Saturday, April 1, 2017

Giving Up and Giving In



I've had a two week long allergy attack and a week before that started a two week migraine. I do my best each day to act ok for as long as I can until suddenly I can't and am completely, utterly miserable. 

In order to get through my days, I've found that I need to conserve energy. In the process, I've found myself giving up a lot of things.

I've given up leaving the house on time (for my OCD self, that's twenty minutes early). I've given up caring about traffic, weather conditions, or whether or not we'll arrive at our destination at the time I perceive I need to arrive there. In addition, I've let go of my need to get the puppets I'm building for St. Paul Puppet Academy completed before rehearsal, as it's completely unrealistic with how busy I've been and how lousy I've been feeling.

I've given in to the comfort of my favorite chair at Epoch and my own bed, as well as to enjoying time with my community and my family without worrying about how much time things are taking or my to-do list. I've given in to my body's need for rest and medication. 

In giving up and giving in, I've discovered that the time it takes to get places seems shorter when you're not stressing and rediscovered over and over again the importance of being in the moment, especially with those you care about. I've experienced more joy amidst my misery than I do when I'm constantly stressed about going and being and doing. 

And I got to hold a chinchilla.


Because of the need to give up and give in, I completely enjoyed watching the looks on children's faces as they got to touch and sometimes hold cuddly and not-so-cuddly creatures during a visit to our homeschool co-op by Critter Caravan. If I was feeling better, I may have worried more about making sure classrooms were properly cleaned, heat turned down, and the like rather than taking a seat and experiencing a wonderful program through the eyes of a curious group of students. I would have missed out on squeals of both delight and uncertainty as we all got to learn about chinchillas, bearded dragons, hissing cockroaches, chicks, bunnies, snakes, hedgehogs, and guinea pigs.

It seems that feeling under the weather can come with its blessings. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Celebration Vacation



It wasn't so much of a vacation as forty-eight hour stay and fifteen hours of travel between 3pm Friday and 6am Monday. 




We got to take part in a wonderful 90th birthday celebration in Pennsylvania for Grandma Jean, my husband's paternal grandmother. We got to visit with grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles who we rarely get to see and spend a glorious 74 degree day playing outside in the morning and celebrating in the evening.


We learned some family history, played games, explored a cemetery, took a drive to the top of a mountain, and listened with interest as Grandma Jean told us about growing up in Pavia, PA, without running water or electricity - a small village that now has those things, but is devoid of cell phone reception. 



My husband took two days off for this trip, which normally would have me stressing over how much time off he has left between sick days he's taken already this year and our upcoming time at Camp Calumet for both Spring Cleaning weekend and over two weeks at Family Camp. But I'm letting go of anxiety over how much time off he'll have and we'll make things work later in the year, even if it boils down to him taking a day or two off from work without pay for our Thanksgiving trip to PA to visit family. I'm making room for invaluable time spent with family by living in the moment and having faith that all will work out in the future. 


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Apparently



One of the things I've let go of this Lent in order to make room for faith and family is time online. Apparently so, since this blog has been quite sparse this Lent. 

I've learned something quite interesting - it's increasingly difficult to keep up with friends and family members when I'm not on social media so much! I miss day after day of Facebook updates because I'm choosing to devote my time to real-life interactions with friends and family. People these days seem to send out life updates to the masses instead of communicating individually with others. I do as well, and it wasn't so apparent until recently.

I thought I might catch up on social media today if I found the time, but have decided that, if there's something of utmost importance, someone will let me know. Right? There is no way I can catch up with everyone's past week without devoting an entire day to the process. 

Another thing I've noticed is that apparently I have help in keeping relatively up to date on the world through social media. One friend keeps me current with oil pipeline and Native American happenings; another with healthcare and yet another with education; one sends me links to local happenings and a few post regular updates on presidential actions from differing points of view. In that way, keeping up with social media serves me well. 

I suppose what I need to do is find a balance - some time on social media to stay current on the lives of loved ones and world happenings, and some time devoted to other pursuits. Instead of checking for updates many times a day or not at all, perhaps I can take time to put my feet up a couple times a day to relax and take it all in...both what's going on online, and what's going on in my own household. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Storm Prep


We live in New England, where a blizzard dumped a foot and a half of snow and provided a nice opportunity for our family to spend time together ... cleaning. 

Ok, so we didn't spend the entire time cleaning, but I did take the opportunity over the past few days to get a bunch of cleaning done around the house, just in case we lost power...and because it needed to be done. Somehow our youngest children were more willing to do some major cleaning and decluttering in the name of storm prep.

We cleaned up the dining room/kitchen (one big room) just in case we needed to close the upstairs bedrooms and set up air mattresses on the first floor, where we would do our best to provide light and some heat in the case of a power outage. In the process, stray children's items made it back to their rooms, craft supplies were put in their proper place, and the surface of the table appeared. Donations were organized and homeschool bins from last session's co-op classes were updated for Spring session's class.

Two children somehow produced two garbage bags of clothing that they had outgrown or didn't need in the process of cleaning up their room.  

We took a break to watch Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them while feasting on chili and homemade guacamole. Well, six of the seven of us watched. I may have fallen asleep partway through. 

We also did fun things like play on the computer, begin construction of a blacklight puppet prototype, and Alia had a blast playing in the snow while others shoveled.  

The cleaning that we accomplished cleared the way for family time and fun projects that have been put off for weeks. 


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Aquarium Adventure or Crazy Homeschoolers on a Snowy Day


At School of Lay Ministry the other night we got on the topic of finding blessings and living in gratitude even, and especially, in the most difficult of situations. Dealing with cancer? Pray for the most treatable kind. Having a difficult time walking? Decorate your crutches with duct tape! 

Letting go of anger, disappointment, worry, and frustration breeds acceptance, gratitude, and even joy. 

We were supposed to be going to Mystic Aquarium yesterday, taking some teenage friends along. I had snacks packed, membership and extra tickets ready.  However, there was a bunch of white stuff falling from the sky and things weren't looking promising. 

It used to be that things not going according to plan, especially when friends are coming along, would have me stressed and anxious. But what does stress and anxiety do other than ruin everyone's day? Instead, we waited to see what would happen with the weather and the road conditions ... and checked the Aquarium website, which let us know that they would be opening at noon due to the weather. 

Finally, the decision was made to go, and we were off...a forty-five minute drive to pick up Laila, then ten more minutes to pick up Lexi and Mikayla. Then another hour to the Aquarium, road conditions good, even through the snow, the entire way. We arrived, ate lunch or snacks, and then emerged from our van, only to be met with someone from the Aquarium informing us that they made the decision not to open. I think I asked her to repeat herself twice. I just couldn't believe it! 

Back in the van, we determined there was nothing local worth doing that was open, so got moving toward home, knowing we had plenty of time to decide what to do. A lively discussion ensued, and it was decided we'd to go the movies with the recliners and the "scary bathroom" (at least according to one teen who just can't handle dyson airblades). Tickets were ordered online via cell phone and we made the hour and twenty minute drive back from whence we came.

Seven of us went to one movie, and two to another. Somehow my husband ended up with the only adult teen and I accompanied six children, ages 9-16.


Back in the van after the movies, there was an uproarious "ME!" response to the question, "Who wants to go to Five Guys?" After eating, it was time to take children home ... another hour and a half of driving ... before we picked up Five Guys for Alex, who didn't accompany us on this adventure, and finally went home. 

Not the day any of us had imagined, but one we quite enjoyed and will definitely never forget! 

By letting go of expectations for the day, we were able to embrace the absurdity of our experience and make room for what we could do to make the most of things instead of dwelling on what didn't happen as hoped.


Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Day That Wouldn't Have Happened


Letting go is beginning to make room.

Yesterday's usual obligations cleared out by letting go made room for a day out with my three youngest children. 

We were blessed with the opportunity to entertain two year old Elin while her parents filled out job applications. We spent some time inside reading books, playing with a truck, and about ninety seconds watching tv. Then we were outside showing Coren, who hadn't been for a visit yet, the sights. We sat at picnic tables and blew bubbles, went up and down the steps, and discovered that the front of the building was much more windy than the parking lot around back! 

Inside again, our little hostess brought us a plate of Turkish crackers and delighted in singing and dancing to the ABC song in various forms thanks to YouTube. And, of course, a rousing game of  "I See You" thanks to Alia. 

Before we knew it, it was time for an amazing lunch at Plan B and then we were off to the Children's Museum to use Alia and Coren's Christmas gift admissions for two. There were opportunities to pet a bearded dragon and a rabbit, conversations with museum staff, and lots to explore and learn. 

In addition to our schedule being clear, my expectations of the day were nearly nonexistent - babysitting, lunch, museum ... fun, exploration, whimsy. The only limitation was that imposed by my body, when my pain levels, including a migraine, got too intense and my energy levels too low to continue. By that time, we'd all had a wonderful time and didn't mind heading home.

Without letting go, this day wouldn't have happened. 


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Commitments


I do a lot. A lot. 

Doing, helping, being involved in faith, theater, homeschool, and other communities is what keeps me going despite chronic illness and pain.

But recently I have felt that some of my commitments have not been serving me well. It was time to let go of a few things and make room in my life for more self care and family time. Once I let go of these obligations, I knew it was the right choice, as I felt lighter and more free. 

In addition, I have found myself saying no to things I normally would have said yes to. Some were opportunities that I would have said yes to in a heartbeat in the past, but took time for careful consideration before declining. 

Sometimes we forget that we can't do it all; that saying no is ok; and that a no from us will be an opportunity for someone else. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Expectations


Sometimes we need to let go of expectations and see what happens. 

Teaching Puppetry in various forms at Epoch Arts Homeschool Co-op has taught me a lot about expectations. Sometimes expectations are a good thing. Sometimes they can hinder creativity and growth.

I have high expectations for my students. I expect them to treat each other with respect, to support each other, and to work together. I also expect them to think for themselves and to be able to work on their own when needed. I expect them to listen, to hear, to respond, and to remember. I also expect that they will make mistakes, have bad days, and have just as much grace for themselves during these times as I do for them.

Many parents find it interesting that I "get" their children to do things they wouldn't normally do. I've found that letting the children know that I expect them to participate in class as fully as possible, but that they have the option of doing something different leads to beautiful things. I expect them to bow out of the crazy theater games we play or ask for a smaller part in or do tech for a performance if that's what the feel they need to do. When they find that stepping out of the exercise is met with me enjoying their company while watching their seven other classmates try not to fall off of a little paper "island" into imaginary water, they are more apt to give the game a try the next time. Why? Because they know I expect them to enjoy themselves, without pressure to do everything I suggest. One of these children participated the second time around despite not liking to be touched ... and hung onto a classmate as if his life depended on it ...and laughed through it... and exclaimed to me at the end that he actually did it, even though he didn't think he could. Without any expectation from me other than to have fun looming over him, he was able to try without feeling trapped by needing to complete the activity. 

I also have let go of some expectations. I do not expect that a child, no matter their abilities, cannot do any particular thing. I expect that they will do things to the best of their ability and in their own way. I do not expect all students to learn at the same pace or in the same way. I do not expect them to act, or make their puppets act, exactly as I imagine, as their imaginations are usually vastly better than mine. I don't expect that any rehearsal or performance is going to go perfectly - ever. And I let them know that. Sometimes mistakes are merely, as Bob Ross would put it, "happy accidents" that lend more flavor to the performance. I don't expect these amazing children to fit into any specific mold or to be anything more or less than their own unique selves. 

So why, then, do I have so many expectations for myself? Why do I often feel that I'm not enough, don't accomplish enough, don't do things well enough or right enough or good enough?

I'm going to take time this week to pay attention to the perhaps too strict expectations I have for myself and give myself the same grace that I give to my students. And I'm going to do the same for others in my life for whom I may have too many or too specific expectations. 

Today, I intend to let go of expectations and embrace the happy accidents and whimsy that comes along with freeing oneself from a singular idea of what is supposed to be. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

Mail Time


Letting go and making room...

Mail takes up a lot of mental and emotional space, as well as physical space. I knew it was time to clean things out when I found a grocery store ad from last year, along with some Christmas cards in my pile of mail awaiting my attention. The important stuff (bills) get dealt with in a more timely manner, but other things get opened and put back in the pile or mentally noted and, well, sit there unopened. So today is the day I start going through mail and other paperwork that's taking over a shelf on my bookcase and deal with it all. 

It amazes me, as I go through mail, how I feel about different types of mail. I experience a bit of panic every time there's a bill. That's what being financially challenged does to a person. Some bits of mail I have difficulty letting go of - like Christmas cards with kind notes. However, the minimalist in me knows that the sentiment will live in my heart, and the best place for the card is in the recycle bin. Junk mail aggravates me more than it probably should. I put in time and effort to get our family off of mailing lists and when unbidden mail shows up in our box, I get a bit peeved. I need to work on that, as being mad at mail isn't going to change anything! 

Clearing out the mail clutter also comes with taking care of mailing out things that need to be mailed. A Netflix dvd, camp payment, and medical paperwork are now ready to go. 

In taking care of this seemingly small task, I am clearing out space and freeing up time to dedicate to other things. 

(Great. I now have that Blue's Clues song in my head. And it's my own fault.)



Thursday, March 2, 2017

Virtual Clutter


Practicing awareness of how I feel about every aspect of my life is part of my letting go and making room journey this Lent. Upon getting online this morning, I realized that I felt overwhelmed by the number of emails awaiting me in my email accounts. Thousands of unread messages left me with a feeling of being mired down.

So I took action. I deleted thousands of emails I read and don't need or would never read from two different email accounts. I unsubscribed from newsletters. I went through my facebook likes and unliked many pages that were cluttering my feed and wasting my time. I unfriended some people as well. 

I lightened my virtual load, and it's amazing how much quicker my scans of email and social media are, and how much more relaxed I feel in the process. It seems like a small change, but its impact is greater than I expected. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Let Go, Make Room



The Shrove Tuesday Pancake Dinner at Tuesday Night Sunday School is over. The pancake race is done. The word-that-cannot-be-said-again-until-Easter has been boxed up. We are entering Lent. 

Every year for Lent, I choose a Lenten discipline of some sort or another. I have written Lenten Love Letters, practiced daily Gratitude, and have traveled through Lent in Thought, Word, and Deed. This year I'm going to Make Room.

During Lent, I'm going to strive to let go of something to make room for faith, joy, breath, peace of mind, or just plain physical room in my house each day. I might let go of belongings, habits, thought patterns, obligations, or anything else that does not serve me or the way I wish to live my life well. 

I will write about my journey along the way, but will not promise to write every day as I have in the past. The first thing I'm letting go of is the pressure to write daily during a time in my life that I'm going through immense struggles amidst immeasurable joy. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Sheltered


They say my homeschooled children are sheltered. That public school with its bullying, drugs, and cliques is the real world. And that my children will never learn how to handle the tough stuff life has to offer.

While other children are learning about other cultures through textbooks,
my children are helping a family of refugees - "our family" as they call them - from Syria; listening to and reading news reports and articles about Syrians, Kurds, and ISIS all fighting over "our family's" home. They are learning what life was like for "our family" after they fled to Istanbul, Turkey - how refugees are treated as scum of the earth and living conditions are barely liveable. The realities of not-even-close-to-living wages; lack of food, healthcare, safety, and security that refugees face is made all to clear as we learn more about their experiences.

With their own eyes, they are seeing the Muslim religion in action through this peaceful, thankful, kind family.

While other children are being offered drugs and alcohol in and after school by their peers, my children are learning about the effects of addiction in a more personal way. Participating in an "Arts Response to Addiction," teens researched addiction and its effect on all it touches and responded with art, song, dance, and spoken word. Addiction was given a face at a memorial service for an acquaintance who died of a heroin overdose; and witnessing no less than five police officers and security guards attempting to hold down someone under the influence of drugs in the emergency department while we were there with our own emergency brought one of my children into stark realization of the dire consequences of addiction.

This, they learn, this is what addiction looks like.

While other children are bullying, being bullied, or witnessing bullying at school, my children are becoming friends with the bullied - with students pulled out of school and into the homeschool world by parents concerned for their child's physical, mental, and emotional safety and wellbeing. As they share experiences with these children, they learn what they can do to help both the bullied and the bully. 

In another Arts Response, this one about responding to hate with love, two of my children fearlessly shared their faith and how to respond in love and forgiveness through song and spoken word. 

They take to heart that  violence and hatred aren't the answer to violence and hatred - that compassion and love can work wonders on any broken soul.

While other children are experiencing hate due to skin color, religious belief, mental ability, gender identity, or socioeconomic status, my children are learning how to respond to hate with love. They are getting to know a rainbow of people of different ages, abilities, gender identities, walks of faith ... and to celebrate their differences. 

They are comfortable being themselves and encouraging others to embrace their own uniqueness as well. 

Sheltered? Perhaps they are sheltered from witnessing and experiencing the gossip, social pressures, and judgements of their peers that they would experience at school. But they are most definitely not sheltered from the realities of our world, as they spend much of their time out and about in the real world, witnessing its realities, helping those in need when they can, and striving to make changes for the good.









Thursday, February 16, 2017

Nevermind Nine

Nevermind nine, Alia would like to skip straight to ten thankyouverymuch.

Her Mama won't let her, though. Nine is quite old enough for my youngest child!

Alia has been very busy throughout the past year. She was a puppeteer with St. Paul Puppet Academy; in the Interpretive Movement Ministry at Our Savior Lutheran Church; completely rocked her first week at Camp Calumet Resident Camp and a week of Equestrian Camp - also a first; took many interesting classes at Epoch Arts Homeschool Co-op, and co-taught a couple; planted and tended plants as part of the Earthkeeping Team at church; and so much more!

She was...

an archer...

...a chaperone...


...a chef...


...a daredevil...


...an adventurer...

...a hairdresser...

 ...a fundraiser...

 ...a scientist...
...a zombie...

...and so much more. 

Alia amazes me every day with her wit, intelligence,  thoughtfulness, and energy, ingenuity, and perspectives on life, faith, and just about everything. 

Happy NINTH Birthday, Alia!!!


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Strange Place



I'm in a strange place.

I'm better, but I'm worse. So much worse.

The new  combination of medications I'm on has greatly improved my energy levels and my all-around feeling of health. My inflammation is down. I'm moving better. I have more functional hours in a day. It's great!

And therein lies the problem.

I'm doing more, moving more, and in the process causing myself to be in incredible amounts of pain. The damage already done to my body by this disease does not react well to increased activity. My sacroiliac joints in particular are vigorously protesting. I have a really good, active day, and then I'm nearly bedridden from pain for days.

The struggle to get healthier through exercise is, at the moment, futile.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. This light takes the form of CT scan guided injections of pain medications and anti inflammatory drugs into my sacroiliac joints.The outcome of this procedure is reduced pain for months.

It is my hope that I'll be in another strange place as a result - a place I haven't been to in quite a while. I'm hopeful that as Spring draws near, I'll be able to gradually increase my activity levels, add some strengthening exercises to my daily routine, and eventually be able to hike on a regular basis, and without excruciating pain.

Until then, I'll spend some of these hibernation-worthy days doing just that ... curling up with a heating pad on my back, a few children in my bed, and watch some classics such as Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Strange places don't need to be bad places, after all. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Inclusion


"Your children have always been so well behaved during worship - how do you do it?"

I was speaking with a friend about inclusion of children in worship. Before experiencing worship in our congregation, she had assumed children went to the nursery or a separate children's church for all or most of worship, as that had been her experience of church as a child and in recent years. I explained to her that, in our congregation, children are included in all of worship because we believe that that's where they belong. Even "disruptive" children (I prefer to think of them as enthusiastic). Even children who might not understand what's going on. Even children that fidget in their seats.

It is in experiencing all of worship that our children come to understand what worship is all about. Children can't learn to sit relatively quietly and still through worship if they don't have the practice of doing so. They can't learn to navigate worship without a family member or friend answering their questions and guiding them through worship. And we can't learn how to help them get the most out of worship if we don't engage with them during worship.

"But what about special needs children?"

Three of my children qualify as special needs children. She was shocked. No way were my children special needs, in her opinion. 

My OCD child has always been fairly well-behaved during worship, or I'd assume so, since she spent much of ages 3-5 sitting with grandparents and great-grandparents in our congregation that she'd adopted as her own  for a good portion of worship. She did sing loudly. Incredibly loudly, come to think of it. And she seemed to be very into spontaneous liturgical dance. She did walk out on a sermon once, it being a repeat of what Pastor G had taught us during Tuesday Night Sunday School the previous Tuesday. Come to think of it, more than several times she could be heard singing hymns in the bathroom - during the quietest parts of worship. 

My autistic children weren't always the best behaved on a "normal" person's scale, but did incredibly well for what I would expect of them. There was the need to exit the sanctuary to spin or flap or sit for a few moments somewhere quieter so they could resume sitting relatively still through worship. They would forget to use their church voices when asking a question about worship. One child dove under the pew chairs to avoid sharing the peace, indicating the need to formulate an escape plan pre-sharing of the peace so said child didn't have to suffer other people trying to touch him.

I worked with my children to figure out what worked for them so that they could achieve maximum enjoyment of worship, and I could as well.

My children are rather well-behaved during worship now. Some of this is due to the work we put in figuring out what works best for them during worship, but much is due to the fact that they grew up being included in the entire worship experience. They always knew that they were just as welcome to share in worship as everyone else - that they, despite their age or their differences, were an essential part of the body that was missed if it wasn't there. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

And So I Pray



It's not OK. 

It's not OK to ban human beings from entering our country solely based on their religion or country of origin. 

It's not OK to prevent human beings from re-entering our their country after leaving for a funeral, other life event, or schooling, indefinitely separating them from their families who live here.

It's not OK to pick and choose which human beings are welcome to come to our country while excluding others on the false premise that they are more likely to be terrorists.

It's not OK to prevent fully vetted refugees - those who have gone through the process for three to four years - from completing their resettlement process. 

It's no OK to keep parents from their children, to rip families apart, to deny people access to their dying relative, or to force fellow human beings with every legal right to be here to go back to the terror from which they fled.

It's not OK to call yourself a Christian and then choose not to follow Jesus' command to love one another; choose not "go and do the same," as in the story of the Good Samaritan; or choose not follow the command in Leviticus 19:34, "Treat the foreigner the same as a native. Love him like one of your own..."

It's not OK and I'm not OK. I'm sad. I'm confused. I'm heartbroken for humanity. I'm dumbfounded that intelligent people can't see past their own fears and insecurities to the heart of the matter - that this ban will do nothing to make our country safer or better; that it will only serve to hurt innocent people, keep families apart, and put many lives at risk. 

And so I pray. I pray for this country's leaders, that God might touch their minds and their hearts to the realities of the consequences of their actions or inaction. I pray for the millions of refugees awaiting resettlement, that God guide them to new homes where they will be safe, supported, and encouraged. I pray for all of us, that we may see those around us as fellow human beings, worthy of love and acceptance, not suspicion and fear; that we may assume good and see hope in those who take refuge among us, as we welcome the huddled masses, the tempest-tossed, with the open arms of liberty. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Just




When I had a horde of small children, I heard comments that I was "just" a stay at home mom.

Now that I'm mom to children ages 8-18, I'm still "just" a stay at home mom.

I JUST ...

... meet my children's needs - and many of their wants - twenty four hours a day.
... put aside some of my wants and needs in order to meet those of my children.
... clean the house over and over again in a day. Some days it looks greatly improved by the end of the day. Other days, it looks exactly the same as it did when the day began. Yet others, I choose fun or rest after so much cleaning. The mess will still be there in the morning.
... schedule and take children and myself to doctor appointments, including their primary care doctor, eye doctor, specialists for those who need them, and the dentist. 
... take responsibility for much of their learning and knowledge gathering.
... listen to stories that make absolutely no sense and never seem to end, and do it with excitement and joy.
... do the majority of the grocery shopping, clothes shopping, household shopping, and any other kind of shopping.
... deal with our family's finances, including figuring out ways to save as much money as possible.
... deal with hormones and mood swings and people not wanting to do what they're supposed to ... myself included.
... set an example for my children in all I do. 
... schedule outings, volunteer and learning opportunities, vacations, meetings, family get-togethers, and more. 
...cook meals and help the children learn to cook.
... answer approximately 3827 questions a day. 
... research medical, developmental, and mental conditions and how to treat them and their symptoms and how to best support my children (and myself) through them.
... get up in the middle of the night to deal with sick children, sleepwalkers, existential crises, or my own insomnia.
... provide first aid for everything from a concussion to an invisible, yet very painful and serious cut on a finger.
... help make Halloween costumes, theater costumes, Christmas decorations, and the like. 
... procure birthday and holiday gifts, wrap them, hide them, and try not to forget where I put them.
... volunteer a lot of my time doing things that feed my spirit, so that I don't get completely burned out taking care of everyone else all the time.

I probably do much more, but I've been interrupted seventeen times trying to write this one list.  

Just because my children are no longer toddlers, it doesn't mean that they need my presence any less - they just need it in a different way.

Just because my children are fairly self-sufficient, it doesn't mean they don't need my guidance any less - they just need guidance navigating more mature issues.

Just because my children don't need my constant care and require less of my time doesn't mean I have a ton of free time on my hands. It means I have more time to be involved in church, community, and educational pursuits so that I may better serve others.

So yes, I'm just a stay at home mom, and all the wonder, hard word, and chaos that entails!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Raw Beans


We had twenty-four hours to fit in as much us time as possible. 


After dropping off our five children at their very generous and kind grandparents' house for a sleepover, we headed for a quick dinner of sopa azteca and tableside guacamole...and an incredibly good margarita. We then made our way to the Bushnell Theater in Hartford to view Monty Python and the Holy Grail -one of the first movies we watched together - and for a storytelling and question answering evening with John Cleese. It was incredibly fun and funny - raw beans!

Getting up fairly early the next morning, we made a visit to Jacob Myjak for twenty-first anniversary tattoos. My OCD loved the fact that I got my twenty-first tattoo on my twenty-first anniversary. Jacob is twenty-one years old, so there's that as well. I got a willow tree above my first tattoo, which I got on my honeymoon when I was twenty-one years old. My husband got a mandala tattoo that I drew for him as an anniversary gift. It was not only wonderful to get tattoos, but to catch up with Jake and to hang out with Amber and their friends while waiting for the other to get tattooed. There's nothing quite like the sound of the tattoo machine mingled with Amber's beautiful voice as she rehearsed for an upcoming show...so relaxing and beautiful!


Ravenously hungry after getting tattoos, we lunched at Five Guys and then did a little thrift shopping. After picking up our children, we went home for dinner and A Series of Unfortunate Events. 

Having spent longer getting tattooed than we'd estimated, we extended our anniversary celebration to Sunday afternoon, when we relaxed in comfy recliners at the theater watching Hidden Figures before coming home to a dinner of loaded fries and more Unfortunate Events. 

It is my opinion that we should continue this celebration all year. I can barely wait to see what the next twenty-one years holds! 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Half Life


We have been married for half of our lives. Half. Of our lives. Twenty-one years.

First off, we were twenty-one when we were married. Just twenty-one, as in, two weeks or less after our twenty-first birthdays (we were born three days apart). We were incredibly young and emphatically certain that this was forever.


I can't say the past twenty-one years have been all hand-holding and loving adoration. We had some rocky months ... years. One thing never failed through it all - love. No matter how angry, frustrated, or just plain done we were with each other, we loved each other. I think it was because we love each other so deeply that we feel so hurt by the other or so badly for hurting the other.

Half of our lives. Twenty-one years. 


Our first twenty-one years of life conspired to put each of us just where we needed to be, when we needed to be there, in order to meet and fall in love with each other.

The second twenty-one years of our lives saw us through the loss of our first baby, the birth of five healthy babies, and the loss of twins. They gifted us many good memories filled with love, laughter, chaos, and myriad blessings. They challenged us with financial difficulties, job changes, and multiple diagnoses for children and myself that shape our daily lives. They brought us to today.


Today, I love my husband exponentially more than the day I married him. He is now not merely my best friend, lover, and life partner, but he is the father of our children. 
He is the man who went along with all of my out-of-the-box parenting decisions from co-sleeping and triandem nursing to homebirthing and homeschooling, and did so trusting that I was making the best decisions for our family. 





He continues to love me no matter how disabled I am, how much I weigh, or how much I struggle to get through each day. He still makes me laugh every day.

Tonight, our child-free celebration begins. And, as it would happen, will end within twenty-four hours due to impending snow. We're hoping for at least one hour for each year of marriage. 

Here's to the next twenty-one years!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Strange Man


My home phone rang just as I was about to start making dinner. Not wanting to deal with the possibility of a telemarketer, I let it go to the answering machine. The message left was not at all what I was expected. It was from an officer from the Suffield Police Department wanting my husband to call him back. 

I immediately called my husband at work. He immediately called the police department.

Apparently a call came into the Suffield Police Department. A concerned citizen reported a strange man walking around the neighborhood. That concerned citizen took down a license plate number and called the police. 

It was definitely my husband's license plate number. And the suspicious man was, in fact my husband. My husband had to explain to the police officer that he was merely playing Pokemon Go during his break at work.

We totally blame this on Coren and Alia, after all, he's catching Pokemon for them. Who'd have thought a cell phone app could cause such a thing?!


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Pilgrimage


Last night at Tuesday Night Sunday School our theme was Pilgrimage. We talked about the magi who went on a pilgrimage, following a star in search of a king. 

Yesterday afternoon, a young family arrived in Connecticut after a long pilgrimage from Istanbul, where they first sought refuge after fleeing their home in Syria. They were understandably exhausted. 

We talked about how the magi went to the house where Jesus was (not the stable) after speaking with Herod. It was mentioned that, after speaking with the magi, Herod ordered the killing of any child under age two - the slaughter of the holy innocents. This means Jesus could have been a toddler at the time of the magi's visit.

Perhaps the same age as the refugee child who, along with her family, was welcomed with open arms by members of New Start Ministry, Escorted to their new home they were delighted to see all the necessities, a toy basket for not-yet-two Elin, smiling faces, and a halal dinner that awaited them when they arrived. They didn't speak our language, nor we theirs, but the joy on their faces when they saw their new home and all their new belongings spoke volumes more than what could ever have been conveyed by the interpreter. 

But they didn't get to rest for long.

Joseph had a dream after the magi left telling him of the danger that was to come, and the family started out on yet another pilgrimage - one to Egypt, to safety. Who knows how long it took them to get there and the obstacles they faced while settling in to life in a new country. 

After hopefully a good night's sleep our family had visits from New Start team members to follow up with them after their journey and prepare them for what is to come. Almost-daily ESL and cultural adjustment meetings begin tomorrow. Next week brings visits to Social Security and DSS, as well as employment assessments on top of ESL and other meetings. 

As we journey through this new year, let us not forget the myriad pilgrimages of the past that have brought us to where we are today and made us who we are today. And may we hold in our hearts and our prayers those who are now on their own pilgrimages.


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Focusing on 2017


Every new year, I choose a word that is my focus for the year. This time around, I've been struggling to decide on what word to pick. This is mostly because my mind has been all over the place lately and I can't seem to focus on any one thing.

Focus.

Perhaps that's what I need.

I need to focus on my children and be in the moment with them.
I need to focus on my marriage and nurture a closer relationship with my husband.
I need to focus on friendships and help them grow.
I need to focus on my health and what I need to do every day to be as healthy as I can be.
I need to focus on our finances and figure out a way back to the level of frugality we need to attain to get by.
I need to focus on our household and getting it decluttered and organized.
I need to focus on my many commitments and let go of those that don't serve me, or that I don't serve, well. 

2017 is a year to FOCUS.