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chocolate, family, medicinal swearing and other life lessons learned by 36

16 Mar

1. Enjoy Life Chocolate chips will always save the day.

2. Email is from the devil and apparently I am really good at unintentionally offending people through it. I now panic every time I have to hit the send button after composing an email.

3. James gives the best hugs.

4.  It is a major problem in America when it costs just a few hundred dollars for a woman to have an abortion, but over $20,000 to adopt a baby. That reality will likely keep our family from growing through adoption.

5. Some things are worth investing in—such as a good undergarments and shoes.

6. My adult version of “down time” consists of falling asleep with a book next to me that never had a chance of being opened.

7. My heart still aches at the thought of not having more babies.

8. God is patient. Very, very, very patient. I am grateful for this truth.

9. Stress paralyzed is a real thing. Just ask my husband. He may have a few stories of me sitting in the car hiding from everyone.

10. Dogs really are man’s best friend. Our puppy is pretty awesome.

11. Homeschooling is a full time gig. I was insane to think that a job in ministry could co-exist with the demands of homeschooling.

12. Ear plugs were invented by a wife who has a husband who snores. I’m sure of this.

13. Having faithful friends and family to lift me up in prayer during the trials that are inevitable in life is one of the surest signs that God cares deeply about me.

14. Annie’s zeal for learning drives me to be a better homeschooling mom every single day.

15. The Lord has been calling me for years to have better balance in my life. I am finally responding to this invitation. And, my o my, is it a freeing experience.

16. I could do without fall, winter, and spring. Shorts and flip flops is what it’s all about.

17. Classical education is a God-send. I’m so grateful that the Lord opened my eyes to this form of education. It is literally changing our family’s life.

18. Carmel apple tea with a spoonful of honey is from the Lord. He told me it was so.

19. Some things just aren’t meant to be figured out—like Jonah’s immunodeficiency or why my hair is so gray at 36 or why chin hair is really necessary on a woman.

20. A good stylist is imperative.

21. Jason’s guitar playing skills are some of my favorite things about him.

22. I like skinny jeans and tall boots. There, I admit it.

23. The Lord desires holiness from me and by golly, He provides so many opportunities to grow every day.

24. I have a minor obsession with Facebook. I didn’t even try to give it up for Lent.

25. A journey towards something is also a journey away from something. I’m living this.

26. Jonah sleeps like a pretzel. That’s about as athletic as we get around here.

27. Ann Taylor Loft and Banana Republic are God’s gift to women in modest and fashionable clothes.

28. It’s a fantastic gift when you can call your family your friends.

29. I’m pretty sure that my body is comprised of Meijer veggie chips and Pace mild salsa.

30. My holy hour every week is my absolute favorite time.

31. Quality time spent talking to my husband is my next favorite thing.

32. If I could spend the day reading book after book with my kids, my life would be pretty awesome. Good thing my kids agree. My life is awesome.

33. “This too shall pass…” has become my mantra for both the good and the bad.

34. Thus, soak up the good and take up medicinal swearing during the bad—or, I mean spend that time on your knees, begging the Lord to sustain you. He always does (even through the swearing).

35.  The older I get, the more introverted and socially awkward I become. 

36. I’m so grateful that 35 is in the books. It was a year of intense purgation. With a joy-filled heart, I am ready for this next chapter of our lives.

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So this is 35

8 Mar

I slept in today…well, actually, I first woke up well before everyone else, laid in bed dreaming about all of the landscape projects I can’t wait to tackle once this Polar Vortex decides to pass and then drifted back to sleep until 8 o’clock.  I rolled out of bed with crazy bed head, morning breath, eyes that were groggy.  I was greeted by the little ones, “Oh Mommy’s awake…come quick!  Happy Birthday, Mommy!”

35, right.  It’s my birthday today.  Apparently this is what 35 looks like: A disheveled mom who is greeted by wonderful kiddos and an equally fantastic husband who all want hugs and kisses despite my morning “glow.”

I’m grateful and so I’m following last year’s tradition of re-capping my favorite things, in no particular order:

1. Our house.  I love this house and never, ever, ever want to move again.

2. Quiet time

3. My husband who is in the kitchen making my birthday cake and dinner.  (When one of my friend’s called to wish me a happy birthday this morning, she asked what fun was planned for today and I told her that Jason was making a fun meal and the evening would be spent playing board games with the kids.  Her reply, “That’s so nice that you have a husband who can find his way around the kitchen.”  I concur.  He’s the bees-knees and I’m smitten with him and so grateful God brought my family to Michigan in the 8th grade, so that I could meet this amazing guy who apparently had a “thing” from me even waaaaay back then.)  He’s the best thing that ever happened to me.

4. Meijer Natural Veggie chips

5. Pace Picante Mild Salsa—paired with the abovementioned Veggie Chips and call that my “after a long day pick me up.”

6. Enjoy Life Mega Chunk Chocolate Chips—otherwise known as my “afternoon pick me up.”

::side note, why do I need so many pick me ups?::

7. Lent, which is a time to realign my heart, mind, and soul to God—and to take a chance to chill from my insane chip, salsa, and chocolate chip addictions and turn to God for my “pick me up.”

8. James’ intense “squeeze hugs.”  They are equal parts endearing and painful.

9. Jonah’s incessant singing—he makes my heart sing, too.

10. Annie’s unending questions and need to know…everything…right now.  I have no idea where she gets that from.

11. A faith that without, I have nothing.

12. The Eucharist and the ability to receive Jesus intimately into my soul so that the light of Christ, which I received at Baptism will grow brighter.

13. God’s unending love and grace for me in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  What a blessing to have a Heavenly Father who doesn’t just sit around and hope I will come back, but daily “call his sheep by name” and “goes in search of his lost one.”

14. The sunshine—of course you are hiding today, on my birthday—what gives?

15. Summer—no school, no atrium, so fewer commitments.  How is it only March?

16. Holy Hour—the one hour a week where I can lay it all down at Jesus’ feet.

17. Homeschooling

18. Country Living Magazine

19. Antique stores

20. My brother and his family, because without him I would maybe be able to forget my 8th birthday during which time I was a complete spaz and had to be asked eight times, “Amanda, do you want cake with your ice cream?”  How lucky am I that my parents had a VHS recorder to capture that ridiculous moment and a brother who will never let me live it down.  Yes, he even sent me a YouTube video this morning to remind me.  He’s *that* awesome.

21. My parents who humble me time and time again with their support.

22. My husband’s family because without them, Jason wouldn’t be the awesome-ness that he is.

23. My friends.  Seriously.  For the ones who keep me grounded, those that listen to my joys, support me in my struggles, lift me up when life stinks, and who love me for all that I am and am not.

24. My spiritual director and the opportunity to have someone to help me grow in my faith in such a profound way.

25. A wonderful stylist who hates gray hair as much as I do.

26. The lady who waxes my eyebrows (way too infrequently) because sometimes you just have to.

27. The rare evening where I get out of the house by myself and sit at Bigby and read, write, or just sit and breathe.

28. Board games and card games because I am not a mom who loves to play, but board games, now that is something I can get into.  Uno just happens to be on deck for tonight.

29. Flowers, especially daffodils, daisies, and mums.

30. Almond Flour—for real.  It’s the one common grain substitute that everyone in my house can eat.

31. Forgiveness and that no matter what kind of day we have, this family of mine can always find forgiveness to extend to one another.

32. Movies, in particular chick flicks, (not disgusting) comedies, and dramas.

33. Psych—I really do not know how I lived prior to that show coming into my world.  It makes me laugh, no matter how grumpy I might be.

34. Netflix—because you introduced me to Psyche and are the key to keeping TV to a bare minimum in our house.

35. This little blog.  It makes me happy.

So, make my birthday even happier by sharing  some of the little things that make your world a happy, hopeful, bright place. 

burn out

19 Feb

I started googling, “Homeschool burn out…”

Is that really a thing?  Apparently, yes, and there are classic symptoms:

Fatigue–oh my gosh…so tired!  I’ve literally been falling asleep at the computer while trying to get work done.

Impatience—uh, yes, I’m sorry, children.  I’m tired of saying, “I’m sorry.”  I just want the crankies to take a hike.

Feeling overwhelmed—meh.  Yes, somedays.

The desire to have the entire family “go away”—YES!  Please—someone take them all away!  Or even better, take me away to a beach where it is warm and the sun shines and the waves crash against the shore.  Calgon, if you are a real thing, please do your thing and take me away.

Feeling “behind” in curriculum—I wouldn’t say that—but I will drop everything, including my sanity to make sure we get in all our scheduled school for the day.

You guys, I feel like I’ve hit a wall.  In fact, this entire school year has been one big, brick, mean, ugly, stupid wall.  One that I can’t seem to climb over or break down.  Instead, I just sit there staring at it trying to figure out how to get it to let me through to the other side.  You know the other side?  Where there is balance, peace, joy, love, and productivity all in harmony.

I know that a lot of this started this time last year when we decided to put our house up for sale, then sold it in like a month, had to move twice, live with my parents, then spend months working on this house, and suddenly—BAM!  School was here and the refreshing days of the laid back summer schedules were gone, never to be felt by this tired soul.

And so the Fall came, school was here, activities geared up, schedules became super full.  And I just wanted to crawl into a hole and sleep a big bear hibernating kind of sleep.

But, of course, I didn’t.

I know that having kids super sick for 7 weeks straight during Christmas and beyond didn’t help matters, either.  Nor did Jason taking on a new job that is *super* stressful and requires a lot of hours of work.  It’s been a crazy year of change and transition. 

And, so this school year is 3/4 of the way done…the kids are rocking out school, James is as fiesty as ever, and I’m so burned out, I feel like a pile of ashes at the bottom of a long-lived fire. 

According to Dr. Google, the solution to burn out are:

Take a break – how does one do this when the husband works, grandparents work, and friends are all doing their own mommy thing.  One article suggested paying a sitter to take the kids.  I wonder if the author plans to pay for those sitters, too?

Lower your expectations—yes, yes, I know. 

Pray—I do this.  I have a spiritual director that I meet with and he is currently kicking my spiritual life back into an ordered place.  I trust this will help the rest of my life find it’s order, too.  But, old habits die hard.

Express your needs to your spouse—Ha!  I’m a broken record.  He’s heard it all.

Reduce your involvement out of the home—Yes.  Already done.

Increase your involvement out of the home—one site listed both of these.  I don’t get it, either.

Find the quiet moments throughout the day—one woman wrote about taking 5 minutes to go into her room and just breathe big breaths.  I laughed at this.  I can’t even pee without someone following me in the bathroom. 

I’m stuck, guys.  I know I need to find some “down time,” I just don’t know how to do that.  Relaxing is not really in my nature.  And I feel ridiculous guilt on the rare occasion that I do etch out some “me time.”  I know that it a lie from the devil—that life is a marathon meant to be raced.  That there is a constant to do list and a good day is determined by accomplishments instead of loving my family, and myself.  I know this. 

I want it to change.

This wall?  Apparently it needs a sledge hammer.

2013 in Review

1 Jan

I’m sitting by the fire with a cup of chocolate peppermint herbal tea at my favorite coffee shop. Today is the first day of 2014 and the internet is a-buzz with New Year’s resolution and 2013 reflections. There seems to be a few resounding themes amongst all of these posts: Balance, Simplify, Save, Cherish. Yeah. I could get on with that, too.

But, I’m just not in the mood to reflect too much on what needs to change in my life. Or what I hope for this year. I’d rather just think about the good today and leave it at that.

So, instead, this sipping a warm cup of tea while sitting by a cozy fire place watching the snow whirl around has got me thinking about what a crazy year 2013 was for us. One that brought so much change that we could have never wrapped our minds around when we rang in 2013. This change has brought so much joy. Often times I found myself saying to Jason, “My heart is so full of gratitude in all that God has given to us. I feel so undeserving of these amazing blessings.” Yes. The year was that good.

Early in 2013, we decided to list our old house and sold it within a month. We had been praying for a number of years for God to show us how we could get out of our subdivision, cookie cutter house and into one with more space and in the country. In February 2013, He showed us the way. We are so grateful! After much searching, we found the perfect house for us. While it was adorned with likings of an 80 year old (read: floral, pink, blue, berber, and soooo! much! oak!), Jason and I were up to the challenge of redoing a bunch of the house to make it ours.

We still have countless projects, but those are just cosmetic things at this point. As a house, it is *perfect* for our family. And we have a few acres for the kids to run and play and let their imaginations run wild. Our hope is to get some animals (other than the 2 barn cats we have now), plant a huge garden (as opposed to sharing one with my parents at their house), plant a small orchard and Jason has all sorts of plans for an awesome tree house for the kids. This house? It was meant to be for our family and I can truly see us growing old and gray here.

We went on our annual family vacation to Hilton Head Island in South Carolina in August. It was the perfect way to end a very busy spring and summer before the madness of the school year began. This vacation has become an annual tradition that is truly one of our family’s favorite weeks of the year. Lazy days playing at the ocean—why yes, please!

2013-08-22 13.06.41

Homeschooling has continued. Jonah is now a big boy and in Kindergarten learning and doing what Kindergarten kids do. He loves to read, has finally got his writing down (thanks to lots of OT), and just loves math. Annie is well ahead academically, and really is just an easy kid to teach. Even subjects that she doesn’t love, like grammar or science, she embraces with a joyful heart. And, our spunky James has figured out how to behave while we weave our schoolwork in and out of our days. He loves passing time doing puzzles, building towers, as well as countless Montessori “works” we put on our school shelves for him. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that homeschooling has been a crazy adventure and one that leaves me very, very, very tired some days. It is not for everyone. Some days I wonder if it is for me. Time will tell, I suppose.

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We got ourselves a new ride. I’d rather not go into the embarrassing details, but I don’t exactly have the best driving record. Mailboxes, bumpers, and random basketball posts have an uncanny way of hitting my car. So, when we were given the opportunity to get a “nice” car this year, I was, well…hesitant. Does this mean everyone is going to freak out if I run into, I mean, something dents the car? Because if so, I can’t. take. the. pressure! Anyway, I put on my big girl pants and promised to ask my guardian angel to take the wheel since apparently she can do a better job than me. Fingers crossed for no accidents in 2014!

Annie is preparing to receive first Holy Communion and First Reconciliation this Spring. This, people? Is awesome. I’ve been blessed to be able to co-coordinate the cgs program at our parish and also lead the sacramental prep kids each week. For all of my Catholic friends out there, I promise you, there is no better way to catechize our children in the faith. This methodology is outstanding. I feel so blessed to be able to utilize it both at the parish and in our home.

Photo courtesy of cgsusa.org

Jason left his employer and actually returned to his former employer, though this time as a Program Manager. As a wife, I’m so happy for him. While his previous job at Sparrow was wonderful, he simply wasn’t content. It wasn’t the right fit for him. He is a software development computer nerd at heart and he loves the opportunity to work in a smaller, very creative workplace. He is just a few weeks into his new position, and so far, so good.

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Our dear friends are a repeated blessing to us. As we grow older, what our friendships look like and mean to us have changed and have taken on new meaning. We are blessed with a few very close friends and countless other friends. This year has been an interesting year of “true colors” showing forth with friends—some have come forth in surprisingly wonderful ways and others have taken a step back as God leads them in different directions than us. What I do know, is that I’m grateful for the friends who can celebrate our success with true, unselfish joy, and lift us up when life seems awfully heavy. With these friends, there is no jealousy, competition, or selfishness. Nope, only true love. We feel so very blessed to have these friends.

Our family continues to be one of greatest blessings. My parents took us in for almost 2 months this summer while our new house was in re-do mode. They gave up countless hours to help us both physically and mentally. I remember after one long day (that was preceded by weeks of long days), I lost my mind and cried and cried to my mom. “What the heck did we do getting a house that needs so much work?” In the end, she comforted me, told me all would be well, and that I just needed a good night of sleep. She was right. All is well.

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Our faith. Without my Catholic faith, I truly do not have an identity. It defines all that Jason and I do and believe in our life. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to continue to learn and grow and evangelize each and every day. I pray that our actions show our Catholic Christian joy!

My heart really does overflow with joy. I’m grateful for all that 2013 brought into our lives—more than the passing things of this world like cars and houses, or the transient relationships that come and go, but for the true love and devotion that is reflected in the people who mean the most to me and the love and mercy which is so freely poured out to me from our Heavenly Father.

Cheers!

recharge

21 Nov

As a (homeschooling) mother, every last decision about my children rests in my (and my husbands, but a lot more on me) lap.  My mind feels like a computer screen with 1,452 tabs open at all times.  Mommas, I know you can relate.  Jason always jokes when it is getting close to bed time:  “Time to start closing down those tabs otherwise you will never sleep.” 

Here’s a little glimpse of what is racing around in my mind 24/7:

Passing on our faith to the kids—most important job we have.

Being a “better” parent—that litany is too long for this post—but, suffice is to say, I’m grateful for God’s mercy to begin anew each day. 

Curriculum—every. single. subject!  Enough said.

Food—we adhere to a whole foods, organic (as much as possible), mainly grain and dairy-free diet.  This?  Is *not* out of choice, but necessity.  This, also?  Is a hell of a lot of work.  I am currently researching the best gut cleanses to help some issues going on with some of us.  So much conflicting research!

Healthcare, or Crapcare—whichever your prefer—having a kiddo with lots of health issues, we’ve been around the block a few dozen times.  In most cases, there are a lot of “experts” who really don’t know a darn thing.  If I got paid for every, “I just don’t know why….” we have heard from an “expert,” we’d be rich.  So, we tend to take a non-traditional approach to healthcare using nutrition supplements and chiropractic and kinesiology care to get at the root cause of issues instead of putting a band aid over the problem.   This is not perfect, but it is the best we’ve found.  This?  Can be costly and time consuming.

Also, academic challenges are going on with this same kiddo, things that are still too tender for me to type out for the whole world to read (because I have that big of a following, right? Ha!).  But, it has led us here, there, and nowhere trying to get him help only to be told over and over that our insurance won’t cover those services.  This week, more of these issues surfaced and gosh, I’m frustrated and sad for him—and me, because I just don’t think I can research one more thing.  But, of course I will, because obviously.  (If you could offer prayers for discernment for Jason and I, we’d appreciate it!)

Church ministry—this should come this low on the list because I *should* have my priorities ordered correctly.  It’s 50/50.  I’m doing my best to give my time and talent where I can, but also step back and say, “Enough.”

My friends and family and others I’m called to serve—I have a perpetual “should do” list running through my mind—meals to make, letters to write, phone calls to make.  Often, these things just don’t happen.  And, I kind of hate that.

Today is just one of those days.  After a cup of tea and a few handfuls of chocolate (no, I do not eat my feelings), I’ve decided next week we are taking a break from school.  I need to recharge and just…take! a! break! (and by that I may or may not mean drink lots of tea and eat lots of chocolate).  We’ll see.

And this was Lent, huh?

24 Mar

Today we enter into Holy Week.  My favorite week of the year.  The week, the days, the Masses that remind of us of the Pascal Mystery.  Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.  Easter is the holiest and highest feast of the Liturgical year and, as a Catholic, I’ve been given the opportunity that is Lent to prepare my heart, mind, body, and soul for this great celebration.  I’ve written before about my Lenten plans, the biggest of which in my mind was to slow down and take more time to pray.

Ahem…

It’s a good thing that I ended that post with:

“So there is the plan.  As always, it is written in pencil and I’m giving the eraser to God, asking Him to show me how and where He wants our family to grow in holiness.”

That eraser, friends, was Gi-stinking-normous! 

Here’s why…

We listed our house on ForSaleByOwner.com.

Actually we did this years ago.  But when I got pregnant with James, was put on bed rest, had a premiee baby, etc., we raised the asking price to something unreasonable knowing we wouldn’t get any activity on it.  We were hopeful that someday we could get back to our dream of moving out of a subdivision and getting some land.

Jason and I began talking and praying about our desire to move again.  We felt a very strong pull from God to begin this process again.  The desire was very strongly placed in our hearts.   And so we responded.

We logged back onto our ForSaleByOwner account and within a week of dropping the price, we had a serious buyer come through.  Then the next week, we had 4 showings in three days.  We had realtors calling us to ask if they could show the home.  Apparently there is a shortage of houses in our town, especially in this price range.  It was crazy.  In fact, we daily get inquires about the house.

Just a few days after the stretch of showings, we had an offer on the table.  We countered; they accepted.  The inspection went extremely well (they didn’t ask us to fix anything because the findings were so minimal).  And tomorrow is the appraisal.  We are praying that goes well, too.

Seriously! 

In Matthew 7:7, we read“Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you.”  Repeatedly, we feel as if we knocked and God not only opened the door, but He kicked our indecisive behinds through it. 

It has been amazing.

Once we started getting serious lookers through the house and especially after we got the offer, our life began to revolve around house hunting.  It has been a blur of seeing homes, mortgage applications, inspections, appraisals, number crunching, etc.  I cannot even begin to count the number of nights we got to bed hours after our usual bedtime. 

We are utterly and completely whipped. 

And oh my gosh, if I have to run the vacuum one more time, I think I might just cry.  Keeping a beautifully clean house with three kids, while homeschooling is a recipe for insanity. 

But, wow…God has been doing such awesome and amazing things with this process.  We have been praying for years and asking for the patience to be at peace with where we were living.  And in an instant (it kind of felt like that), Jason and I both felt like it was time to move on.  The pieces have been falling into place in the most remarkable ways.

We put an offer in on a home that we absolutely love.  It was accepted without even a counter offer. 

So, yeah, really…Lent being over doesn’t even feel like that is possible.  But, as always, I’m approaching Holy Week with the realization that God knows how, when, and in what ways my heart needs to be ever more focused on Him and His will.  A million things could still go “wrong,” but we are doing our best to remain prayerful that God has this under control.  I’m doing my best to rest in His peace that He is working out some beautiful plans for our family. 

I am grateful.  I am so very tired.  I need to go pack. 

Please pray for us.

34 for 34

8 Mar

This morning, on the day of my 34th birthday, I woke up with a heart filled with gratitude.  While I was on my morning walk, my mind became flooded with a litany of things for which I am grateful—some small and seemingly insignificant, and some foundational in my life.  In an attempt to savor these thoughts, I scribbled them on a torn up piece of paper and decided to put them to the screen.  In no particular order, my gratitude list:

1.  That God has called our family to homeschooling.  At the moment, I cannot envision it any other way. 

2.  My blue mug filled with a steaming cup of herbal tea (preferably Lemon Zinger or Peach Passion).

3.  Warm, fresh out of the oven, chocolate chip almond cookies (coupled with the abovementioned tea and I’m one content girl).

4.  Sunshine.

5.  Waves crashing along the beach in Hilton Head Island, our family’s yearly vacation spot.

6.  Fruit smoothies—top on my list right now would be grapefruit, mango, and banana.

7.  My husband—ever last thing about him.  Enough said. 

8.  That I have kids who love to read, and read, and read some more.

9.  The Sacraments.

10.  My Roman Catholic faith—so deep, so rich, and so necessary.

11.  The cgs program and how it has shaped our way of raising up our own saints.

12.  The sound of my kids playing piano.

13.  warm blankets and snuggling children (together, a perfect recipe for content hearts)

14.  a comfortable bed

15.  dates, as in the food

16.  dates, as in with my husband

17.  Praise and Worship music

18.  Holy Hour on Sunday evenings with dear friends

19.  movies

20.  that I am blessed with a mom who after working full time (plus), has given up countless hours to get trained in cgs and now leads an atrium session every week.

21.  that I have a dad who loves me fiercely.

22.  that I have a best friend who knows me, gets me, and still loves me. 

23.  that I am blessed to be part of an awesome Church community, filled with families devoted to loving and serving God.

24.  5 god children

25.  Chaco flip flops and Ugg boots

26.  that my days are spent living out the vocation that God has called me to—being a wife and mother.

27.  Forgiveness

28.  My three beautiful children here on Earth who help me to grow in holiness and are a tiny glimpse of God’s love for me.  My heart overflows with love for them.

29.  My two children in Heaven who have taught me to trust in God’s plan more than my own.

30.  books of all kinds

31.  the internet, social media, and blogging

32.  My husbands’ warm feet

33.  soup, especially chicken noodle

34.  that God created me and that the Good Shepherd knows me by name, came to give me life to the fullest, and laid down his life for me.