Crafts & DIY

Transitioning to Tiny

Matt started construction on our tiny house conversion on Christmas Eve 2017. He had originally estimated needing 3 weeks once our tax return came in to fuel the project. Now, mid April we are still finishing painting, laying tile, and installing shelves.

These four walls became our home early March as soon as there was a floor and the door locked. We think we are about 85-90% finished with the *initial* build. We joke that we have to live here for “x” years in order to break even on our investment of time, energy, and funds. Every day we seem to come up with new projects and fixes. We are in it for the long haul.

Big Changes for a Tiny Life

It has been an adjustment to basically halve our living space and confront all my baggage (literally, like 90% of everything we own is mine and 90% of that came with me from high school). It has been easier than I thought to purge 26 years of junk. Most of my stuff has been hidden in closets, under beds, or under piles of clothes for years, so I didn’t miss it.

Some items have been more difficult to part with. Often, it’s a feeling of guilt that makes me question whether or not something should be tossed. I feel guilty for not using the item, guilty that someone gave it to me and now I am getting rid of it, guilty that I’ve neglected it, just guilty.

I read a great quote on Pinterest about sentimental clutter: no one wants the stuff they give you to cause you stress. If my feelings attached to items are negative, why do I want them? My mom didn’t give me this yoga mat so that I could look at it, remember that I don’t work out, feel guilty, and stress about whether or not she’ll know I haven’t used it. An item that was intended to help me relax is now a source of stress. Am I just hanging on to it so I can suffer for her sake? Like I’m justifying its presence and therefore clutter as penance? Suddenly organizing had become extremely introspective.

So far so good

This first month of tiny life has been extremely encouraging, though not easy. The studio-ish nature of our tiny house is not too much different than us sharing a one bedroom apartment. Even sharing a room in our old house, Autumn had a bed but always wanted to sleep in ours. Autumn again has her own bed and a “room” carved out in our tinyness. While her little nook is cozy and on its way to being princessified, Autumn still wants to sleep with Daddy, on the couch, or anywhere but her Big Girl Bed some nights. Not much has changed there.

Some positive changes have come from our new smaller lifestyle. Now, we can’t “send” Autumn anywhere but outside if she is too wound up, which is probably a good thing. Similarly, we can’t “take a break” or “get some space” anywhere but the bathroom or outside. Though it rarely happens, no one is able to storm off and pout. We are forced to communicate more effectively.

Autumn is never physically excluded completely. Her desire to be involved in everything gets met most of the time since she can see what is happening all through the house. Since Autumn can see everything from her bed, we can’t put her to bed and then stay up to watch TV. If we want Autumn to go to sleep, and believe me we do, we also have to turn in at the same time- for a while at least.

Going to bed at 8:30 when Autumn and Porter are sleeping has been wonderful for me! No, I don’t get anything done around the house in the quiet time after they are asleep. I am able, however, to muster more energy and patience during the day to accomplish the tasks I would have slogged through into the night. I don’t need to sleep when the baby sleeps anymore to be able to function throughout the day.

While I am eager to get more shelves and storage established, our first month of Tiny Life has reassured me that I CAN survive in a space without stuff. This transition period has been a great opportunity to purge our belongings as well as identify areas where we can streamline our lives. Even though our living space has been minimized, we are able to enjoy our time together as a family to the maximum!

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Life With Littles

My High-Risk Pregnancy: Week 4

Change of Heart

After Autumn was born I struggled with Post Partum Depression and began having seizures. I was put on medications, had to stop nursing and lost my Driver’s License. I was devastated, scared, and certain that I would never be physically, emotionally, or mentally ready for another child. I had all but decided that Autumn would forever be a Singleton. Slowly (very slowly) I began to miss the baby days.

At the beginning of this year, Matt and I began discussing the possibility of adding another member to our family, addressing my fears about the potential impact my health and medications would have on a fetus. We were able to separate my irrational fears from the actual medical concerns that surround epilepsy and pregnancy. In March, we decided that we were ready to have another baby, like ASAP.

I was able to go off of my most risky medication and was given some much-needed reassurance from doctors that more than likely I would be able to have a safe, healthy, yet high-risk pregnancy. The odds were in my favor. We were ready!

Big Fat Positive

I woke up on Monday morning feeling off. I had a weird dream (which is especially odd for me since I don’t often remember my dreams) and felt uncharacteristically sick, like I had the stomach flu. Something inside me knew that I was pregnant.

Conveniently I had a pregnancy test in the medicine cabinet. While Matt and Autumn were still waking up, I took the test. I anxiously watched the dumb little windows on the test and had to pinch myself when I saw the oh so faint line in the “Pregnant” window. I double checked the instructions to make sure I read it correctly. I did. I was almost speechless when I showed Matt the test. We had a Big Fat Positive.

We went to the Women’s Health clinic at my doctor’s office to confirm my test results. I was dated about 3 weeks 3 days along, just barely pregnant. I guess I’m really good at knowing when I’m pregnant; with Autumn I knew around 5 weeks. My Estimated Date of Delivery (EDD) was placed around February 3, 2018.

It’s Really Happening

After we told our parents and siblings, there was business to tend to: I need to find a Maternal Fetal Health specialist that accepts my insurance, can see me before my 6 week mark, and isn’t terribly far from our little rural town outside of San Diego. That’s a pretty tall order.

I have been oddly comforted by the annoying queasiness, food aversions, and mood swings (sorry Matt). These symptoms remind me that there’s really a bun in my oven. Since I’ve already been pregnant, I feel way more prepared and ready to face the special obstacles that my high-risk pregnancy carries.

 

Risky Business

All pregnancies where the mom has active seizures (like me) are considered high-risk, as well as pregnancies where the mom is taking medications known to pose a risk to the growing baby (like my mom had with my brother and me). I will be monitored more frequently than “normal” moms, need more invasive tests, and likely not have all the options for delivery that are offered in low-risk pregnancies.

This time around, I am more focused and dedicated to being the healthiest vessel for my little baby-to-be. I need 5 times as much folate as a typical mom, I need to practice the best self-care I can, and commit to regular exercise. Following these recommendations will help reduce risks caused by my medications, prevent seizures, and help me carry to term.

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Heavenly Father cares for all His children, born and unborn

T-Minus 9 Months

Here I stand, at the beginning of a 280 day journey to meeting our new baby. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t scared. Though the statistical odds of me having a healthy, event-free and full term pregnancy are in my favor, the usual concerns of birth defects and other average complications are always in the back of my mind. I try not to dwell on the negative possibilities, especially those related to my unique condition.

I am doing, and will continue to do, everything in my power to give our baby the best chance at a healthy start. I can only control so many factors and worrying about “what ifs” can’t do anything for me other than stress me out. I am educated about the potential risks of my medications and have considered with Matt what these scenarios would mean for our family. The only thing that really matters is having as healthy a baby as possible and providing the love and care that our baby needs.

 

Health & Wellness

Sunshine After Rain

My Post Partum Depression Story

New & Expecting Mamas, I’m sorry to be another person to cast a dark shadow on the beautiful, bright, Norman Rockwell fantasy motherhood scenarios many of you may dream of sharing with your new bundle of joy(s). We need to talk about the very real, very scary, and for some reason very stigmatized boogie man: Post Partum Depression (PPD).

I’m not here to preach about PPD as a sickness from a clinical perspective, but to open up about my experience, struggle, and journey to health again. I hope that creating more public dialogue about our experiences with Post-Partum Depression, more mothers will come forward to seek early help without fear.

Beyond “Baby Blues”

Seriously ladies, babies are exhausting! Even the most energetic and resilient moms will have moments where they feel overwhelmed and exhausted, especially at 2am when Jr. just won’t stop crying or feeding. “Baby Blues” are temporary and maybe a trip to Starbucks with a friend, or letting Grandma get her wish of an afternoon with the new baby “So you can sleep, honey,” can help relieve your exhaustion and fortify your spirits.

PPD is so much different. When your crying just won’t stop, you always feel desperate, inadequate (though all mothers feel inadequate periodically), never attached to your baby, empty, numb- not feeling anything at all. These are all indications of PPD, though many other signs can identify this complex condition. Most seriously, anger and suicidal ideation can manifest in Post-Partum Depression. These are never symptoms to ignore. Seek help immediately if this describes you.

Precious Moments Lost

Autumn was born in October 2014. Immediately she had problems nursing. This was a crushing blow to my hopes for motherhood. The only thing that I wanted to do was nurse Autumn for the first year. Everything else I would play by ear. The entire hospital stay was a nightmare of painful feedings, unhelpful lactation consultants, and a feeling that Autumn was someone else’s baby that I was babysitting. *Red Flag!*

Things didn’t get any better when we got home. Her feeding problems persisted and it seemed like she nursed around the clock, but was never satisfied. My nipples were wrecked, she wasn’t getting as much milk as I was making, and I still didn’t feel like a mother. At her doctor’s appointment, she was checked off as gaining weight OK, but I didn’t feel like I was adequately providing for her needs. She cried ALL. THE. TIME. I felt so out of touch with her and hopeless.

I couldn’t handle it. Like, I literally dreaded the days that my husband worked night shifts and I had to brave the seemingly endless nights of painful feeding, constant soothing, screaming from her, tears from me alone. Who was I to complain? Innumerable mothers had valiantly swallowed their discomfort for the sake of their precious bundles of joy. Why couldn’t I buck up and take it like a mom? I felt so ashamed at my feelings of displeasure, borderline unloving, and straight up misery that I didn’t say anything and refused to acknowledge these true issues for months. Months of bonding, joy, and love with my baby were lost because I hid my depression.

Getting Help

After I went back to work, things didn’t improve. As a direct service worker for adults with disabilities, I worked very closely with medical and psychological professionals. After leaving a shift with a client who had a history of severe mental illness, I decided that I needed to get “checked out” for Post Partum Depression. (I think this was March 2015!)

My doctor’s visit wasn’t scary, shameful, or awkward at all. My doctor, (who is now my primary doctor, how cool!) a mom herself, was very compassionate and open about the prevalence of PPD. She did give me a bit of a finger wagging for not coming in sooner, but a concerned, loving one. I was so relieved to have more understanding, hope, and a reason for my feelings. medication and counseling were the best options for me and they helped immensely.

It’s a Journey

Since my original diagnosis of Post Partum Depression, I have “graduated” to Major Depression. That just means that my symptoms didn’t end after the technical Post Partum period. I’m ok with that. I am not ashamed; it’s just a sickness that needs treatment just like my epilepsy. I don’t love being on a bunch of medications for seizures and another for depression and anxiety, but I am beyond grateful to be in a place where I feel love, joy, connection, motivation, and like my daughter’s mother and my husband’s wife.

Power of Prayer

I can’t meditate. I just can’t not “talk” in my mind. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon) and having a personal communicative relationship with my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ is deeply important to me. Prayer has become my meditation- meditation where I can talk.

I don’t ask to be “healed” in prayers, but I tell Heavenly Father what I’m feeling, the pain that I’m going through, and the anxieties I have. I try to focus on scriptures that empower me and remind me that through Christ’s Atonement He not only saved us from sins, but He felt every pain and affliction we have and ever will experience. Knowing that I am not alone in my pain nor talking to a “brick wall” is some of the best (and free) therapy ever.

Sunshine After Rain

Mama’s new, again-ers,  empty nesters, and everyone in between: let’s not continue to stigmatize and hide our individual stories of depression and mental illness wellness, post partum or otherwise. Speaking up and letting others know that they are not alone can create a closer community of sisterhood, healthy mother-baby relationships, and increase early access to behavioral health.

Take heart, the rain never lasts forever. Even the gloomiest places get pockets of sunshine. Love yourselves, love your babies and families, and know that you are never alone.

Wishing you joy,

Leah

About

Re-Meet the Apras

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Let’s Start Again

Hi! I’m Leah. I have some great recipes, crafty tips, and parenting shenanigans to share with you. I’m just getting back in the saddle after having baby #2, so please bear with me as I dust off the cobwebs.

Who are the Apras? We are a young family setting down roots in Sunny San Diego. We are at the beginning of a Tiny Living journey and are still downsizing all of our extras so we can fit the 4 of us into 200 square feet. Myself, my husband Matt, and our two offspring Autumn and Porter are learning to let go of stuff so that we can hang on to what really matters: Love, Memories, and Time Together.

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Throwback to Thanksgiving 2015!

We love cooking, baking, and from scratch living. We aren’t totally hippies, but I do breastfeed, cloth diaper, and Baby Wear, so if you’ve ever wondered about any of those “crunchy” activities, I’ve got some stories to swap. This blog features some of our favorite family recipes, activities, and DIY adventures. Stick around and see what we are up to!

Wishing you joy,

Leah