news here. :)

First up: Blessed Is She is growing by offering more regional retreats!

In a couple weeks they will be on the beach (literally? I don't know.) in Seal Beach, California. You can still sign up for the October 15th retreat and for those close to the Southwest there is an upcoming retreat in Chandler, Arizona on March 18. Midwesterners and East Coasters - a BIS retreat will be coming your way, too, so stay tuned. For more information and to register go here.

Second, here's some of my favorite recent reads and listens from the internet:
Success is Not a Name of God
The Story of a Forever Home
Why and How I Chucked 2/3 of My Closet
If You Bring a Mom a Muffin
I Want a Better Marriage
The Power of Writing It Down
To Live With Our Wounds
Long Live the Queen
An Apology to My Readers
Life in the Time of Grief and Twitter
Saying 'Yes' in the Mess: Mary's Fiat for Overwhelmed  Moms

And finally, if you are a small business owner, crafter, vendor, etc please consider being a part of
my upcoming Advent Care Package Giveaway. I did one two years ago and will be doing it again this November. If you'd like to be part of the merry-making, and have your business / item featured on my blog and social media please email your information, proposed donation, item's dollar value, and all relevant website / social media links to bonniefandel at gmail dot com. All donations would need to be shipped to me by November 1st to be eligible for the giveaway.

Alright! Have a great day, folks! xo

October 4, 2016

October + Costumes + Help Me!

October is here! I hope it's been treating you well. I love this month and all the fun it brings.

This weekend we'll go to a pumpkin patch and - hopefully - carve some jack-o-lanterns. This month will include a trip to Wildlife Scary Park - which has become an annual tradition. My mom and mother-in-law come along with me and the kids and everyone has fun. Then we'll have Halloween! We are huge Halloween fans here. I totally get why some chose not to celebrate it, and if you want you can read my thoughts on it here.

 But if you don't mind, let's talk costumes for a second, can we?

L will be a Native American this Halloween. She will then don the outfit again for the annual 3rd grade Thanksgiving pageant and feast at her school. I'm also excited to have a St. Kateri Tekakwitha costume. Her costume is coming from Annery's Handmade Etsy Shop.  If you are also on the look-out for an American Indian costume Annie said they will be in her shop on Friday but there's also a pre-sale / auction at the Zelie & Co. Instagram account today! So you can go over and get one at a discounted cost. So end's that head's up. :)

Ben will be Batman. He picked out this costume from Amazon. JF and Resa will both be Darth Vadar, wearing the costumes JF and Jofis got for their birthdays. (affiliate links)JP didn't want to be Darth Vadar but Resa is all about it, and honestly that delights my heart a bit. I bought all the costumes plenty big so the kids can wear warm clothes and coats underneath. October 31st is usually pretttty cold in these parts.

Baby Tee will wear the same lion costume all of his siblings have worn before him, so that's easy. But I'm having trouble with Jofis.

Jofis wants to be a ghost and I'm wondering what's the best way to make a ghost costume for a three year old. Anyone have any ideas? I haven't loved anything I found on Amazon but maybe you know of an Etsy shop? Travis and I have talked about just cutting some holes in a white pillow case and buying him a white hoodie, but I don't know. What do you think.

Also, I need help with Ben's St. Benedict costume for the All Saints Day pageant at school. All I've got is that he wore a black habit. Any ideas?

Speaking of costumes, quick question: do you let your kids wear dress up clothes out in public? Resa, Tee and I went to Target the other day and Resa was wearing her Princess Anna dress. That's totally appropriate in my book and I'm wondering if anyone else is alright with being quirky like that.

And if I may be so bold, here's a little reminder:

October 2, 2016

Controversy and Brokenness

It was almost a year ago that a woman wrote a blog post about how to have a well-run Catholic home. There were lots of helpful tips in it and several disclaimers about season of life, and so on. So many women were inspired. So many were encouraged. Many saw how they could not or would not presently fulfill the list of to-do's but still saw the merit in the post. I myself read the post, knew that at 8 months pregnant there was no way I was going to live up to the woman's standards, and laughed it off as "not everything on the internet is written for me."

But, as I see it, she made one grand mistake. This woman wrote about all the things that can be done and should be done and she explained that "Supermom" gets them done. It did not matter that she was writing in a kind, humble, and even at times playful tone. All those caveats from earlier in her post were wiped away and what was left were hurt, insulted women.

Why am I writing about a controversy that's eleven months old? Well, as conversations online continued about this post I went back and re-read it a second time. And this time I wasn't able to laugh it off. That term - Supermom - just really irked me. In the end I broke the post down to this conclusion: You should do these things because that's what super moms do and if you do not do them then you are not a super mom. Really, you're not even a good mom. Pretty much, you suck.

And this well-written post with helpful information turned into, "Pretty much, you suck." And it weighed on me.

I have thought about that post and the conversations that surrounded it at least once a week since it was first published. Since then, and as something separate, I have also tried to understand Mercy - what it is and what it looks like - and what I've come to see is this:
People are broken and wounded, and when those wounds are illuminated or rubbed in salt it hurts. We feel embarrassed and exposed and we feel pain and shame. 

My wound is that I am not enough. And I have learned that when the perfect combination of exhaustion + stress + salt in my wound happens my brokenness really shows. I am super sensitive, easily offended, and - most unfortunately - quick to lash out in turn. I don't know what was happening in my life when I read that post for the second time all those months ago but I am certain that I was in the midst of that perfect combination. That well-intentioned post became a spotlight on how poorly I was doing, how far below the "Supermom" standard I fell, and how much I lacked. And, more importantly, because of my wound and brokenness I wasn't able to just not read it and/or move on.

At the time I didn't understand these things about myself, but now I get it. What I needed was not for someone to put me in my place with a, "This isn't about you!" I needed someone to mercifully reach out to me in my pain and say to me, "Bonnie, I think that you are hurt by this in some way. Maybe you feel bad because you can't do what she says a super mom should do? But I want you to know that you are a good mom and you are doing a good job." (Because, see, my reaction wasn't really about the post at all. It was about me.)

And as soon as I realized that I cringed because I knew I have been just as unmerciful, if not worse. I cringe to think of the times when women - in blog posts or comment boxes or Facebook threads - were speaking out of their brokenness and pain and I did nothing to make it better, but in my self righteousness probably just made it worse. I am truly full of sorrow and regret that instead of recognizing what was happening and trying to bring healing, peace, love, and mercy to their tender spots I was indignant, vain, impatient, and hard-hearted.

Which goes to show that I am a broken, wounded person. And an ass. With a grinch-sized heart. Ugh. "Masters, remember that I am an ass."

This post doesn't have some neat little ending. I don't really know where to go from here, in part because I think different situations call for different responses. I don't want to live in a world where people have to protect everyone's precious feelings. I think we do need to be able to hear tough things, especially when they are true and most especially when they will challenge us to be better. But I also don't want to forget that people are broken. My friend Kathryn has had to remind me repeatedly that hurt people hurt people and so, as for me, I will be praying that when people hurt me I don't hurt them back. Instead, I will pray for the grace to make myself small and to pray for their hearts and mine.

Kyrie Eleison. +

September 26, 2016

I Believe that Black Lives Matter

At a family gathering a cousin passionately, beer in hand, told us about how he and his wife were raising good kids. Five minutes later the conversation had shifted a bit and he confessed with a shrug of his shoulder, "I'm a little racist." We laughed at the juxtaposition. We laughed at his confession.

Since that conversation over a year ago a lot has happened in our nation. A lot has also happened in my head and heart. I don't laugh at that cousin's comment any more. Instead I now appreciate the fact that he had taken a look at himself and his views, compared them to accurate definitions of words, and realized that he was, in fact, a little racist. 

It took a year, but he has humbled me, because the fact is I am also a little racist. That is a hard sentence to type and it's one I didn't want to ever believe was true, but it is. 

With every sad shooting and death there is pressure on social media for Christians to speak out, for white people to speak out, for white Christian bloggers to speak out. I understand why. I also understand that when I don't say anything people assume. They assume I don't believe that black lives matter. 

For the record - because I want my kids to know this when they look back at this moment in American history - I do, though. I do believe that black lives matter. 

But I don't speak up, and the reason for this is because the Black Lives Matter movement has given me a spotlight to shine on my own heart. The heat is intense and I'm seeing ugly, broken bits of myself all over the place. In short, it is painful to both see what I am (a little racist) and to grow from that perspective. 

I don't speak up because instead I am paying attention. I am reading comments and articles. I am listening to black people. Because I do not have any black friends, only acquaintances, I really appreciate the vulnerability I have found online and in the media. 

I don't speak up because everyone has a different story and perspective and I want to be respectful of all the various histories and opinions.  I want to consider them, reflect on them, and focus on them as they are shared. 

I know there will be people who still believe that I should speak up, but right now God is working in my heart and I can clearly see that it needs to happen in a calm, quiet, private way. 

This goes for more than just racism in America, too. If I remain quiet about the Orlando shooting or Syrian refugees please know that it's not because I don't care. I care a great deal. I am learning so much and the information both makes me cry and gives me hope. I want to cry because of the ways we ignore the value of human life and the ways that I have played my own part in it. But I have hope because if listening and praying and searching can lead to God growing my grinch-sized heart then I am certain we can fix this. 

But please, don't think that just because I haven't updated my Facebook status that I don't care. I do, and because I do I am updating my life, my views, and how I teach my children. 

May God have mercy on us all. +

September 19, 2016

Shopping for Clothes Doesn't Have to Be Depressing (especially for curvy girls)

A true fact: 
I have a black, knee-length, tube skirt that my college room mate gave me from her closet. In college I was a size 8-10-12 (depending, you know) but it had an elastic waist. It fit me perfectly and I loved it. I still have it. I am now a 16-18-XXL in yoga pants but the skirt still fits me and I still wear it. Why? Because the elastic gave way but my girth holds it up. Sad, but true.

Another true fact: 
There are so many perks to losing all this baby fat but in the meantime it just sorta sucks to dress my body. It is probably true that no matter your size there is something you dislike about your body (even if you look fabulous) and clothes shopping can be hard for most, if not all, women. I have a barrel of a mid-section and other XL sized things. Let's just say it was a lot easier to buy clothes and then look and feel cute when I was a 10.

Which leads us to this:

A woman I know with a similar build to mine mentioned she owned a couple of dresses from something called LuLaRoe. I did not know what she was talking about but I really loved her dress *and* I loved that it fit her curvy body.

So then:
When my friend Megan told me she was selling LuLaRoe clothing I reached out to her to see if she'd want to partner with me and my blog because shopping for clothes is depressing but not when you *know* that the clothes will fit and look good. I had seen Megan look great in the clothes, but I had also seen the items on my curvy friend, the models of all shapes and sizes on the website, and other friends and acquaintances. I felt really confident that, unlike the weekly offers for sponsored posts I turn down, this one would benefit my readers (especially those built like me!) and stay true to what I'm trying to do in this space. 

Megan + me

So with no further ado, here's my shopping experience:
I made plans to get together with Megan. She explained her inventory, sizing, and showed me where I could change. And then I went for it. Everything I tried on I photographed. There were Nopes:

 and Maybes:
The one on the Left could actually be titled "Regret" because I wish I would have bought it. It looks like a cool 1950's kitchen counter, doesn't it? I might have to go back and get it. I love it. 

In the end I left with four pieces I absolutely love. You'll have to excuse my 8 year old photographer, but I thought some "here I am, in real life, really wearing these clothes" pictures would be appreciated.

This is the Irma tunic (totally covers my butt!) and some LuLaRoe leggings. The Irma is a size XL.

Here I am trying it on during my shopping trip. Please note I am wearing the aforementioned black tube skirt.

Another shot of the super comfy, super pretty leggings. These are the "Tall and Curvy" size.

The Randy shirt. I love this one - it is so totally my style. This is an XXL.

The Carly dress. This is a L and I love the way it fits me. 

If you've never shopped with LuLaRoe before here's what you should know:
The patterns are crazy. Like some of them are cray-cray, pretty much ugly. And some of them are absolutely beautiful. And what I think is ugly you will think is beautiful and so on, but the catch is the company buys the fabric, cuts it into a variety of items and sizes and then that's it. The inventory is always changing.

You can't order online - you have to find a consultant. You can get a feel for what LuLaRoe might have, and you can definitely see the pieces in the collection (like the Carly dress, for example) but you will never know what your consultant will have until you get to her online or in-person sale.

Many of these clothes will easily transition with a woman before, during, and after pregnancy. There are so many creative ways people wear these clothes. I commented to Megan about a couple of items that weren't very nursing friendly and she then explained ways people style the clothes so they are compatible with breastfeeding. I was impressed.

At least for me, shopping the inventory racks was a lot of fun. Megan had a good selection of size L, XL, XXL in all her shirts, skirts, leggings, and dresses. She was honest with me in her feedback, just as quick to tell me what didn't look good as to tell me what did. I was able to try on a lot of items, trying out patterns for the fun of it, and getting the chance to figure out sizing on my body.

The leggings are worth the hype. Really. They are so, so, so soft - it was an experience putting them on for the first time. (ha! ... but true!) Can you buy cheaper leggings? Yes. Yes, you can. Will the quality and comfort be as good? Not that I have found. Put them on your Christmas wish list. Buy some for your daughter / niece / best friend. They are amazing.

I said this before but it bears repeating: These clothes are styled in a way that I can wear them and feel pretty while I parent my kids and live life but none of my cracks show! Or as my high school dean said at the all school assembly the first day of the year, "No boobs, no butts, no bellies."

So, my honest opinion: the buzz that surrounds LuLaRoe is legit. If you can make it to a Pop-Up Sale, do it! And better yet, if you want to get a new piece, my friend Megan is offering 15% off your entire purchase when you order from her. She's got brand new inventory on her FB page right now. Head on over and claim your item on her Google Form. When you do be sure to use the coupon code aknottedlife15 to get your 15% off. Also, because the inventory is always changing Megan wants to be sure you can get something you really love so the coupon code is good through October 31st.

Megan's LuLaRoe Facebook Page
Megan's LuLaRoe Instagram

Happy Shopping!