Red Gatorade and Face "Fime"

Eating our breakfast eggs.  I am going strong on Whole30 and love it. Jeff asked me what is one thing I could eat off the plan and I said, "Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate" and he said, "Do you want to take some time to think about it?"  But honestly I feel SO much better I don't miss anything that much.

Working out with me.

Face "fiming" Abbey. Janey asks to facetime Abbey and Isaac every night. One morning she woke up and said, "Did Abbey leave? Did Abbey leave?" because she was having some sort of dream about her. So sweet.

I put some chicken on the grill for lunch and went up "just to straighten upstairs really quick".  Darn. I should know better.

Tea party. She asks all day long to sit with her at this little table and play. 

I am going to soak up the baby cheeks and lips as long as I can.

And thankfully I don't have a picture of this (that would be weird) but we had a stomach bug (knock on wood, only one child) who drank a red Gatorade at a relative's house the night before he was sick in a nice trail from his bed to our bed.  I have never been a Gatorade buyer but from this point on I have announced that red Gatorade will never be consumed by any member of my family till I am dead in the ground. I worked on that stain forever and I am now calling in professional help.

A reader sent me this lovely article. It is wonderful to read this message. My Dad worked two jobs for a long long long time so we could manage while my mom stayed home. I love how this mother is so appreciative of this.  I wish a story like this would be published every month on the front page of every newspaper.

I love this. I have been thinking about this quote from the article:
"My husband and I had similar values — we talked a lot about what was best for our children and the decisions we made, we made together. It was never about what we read, what the new research showed, or what other parents were doing. It was about our own children and what we thought was best."

I will link to this article also, because it's one of my favorites on sticking our heads in the sand and I think it's the right message.  

"We cannot properly tend to our God given duties when we are trying to solve the world’s problems by debating others online.  Or shushing a 4-year-old’s joy over a newly painted picture because we are engrossed in a news article.  As we fill our time with researching these disturbing world events, anxiety crowds out faith, hope and charity at an alarming rate.  We grow tense, short tempered and depressed.  We suddenly realize how out of control we really are.  And how vulnerable.  We get scared.  And our family suffers."

We are doing big work and part of that big work is protecting our moods and our mental clarity and FOCUSING on the task at hand. I really feel like this is key for mothers today. There is too much exposure to experts, articles, experiences, advice.  Too much advice that is NOT homegrown. Too much information in general, and not enough attention at hand.

I also understand the hypocrisy of my words as I link to two articles and type a blog. Of course we all really are "forced" in many ways also to use the internet today. But I have learned I must keep my world very small right now to feel settled and happy. Thank God I know what "normal" feels like since I didn't grow up with all this instantaneous widespread interaction-in the ancient times back then. I feel sorry for my own kid's generation who won't know what that feels like in their brains. I said in my last post I think, that I don't think our brains are meant to process so much information-even if that information is good stuff-about family updates.  It's not all meant to be coming at us at once constantly.

We are in the thick of basketball season with some overlapping indoor soccer but it feels so manageable now that Janey is three. One of my New Year's Resolutions (boy I have a lot) is to do things without rushing NO MATTER WHAT. No matter if we will be late (I hate being late), I will remain calm. I have successful at this almost all the time, but I wonder if it's more just because of the time of my life. 

It was SO SO difficult to be somewhere with a nursing baby or work around a nap schedule etc. I always felt such time pressure and the coordination sometimes made my head spin, and I was so so tired much of the time. I give so much credit to those families that I see in church with new babies. (I have been drooling in church as there are quite a few of chubby babies all around. I look at them coming back from Communion in their mother's arms with envy.  Why are they all dressed in those one piece pajama like outfits that accentuate those chubby baby thighs? Or asleep with their little mouths open and their cheeks squished on their parent's shoulder?  My mouth (and eyes) water.)

I want to remember the difficult things too. I was asked to speak at a mother's group in April and one of the things in the inquiry was that with my spread of ages I can still relate to younger mothers-it's not all this glossed over forgotten time period.  But I have to tell you-it's hard not to forget the baby stuff, the little things because of a broadened perspective of it all because all those days become sweet days. I don't want to though. I want to remember how much work it was raising all these kids-teenagers AND babies. Because it was (and still is sometimes) hard.  HARD. Really really draining. 

I want to remember bouncing on the darn exercise ball at 3 a.m. under the bathroom heater with a baby who was colicky. I want to remember that screaming feeling in my head of stress when the baby would cry in car line and it seemed to take forever and I felt like yelling, "Move it people, don't you know what we are going through in here!" as my heart broke. I want to remember never getting a minute to myself for weeks and weeks and weeks (and months and years.). I want to remember going to the bathroom with a baby carrier on with an infant in it because God forbid I was going to put that baby down and wake him/her up after finally he/she finally fell asleep. I want to remember being so thirsty nursing a new baby that it felt like I was a dried up frog on a summer sidewalk. I want to remember never wearing a cent of makeup for a year or two or three, and if I did probably not taking it off at night, and never having a chance to exercise or even think about it. I want to remember wearing the same old black leggings (this is back in the 90's) for a year before I fit back into anything, and then every baby it was something different-the ONE thing that fit and was comfortable. This last year I have had terrible hip pain that led me to a chiropractor. After x-rays, he told me that the hip I carry babies, toddlers on is lower than the the other one. 21 years of never trading hips, who knew?, will do that. I had to laugh and you know, I don't care. Of all things to have hip pain from, carrying babies is worthy enough, and I wouldn't change a thing. It's a small price to pay.

There are definitely different emotions and duties and strains and stresses with each stage of parenting-and they are all worthy of understanding, all deserve their own validation.  It's not supposed to be easy. We aren't supposed to have time to ourselves all the time, we are supposed to give, give, give.  Give to the point of hurting.  Every mother who has walked the floor at 3 a.m. with a baby in arms and an aching back knows this. 

That's just the beginning isn't it? It's lifetime and it is truly the refiner's fire because it changes us like nothing else could and leads us to such a rich, deep life that we could never have imagined. I read a text from an old co-worker of my husband's-she sent a picture of her first, and she said, "I could never have imagined this feeling, this incredible love." That says it all. It's unimaginable but so so beautiful. It's worth giving everything to. Nothing is more important, and more rewarding than that mother love.


Ordinary Days

It is funny how the more I stay off the computer the more I love staying off the computer. During December and most especially when everyone was out of school I knew I wanted to curb my time down to almost nothing. I also decided I didn't want my Facebook or Instagram accounts anymore as I didn't enjoy them (this is my second rendezvous with Facebook and now I have really learned my lesson-I had to learn my lesson twice-I don't enjoy the pull I feel, and the time suck, and the obligation, and the information that fills my mind with too much non-essential.) When I hit those delete buttons it felt like I just did a deep-clean/clutter purge in my brain and freed up some space in my brain for more important things. It's crazy how that makes me feel calmer and more focused and organized and purposeful.  Apparently I need all the extra brain space I can get. :)

But I do want to keep up on blogging, even if it is only sporadic. It doesn't help that Janey has stopped taking naps-that happened just organically over Christmas break and it was perfect timing.  She goes to bed earlier and sleeps better at night.  But it's always an adjustment for me also, because I lose my reading/computer time, or at least some of it. I haven't finished one book yet since the Tidying Up book I read after Christmas.

On that subject I read this quote from ages ago somewhere and gasped at the truth of it:

"What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. 
Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention."  
Herbert Simon (1940's I believe.)

Isn't that brilliant?

"What are we going to do all day Mom?"  She is in the stage where she stuffs her whole world and anything else she can find into bags. It is hilarious what we find in her back packs and purses.  Missing something? Go find the back pack. 

My mom gave me this towel for Christmas and I love it.  My whole life revolves around food when the college kids are home. Mother of boys-do you ever feed your family a nice big filling dinner and then see them standing with their heads in the fridge 30 minutes after dinner? Because they are hungry again?  How is that possible?  

It IS nice to have them have a great appreciation of my cooking once they have experienced dorm food.  Isaac never complained about dorm food, but Abbey is having a harder time with it...maybe it's the difference in cafeteria offering (I do think some colleges do better than others in this dept.) but she is also calorie conscious and a little picky about healthy food (and lives in fear of the freshman 15) and I don't think there are many choices besides the plainest salad for every meal and who wants that. 

I do notice that the kids eat out a lot at college-gosh, what ever happened to the poor college student? I ate a can of Spaghettios for a meal quite often, and Jeff and I remember "splurging" on a lunch of .99 cent breadsticks with a little extra for sauce as our lunch. Cheap ramen noodles and mac and cheese?  I don't know. Things have changed, I DO know that. (And just for the record our kids have to pay for anything off the meal plan themselves-although we made an agreement this semester with Abbey because she wanted to go down to the lowest meal plan and use the difference for more off-campus healthy food.)  She will be happier I think when she has an apartment kitchen, meanwhile, "make do" is the answer.

Speaking of healthy food-I am going strong on my Whole30. It takes more time for sure, and there is a learning curve, but I have never felt hungry.  Mind control is the key-I don't let my mind wander to all that I am missing.  And once the sugar habit is kicked, and I lose that yearning, it is much easier. 
I wish I could eat chocolate all day long, I will never stop wishing that.
Chocolate is the best food on the planet. (And not healthy dark chocolate, creamy milk chocolate in foil wrappers.)

Janey is my workout partner sometimes (when Jeff is gone in the evening and I can't send Janey upstairs to play). We go in the basement, I do my weight routine, and listen to free Pandora set to Ed Sheeran. I look forward to it every day, really. 

Basketball season! Andrew is #20. These kids are so so cute. He has the best class. They are all so kind to each other. Jeff is his coach along with two other dads.  By the time our kids are all through grade school Jeff will have coached so so many years. I bet he will keep doing it also-let's hope he doesn't get old and cranky. I love that he is always positive and encouraging and never gets mad at the kids no matter what. He works with each one and they have fun. I really hate going to a game and hearing the other coaches get so mad and yell at the kids. (I should add that Jeff "yells" during games but yells plays and reminds the kids who to guard etc, not specific negative yelling at players or the team.) Maybe I'm being too sensitive and the boys can take it but I know I would have felt absolutely awful and never would have wanted to play a sport again if I had a coach get mad at me. It also raises the emotion of everyone in the building and the parents get tense also.  I always picture the kids going home and up to their rooms all dejected and feeling so bad about themselves. Which proves I'm a girl because I'm sure the boys just get over it by the time they get to the car. :)

Abbey went a little crazy packing for winter break, meaning she brought home half her dorm. Her roommate joked (but a little seriously) that she must not be coming back. Half the van was filled! After carrying all that back into the dorm this last weekend, I asked her if she was going to make that same mistake again and she said no.  I felt like I was dropping her off all over again, but this time my mind flashed back to preschool after Christmas break when they got used to being home and don't really want to separate again. She likes it but it's not always easy I don't think-dorm life in general and 19 hours etc. College is more difficult than high school in some ways isn't it?  I think high school is constant little life lessons in your face every day, but college is pressure and stress in different ways.  Planning, choices, organization, tolerance, etc.  

I had to take this picture because our sweet neighbor Mary Carol came over with her Girl Scout cookie sheet and I told everyone to pick a box of what they wanted and she was bombarded with questions and orders and debates about what the order will be. She takes it all in stride and just smiles the whole time of course.

First snow! (I couldn't take a picture outside because I was too cold. I tell the kids I am allergic to winter.)

Little things I want to remember that I have no photos for:
Matt enjoying tennis practices in prep for trying out this spring.
Poker games during the evenings of break between boys and friends.
How both Isaac and Abbey willingly with no prodding called and worked their summer jobs all break to earn their own money (yay!).
Abbey coming so close to losing at left right center twice at family parties and how much she wanted to win that jackpot.
Isaac remembering a little boy's birthday at the place he works and bringing him a gift. 
The hoopla and excitement and talk of the lotto and how many laughs (and serious discussions) it brought to the house.
Abbey showing me make up tricks (and good ones!) and taking me to Sephora to buy a few things (where I lasted about 10 minutes-she knows by now I have a short ticking time bomb of mall time.)

And one more quick note:
Raising teenagers is hard. 
I never ever ever ever want to make anyone who reads this blog and has teenagers/young adults, feel like things are any different at my house than they are at yours. I record the good memories and the special sweet things, not the arguments and the frustrations and although there are times when I think we see some great huge strides of maturity there are also times when I think they've slid back to the age of say, around two years old and seriously sometimes I remind myself to take deep breaths and "break the wrist and walk away" and then I do so, and sometimes I remind myself to take deep breaths and walk away, but don't actually do it but let them have it in no uncertain terms with a strong lecture which is not always said in a mature quiet manner on my part but just couldn't be held back.  Late for church, picking on brothers, throwing clothes on the floor, tone of voice, selfishness, unappreciation,etc, etc, etc.  
This too shall pass. 
Notice the good. I have to remind myself often.
My mom wrote to me this break with the advice to parent them like they are who you want them to be-parent them like they are their best always.  It struck me as so so right. When we are frustrated we tend to see all the weaknesses and parent in a frustrated angry way and when we see the strengths we parent in a positive upbeat encouraging way.  So stay the course with the good in our minds and our expectations will be known and be brought forth. Now for the follow through. :)
My mom is so smart.


December Days

I am going to try to catch up here after a little break.

Patrick turned eight. EIGHT! It seems so old. It's not easy to coordinate a birthday party and gifts so close to Christmas and every year I vow to be better at not being stressed about it all but I took a few notes this year to remind me next year. We had a small family party for him and it was so fun and relaxing. I made all the easy favorites and lots of good (easy!) desserts.

(Oreo Pie-recipe on back of Oreo pie crust)

The two older kids made it back from college safe and sound and with so much laundry.  Both worked (on their own initiative! yay!) through break. I do have to say that the first week home is always an adjustment for everyone.  The college schedule is quite different from our family schedule (as in-go to bed at a normal hour and wake up at a normal hour and eating meals at normal times) and always causes some angst (is angst the right word? maybe annoyance?) as we press the "reset" button on what "normal" is.  This is what coming home is for though right? Because no one should live the college life 24/7/365.  I think I am getting the hang of this though-this need for readjustment, the patience it requires, when to set my foot down and when to ease up. It is nice to have them home-they appreciate my cooking (which isn't fabulous at all) so much, and add a fun energy to the home. I love their friends, I love the extra help with the little ones, I love the good conversation.

On the same subject, I was laughing with a friend the other day who has many children older than mine at the fact that it seems as soon as you figure out this parenting thing across the board for all ages (even adult children) you are "done". There is no education but doing it as you go on, and learning while you are in the thick of it.

We took the three younger kids to a work party at the zoo-saw the lights and had a nice dinner with a Santa visit. Janey won't sit on his lap but stays just far away enough to reach for her gift.

Here she is dashing away.

On Christmas Eve after church and dinner the kids exchanged gifts and it was so cute to watch them receive and give.  Janey bought everyone a pack of gum since it's just about her favorite thing in the world. 

At some point in the break Jeff took the kids to see the Star Wars movie and all those light sabers came out again.

Christmas Eve.  

Diving in.

Later that day. And then all week till I couldn't take it anymore. It was a record year for the tree being up though, I lasted about a week after-and next year I am going to try a new place my neighbor told me about with fresh trees and a new stand that will allow me to keep it up till the Epiphany.  I swear our tree was cut in October! 

Her two favorite gifts. So easy and simple!

All in all it was a good Christmas. On Christmas Eve late at night I felt so sad about the kids growing older. I know I can't complain-I've had 22 years of having a child little enough to be really excited (a "believer" is a way to put it?) but I count the years down now and I shouldn't.  But it's an adjustment as the years go by-as busy and hectic and draining the little years are, they are gold too. I know I lived them and appreciated them and gave them my all (even with fuzzy headed lack of sleep with babies in arms) and I'm still doing that but memories blur and fade and change. I'm not good with change maybe. 

I also wanted to scale back this year and that was hard for me-I worried about it. I thought there would be disappointments with the older kids and there wasn't-or if there was I had settled in my mind it was something they just had to work through and that I needed to be peaceful about. But then I was so proud of them all. They were so grateful and I realized that much of my worry exists in my mind only. 

On to New Year's Resolutions, my favorite of all.

I am doing Whole 30-my friend Jane did it and lost a lot of weight and felt so much better physically and after a month (a year?) of eating not so healthfully, I am very motivated.  After 3 days I can see a change in my skin already. Bags of Dove chocolates (and Lindor and Symphony and whatever else I get my hands on) aren't the best for me go figure. I really indulged these last few months-I made and ate every treat I ever wanted knowing that January was around the corner. I have our wedding picture on my screen saver and taped to my fridge and I swear I'm going to get back down there finally, as close as my body will let me in a healthy way.  It feels like the time is right-Janey is three, and I have a little more time on my hands when it comes to exercising and getting in that right mindset. 

My mom gave me the book The Life Changing Habit of Tidying Up. I have heard of this often and it didn't appeal to me too much because I don't have many issues with purging my house of clutter and keeping things relatively organized, but I loved reading it-it is quick and very motivating when it comes to reducing clutter.  A few days after Christmas I had our closet looking wonderful and made Jeff ask himself "Does this bring me joy?" while he went through 50 t-shirts. Sometimes I had to tell him it just couldn't, there was no way possible, he must be mistaken, there was no joy there. :)  I was ruthless on my side of the closet of course. On to the rest of the house-lots of indoor winter time to accomplish that task.