7 Quick Takes 2014 vol 27: Why I Can’t Get Anything Done

7 Quick Takes_

I get so frustrated with myself – I want so badly to have it all together (even though I have never bothered to define what that means) and I know I have it in me to accomplish great things, like putting the laundry away or blogging on some sort of schedule. Yet time after time it just slips through my fingers. Then there is a week like this one where I begin to remember why…

This may be a whine, or even a rant. Just so you know what you are getting into here.

1. Monday was my birthday! Yay for me, I’m 43! I haven’t done anything to celebrate it, and don’t really see a time when my husband and I could go out to dinner. Over all, I’m pretty happy. I am working, slowly but surely (with the exception of completely falling off the wagon on Thursday) to be healthier. I feel more secure in who I am. I’m even secure enough to know that at some point Jay and I will go out to dinner and that will count as my birthday dinner and it will all be fine. Monday I was totally fine with the day being wall to wall normal life. But now it’s Friday and I’m kind of tired of it.

2. I usually shy away from these kind of posts. My husband and I used to play this game; we called it “My Life Sucks Worse Than Yours”. The only problem is that no one wins at that game. Being the most pitied person in the duo never made us feel any better. But I just look at this week and think Damn! That’s a lot. So this isn’t meant to be a “My life sucks worse” attempt, because I love my life and wouldn’t trade it for yours no matter what. And it’s not a “Who’s Busier” contest either, because many people could have me beat. This is more of a “Why I can’t seem to get anything done” explanation. So please take it in the spirit intended.

3. Here we go: Monday and Tuesday held the usual craziness of taking kids back and forth – three trips to the preschool, ballet, church, gymnastics, boys choir. This week I added in personal training (a gift from my daughter for my birthday! How cool is that?) It was also the week we came back from Fall Break so I was subtracting about an hour and a half of sleep per night. Ouch.

4. Tuesday I also made one of those epic trips to Costco. Just me, Gus, and overflowing cart, a much smaller wallet, and the heat of the pavement heading out just past lunchtime to pack up the car. What’s this? The back of the van is already full of stuff?

And here we run into Principle #1 of Family Life: Everything will take twice as long and three times as much energy as you think it should.

I rearranged all the stuff in the back of the van, put down seats, buckled some groceries in empty carseats, etc. And finally got everything in the car and – barely – got the doors closed. Then we went home.

By that time my blood sugar is somewhere in the negative numbers, Gus is melting down because he is not only hungry, but it is an hour past his nap time. Time pressure is on. Get the frozen stuff in the freezer, get the food in the kid, put him down for a nap. Empty all the rest of the junk from the back of the van so this doesn’t happen again next week, which it totally could because it would be just like me to forget (again) that all that stuff is back there.

Finally, all that is done. Whew. I look at the clock. I have exactly ten minutes to shove some food in my own face, before waking my sleeping toddler and heading out the door to pick up his sister.


To this point in the day I have had two cups of coffee and a yogurt. I MUST HAVE FOOD. But I have to pack snacks for the hungry monkeys. Because I have to go to one school, then the other – wait there for 40 minutes – then take 5 kids to gymnastics. Then take one to boys choir. And my husband was out of town, so there was bedtime…

There was no laundry done that day. I don’t think there were any dishes done that day. On to Wednesday.

5. Wednesday morning I was all on top of things. I got the lunches all made, I got the backpacks all packed. The big kids headed out the door and I went to hide with my coffee for just a few moments of quiet. (Stop laughing at me, it could happen – I’ve read about it in books – sometimes women sit still and drink some coffee.) My schedule that day was kind of freaking me out, so I decided not to go to bible study. When I emerged from my coffee stupor and realized that we should have left for school 5 minutes ago, I discovered that Gus had lost his shoes, socks, and pants, and both he and Molly had emptied their carefully packed backpacks and filled them with toys.

It was Gus’s day to bring snack.

Somewhere in my house there are now two perfectly good packages of microwave popcorn. Only God knows where.

We rounded up the rest of the stuff and made it to school. Then I went home, where I had ten whole minutes to eat something before running off to my personal training appointment, where my trainer lectured me about feeding my kids and eating Burger King the night before and I wasn’t even going to tell him what that day was like. Nope. It’s not even worth the effort. I just nod and say, “Yes, you are totally right, I should have given them a home cooked paleo meal.” Yep.

Then there was preschool pick up, and nap for Gus, and jump in the shower because I was gross, and then go pick up more kids, and then feed them, and then off to ballet. and then and then and then…

6. Thursday was a day of unusual chaos, but at least I had a good night sleep. So far this week I had been averaging about 6 hours of sleep which is not enough. Wednesday night I got a full 8 hours. So luxurious! Of course, that meant that I didn’t have the time to really look at what the day was holding. I had a pretty good idea, but I still ended up missing something.

Ben and Tessa left for school on time, then the youngest four kids and I headed off to the dentist. This was 21 miles away from our house. There I herded children for an hour as they each had their teeth cleaned. Then back in the car to take Max and Lily to school (29 miles the other direction) and pick up Tessa.

Of course dropping kids off and picking them up is no small job in itself. It means taking the little guys with us into the school, making everyone go to the bathroom again, situating the little kids in their classes and finding the older one at lunch. Finally, however, we were on our way. We stopped at home with just enough time for Gus to take half a nap and have a bit of lunch. Then I took Tessa, Molly, and Gus to the doctor (only 1.5 miles this time) for shots and asthma meds.

Gus was so upset his nose started bleeding. He has told us about 100 times so far that “Those shots really hurt!” He still won’t let me take the bandaids off.

Finally we were home, to stay, for hours at a time. The kids helped to clean up the house a bit (after I yelled a little, I’m ashamed to say.) I got some laundry hung to dry.

Can I just say I am SO OVER not having a dryer?

I fed them dinner, got them to bed, and talked to my husband on the phone – he was out of town for work. And he asked me, “So did Max make it to Boys Choir tonight?”

I was so close! I almost pulled off this crazy day.

7. Friday I have to figure out how to bilocate. I’m not sure what I am going to do yet. Worst case scenario is that I have to pick Gus up from preschool early. That is annoying but not deadly. But you will notice that through all this crazy week I didn’t once mention things like mopping, vacuuming, blogging (although I am sacrificing sleep to do it now) or other things that go along with running a household. I didn’t detail all of the things I did, of course, but you can see that there clearly wasn’t a whole lot else that was done. I know I have done six loads of laundry, which is not nearly enough, paid bills, and my kids haven’t gone hungry. In a frantic attempt to deal with paperwork, my dining room looks like a file cabinet threw up on it. The rest will have to wait for another day. Because…

Now, go see Jen @ ConversionDiary.com for more quick takes. Hurry, or I’ll make you wash some dishes!

7 Quick Takes 2014 vol 26: Autumn on the Surface of the Sun Edition

Pumpkin stem
So the season now is officially “Autumn” here are some snippets from Phoenix, a.k.a: The Surface of the Sun.

1. The weather has cooled down considerably. We haven’t been over 100 in well over a week. In fact, I think we have had a few days when it didn’t even hit 90. Everywhere you go you see people starting to wear clothes they have been missing for months – longer shorts, socks, things that aren’t swimsuits. I’ve even dared to wear jeans a few times, even though I immediately regretted is when I had to get into a blisteringly hot car.

Still, when I go for a walk in the morning, it is distinctly not hot out, which is lovely. I even was able to go for a hike at 9am without fear of immediate heat stroke.

2. No more swimming. The pool has cooled off enough that I won’t go in it again until next June, or if I fall in, whichever comes first. The kids would still be happy to swim, and I am sure that people from otehr parts of the country would be fine too. My personal rule is: never swim if the water is under 85 degrees. I might go as low as 80, but no lower!

3. The kids had Fall Break. a whole week off of school. Of course the three schools weren’t off at the same time, but it was still a much needed break for me. Especially when the ones who have to leave earlier had the week off. B-L-I-S-S. I could get used to sleeping in until 6:30. I think that whole week I only had one cup of coffee per day!

Of course this “break” of theirs made me feel like I had a break too, and so I posted, in fit of stress, Listless: Breaking Up With My To-Do List. The results have not been pretty. I’ll post a better update on Monday. There is no real break for mamas, and trying to check out like that is just Not Allowed. I’m leaving the post up there as a lesson to myself to make sure a life change will stick before posting about it. Gah.

I have so much catching up to do.

4. The outside beckons. Suddenly the kids are outside all the time. Nightly showers are needed to scrub off their grime. I feel like going for a walk, or a run, or just being outside. I joke that my favorite outdoor activity is going back inside, but that is only partly true. Sure inside is cleaner (or is supposed to be) and has more comfortable floors and couches and somewhat fewer bugs. (Excepting, of course, our current ant invasion.) But outside… trees, rocks, breezes… I think I need to buy a hammock.

5. I told you so. Every year, people in Arizona increase their bitching about the weather as September ticks by. People wonder aloud, shouldn’t it be getting cooler yet? Isn’t it cooler by this time other years? To which I answer, No. It is never cooler in September. There may be a few scattered cooler days, but it is not, in general, much cooler. Sometime during or after the second week in October it begins to cool off. Every. Single. Year.

And suddenly we all start to remember why we bother to live here.

6. Baking time! Or at least it feels like it. I’m not baking because I am trying to avoid gluten again because my stomach is a mess and I hate trying to make something only to have it fail to turn out edible. Maybe I will buy a pumpkin candle.

7. I’d love to wax more nostalgic about beautiful seasons, but I need to turn the A/C down, I’m hot sitting here in my jeans and cardigan, and I have to-do lists to write.

Happy Fall to everyone! Stomp in some leaves for us if you can!

Go see Jen @ Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes!

7 Quick Takes 2014 vol 25: Clutter Blind


1. You see that incredible photo above? That is a sunrise. No filters, cross my heart! Sunsets are often beautiful, but I have seldom seen a sunrise this pretty. (Not that I see all that many sunrises, I’m awake at that time, but usually trying to pretend I’m not.) But really, I have made it out the door 4 out of 6 mornings this week to walk and/or run. And while I feel like I am dragging myself out the door by my own pony tail, I did it, and it felt great when it was done.

I’m reminding myself every morning that this is just as much for my mental health as for my physical health. I’m taking this one day at a time. Today was one more day down. I will think about tomorrow when I set out my clothes before bed. Because if my workout clothes aren’t fully ready (and where I will trip over them on my way to the bathroom) getting out the door just isn’t going to happen.

2. Oh, Honey! Last night, right as I sat down to dinner, one of my children spilled about 4 ounces of honey. I was literally just about to put the first bite in my mouth, and we had to leave for a choir rehearsal in about 10 minutes and… Honey. All over a cabinet shelf, down the door, and all over the floor. I would just like to point out that I did NOT kill or otherwise maim the culprit. I think I deserve a little credit for that. (I also didn’t take a picture of it, so I get an extra point for that too.)

And on that topic, I just don’t understand this whole spilling thing. I don’t even know HOW my children can spill as often as they do. It’s seriously like twice a dinnertime and every other meal. I once heard of a family who would just go ahead and dump out a glass of water on the table as soon as they sat down in a restaurant, just as a sacrifice to the Spill Deity. This, and not dental health or obesity, is why we don’t drink juice at meals.

3. Speaking of drinks, I’m afraid Molly is going to be one of those High Maintenance kind of girls. As just one example of how particular she is, here is a photo of her at breakfast the other day:

IMG_3014.JPGShe insisted on having one glass of room temperature water and one of ice water. (Double spill potential – she’s an overachiever too.)

Thankfully we now have a refrigerator that has ice and water on the door, which is turning a few of my kids into ice fanatics. It also means that I was every single cup every single day.

Oh, and at least one cup had to be green, which is her new favorite color, and has the extra benefit of making her younger brother mad because he wanted the green cup. Oy.

4. I think I’m having eyesight problems. I’ve become clutter-blind. We moved in almost three months ago and…


IMG_3023.JPG… I’m not even seeing it anymore. At least not until I have to let a guest of some sort into the house. Then it all becomes crystal clear. I need to “finish unpacking”. I used quotes there because I’m not even sure that is a real thing.

5. I was so looking forward to cake this weekend. I have been looking for an excuse to buy a Costco cake for a while now. Mmmm… soft cake, creamy mousse, mountains of buttercream!  But I have been getting sicker and sicker lately and living with a constant feeling of someone punching me in the stomach. So I went off gluten again, and within two days, the pain was noticeably diminishing. While I am relieved to be feeling a little better, I have to say I am a little angry at my body for having this thing as a problem. I’m taking it one day at a time, just like my morning walk. Darnit.

6. Sunday my baby turns 3! In my entire parenting career, I have only had my youngest child be 3 or over one other time. (Which had to do with the Vasectomy/Reversal.) It feels like some kind of a milestone. I don’t have a diaper bag, I rarely use the stroller. Going places is so much easier!

Gus is a character who loves swords best of all things and singing second. When we go to a grocery store, he sings at the top of his lungs most of the time we shop. Better that than a tantrum, but it can still get a little embarrassing, especially when he hits his 50th repetition of a song her really don’t know the words to.

When he wakes up in the morning, he walks out to where the kids are getting ready for school and declares, “Look who’s awake!”


7. Fun Books I’ve listened to in the last couple weeks:

You Are Now Less Dumb: How to Conquer Mob Mentality, How to Buy Happiness, and All the Other Ways to Outsmart Yourself – Had an anti-religion slant to it, but otherwise the book was sciency and a fun listen. There was a lot of good information about seeing why we do the things we do.

Eat That Frog! – A good book about time management, but most of it didn’t apply to a crazy job like motherhood. For example, one woman made a list of all her duties at work and listed 17 things. Seventeen. I think there are 17 things I have to do before my kids leave for school. Otherwise, though there were some good tips on prioritizing and discerning what to spend your time on. Because it is short and kind of bullet-pointy, I think this would be better as a read than a listen.

The Ghost Map – Fascinating story about the cholera outbreaks in London and how they were traced to the water supply.


Have a great weekend and go see Jen @ ConversionDiary.com for more quick takes!


7 Quick Takes 2014, vol 24: Word In, Work Out, Work Plan

Word in

1. Word in. Work out. Work plan. There are many great life lessons to be found in Ann Voskamp’s post 25 Point Manifesto for Sanity for 2013, I have been reading that post for a year and half and practically have some of it memorized. In facing the chaos of this year, I decided to start being disciplined about putting it into practice. I have chanted “Word in, work out, work plan.” to myself to try to get on track many days, but I haven’t’ been so good at following up with it. I am making that my focus right now, to focus my days, to calm my spirit, to feel less frazzled and disorganized. Onward!

2. Word in. This part is no longer hard for me. I used to struggle to fit in bible study and prayer in random parts of my day, but you know how that goes… I began to toy with getting up earlier to do it then. That didn’t work great until I added coffee to the mix. Just having that little treat for myself helped me to get up and sit at the table. Still, it took me the better part of six months of on again, off again to really get it to stick. That was two and a half years ago. I have come to cherish this time in the early morning, and seldom skip it, even on the weekends and vacations. I crave this time now.

I am currently working on two different Bible studies, and no it really doesn’t get confusing. I focus on the readings for the upcoming Sunday for a few days a week and I am doing a study with a Facebook group on the Gospel of Matthew. It might sound super-scholarly, but that is not my goal. I am not up to intellectual study at 5am. I usually work through a guided question or two and journal a tiny bit.

3. Work out. Ugh. I am adding this one in. I haven’t been a regular exerciser for nearly a year now, and I can tell. I hadn’t realized how weak I had become until I tried to change the sheets on the top bunk a couple weeks ago. I couldn’t pull myself up! Between that and noticing that the stress pounds are starting to add up again. I am diving in.

Why did I quit before? Two reasons primarily: exhaustion, and over-tracking. I seem to have some sort of fatigue thing that pops up every couple months that just wipes me out. (Yes, I’ve gone to the doctor, only to be told that I have 9 kids, so that must be why I’m tired. I know. It’s ridiculous.) That was especially bad last November and I never got started again after that. The over tracking part is another story. I thought that if I was going to work out, I needed to quantify every little thing. For running, that meant following a progressive distance and speed plan. For strength training, it meant adding a rep as often as possible.

Right now, I am going to head out the door most days and walk for 30 minutes. The number of steps I take or distance I go doesn’t matter. I will be dressed so I can run if I feel like it. (I did run the first day, and I did better than I expected!) And that’s it. Begin. That is my whole fitness plan.

4. Work plan. I am so good at planning. I can plan circles around the most organized people I know. I set goals like a boss. Following through, though, is not my strong suit. Part of the problem is that I overplan, and part is just because – oh look! a new book! (Or other such distractions.) I have followed different planning systems over the years, always tweaking them to fit m situation. Currently I am using a variation on GTD for Homemakers (it looks like this was renamed to Declutter Your Head), and relying on keeping things digital instead of writing it out and having a paper to check in with multiple times a day.

I have a love/hate relationship with paper. I love to write things down, but I hate to keep track of it.  I’m working off of a daily plan in Evernote, my google calendar, and a running to do list (which I need to stop ignoring) using Remember the Milk app and website. This way everything is on my phone, computer, and kindle.

But setting up the system and planning my day is the fun part. Where the rubber meets the road is where I slack off. Work the plan! I have to keep redirecting myself to work the plan.

5. I have curly hair. I will be in denial no longer. Growing up, I had mostly straight hair. It had a slight curve to it, but it was easy to blow dry and looked nice straight. Not anymore. With each child my hair has curled more and more, to the point where it is really difficult to get truly straight. The trouble is that it is not uniformly curly. Underneath in the back there are beautiful fat curls:


Then on top of that the hair is just wavy, not quite curly enough to be truly curly, and frizzed out because of the under layer pushing it out. I was going to post a picture but I decided against it, because this is just turning into me whining about my hair.

I finally accepted defeat and stopped trying to have a straight hair kind of haircut, so that has helped a little. Still, I just can’t make friends with my hair.  I’ve read Curly Girl, I’ve tried the tricks. They helped a little. What can be done with unevenly curly hair? Besides a pony tail or clip.) You know what the problem is? Curly hair is out of control. It’s messy. It has it’s own idea of the direction that it needs to go each day. That is what makes me crazy. Maybe I need to take a lesson from my hair and find the beauty as it happens. This seems to be a little contrary to the “Work the plan” part above, but it is really not, because I have to make reality part of the plan or the plan will fail. And that includes my hair.

6. Stupid house update. STILL not on the market. My poor husband has been working so hard to get the drainage situation fixed.

Drilling the drain along the whole length of the patio.

Drilling the drain along the whole length of the patio.

Whoever buys this house will never have drainage issues to deal with. In the mean time, I think both Home Depot and Lowes have given my husband his own honored parking space.

7. The mornings and evenings are finally cooling off! The days are still in the the 90s, but it is gloriously cool when the sun is down. I’m really enjoying the weather and the prospect of someday wearing jeans without regretting it all day.

That’s all for today, folks. Go see Jen @ Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes!
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7 Quick Takes 2014, vol 23: Spelling, Old at Heart Toddlers, and more

1. Spelling. My nine year old is having trouble with spelling. He is doing great in most other subjects, but spelling is just his tender spot. His last teacher pointed out that, while he has been taught with Spalding phonics since kindergarten, he actually reads without really sounding out words – which makes him a fast reader with good understanding, but a terrible out-loud reader. He reads more by idea than by sound of the words. (I wish I could read like that!) But that doesn’t help his spelling at all.

It also doesn’t help that he really just doesn’t care about spelling. He sees the subjects that he has to learn; history and science are interesting, math seems to be a fun puzzle game, if tedious at times, Latin and music are exciting challenges. But spelling? What good is writing words that he can read just fine no matter how they are spelled.

You and I know the value, of course, but he is a tough sell.

I stumbled across this article on spelling: Why Some Kids Can’t Spell, and Why Spelling Tests Don’t Help, and found it very enlightening. This week we went through his spelling words in a different way. For some words we used memory tricks, for example with the word “monastery” he was having trouble remembering where the “a” and “e” went. So we talked about what a monastery was- a place where monks or sisters might live, and how they would probably grow some of their food, and might have an apple tree in the middle of their monastery. A=apple, in the middle, so the “a” in the word is in the middle. It sounds complicated, but his brain can think these things way faster than I can type them. We also went over the base words for some of the words: erode=erosion.

Low and behold, he came home with 25/26 instead of the usual 50%. So it looks like we will be doing a lot more etymology in this house!

2. Toddlers as old fogeys. Gus(almost 3) has such a funny way of speaking. He came up to Posy this morning and asked, “Can I drink of your drink?” To which she answered, “What century are we in?” Earlier he had exclaimed, “This is a tasty pear!” He also frequently asks, “Are you sure this is appropriate?”


3. House update. Our old house is still off the market as we wait and prepare to make the necessary repairs. Since we had no trouble buying the house in 2008, we never foresaw the trouble we would have selling it. To recap: There is a slight negative grade (slope towards the house) near the back family room. This room used to be a part of the patio, so it is still level with the rest of the patio. When we got a lot of rain, we have had flooding in the room. In the 6 years we lived there, we had water in the room twice. Since we moved out in July, we have had severe flooding twice, one time necessitating replacing the carpet.

We now have a workable solution to the problem: adding drains across the patio and increasing the drainage area on the side of the house. This has the thumbs up from two termite inspectors, who are the ones who ding this issue on inspections. Hopefully the house will be back on the market in another week.

4. Today was my due date. The baby I miscarried in February was due September 26th. This has been a rough week for me. I realized this had come up last Saturday, so I was able to at least take some tiny steps to be a little nicer to myself this week, although it was a super busy week.

I had wanted to have a cake or something with the family, but now I am not so sure. When I was at Target the other day, I thought that maybe I would buy some baby clothes and diapers and donate them, in remembrance of Ambrose. Except I found myself crying in the baby section of the store, not really willing to touch any of the baby things. Apparently I am more raw than I expected.

I know I will be okay. I am trying to give myself the space to lean in to the feelings and be sad, instead of running and hiding. In the mean time, maybe cake isn’t such a bad idea.

5. Another fascinating article – about how rewarding children who are already motivated harms their motivation. My husband was telling me about this one, it had come up in a book he was reading (and that I am now reading), You are Now Less Dumb by David McRaney. Jay told me that he had read about this, and began to explain it, saying that researchers had done a study on preschoolers. They took a group of preschoolers who naturally gravitated toward drawing and art…


… and they offered those children a reward for doing a good job drawing. And do you know what happened?

I knew right away! I was a kid just like that. Those children stopped drawing and creating.

The article I linked to talks about how there are two kinds of motivation, intrinsic (internal) and extrinsic (external, like a reward) and if children, or any people really, are given an extrinsic motivation for something they already have an intrinsic motivation for, the brain starts to think that is just too much – somebody must be trying to trick it into doing something, because there is too much motivation surrounding the activity. Fascinating!

6. Kid angst. The toys are just totally out of control. The weather is still blisteringly hot. And the kids are going crazy. There have been lots of meltdowns lately, just out of overwhelm and no place to run out the extra energy they accumulate. I don’t even ask them to pick up all the toys at this point, it’s too overwhelming of a job. I have to get a handle on it this weekend, and probably remove a good portion of the toys while I am at it. So hit me up, what are your favorite toy organizing tips for a whole bunch of kids?

7. We got a Roku. My dad gave us one. We haven’t had time to set it up yet, but I have heard good things about it. Do you or have you had one? Can you get sports on it? ( <- That question is near and dear to my husband’s heart.) While we really haven’t missed cable, or at least don’t miss it anymore, watching sports, football and baseball primarily, was something Jay enjoyed and misses.

Thanks for reading! Have a great weekend!

Go see Jen @ ConversionDiary for more Quick Takes!

7 Quick Takes 2014, vol 22: Posy, Paperless, Pinterest

1. Posy is home! We had a lovely homecoming last Friday night. Lily, age 7 had no idea that Posy was coming home. All through her time in France, Posy had told Molly, whose birthday is in November, that she would certainly be home by her birthday. At one point Lily, whose birthday is September 14 – last Sunday, asked if Posy would be there for her birthday too, and a plot was born. Posy told Lily that she didn’t think she could get back that soon, and that she was coming home on the day after her birthday. So Lily had made sure that any plans to celebrate her birthday were not scheduled until Posy was home. She didn’t even want to have cake on her actual birthday if Posy wasn’t going to be there.

Friday night after dinner, I told the kids that we had to go run some errands. Tessa (age 12) was in on the trick and had been helping the kids make some posters for “next week” when Posy got home. She smuggled those along with us in her purse. The kids all loaded up, none too curious because “errands” are always boring.

When we pulled up to the airport, a couple of them got the idea, but Lily didn’t fully figure it out until minutes before Posy came out of the gate, when Tessa handed out the signs. Her face was priceless. She had tears in her eyes when she found out that Posy had made these arrangements just for her, so that she could be here for Lily’s 7th birthday.

2. My Etsy shop, Tools of Grace, is open! I am still busy adding products and details, but it is open for business. My Mass Books, and Jay’s CDs are available at new lower prices. Please take a moment to check it out, favorite my shop and Like the Facebook page. There will be a lot more to come, including a giveaway sometime in October.

3. Paperless? I’m trying to move us towards a more paperless house, at least as far as office stuff. But how far do I go with this? I’ve already had one moment when the internet in the house was down and I really needed to get at the bill for our internet service so I could call them. Thank goodness I could get at it from my phone. It made me second guess myself though.

4. Pin all the things. I have dabbled in pinterest up to now and it just never really meshed with my brain. And then suddenly it did! I know, I’m like the last person on earth to figure out the joys of pinterest. I’m looking for ideas for handmade Christmas gifts, ways to simplify our home, and tricks & tools for evernote. There is so much to be found! Must. Pull. Away. From. Screen.

5. It’s one of those terrible decision times – go up a size or put the cookies down. I am a stress eater, and my stress usually tastes like sugar in some form. My body also declares that either I can give it energy by getting some rest or it will demand energy through carbs. I have to get a hold of this, but I am reticent (or making excuses?) about starting to count calories again. I think it must be done, though. Sigh.

6. I realized why I am fine about not having a dryer and maybe it is not such a good thing. I was kind of proud of myself, because I thought that I just didn’t want to spend the money on one because I was getting by without it just fine, but looking at the state of our checkbook, I see that I am not afraid of spending some money. I thought about it some more. Earlier this year, we invested in the 2nd biggest set we could find – matching! I would have a matching set again. Hi-tech! Top loader HE machine! A gas dryer to save money and dry faster!

I am really proud of this stupid set of appliances. I don’t want to “settle” for a dryer that doesn’t match. So even though I could have a dryer for cheap, I have been choosing to go without so that my set doesn’t look hobbled together.

Shallow much? I’m sure I can work it out, with all this time I have to think about it while I hang clothes to dry.

7. Cheers. In one of those weird spare moments when I had some free time and didn’t feel like reading, I put on the first episode of Cheers. Aw, I loved that show, and seeing the pilot (which I don’t think I had ever seen before) brought back all the storylines and spinoffs that followed.


What caught me by surprise though, we the nature of the show. It’s been so long since I watched a show taped in front of a live audience, and it had such a different feel too it – very much like a play. It was just a fun thing to see.

Have a great weekend everyone! Go see Jen@ConversionDiary for more Quick Takes!


7 Quick Takes 2014, vol 21: Hiccups, Houses, Laundry, and Etsy


1. I keep waking myself up with the hiccups. What the heck is going on with that? It gives me some time to get a little more reading done, since the hiccups are loud and violent, and I have to leave the room to let my husband get some sleep. (He doesn’t make me, I just think it is a nice thing to do.)


2. I had intended to get my quick takes posted last week, but I was on a Mom’s Retreat instead. We watched the video series “The Genius of Woman” by Katrina Zeno. (She also has a book on the same topic: Discovering the Feminine Genius: Every Woman’s Journey.) She weaves together teachings of Pope St. John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” and “On the Dignity and Vocation of Women” to show how our identity is affected by our gender and how to live fully in the Body of Christ as a woman. She also talked about how Satan attacks us specifically as women and ways to combat that. Beautiful teachings! The best part of the retreat for me was getting to laugh and cry, to learn and explore beautiful parts of the faith with great friends, who I have rarely seen for the last year or so – when we switched schools. We also escaped the heat and went up to the cool pines to a cabin for our retreat. It was just wonderful and I can’t wait for our next one, next summer.


I’m the one on the far right in front.


3. Every time I try to bump up my posting schedule, I fall on my butt. Not literally, of course, although I suppose I shouldn’t rule that out as a future possibility. I’m sure it would be difficult to type much with a wounded behind. My plans are not His plans or vice versa or something. I also tend to think of blog post topics in the car and my brain flushes as soon as I open the door and they are *POOF* gone forever. So if I could just write while driving, this would be the most awesome blog ever. Until then… I’ll just keep forgetting what I meant to say. Maybe I could teach my 4 year old to take notes on my thoughts. That could work, right?


4. I have now lived for six weeks without a dryer, and it hasn’t killed me yet. I can’t hang the clothes outside, since my kids have terrible seasonal allergies. (Which I used to think was just a made up thing until I had kids who either couldn’t breathe or had murder-scene-equivalent nose bleeds because of allergies.) Therefore handing them clothes and sheets impregnated with pollen is a really bad idea. Thankfully, this house has a room that we are using as mostly a storage room. The middle of the floor is clear and the perfect place to set up drying racks. This one from IKEA is my favorite.

I also have this one from Costco, which is pretty awesome because I can hang lots of big shirts, pants, and towels at once. It also has a hanging rack up top. But it’s really tall, I have to be careful when I move it because I am forever whacking it on the ceiling fan.

laundry pic

Between the two of them I can dry two loads at a time. I actually own a very nice dryer, but it is a gas dryer and there is no hook up in this house. Because of reasons stated below in #6, we have not purchased a different dryer. I’m not in any big rush, this just hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would be.


5. Okay, so I knew this year was going to be busy, but what the calendar looks like and what it feels like day after day are two totally separate things. I’m not sure if you know this, but there are, in fact, only so many hours one can be awake every day. What I am learning is that this year will require an intentionality heretofore unexperienced in our family. We have always been more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants kind of family, in an organized sort of way. But there is much less room for error this year. Especially if everyone wants to eat dinner! (And they always, always do. Darnit.)

But as one child was falling apart this morning, after going to bed too late two nights in a row, I realized that I need to not just be intentional about when the work gets done and the cooking, shopping and meal planning, but also about the down time. I need to consciously set aside time for each of us individually, and all of us as a family to just be. I’m not exactly sure how to implement this – whether I should direct my children to something or just let them figure it out themselves. I’m sure we will fine tune it as we go. What works for our family?


6. I came literally down the mountain from my retreat this weekend and then was dragged figuratively down the mountain immediately after. We lost our buyers for our old house, then Sunday night/Monday morning, Phoenix was hit with an epic storm. Here in the desert, the ground is baked hard and dry through the summer, the water has no place to go. This is a picture of a major freeway:


We received and emergency alert on our phones at 3am Monday morning that there was a flash flood warning. My husband, Jay, immediately went to out house-on-the-market (it took him 40 minutes to drive 7 miles, the flooding was already so bad!) only to find water gushing into the family room. The one where we had just replaced the carpet. He spend hours pumping water away from the house, suctioning the carpet, and doing everything he could to stem any damage. Later in the day we had a restoration company come out and look at it, but we couldn’t afford their quote. (Reasonable quote, we have just been, well, sucked dry by this house; we painted it, repaired it, replaced carpet, etc.) The man who evaluated it was very nice, however, and he helped me set up our rented high power fans and told me the steps to getting it cleaned up and dried. It is coming along nicely, just with lots of work and it still cost a lot, in spite of us doing it ourselves.

It’s worth noting that while we lived in this house for 6 years, that room flooded twice. Once when I went to bed and forgot to turn off the water to the pool, and once from a storm. Since we moved out of that house in mid-July, it has flooded twice with freak-of-nature level storms.


7. Because of the above, I am opening up an Etsy store, Tools of Grace, where I will sell my mass books, handmade rosaries, and eventually baptism gowns. I have been making rosaries now for 8-9 years and have mostly just sold to friends. It is imperative now, though, to dig ourselves out of this hole. I will keep you posted and bug you in all sorts of ways when I open. The site is live now, but there isn’t much to see yet. Hang in there, lots more is coming! Keep your eyes peeled, and send a few prayers that this will help us out. Thank you!


Go see Jen@ConversionDiary.com for many more quick takes! God bless!


7 Quick Takes 2014, vol 20: Take a Breath!

Lots of lists this week, but like I said in my 5Faves, I just want to get my blogging juices flowing again. A lot has been going on, so lists are a helpful thing.

1. We have added in almost all the activities for the year, just one more left to start. They conveniently started one per week for the first three weeks of school. Gymnastics, then Ballet, then Boys Choir. My head is swimming. Why did I think this was a good idea? Oh, right. Because we are having a ball watching the kids expand their talents. I had one friend tell me I was crazy last night, but she didn’t see the light in each one’s eyes as they do the thing that they love and which expresses their talent so well. So what is another night of crock potting? What did become apparent was that I really need to be on top of meals for those busy days (Mon-Wed). I’m not only going to have to come up with a plan, but also shop for it. That is the hard part. It is amazing to me how long I can go between full shopping trips with this many people in the house. But I’m afraid it is going to have to be done. (If you have any delicious crock pot recipes, send them my way!)


2. Gus is settling into preschool. My little baby, in school. I spent those hours this week just recharging my batteries, working on some other writing projects, running a couple of simple errands. Do you have any idea how quickly you can get out of the car and run into a store, buy milk and be back on the road again? I had no idea! An errand that would have been a major energy expenditure ended up taking just a few minutes. I was seriously driving away thinking, That was too easy! Surely I forgot someone!

3. When my first child started kindergarten, I was only 23 years old, easily the youngest momma in the bunch. That was a lovely feeling, although it seemed that no one took me very seriously then. Now I am on the older end. I went to curriculum night for our little kids last night and in my 1st grader’s room, I sat in Lily’s desk and met her seat-mate’s mom. Teeny-tiny, very young. Her oldest child was “so grown up now” in 1st grade. I felt old. And frumpy. And tired. I wondered what I looked like to her. I can’t really remember what I thought of the older moms back when I was the newbie. I sometimes think that older moms intimidate the younger ones (and sometimes the teachers, too) even though we don’t want to.

4. I was able to talk to a couple other moms like me at the event. (I’m going to stop calling us “older moms” now, I really don’t like that phrase now that it applies to me.) They had lots of kids, former homeschoolers, not really stressed about the whole school thing anymore. It was a breath of fresh air. For the first time I felt like maybe we fit in there. Switching schools has been rough on me socially. Last year, since we had some of the kids in a temporary solution (for us, it was a great school, just not our final destination) there was no way for me to dig in and get to know anyone. I have hope that is changing. Just remember, as you go about your school involvement, that some other parent may be feeling just as awkward as the new kids they just brought to school. For a thought on how to help that, see Dwija’s post on an easy way to break the ice, even if you are shy. Oh, and also remember that person who looks pissed off – may just be feeling really nervous and terrified. Ask me how I know.

This image came up when I searched for a picture for "shy". It fits well with awkward too, I think. And cuteness. Because we always need cuteness.

This image came up when I searched for a picture for “shy”. It fits well with awkward too, I think. And cuteness. Because we always need cuteness.

5. I started reading “Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives” by Richard Swenson. I have the older edition, which I bought about 10 years ago at a homeschool convention. It sat on my bookshelf beckoning me ever since. In a fit of insomnia I picked it up the other night. It’s a great book so far, even if he does spend a little too much time pointing out the obvious problem, lack of margin. After about half a chapter, I had to set it down and go hunt for something to start annotating and underlining. One thing that hit me was, “Our relationships are being starved to death by velocity.” The irony of reading this at the start of our busiest year ever (at least as far as kid activities goes) is not lost on me. It is helping me to take a careful look at those times in between things, or waiting times, or time in the car. I feel more motivated to grasp those times with intentionality and use them to slow down, connect, and breathe.

Another quote: “Food plus warmth plus health plus education plus affluence have not quite equalled Utopia.”
We need to live more like the Shire and less like Saruman’s war machine.

Now that I have recommended the book, I hope I can finish it!

6. A two year old’s storyMom, what if a dinosaur had a sword? And then a tiger had a sword! And what if they fought? And then superman came down and told them, “Hey guys! Stop fighting!” And then superman flew away.

Later that same day, we were walking into Costco when he stopped and looked up at the tall, outside wall. He caressed it a little and then said, “Mom, can I climb this?” I told him, “No, you aren’t Spiderman.” And he said, in complete awe, “Spiderman can do anything!”

7. Our house still hasn’t sold, which is certainly a stress, but for now the painting and repairs are done. And that is a huge relief. Keep praying for a quick sale to the right buyers.

Thanks for checking in with me! Be sure to tell me what you are up to in the comments, and go see Jen @ Conversion Diary  for more Quick Takes!

7 Quick Takes 2014, vol 19: In Which I Try Not to Whine About How Busy I Am

1. First, let’s just get this out of the way. The busy: fixing up the old house, with all the mini crises and rabbit trails that come with it, unpacking and settling the new house, not having a dryer, school starting for six kids, husband working extra hard at all his jobs, a monsoon storm that ruins indoor carpet. And now, that is all I am going to say about how I am losing my mind and there is not enough of me to go around. But I just had to put this out there because, you know, OH MY GOSH I AM GOING SUPER CRAZY!

2. My baby started preschool. My baby. The youngest person in the house. The. Bay. Bee.

Molly and Gus start school

I thought that my heart would break, but… see number 1 up there. It will hit me someday. There are all sorts of things to talk about there, but that deserves a real post. He has done a great job so far with the perfectly appropriate amount of homesickness and missing momma. Everyone’s question for me is what I will do with “all that free time.” The answer is, aside from #1 above, I will do all the things I didn’t have time for, like cleaning the house, shopping the grocery sales, and maybe – I hope – a little blogging thrown in for good measure.

3. Game of Thrones. I succumbed. I gave in. I am reading the books. I just finished the 3rd one and am dying to start the 4th. I haven’t gotten sucked into fiction like this in a long time. He’s no Tolkein or Lewis, but he is a good writer and the story is epic. EPIC. I watched some of the shows, but I think I need to bleach my eyeballs after that. Tyrion and Arya are my favorites. (Arya is so exactly like Molly!) So for the ten minutes that my eyes can stay open after I crawl into bed, I am reading Game of Thrones. Two thumbs up.

4. I got my hair did. At a real salon, by a real stylist (for bonus, she was my bestest buddy in beauty school!). I really love it, it is still longish, but less, um, shapeless, I guess. The problem I am running into is that I have a hairstyle that can be a real style, but what I am spending my time doing is… sorry, back to #1 again. Anyway, physical work, moving things, cleaning things, chasing people (only my own children, I promise!), and always, always hoping for a chance to take a nap. And it is hot. SO hot. Do you know what that means?

Pony tail.

I have this great cut and I am still living in pony tail land, which is why you don’t get a picture of it.

5. Time budgeting. We have come a long way with our money budget in the past few years, and generally have an idea of where our money is going. We usually even have an emergency fund, since we are so great at generating emergencies. One of the things that I have learned is that if I plan to use every penny that comes into the house every month for a designated purpose, I will be over budget every time. There is always some crazy thing that comes along that we have to throw money at – sickness, repairs, field trips.

I realized the other day that I am not budgeting my time well. I have assigned every minute of the day, every day of the week. And when something extra comes along – and it ALWAYS does – I am left exhausted and overwhelmed, my time budget is overdrawn. My mission now is to have an emergency fund of sorts, with regards to my time. I don’t know how that will look or how I will get there. I think this will mean having some time when I plan to do nothing. That will help me to refill my always overtaxed introvert tank. In addition to that I think I will probably need to have some “time to be assigned later” when I will expect to work, but not know until later what that work will be, because there will always be some unforeseen things that need to be taken care of.

I’ve always been good at planning, but this is a whole new level I am stepping into now. How do you build in an emergency fund in your time?

6. The start of school meant bumping my wake up time a whole hour earlier. Yawn. I’m tired. Wait, this take is starting to sound whiny, what can I do to turn this around? You know, I have a choice, I used to be the kind of mom who would stumble out of bed just in time to get the kids up. No more. I have to have the time in the morning to drink my coffee in a stupor, to mumble out a prayer or two, and to do a really bleary eyed attempt at bible study. Lately I have even been able to take a super quick shower and, yes, throw my hair in a pony tail before getting the kids up. I just need to start going to bed earlier, which will make it easier.

7. Please say a prayer for our house to sell. This part always stresses me out. Thank you!

Go see Jen @ Conversiondiary.com for more quick takes!


7 Quick Takes 2014 vol. 18: Moving Right Along

I’ve been M.I.A. around here for the last few weeks. Something had to give and this blog was what gave… among other things. But I’m back and ready to tell you what I have been up to!

1. Once upon a time, less than three weeks ago, we were living here:


and thinking that we would probably be spending another few months there at least. Our search for a house closer (than our current 18 miles) to school was looking less and less likely.

2. Then there was this email. From our wonderful Realtor. There was a house available and it was actually bigger than our current house. Just about everything else that had come down the pike had been pitifully small, at least for a house where 8-10 people would live. So we went and looked and fell immediately in love. In a whirlwind of days we found ourselves packing up and moving, just 9 days after looking at the house for the first time.

Do you see why I haven’t blogged? Packing up a house and moving lickity split is no small thing. But we did it!

3. No I am not going to post pictures of the new place, yet anyway. The new place is halfway unpacked, but the bulk of our energy is going towards getting the old house ready to go on the market. That house was well loved, in the beat up looking teddy bear sense of the phrase. But the new house is great! We even have a play room! I am so delighted!

4. Painting is the main work right now. We are painting about 90% of the interior of the old house.


In our spare time.

Stop laughing. We are seriously doing this in our spare time. Sometimes someone can watch the little kids, sometimes they come along and “help”. A couple friends even donated most of a Saturday to come and paint with us. Thank you again, SJP!

Allow me to confess this: I am a messy painter. My husband cringes when he see me carrying the stuff. I am also a messy cook, so maybe those two are related. So, pray for my dear husband, please. Not only is he working tons of hours these days, in the blazing heat, but he is also dealing with whole house to paint and a wife who can be a little too expressive with her roller flinging. He’s being really awesome about it though.



5. Today we finished the master bedroom. Like really finished. There is no more painting to do in there, so I got to rip up the paper and plastic that covered the floor.


It was less satisfying than I expected. Sort of like unwrapping a Christmas present, but way more work.


And little stubborn bits of tape that nearly made me crazy. My knees are not as good at crawling as they once were. But we are slowly but surely making progress.

6. And then there was dinner. An old friend, who is kind of like a new friend, brought us a lovely dinner tonight. She offered to bring it when I stopped by her house to pick up the microwave she gave us when our new one blew up smoked a lot and smelled like it was burning. And with dinner were these:


Beautiful flowers (posed by the microwave, of course!) and gluten free, egg free cupcakes that even my husband could eat! Thank you TM!

7. And all this happened in the nick of time because school craziness begins this coming week! Bookstore, registration days, meet the teacher nights… so much. The last precious days of summer are slipping through my fingers as we speak. Even in all of this, it will be easier, we are closer to school and all of our activities. I am so thankful right now.

Thanks for catching up with me! For more Quick Takes, go see Jen@ConversionDiary!