What should I register for?

As a new mom, everything is so exciting for me. But oftentimes, I find myself overwhelmed. Between the hospital bills piling up and the scale only increasing every week, it’s hard to remain calm in the middle of the baby storm. I also pretend to know everything I can about babies by reading every article and book I can get my hands on (thanks Oak Park Library!). I absolutely adore reading and learning as much as I can. And I absolutely can’t wait to meet my baby girl.

But in reality, I know nothing. Just like Jon Snow. So, I turn to you, my amazing readers, for help.

What should I register for? Obviously, I got the big stuff on the list: a crib, a stroller, a playard, and a changing table. Also diapers and tons of them! But what am I missing? What items have been necessary or life-saving when raising a baby? And what’s the best place to get them?

I’m currently registered on Amazon and at Target. Check out my lists and let me know what else I should add! Thank you!

Advertisements

Why this baby is a miracle

I was a late bloomer. I didn’t get my period for the first time until I was 16. Maybe because I was too skinny, or didn’t consume enough dairy. Well, when it came it was like a hurricane. Or a wrecking ball. Mother Nature was confused. There were times that I was bleeding every two weeks. Then, other times, it wouldn’t make it’s appearance for months on end. By age 19, I was on birth control to control Aunt Flow. An ultrasound showed cysts on my ovaries, and the Doctor told me that I had what they call Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). Long story short, Doc told me if/when I had kids one day it wouldn’t be easy.

Fast forward ten years later. I’m married, in love, and ready to have a baby. So I go off the pill (finally) and things are once again whacked out. But this time I take every measure I can to try and regulate myself naturally. Weekly acupuncture, daily chinese herbs, working out regularly, and watching my diet. Things take time, but they begin shaping up about 8 months into it. Which is also right around the time my husband noticeably stops sleeping with me. I’m dressing in lingerie and giving out lap dances but he would rather poke me with a ten foot pole. I’m tracking my ovulations daily, and I’m not ovulating. We get close, Aunt Flow starts coming semi-regularly. I.e. every 45 days. But it’s a start. And I get really excited.

Then my husband explodes. He gets mad out of nowhere and literally stops sleeping with me. On the couch every night. Weeks go by and it feels like everything around me crumbles. The life we built, the baby we wanted, turns into dust. I’ll never forget the worse lie he told me, “I still want a family, just not with you.” But the strangest thing happened. I ovulate days after he leaves the house. Then Aunt Flow becomes regular. Like every 35 days regular. And I become normal. Happy and normal, after years of battling cysts. They’re even smaller than normal on ultrasound. But of course my Doc still thinks having a baby won’t be easy. “No problem, Doc. I’m not even trying anymore.”

But my heart was broken. I was ready to start a family. The idea of starting over scared me. Actually, the very next guy I dated seemed to get way too serious way too fast so I dumped him after only a few weeks. I decided that I just wanted to date without any ties or commitment. Fast forward a year and a half and I notice my normally somewhat regular (every 35-40 days) period is late. I don’t even blink since it seems like I have all the regular period-like symptoms but I pee on a stick just to clear my mind.

When it comes back positive, I try another one. Determined the two tests weren’t right due to them being expired, I go out and buy new tests and try again the next day. Four positive pregnancy tests later, I’m in shock. How could this be? After trying with no avail, here I am miraculously pregnant. Well, not like Virgin Mary miracle, but close in my mind. Never in all my years did I think I could get pregnant easily. Without effort. My first thought is that it’s a miracle. God spared me from having a baby with the wrong person. But all along He knew I would have a baby. Just not quite the way I thought.

I’m so thankful for this miracle that God gave me. The ability to have a baby after my journey is so exciting. I can’t wait to meet my mini-me and already love him or her with all my heart.

 

Pregnancy and body image

Women struggle with body image from the day they’re born. Ok, maybe not that early, but it seems that way sometimes. Once you get your first Barbie doll, you start noticing your own figure and clothes. Not just toys, but social media has a big affect on girls of all ages. The desire to be skinny and sexy starts at a young age and never really goes away.

Fast forward a few years or decades and you’re having a baby. The most wonderful, joyous time of any mother’s life. The feeling of a growing baby in your belly is next to none. But with that comes a changing body. Most women gain anywhere from 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy, and often feel and look overweight. A woman sacrificing her body for nine months is worth the lifetime of happiness, but sometimes it affects her in a negative way. She starts seeing just the negatives: the stretchmarks, the large belly, and the number on the scale. All of these things shouldn’t matter, but it is hard with the pressures of society to see a large body as beautiful.

And it’s hard to sacrifice ourselves for someone else. Even if that someone else is our adorable mini-me. Even if the sacrifice results in having a beautiful child. I think it’s important to focus on the more important things in life. Yeah, having a healthy body is important but we don’t have to downgrade how we see ourselves when pregnant. Pregnancy is a gift from God. Not everyone has the ability and blessing to have a baby. So, if you’re lucky enough to be pregnant, embrace it.

Love your body and love your baby.

Joy is the key to happiness

Oftentimes I’ve ran into this situation: “Oh we’re just together for the kids.” I’ve seen it in my family, friends, and acquaintances. It’s become so common that I usually don’t even think about it. Strangely enough, I’ve always found it sad even though I don’t have kids and have never been in a similar situation. Expecting a baby has brought this situation to the forefront once again, and this time I can’t ignore it.

child-1111818_1920

Growing up with your parents together/married is a dream come true. I can say being able to live in just one home has definitely helped shape me into who I am today. You could say that’s why I believe in marriage, got married, and hoped to be married for the rest of my life. God has other plans for my life, and as you know He was like “Nope, not this one Jen.” That doesn’t change my beliefs. I still believe in marriage, I just believe I haven’t met the right guy yet. Or I know the right guy, but the timing isn’t right yet.

But so many people force it. I’ll be the first to admit, marriage isn’t for everyone. There are a few people I know who should just remain single for their sanity and quality of life. Sometimes my pea-sized brain hopes against all hope as my heart consoles me. That guy won’t ever marry you. It’s ok, though, because he’s happy. And when you love someone that’s all you care about, is their happiness. But too often I find the husband or wife who’s married and miserable.

The pain can stem from a number of things, but they all use the same word: stuck. Oh, well I have to wait until Timmy is 18 before I divorce her. You know, the kids want us to stay together. Then when you actually ask Timmy, he wishes his parents would just divorce already. He sees his mom cry daily and his dad is so distant. The only thing he wishes would happen is happiness on both ends, even if it meant not keeping the family together under one roof.

All too often the parents trick themselves into thinking that what they’re doing is for the best. But instead they destroy everything around them. I witnessed the effects firsthand with my ex. Sure, his parents stuck it out together until he was a teenager, thinking it was the right thing to do. Now he chooses happiness first. After years of watching his parents be miserable creatures, he runs at the first sign of anything but happiness. Where his parents faked it for the sake of the kids, he will only lie so long before they catch up with him and he just moves on rather than work things out. He has mastered the surface happiness but will likely never feel anything deep in his life. Sometimes I am left wondering how he even wakes up in the morning.

What I’ve learned through these situations is that kids don’t care as much about their parents being together as they do about their parents being happy. Don’t get me wrong, kids want their parents together. Like I said, that’s the ideal situation. The two-parent household. Growing up with your mom and dad being there all the time, at the same time. But going down the list of ideal, good, and worse situations, I think it’s safe to say the worse case scenario is your parents being miserable together. Miserable parents = miserable kids.

So do your kids a favor and be happy! Even if that means being selfish. Or if divorce isn’t an option, at least seek counseling. I know some wonderful family counselors in the greater Chicagoland area. Reach out to me if you need some recommendations!

How expecting a baby raised my standards

Pregnant and dating: not two words commonly seen together.

But that’s me. You’re not so common pregnant chick. And don’t get me wrong, I am focused almost exclusively on my baby and me. But just about two years ago, God told me that He has someone better for me (in the context of my heart breaking over my ex). And the past two years, I’ve managed to carve my own path. I made a list of deal-breakers, and then promptly didn’t follow them. I dated all the wrong guys.

But getting pregnant has helped me to open my eyes and see everything that I was doing wrong. I was chasing that fleeting feeling. You know, the one where a cute guy kisses you and you just imagine the selfies because he is that good looking. Or the one where you feel his abs and think to yourself that you can overlook his personality flaws. Abs tho…

homer

That brings me to present day. The pregnant chick who couldn’t even make it work with the baby daddy. Trust me, I still get a lot of people wondering what’s wrong with me. I couldn’t keep a husband, and here I am about to be a single mom. But no where along the way have I lowered my standards. Actually, becoming pregnant raised them.

Now I have a screening process. I won’t even talk to a guy on the phone or meet him in person without him knowing my story. Yes, I am literally telling strangers my story. Similar to you reading my blog posts, I am laying it all out there. Married and divorced, pregnant and single. And yeah, I’m not the easiest to love due to these and other situations I’ve been through. But I know I’m worth it.

And even if I don’t find that someone better. Even if I’m single for the rest of my life. I would rather be single and happy than taken and depressed. Been there, done that. Now’s the time that I find that someone better. Or maybe not right now, but in God’s timing.

And yes there are guys willing to date me and take a chance. Just because one guy can’t see it doesn’t mean there isn’t another out there who can.

Special Announcement

IMG_20181029_174540_860In case you somehow haven’t heard, I’m having a baby. While I’m beyond excited and blessed to be experiencing this amazing new Mom thing, my story isn’t the typical one. Then again, it’s 2018 and who goes by the book anymore anyways?

I’m single and jobless. While the first is a choice, the second wasn’t. I normally wouldn’t worry, other than I hear kids are expensive and right now money is already tight with no income. Of course, I gave it all over to God and I had a third interview today. But you never know, and the new Mom in me is already a worry-wart. While my friends are busy congratulating me, beyond excited for my new bundle of joy, I am counting the dollars in my head to figure out just how long can I make it without a job?

I haven’t been jobless in over 14 years. I legitimately can’t remember not working. But I digress. This post isn’t about money or jobs. It’s actually about how people reacted to the news: single and expecting. Most people just said Wow! Congrats! with a few You go girl! Single parenthood is easier than ever these days. But I did get a limited few asking me if I was going to date/marry the father of the baby. Obviously, I expect this from the older generations, but when friends my age asked me that I was taken aback. I guess, ideally, a child should be raised by both parents in the same environment. I get that, I was married before so I totally understand. But when I choose to have a baby while also choosing to be single, it kinda surprised me. Here I am reading up the best way to raise a baby by myself, miss independent style. And my Dad’s like when’s the wedding?

It’s cool though, I guess there’s that hopeless romantic part of me that was secretly hoping it’d work out like a fairy tale. But then reality hit like a semi-truck. Left me alone to change the kitty litter boxes by myself (don’t worry, I’m taking the necessary precautions). While I am and will be alone during this growing a baby process, I’m actually not alone.

I have the most amazing friends and family. My church and running community here in Oak Park has already gone above and beyond for me. Walking my dog, planning a gender reveal, and already talking about baby showers. My Dad and his Fiancee have been helping me rearrange and clean out my condo. My best friend in Chicago has helped me get rid of about 50% of the clutter in my condo, mostly to make room to breathe and eventually for my mini-me. The hoarder in me isn’t happy, but man is it nice to actually be able to move easily in my condo and not feel trapped by my past. Let go and live on.

I guess my point is, just because you’re a single parent doesn’t mean you have to do this alone. It takes a village. Even if the other parent isn’t in the picture, the most important thing to focus on is providing an excellent environment for growth. I’ve met with many elders who are wise beyond my years, and the most solid advice I’ve been given was that my happiness and joy will be apparent to my little one. If I’m not happy, they will sense that. So everyday I strive to wipe away the tears and find the joy in my surroundings. This isn’t hard to do when you have so much to be thankful for. I’m truly blessed, not just with the baby but also with everyone and everything in my life. I have the ability to workout, to run, to walk. To be healthy. To eat well. And to live life to it’s fullest.

I feel closer than ever to God through this situation and can only imagine how much my faith will grow through this new season of life. I hope my story helps bring encouragement and strength to those who are also going through similar struggles.

 

Kate Spade and the unspoken truth

In case you missed the recent news, fashion designer extraordinaire Kate Spade was found dead after an apparent suicide. All the feels came over me today when reading about this great loss. But it also brought up the fact that just because it may seem like everything is okay on the outside doesn’t mean that’s the case internally. And it goes to show, just because you have money and are successful doesn’t mean you’re happy. Life is hard, for everyone. No matter how many material possessions we have, no thing can bring us true joy. Happiness is fleeting, and so are material possessions, but joy is eternal. And we must find this joy within us.

My heart and thoughts go out to Kate Spade’s family and friends though. None of them wanted her to end her life. All they wanted was for her to be happy and feel loved. I can’t imagine what they’re going through. My prayer is for them to find comfort in the middle of the storm that is death and suicide.

So many are quick to say suicide is selfish. And while it can be seen that way since those who commit suicide don’t think about anyone else other than themselves. It can also be seen in a different way. Perhaps if they were more selfish, they would’ve sought out help from others. Life is hard, and it’s not meant to be done alone. We have to rely on other people, but even people will let us down. Finding a source of joy beyond the physical world around us is key. I look towards God who gave us Jesus, his only son, to die for our sins so that we can have eternal life and joy in Him.

What helps you find joy and happiness in your everyday?

Body image and self love

It feels like I’ve always had body image issues. Looking back, I can’t seem to remember a moment where I loved the way I looked. I would try my best to be content with my body, but I would always find something I’d like to change.

When I was a baby, I didn’t have a neck. My uncle called me Jabba the Hut since I was all baby fat. I didn’t ever crawl, because I was way too happy being immobile. Once I started walking, I lost the baby fat and thinned out. In high school, I was pretty active and stayed relatively thin but still felt chubby. I didn’t see myself as sexy and focused way too much on my extra-small boobs.

Freshman year in college I’d skip meals because I felt chubby. The other three years of college, I gained about 25 to 30 pounds that I instantly hated and tried to combat best I could. My boyfriend encouraged me by working out with me, but at the end of the day I felt fat and didn’t know what exercises to do other than run and some strength machines. Through the years, I’ve gone up and down in my weight. I started my fitness journey 7 years ago when I weighed in at my heaviest. I still hated my body, but decided to finally do something about it. So I joined a local Kung Fu school and started practicing traditional martial arts.

Even over the last 7 years, I still felt chubby and fat. In the beginning, my diet was crap as I was trying to workout 3-4 times a week. About a year into my fitness journey was when I decided to watch a few food documentaries. These altered my world and my diet. I was vegan for almost two years, and that was when I noticed the real change occurring in my body. I finally liked my body weight, and almost liked how I looked. My endurance was increasing but I felt like I needed more of a challenge. So I started running in addition to the martial arts training.

When I started running, I mostly hated it. But my friend Sarah kept me accountable and we ran many races together over the years. Even as a runner and martial artist, I still struggled with my body image. Especially after I fell off the vegan wagon and started to be more open with my diet. And, you know, got married and comfortable. When I turned 30 only a year and a half ago, I felt embarrassed when looking at photos of myself. That chubby tummy and love handles were too much! I knew I needed more strength training and a better diet, but kinda let myself go. It was when my ex left that I reassessed everything in my life, but chose to focus on self love and body image.

I turned to fitness and working out to help me get through one of the hardest situations in my life. I upped the frequency and intensity of working out. I made a conscious decision to focus on my health and everything else would work itself out. I felt called to run the Chicago marathon last year, and I chose to focus more on strength training both while running and after the race. Even after running the marathon, I still felt chubby. But I sat down and created a fitness goal for myself in order to help me work towards the body I want rather than the one I had.

And guess what? I didn’t reach my goal. My goal was to get to 18% body fat by last week. I’m currently hovering just above 19% body fat, but I started at 25% four months ago. Despite not meeting my goal, I can finally say I love my body. Just the way it is. I know I’m still a work in progress, and I still have fitness goals I’m working on. But I realized it isn’t about the numbers. It’s not about how much I weigh nor how much body fat I have (as long as I’m not obese). It’s about how I look and feel. Hard work pays off, but most of the work I’ve needed has been mental. 90% mental, 10% physical.

IMG_20180225_164645_439

Breaking the habit

IMG_20180126_190112

I don’t know about you, but for me it’s hard to break a habit once I’ve incorporated it into my daily routine. Some habits are good, like brushing your teeth or working out. But some habits are bad, like eating an entire box of cookies in one sitting. I’m not here to talk about good or bad habits, rather I’m going to focus on comfortable habits.

We are creatures of habit. We are predictable. We enjoy routine, and don’t like disruption. Sometimes, we start doing something because we enjoy it. For example, I started practicing Kung Fu in 2011 because I enjoyed the exercise, the learning experience, and the community. I saw many benefits outpouring from the training, and decided to make it a habit. Even when I was scraping by financially, I still made it a priority and found the means to continue paying for the classes.

This was a good habit that I incorporated into my life to make it better. But sometimes I’ve incorporated a bad habit just because it makes me feel better. Or I add something to my routine because at first it seems great, but over time I start making excuses when it’s really not so great.

I’ve found myself in this sort of cycle when it comes to dating and relationships. I tend to be attracted to the same type of guy: a little arrogant, a little smart, very good looking, self-absorbed, and fake(?) nice. Every time I start having feelings for someone like this, I see past the bad qualities and only see the good stuff, the surface things. But over time, the truth shows it’s ugly head. And my problem is that I start making excuses for them. In my head they aren’t perfect, but they’re also not terrible. In reality, they’re just not the right person for me. But for some reason, I can’t let go.

Is it the fact that by this time I’ve spent time, money and energy on them? Or maybe because it feels comfortable. They’re always around, and I enjoy their company. Or am I just used to their company and can’t remember how it was before? Then I feel trapped. How can I break this habit? This cycle of self-destruction, of dating the wrong guy. The list of wrong guys I’ve dated seems endless, and all at once it feels like I’m staring down into an empty bottle. Where are the good guys? Better yet, where’s the right guy for me? Does he even exist?

So I challenged myself for this year: I’m breaking this cycle I’ve allowed myself to fall into. Moving forward, I will be honest with every guy I meet. If after talking once or twice they don’t meet my standards (deal-breakers), then I will be very clear in regards to my intentions and how I see them. This is something I thought I was capable of doing last year, but I lost my way. I let my guard down, and I let the wrong person in. No regrets, because life is all about learning and growing. And I’m learning and growing everyday.

Suicide Prevention and the Holidays

With the holiday season comes an increase of sadness and depression. Some blame it on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) due to the decreased daylight, whereas other cases can be traced back to lonely or drama-included holidays. Speaking from experience, I can see where the holidays can be sad for someone since I lost my mom right before Christmas of 2015. I want to focus on suicide prevention and ways to lift your spirits despite the gloomy circumstances surrounding you.

Suicide Prevention: tips and tricks

  • Move! Stay active. I know it’s hard during these colder months, but staying active will increase your feel-good hormones. It may be too cold to exercise outside, but there are some great gym membership deals going on right now that you can jump on.
  • Eat better! Instead of grabbing processed and fatty foods, go for foods rich in protein, fiber, and/or good fats. I.e. eggs, avocados, oatmeal, etc. These foods will also help you stay full for longer and won’t tire you out.
  • Start or re-vamp a hobby! Whether you like to read books, watch movies, or play the guitar, pick up an old or new hobby to focus on. People who do what they enjoy find more joy in their daily lives.
  • Be social! Join a meet up group or a local running club. Whatever it is you like to do, there’s likely a group of people to do it with. Doing something you enjoy with others is a great way to make new friends.
  • Choose yourself. Love yourself. You are amazing and you are worth it.

If you find yourself considering suicide or suffering from depression, don’t hesitate to call 1-800-273-8255

Check out this website HERE for more resources and information. Let’s get the conversation going and let it continue on everywhere.