Almost 40 Weeks and Feeling ALL the Feelings

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I’ve been pregnant for more than 39 weeks, but the reality of it just hit me, and it hit me hard.

Tyson took Qwynn to school early yesterday morning so I could have some extra time alone at home since I worked a later shift. I took my time getting ready and even had the chance to work a little on another painting project. On my way out the door, I was sure to grab my headphones since I am rarely alone to listen to music on my commute to work. I of course turned on the Lumineers (Tyson, mine and Qwynn’s obsession lately). My phone was pretty low on batteries, so instead of browsing Facebook and Instagram like I normally would, I just sat there listening to the music and thinking about how at any moment our lives were going to change forever…

I pictured holding our little baby boy and instantly had to hold back tears. For the first time I could actually picture him being here and what it would be like to have another little baby. But I still had so many fears and questions. Could I really do this again? How would this delivery be? Am I strong enough? Can I survive the infant stage again? It’s been so long. What is he going to be like? Is he going to be as easy as Qwynn? Will I have the patience if he isn’t?

And then my thoughts were instantly consumed by Qwynn. How is she going to adjust to having a baby brother? She is so excited and talks about him all the time. “He’s so cute” and “He loves me,” she will say to my belly. But does she really grasp just how things are going to change? The attention he’s going to get and the sharing of Mommy and Daddy. Did I spend enough time with her these last few months? Could I have done more?

And then I started thinking about my pregnancy with Qwynn. How I was so excited to become a mom. How it was something I had always wanted and she made that dream come true. I reminisced about listening to Amy Grant’s “All I Want for Christmas” weeks before she was born and always thinking about her when I heard it. I thought about how much joy she has brought us for so long. I can’t believe that was close to 4 years ago. What amazing years they have been!

I am sad to be ending this part of our story. It’s been just the three of us for so long. But in my heart I know that Qwynn will be fine. I know that we will be fine. And I know that being a family of four will only make our story better.

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We can’t wait to meet you Alwyn Murphy!

Valerie Anne

Be Bold Go Gold 2016 at the Astoria Street Fair

I am 36 weeks pregnant, our apartment is in a state of chaos, and I haven’t written a blog post in months, but I will always make time to spread awareness for Childhood Cancer! This afternoon Tyson, Qwynn and I headed over to the Astoria Street Fair to dance and talk about Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and The Ronan Foundation.

Last year my coworker and friend, Emily changed my life by sharing Ronan’s story with me. As a mother, the stories of parents losing their children to this horrible disease absolutely breaks my heart.

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In May, Tyson found out an old friend he worked with in high school lost her little boy, Carson to leukemia. He had been sick for 2 weeks with what they thought was bad strep throat, but when the antibiotics weren’t working, further testing found that he actually had leukemia. While they were waiting for a heart arrhythmia to correct itself, her little boy died just days after finding out.

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In just a week they went from thinking their child had strep to finding out he had leukemia to saying goodbye to him. When Tyson told me about what happened, it was all I could think about for weeks. I just couldn’t even imagine going through something like that. I held Qwynn so close in those weeks.

This is the reason I care so much about this cause. Because childhood cancer does not discriminate. It could tear your world upside down without any warning. We all need to be a voice for these children and their families. It’s not a fun thing to talk about, but it needs to be done.

“For families who have lost a child to cancer, they’re aware of cancer every minute of every, single day. The lack of funds shatters their hearts, because it means less chances for a cure. The lack of awareness crushes their spirits, because they need support. Their children need a voice. All year long, but especially this month, WE can be that voice: We can be kinder, braver, and spicer because of these kids…but it’s also time to make sure they get to lead long, happy, healthy lives. What’s a better mission than that?” (The Ronan Foundation)

So #BeBoldGoGold and make the world a little brighter on behalf of kids like Ronan and Carson. Turn your social media GOLD. Donate what you can, even if it’s $1. Make sure people know about childhood cancer. More awareness = More funding. More funding = more research. More research = a cure.

SOME FACTS ABOUT CHILDHOOD CANCER:

• Cancer is the number one disease killer of children in the U.S. It is the 2nd leading cause of death in children overall, after automobile accidents.

• All 12 major pediatric cancers are getting less than 4% of the United States’ federal funding for cancer research.

• Americans spend 20x more on potato chips than on childhood cancer research.

• The Empire State Building lights up for numerous sporting events, holidays, many other cancers and illnesses and even for filming movies and such, BUT it refuses to light up gold in September for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Valerie Anne

A Much Needed Trip To My “Soul City”

When I visited Colorado for the first time with my family in 1994, I was only 10 years old. It was on this trip that I told my mom, “One day I am going to live here.” It is very fitting that the man I chose to spend the rest of my life with just happened to grow up in Colorado, and I am so happy that we get to visit this beautiful state as often as we do. I absolutely love living in NYC, but the fast paced lifestyle can be quite draining sometimes, and our visits to Colorado are so refreshing lately that I have been referring to Denver as my “soul city.”

We often talk about moving to Denver, and someday I hope an opportunity presents itself to make that possible, but for now I will take advantage of any visit I can. When Tyson told me his work was sending him to the NHL conferences in Denver, I told him he wasn’t going to Colorado without Qwynn and I. So we booked our flights and prepared for our long weekend in Denver. And boy, has it been the most perfect trip ever!

I have many fears about having a second child, but my absolute biggest fear is how my relationship with Qwynn is going to change after baby number two arrives. She has been our one and only for so long and it’s hard to imagine loving another child as much as I love her. I know I will, and I now she is going to thrive as a big sister, but I also know things will change.

Well, this trip has definitely eased some of my fears and I have been soaking up every bit of my one-on-one time with Qwynn while in Denver. I have been trying my best to be carefree and letting her take the lead, and it has provided us with some pretty awesome memories…

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A very messy “build your own sundae.”FullSizeRender_3

 

And the most perfect day at the zoo!FullSizeRender_4FullSizeRender_5FullSizeRender_6

 

Our visit to the zoo was so wonderful, I had to hold back tears on the carousel just thinking about how much this trip has meant to me. I know life with two is only going to be better and I cannot wait to see Qwynn with her baby brother, but this trip was exactly what I needed before baby boy Christensen arrives and our lives change forever…again.

 

Valerie Anne

Deciding To Have Baby #2

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As Qwynn’s 3rd birthday came closer and closer, I just couldn’t wrap my head around how fast time had gone. She couldn’t really be turning three already?! This realization was especially discouraging because we didn’t seem any closer to being ready to expand our family, something I still really wanted. I never considered only having one and being done. My mom would always say four kids was a good number. “One for each arm,” she would tell me. That seemed like a lot to me. A family I babysat for in college had two boys and their mom told me once that she always liked having two kids because then they can always have one on one attention. I thought this was a good point.

I always pictured us having at least 2 children, maybe even 3, and I wanted them pretty close together, about 2 years apart. This is what I had imagined before we moved back to New York City. A city where even with a discount, we pay more for Qwynn’s childcare than most people spend on a mortgage. A city where rent in a good school zone is at least four times more than most people pay towards rent elsewhere.

For awhile, whenever the topic came up about having another child, Tyson and I were both teeter-tottering on the same fence, but I was leaning more towards having a second little one and Tyson was leaning more towards the not. Not only did having more children mean more financial stress, but he is so smitten with Qwynn, he didn’t want to take away any attention/love from her. I, on the other hand, saw daily how good Qwynn is with the babies in my classroom, and I absolutely knew she would not only be okay, but would make the best big sister ever.

Not being completely on the same page made this decision so much harder because it felt unfair to make this big step of expanding our family if we both weren’t completely sure it was what we wanted. I just kept coming back to the same question though…

Would we ever truly be 100% sure or ready?

Right now, we might think giving up that morning Starbucks coffee or evening bottle of wine would be torturous. Could we do it because we know we have to buy diapers instead?

Right now, we might think giving up cable would be too hard. Would we even care when more of our time will be taken up by another little bundle of joy?

Right now, the thought of not having a car might seem like a huge inconvenience. Could we manage to be able to put more towards rent in the city?

Right now, it might seem like a one bedroom apartment with two kids would be impossible. Would we make it work to have the city at our fingertips?

Right now, it might seem like we cannot manage another child, but I knew we would likely not make any changes in our lifestyle choices until we absolutely needed to…until we had a baby on the way.

Our move to Arizona and then back to NYC taught me an important life lesson. Sometimes what you think you always wanted, turns out not to be what you really want after all. At the same time, sometimes you don’t really know how much you want something until you decide to go for it. Sometimes you don’t really know how much you are willing and able to sacrifice until you have to. Sometimes you don’t know how much you want another baby until you see the little peanut on the monitor and hear that little heartbeat for the first time.

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Valerie Anne

Wife. Mother. Teacher. Student!

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My experience working with children dates all the way back to my preteen years. When I was twelve, my best friend and I posted a babysitting ad on the bulletin board at our church, and soon after we both had our first jobs. The following year, my first niece was born and lived at my parent’s house until I left for college, which meant my younger sister and I were her daily sitters.

The time spent with my niece is something I have never forgotten and will forever appreciate. It is the foundation of everything I know and love about working with young children and was my motivation for continuing to babysit and work in childcare positions throughout high school and college. I have many interests that I have considered pursuing, and have even tried a handful of other jobs, but I always seem to be called back to teaching. After working for several years as an assistant teacher, I am anxious to receive the education and experience needed to pursue a lead teacher position in a toddler or preschool classroom.

I’ve been wanting to go back to school to get my teaching degree for years. Even before Qwynn was born, I would often look into programs, but would be too scared to make the commitment. After having Qwynn, it seemed like a distant dream that seemed to get further and further out of reach. However, this new year has brought with it exciting changes and new realizations!! So, when Tyson heard a radio ad for Arizona State University’s Online Masters in Early Childhood Education program, I just knew I had to make this happen. I know it’s going to be extremely challenging, but it will open up so many more doors for me and allow me to do incredible things in the classroom.

One of my favorite things about working with young children is that I never go a day without laughing and I never go a day without a hug. Both are a necessity for any person, but are especially critical in the development of young children. The early years of a child’s life are so important and I have seen firsthand, both through my work experience and my daughter’s development, the positive affects of early childhood education. Although somewhat terrified for this huge commitment, I am thrilled to finally be pursing my Masters, and at my alma mater, nonetheless. I look forward to growing my professional career and continuing to positively influence the development of our youngest learners!

Wish me luck! (I’m definitely going to need it. 😉)

Valerie Anne

My K.I.S.S. Approach to Personal Care: Oil Cleansing

I have had acne prone skin since I hit puberty, but I never imagined I would still be dealing with adult acne in my 30s. There should be a rule that you can’t get pimples if you have wrinkles or gray hair.

After so many years of experience, I know my acne has more to do with hormones and what I put in my body, and less to do with what I put on my skin, so all the traditional face washes never helped much. If they did help, eventually my skin would get used to them and my bad acne would come back. Plus, most traditional face washes, even the most “natural” ones, have a ton of ingredients in them, many that I can’t even pronounce or recognize. Birth control helped at first, especially with the large, painful cystic acne, but eventually it stopped working. I thought maybe pregnancy would help clear my skin, but that did not happen either.

I have always had a combination of dry and super oily skin. My t-zone shine would be out of control, but other areas of my skin would still be flakey and dry. I have good days and bad days, good months and bad months, but I have finally found a routine that’s worked better than anything else. It’s been over a year now that I have been using oil to clean my face, and I do not see myself going back to traditional face wash anytime soon.

I first learned about oil cleansing when I read this post. Like the Wellness Mama, I too was skeptical about using oil on my very oily, acne prone skin, but when I read more about it, the basic idea of oil cleansing made a lot of sense to me. Both Theoilcleansingmethod.com and Acne.org give great explanations for the benefits of oil cleansing:

“The basic concept of this skin care and cleansing method is that the oil used to massage your skin will dissolve the oil that has hardened with impurities and found itself stuck in your pores. The steam will open your pores, allowing the oil to be easily removed. Should you need it, the smallest drop of the same oil formula patted over damp skin will provide the necessary lubrication to keep your skin from over-compensating in oil production.” (Theoilcleansingmethod)

“Fact: Oil dissolves oil. One of the most basic principals of chemistry is that “like dissolves like.” The best way to dissolve a non-polar solvent like sebum/oil, is by using another non-polar solvent similar in composition: Other oils. By using the right oils, you can cleanse your pores of dirt and bacteria naturally, gently and effectively, while replacing the dirty oil with beneficial ones extracted from natural botanicals, vegetables and fruit that heal, protect and nourish your skin. When done properly and consistently, the OCM can clear the skin from issues like oily skin, dry skin, sensitive skin, blackheads, whiteheads and other problems caused by mild to moderate acne–while leaving your skin healthy, balanced and properly moisturized.” (Acne.org)

I decided to read through the comments of the Wellness Mama blog post to see what worked for people and what didn’t. There were a lot of mixed reviews, many very positive, but also a good amount that were negative. I decided to give it a go despite the negative reviews.

I started with organic coconut and olive oil since I already had them in the house. I didn’t want to buy the more expensive oils before knowing if this oil cleansing would even work. I eventually added organic jojoba oil to my mix once I started seeing positive results from the oil cleansing process.

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Currently, I mix about 1/3 of each oil in a glass dropper bottle that I found at Whole Foods for just a few dollars. They are just perfect for storing my oil mixture! I have a larger one for at home use and a smaller one for traveling. Every morning I squeeze a dropper full of the oil mixture in the palm of my hand and use my fingers to massage the oil all over my face and neck. The amount of time I leave the oil on my skin varies depending on how much time I have, but is usually anywhere from 5-20 minutes. I cover my face with a hot washcloth and let it sit there until the washcloth becomes cool. Then I wipe any excess oil off with the other side of the wash cloth.

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It definitely took a few weeks for my skin to adjust to this method of cleaning, but within a month I noticed a tremendous difference in the texture and oiliness (or lack there of) of my skin. My face was still not perfectly clear. I get little bumps here and there and usually one cystic pimple on my neck or chin around that special time of the month. But overall the look of my skin has improved so much! I’ve even stopped wearing makeup on a daily basis, and usually only put a little on for special occasions or nights out.

Oil cleansing still dries out my skin a little, so I did some research and found that pure Shea butter is a good moisturizer for acne prone skin. I have been using Bubble and Bees’ Face Cream for Women and I am extremely happy with it. It’s definitely not as pricy as some face moisturizers out there and a little goes a long way, so the jar lasts for months. And it only has 3 ingredients!

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Overall, I am so happy I found this method of cleansing and was brave enough to try it! I haven’t been this happy with my skin since before puberty and it feels wonderful to finally find something that works so well and keeps on working. Oil cleansing is more cost effective, safer, healthier and environmentally friendly. As of now, I have no plans of ever going back to traditional face wash again!

 

Valerie Anne

Trader Joe’s Tuesday: Chicken Enchilada Casserole

One thing Tyson and I love about visiting Colorado is the food. Specifically, the Mexican kind! Good Mexican food is hard to find here in NYC, so we always make sure we get our fill when we go back west.

We love making regular enchiladas. They are easy, affordable and very filling. This recipe came from a Facebook group I’m a member of and is a fun twist on traditional enchiladas. I had to make a few tweaks to the original recipe, but that is what’s so great about it…you can customize it to your own food preferences. I would definitely make it again!

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We made a half size (8×8) version of this last weekend with a bottle of Trader Joe’s Enchilada Sauce because we already had it in our cupboard, but for Super Bowl Sunday I decided to make the homemade enchilada sauce that was recommended in the original recipe. It was delicious, and probably better for us, but I have to admit I like the flavor of TJ’s sauce better.

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I don’t like beans and I never have. As an adult I’ve given them a try a couple times, but I just can’t get over the texture. So I substituted the black beans with spinach and red peppers.

I sautéed fresh garlic in some olive oil for a few minutes and then added frozen sweet corn and frozen spinach. I sautéed them for a few more minutes before adding fresh red peppers and I seasoned generously with salt and pepper.

We made the same crock pot shredded chicken that we use in the regular enchiladas we make. We didn’t have the green onions the recipe called for, but the shredded chicken we make has yellow onions in it, so I figured that would do just fine.

The great thing about this dish is that we were able to prepare the chicken and veggie filling earlier in the day, store them in the fridge and then just put the casserole together right before we wanted to bake it. It was ready just in time for half time!

I had made a huge batch of guacamole as a pre-game snack, so instead of topping the whole casserole with diced avocado, I just added a dollop of guacamole to each serving. It was perfect!

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Valerie Anne