Friday, May 29, 2015

The Graduate

Last Friday my T graduated from preschool. He acted as if it was just another day but sang his sweet heart out during the graduation songs. His grandparents were there. N was able to come (we let him miss school for the morning). And we celebrated afterwards with lunch. 

In true Kristen style, I'm going to turn this post that should be about my child into a post about me.  
 For six years I've been driving to and from this preschool multiple times a week. It's become a part of me as have the people in it. Before finding this school I joined mom groups, tried playdates with people I'd met at parks or gymboree, and mostly I floundered. I was lonely.

I'll never forget touring this preschool. There was just something about it. It was one of the few schools that didn't have author studies, high frequency words, and computer time. It had a different pace and offered a different curriculum. What I didn't know what how much it was going to offer me. 

N's first day

N's first year I met moms that became friends. I learned all the teachers names. I could talk to the director (who welcomes everyone by name every morning) about anything. It didn't happen over night, but naturally. It felt like a sigh of relief. Like a place I belonged. 

 For the past six years I've driven two little guys twenty minutes for this school. I no longer have the little toddlers I dropped off at preschool excited about the playground. As their world changes, so will my world. I won't see the teachers I love, there won't be UNC banter in the hallway, the director won't ask how Chris' job is going, and there won't be after school playground time on warm sunny days with the other moms and kids. I feel a loss. These are the people who traveled with me through babies, deaths, breakdowns, soccer, birthdays, basically through life these past six years.

For me this means next year I'll have to make an effort to maintain these friendships. I'll admit I'm not the best person at sending emails, texts, or calls. I'm lazy when it comes to friendship. Walking down a hallway was easy, it came naturally. We are all busy so being busy in the same places made it easy. Now comes the effort. 

In a couple more years I will be back. There will be a new set of moms and a few I'll know from the past. Hopefully the teachers that have been there for fifteen years will continue and the director too. In a couple years life with be back to the "normal" I know now.

I've mentioned before how much I used to hate the phrase "It takes a village" but honestly this has been one amazing village. The people here love my boys, love me, and love KC. And we love them. My heart hurt on Friday. Partially because my sweet baby is growing up, partially because he is leaving the safety of this sweet school, and partially because I'm leaving the place I've loved and the people I've loved. On the bright side, I know just how awesome KC's school experience will be and how much I'll look forward to returning. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

It was this weekend // At Biltmore

If you aren't in the area, then you may not be familiar with the commercials for the Biltmore Estate. Chris and I love them. Here's one:

We planned our own "It was this weekend" picture and here's how it turned out:
There were a few other good picture choices, such as these:

Our weekend really was all that Biltmore  commercials make it out to be - not that we stayed there the entire time. We drove up Saturday morning (after a late and very intense baseball game Friday night). We checked in with our hotel, The Princess Anne and received directions to a restaurant we were excited to try - The Laughing Seed. It was about a mile to walk there and after a long car ride we were ready for the trek. 
The restaurant lived up to the hype around it and then some. It was a delicious vegetarian restaurant and we made sure we tried as much as possible. KC enjoyed her share of their cuisine too. Fried green tomatoes, tofu sloppy joes, fried avocado tacos, and raw strawberry cheesecake for dessert. That doesn't even include our drinks. I had a mixed drink and Chris had a homemade lemonade with strawberries and mint.  

We walked back to our hotel taking in the Asheville scene, lots of dogs, tattoos, and street performers. I also didn't realize what a tourist town Asheville is. Gift shops lined the streets. 

Driving to the Biltmore is an experience in itself. You pass the entrance gates and wind around beautiful hillsides through forests, over stone bridges. It is a perfect ride for changing your mindset from the present to the past. 

We parked, hopped on the coach to the house, and were dropped off right in front of the 178,926 square foot house. Photography is not allowed inside the house which explains my lack of pictures. The tour winds through different areas of downstairs, upstairs, the third floor and the basement. Different costumes from Downton Abbey were placed in each room with explanations of how the costume represented the society of the time. It was a really well done exhibit. 

It rained the entire time we toured the house (which was about two hours). We felt pretty fortunate our lunch and tour plans worked out so well. Leaving the house, we explored the Italian garden where there was to be a wedding later that evening. We quickly decided our feet were too tired to move on and headed back to our hotel for happy hour.

We drove back to the Biltmore grounds for dinner by the winery. We checked in with the restaurants and decided it was a little too long of a wait. After a little exploring we headed to another vegetarian restaurant we were hoping to try while in Asheville called Plant. I read about this farm (or forest) to table restaurant in Our State magazine. It was truly an experience. As a vegetarian most of the time dining at a fine restaurant means pasta or "sides" but here veggies made the main course. Appetizers, main course, desserts, and a very silly tired baby made for a fun dinner. 

Our hotel offered a delicious breakfast before we headed out to explore the Estate once more. KC enjoyed every bit of it, the yogurt, fruit, waffles, fresh whipped cream, eggs, and toast.

We were so sad to check out of The Princess Anne. It was built in 1924 and was full of beauty and charm. We loved our suite, the helpful staff, the food, just the entire experience.

 We walked through the Biltmore one more time, then explored some of the gardens (in the rain). Biltmore is over 8,000 acres (it started out as 125,000 acres, which most are now the Pisgah National Forest).  

 We departed for home around 5pm with special treats for those waiting for us (only I don't think they were actually waiting for us, they were having way too much fun being spoiled by grandma and grandpa).

It was such a wonderful weekend away. Of course the jokes about "It was this weekend, at Biltmore" have been flowing since our return. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Putting It Out There - PPD

I've been debating this post for a few months. It's not an easy one to write as it brings up feelings I like to bury and leave alone. It is also a topic on which it is hard to find real posts. When I first encountered post partum depression (PPD) with T, I remember telling a friend at a birthday party, "I just feel so guilty for having him."  Her response was, "Oh I get really overwhelmed with two kids as well." While being overwhelmed with kids might be one way to experience it, it was not a part of my emotional roller coaster. Her answer made me feel as if I was different and it made me uncomfortable bringing it up again.

Right around when T hit 6 weeks old the heaviness of his life hit me. If he's lucky he'll live a healthy life to a nice old age and then die. My sweet baby would die. That thought rocked my world. To the core. I couldn't function. I couldn't stop crying. I would go to bed having panic attacks. After admitting to my friend I felt guilty for having him and receiving her response about being overwhelmed, I stopped bringing it up. Only two people really knew what I went through day after day. 

It was hard to look at my parents aging. It was hard to picture my boys being grandparents. Multiple times Chris told me he was calling my OB for help, but he didn't. Honestly I could have used it. 

One day I broke down on the playground to my mom. In a lot of ways it felt as if I had lost my entire faith and I was floundering. We talked, visited the bookstore, and I felt better. Maybe not the same, but I needed to be different. Acknowledging my feelings, hearing how my mom felt, helped me work through my emotions.

 Around this time I decided it was important to explore my faith. When we moved to this city I visited quite a few churches but now it was time to go regularly and get my questions and doubts answered. I sat there with my sweet baby (while N was in Sunday School) and in a lot of ways it sounded as if our minister knew all the thoughts in my head (our children's minister would call that the Holy Spirit talking). Slowly the fog lifted.

Then T weaned and all the sudden the panic attacks and fears were back. This time my anxiety centered on my kids having to grow up without me. I played "what if" in my mind over and over. I convinced myself that something was wrong every night before bed. I visited my doctor just about once a week (in all fairness I was also getting mastitis weekly at this point). After about a month the haze cleared again. Much later (at a lactation consultant visit with KC) I learned my anxiety was most likely strongly linked to T weaning and a change in hormones. While he weaned, he also struggled with ear infections that would cause him to go back to nursing, so my body was in a constant limbo of production (and hormones) which lead to the constant mastitis, and my anxiety.

We had a plan once we knew KC was on the way. My OB offered up meds at any point (even the delivery room she said). I knew the signs (when you are in the throws of depression it is extremely hard to see the signs because they are a complete reality). I made it past the 6 week mark with KC and was doing great. My best friend checked in and I celebrated. Then at 10 weeks, out of the blue, it hit. KC was snoozing and her head positioning was exactly that of my grandmother's the last time I saw her. The big dark hole of sadness and despair swallowed me once more. For the same reasons.

With school starting back so did my school year commitments. One of these is the childhood education committee at church. Our children's minister oversees this group and after one meeting I asked if I could come talk to her. I couldn't even keep my head together to get the words out, the sobs just pushed their way through. We met for an hour a week later and I left feeling like a completely new person. It was like she performed magic through her words and suggestions and I felt armed and ready to tackle the emotions that were eating away at my precious time with my kids. Since that day everything changed. 

Do I still struggle? Yes. I cringe when my boys talk about death. I hate thinking about time. Does anxiety still hit me? Occasionally, especially at night, I will succumb to the dark thoughts in my head. Looking back at these pictures of my babies, I have mixed emotions. I love the photos but they also remind me of my struggle. The difference now is that I have tools to help keep me afloat. I have words, methods, and people to rely on because I decided to seek help. It didn't come from the first person I talked to, and it didn't come right away, but I have it. 

My point is if you are struggling with your feelings, please talk to someone. Seek out someone you trust, ask for help. It doesn't have to be a person of faith, that is just what worked for me. It isn't normal to feel guilt and sadness over a new life in the world. You can email me too. I have more to share (which I'm sure is shocking after this incredibly long post). As always thanks for listening.

Thoughts for Thursday
Annie and Natalie

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Brand Spotlight: Jack and Teddy

There is a local children's boutique that my mom and I love (and Chris too). Late last winter while we were in I spotted an adorable bubble that I really wanted for KC's baptism. I noted the brand and then immediately forgot it. I never ended up purchasing the bubble as I decided a dress would work better if it was chilly but I am still obsessed with the brand. It's called Jack and Teddy. It's part of a larger brand (made in the US) and it's hard to find (let's change that). 

The pictures below are from their look book and website. The white bubble with the blue piping is the one I am drooling over (and have been for months). This is just a sample of the cuteness, there is a lot more.  photo JackampTeddyBlueReservecat_zps15630e9d.jpg
 photo JackampTeddyTopNotchcat_zpsbbc2010a.jpg

 photo JackampTeddyPerfectCheckscat_zps44e1668b.jpg
The blue checks are calling my name (well KC's name). And I think this brand does a great job balancing gender offerings. Online I've found this adorable yellow bubble from Best Dressed Child:

I know the styles look a lot like other brands, but the quality and construction truly look exceptional and add such a timeless element to the clothing. Now to hunt down a piece to add to our collection!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Thinking Out Loud

Random post today! The title makes me think of the Ed Sheeran song. Have you seen the video? We love it.

The girl he is dancing with is from So You Think You Can Dance. It's back on June 1st! I can't wait. We LOVE that show (not sure I like them replacing Mary though).

June 1st makes me realize how close we are to KC's 1st birthday!! ACK!! I have just frozen on party planning. I don't handle stress well (or my babies getting older).
11 months Monday 
(and demanded to carry a slice of pizza)
(and wow we need to pressure wash our walkway! stat!)

And with June coming up - so is SUMMER BREAK!! I cannot wait to have all my babies with me! We just joined a pool for the first time since N was a year. I'm so excited (and need a one piece swimsuit).

June is also our 10th wedding anniversary! This is from our first anniversary (we were so young). Our sweet dog has a white face now. 
With KC being so little we won't be doing anything crazy but we are heading to the Biltmore Estate in a couple weeks. I received a gift card for my birthday and we'd dragged our heels scheduling something until I heard about the Dressing Downton Exhibit. It ends Memorial Day weekend so I wanted to visit in time to see it! I am really excited for a weekend away in the mountains. We are taking KC and leaving the boys with my parents. As much as I would love to take them around a really large old house with lots of breakable things I think they would have much more fun with my parents, soccer, baseball, and friends.

I feel like I've been mentioning June a lot when May is super packed and fun too! Today is Muffins for Mom, then Sunday we have Mother's Day, and soon T is going to graduate from preschool (cue lots of tears). 

I hope your spring is going well (and sunny). I love these days but as the sun sets I feel exhausted.

I'm linking up with Natalie and Annie for Thoughts on Thursday today!

Thoughts for Thursday