Monday, December 28, 2015

21 Days of Happiness Challenge

I don't think I have ever really tried to have a new year's resolution. All I know is that they usually fail. I think the most common resolutions are working out or eating healthy, aka weight loss. Luckily, right now I'm supposed to be gaining weight for baby, so this isn't going to be what I'm talking about.

Though in the state of life I am in right now, I think it'd be a good idea to have a new year's resolution. Right now, I'm about done (for the most part) being sick and I'm about to be a full time student again this J-Term. I'm going to be honest, I'm really nervous.

I've learned that as humans, we function well and happily with these two things: routine and habit.

When we have the same morning routine, we can get ready for the day, no matter how zombie we are. This is the same for a bedtime routine, a routine when you get home, a routine at work (or school), etc. etc.

This is the same for habits. If it's a habit to bite your nails, by golly you will continue to bite your nails. (I'm still working on this. I know, I'm terrible.) Some habits I would like to have down pat someday is to pray 20 minutes a day (preferably 30-60 minutes), shower at night, and never go to bed without a clean sink.

When I worked at Catholic Youth Camp (Shout out! Apply to work there! Send your kids there!), mid summer you have a slump. The staff watched this talk on happiness and the science of it. I don't remember much from it, except that we did this awesome happiness project.

So, it takes about 21 days to start a habit. That is 21 days in a row without missing once. It's just three weeks right? WRONG. It can be tough, but the fact that we were all doing it together made it sooo much easier.

So what is this happiness project? Well, it consists of five activities. If done for 21 days, you are guaranteed a happier person. Really! I'm serious!

1. Write down 3 things you are grateful for. You will be literally rewiring your brain to look for the positive. I bought a journal to do this. I actually kept on doing it even after the 21 days. I even moved to writing 5 things a day. I have since dropped this habit, but hey it worked!

For example, I am thankful for my Grandma. her cookies, and the beautiful snowy day.

2. Journal about one positive experience that happened that day. For this I wrote in the same journal, I would usually pick one of the 3-5 things I wrote down already that I was grateful for and write a couple lines about it. Sometimes I'd write a whole page! The key is to write about it so that you relive the positive memory.

3. Exercise. 10 minutes a day (you can change the amount of time if you'd like. 10 minutes is the minimum). This is the hardest one for me. I have been blessed to not struggle with body weight. Besides the winter coat I gain in my face every year, it always goes back to normal, and I'm honestly not even trying. It's actually a totally natural thing to gain weight in the winter, but now that we don't live in huts, it's not really that big of a deal. ANYWAY. The big thing about this part of the challenge is discipline. Are you a spoiled brat? You probably are. I definitely am. Because I can't bounce around too much with the baby, how I'm going to approach this will be to do 10 minutes of either yoga, riding a stationary bike, walking on the treadmill, or walking around the track each day. I'm really lucky to have the school gym. My class gets out at noon so in the afternoons when I'm not studying theology or psychology I'll get my butt in the gym doing something called exercise for at least 10 minutes.

4. Meditation/Prayer. This one can be weird. On my phone I set my alarm for 2 minutes and look at a cross or a painting. Sometimes I will get my butt to the St. Thomas Chapel or St. Mark's Church for this. Others can close their eyes, but this is not possible for me. It can be hard to focus. Actually, it IS hard to focus, especially when you're not used to it. If after literally two seconds you start thinking about lunch or your plans later, THAT'S OKAY. This task is to help you focus, you don't have to be perfect at it already.

5. Affirmations. Random acts of kindness are the bomb, but they can be hard to plan. Affirmations are easier to plan though. Make a list of people now, or pick one each day. It's easier for me to pick someone on my friends list on Facebook and send them an email, Facebook message, text, voicemail, letter, etc. etc. to praise them or thank them. Again this is looking at the positive, but also describing it and reliving it.

1. 3 things you are grateful for
2. Journal about a positive experience from the day
3. Exercise for at least 10 minutes
4. Meditation/prayer for 2 minutes
5. Affirmation

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Saturday, December 26, 2015

How to Raise a Baby

Merry Christmas Everyone!

This year was our first year celebrating Christmas as a married couple. On Christmas Eve, we had brunch with Peter's side, and then headed to Iowa to visit my side. We got home, ate supper, went to evening Mass, and have spent the rest of our trip in bliss (aka eating delicious food and being vegetables).

It was great receiving gifts from my family (gifts is one of my love languages), especially some more clothes that fit. My closet has been running thin. I got some prego shirts that are super adorable, and some Star Wars shirts as well. We also received two really soft stuffed animals, an adorable pig and a big elephant. The stuffed animals will be great for taking monthly photos with the baby! I also received a super awesome book. It's called The Sh!t No One Tells You, A Guide to Surviving Your Baby's First Year, by Dawn Dais. The book was so good and I want to tell you about it. I got it yesterday and I finished it today. I don't think I've read a whole book for personal enjoyment since high school.

So in about 4-5 months, Peter's and my life will turn upside down, and boy am I pumped. Obviously it won't be all great, and in fact a lot of it is going to suck, but Peter and I know that being parents is something that we are supposed to do with our lives. I can't tell you how much he and I have prayed about this. We feel very called, and I am honored that the Lord has asked us to start right away.

The book as a whole was awesome, but there were a few things in particular that made me not want to put it down. (This is saying something because I have a terrible attention span.)

1. The author is hilarious and very honest.

I have a couple pregnancy/parenting books on my shelf now, but they all make everything sound like rainbows and butterflies. I'm going to be honest, reading them is pretty boring, although very informative. It feels like studying, which is kind of what it is, but it should be so different than school. Parenting is a part of life, whether you are the parent or you have the parents. This author really tells you how being a parent of a baby is. I've been told that I have the same writing style as her, blunt and hilarious (obviously).

2. A variety of moms have contributed to this book

At the end of each chapter, she has multiple moms share their experiences with said topic (breastfeeding, poop, vaccinations, sleep, etc.). The author instead of a husband has a partner, and she has a lot of great insight with that experience, but the other contributions include straight couples, single moms, stay at home moms, moms of one, moms of many, moms of twins, and so many other types, and it's really helpful to hear from all of them.

3. At the end of the day, there is no one right way to do anything when it comes to parenting. Every mom is different, every kid is different, and the decisions you make are what's right for you.

The author tells you of multiple different ways of approaching different parenting tactics, the pros and cons of each, and says what she chose and why. I don't think there is one true way of raising a child, and I feel very strongly about this. Everyone is so different and has different needs and priorities.

So I know a lot of my readers are young women in school, and I know I'm obviously not taking care of a baby quite yet (although I am growing a baby), these are some things to think about and pray about when it comes to at least the first year of a child's life.

Baby things to keep in mind

Birth. It's different for everyone, and no matter what, there will be at least one thing that is gross. You can create what's called a birth plan, but it can completely change because baby might say "it's actually time like right now," or "I'm stuck." There are c-sections, and there is the pushing. There are lots of drugs, some drugs, back up drugs, and no drugs. I'm not going to go into detail for those who don't need to know, but trust me, there are plenty of details when it comes to birth that you have never heard about, BUT, it's different every single time. There will be a problem in some way, shape, or form, but you really can't predict it until it's happening.

Baby things. I don't really have much experience with babies. My experience with kids is ages 5-18, so this will be an adventure. The nose sucky thing for boogers sounds very helpful. I plan on getting one of those. A diaper bag (or large purse) is important to hold diapers, wipes, spare clothes, toys, possibly formula if you aren't breastfeeding, and as the baby gets older snacks, books, and other fun stuff. There are also diapers, obviously. I don't have much to say on that yet. There are baby changing pads, which I think is a must. I'd like to avoid poop on the carpet, just a preference. There are pacifiers. Some do pacifiers, some don't. I don't really know what we will do yet. I think we're going to have some just in case, but try to not use them too much. I am a believer in figuring out why a baby is crying before just putting a sock in it.

Breastfeeding. It sounds so good for the baby and it seems beautiful and it's obviously natural. I really really want to breastfeed all my babies but I know there are times when it just doesn't and can't work and you have to do formula, and that is okay! I've learned when it comes to breastfeeding and other parenting decisions that "you are a bad mom" no matter what decision you make. And it's one of those things that you have to get over. You do you. Also, like all the birth details that I'm not talking about. There are also lots of fun breastfeeding details too! Some people have no problems, but others have plenty.

The first day home. Your first couple hours, days, and weeks will be weird. There is this baby and I don't know what I'm doing but there is a baby and it's drooling and what do I do because there is suddenly a baby here. This thought process is normal and also hilarious to me.

Baby blues and postpartum depression. This are very real and like Hyperemesis, not talked about enough. Some don't experience it, but most do in some way, shape, or form. Having experience with depression already, I won't be surprised if this will be a thing for me. Basically there is a lot of unexplained crying, but my dear, there IS an explanation. You are stressed, really tired, and have had a lot going on.

Love at first sight. This was new to me. It doesn't happen to everyone, but there can be a struggle with feeling in love with the baby at first. Yes there is a natural instinct to take care and protect the baby, but don't assume it'll be like the movies with music in the background and everything is magical. You might need to get to know the baby. I mean, you do get to know the baby while pregnant, but it's different. I don't know how this will go for me. I have a feeling it might actually be magical for me, but I'm prepared if it won't be.

Facebook. It is okay that you are not taking 400 photos and posting all these great milestones and adorable pictures. You baby won't always be adorable, and they won't always have the milestones on time. It's not a competition, and yes your friends and family care, but it's different. Almost think the less posts the better.

The body of a mama. Growing a baby does a lot to your body. Getting the baby out of your body also does a lot to your body. This is another section where I leave out fun details. For every mom, (guess what!) it's different for everyone. There are different problems, and everyone gets back to their "normal" body at different times. For some, they will never get back, and that is okay! My mentality is that I plan on having more than one kid, and hopefully many kids, so I think (hope) I'll be okay with looking five months pregnant post-baby.

Mess. This will be fun. Think of all the fun poop/pee/puke stories I will have by next year. I think I will have to be okay that things will be dirty, and that I should be ready to experience the gross, and that I should clean a lot. I want things to be clean, I really do! But I have to admit, Peter is cleaner than I am about most things, but I also prefer clean vs. messy. Since I've been sick I've been letting more go, but being clean is a habit I want to master. I think it is possible to have a clean place at the end of the day, if you don't sleep, but it's possible. Some days you will be able to go to bed with the place clean, and other days you just can't, and that's okay!

Vaccines. There are lots and lots of opinions on this. I'm going to say this. Talk to people you trust. Google is NOT a person you trust. After hearing pros and cons from all sides, make your own call. I'm afraid that no matter what decision you make, you will be "a horrible mother." It's a fact of life. Don't worry, I'm a horrible mother too.

Sleep. I admit, I'm nervous about this. Peter and I both need a lot of sleep. I'm also nervous because babies need to eat about every 3 hours. There's that, and all the five million reasons the baby will cry in the middle of the night. I don't have much to say except that I believe in grace. Peter and I received grace doing Totus Tuus Ministries when it came to lack of sleep, and I when I was working at camp, I was usually in charge of nightmares, bathroom breaks, nighttime homesickness, and anything taking place at night, and I definitely received grace for it. I'm not excited about this part of parenting, but hey, at least I know I'm actually really good with nightmares for when our kids are older.

Small space. Basically, no matter how big your home is, like goldfish, you will fill that space. This is a fact of life. I can't wait to move to a bigger place, but our place will do for now, and sometimes, you have to tell yourself that.

Money. Yikes. My favorite topic. You can buys things brand new. You can go to Once Upon a Child. You can go to Goodwill and Savers. You can go to garage sales. You can borrow. Besides diapers and formula (which isn't a problem if you breastfeed), you can do this.

Teething. It sucks. There is stuff you can do to help it, but the main thing is the baby wants to be comforted. This actually reminds me when I had hyperemesis. There isn't much we could do, and I mainly wanted to be comforted.

You will never be the perfect parent. I'm really sorry. None of us will be, there never has been a perfect parent (except Mary of course). You will be a great parent. You won't be perfect, and there will be things that your kids (who love you) might need to go to therapy about later, and that's okay! Trust me, everyone has something from their childhood. It's what makes us human, it gives us character, and it makes us into who we are.

Juggling. There is a lot that you're juggling already right now. If you're in college, things that come to mind are school, work, exercise, food, health, prayer, romance, clubs, friends, money, and we all know that the list does not stop there. You CAN live a happy life with children. There is definitely balance and sacrifice needed.

Marriage. Lack of sleep and screaming children might put a damper on your romantic life. With the grace of God and with the both of you working hard at being charitable, it'll be okay. I know it'll be hard. Here is a quote I heard from an older women "My husband and I have never considered a divorce. Murder? Sometimes, but never divorce." Please don't murder your spouse, but I thought this was funny. Until death do us part?

Memory. Apparently this disappears somewhere between pregnancy and newborn. It has something to do with being tired and having a lot of new things to think about all at once. For some, your struggle never goes away. For others, your memory does come back, but maybe not fully back to "normal."

Moral of the story

So there are a lot of super fun things to anticipate! Peter's and my world will turn upside down and it will be messy! I'm really excited. Everyone is called to have a cross, and I think our cross fits Peter and I well.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Baby, Star Wars, and Final Exams

Baby Update

It's hard to believe that I'm am already at 20 weeks. I'm halfway there! I've gained about 5-10 pounds since August, and it's now 1/2-1 pound a week from here on out!

This week the baby is the length of a banana, and one of the big progresses this week is the baby might open their eyes soon.

My appetite sure has grown. I usually eat a larger breakfast, then along with lunch and supper, I snack all day. By the way, Oreos are delicious.

I cry when I watch Star Wars, videos on Facebook of dogs or babies, and anything from Ellen Degeneres.

On Friday we find out if this little jumper is a boy or a girl. I'm so excited to have a name for this child.

I would say that now it is officially impossible to hide the bump. If I walk around campus, people who don't know me might not notice and just think I'm a bit pudgy, but those who know me definitely see my weekly growing.

I feel like I have to pee all the time, particularly if I move from sitting to standing up, (and if someone kicks my bladder).

Feeling this little one kick is becoming a regular part of my day. I notice it best when I sit still for a long time. It feels like someone gently poking my tummy, but from the inside. It's not as weird as it sounds. At first it felt like gas or me digesting. Now, it feels more like a "hi mom." Before we go to bed, Peter will put his hand on my tummy and after a minute or two he usually feels some kicks. It's so amazing seeing this awe on his face when the baby kicks or rolls over. Yesterday Peter and I were talking and the baby got really excited and I think it's from him/her hearing us! I'm pretty sure the little one can recognize Peter and my voices now.

It's been really comforting knowing that someone is always there with me, even though they have no idea what's going on. I think it's one of God's ways of showing his love towards mothers. I've especially been reminded of this because it is Advent, and Mary too had a baby with her for nine months (who happened to be God).

Star Wars

In the last three days I watched all six Star Wars movies to be ready for Episode VII. I know episodes IV-VI pretty well, but I didn't really remember I-III. Watching the original trilogy was fun because it's been awhile and it reminded me of when I would watch them on VHS with my dad. The second Trilogy I really wanted to watch again because it has so much information in it.

I know most fans don't like this newer series very much because it's more info and less action, but I liked them a lot after watching them again this week. I remember seeing Episode I in theatre with my dad, particularly little Anakin in the pod-race. This one came out in 1999. (I was five.) I think I also saw Episode II in theatre with my dad, but I'm pretty sure I fell asleep and all I remember is seeing stars and a bunch of ships shooting at each other in space. That was in 2002. (I was seven.) The third came out in 2005 and I remember my dad going to see it, but I wasn't as interested. I did watch it when I was 13 (I think), but I think it was such an information filled movie that I didn't understand it.

I actually think I relate a lot to Anakin. He was really passionate as a boy and had a lot of potential. The Jedi felt the force in him was very strong in him even as a little boy, and after a blood test he tested higher than Yoda himself! So the point of the pod-race in Episode I was to win money to buy parts for a ship to get off the planet, but they also won in the bet to free little Anakin. So they took him in and Obi Wan trained him up to be a Jedi.

Now Anakin was very good at what he did, but he had a hard time with his emotions. This is where I think I relate. When I tried in school or volleyball or whatever, I was really good, but I had a lot holding me back. Anakin would have dreams of his mother dying and it distracted him from his training. He promised her that he would come back and free her when he was a Jedi.

So the important part about being a Jedi is controlling your feelings. Fear is actually something huge that Jedi are encouraged to not have. (Which reminds me of the 365 times the Bible says "Do not be afraid.") Another part about being a Jedi was to not be attached to anything. (Which reminds me of priesthood and religious life, but in ways marriage and the Christian life in general as well.) Anakin definitely had an attachment to his mother, and also to Padme, who is pretty much one of the most beautiful people ever. So far, Anakin is basically failing at being a Jedi, except he's so stinking good at using his light saber and moving things with the force, but he really needs to let go of his fear and attachments before he can become a Jedi.

When Anakin went to find his mom, he was successful and freed her, but when she saw him grown into a (good looking) man, she died at peace in his arms. He was so upset about her death, he lost it and actually killed everyone in the village. So this is where my being similar to Anakin disconnects and I don't think I relate to him in wanting to kill everyone in sight, but I still used to (and still do) get very upset at times. I also used to have times when I would just lose it and get upset and either have a panic attack or not want to leave my room for a week, or both will happen.

In Honor of Finals Week

When I was first in college, particularly in my chemistry days, I felt a lot of pressure to do well. I felt like everyone I knew had a dad who was a doctor. I had to learn that it was okay that there were students who did unnaturally well in school. I used to get easily upset by it and think there was something wrong with me, yet in the classroom I followed along really well and asked really good questions. I learned that some people can naturally get six hours of sleep on a daily basis and be fine. I on the other hand would get very sick if I tried that too many days in a row. I need a solid 8 hours, more like 9 if I am able, and during my pregnancy realistically 10-12 hours. (Growing a baby takes a lot!)

So after my third chem class, second calc class, and first physics class, I called my chem major quits. I turned my Catholic Studies minor into a major (which was okay because I was really feeling called to do ministry), and I also picked up a philosophy minor on the way. Class can still be hard. I'm a slow reader but I still mostly got my work done and I was doing a lot better than I was in my science/math classes. Don't get me wrong, I still nerd out and am still pretty good at math and science, but it's not my calling.

With all the anxiety I was dealing with and the depression that just wasn't going away, we found a medicine that helped a lot. As I'm getting older and am finishing my last year of school, I realize more and more how much college really doesn't matter. I know the stats say that you need a degree to get a job, which is true most of the time. What's also true is that if you work hard without a degree, you can have a job, you can pay the rent, and you can feed yourself and even your family. That's what my family did. I grew up learning that it's hard work, not skill, that pays off. In my psych class we had a section on education, and I learned that a difference between Japanese and American education is exactly that. The Japanese care more about how hard one works, not how skilled they naturally are. In that class I also learned that we tend to forget that there are other ways to have jobs and be "successful" besides by going to college.

For all my friends stressing about getting into med school and law school and other grad schools, it's going to be okay. There are amazing doctors and other people in this world who do amazing things, and even failed a class or two. I could talk more about this but I will leave it here.

Down the road, five years from now, ten years from now, it won't really matter. Do you even remember what grades you got in high school? You may remember in a nutshell, but do your friends or professors really care? Your boss in the future won't really care either how you did in o-chem or ancient philosphy. What they care about is how well you are doing in the present moment. Jesus is like that too. He doesn't care what sins you did in the past (or how virtuous you were in the past). What matters is whether you are living a virtuous life now.

So study hard, don't panic, don't lose too much sleep, eat healthy, love your friends and family, and be merry, because Jesus has a birthday coming up, and the only reason He was born was so that he can party with you in Heaven where there is no such things as finals.

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