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.

AAAAARRRGGGGHHHHHH!!!

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!

Look at Me, I’m 43!

Look at Me, I'm

 

1. Happy Birthday to me, I am 43! That rhymes so well, I might actually sing in out loud. So obviously I am 43 today, which seems kind of old. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with being in my forties, but it is way more love than I ever expected. Here you go, in list form.

2. I don’t feel nearly as bound by silly, unimportant rules, which is why I made the intro to this post number 1. 43 things is a lot, so I needed to use up a number when I could.

3. When I was in high school I was sure that life would be officially boring and “over” by the time I was 24. How wrong I was.

4. While I still feel like a shy child, I care a lot less about what other people think, so I am more willing to just go ahead and do something crazy like ask for directions or converse with the cashier at the grocery store.

5. I thought I would feel more accomplished by this time in my life. But at least now I am pretty sure that most people feel at least similarly to how I do in this. I look ahead at what is yet to be done, not behind me at what I have and have not done.

6. I thought my 40s would feel older.

7. I’m very glad they don’t.

8. It bothers me that society as a whole seems to frown on and laugh at women who are past their 30s. Unless of course they look like they are still 20, then anything goes. It’s demeaning to say “woman of a certain age” because what people mean by that is a cranky, hormonal, aging woman. Okay maybe the first two don’t fit some of the official descriptions, but it is still kind of a snidely used label. Maybe I fit the description, but it is still rude.

9. When my first child started school I was the youngest mommy in the bunch. Now I am among the oldest. This kind of stinks socially. All the young mommies do their thing and hang out. But then I guess you have time to do that when your oldest child is in kindergarten.

10. The social issue doesn’t really bother me, since I wouldn’t have time to hang out anyway. I have great friends and though we seldom talk and even more rarely see each other, it never feels like any times has passed when we do get together.

11. Being the older mom means that all the school volunteer sign ups are usually filled before I have a chance to read them. This is good news for me, not so good news for my little one who so desperately wants me to go on a field trip with her.

12. Now I just say, “We’ll go to the zoo on our own and have more fun anyway.”

13. I am no longer willing to attend optional events that I don’t find interesting or fun. I could be home reading a book or other nicer things.

14. I have friends who have had heart attacks or other health problems that are at least marginally age related.

15. This has been a wake up call to me. I am trying to take better care of myself, not to be skinnier or wear cuter clothes (although I won’t complain if that happens) but to keep up my health, make my life one of quality, and feel more energetic.

16. This includes eating better, getting some exercise, and trying desperately to reduce stress.

17. I enjoy exercise way more than I did as a child. I was the kid who was always last picked on the team because I ran slowly and couldn’t catch a ball.

18. Now I run as much for my mental health as for my physical health. It is just a half hour a few times a week where I don’t think about anything but the rhythm of my steps and breathing in and out.

19. I have children who are my friends. They call and talk to me on purpose, they listen to what I have to say, and they tell me about their lives. When I had 4 small children and couldn’t even get the dishes done every day, I never saw this wonderful reward coming.

20. I still have small children who make getting the dishes done difficult. But now it really doesn’t worry me as much.

21. As far as housecleaning goes, I sometimes let things slide, but less often than I used to, because I have learned the price of lowered standards. Now I have help not only in making the mess, but also cleaning it up. Sometimes.

22. But you will still find dirty dishes in my sink and dust bunnies on my floor and I won’t care that you saw them. Usually.

23. I have rediscovered the joys of good fiction. I spent most of my thirties immersed in nonfiction books about being more organized or more healthy or whatever. I want my children’s minds to be steeped in stories, so I am doing the same for my own.

24. Stories help life make more sense.

25. I still reread The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia about every other year.

26. Laundry isn’t torture. There are other things I would rather do, but it is kind of a meditative chore, and the kids usually leave me alone while I do it (lest they be sent to put some of it away).

27. My car is usually cleaner than it was when I was younger. I just don’t like having to move things to put my purse or water bottle down.

28. Does that make me grumpy?

29. Maybe I should take a nap. I like naps now, or even just putting my feet up.

30. Dining out is a different experience than when I was younger. Most chain restaurants are sort of boring, except for a choice few, and while I might still grab something at fast food from time to time, Denny’s is no longer appealing at all. See how discerning my tastes have become?

31. I only go to the mall if I have to buy something. But when I go, I still love to walk around and look at stuff.

32. Buying clothes for my children is much funner than buying clothes for myself. I can always count on the clothing looking good on them.

33. This means most of my clothing is bought on the fly at Target. And my wardrobe stays pretty limited.

34. But I don’t care as much as I once did. As long as I have something to wear that looks like it is in good shape, I am usually pretty happy. Oh, and it has to fit.

35. I currently own clothing in 3 different sizes.

36. I’m always a little embarrassed when I walk into Target and realize that I am dressed head to toe in Target clothing.

37. My body is not what I thought it would be at this age. It is both better and worse.

38. It is better because it can do and has done amazing things. Like growing and birthing 9 children.

39. My body impresses me with what it can do with regards to exercise. I may have a long way to go, but my body is strong and ready for the journey!

40. I am frustrated with all the soft jiggly parts of my body. I wish I had the body I had years ago when I thought I was fat.

41. Still, even though my shape is not one I am very proud of, you will find me out and about, going to the store or dropping my children off in ridiculous looking workout clothes. I am more interested in making it easy to work out than in looking great.

42. A pony tail is still my favorite hairstyle to wear.

43. Here I am at number 43 and there is still so much to tell! I love my husband more than I ever thought possible and we are still constantly learning about each other and ways to be together.

I am a writer. I used to be afraid to say those words out loud because I didn’t have an officially published thing to show for it. But I write. A lot. And I think about writing a lot and am always trying to be a better writer.

I have nine children, and they take up a good portion of my heart, but I no longer let them define who I am as a person. I lost a lot of years to that. Those were good years, but they could have been better if I had given myself more room to breathe.

Jesus is my best friend. When people ask me “How do you do it?” I might not say it out loud but I am definitely thinking, Jesus carries me through every moment of every day. I am not always such a good friend to Him. I am distractible and self centered. He is still with me every moment.

I am interested in politics and things going on around the world. But you will seldom hear me discuss it. I know my mind and my ideas. I read what I can and find out more – even reading some opposing ideas.

Each day I realize more that I love being in my 40s. I have some complex stresses in my life, but they are more than balanced out by the fact that the world is an amazing place. I do not have time to be afraid to do the things I want to do. My family is by my side and there is always something to laugh about or someone to hug. This is my life, and I am so thankful God put me in it. Thank you, too, Jay, for being by my side and making it even better.

One more thing, here I am –

IMG_3059.JPG

 

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!

Listless

 

Listless

I am always on the look out for a good way to organize all the things. All the time, all the events, all the jobs, all the relationships… I just grasp at ways to organize the things in my life so I don’t feel so messy inside. When I am feeling stressed, my first reaction is to sit down and list all the things I need to do, in the order I need to do them, in a schedule showing me exactly when they will get done and how long they will take.

While making this kind of crazy list usually calms me down a little bit, I think it may be more because I go and hide to do it, and therefore get a little time alone. The list itself stresses me out and is just one more thing that I need to take into account as I juggle my way through the day.

There was one time when I had everything together – I was about 7 months pregnant with our third child. I was following the Sidetracked Home Executives plan, index cards and all. For a short space of time I got all my housework done before 9am, my house was clean, my laundry caught up, and I had time for playdates and crafts. I only had one child in school a the time, in Kindergarten, and one home with me all day, but old enough to play by himself for a while. Bliss. I was a Good Mom then; everything was under control.

And then our third child was born. She was a nice quiet newborn, but she started crying when she was two weeks old and I don’t think she stopped for six straight months. I have never been on top of things again. That was 19 years ago.

I grasp at these plans and books like some kind of lifeline. Surely someone can help me make sense of my own chaos! There was Sidetracked Home Executives, Sink Reflections (FlyLady), MotivatedMoms, Getting Things Done, Maximize Your Mornings, and many more I have blocked from my memory. Sometimes I would combine parts of different plans to try to get the right fit. Each time I would take time from my family to work out the whole system on paper or on the computer. Then I would sit my long-suffering husband down and tell him, “This is how we are going to do things now. We were disorganized and doing things wrong before but now I know better. All we have to do is follow these specific steps and we will have peace and cleanliness.” I don’t think I ever said it exactly like that, but whatever I said sounded just as insane. He would nod and do everything in his power to learn the new system.

Some systems last for a year or more, some fizzle out in less than a week.

I have most recently been following Mystie Winckler’s Declutter Your Head & Organize Your Home, which sounds like it is the perfect fit for a cluttered mind like mine. Except that it was making me crazy just like every other plan out there.

After spending more than three hours last week, again making my own amalgamation of plans and lists, I said enough is enough. As I looked at my new plan, I realized that all it did was to make me feel stress and feelings of failure. I can never do all the things I need to do in a day. Putting them on a list is just a way to beat myself with it at the end of the day.

So, at least temporarily, I am fasting from to-do lists, household systems, and books on self help of organizing. Just to be totally honest, I have a to-do list for out of the ordinary things I need to do, like make signs for an event at school. But I went through that list and wiped out all the due dates. If there is something that needs to happen at a certain time. I will set a reminder on my calendar.

I am going to trust myself to not forget to take care of my family and house.

Whoa. This is just so revolutionary for me. I am not trying to quantify the work I get done in a day. The vacuuming will get done, the bathroom cleaned, even if it is not at perfectly spaced intervals. I know for a fact that I work my bum off every day, even on the days I sit down and take a break for a few minutes. I might not be able to remember what I did at the end of the day, but I now for a rock solid fact that if I hadn’t done it, people would notice. I am, for the most part, taking a break from goals. I have some things I am working on, but all the deadlines are gone for now.

This free-from-list living only began a few days ago, but I already feel less stressed. I also feel that familiar itch to just pick up a book and find a solution to just fix things.

Those books and systems I listed are all good resources, they might be help that someone else needs. This isn’t a diatribe against them. I have learned many things from them, and I know that some of that is still incorporated in what I do on a daily basis. I had become addicted to measuring myself by what I could do.

Part of my wake up call was recognizing the tight, stressed feeling this planning system left me with. Part of it was finding myself thinking about mercy. The verse I am learning is “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) Just like I could never get to Heaven without God’s mercy, the job I have here on earth is beyond me. If I give myself some mercy, maybe I can lean in to God’s mercy with more trust. Showing myself mercy may actually be good practice in giving mercy to others.

7 Quick Takes 2014 vol 25: Clutter Blind

IMG_2996.JPG

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_3022.JPG

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!”

IMG_3007.JPG

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:

IMG_2984.JPG

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!
Follow my blog with Bloglovin

The Older Brother

The_church_of_St_Peter_and_St_Paul_-_stained_glass_-_geograph.org.uk_-_715050

I was very young when I first tasted the bitter pall of resentment. My first clear memory of its beginnings was when I was about six and my sister was three. Our family went to a gathering at another family’s farm — the lovely kind where there are lots of adults sitting around and talking, more food than we could all eat in a week, and bunches of happy children with plenty of room to run around.

We children began a game of tag, running around an open field. I was “it” a few times, and had a hard time catching anyone, but I played the game and did my best. And I think the older children probably let me tag them just to keep the game fun. There came a time when my sister was tagged and it was her turn to be “it”. Her response was to run to my parents, crying all the way, tattling on the older kids for their “meanness”.

My dad came stomping out and scolded us for treating her badly. He told us that she could play, but she didn’t have to be “it” at all.

As an adult, I realize that the poor kid was only three. Practically a baby. But what my six year old self saw was that my sister didn’t have to play by the same rules. Whereas I had to work hard to be part of the fun, she got the fun without the work.

This episode probably stands out in my mind because it was part of a much larger pattern. My sister is mentally ill, and there were signs from when she was very small. But it was a different time then, there were no resources for things like that, and it certainly wasn’t something that was discussed openly.

Growing up, I never knew something was wrong, I just knew that my sister was given a different set of rules to live by than I had. Over and over these moments dipped my heart in resentment. I felt slighted, like the game was set to my disadvantage.

Because of this, the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) has always been a hard one for me to swallow.

I totally understand where the older brother was coming from. He did all the right things! He stayed, didn’t ask for his inheritance early. He was working while his younger brother partied! And if the younger brother was back on good terms, that would mean that he would probably have to split his inheritance with him again. Maybe that is just speculation, but I know in his place that would have crossed my mind.

Any time this story comes up as the gospel reading or in bible study, I get a little grumpy. How does the older brother end up being the one in the wrong? Sure, he has kind of a chip on his shoulder, but who wouldn’t?

I try to remember that I am really the younger brother here. I do things all the time to waste the grace that was poured on me. I am a sinner and doing things that should lose my inheritance each and every day. It helps a little to think about that, but it doesn’t really fix the heart issue going on here. I still know so deeply the resentment the older brother felt. It clings to me, and I am afraid I sometimes cling to it as well.

I don’t even remember where I read it, but there came a time when I stumbled upon a discovery about this passage that changed my perception of it completely. The older brother refused to come in the house when he saw the big celebration that was being thrown for his brother.

“He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him. – Luke 15:28

Did you catch that last part? His father came out and pleaded with him. He went out to him in much the same way he had gone out to meet his younger brother.

Oh.

When I am feeling the part of the older brother, I have to look around and see the gifts and graces that are mine, and remember that the Father has come out to me, to welcome me and invite me in. I have the choice to stay angry and cold or to let my heart melt and accept His love. Sometimes that is much clearer than trying to connect myself with the younger brother, knowing that the older one is standing to the side seething. The older brother has his moment of conversion and humility too, and so do I.

Originally posted at Catholic Stand 5.29.2014

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?”

IMG_2979.JPG

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…

IMG_2981.JPG

… 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!

9 Hours a Week

"Wooden hourglass 3" by User:S Sepp - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wooden_hourglass_3.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Wooden_hourglass_3.jpg

I am now the proud owner of 9 hours of all-to-myself time every week. 3 hours, 3 days a week, minus about half an hour for driving each day, so that is an hour and a half lost. Still, that means I have 7.5 hours a week.

  • I thought I might join a gym.
  • I thought I might start running again.
  • I thought I might keep the house clean and the shopping up to date.
  • I thought I might organize our belongings and declutter the house.
  • I thought I would take all of our files paperless.
  • I thought I might go window shopping.
  • I thought I might write more.
  • I thought I might start selling my rosaries again and open an Etsy store.
  • I thought I might take up piano again.
  • I thought I might go back to school (which proved too expensive.)
  • If I couldn’t go back to school I thought I might just read through a bunch of classics.
  • I thought I might check facebook just one more time…

All in 7.5 hours per week. I think I need a reality check.

What I realized on a retreat a few weeks ago is that I have been running on empty – or less than empty, actually going into energy-debt, for years now. I need to learn how to stop and breathe. I need to refill my inner tank so that I can better fill the tanks of my husband and children. I will dabble in many of the above things I listed, but when people ask me what I am going to do with myself now that I have all this time the answer will probably be “Not much.”

Just Show Up

 

20130715-084527.jpg

This is hardly the most controversial topic of our time, but I have heard complaints on both sides of the fence on it. Jeans in Mass: yes or no?

As a family, we have always had a sort of dress code for mass. The girls have to wear dresses or skirts of reasonable length. After first communion, no bared shoulders; sundresses need a sweater over them. Boys have to wear a collared shirt and nice pants or shorts. Then after third grade, no shorts.

Everyone is supposed to wear dress shoes and appropriate socks, girls can wear nice sandals, but there are times when crocs were the only shoes available so we had to go with those. I try to follow the dress code as much as possible myself, although I am more likely to wear dress pants simply because they are safer for toddler wrangling.

Some other families I know have a much more relaxed idea about what to wear to mass, and some are much more stringent. My friends and I have discussed what we wear to mass and why, and I have always found it interesting to hear the reasons people have for their ideas on clothing that is appropriate for mass.

I chose our dress code because I felt that was helpful in setting the mass aside as something special and different, but I have also often found it burdensome at times. I have heard people argue for more casual clothing in mass, saying that we should be able to “Just Show Up” and not worry about the extra stress of a particular set of clothing.

There have been times, especially recently, when I felt like getting dressed up for mass was more than I could handle, but I felt guilty arriving just as I was at the time. Once my focus shifted from why I was going to mass to what we were all wearing there, I knew it was time to reexamine my theories on our attire.

First and foremost, the mass is about connecting with and receiving Jesus. No matter what I wear, I need to remember that and teach my children as well. But there are other things to consider:

1. Getting dressed for mass changes my behavior and mindset. (and it shouldn’t be changing into a state of rage that the shoes are lost…) The body reflects and influences the mind and heart.

2. It sets the mass aside from cleaning house and chasing kids and <insert whatever else you do here>. This feels different and it takes effort to be different.

3. It can be an expression of respect. If I were going to meet a very important person face to face, I would probably change out of my grungy t-shirt, jeans, and tennies. Doesn’t Jesus deserve at least that?

However, I have found lately, in a time of stress, that I needed to let some of those ideals go. I needed to just show up and let my presence at mass be the expression of my love. We moved, fixed up a house, and had a bunch of kids start school all in the space of a month, and mini-crises were flinging themselves at me at every turn. I hit a point when showing up was all I could do. So I released my ideals and went to mass in jeans.

What we wear to mass is only part of the story. Just showing up is fine at times, I think. It is a little like spiritual camping. We take things down to their very basic level and do what we can to live our relationship with Jesus from there.

But we can’t stay there. Just showing up should be a temporary state. Camping might be nice, but we can get a whole lot more done – in both work and enjoyment – in our usual elements.

Whether or not I choose to wear jeans to mass, there has to be some step beyond just showing up. That will mean different things for different people. Studying the readings, spending some time praying before the Blessed Sacrament, getting involved in a ministry, and introducing yourself to someone in the community are all ways to do more than just show up.

For me, during this stressful time, I knew I needed to focus on the readings a little more than usual and pray with them. I needed to quiet my spirit, and taking my focus off my clothes helped with that.

If you find that time after time, showing up is the most you can do at mass, keep coming! Keep showing up! You are still a needed an vital part of the Church. But don’t be afraid to reach out, to find help to move beyond that.

Jesus accepted and rejoiced when the widow gave her penny, it was all she could do at the time. But he asked the rich man for much more. What is He asking of you now? Is it all the effort you can give to get to mass? Or is He asking you to stretch yourself and go beyond  your usual experience of your faith? Ask those questions often, and He will show you how to grow.

You have to start somewhere, though, so by all means, just show up!

But don’t only show up.

Originally posted on Catholic Stand 8.21.2014