Gratitude for the Week

Don't laugh!  I know you are laughing.  It's pretty hard not to. I told him I thought we should put the Pokemon brand symbol on the back just so people know what he is and he said, "Mom everyone will know I'm Lugia, DUH!"

I am so grateful for this sweet little boy.

Oh, tell me I will miss Halloween costume sewing one day. I need to hear it!


A Regatta

Abbey's fall crew season is over.  I was only able to attend two regattas-boy are those long days!-but I have to say, as much as I feared the busy-ness of nightly practices, and the travel (thank goodness for my sister-in-law who helped us out tremendously), I love the sport.  It takes so much concentration and discipline and team work, (which means patience and tolerance), but also brute strength.

boat unloading early in the morning---and I'm talking early....6 a.m.  we had to leave at 3 a.m. to get there in time

his 3rd cup of hot chocolate.  

abbey in the middle with the navy headband rowing to the starting line

beautiful background

she is cute (and happy because they came in 5th out of 26)


Apple Bars

This a nice easy recipe-no mixer!  The bars were gone in seconds at my house.

1 cup sifted flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chopped apple (any kind)

For topping:
1 TBS white sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350.
Grease 9x9 inch pan.
Sift together dry flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.
In a large bowl mix together melted butter, brown sugar, and 1/2 cup white sugar with a wooden spoon till smooth.
Stir in egg and vanilla.
Blend in flour mixture until just combined, then add apples.
Spread the mixture evenly in pan.
In a small cup stir together sugar and cinnamon for topping and sprinkle evenly over top.

Bake for 25 minutes in oven.  Cool in pan and cut into squares.

Great with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.


Ordinary Days

A busy evening.

Abbey is so strong from crew.  I really thought that crew would be a sort of wimpy sport till I saw and heard what they have to do every day.  What a workout.  She rows miles and miles either on the boat or on a machine called an erg (I think that's what it's called?).  And then she comes home and eats like a horse.

Have you decided on Halloween costumes yet?  I bought the cutest dinosaur costume for Patrick.  Yes, I BOUGHT, not made.  I don't think I could pull off dinosaur sewing.  Andrew thought he wanted to be this Pokemon trainer above and thank goodness I knew better to start working on it, because of course he changed his mind after a week.  

This was last year, after Jeff's first marathon.  I am reminded of this because our good friend Dave just ran his first and what an accomplishment that is.  I remember, as a wife, thinking, OK this is over, now no more 2 hour runs!  Dave and his wife have 6 children and I am sure his wife is thinking the same thing. Jeff hasn't run one since, but I have a feeling he will again.   

Found this in the garage where the neighbor kids and Andrew play.  Isn't that cute?

Last year I noticed 1/2 of my Little People were missing.  I searched high and low for those poor guys and couldn't find them anywhere.  SOMEONE put them in the Quirkle game, and there they were all year long.  Reunited at last.

I have to recover my kitchen chairs that are thread-bare and stained.  Why is it becoming more and more difficult for me to make one simple decision?  I would go with the same checked pattern, but it has long been discontinued.  How boring would that be?  Thank goodness I can't.  That is just one choice above and it doesn't really match my kitchen but isn't it pretty?


A Conscious Pace

Over the last 18 years of parenting I have made many mistakes.  I used to (oh, I still do sometimes) beat myself up about them, but then I realized how unproductive that was.  I began to see, somewhere along the line, the gift in the mistake.  The gift being the chance to learn more about myself, and my children and what works for me and my family.

One of the most important tidbits of education that came out of a few of my mistakes is the acceptance of myself...my strengths and weaknesses.  I did something hard:  instead of beating myself up, I looked at myself objectively, and analyzed WHY I goofed up, and how I could change it.  No judgments, just self-analysis.  No "how stupid of me", just "what did I do wrong and how can I change so I don't repeat the pattern over and over again."  It's a scary thing to do, who wants to critique themselves?- but once I started practicing this, letting the emotion go and looking back objectively, I began to feel so much more self-acceptance.  I stopped comparing myself to others, and started getting in touch with my spirit.  Sure, there are some things about myself that I needed to work on-I am a firm believer in self-improvement, but there were other things that I realized I would just have to say, "That's the way I am wired and I must embrace it."

One of the things I have had to accept is my need for a quiet, focused family life.  I tried for years and years to create balance with work, obligations, and family.  I tried for years to keep up with the pace I see many mothers handle.  I would hear about "juggling" many things at once, and would wonder, "Why am I such a terribly awful juggler?"  I would attempt again and again to keep plates in the air, I would compare myself to others who seemed to do a wonderful job at it, I would be envious at their juggling skills, and time and time again, I would fail.  Fail meant exhaustion, fail meant guilt at what I felt was unfocused attention to my family, fail meant a general feeling of malaise at what I felt was a half-way job at everything I was trying to accomplish, fail meant a jumbled brain that never felt peace.  After several attempts I decided that all this juggling just wasn't for me. I had some hard moments that were little wake up calls.

Once I volunteered to be a co-leader of my daughter's Daisy Scout group.  I had 3 children when I volunteered, and was in the early months of pregnancy during that year.  It was a disaster from the start.  I really thought, "What is one little meeting once a week? I can handle that!"   I couldn't.  It seemed to roll around so quickly, and I never felt like I was fully prepared.  I was sick and exhausted with the pregnancy. I was running to the craft store for this and that, and then showing up at the meeting with a little one in tow.  One day that little one went missing in all the chaos and was found half way across the church parking lot.  That wasn't even the kicker.  The kicker was getting home each day, with a whiny toddler who was hungry, my older son who had homework that he needed help with, and my daughter, who halfway through the year told me she wished she hadn't even joined.  It was really a disaster from start to finish.  I would be snappy and crabby, and spent and unfriendly when my husband walked in the door a few minutes later.  I was impatient with my children, I was plain old mean.  I would go to bed feeling bad, and honestly, (remember, honesty is the key!) I deserved to feel guilty.  But I hated the feeling of guilt.  I hated the feeling that I took out my frustrations on my children and my husband.    So I knew I had to change something.  I realized that this sort of commitment wasn't for me.  I didn't enjoy it, and I could see it wasn't benefiting any of us.

Children have little or no say in the way we set up their lives for them, and in the pace we set for them, and in the way these things effect how we react to them.  What children really want, I think, is a calm, settled, predictable home life.  A mother who is not frazzled, angry, stressed, or impatient.  A mother who in in tune to their needs.  Parents who aren't arguing because they both are occupied and don't have time to communicate properly.   I began to realize that being a Daisy Scout mother was far less important than being a nice mother.  I began to realize that joining a travel sports team that had us missing dinner every night and separated on the weekends, was giving far less an advantage to our son than spending time with his parents and siblings.  I began to realize that bringing in a little extra income wasn't worth the amount of stress it brought to all of our lives.

I had so many other experiences like this, as I tried something new, and realized that once again, it wasn't working.  I knew what I wanted more than anything was less "gasket blowing" days, and more calm, joyful days.

I decided to look at my good days with my children, the days I really felt like I was an attentive happy mother and wife, and analyze the circumstances that created that day.  I also decided to look at the bad days, and find a common denominator.  I came to realize that many of those days, I had planned just too much.   I started noticing the good days had a slower rhythm to them, a day when I wasn't rushed to get in to the car to go here or there or anywhere.  Sure, some bad days are just bad days from things we can't control...sick kids, sleepless nights, just a funky day, or a hard stage in family life.  But many times the choices we have made determine the pace we set.  I started making conscience decisions about the tempo I wanted to establish for my family because I had enabled myself to see what worked for us.  FOR US.  Not for my friend and her children, not because I had read in magazine I should be doing this and that for my children's social growth, not because I couldn't say no without feeling guilty.

Some of those choices were refreshing and easy.  Others were bittersweet and brave.  After my third child was born, I decided to close a business I had built over the previous years.  It was going like gangbusters, I was able to work when my husband was at home and it was lucrative.  It seemed silly to walk away from it, from the outside eye, I'm sure.  But I knew for sure it was what I had to do to be able to focus on my family like I wanted to.  I knew that I would be happier with less...less money, but more than anything, also much less responsibility.  My brain felt overcrowded...and what was getting crowded out were the things that really mattered.

As I began to open my eyes to how I could be the best mother for my children, I could see the bigger picture.  I had been comparing myself to other moms who seemed to handle so much smoothly, but I realized that maybe they had the skills or support to handle more, or just had made different decisions that didn't sit right with my conscience.  Maybe they were in the same growth stage I had been and that big whammy of a lesson hadn't happened yet.

I also realized that every brain works differently.  My husband is wonderful at compartmentalizing his different roles.  His brain I think, has little rooms with doors, and when he walks out of one room so to speak, into another, he can slam that door and all the stress, deadlines, responsibility stay shut in there.  My brain doesn't have doors, heck it doesn't have walls.   I  feel all the stress from all the responsibilities all the time.  Stress effects how we act every day and I realized that when I felt really happy and content I choose to do one thing, and one thing well.  Sure, there could be other little (LITTLE!) things mixed up with all that, but I wanted to dedicated most of that space to be the best mother and wife I could be which was more important to me than anything else.  By discovering and acknowledging and then accepting the way I am wired-my low stress threshold, my brain with no doors and walls-that acceptance moved me forward-out of guilt and comparisons, and into the empowering ability to make strong choices for my family.

This journey of self-knowledge is not over I am sure.  I have decades of more mistakes ahead of me as my family changes and evolves over time.  We have all the signs we need when something is not right...our spirits, when we are still, will tell us. Our children, in their behavior, in their little tender, purely good souls will show us if they are thriving or just surviving the lives we are forcing them to lead.  Our marriage, our relationships, will become smooth sailing , or angry resentment.  Knowing and accepting myself, and knowing my deep desire to fulfill the dream of how I want these years of motherhood to look for me, allows me to see the big picture, and make brave changes in the little snapshots of everyday life.


Keeping Pace

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity.  The pace has been way too fast for me.   I have been beating myself up thinking, "What a joke, I write about slowing down on my blog and here I am running full might into every day, trying hard just to keep up."

But the truth is, no matter how I want my ideal life to look, some days, some weeks, some months, and yes, even years, require us to move at a faster rate than we'd like.  Here we have had two sports in full swing with nightly practices and long weekend competitions. College hunting, testing, and applications required lots of work for us-for Isaac especially, but we logged hours and hours in the car, and there were so many tight deadlines that we had to work together to keep each other straight.  Required school meetings, necessary appointments-just little mandatory obligations that seemed to all hit at the same time, made for only a few blank days on the calendar.

Motherhood requires much of us.  We might go from long, lonely, sometimes boring, sometimes heavenly days that last forever, to days that are so full we can hardly keep up.  Our minds race, our heads spin.  Some choose this hurried pace, but sometimes it's not always the choices we make-sometimes it just comes with the territory of being a parent.

I ran into a friend the other day and had a chance to catch up.  Her third baby, a little boy, needed extensive surgeries after birth.  This required her to be in a different city from her two little girls and she drove back and forth as much as she could, trying to be the best mother to everyone.  At the same time she and her husband, were in the middle of a move.  Now no one in her right mind would plan for all that to happen at once.  I am sure there were times when she felt torn in different directions.  I am sure there were times when she wondered if she had enough to give.  I am sure there were times when she snapped or when she sobbed.  But I could also tell that now, when things were somewhat settled, she felt enormous relief and was able to look back with some pride at what she, as a mother, was able to endure.  She slowed down, brought her family back together, and reestablished as normal as a life as she possible could after that strong rally.  In fact when I saw her, she had her husband by her side, her two girls next to her, and her baby in the stroller, out for a slow walk to a beautiful park.  She looked tired, but she looked happy also.

Over the years I have learned that the key to regaining my equilibrium when life gives me much to handle all at once is to readjust quickly.  Right now I have an adrenaline rush from the last few weeks, but I know that I need to right myself and my family, pull back and slow down.  I said no recently to some things that required my time in the near future, and as hard as that was, and as bad as I felt, I know that the next few months will require a lot of me here at home.  I don't want to rush the holidays...those are precious, beautiful times with my family-times that I can't get back.

I know how I parent the best. It's not when I am exhausted and frantic, or when my head is full to the brim with dates and deadlines.  It's not when I feel like I'll never catch up, or when I feel like I can't stop to enjoy my children, because I need to prepare for the next hour, the next day, the next week.

I also know that without a deep desire to keep a pace that I feel is best for all of us-a slow, steady, sensible pace-I would be flailing in the wind.  Or more accurately, just swimming along with the current that seems to be the rage...running from here to there, out and about constantly, with no real sense of a home base.  My children don't thrive in that environment, especially the younger ones.  Children can cope and adjust to just about anything, and learning those skills is required in times that push us.  Like I said, we have to rally sometimes and life is not always predictable.  In the long run though, I want more for my children than just coping and adjusting.   I want peaceful minds, and rested bodies.  I want family time, predictability, and routine in all our lives. I want a quiet joy.


Ordinary Days

Someone (well that's a hard one!) made some new permanent marker lines all over our back-of-the-basement-door family growth chart.  I guess it will just add to the memories?

 My autumn staples: the crock pot full of dinner and apple pie for dessert. 

We have had so much rain in the last few weeks. I don't really mind because we didn't get much all summer.

I made old-fashioned white bread in my  breadmaker and then declared at dinner that it was a grilled cheese night.  I love an easy dinner don't you?  I need that break once in awhile.

The leaves are officially falling.

Abbey spent the night at a regatta last weekend and when I went to wake up Andrew for cross country I did a double-take when I walked by Abbey's room.  This little guy told me that his room was "haunted" the night before and he couldn't fall asleep in his own bed.

Those are my two brothers and this is my favorite picture of them.  Andy is on the left, Joe is on the right.  Andy lives in Ireland with his wife and little baby boy, and Joe flies for Marine One.  Earlier this year Joe had an assigned trip over to Ireland and they had a chance to meet up.  Aren't they handsome?  And guess what?  They are nice too.  
Here is my second favorite picture of them. 


Gratitude for the Week

What I am grateful for this week:

1. Isaac is 17 and still takes time (and enjoys!) to play with Patrick every single day.  We have a whole year before he leaves for college and I just don't want to think about that right now so let's not.

2. A few fall sports are winding down the next week, and I am grateful that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel: less rushed dinners, less driving, less busy weekends.  I feel like my head is going to spin off, honestly I do.

3. My best friend Renee who always gives me great sensible advice and takes time to listen to me blab on and on about just about everything.  I don't know what I'd do with out her.



I have always wanted to have silhouettes of the children, and once even entertained the idea of making them myself.  I wanted them to be perfect though, so quickly decided that my lack of patience, time and cutting and pasting skills wasn't going to reach anywhere near perfection.

I wanted simple and classic and quality.  I found this shop on Etsy.

I made the kids line up after school and snapped some photos of their profiles and sent them off.

Here is a tip:  Get them sideways and then ask them to turn their head a little towards you...you want to see a little bit of the eyelashes on the opposite eye if possible.  And also get their shoulders in that photo!

When I received the package in the mail a week or two later I was so nervous.  Would I like them?  

I LOVE them. They are perfect.  And I mean perfect.  The paper is top quality, they are cut so accurately, they are mounted beautifully on thick water color paper.  (No one is paying me to say this just so you know!) 

(There is a better picture of my line-up in the Etsy shop.)

And now I just have to decide on frames, matting, and where they will hang.  Hopefully that will just take me weeks, not years.