{7QuickTakes} Weekly mishmash: April and First Communion catch-up

Busy busy busy few weeks!  April was a beast, with karate tournaments and ballet recitals and confirmation sponsor responsibilities and visitors and Bellie’s First Communion.  Here are some details:

ONE.

My oldest turned 11.  I can still remember when he was a tiny little bundle and I was a nervous, inexperienced new mom.   How the times have changed!  Junior has always challenged me to be on my toes, but I am constantly delighted by the deep conversations I can now have with him as he gets older, also his interest in cooking, science, and wicked mountain biking.  Happy birthday, Junior!

TWO.

My mom came to visit.  This is only her second time out to Idaho (we’ve lived here 15 years) but she enjoyed it.  Highlights: my kids got lots of uninterrupted time with her, she and I watched “our show” Call the Midwife together, and my sister (also visiting) and I took my mom to the “sip and paint” place where we each completed an oil painting of the Eiffel Tower:

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Drinking wine and painting is how great masters are made.

THREE.

My mom bought a house.  Sorta near me.

This was part of the purpose of her trip.  She decided several years back that she wanted to spend her retirement in the West.  And since I live there, it only made sense she look for a property in Idaho.  I did not expect she would find what she was looking for in the 5 days she was visiting here from the Midwest.  But she did!  There will be lots of changes to get used to with this move; some good (like my kids getting to know her better because she is closer), and some more challenging (changing from a more passive role in dealing with my mom to a more active/caregiver role), but we’ll figure it out I guess.

 

FOUR.

Bellie made her First Communion.

My mom and sister were there which was really special.  I got tears in my eyes because my little girl seemed so grown-up when she went up for communion for the first time!

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FIVE

I’m still plugging away at my teaching certification.  The last few weeks’ craziness made it take a backseat for awhile, but this week (go me!) I have been getting back on track.  I just completed reading the first unit and am doing review for my first exam which I plan to take in about a month.  I am still enjoying everything and am really excited and positive about my decision to teach.

 

SIX.

Dandelion Wine.

We have a plethora of the lovely weeds in our yard (except for the ones my kids pick regularly to give me as tokens of their affection) and I remembered I had seen a recipe for dandelion wine in a book I have called Homesteading by Abigail Gehring.  It’s fairly easy and uses a butt-ton of the little yellow weeds.  The verdict?  Super-sweet but good.  It was sitting in a bowl in my bathtub for a week and by the time I bottled it, the wine was looking slightly like vomit, which was a little disconcerting.  But after straining it it looked much more appetizing and it smelled delicious.

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The beginning.

 

SEVEN.

Royal Wedding!!!!!

So I am unapologetic about my enthusiasm for European royalty.  (I sense a blog post about this in the future…)  I know, I know that social media is rife with complaints that there are so. many. other. things. to be thinking about now other than Meghan Markle becoming a princess.  And yeah, in the large scheme of things this wedding doesn’t really matter.  But hey, what’s wrong with having a little Cinderella fantasy play out with a pretty spectacle to have us forget, for a moment, all the woe in the world?

I’m excited to watch.  Not only because it will be entertaining, but also because I am excited to see England again (albeit on the small screen instead of in person).  I had a great time there last summer!

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Windsor Castle, a.k.a. Royal Wedding Venue     Photo by Kris Schulze on Pexels.com

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Me at the gates of Meghan Markle’s new grandmother-in-law’s abode, Buckingham Palace, August 2017

What have all of you been up to?  Any fun summer plans?

Have a great week!

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The Heartbreak of Changing Adult Friendships

“My friends have made the story of my life.  In a thousand ways they have turned my limitations into beautiful privileges, and enabled me to walk serene and happy in the shadow cast by my deprivation.” -Helen Keller

“Intimacies between women often go backwards, beginning in revelations and ending in small talk.” -Elizabeth Bowenpexels-photo-110440.jpeg

I have never been the quickest to make friends.  I approach friendship cautiously, tip-toeing into intimacy until I can be sure I can trust someone.  But then, after a shy, guarded, initial few times hanging out, I decide to take the leap and put myself out there.  It is probably a good method; I can judge whether the friendship has the necessary staying power: things in common, similar values, someone I can talk to without worrying I’m being judged.

That being said, I feel like I have and maintain a small group of really excellent women friends.  I feel lucky to have found people I can really be myself around.  We have been there for each other, in the midst of dealing with sleepless postpartum nights and toddler meltdowns.  We get together to wax poetic on the trials of potty-training and discuss our future career goals and what our hopes and dreams for our children are.  We attend plays and symphonies together because our husbands don’t desire to be as cultured as we do.  We complain about our parents, we vent about the idiotic things our better halves do.  I can honestly say, as someone who battles clinical depression on a daily basis, they are as vital to my mental health as my antidepressants are.

But sometimes, things change.  People grow apart.  Life stages change, and you suddenly find out you have less in common than you previously assumed.  What then?

This has been a rough year for one of my previously close friendships.  I met my friend, “Melanie” shortly after she moved to town several years ago with her young family.  She attended our church moms’ group and we became friends because we had children the same ages, our husbands were employed at the same company, and we had many other things in common.  I was enthralled by her calm demeanor and seemingly effortless wrangling of her many children.   I wasn’t sure what her secret was, but I knew that I wanted to be her friend and possibly learn from her!  She was a mentor of sorts, not really older than me but I was pretty sure wiser since she obviously had it all together.

She and our other friends formed a Bible study and met regularly while our children played, usually at her house.  The kids were all really great friends with each other, which was awesome.  I felt like all of us bonded in ways that strengthened both our faith and our friendships.  We shared our anxieties about parenting and our feelings about God and his plan.  We talked about everything.  We were all so close.

Our families hung out often.  We went camping together.  Our husbands were all friends.  I had visions of us being like a real-life Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood group of friends.

Then, last year, out of nowhere (from our estimation, anyway), Melanie and her husband suddenly split in a huge, contentious, acrimonious divorce.  It through all of us for a loop.

Many things transpired with the friendship of Melanie and me, but to make a long story short, I was trying to be supportive of her.  My husband and I were also trying to be supportive and friendly to her ex, who was good friends with Hubby.  Ultimately, it proved impossible to be friends with them both, as each one felt it was disloyal on our part to be friends with the spouse they now hated.  We now no longer have a relationship with either of the estranged spouses, since it proved too difficult (and confusing) to be friends with either.

I grieve for the loss of my friendship with Melanie.  I still love her and care about her very much.  I know she is going through something very difficult that I don’t understand.  It doesn’t mean I don’t still wish to be friends with her.  I just think that her life has changed so much that it is not feasible for us to be in each other’s lives any more.

But it is awkward.  I still see her at church and around town.  I know she thinks I betrayed her somehow.  I believe she doesn’t like me anymore.  Any kind of apology would make no difference, since I am not even really sure what to apologize for anyway.

Friendships do change.  Even without the divorce, Melanie and I may have grown apart anyway.  She had recently gone back to work, creating a difference between us that wasn’t there before: SAHM vs. working mom.  I didn’t see her that much after she made that transition.  Perhaps we would have just drifted apart due to our lack of seeing each other.

A stay-at-home mom might find her mom friends leaving her in droves to return to work.  A single girl might suddenly feel alienated once her best friend gets married.  Young couples who did everything together suddenly find they are not as important to their friends who have a baby.  It’s hard to accept the change and not to grieve over it.

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So, what can you do?  How do you navigate these changing adult friendships that seem to be for the worse instead of the better?

  1.  ACCEPT THAT IT MIGHT NOT BE ALL ABOUT YOU.  It is most likely not your fault.  You can’t help that life circumstances for your friend (or you) have changed.  If you had a huge argument with a friend and have now fallen out, remember that it takes two to tango.  If an apology is warranted on your end, apologize.  But realize that the ball is now in their court.  What they choose to do from here is not up to you.
  2. IF THE FRIENDSHIP IS WORTH SAVING, VOCALIZE IT.  Your best friend just had a baby and now she has no time for you.  Call her up and tell her that you miss her.  Tell her you value her friendship and want to come up with a plan to make time for each other.  The baby is her main focus right now, so make it easy for her.  Bring her a coffee while the baby is napping and catch up.  Be creative.  It is worth it to keep this friendship going.  Plus, she will be a great resource when you find yourself in a similar stage of life.
  3. IF THE FRIENDSHIP IS FLOUNDERING, YOU MIGHT NEED TO LET IT GO.  Don’t feel guilty.  Sometimes relationships just run their course, and you need to let it be.  Not all friends are friends for life.  People move away, circumstances change, and people can be fickle.  It is what it is.  And if you aren’t “feeling it” anymore, don’t be afraid to end the friendship.  It can either die a slow, unremarked-upon death by fading into the sunset or you can compose a gentle “break up” speech.  Either way,  friendship shouldn’t be work.  If you feel exhausted or always unhappy after you’ve spent time with a friend, it may be time to sever ties.
  4. PRAY FOR YOUR FRIENDS.  Sometimes nothing can be done to save or improve a friendship.  You can always pray for your friends.  For example, with my friend Melanie, I just say something along the lines of, “God, I don’t know what she needs right now, but please help her with whatever that is and let her know she is loved.”  I may not be able to change our friendship/ lack of friendship, but I leave it to God to figure out how to move forward.
  5. SEEK OUT NEW OPPORTUNITIES.  Most of my good friends have kids that are older, namely at the same ages as Junior and Bellie.  I met them when I was a young mom and we were in the exact same stage of life.  I love and treasure these friendships but can’t always talk to them about the rigors of having younger kids.  They don’t really want to hear about my potty-training challenges.  (Well, they listen politely but I can see their eyes glazing over.  I don’t blame them!)  If we’re talking about elementary-school related things, ferrying kids from one activity to the next, or our fears about children soon entering puberty, they are my guys!  But the nitty-gritty-stay-at-home toddler stuff? I find that once you outgrow that stage with your kids, you forget a little.  And sometimes become less interested in having it as your main topic of conversation.  (I loved breastfeeding my kids, but now that they have outgrown that I don’t think I could spend an entire hour at moms’ group talking about it like I once did!)  The solution?  Seek out new kindred spirits.  You might have to travel out of your comfort zone to discover new friends, but they are out there!  Your group of friends are now married and want to stay home all the time?  Find a book club where you can find some new things to discuss and wine to drink.  You need someone to talk to about your 3-week-old because your other friends don’t have kids yet?  Join a MOPS group.  You’re going crazy because all your friends have gone back to work and you have no one to talk to during the day?  Take a Mommy and Me fitness class at the gym.  It might take a few tries, but you’re bound to come across some new opportunities for friendship.

How have your adult friendships challenged you and how have you navigated those challenges?    What are some tips you have for making new friends in adulthood?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

{7QuickTakes} Weekly mishmash: Vol. 18

Greetings!  Welcome to another edition of Weekly mishmash.  Here’s what’s been going on around here lately:

ONE.

This has been a CRAZY week!  Bellie had the first of her two spring ballet performances on Friday (which followed a week of intense rehearsals).  They are doing Alice in Wonderland, which is really cute!  She gets to be a bunny and then one of the Queen of Hearts’s attendants.  I am constantly amazed by the creativity of her ballet director; the choreography is really neat.  My favorite is the “caterpillar” where they use several dancers outfitted with frilly green umbrellas to give the impression of a many-legged insect.  Fun to see!

TWO.

Junior had a karate tournament on Saturday.  He got two first-place medals and was really proud of himself!  His biggest brag was that he beat a really talented kid from his class who outranks him.  I thought that was pretty exciting!

THREE.

This evening I am being a friend’s daughter’s sponsor at her Confirmation.  I was really honored that she chose me.  I think she views me as something of a mentor, which I find flattering.  It’s kind-of fun because she and I share a passion for writing, French, and Hercule Poirot.  Also her confirmation name is St. Dymphna, who is a personal favorite of mine because of her association with mental health:-)

FOUR

My children somehow got interested in The Great British Baking Show.  I blame friends of ours, since I hate hate hate cooking shows.  Well, and cooking in general.  But the kids decided they would have their own “Cooking Challenge” and Hubby and I were to judge.  Here are the inspired creations:

Voted WINNER for Best Presentation:

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Bellie’s “Ice Cream Delight” with Chocolate morsels, jelly beans, and cherry.

Voted WINNER for Most Intense Flavor and Name:

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Junior with his Pokemon-inspired “The Dark Cake” (we were a little limited to what we had on hand for frosting/cake decorations)

Voted WINNER for Most Creative Recipe Idea:

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Spike’s “Not Yo Mama’s Granola Bars” (made from scratch with his dad’s help and topped with vanilla ice cream and strawberries)

Evvie got an award too (she wasn’t so interested in the whole baking thing), for Best Performance of a Tantrum in the Kitchen.

FIVE.

While the Midwest has been struggling with nasty wintery weather still, that same front came through a couple of weeks ago. We had a tornado warning!  That never happens.  Basically, we just got a lot of damaging hail.  Then the next day or so it got really cold and we got snow.  It took a little while for it to melt again (at least half a day) and the kids got their boots out and snowmobiled around the yard.  Hubby and Spike built a snowman.  But by the next day he had melted and it looked like spring again!  Weather is weird.

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His ‘fro is dead weeds, his eyes and buttons are coal, his lovely smile is a bungee strap, and his nose is a parsnip (we were out of carrots). RIP Curly.

SIX.

I was able to meet the challenge from last year (50 books read in 50 weeks!) and got my sweet Extreme Book Nerd prize: a hoodie sweatshirt!  They just came in last week….it took a looooong time for them to come in at our library.  But I really like it.  I am trying to do the Extreme Book Nerd challenge again this year but it has been hard with how busy I am and all the teacher certification stuff I have to read.  But we shall see.

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SEVEN.

While sprucing up outside, I realized my front door wreath was not very spring-y.  I wanted to do something a little different than just a traditional wreath, so I went on Pinterest and got some ideas.  Ultimately, I really wanted to use an old bike tire and put flowers on it, but wasn’t having luck finding a suitable tire anywhere.  I did, however, find an old horse collar at an antique store and thought that might look interesting.  Added some spring-like floral and ribbon and Voila!   Country front door decor.  I am really pleased with how it turned out! What do you think?

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That’s all for now!  Enjoy your week!

{7QuickTakes} Weekly mishmash: Vol. 17

Welcome back to PPP after a bit of a hiatus!  Nothing major going on (as I mentioned last post), just the general business of life and constant other demands on my time.  Stuff has not calmed down in the least, but I realized that I need my writing time.  I function much better when I’m doing it regularly.  This blog is the closest thing I get to therapy, so I need to make an effort to keep it out of the backseat!

This is something of a Weekly mishmash “Catch-up”, plus with a few more recent goings-on.  So, what have we been up to over here?

1.  EASTER.  Here we are after mass.  We showed up 40 minutes early, got to sit in front, and the kids weren’t horrible.  It was an all-around win.

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2.  I took the kids on a day trip to The Museum of Clean.  They loved it!  There were toys and antique toilets!  Fun for all ages!

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3.  We got a new kitty in January.  We adopted her and did not change the name the rescue group had given her: Beatrice.  Once the kids got over the need to carry her around by the neck, it’s been good.  Beatrice keeps us young; she is really hyper.  Especially at 2am.

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4.  I stayed up late every night this week to declutter the basement.  In the ensuing time, I went through 6 Rubbermaid totes of “Keepsakes” that my mother had saved for me from childhood.  Here is what I learned:

First of all, I don’t advocate for throwing out all of your kid’s artwork, school projects, writing assignments, etc.  But you certainly don’t have to keep every. single. one.  I think my mom was sweet for doing so, most likely under the impression that someday…..someday….it may mean so so much to me that I have my junior high math tests and my preschool macaroni art, but I realized that I can really live without those things cluttering up my basement.  I filled an industrial-size garbage can.

However, I appreciate my mom keeping some of those things, because there were some gems.  Like all-caps handwritten notes from my grandmother for me when I was first learning to read.  And the cute little artwork from my younger brothers and sisters.  And the kitchen-table notes from my mom to my younger self that reveal, not only what kind of kid I was at a younger age, but what kind of mom she was (and looking at it with my mother-eyes now, I realize I totally get her in a way I didn’t at the time.)

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Well, thank you, Caity. I WILL have a hippy barsday!!

I also realized that as an adult, I am coming full-circle into what my likes and passions were at that young age.  Gretchen Rubin says in her books The Happiness Project and Happier at Home that we need to look back at what we enjoyed as children to figure out what we enjoy now.  Now, for some people this may be a “duh” moment – “I played matchbox cars as a child and now I love my job as a mechanic!” – but for others of us, myself included, our likes can sometimes be obscured by what we feel as adults we should do.  I graduated from high school thinking I should be a doctor.  Not necessarily because science was my strong point, or because I truly enjoyed all those labs in high school.  I just thought it was what I should do because my parents were in the medical profession and it was a good job.  I failed to consider that I was not really a people-person (not all doctors are, but doctors with the best bedside manner certainly are), nor was I ever good at handling stress (which can be a little bit of an occupational hazard in a stressful profession).  I also was never a science or math person and my grades reflected this.  So, when I finally conceded defeat as a pre-med student, I felt relief but also felt a great deal of self-hatred for “not being able to cut it”.  I wasn’t good enough.  I wasn’t smart enough.  I might still be able to graduate from college with some sort of degree, but I would always consider myself a failure because I couldn’t follow through with my initial goal of being a doctor.

So I majored in history.  Which I loved.  Which didn’t guarantee me a job (as my mother constantly reminded me).  But I figured that if I chased my love, and something I was good at, eventually I would figure something out.

And I had to laugh as I went through those keepsake boxes.

There was a running theme through all of those papers and assignments:  History and writing.  I found an assignment I had to write in 5th grade – a letter to my parents about why I was excited for the beginning of the school year.  I wrote, “I am so excited for 5th grade because we finally get to learn history this year!”  I discovered a nightshirt I had craft-painted that had a picture of a boy and girl in colonial dress, and emblazoned above them in bold letters was “HISTORY”.  I found dozens of stories and plays I had written.  I found a note from my sister telling me that she always thought I would be a great historian or writer.  I understood that all throughout my childhood, I always knew my likes and my strengths.  I just thought that they were stupid and I should try to do something more “realistic” (and probably more lucrative monetarily) than writing or something with history.  Ha.  It would have taken less time and heartache if I had figured that out earlier!

And this super-long take leads to the next take….

5.  I’ve decided to become a middle school/high school history teacher.  I graduated with a history degree but opted not to do the teacher certification at the time because I didn’t think I wanted to teach.  This may have been another fallacy of thought; growing up I heard disparaging things about teachers – despite the fact my grandmothers and aunt were teachers – hmmmm…I’ll have to maybe analyze that in a future blog post….  At any rate, I didn’t think I would be a good teacher, plus I figured I’d hate it.

What changed my mind?  Volunteering at my children’s school.  I have been participating voluntarily for several years doing this program called FAME.  It stands for “Fine Art Mini Experience” and every month volunteer teachers present lessons on one work of art/artist and one musical piece/composer.  I have had so much fun with this!  The kids are always really interested and ask the best questions.  I love doing the research and I learn so much.  It is right up my alley because both art and music are closely aligned with history and I love helping kids make those connections.  The best part is how energized I feel after spending all day at the school teaching these lessons.  As a SAHM, that doesn’t happen very often at home, and I got to the point where I realized I wanted to have that experience more often.

Hubby was very supportive of this.  I am doing an online, accredited program where I can take the teacher certification test in Idaho and can be in a classroom within a year if I so desire.

My youngest, Evvie, is only three, so I have been dealing with some anxiety/guilt about possibly going to work full-time before she is in school full-time.  I haven’t worked out all the details yet, but my main concern is to get my teacher’s certification by next spring and then decide at that point if I want to begin looking for a job or wait a bit until Evvie is in 1st grade.

Ultimately, though, I am confident this is what I should be doing at this point in time.  It took a lot of prayer and soul-searching but I feel excited for this next phase in my life!

6.  We had an awful day on Monday where we had 50 mph winds.  It was terrible!  Power poles got knocked over and trees fell into buildings.  I am so grateful we rarely get tornadoes here but I am beginning to wonder if these high winds we’ve been having lately are not nearly as bad!

7.  I’ve been rocking out to Ed Sheeran.  When I was in Europe this summer, Galway Girl was on the radio a lot when we were tooling around northern France and pulling in British radio stations.  My kids, though, love Shape of You.  For the beat I think.  The lyrics aren’t the most G-rated which makes me a little leery when I listen to it.  There’s that part that goes, “Last night you were in my room/ And now my bedsheets smell like you”

Spike was in the car and yelled up to me, “Why does it say ‘my veggies smell like you’?”

I replied, “Yes, yes, that is what he’s saying, isn’t it?  I guess sometimes that happens.”

And now, every time it comes on my kids crack up because it is SUCH a SILLY SONG!!

Veggies.

Heehee.

 

 

Have a lovely week!

 

 

 

 

Good Friday Venting Session

Hello!  Yes, unlike the Easter Bunny on his little hippity-hoppity way, I DO Exist!!  It has been a crazy and hectic and all-around exhausting school year with the kids thus far.  And I am not shy to say I am going slightly batty with all of it.  Deep breath.

Life is good.  I can’t complain about anything major.  We are all in good health, Hubby’s job provides well for us, we have clothes and food and leisure time.  Lots of blessings and things to be thankful for all around.  I hate to be a complainer.

But….

…..Ugh.  Sometimes I just need to VENT.

I have somehow gotten into the “thinking falacy” of believing that Everything Is (Or Should Be) Great.  All. The. Time.  Even if it doesn’t feel like it.  Even if you are going slowly downhill after the drive to school, then the drive to ballet, then the drive home to make dinner then thirty minutes later the drive back to ballet to pick up the ballerina before dropping of the karate master at karate before driving home again for an hour of waiting to leave to pick up the karate master and then driving home again.  And this all in the middle of a 45-minute production where the toddler hosts a massive and completely ridiculous screaming session in the car because I took away the pound of bubble gum she had “collected” from the minivan garbage can and the (not potty-trained, not trying) 5-year-old demands time on his portable video game for the 47th time today (…the answer STILL being surprisingly, “No.”) as the unmistakable scent of urine wafts up to me in the front seat.  And then go to bed and repeat!!! And repeat.  And repeat.pexels-photo-208216.jpeg

I haven’t vented to anyone in quite a long time because I don’t feel I deserve to vent.  I feel like being frustrated with life is an inexcusable sin that a “good” person (especially a good mother) doesn’t get the luxury of feeling.  I mean, I chose this life, didn’t I?  I chose to have a bigger-ish family; to have 4 beautiful and special yet ofttimes extremely challenging children.  I chose to live 30 minutes outside of the city limits, necessitating long and dull commutes rife with the opportunity for siblings to fight and every last one of them to take of his or her shoes and socks and make a “quick run to the store” a virtual impossibility.  I chose to put my children in after-school activities that they seem to enjoy.  I am not being forced to do any of this.

Motherhood, for all its joys, can just be plain hard sometimes.  And it seems to be even harder when you don’t have a good outlet to vent.  I have a few very close friends, but I don’t feel comfortable venting to them.  Why is that?  I know they won’t judge me for complaining about life.  Maybe I feel it is that they won’t understand?  Which is stupid because, even though their youngest children are older than mine, they have still been there!  Of course, maybe it is also because most of my good friends (all with older school-age children, now) have gone back to a career and no longer seem as “desperate housewife-y” along with me as they once did.  Their frame-of-reference has, quite simply, shifted.  And I no longer feel as though I have that many friends who are “down in the trenches” with me.

Anyhow.

This being Good Friday, I should probably note that Lent has been a bust over here, folks.  This year I started off with the best intentions (not going to give up anything, but add in daily Bible reading and rosary) but that fell by the wayside about three days in.  I wanted to get the kids to Stations of the Cross at least once but realized yesterday that the last opportunity (not having partaken earlier like I had wanted) was today at 3.  I suggested to the school-agers that I pick them up from school to attend, at which I received a steady stream of whining and complaining and then getting stuck at the grocery store with the two youngest who were fighting over “unicorn poop” (those pastel multi-colored mini marshmallows I intend to put on the Easter jello) at the top of their oh-so-shrill little lungs, I just decided that I COULD NOT HANDLE Stations of the Cross this afternoon as a good Catholic.  Instead of focusing on the suffering of Jesus on His way to death, I would just be sitting there thinking about how much suffering I was enduring caused by my children elbowing each other maliciously through me (as I tried to separate them) and the negative effects of child self-applied sugar.

I ask forgiveness.

Sigh.  Well, I feel better cyber-friends.  I think the glass of wine helped, too.

Let’s try and make this more of a regular thing, shall we?

 

 

 

Siblings Abroad: My wild European Adventure

I have been sort-of persona non here-a this summer, sorry about that!  But I have a lot to share!  I DID take my Mommy trip (sans family but avec my littlest brother) to Europe at the beginning of August.  And it. Was. Fabulous.  I plan to write a more detailed set of posts all about it soon, but here are a few highlights:

DUBLIN, IRELAND

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This is me and my brother outside the gates of the Guinness Brewery (or, as I like to think of it,  “Disneyland for ale-drinkers”)

THE HARBOR AT COBH, IRELAND

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Most likely, if you have Irish ancestry, your forbears left from this port.

COUNTY KERRY, IRELAND

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It was a dreary, wet, rainy day but Ireland was still magnificent.

LONDON, ENGLAND

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I didn’t realize it at the time, but when we heard Big Ben chime the hour it was one of the last times it would chime for the next couple of years!  They are going to be doing extensive repairs on it through 2019 and the bell (which is the actual “Big Ben”, not the clock) will be out of commission.  It was lovely to hear!

STRATFORD-UPON-AVON

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I love these Tudor windowpanes!  This is at Shakespeare’s Schoolroom/ former town Guildhall.

WARWICK CASTLE

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I’ve been slightly obsessed with Warwick Castle and “Warwick the Kingmaker” since I saw the Starz miniseries The White Queen.  Both my brother and I really thought seeing this fabulously maintained and imposing historical structure a highlight of our trip!

PARIS, FRANCE

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This was my second trip to Paris and it is still my favorite city in the whole world!  A lot has changed since 1999, but Paris still had all of its old charm in abundance.  Je t’aime, Paris!

THE LOIRE VALLEY, FRANCE

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Chateaux country!!!  I think I may retire here…there are so many chateaux to choose from, and a dilapidated one probably wouldn’t cost too much, right?  One of my favorite things about the Loire Valley are the gorgeous gardens and flowers everywhere.  (This is the Chateau du Langeais, isn’t it delightful?)

NORMANDY

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The World War II sites at Utah and Omaha Beaches were poignant reminders that we owe so much to those brave young men (and women) who gave their lives to stop Hitler.

BELLEAU-WOOD, FRANCE

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This World War I battle site and village were of special interest to my brother and me for two reasons: our great-uncle fought here and was permanently blinded by German mustard-gas; and US Marine Corps history was made here when those men held the line and kept the enemy from advancing toward Paris.  My brother (a former Marine) was honored to see where the men who came before him fought so bravely.

More soon!!

{7Quick Takes} Weekly mishmash: Vol 16

Oh Lordy it has been awhile since I’ve been on here.  Lots of stuff happenin’, lots of craziness as usual.  Check in with Kelly and then enjoy my 7QTs:

ONE.

Spring has finally sprung, to put that silly little adage to use.  I love to see all the verdant life coming up everywhere.  This year Hubby took some of our scrap metal and made a huuuuuuge garden box that sits now off of our back deck.  We have planted herbs, lettuce, and tomatoes here.  The idea being this will serve as our “kitchen garden” so I don’t have to run all the way across the yard to our larger patch.  (When it comes to gardening, I am lazy.  The easier and closer it is for me to care for and harvest my produce, the better.) We’ve also created a starter “Fairy garden” in the garden box for the kids.  They seem to enjoy it:-)

TWO.

Hubby is always bugging me to take more of an interest in yard maintenance.  It’s not that I don’t want to help, it’s just that I am usually preoccupied with children’s needs and mountains of laundry.  Last week I decided that since Evvie was down for a nap and Spike was enthralled in Netflix, I would take this year’s maiden voyage with the John Deere riding lawnmower.  To help Hubby out and also because the grass was looking a bit on the shaggy side.  Well, toward the end of my grass-cutting adventure, I inadvertently drove into a cleverly-concealed hole just big enough to entirely swallow my right front wheel.  Needless to say, that tractor is heavy.  I managed to push it out of the hole, but I noticed hours later the forearm above my wrist was swelling up with a giant bulge of pain.  I thought I might have a stress fracture or something.  The good news: the urgent care PA said it was just tendonitis.  Also good news: Hubby may be a little less harpy about me helping in the yard since, after all, I did help.  I helped so hard I had to go to the doctor.  And that is hard core.

THREE

My oldest, Junior, just turned 10.  I think I have mentioned previously that he has, to date, been our most difficult child.  He has always been more intense, more destructive, and much more moody than any of our other children (to date…Evvie is showing signs of being the same way, but this could just be a result of being 2…hard to tell….)  After a pretty stressful weekend, Junior came home from school earlier in the week with a massive chip on his shoulder and spare anger for everyone within throwing distance.  After talking with him on the way to his karate class, Hubby determined that Junior feels left out and ….gulp…bullied at school.  Now, Junior tends to be a little melodramatic, often erring on the side of negativity.  Whenever I visit the school or ask his teacher how he’s doing socially, everything seems fine.  Kids sit by him at lunch.  They say hello to him in the halls.  But clearly something is not right if he comes home from school and takes his anger out on everyone so forcefully.  I think one of the hardest thing about being a parent is trying to figure out what the right course of action is when your child is having a hard time.  Sometimes it can take years of trial and error before finally finding a solution that works.  And it is hard to be patient when your child is in emotional pain.  But I guess the way forward is to try some things, perhaps meeting yet again with the school counselor, trying to teach Junior ways to manage his anxiety and anger, maybe seeing a professional therapist.  We’ll keep you posted.

FOUR

3 Months to Europe!  I am getting pretty excited.  This summer up until then is jam-packed with activities, so I am probably going to be mentally and physically wrapped up with those for the first few weeks.  But I feel pretty ready: everything is booked, reserved, and planned.  I gotta figure out the whole cell-phone-in-Europe thing, but that is about the last thing on my to-do list.  Super duper excited!!!!

FIVE

I mentioned above that Hubby has been nagging me more and more about helping him out with the yard-work.  I don’t blame him; we live on 2 acres of a yard we’re still trying to tame into shape after buying the property just under three years ago.  My issue is that if I devote a large amount of time to helping outside the house, the inside things that need to be done DON’T GET DONE.  Home ownership is hard work.  It’s a trade-off in the attention department, too.  What I mean is, when I spend all afternoon weeding the wilderness mess that is my front flower bed, that is time taken away from doing something else equally fun, like scrubbing the bathtub.  So prioritization is a MUST!  In my book, things like tilling the garden for the 57th time rank lower than say, trying to deal with the mountainous pile of laundry that is now in my bedroom.  The tasks around the house are never going to disappear.  Grass will always need to be mowed.  Weeds will always need to be pulled.  Laundry will always need folding.  Butts will always need changing (well, it feels like anyway…#notpottytrainednottrying).  I think Hubby’s and my solution is to sit down together and prioritize the housework, yardwork and maintenance and then do what we can and not stress about the things that don’t get done.

SIX

I am not the best dog owner.  I love my dog, and he gets all of his needs met, but usually at the end of the day if I have one more creature demading anything from me, I can’t take it.  So he gets most of his attention from the kids.  But, sometimes, when you wake up in the morning and step in a large warm puddle of doggy diarrhea, the animal-lover in me does an about-face and I mutter under my breath that I wish I had reconsidered my decision to adopt a shelter dog 13 years ago.  Of course it wasn’t my dog’s fault: he had picked up some sort of stomach bug.  But after spending two full days cleaning up foul-smelling liquid poopie off the carpet (interspersed with human toddler diaper needs) I was through with that s**t.  Is it too much to ask to get a break from poop?  I think I am going to ask for that for Mother’s Day. (note: Winston the dachshund is doing much better, thank you.  The vet gave him some great drugs to get his bowel operating normally again.  Praise be!)

SEVEN

Existential question of the week: Will my van ever be clean?

 

Have a great week!

{7QuickTakes} Weekly mishmash: Depression sucks edition

So, spring is finally here but…ugh…gray, cloudy, and rainy days are making my spirits droop.  Which reminds me of the insidiousness of the depression I suffer from and how I need to constantly be on my guard.  Here’s some ins and outs of the past week feeling not-quite-100%:

ONE.

So our little spring break trip up to Jackson was -eh- fun.  But a far cry from the relaxing vacation I was anticipating it was going to be.  We did some cool things, and saw some neat animals, but I was struggling the whole time to keep from crying.  Hubby was pretty sure it was PMS (and don’t you know how delighted women are when you point that out to them, hmmmm?) even though I don’t know if you can claim that for an entire month of crabbiness.  Anyhow, I snapped at my kids and felt myself wanting to cry through much of the trip.  I kept thinking, “I need a vacation” even though I was on vacation!

TWO.

It’s a bad idea to skip medications.  I never forget to take my antidepressants on purpose, but sometimes I am just so exhausted at the end of the day that I forget.  And it usually happens that I’ll be feeling fine…..feeling fine….feeling fine….HIT A BRICK WALL.  And that is when I stop and ask myself if I have been taking my meds faithfully.  And the answer is generally no.  I need to come up with a better system to remind myself…such as a phone reminder or sticky note on my mirror.

THREE.

We weren’t meant to parent alone.  And with Hubby working 14-hour-days as part of his current crazy schedule, I never see him and he gets home after the kids are in bed.  This is stressful for both of us.  Single parents out there, I salute you!  I don’t know how you do it!  I just got to the point this week where I felt like ALL I DID WAS YELL.  And I felt like a terrible parent.  I stopped at one point and realized I wasn’t enjoying my children.  At all.  My days just felt like a long loop of feed the kids, pick up after the kids, listen to the kids fight, yell at the kids to pick up their stuff and not fight, put the kids to bed while tripping over Legos and crayons strewn all over my messy messy house.

I don’t really have a solution to this malaise I find myself in right now with regard to motherhood, but believe you me, I am having these lurid fantasies of having a nanny who comes over for two hours in the afternoon, teaches my children foreign languages while helping them finish their homework and who lets me take a nap!

FOUR.

My house smells like pee.  The four-year-old is *potty-trained*.  But I use that definition very loosely.  I will pass Spike while I am tearing through the house cleaning up some mess or other, and ask, “Did you pee your pants?  You smell like pee.”  And he will say, “Well, I just dribbled a little.”  I might be completely daft, but my definition of “dribble” does not consist of a football-sized wet spot on the crotch of one’s trousers.  ???

FIVE.

Sometimes I feel like running away.  Not to anyplace exotic or far.  Just to Barnes & Noble.  By myself.

SIX.

For those of you who have loved ones who suffer from depression:  It is not helpful when you say something along the lines of, ” Well, you can be bummed out today, but I expect you to get yourself together to not drag the whole family down this weekend.”  I love my husband but sometimes…like I said….not helpful.

SEVEN.

Something to say that would be helpful for a depressed, overwhelmed, and trying to dig herself-out-of-a-hole-of-despair wife and mother:

“I’m here for you.”

“I understand you probably want some alone time right now.  I would be happy to take the kids off your hands so you can do whatever you need to do to get yourself feeling better again.”

“What is something I could do in the future to help you out so you don’t get so low again?”

My current depression, which I would describe as a malaise, is not life-threatening or hospital-stay-inducing, thank God.  It is managed beautifully on medication 99% of the time.  I am just a little low.  And my personality makes it very difficult to ask for help when I need it.  But I think I need a little help right now to get back to being me.

 

Hopefully next week will be better!  Don’t forget to head over to Kelly’s to see what everybody else is up to!

 

{7QuickTakes} Spring Break Edition

The calendar finally says it’s spring!  Hooray!  Be sure to check with Kelly to see if everyone else over there is as excited about it as I am!

Here’s what has been going on here lately:

ONE.

This last week was my older children’s spring break.  Because Hubby had to work most of the week (ugh…he is on an insane schedule currently!) we were only able to take a few days away.  Our destination: Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

I am a mountain girl and I love me some Tetons.  We stayed up at the ski resort but, mainly due to the expense, did not downhill ski.  We settled for going into Grand Teton National Park and doing some cross-country skiing.  This was the first time Spike got on a pair of skis and he was a trooper!

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The couple that skiis together…is probably yelling at their kids through the course of this photo shoot because the oldest is hogging the camera, the middle two want to take pictures too, and the youngest one is trying to eat something in the snow that looks suspiciously like a chocolate egg but is more likely elk poo.

TWO.

This Lenten fast from alcohol is hard for me, not gonna lie.  Before, I enjoyed my glass of wine with dinner most nights and usually a cocktail or two on the weekends.  It was something I looked forward to.  Especially after a long day of dealing with the demands of several small (and oftimes crabby) people.  And now, I realize, maybe my alcohol consumption was tipping the scales at being a little too much.  Particularly because I miss it so much after only a few weeks of abstaining!  Yikes.  But maybe that is good.  To step back and reassess exactly how much I had been drinking.  Along with that, just to see if I can fill my craving for something more healthy (or…how about spiritual…since this is Lent, after all?).  But still it is hard.  I absolutely love wine.400px-glass_of_red_wine

THREE.

Earlier this week the two younger ones helped me clean.  I have to remember that it is the effort that counts.  Even if I have to clean up after them cleaning up.

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This is right before she ran off to do something else and slipped dramatically in her puddle of doom.

FOUR.

My framing project of a few weeks back is complete!  I ended up ordering a custom frame for the oddly-shaped oblong poster (which STILL wound up costing around $70 – AND I had to assemble it myself) and then bought a $15 poster frame at Michael’s for the other one.  The problem was this generic frame was slightly too big and I was faced with the problem of trying to make my own mat.  I had initially thought of buying matting board and cutting it to size, but ended up using a burlap ribbon I had lying around.  I glued it onto the backing and it seemed to work OK.  I was worried it was going to look goofy, but I am pretty happy with how it turned out.

FIVE.

Evvie (at 2 years 2 months) is currently in the violent throws of the Terrible Twos.  Today she had a knock-down drag out tantrum because I refused to let her play with a colorful feminine sanitary product she found in my purse.  This morning at breakfast she was upset that she wasn’t permitted to eat off her sister’s plate. She tossed her bacon onto the floor in disgust, loudly proclaimed, “No WAY, Mom!”  After a two-second pout, she announced, “I hung-y” (toddler speak for “hungry”), climbed down off her chair and, before I could stop her, grabbed the floored bacon and put it in her mouth.  Mommy’s gray hairs are fast appearing thanks to this one!

SIX

I have been really, really craving some alone time lately.  I am an INTJ on the Briggs Meyers personality scale, and that basically means “I Need To Just be alone sometimes for my sanity”.  Just kidding.  But it does mean that I am an introvert who recharges by being by my lonesome.  Which is really hard to do when you’ve got a family that includes young and hyper-demanding children.  Whom I love very much and would not trade for the world.  Just need a break from once in a while.

In the last two weeks, I have gotten the following exciting and fun opportunities to recharge:

1) One hour sans kids at the Public Library.  This pretty much is like winning the lottery for me.  I mean, going to the library alone. Never. Happens.  It was so invigorating.  I got to look at books without a devious toddler methodically playing snowplow with the books on the bottom shelf.  I got to read the summary on the back of a novel that looked interesting without my preschooler tugging my shirt and whining that this was boooooring.  I didn’t have to be embarrassed by the stern-looking adult book section librarian when my older two decided to illustrate their maturity to the masses by kicking each other and then announcing in very-unacceptable-for-the-library voices that it’s her/his fault, not mine!  Sigh.  Heavenly.

2) Annual lady exam at the gynecologist.  Well, the exam was not the rejuvenating experience to which I refer.  It was the waiting room.  Alone.  I got to read a magazine.

I guess I need to take what I can get!

SEVEN.

It was with great sadness that I heard about the latest terrorist attack.  In London, no less, where I anticipate going later this year.  With every fresh and horrific (and need I say, senseless) tragedy of this kind that occurs around the world there is an aura that we are not safe.  There is an insidious yet persistent scuttlebutt that fuels our worries: We are not safe when we travel, we are not safe when we are at home.  There is terror and mayhem lurking everywhere.  There is evil everywhere and there is no recourse for us.

Pretty much every time there is another extremist attack, another bombing or assailant driving a truck into crowds of people, my mother contacts me in fear and disgust.  Fear generally provokes her to say how crazy it seems to her that I want to travel to Europe. (I think she would be happier if I had announced I was going to sneak into and flamboyantly wave an American flag in North Korea).  Every new terror attack seems to cement in her mind that Europe is a dangerous, unstable place teaming with evil-minded religious zealots.  And she tries to make me feel nervous and bad about my decision to travel.

The truth is: travel will always be a bit dangerous.  It is fraught with risks.  But then again, so is life.  You have the option to embrace it, and open yourself to the opportunity for growth, or you can “play it safe” and stay home.  At home, you may never put yourself in the kind of situations where you might be unsafe, but expanding your horizons is a whole lot harder when you’re standing in one place.

So, that is my operative philosophy going forward.  I definitely hope and pray that a terror attack doesn’t ever affect my daily life or that of my loved ones.  I pray for the victims and for the souls and minds of the attackers who feel murder and mayhem is the answer.  But I am not cancelling my trip because it comes with risk (sorry, Mom!).  And, like wiser people have said before me, that the best way to stand up to terrorism is to show the terrorists that we will not be cowed by attempts to make us so.

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Have a wonderful week!

 

 

Get over here and fast: Lent at my house

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Talking to Hubby last night, I asked if he remembered the “rules” of fasting for this week’s Ash Wednesday observance.  This is probably the first year I have not been either pregnant or breastfeeding (and so excused from the fasting obligation) in a long while, so I obviously would be forgiven for being forgetful about what the Catholic Church means when they admonish one to fast.

(BTW: The USCCB website states:

“For members of the Latin Catholic Church, the norms on fasting are obligatory from age 18 until age 59. When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal.”

Okie dokie.)

Most of my non-Catholic friends are completely baffled by a religion that tells one, among other things, what to eat and when (fish on Fridays during Lent) and makes you quit eating for certain amounts of time!  Of course fast and abstinence during Lent has a whole lot more theological significance than just the acts themselves, for which some are needlessly wrapped up in the idea of “stuffy old men in Rome telling me what to do” (to paraphrase a beloved relation of mine).

Observing Lent (the 40 days leading up to Easter) has, in recent times, become the deepest spiritual experience of my entire year.  Because, for me, meditating upon the willing acceptance of Christ’s impending death (and, by association, His Resurrection) and how that coincides with my own existence is both strangely comforting and, at the same time, disturbing.

And disturbing it should be.  Lent is about suffering.  And sacrifice.  And realizing that all the wonderful gifts and blessings in our lives are not things we should ever take for granted.

If you are anything like me, we spend most of our year wrapped up in ourselves, our own lives, our own families, our own rushing around trying to get Something Accomplished.  The frustrations we feel and the difficulties we face during the year are needless nuisances.  They are unfair.  They make us mad.  We don’t know why they are happening to us.  We’re good people.  We don’t deserve this!  We soldier on, perhaps getting burnt out with our daily lives.  We are trying to Accomplish Something after all.  Once we get that raise, once we get that toddler potty-trained, once we take that trip, we will have Arrived.  Let’s hurry up and get there.  And in the meantime, we have Lost the Point. 

For me, Lent helps me to get back where I need to be.  To make God #1 in my life where he should be, instead of having fallen pretty dang far down the list.

With God, I know what my priorities are and my goals.  His goals, not the world’s goals.  I know what is expected of me as a wife, and mother, and woman.  I don’t have to fear suffering, because with God, suffering can become beautiful.  I sacrifice for Him (in my measly little fasting and abstaining from meat) in celebration of all that His Son did for us.  It may be difficult, but it is nothing compared to innocently suffering and dying for a lot of people who didn’t deserve it.

Lent becomes a time of “centering” for my spiritual life.  And with life as crazy as it is, I really need it.

So what do we do for Lent in my house?

Well, in addition to the obligatory fasting and abstinence, this year, we are braving the 7pm mass on Ash Wednesday as a family.  I can should be able to count on the kids to behave later than their 8pm bedtime so we can do this as a family.

Luckily, everyone really loves fish so coming up with appetizing meal plans for the Fridays during Lent is easy.

To strengthen my faith in the next 40 days, I have committed to saying a decade of the Rosary every day (which becomes surprisingly smooth after a few weeks) and also….eeek…giving up alcohol (this one is going to be hard!).   I figured I could do it for my babies when I was pregnant, I should be able (with God’s help) to do it for Him!  I will keep you posted on this one!

I am also going to try harder to offer up my daily “sufferings” and frustrations to the Lord.  I am hoping this will make me a less frazzled and resentful homemaker (I hope) and help me to express my love to my family better.  Again, I will let you know how that goes!

If you celebrate Lent, what are your traditions or commitments?