{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!

 

 

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{7QuickTakes}Weekly mishmash: Vol.13

Good day to you!  I am sitting at a local coffeeshop – by myself (doesn’t that sound scandalous?) – and I am happy to get my 7QTs in today!  See more at Kelly’s!

ONE

Hubby got back from a business trip yesterday.  I was really happy to get him back.  So were the kids.  He was only gone 5 days, but it was a LOOOONNNNNGGGG 5 days.  (See below Quick Take)

TWO

Stomach bugs while (temporarily) single parenting suck.  Stomach bugs while single parenting especially suck when they only hit said temporarily single parent while the children being parented are their own boisterous, exuberant, curious, and healthy selves.  I am glad that I was not having to parent sick kids while being sick myself, but….still.  I’m a complainer.  Edit: Bellie came home from school sick today….so….this might be the beginning of a fun weekend.  At least Hubby is home!

THREE

Six months to EUROPE!!!!!!!  I am feeling like everything is falling into place and can barely contain my excitement.  I need to work on the guilt feelings, though.  I mean, I can hardly sneak off to a coffee shop by myself on a Friday morning for an hour leaving Hubby with the two little ones without feeling like a complete worthless human being who is shirking her family responsibilities!  I will have to explore this idea more in future posts.

FOUR

Loving Victoria on Masterpiece.  I do think Jenna Coleman is a bit too pretty to play the illustrious queen, but oh well.  I am slightly obsessed with the Victorian Era, so the costumes and the hairstyles are completely thrilling to me.  Plus I think Victoria (who interestingly enough, was against women’s suffrage) was one of the most influential and fascinating women in the history of our modern world.

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Jenna Coleman as Queen Victoria at her coronation.  (Courtesy pbs.org)

FIVE

My mom is doing better.  She came through her surgery (to repair her leg) just fine, and is currently on the mend.  Talking to her on the phone nowadays she seems to be back to her old self.  It will still be weeks before she is permitted to put weight on her leg, but she seems to be wheeling herself around her house just fine, and other than being confined to the ground floor of her home, is doing well.  I have taken the suggestion to call her often – and I have been touching base with her via text daily, calling every other day.  If nothing else, I hope that this whole experience has convinced her that her children really do care about her.  We were all forced to break out of our mental business to actually reach out and make an effort to keep in touch.

SIX

I’ve got a dear friend who is going through a divorce.

There has been a group of us who have been friends for a long time.  We did a Bible study about Catholic Apologetics several years back together; it was so enlightening and educational for us, plus it brought us closer together as friends.  It definitely ranks as one of the best experiences I’ve had, and I have always felt that those of us who participated share a special bond.

Our families have hung out often, our husbands have gone out for beers together and helped each other with home improvement projects.  Each year we go to Bear Lake, Utah camping as a group and traditionally spent Super Bowl Sunday together.  Our kids are all friends.

Over Christmas, one of the couples split up under tense circumstances.  We are friends with both of them.  We like and respect both of them and want what is best for their kids, and their family as a whole.    But my friends and I are having a hard time wishing them a DIVORCE.  Especially in light of Catholic teaching, which we studied together in detail all those years ago.  We are not privy to all the information about the circumstances of their separation, of course.  There seem to be some seemingly insurmountable obstacles for them to stay together.  But….still……ugh.

It’s a sad situation all around.  We have tried to be supportive of our friend without bashing her husband.  We have been praying for them.  A lot.  And I truly believe that God has a plan for their family.

Still, anyone have any words of wisdom about supporting a friend (couple?) who is going through a divorce?  What are our duties as Christian/ Catholic friends?  Friends who believe in and confess the sanctity of marriage, especially when both parties in a divorce proceeding are convinced there is no hope for their marriage?  I am struggling here!

SEVEN

Well, as I type this, I can’t avoid the obvious:  my cuticles are a horror.  Winter wreaks havoc on my hands!  The air is so dry here in Idaho that dry skin is a matter of fact, but in winter it takes it up a notch!  My poor kids have inherited my problem; Bellie’s hands are dry and red ALL WINTER LONG unless she remembers to always always wear gloves when she goes outside (which doesn’t usually happen).   All of my kids seem to suffer from excema (particularly on their cheeks) during the winter.  My solution: Eucerin is my friend.  I buy an industrial size of the tub at the beginning of the winter.

 

 

I hope all of you are keeping warm and protecting your skin this winter!  Have a delightful weekend!

{7QuickTakes} Weekly mishmash: Vol 12

Lately it has been sort-of hit or miss with {7QT} but I’m here today!  Check out other more motivated bloggers at Kelly’s!

ONE.

Happy Inauguration Day!  There are Americans who are happy, Americans who are sad, Americans who are angry, and Americans who are resigned today.  But the point is, this is how democracy works.  This is how America works.  And I still think we have the greatest political system in the world.  Sometimes we don’t like the outcome of elections, or Congressional votes, or laws that are made.  And that’s OK.  Because we are able to disagree civilly, and work together to come to a compromise.  We can air our grievances, and work to change things we don’t like.  We are free to speak out.  And that’s pretty awesome because there are countries in the world who do not have that option.

At any rate, one of the paramount aspects of our political system is a peaceful transition of power (another thing many countries in the world do not have – hello Gambia).  So, like him or hate him, ecstatic or morose (or, I guess, the negligible percentage of Americans who just plain don’t care one way or the other about him according to the media), President Trump is the newest leader of this great nation and the amazing people within.

TWO.

I got a new phone.  I didn’t want to, my Samsung Galaxy III was working just fine, thank you.  Except for that I couldn’t get picture messages and it deleted all my contacts on me.  Hubby wanted to graduate from a 2000’s-era flip phone to something a little more sophisticated, for work, you know.  And since we were on different carriers, two different bills, two different kinds of coverage, we decided to simplify the matter by just getting matching phones.  Which is our romantic way of celebrating Valentine’s Day early.  (Isn’t that how the Millenials do it anyhow?  Skip the flowers & chocolates, opt for Apple products?)

THREE.

My baby turned 2 earlier this month.  Supposedly, she is our last one (according to Hubby, but I could easily be talked into another!) so I am going through the whole gamut of emotions relating to that and all my babies getting older.  Of course, kids growing older comes with its benefits obviously: they can strap themselves in the car, put on their own clothes, and can generally follow directions.  But, baby-lover that I am, I miss those days of little bundles sleeping all day and cuddling while breastfeeding.   I am getting more sleep these days, which is a plus.  But….still.  Sigh.

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Princess Evvie turned 2!

FOUR.

………….I am whisper-typing this, in case the Universe decides to play a trick on me….but I *think* I can claim victory on the Spike Potty Training journey.  He has been a trooper since Christmas, with accidents few and far between.  He really does excellent when we are out and about in town, it’s mainly when he is at home and distracted by tv or a complicated Lego creation that he sometimes forgets to go until it’s too late.  Yay!

FIVE

In just a few short weeks it will be….SIX MONTHS TO EUROPE!!!  More on that later.  So excited!!  It is really feeling more real now that everything is coming together, tickets have been purchased, reservations have been made.

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Coming soon!

SIX

One of the hardest things about living so far away from family is that you are not available to help in times of need.  Two days after Christmas, my mother fell and broke her leg really badly.  She is extremely independent and lives on her own, so this has caused her to completely reorder her life (including her willingness to ask for and receive help).  She is now recovering from a successful surgery but will be unable to bear weight on the offending limb for a few months.  In the meantime, my geographically-closer siblings have really stepped up to the plate and helped her with transport and shopping and stopping by to check on her morning and night.  My sister has taken on the bulk of this, for which I am really appreciative, because it is next to impossible for me to drop everything here and go there, what with kids in school, a husband on back-to-back business trips, as well as financial concerns.  It is hard feeling so impotent when it comes to helping out.  Anyone have any experience with this?  When you are unable to physically be there for someone, how can you Be There for someone?  Aside from sending money, what are some things I could do, both for my mother and my siblings who are taking on the responsibility for caring for her?

SEVEN.

Listening to Arianna Huffington’s Thrive on audiobook.

41a2znogcclIt is forcing me to think differently about our society’s definition of “success” as well as how to take better care of myself.  Huffington’s main mantra: Get enough sleep.  So I am trying.  The goal is to go to bed earlier so I can get up at 6 with the kids before school after getting a healthy 8 hours of sleep.  So far, so good.  I am hoping that in the long run I have more energy and am more focused.  Generally, I stay up late at night to “get stuff done”(which, incidentally, is what my mother always did growing up – and subsequently was a zombie all day) and then proceed to hit a slump shortly after lunch, where the world looks bleak and I am too tired to function.  Yesterday after 8 hours of sleep I didn’t feel that slump, which was awesome!  Hoping that will continue.  I will keep you posted.

Have a delightful week!  We’ll chat again soon!

 

 

 

 

{7 Quick Takes} Bison, bears, and bathrooms in Yellowstone

A couple of days behind on this one, but better late than never right?  Linking up with the lovely Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum and the gang…

ONE

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    Even if they are just walking through the parking lot, it is still never a good idea to pet a bison.

Last weekend we took advantage of the post-Labor Day crowds and took the family to Yellowstone National Park to camp.  We are so lucky to live a short drive away from the park, so weekend mini-vacations there are easy.  We have friends who are storing an RV trailer in our yard that they are graciously allowing us to use, and we took that when we went.  Otherwise we would have had to bring tents to augment our itsy-bitsy slide-in pickup camper.  And no offense to tent-campers out there, but I am not brave enough to risk sleeping in a tent with four kids who smell like hot dogs and marshmallows  in Bear Country.

TWO

Did you know that in Yellowstone, there is this lake that straddles the Continental Divide?  Its significance is that one side of the lake drains into the Pacific Ocean and the other side into the Gulf of Mexico.  And if your son just happens to surprise you by suddenly urinating into it (which I am sure is totally legal in a national park…)his pee will likely travel both of those directions as well.  Keep an eye out for those “teachable moments”.

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This location holds a new meaning for us.

THREE

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2016 may be the year Old Faithful finally becomes female.

“Why is it called a “Guy”ser?  Where are the “girl”sers?” – Bellie gets feminist at Old Faithful.  Maybe Hillary will change that if she gets elected.

FOUR

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Looking up from the lobby fireplace.

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I love how they’ve incorporated natural logs everywhere

I love, love, love Old Faithful Inn.  Every time we go to Old Faithful, I drag the family in here to see the awesome log everything in this awesome old hotel.  I love going into the lobby and just looking up the several stories to the roof.  And that fireplace is just fantastic!  We stayed there once, and I thought I was in heaven.  It is just a fantastic piece of history and one of the biggest log cabins in the world.  We watched Old Faithful erupt for a second time from the front balcony.  Low crowds, a huckleberry mocha, the soft sounds of my kiddos fighting over a muffin.  It was lovely.

FIVE

I am so proud to announce that my oldest three are now JUNIOR RANGERS.  They worked so hard.  How, you may ask, does a child become a Junior Ranger?  Well, it involves many hours of study (i.e. completing fun activities in a workbook), going on a nature patrol (i.e. walking from the visitor center to the boardwalk by Old Faithful) and listening to a ranger’s talk (we watched a bear spray demonstration).  The kids had a lot of fun doing this.  My favorite thing was Spike’s drawing in his workbook of animals one might see in Yellowstone.  He drew two turtles and a dinosaur.

SIX

We are the champions!  We did UNCLE TOM’S TRAIL.  With kids.  With no injuries.  And we’re not even that in shape.

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The way down is easier. Across from the falls of the Yellowstone.

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The gorgeous Yellowstone Canyon.

So, I had forgotten that there were SO MANY STEPS.  I really wanted to get close to the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River and I figured Uncle Tom’s Trail was the best walk to take.  I had forgotten that it has like one million and eighty-two steps down the canyon wall (those scared of heights may want to reconsider).  Which isn’t that bad going down, but is really, really a joy going back up!  The last time we had done the trail, Bellie was a baby in the backpack (carried by Hubby) and Junior was about three.  He ended up falling on the metal grates of the stairs at the very bottom, skinning his knee awfully badly and not wanting to walk anywhere anymore.  So our friend Eric offered to carry him all the way up those million-plus steps.  Our friendship with Eric was solidified and written into the annals of friends-going-above-and-beyond history.  I am pretty sure we still owe him big time for that.  And as far as Hubby goes, babies in hiking backpacks are not a piece of cake going up and down that staircase with, either.

However, this time all went well.  No injuries, no kids losing their motivation halfway back up again.  Heck, I am super-proud of myself for not losing motivation halfway back up again.  It was tempting to stop at one of the landings and say, “that’s it, I can go no further.  Bid fond adieu to my mother for me.”  but I kept going.

The view really is to die for.  Well, not literally (there are always some really unfortunate fatalities in Yellowstone Canyon every season), but it is just gorgeous.  If you are into self-punishment (or just enjoy the stair-climb machine at the gym) Uncle Tom’s Trail is for you!  It is worth it.

SEVEN

You gotta love the worldliness of Yellowstone.  There are people there from all over.  We were following a family from France on our way up the Stairway from Hell Uncle Tom’s Trail.  There were Germans in line next to me at the restrooms.  And a very nice group of Chinese tourists wanted to join us for lunch in our camper.  They were very intrigued that there were four children.  They also found blonde-haired Evvie positively enthralling.  And she’s not even that blonde!  (On an earlier trip, we were on a trail and there was a family ahead of us with a toddler who had platinum blonde hair.  A large group of Chinese tourists surrounded the family and started touching the child’s hair and gestured that they wanted to take pictures with her.  So they began taking selfies with the little girl as though she were one of the Jolie-Pitt kids.  We felt relieved that our dishwater-blonde kids were wearing hoodies.  It would have taken us forever to get done with that walk around the hot springs!

It’s a good learning experience to be able to explain to the kids how things are different in other countries and in other cultures.  For example, the Chinese tourists were interested in the size of our family because in their country they had a one-child policy until just recently.  So families of our size are not seen there.  And blonde hair is likewise rare.  Even explaining how toilets are different (prompted by the kids seeing the following image in the restrooms in Yellowstone:)

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If there are footprints on the seat, someone probably ignored this sign.

was a good opportunity to discuss that the U.S. is not the only nation on earth and the way it is done here is not necessarily the way it is done elsewhere.  Not good or bad, either way…just different.

 

Have a fabulous week!

Asking for what you need and guilt-laden “me time”

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lovely image of Paris courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I have been struggling with two main emotions  challenges stumbling blocks lately.  And they are guilt and my struggle to be assertive.

I struggled with this last month when my in-laws were visiting.  I have been struggling with it this month while I try to plan my upcoming Europe trip, as well as take some much-needed “me time” in the form of my monthly Bunco get-together.  Hubby, understandably, is resistant to the times I spend away from the family.  It places extra burden on him and he really doesn’t get anything concrete in return.  (One could argue a happier, more rested wife, but we’ll get back to that in a minute…)

Things came to a head last week when I was discussing the aforesaid European trip with Hubby, complaining that there wouldn’t be enough time to comfortably see EVERYTHING, and he suddenly said, “I am not sympathetic; I am not supportive of this trip in the first place.”

Wow.

I was thrown for a loop.  Here I am, glibly planning this two week trip for next summer with friends and – heck- we’re almost ready to buy plane tickets, when Hubby suddenly brings to my attention the fact that, ahem, he is not supportive of this trip.  I admit I never really asked permission to take this trip with friends -a trip that I have been saving both my money and airline miles for.  I had, at first, mentioned to Hubby that we take a trip together, just the two of us.  I suggested Alaska, a place Hubby had always wanted to see.  I figured out a little itinerary (Denali! Kenai Fjords! A fishing charter!) and asked my sister if she would be willing to come out to Idaho to watch the kids while we were gone.  I had it all planned, and presented the plan to Hubby on his birthday.

The response was not as I had expected.  He replied that he didn’t want to spend that kind of money, that his idea of an Alaskan trip was much different than my idea of an Alaskan trip (think flying into a remote North Pole-ery location and rustic camping/fishing for a week) and he reminded me that we don’t travel well together.  (Which is true, we have very different traveling styles).  I told him that we had enough airline miles for both of us to fly to Alaska for no cost.  He said, “I’m sure you’d rather go to Europe with those miles.”  And I said, “Yes, actually I would.  Can I go to Europe with those miles if you really really don’t want to do Alaska with me?”  And he said yes.  So I really really thought he was completely OK with me going to Europe next summer.

After the conversation (the one where he said he wasn’t going to support my trip), I was wracked with horrendous amounts of Guilt.  Who was I, thinking that it was completely OK to ditch my young family for a couple of weeks, leaving my poor frazzled husband to deal with them?  Who was I to make my husband take vacation from work to watch the kiddos while I gallivanted around Europe while he was forced to stay home and be stressed out?   Why did I think I deserved that?  What if something happened to the kids while I was gone?  What if something happened to me?  How selfish was that?  How selfish was I?

While I kept trying to make sense of my emotions regarding this I tried to ascertain exactly why Hubby said he was non supportive.  What he had said was he wasn’t supportive of my trip.  What I heard is that he wasn’t supportive of me.  When I asked him to clarify, he said he thought the expense of travel was too great and that he didn’t believe I would be able to save enough money beforehand to finance my trip.  He also was unhappy about having to take work off, using up valuable vacation time that he would rather use for….um, vacation.  He also was worried for my safety, in light of the terrorism that seems to run rampant in Europe these days.  Additionally, and perhaps a little “selfishly” on his part, he was jealous.  When had he gotten to take a two-week trip with his friends?  I reminded him of the cool locations he had traveled to for work (Sweden, for example).  Also, I reminded him that I had tried to get us to plan a trip to Alaska, a #1 bucket-list item on his agenda, but he had declined.

Nevertheless, even after finding out the reasons for my husband’s reluctance to this trip, I still felt guilty.  I assured him I would try even harder to save money.  I would sell stuff I was no longer using on ebay.  I would pare down my spending.  I also assured him I would try to figure out childcare options for while I was gone, perhaps hiring someone or seeing if a family member would come out to provide babysitting.  I can’t do anything about terrorism or crime except to keep alert and stick with my traveling companions, and I told him I would be supportive of any travel scheme he came up with in the future – with or without me.  But the guilt remained.

As a wife and a mother, and especially as a woman of God, we are taught the intrinsic value of sacrifice.  We sacrifice for our spouse.  We sacrifice, especially, for our children.  Our sleep, our time, our energy, our bodies.  We are happy to do it because our families are worth it.  No one wants to be that mom or that wife who selfishly puts her wants ahead of her family’s needs.

So when, if ever, is it OK to say “Time Out!  I need to focus on my needs a little bit.  And they might look like ‘wants’ to you, but believe me, THEY ARE NEEDS!”  Like rest and rejuvenation.  Intellectual and cultural stimulation.  Exercise time.  Heck, a shower!

I guess, ultimately, I don’t want my kids to look back at me during their childhood as a woman who had no identity except that as their mother or their father’s wife.  I want them to see me as a dynamic, interesting, and joyful  woman who sacrificed for them but never forgot to take time out for herself.  I don’t want them to remember me as bitter and frustrated and failing to be a person in my own right.  I also don’t want them to remember me as a woman racked with guilt over following my dreams.

That said, I am forging ahead with the planning for my Europe trip.  I will try to come up with ways to make the time I am gone (and the expense) less painful for Hubby.  I am sure I will continue to struggle with feelings of guilt, but I need to focus on the actual goal which is to create enough joy that I come back to nurture my family even better.  One can’t feel guilty about that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oregon {With Pictures!}

Last month we took our first *real* family vacation.  Our trips up until this point consisted of camping weekends and journeys east to visit family in the Midwest.  I decided it was high time we went somewhere that didn’t involve sleeping on the floor at my sister-in-law’s or worrying about whether my kids were extorting too much candy from Grandma.

We settled on Oregon.  It’s close, yet far and different enough from Idaho to be “exotic”.  I wanted the kids to see the ocean.  Hubby wanted to save money by camping.  So we traveled the fabled Columbia River route, traveled by scions such as Lewis & Clark and the Oregon Trail pioneers.  Here are some highlights:

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We like to pretend we are hard-core with t-shirts.

EBR-1: Atomic City, Idaho

En route to Oregon, we stopped at the very first nuclear reactor that has since been decommissioned and turned into a museum.  (Don’t worry, the radiation levels remaining in the building are so low to as not be considered unhealthy for visitors)  It was in operation from 1951 to 1964 and is left largely the same as it was when they moved to a new facility.  They make it fun for the kids to learn about nuclear energy (and what Daddy’s work is all about).

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I always knew the kids were mad scientists…

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In the real world, they usually don’t let kids sit on top of nuclear reactors

The kiddos had fun pretending operate the reactor in the control room, walking on the cell where the nuclear reactor used to be, and seeing how “hot” (radioactive) material was handled with robotic arms through an insulated cell.

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One of the young owls sitting perched outside the museum. Spike said, “They’re scary. I’m freakin’ out!”

Probably the most memorable was seeing a pair of young owlings sitting on the abandoned fighter jet reactor in the parking lot.  They were very still, just looking at us.  I don’t think I have ever seen an owl that close before.

Farewell Bend, Oregon

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Wagon ruts

Just across the border into Oregon is Farewell Bend State Park.  It is a really pretty location, on the banks of the Snake River.  It is known for being the point where the Oregon Trail pioneers said “farewell” to the Snake River (which winds north from here) as their continued their journey west.  You can still see the wagon tracks in the nearby hills.

National Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, Baker City, Oregon

I probably date myself a little, but remember that old floppy disk computer game, Oregon Trail?  I loved that game.  Well, this museum is where you learn the reality of what the game was based upon.  They do a good job of helping to re-create the hardships and decisions those emigrants went through to reach the “Eden” of western Oregon.  I left the Center feeling knowing I wouldn’t have had what it took to survive and thrive on the nineteenth century Oregon Trail. Especially since we had only been camping one night and I was already wishing we were staying in hotels!

Bonneville Lock & Dam on the Columbia River

I had wanted to see the Bonneville Dam ever since learning about it in a college history course.  It was initially a New-Deal project that created thousands of jobs.  Now it powers thousands of homes through hydroelectricity.  We were able to tour a powerhouse to learn how it all works, which was cool, but the highlight for Hubby and the kids was the fish ladder.  You are able to view it from above and also from below (through windows) to see how the Pacific salmon and other fish are able to navigate the dam safely to swim upriver.

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Spike and Bellie smell roses, the Bonneville spillway in the background.

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Giant turbines

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Follow the power signs to see where it gets harnessed!

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The fish ladder

Old Columbia River Highway and Waterfalls

We took this road, reading that it was “the scenic route”, which was definitely true, but traffic was so awful I am not sure it was worth it!  Granted, it was a Sunday and there seemed to be lots of weekend Portland visitors, but the road itself is insanely narrow and we had a larger truck with camper insert as well as a trailer, and it was very nerve-wracking for Hubby.  The route is through a gorgeous rain-forest and is dotted with waterfalls every few miles.  We wanted to stop and see one of the more famous ones, Multomah Falls, but there was no safe place to park.  People were parked down the road for a mile or two and walking on the shoulder while cars on the two lane road were trying to avoid hitting pedestrians as well as fellow motorists.  There were NO RVs and there is no way we could have found a place to park with our small trailer.  So we just kept driving.  At one point we were stopped for at least half an hour because pedestrians kept crossing at a crosswalk with no break.  Bottom line: it was pretty, but if we did it again it would be on a weekday morning and we would leave the trailer at the hotel.

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Latourell Falls.  Not as tall, not as impressive, but we found a place to park!

Willamette Valley west of Portland

The highway we took to the coast was littered with fruit stands and pick-your-own flower gardens.  The fertile Willamette valley was where those Oregon Trail pioneers were headed.  There is a long growing season and rich soil.  We stopped at a cut-your-own flower farm and the kids all helped pick the flowers of their choice.  We wound up with a lovely bouquet that became our “camp flowers” throughout the rest of the trip.  We stuck them in a gallon water bottle and proudly put them on our picnic table at each camping site.  We felt so fancy.  Next time Hubby and I will get a babysitter and check out some of the Willamette valley wineries.  Not as well-known as Napa or Sonoma (but just as good) the area has hundreds of small vineyards.

Well, that was the first half of the trip….I will separate this post into two to avoid the length of a short novel!  Stay tuned for more adventures in Oregon!

 

Depression taking over my life

OK, so I clearly haven’t been on here for awhile.  I have been busy, true, but I wouldn’t be completely honest with you if I didn’t admit that I have been having quite some time keeping the negativity at bay.  There have been a few days-long stretches where I could barely get out of bed.  And I blame myself and heap oodles of self-hatred my way, saying that I should try harder and that I need to ignore my feelings and just be there for my children and my husband.  I feel guilty and awful most of the time, paired with debilitating anxiety.  Hubby, although he tries extremely hard to be understanding and supportive, is understandably frustrated and overwhelmed with dealing with our crazy household (the kids don’t stop) as well as a spouse who wants to check out most of the time.

I don’t exactly know what set it off.  I am feeling overwhelmed with the task of housekeeping and motherhood right now.  I am tired of barely keeping up with the mess and the needs of five other creatures (eight, if you include the pets).  I am exhausted with not being enough.  I crave the delicious feeling of accomplishment – of feeling pride in a job well-done and the satisfaction of being competent at a task.  Motherhood doesn’t offer this emotion….not really, anyhow.  The task of raising a child is never done.  Even when they are adults – they could screw up badly and, as a parent, you will always wonder if that failure of theirs is somehow tied to your failure to feed them organic meat.

When I was younger, unmarried and childless, I was an organizational freak.  I loved having everything neat and tidy, everything in its place.  I thrived on making my space beautiful and having my decor reflect who I was and what I loved.  I think that is why, now that I am part of a household with young children, I become so discouraged with the state of my surroundings.  These surroundings are messy.  They are dirty.  They are disorderly.  They are ugly.  I could spend every second following my children around, yelling at them to pick up, to not take that out, to leave my stuff alone, but that would still probably not achieve my desired goal: to have a beautiful and orderly and calm place to call home 24/7.

Readers will argue that having a home-design-magazine-worthy home is a silly goal while being a SAHM to youngin’s – that they are only young once, and energy and time should be spent playing with them instead of worrying about the amount of mess they make.  I would agree.  But perfectionism and depression are filled with a font of irrational thoughts that don’t make sense and obsessively spin around in your mind making you feel that there really is no point and you might as well give up.

So, this last month I really have.  I have dropped the ball on housework, I have let the kids watch day-long marathons of Netflix, and I have essentially checked out.  Occasionally I have been able to summon enough gumption to cook dinner or do laundry.  I still run the kids to lessons and play-dates and if any of my friends ask I am doing JUST FINE.  But I am locked in a gloom that is very difficult to shake.

We took a family vacation last week and I was able to get outside of myself and just be for a few days, which was nice.  But coming back home was hard, getting back to real life was hard.

I go through something with my medication every two years or so where the normal dosage suddenly just doesn’t cut it anymore.  So I am starting a supplemental medication along with my normal prescription.  I am hoping that there is an improvement.  Generally, I have always felt that before the positive thinking and self-care suggestions my doctor and psychologist have suggested can kick in, there needs to be a biological “jump start” in the form of drugs in order to to be able to move forward.  And I feel like the current dosage is no longer cutting it.  I worry that by the time I am 60 I will be taking such an inordinately large dosage of psychotropic prescription drugs that I will no longer, chemically, be me.  Or that after so many years of taking antidepressants my brain will be severely damaged or I will develop a giant, inoperable tumor thanks to the miracle drugs that have gotten me out of bed and into the land of the living for 40 years.  But I suppose it will have been worth it.  Not living under a constant, debilitating cloud of depression is worth it.  I think.

So that’s what has been going on.  I am hoping to check in more often going forward.  I am hoping I will have happier, more sunny things to write about next time.  I know I will be fine, the sky is not falling, and life is actually beautiful.  I know all of that.  I just need a little help (and prayers) getting to the point where I can really feel it, too.

Thanks.

A Perfect Marriage

 

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Hubby showing me his moves on the dance floor.  (And he is doing a bent-leg shimmy here…he is short but not THAT short!)  It’s always a good thing when you can laugh at with your spouse.

I’ve been musing about marriage lately,  and it just so happens today is my Twelfth wedding anniversary!  That seems crazy to me that we’ve been married a dozen years.  It has gone by very quickly, but there are alternately those times where it feels like it has been forev-ah.

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Marriage means stickin’ it out through thick and thin…and sometimes making do with chicken wire instead of those fancy backdrop thingees.

 

Which leads me to wonder how many marriages, particularly those of my generation,  will end only with the death of a spouse instead of divorce. How many couples will choose “til death do us part” instead of dissolution and lawyers and custody battles and alimony. Because it’s hard. It’s hard to stay in a marriage when you are having problems. It’s hard to “work on it” when your spouse seems indifferent, when you feel neglected or unappreciated or just too dang overwhelmed and frazzled with LIFE to really be willing to focus energy on a marriage you secretly wonder may have been a “mistake”.  Especially when all of your friends and others you respect seem to have their love lives all together…

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You don’t just marry your spouse…you marry their whole family.

Back in the day, when Hubby and I were doing marriage prep classes, I felt like I was mooning around in a hazy rose-colored fog of smugness.  He and I were so “compatible” (the little test they gave at one of the sessions said, apparently, that Hubby and I were an emotionally mature couple who had no unrealistic expectations of marriage.  Which, at the time was entirely true. ) We were both ready to be married and loved and respected each other.  Stupidly, at that time, I also thought (for that reason) we were much better matched and ready for a lifetime of conjugal bliss than the majority of the population.  That we would Never. Have. Problems.  (Well, at least not more concerning than someone leaving clothes on the floor or the toilet seat up.) That simply being “made for each other” as the trite little saying goes, would make us utterly and completely immune to the forces of the world that would try to tear us apart.  That we would be one of those marriages that people looked at, years from now, when we were little old people puttering around in Assisted Living, as “such a Perfect Marriage.”

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If it isn’t work, you are not doing it right!

Oh, I realized that marriage was bound to be work.  But I didn’t realize to what magnitude that work would be.  No one really goes into the nitty gritty of how hard life as a spouse gets when you have to face things together you hoped you’d never have to deal with.  Job loss, serious illness, sick children, fights over how to best care for elderly parents.  I didn’t think seriously about what it was going to be like with four young children in the house screaming all day and then the violent, irrational Resentment I would feel when he got home from work and wanted to “relax”.  How it creeps up on you; you start looking at your spouse as that man who “did this to you”, instead of as this wonderful human being who God placed in your path to fulfill your vocation as wife and mother.  How you begin to blame each other for life’s annoyances.  How you begin to question, “would I be happier, really, if I could just leave?”  And, “Do I deserve better?”

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For better or for worse.  But never for perfection.

Thank God that marriage is a sacrament.  Thank God for the vows that I exchanged with my Hubby, who really is a good, Godly, honorable man who loves me deeply.  But I honestly don’t believe love alone would have saved our marriage during its dark times.  I meant, very seriously, those words I said twelve years ago.

I promise to love you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.  I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.

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“You want to do what?  Homestead in a barren wasteland?  Yes, please, I’ll follow you anywhere!”  Now that’s love.

The vows I made have gotten me through the tough times.  And the knowledge that Hubby and I am not in this marriage alone.  (God’s definitely got His work cut out for Him.)

Do you like all these wedding/couple pictures?  As I was putting this post together I was thinking how each one of these married couples, my antecedents, made a commitment for the long haul.  They did make it to “til death do us part.”  Did they have perfect marriages?  Did they have blissfully romantic unions chock full of whimsical serendipity and only marred by small inconveniences?  Hell no.  They knew hardship.  They knew loss.  They may have spent more time thinking about how unhappy they were in their marriages than anything else, I don’t know.  They may not have even liked each other very much.  Who knows, some of them (those I have known personally excluded of course) might have been miserable human beings who really weren’t balls of fun to be around.  But they stayed together.  Of course divorce wasn’t as viable an option back then, but maybe they too had some sense that marriage was a fundamental building block of society, that remaining married proved economically smarter, and children retained untold benefits from their parents being and remaining married.

 

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This photo was taken right before they realized they’d left my little brother at the gas station.

 

One day, in the midst of one of our nastier arguments, I made some snide comment to Hubby about something I felt he had done wrong.  I will never forget the look on his face when he said, very quietly, “I never said I was a perfect person.”  That statement gave me pause and I recognized that I had been expecting him to be.  Why is that?

Years ago, I read the novel Recipes for a Perfect Marriage by Morag Prunty.  It was a great book that captured the way I think many of my generation think about marriage: as a fairy tale romance for those lucky souls who meet and marry their “soul mate”.  It comes down to the idea that if you find the “right one” marriage should be a breeze.  Oh, and you should always feel blissfully “in love” most of the time.  If that isn’t the case, you should probably get divorced so you can find someone else who might, this time, satisfy your every emotional need and desire.

In Prunty’s novel, the reader follows the protagonist, Tressa, who is newly married and carries an idealistic view of how marriage works, due, mainly, to her perception of her grandparents’ “perfect” marriage.  When her own marriage isn’t as great as she thinks it ought to be, Tressa wants out.  Little does she know, her grandparents’ marriage was not the magical union she thinks it was.  Tressa learns, as she reads her grandmother’s diary, that her grandfather was a “consolation prize” for her heartbroken grandmother, who refused to show affection for the husband she felt almost forced to marry.  In fact, it wasn’t until years later that love finally began to take root, nurtured by shared experiences and affection.  But even on his deathbed, Tressa’s grandmother struggled to tell her husband she loved him.  Even though she did.  Very much.  Not your typical “romantic” marriage, but it worked.  It was imperfect, but happy.

Why do we want to have that “perfect” union? Our heads are filled with visions of Hollywood romance, usually focusing on the wedding, but also filled with spouses who listen always, criticize never, and always, always know what we want (love means being a mind-reader).  We think we should perpetually feel a deep, sensual and exciting love for our spouse.  We constantly want to feel as though we are “in love”, like we did when we first met.  We don’t want to ever fight.  People who love each other shouldn’t disagree, right?  We also want someone who respects our individuality while remaining completely selfless when it comes to our desires.  Someone to have and to hold who never has a bad day and takes it out on us.  Someone who will uncomplainingly do all the household chores (most particularly the ones we don’t enjoy), go to work, and still have time and energy for long, intimate talks and walks on the beach.

Ha.  This person doesn’t exist. (Well, maybe on someone’s match.com profile) Because this kind of perfection is not attainable by human beings.  So, what do we do?  Give up on marriage as an institution because we can’t make it what we want, because we can’t expect it (and our spouses) to be our end-all, be-all?

No.  We need to realize that God adds that element to our marriages.  Our marriage can be “perfection” but only through God.  I will never be able to be the perfect wife.  Hubby will never be able to be the perfect husband.  But Christ is the Perfect Spouse.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  This includes a loving marriage.

With His help, our marriages can be Holy.  Our marriages can be purposeful.  Our marriages can be Perfect.

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Musings on Memorial Day

We are a very veteran-heavy family.  In fact, in the course of three generations, every branch of the U.S.Armed Forces is represented save the Coast Guard.  Some of them volunteered, some were drafted, some had very high ideals about patriotism while some were merely doing what they were ordered.  At any rate, all of them were (and are – my little sister is still serving) ready to leave their familiar, ordered lives at the drop of a hat and – if necessary – fight, and possibly….die….in service to their country.  It infinitely humbles me, because the thought of being shipped off to

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My great-uncle trained here before shipping out to France in 1917, where he was blinded in action.

some foreign land to fight for my country scares the pants off of me.  I am a coward, I confess…I could not do it.  And that is why I am so glad, so grateful, that there are men and women out there who are willing to make that ultimate sacrifice for me and my family.

Luckily, my immediate family members who served in Iraq, Bosnia, Vietnam, and WWII all came home safe and sound with their bodies and minds intact (if not irreversibly changed by what they had seen).  They all knew fellow comrades who did not.

I’ve been doing lots of genealogy research lately, and the current quest is to locate, somewhere back in my family, a veteran of the Revolution.  I am really interested in becoming a member of Daughters of the American Revolution, and am convinced there is a member of the Colonial army back there if I can only find the right records.  Well, actually, I did find a great-great- twelve times back or something grandfather who helped the Colonial cause for one month!  Apparently he was like 76 or something and offered guiding service or let the troops stay on his property or something.  Not sure if that really counts as being a Revolutionary soldier, but it still sounds like he (and his son, an uncle not in my main line, who was a recorded soldier) was a Patriot.

It makes me think how easily those Patriots could have all been seen as Traitors if England had won the war.  Traitors are generally not treated super-kindly.  George Washington and all his buddies (including my grandpa a million times removed) could have easily been marched up to the gallows and today we would all be driving on the left.

I am grateful for the freedom I enjoy and for the soldiers who have died to protect it.  May this nation always be worthy of the sacrifices brave men and women have made for it!

 

 

{7QuickTakes} Belated weekly mishmash, Vol.5

My kids are watching The Good Dinosaur while I attempt to get something actual contributed to this blog!!  I haven’t abandoned it.  But y’all – May. Is. Crazy.  And I only have two in school.  But the programs, and the field trips, and the catching-up-on-everything-academic-because-the-school-year-is-almost-done-ing.  Plus, the kids are all antsy to be foot-loose and fancy-free and have all this pent-up “school’s out for the summer” anticipation and it is making me batty.  But…..I am sure I am not alone on this one.  Check out more moms (and dads!) who are probably going through this exact same thing at Kelly’s bloggin’ linkup.

ONE.

Hubby is back on shift work after a blessed hiatus.  The overnights are the worst.  The days (14 hours gone from home) are pretty bad also.  It is, for me, like being a single parent the days he is working.  He basically comes home, eats, and goes to bed.  Trying to focus on the positives…like, he does have a job.  This is a big plus.  And also, he does get to have 4 days off after his 4 days of work.  Which is nice, so we can do things together, like have a conversation.

TWO.

Two of my brothers came for a visit this week.  It is always nice to see family, particularly when we live so far away.  My youngest brother is moving back to the Midwest after his Active Duty stint in the military and my oldest younger (got it?) brother flew out to help him move back.  We are located conveniently half-way from California.  My kids get such a thrill seeing their uncles [aunts too]when they come visit.  Plus it helps that my brothers are really, really great with kids.  (PSA: Youngest brother is single, ladies – he will make a great dad someday!!!)

THREE.

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Current drama streaming obsession: PBS’s Poldark. (Find it on Amazon or DVD) What a great costume drama!  What a great love story!  What fabulous scenery!

mv5botq3nzm1mzq0ov5bml5banbnxkftztgwnjazntqxode-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_ Current comedy streaming obsession: Fox’s The Last Man on Earth.  (We watch it on Hulu).  I absolutely love the character of Carol (Kristen Schaal).  I think she is my favorite part of the whole show…Will Forte is good, too, but I love Carol.

FOUR.

We were at the local indoor-kids’ play gym (thanks to torrential rain and a Hubby sleeping off his night shift) yesterday and Evvie completely ‘imprinted’ on this other mom who was there with her twin boys.  It was somewhat amusing for me, because baby Evs can be pretty choosy about people she goes so far as to smile at.  But this fellow mom must have been magical to her, because she kept toddling around after her and her sons and would walk right up to her and look up at her all longingly.  The other mom, blessedly, did not find it annoying or creepy like I might have in her place, but just laughed and told Evvie, “You’re so cute!”  Then, my oldest, Junior, said (loud enough for everyone to hear), “I think Evvie wants a new mom!”  Yeah, I must be totally rocking this parenting thing…

FIVE.

I have 5,954,256 items on the floor in my office right now.  When I started writing this blog post, there were zero.  My children love me so much that they feel the need to be close to me at all times, particularly when my attention is not 100% devoted to them.  They take this opportunity to helpfully pull out every available book, crayon, office supply, piece of garbage, sticker, plastic baggie, craft item, and toss it, tornado-style on the floor of my workspace.  And Hubby thinks it would be a “breeze” for me to work from home!  Well, maybe, but at the end of the workweek the house would need to be condemned, pretty sure.

SIX.

Been seeing the chiropractor for my shoulder for a few weeks now.  It is helping, but slowly.  I find it is less painful (surprisingly) when I am well-hydrated.  And I am awful about drinking water.  I was a water-drinking champ when I was in college, or working, or pregnant.  But now that I am none of those things I find it difficult to get the requisite ounces in every day.  My main issue is that I fill a glass or bottle with water but through the course of the day, I am running all over the house and/or the car and I forget where I’ve left my water.  I think I just need to fill my Camelbak backpack and wear that all day so I don’t lose my water.  Where’s my Water? is one of the kiddo’s favorite games.  I should have invented it.

SEVEN.

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French fries?  They put me right to sleep.

 

That’s all folks, have a great week!