Monday, December 30, 2013

Year's End

The end of 2013.

I still have to pause and think about what year it is (is it 2012? 2014? 2000?), and it is already over! I do not think I really ever caught on to this year. After a string of very difficult years, 2012 was incredible, a real turning point for my family. While 2013 was not nearly as amazing as 2012, neither was it horrible. It was a year of learning and growing. 

1) Who I Am - I turned 40 in 2013. Still blows my mind. It is so . . , older! Inside, I still feel like a bumbling 18-year-old. My birthday gift to myself was permission to love who I am, not who I feel I should be (and here my husband goes, "DUH! I have been trying to get you to do this for years!" I know, honey - you are a man of wisdom!). It is a daily struggle, but I am learning to tame the negative messages I have been feeding myself since I was a teenager. I am learning to be patient with my body (because I am very unhappy with it) and more patient with my myriads of mistakes. Learning to love yourself is a tricky business.

Putting this picture on our Christmas card collage was a big step for me

2) What I Do - I began a new job, in addition to all the other things I already do. It has its goods and its bads. I am trying to weigh the two to decide how to move forward, and that is one of my big tasks of 2014.

3) What I Love - Singing. I began singing in college. I took a break from singing from the time of grad school through the birth of of my first child.  I have been singing in church again for almost 16 years. It is an odd thing - being a church cantor. You have to have the chutzpah to get up in front of a large group of people and think they won't mind listening to you, but remain humble and never forget you are serving. A real paradox!

One of my workspaces

 Earlier this year, I rededicated myself to this ministry. After a lot of prayer and helpful conversation with two fellow singers (thanks Sharon and Kerry!), I knew I was at a crossroads: I either needed to get out of cantoring altogether or I needed to place myself in the service of God in this ministry. And being in service means that I cannot be egotistical at all about what I do. For me, this means I (try to) accept what I get asked to do and what I do not get asked to do. It means I give it my all, without expectation of reward or recognition.

And believe me, I have LOTS of opinions when it comes to church music! My family gives me special "music-venting" time, when I am musically stressed!

4) Who I Surround Myself With - this was a year of changing friendships. Some relationships change, some fade away, and some bloom.

I have been so incredibly blessed to develop a real friendship with my dear neighbor. It was a
totally unexpected joy this year. It is such a gift to find a new friend, especially one you can really relate to and who urges you to be a better person and walk closer to God. She was literally an answer to prayer, but even better, her whole family has been a blessing to my whole family.
Other times this past year, I have reached out on facebook - in joy or frustration or whatever - and I received such support and love. It feels silly to say, but facebook was a real blessing this year.

2014, a whole new year full of promise. I have big hopes and plans for this coming year!

1) My Marriage - this is one of the things I am MOST excited about for the upcoming year. ArtGuy and I have been married 17 years, and have been parents 16 out of those 17 years. Parenthood has defined our marriage. It is a good thing, yes (one of the very best things of my life), but also trying, as anyone with multiple children will tell you. Some of our children are more "intense" than others, and that can lead to spending a lot of time on parenting - which is a good thing for the kids, but not so great for the marriage.

Now that our youngest, the Monkey, has turned 5 and is no longer a baby (a fact over which I vacillate between cheers and tears), and no one is currently deathly ill or dying (the illness and death of my only sister was very, very difficult) means we have a chance to really connect with each other in a way we have not for a long time.
I heard someone say that when you have been married to someone for 15, 16, 17 years, you can no longer compare them to who they were when you were first married. No one is the same as they were 15 (or more) years ago, so you have to relate to each other as you are now. It is a beautiful thought.
Not that having multiple teens in the house is a breeze, but it is a different ball game than when we had three little boys under the age of 5!
So, ArtGuy and I are on a mission to reconnect, outside of being parents. It is very exciting!

2) My Children - Like I said above, our youngest is now five - or as he proudly proclaims ,"a big boy"! And the Young Adult is 16 (gulp!). Cookie Boy is 14 and Romeo is staring 12 in the face. ArtGuy and I are in a Golden Era of parenting. The boys are all independent (to a degree), self-sufficient (at times), and able to pour their own breakfast cereal (my Golden Standard for childhood independence!). They are all interactive, fun, and easy to cart around. They are all still home. In just a few years, college will loom in our lives and my little nest will be broken up (as it should be. Sniff sniff!). But, for now, they are all here and they are all fun to be around.

Look at those hats! They just scream, "fun and crazy guys"!

We are planning a really big family trip this year, which should be a blast. I have a feeling we will look back on this coming year as a special time in our lives.

3) What To Do - I am excited about a new year and what I want to pursue. Do I want to work on writing again? Painting? Devote myself to cooking (hah hah!)?
I know 2014 will involve gearing up the college prep for the Young Adult, which makes me shake in my boots a little (if you told me 17 years ago I would be homeschooling high schoolers . . .).
 I am going to give myself permission to say "no" or "not now" more often in 2014 (I hope I learned my lesson by my over-involvement in too many things in 2013. But, I do it every once in a while - 10th grade, junior year of college, and apparently, 2013!).

So, goodbye 2013. It has been an interesting year.

And hello, 2014! May you be a year of great joy!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas is Coming

Five days until Christmas. So hard to believe.

Today is my one day with nowhere I HAVE to go (no Lego meetings, no work, no choir practice, no classes to cart kids to, no rehearsals), so I am choosing to be home! A novel concept these days!

So far I have cleaned the kitchen, swept and mopped the floor, and vacuumed downstairs. Well, the vacuuming was a two-step process. First, I ran the vacuum, then noticed it did not work. Second, I sat down and removed enough of my hair that had been wrapped around the roller that is was bigger than my hand - then I actually vacuumed!

Two years ago, I found the most adorable Advent book while I was browsing in Walmart. I bought it, and it has become one of my favorite things to do with the Monkey each Advent. I highly, highly recommend it if you have little ones. It counts down each day until Christmas with a short part of the Nativity story, with a small activity to do. Most of these activities are not a big deal and do not require extra materials - this non-crafty mom appreciates that! Yet, it really helps little ones connect with the preparation for Christmas.

Today's activity asked the Monkey to retell the Christmas story in his own words, while I wrote it down. I did. If you have little ones, get this done today. You will be glad you did. (We used a plush nativity set to help him tell the story.)

And so I bring to you the Christmas Story, in the words of five-year-old Monkey boy:

Joseph and Mary went a long, long way to the stable so that the baby could get out of Mary's tummy. Mary was going to be very excited about her new baby.

The baby got out of Mary's tummy. And Joseph and Mary thought and thought of a name for the baby. Then, they thought of one - Jesus.

Then, they saw a light that was far away, and it came closer and closer.

Then when they realized when it came it was the three Wise Men and the shepherds. The Wise Men's camel came slow.

The shepherd sat down the light so the baby would not be scared.

Then one shepherd gave the baby a little blanket to put on him.

Then two angels appeared. And they said, "Mary and Joseph, protect that baby!"

Then, the angels disappeared into heaven. But before they went, they gave Mary 
some flowers.

The three Wise Men gave Mary a crown and Joseph a hat. And they gave them 
two rings, since they got married.

And then the Wise Men sat down their stuff for Mary to protect the baby with.

Then, the shepherds went home, and the wise men went to their castle where they sat on their big, red chairs.

Merry Christmas!
                                                                       The End

Friday, November 1, 2013

Soldiering On

Since it is 1:15am and I just can't sleep, why not get around to writing that blog I never have time for? Sure, why not!

It is now officially November. Did you hear me? November! Halloween is over, and now is the official start of what we call "Money Season" in our family. Cookie Boy's birthday is tomorrow, the Young Adult's in one month, both the kids' grandmothers coming soon, and Christmas is right around the corner. Shew! Time to get creative with the gift-giving!

This fall has been a whirlwind of activity. It always is. This year more than others. First Lego League season is about at it's midway point, in full swing. I love it. This is our fourth season, and most of the boys on the team are pros by now and know what needs to happen. I love to see them getting things done. They are miles beyond where they started three years ago.

Dance season has almost reached its winter break, as far as competition season goes. The Young Adult is also no where near where he began years ago. He is so exciting to watch. His dancing commands attention. His progress through the levels has been fairly slow, but if he can pull out ONE more medal next weekend, he will move up one more ranking and be done with needing stamps forever and ever. He is nervous, exciting, and feeling a lot of pressure (from himself, I might add). I am so proud of him.

Work as been . . work. Major drama last week left me drained, stressed, and flat, emotionally speaking. I forgot about that side of a job - the talking behind people's back, the politics, the trying-to-get-along-with-people-who-you-would-normally-avoid. Sigh. I am going to keep a good attitude and smile and be nice to all, no matter what.

My big life lesson the past few months is about letting go - letting go of plans, of fears, of control.

Let nothing disturb thee;
 Let nothing dismay thee; 
All things pass; God never changes.
 Patience attains all that it strives for.
 He who has God finds he lacks nothing: 
God alone suffices
-St. Teresa of Avila

Since today is November 1, it is also the beginning of my favorite liturgical time of the year. I love November. All Saints Day, Christ the King - these feasts are full of the richness of heritage and harvest. And it all leads right up to Advent - hands down my favorite church season.

Bring it on!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Faster Than A Speeding Bullet

I would like to think I am Supermom. But if I had a hero name based on life and skills, it would probably be more like Frazzle Mom!

Less this . . .

More this . ..

Granted, our falls are always busy - ArtGuy has his annual conference, which takes him away for a week (not to mention the countless hours of work beforehand, nights and weekends in addition to days). The kids are always busy. The past 4 years, Lego League is chugging ahead in the fall.

However, this fall has been far more busy than usual. I am not a person who takes pride in my busy-ness. I do not feel more accomplished the busier I am. In fact, I fall apart without some quiet time every day. I lose myself when I have no time for contemplation and reflection.

So, this fall has truly been a challenge. I took on a new job, as a preschool music teacher. It is only two mornings a week, but that is just official work hours. There is a lot of time spent planning lessons, learning music, burning CDs, making props, creating lesson plans, prepping. Way more time than I anticipated.

I do love it, though. The kids are adorable. I love sharing my love of music with them. True story - for the past two weeks, I was sharing the William Tell Overture with them. One week we did Part 3 - Ranz de Vaches and one week we did the classic Finale. I told them all about parts 1 and 2 (Dawn and the Storm). Most classes requested to hear parts of all four movements. Last week we listened to snippets of 1-3 (and all of 4). Most classes requested to go back and hear part 2, the Storm, again. They loved it! I love seeing them get excited about music.

I also received a nice affirmation. Our preschool was observed by assessors for accreditation, and they had some very nice things to say about how I was doing.

Yet, in spite of all those good things, I spend every day flying around, trying to make it to the next task. Lego League, preschool music, cantoring. choir, homeschool coop, kids' classes, and our own homeschool - it has been a very, very challenging fall.

I am trying very hard to not lose myself in it all. It has been a good lesson for me - appreciating each moment, not worrying about what is coming (much), giving myself a break.

Even now, I am baking oatmeal banana breakfast cups (the Young Adult got a huge box of overripe bananas from a food shelter who needed to get rid of them), prepping for our Lego meeting, doing laundry, taking quick breaks to dust and put junk that has accumulated all over the house away, supervise the 13-year-old shaving his mustache off, and starting school!


Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Little Space

My house has thrown up on itself.

Stuff seems to be everywhere. Clutter. Junk. Toys. Books.


I hardly have time to think a thought, much less clean more than on-the-fly. My new schedule for the school year is way too much for me. I am so hopeful it will settle down soon. But for now, I am amazed at the amount of stuff I can get done in one day. Amazed, and impressed I have not exploded into little bits.

It is the sheer volume of "to-do", but  -almost worst - it is the constant shifting from one mode to another. Lego coach mode - zzzzoop! Now make dinner! Now get lessons plans for preschool! Now teach preschool! Now run home and teach and help high school, middle school, and kindergarten. Now STOP and dust the 2 inches of dust from the piano and grab that laundry. But wait, it is time to drive a kid to a practice. But not before you pull dinner out of the freezer! Good? Good, because now it is time to get those homeschool coop lesson plans done!

My head is spinning, I am not sleeping. I am in tears. I am tired.

I was SO proud of myself. In the cleaning I did over the summer, my bedroom became trashed. Everything seemed to end up in there. I worked really hard one whole morning, and cleared about a 3ft by 2 ft space. Just bare carpet.


I am not kidding - I have gone into my room just to look at that spot. It makes me feel calm. It makes me feel I can DO it!

I found I have to haul a load of junk to and from our homeschool coop (in a bin that does not really even fit in the back of my van! Sorry about those marks on the bin, guys!). In addition to that, the suitcase of junk I haul to the coop class I teach - those now occupy my Clean Space.

It is really stupid, but it makes me so, so sad. I am determined to find another place for those things, but I am not sure where yet.

Those lost space makes me feel I will never get it all done. Dreams of a clean bedroom, newly painted - hah! That is all they are. Dreams. Those paint chips are going to hang on my wall for as long as I shall live. No one but me will clean, no one but me cares.

Sorry, guys.

This week just has me down. Way, way down.

I need my Clean Space back! Pronto!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Week of Yummy Eating

It has been two years since I tried the the Everything Meals for a Month book. This is where you buy a whole warehouse-load of food, cook all day, and then have enough food to pretty much last you for a month.

I did it once, two years ago. We loved the meals. But, I never made the time to do a month's worth of cooking again.

Until two weeks ago, that is.

As our children have gotten older, our family schedule has become crazy-busy. I mean, I was worn out and tired when they were all little, but it was a completely different crazy than now. Now, we are go-go-go, all the time. I don't even like to be busy!

Our dinner time has suffered the most in all this. It is difficult to make dinner when you are not home 3 or 4 nights a week, or only arrive home at 6:30 or 7:00pm. Or, after a full day of teaching and errand running, the last thing I want to do is chop onions or make anything! I just want to eat!

So, it seemed like it was time to do the whole cook-for-a-month thing again.

That doesn 't even count the stuff in the fridge and freezer!

One week ago, I made my list and hit the grocery store. I spent one whole Saturday cooking. I ended up with about 20 meals. I planned a few pizza nights, breakfast-for-dinner nights, and leftover nights to bring the total up to close to 30.

I made (all from the Everything Meals for a Month book):
  • Pizza Fondue (x2)
  • Santa Fe Soup (x2)
  • Apple Glazed Pork Roast (x3)
  • Slow Cooker Lasagna (x3)
  • Turkey Meatballs with Couscous (x2)
  • Burgers  (x2)

Apple Glazed Pork Roast. 2 words: Nom Nom!

Everything has been so delicious! We have been enjoying eating real meals almost every night. The best part is, I don't feel that panic over, "Oh my gosh! I have to feed the family again! What am I going to doooooooo"!

My ice bath to cool things off more quickly. It was so hot, the ice melted instantly!

Now I just have to find time to do this every month!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Catholic Product Placement

Saint Michael the Archangel
Tiny Saints.

My birthday was last week, August 15. Also the Catholic feast day of the Assumption of Mary. My mother chose this date for my birth (planned C-section) and dedicated me to Mary. So, I get my birthday and my feast day all in one, glorious celebration!

My third son, Romeo, gave me a present on my birthday. I opened it to find a nice paracord necklace with the above St. Michael charm to go on it, along with a keychain. Apparently, the Basilica, where he purchased it, was all out of Mary charms.

But that is okay, because I have been praying the St. Michael prayer every morning and evening; only Romeo did not know that! St. Therese was my saint last year, so maybe this year St. Michael is making his presence known!

ArtGuy, being an artist and all, is always on the prowl for good Catholic products with decent design and artwork. It is amazing how much this is in short supply in modern times. Most things, especially for children, seem to be from more distant times, or, sadly, of inferior quality. There are exceptions, of course, but in the main, it is hard to find Catholic products for kids that are attractive in form and design and quality. Even their website is well designed. Score!

As soon as I opened this Tiny Saints charm, I was in love! The design is super, super cute, lightweight, easy to wear. The materials seem to be good quality. I love that you can buy different charms and just clip the one you want on to your necklace. (I plan on getting the Mary one soon!)

I think Romeo even put out a big hint that he thought these were cool, too. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. 

Tiny Saints - check 'em o!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What I Learned on My Vacation

3000 miles. In a minivan, with 4 kids. 11 days gone - 6 of those 11 days were spent driving.

Lots of "family togetherness"!

I learned a few things on this trip.

1. My kids are awesome travelers. Really, really awesome. Even the Monkey! 10-12 hours driving a day is not "fun", but they managed to make it much more enjoyable.

2. Be careful what you collect - Cookie Boy collects playing cards. He buys a new deck of cards for every new state he visits (or sometimes I get him a deck when I travel). The decks have to be State decks or represent the special place he is visiting - he is looking for unique, fun, commemorative cards.

 Apparently, finding playing cards is a hit-or-miss type of thing. 

We visited many, may gas stations and souvenir shops. Want a dinner bell? No prob? Shot glass - easy, peasy. Collectible spoon - everyone has them.
Playing cards - not so much.
However, he did manage to get 7 new decks this trip - Arkansas (the only ones we could find were Razorback cards, but it works!), Tennessee, Virginia, Annapolis, Maryland; and the Cape May/Lewes Ferry for Deleware. We also got him special cards from Graceland and the National Shrine in DC.

Mission accomplished!

3. Weather - we saw lots of weather on our trip. Storms lit up the sky while we drove from Memphis to Nashville, TN last week. It did not rain on us then, but we watched in awe as the lightning forked the skies, mainly jumping from cloud to cloud. It was awesome.
We went through many showers and downpours. We even had fog and low clouds on mountains.
Awesome clouds in Virginia

No one seemed too impressed. But I was!

Cool and windy - but sunny - on the beach

Weather! Clouds!!! Rain!!!!!

It made me think - the weather in Texas is pretty uniform - sunny and warm or sunny and hot. If it is not those things, it is apocalyptical, end-of-the-world stuff. Not much in-between.

rainbow cloud!
I loved looking at the clouds, rain, lightning, wind, sun, moon, stars.

Blurry, but you can make out the clouds on the mountain 

4. We really need to get out more. I am pretty sure I spent more time with my husband on this trip than I have in the past two years. Being trapped in a van for 3000 miles will give you time to talk.

5. I found out my husband only reads my blog "occasionally". Sigh. Nothing like feeling supported, although he is encouraging in a general, "go, you!" kind of way.

Sad face.

6. We are raising our kids right! Musically, anyway.

I am very eclectic in my musical tastes. My kids were laughing at my iPod as it played in the van. Queen followed by Lady Antebellum followed by the Tallis Scholars singing chant. Yeah . . .

The Monkey had his favorites. It was cracking us up to hear him sing:
  • Another Bites the Dust - Queen
  • Don't You Want Me - The Human League
  • Day-O - Harry Belafonte
  • Don't Stop Believing - Journey
  • Can't Touch This - MC Hammer
  • Hey, Soul Sister - Train

7. I learned a new way to pack. I read this blog about packing a family up for vacation, but I dismissed it. The day before we left, I decided to give it a whorl. The blog suggests using bins to pack. I only had a few, so I only packed some things this way. Next time, everyone is getting their own bin. It saved SO MUCH SPACE! It was awesome.
We have a minivan, but it is a very small minivan - a Mazda MPV. There is very little trunk room.

Packing 6 people for 11 days, for the beach, when the weather will be 100 degrees some places and 65 in others - it was daunting. But, the bins made it all better.

ArtGuy and I had all our clothes together in a 58 Qt bin. Plus some shoes and other things. Cookie Boy and Romeo each got their own 15 Qt bin. We rolled the clothes up nice and tight (helps reduce wrinkles, too!).
Things got more messy on the way home, but hey! The driver can see out the back.

Love the bins!

In addition, each boy received a shoe-sized bin for their in-the-van stuff. They have backpacks, but it gets very squished as we travel. These bins held sunglasses, earbuds, iPods, Nintendo DSs, pens/pencils/markers, and other small items. It helped them to keep smaller stuff together, and they were able to trade places a lot more easily. (The blog I read recommended shoes in these, too, but I am guessing the lady has some small children, not boys with giant feet!)

I also had a shoe sized bin for the front seat that had Mom's-heroic-moments-type stuff. Need a tissue Ta dah! A wipe for sticky hands? Here ya go! Fingernail clippers? Ibuprofin? Travel sized laundry detergent? Sunscreen? A Sharpie (you have NO idea how much that Sharpie came in handy)? An extra grocery bag for trash? Got it!

We also packed a separate small suitcase (in the future this will be a bin, too) with our "hotel" clothes. Since we were staying at hotels overnight both ways, we only had to unload that suitcase and a couple of smaller items, and not the whole van.

I packed our toiletries and charging cords and other miscellaneous items in a small red carry-on.

Everything stayed pretty neat and organized.

Lesson learned!

8. 11 days is a long time to be gone. 3000 miles is a lot of traveling. Not everyone was nice on the road or in stores or at attractions. However, ArtGuy and I noticed that while not everyone was nice, most people were nice.
We were amazed at the number of nice, friendly, mannered people we encountered.

Sometimes you forget or just think no one cares. And then the world shows you there is goodness all around.

9. People in Virginia need extra help? I guess? That is the conclusion I draw from these handy signs on almost every entrance ramp on Interstate 81 in Virginia.

It made me wonder - why????? Before these signs, were people getting on the freeway and making random left turns?
"Well, Bob, I am going to get on the Interstate and then I am going to turn left. Makes sense. Oh no! Wait! Oh, man! There is a sign that says 'no left turn. Dang it."

10. Some things cannot be shared.

On our final jaunt last night, we crossed back into Texas. The sun began to set, throwing gorgeous color into the sky. The sun hung big and low on the horizon, a kind of peachy-pink-sherbety orange colors. It cast an orange edge to the clouds, and threw orange, pink and blues across the sky. It was utterly lovely.
I love the beach, I love the mountains, but I love my Texas more.

I tried to get a picture, but I couldn't. Maybe it was the bug-encrusted van windows, maybe it was trees in the way. Or maybe, some things cannot be shared, but can only be experienced.

It made me sing this song to myself. (Sixpence None the Richer, but actually from a project of Rich Mullins called Canticle of the Plains). So pretty.

A million things in my head, swirling around. So much to do.

But I am not getting back in that van today, if I can help it!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

My Birthday Wish

This is it. The big 4-0.

I would like to give myself one thing for my birthday - the ability to love myself, the way I am, flaws and all. And it is mainly flaws.
It is hard to be a mom and a wife and not feel all your flaws, every day, like irritating, biting gnats swarming around your self-consciousness every hour of every day.


It is kind of ironic, really. I am 40, fat, frumpy. All those things I never wanted to be. (Well, I would rather be 40 than never get there. But the other two things I could do without.)

I have never been a skinny girl. I have hated my body since I was 11 years old. I matured faster than all my friends. I hated being the only 5th grader with boobs! I hated the way my body looked and felt and moved. I have always thought I was fat.

Of course, now I realize I was not, and I would give anything to go back and be that size again.

About seven or eight years ago, I started gaining weight. Slowly. Every year some more. I had the Monkey in that time period and that added more pounds I have not been able to lose.And still I add the weight, a little at a time.
I had everything checked. My thyroid is good, my blood work is excellent. I know my hormones are off, and that is being treated for over a year, but it has not made a difference in my weight,.
And we are not talking 10 or 20 or even 30 pounds. 60 pounds in 8 years. It is a number that blows my mind. 
Since this weight gain started, say 8 years ago, I have:
  • run
  • walked
  • been a member of a gym and attended regularly
  • done Weight Watchers
  • done South Beach
  • done My Fitness Pal
  • regular use of a stationary bike
  • regular use of small hand weights (5 lb each)
  • 30 Day Shred
  • Insanity

Nothing helps. Sometimes I can get 10-15 pounds off, but it is only a matter of time before it creeps back on.  The worst was last year, when I did 30DS for 3 months along with very careful accounting with My Fitness Pal. At the end of the 3 months, I had lost 1, maybe 2, pounds.
That is it. All that work, for nothing. And no, my clothes did not fit better, my measurements were not any different.

I can understand the weight coming off slowly, but not . . . nothing.

I hate the way I look. I feel it in my body. I hate the way clothes fit me. I hate seeing my arms, my legs, and - oh my gosh - the belly that won't die since the Monkey came along.

My weight is with me all day, every day. Every morning when I dress, every evening when I put on pjs, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. When I -shudder - see a picture of myself.

It is torture, every day.

I will not give up. My eating habits have vastly changed. I exercise, regardless of weight loss, because I know it can only be doing me good. I try to ride 6-10 miles on my stationary bike, 6 days a week, while doing my hand weights. Some weeks I may only make it 4 days, some weeks 5, some 6.

I will not give up.

But still.

I know I need to come to some kind of peace with myself. I need to learn to love myself, regardless of how I look. I know this. I crave
I am just not sure how to get there.

It is my birthday wish for myself. To learn to love who I am, now, here, as I am.

Happy birthday to me!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Husbands, Love Your Wives, v 2

Today's edition of "Husbands, Love Your Wives" is a more along the lines of a service announcement. For you, the husband, to know how to better love your wife in the little, daily ways.

We women are bombarded, daily, about how we look. We are very aware we live in a culture that values external beauty, and that beauty is defined in a very specific way by our culture. We are reminded in every movie, tv show, billboard, magazine ad, and catalog how our society defines "being attractive": being thin, being young, being fashionable.
 No matter how much your wife knows she is not bound by those societal dictates, no matter how much of her own woman she strives to be, these things manage to slip into our subconsciousness unawares.

You husbands have an awesome job - to love your wives. You have to power - POWER - to build her up. You have the power to make her feel loved, attractive, and desired. You have the power to make her feel beautiful.

Because the truth is, most of us know we fall far short of society's demands of outer beauty. But we don't care so much, so long as you find us beautiful!

So, what can you do?

1. The Bathing Suit Rule

Your wife should never, ever put on a bathing suit without a sincere compliment from you. I do not care if her chest hangs down to her feet and her stomach rolls can hide small mammals: when she puts on a bathing suit (which is an act of bravery, believe me!), you better say something nice. Notice her right away, and say something to make her feel attractive.
If you say nothing, she hears your silences as loudly as your voice. Sure, maybe you find her attractive, but it is doing no one any good for you to feel that way and not express it so that your wife can clearly hear it. Often. Very, very often.

So say something.

And let's review Compliments, in general.

Acceptable: "Honey, you look goooood in that bathing suit."

Not acceptable: "You look nice."

"Nice" does NOT cut it, guys. "You look nice" is something you tell you mother or your sister, not your wife. Sure, it is a nice thing to say, but it is not worthy of your wife. "Nice" is safe. It is bland. It is boring. Save your "nice"s for family members and colleagues.
 Tell your wife something only you as a husband have a right to say. 
Come on! Put some sizzle into that relationship. 
(One caveat: You can get away with "nice" every once in a while, IF you are using much better compliments other times. But use it sparingly.)

2. The Dress-Up Rule

One day I came down for church. I had taken extra time with my clothes, my hair, my make up. My husband looked up as I entered the room and said nothing about how I looked, but started talking to me about something else. My 5-year-old, on the other hand,jumped up and said, "Wow, Mom! You look so, so pretty. You could be a princess!" He then ran to me and kissed me. After which my husband said, "yes, you look nice today."
Who do you think made me feel more attractive?

This is very similar to the bathing suit rule. When your wife dresses up, say something. (Remember, not "You look nice").


You noticed her when you were dating. You sure noticed her when you were engaged. You definitely noticed her when you first got married. If you have gotten out of the habit of noticing her, make a better effort to be aware of her.
See, that is the point. It isn't that you are laying down and worshiping at the feet of our beauty. It is more about being noticed. Knowing our husbands see us. See something beautiful in us. Something attractive. Because we often do not feel beautiful or attractive.

Of course, she does not have to dress up in order for you to throw a compliment her way, either. Be lavish. Be crazy with your compliments.

 3. The Lonely Hand Rule

I would like to subtitle this one: how to know if you kind of stink as a husband. But I won't.

Hold your wife's hand as much as you can. Holding hands has been a sign of affection since we were kids. Why would that be any different now?

There is nothing more frustrating than sitting next to your husband, your hand in plain sight, and he does nothing.
Not that it is always a good time to hold hands, but if you are regularly leaving your wife hanging, you are kind of stinking as a husband.

Hold her hand.

Let's review:
1) Bathing suit =  compliments
2) dressing up = compliments
3) Hold her hand

Well, that is enough to get you started. You have your homework. Get to it!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

My Prayer This Week

We sang a hymn at church today with a traditional melody, but words I did not remember, or have not noticed before. They really struck me. The words are beautiful and challenging - our faith must be a living thing, moving us towards who we are meant to be. And if our faith remains only a personal one, and finds no expression in our daily life - through love of neighbor - then it will never live.

This will be my prayer this week.

God, Whose Purpose Is To Kindle
text based on Luke 12:49, byDavid Trueblood

God, whose purpose is to kindle:
Now ignite us with your fire;
While the earth awaits your burning,
with your passion us inspire.
Overcome our sinful calmness,
Stir us with your saving name;
Baptize with your fiery Spirit,
Crown our lives with tongues of flame.

God, who in your holy gospel
will that all should truly live,
Make us sense our share of failure,
our tranquility forgive.
Teach us courage as we stuggle
in all liberating strife;
Lift the smallness of our vision
by your own abundant life.

God, who still a sword delivers
rather than a placid peace,
with your sharpened word disturb us,
from complacency release!
Save us now from satisfaction,
where we privately are free,
Yet are undisturbed in spirit
by our neighbor's misery.

Friday, August 2, 2013

7Quick Takes Friday

Happy Friday!

 Here are my thoughts on 7 quick topics today. Thanks Conversion Diary, for hosting!


 How is it Friday already? Wasn't yesterday Monday? This week flew by. Not only that, but it is August now? I am still trying to adjust to the fact it is 2013 not 2012.


I have discovered a genius! My neighbors next door have a 16-year-old-son, M, who is an organizational and cleaning savant! Maybe he cannot be literally a savant at his tender age, but he is highly gifted, at any rate.

Last week, M came over and directed the total cleaning out of my coat closet (why did we have a million coats? There are only 6 of us and we live in Texas, for heaven's sake! I don't think I have worn a coat in two years!). We also began my large upstairs linen/game/homeschool closet. It apparently had a thousand blankets in it, left over from our last house, which - while only 15 miles away - was magically transported to Siberia in the winter months. We froze during winter in that house. My solution was to collect blankets. Lots of blankets.
Before - Blanket CHAOS!

After: Ahhhhh!

M is very patient with me.

He is coming over today to finish up that closet. And there is great rejoicing.

Jen from Conversion Diary  had a great post yesterday about Organizational Hacks for the Rest of Us. Very funny and very helpful.

 Another good recent blog post is "OverExposed"  at The Busy Mom (why does Heidi St. John always looks like a beautiful model on a catalog shoot in her pictures? Unfair!)

Heidi talks about how some of the down side of social media. How it can rob us of intimacy. How it can hurt. How there needs to be balance. But she says it all so well.

You know I have said many times I have a love-hate thing with facebook.  As Monk would say, "It is a blessing and a curse."


If you get your knowledge of the Catholic Church from CNN . . .well, I don't know how to finish that sentence. Hey, I got it!

If you get your knowledge of the Catholic Church from CNN, you will never know anything about the Catholic church.

Or pretty much anything else. And not just CNN, either.

Monday afternoon I was eating a delicious chocolate-dipped ice cream cone at Dairy Queen, frittering the time away with the Monkey while Romeo was in pottery class. I glanced up at the tv screen, tuned to CNN, to see the ticker flash by something like "Pope Francis says he will not judge homosexuals" and then "Pope Francis says homosexuality is not a sin; Twitter erupts with controversy".

Sigh. Not again.

In a nutshell: Pope Francis did not say anything different to anything else the Church has been teaching for a long time. I will not explain it all, just because many other people have done with much better than I can. Cardinal Dolan's blog is, as always, friendly and down-to-earth and highly intelligent. Read this.

It reminded me of the firestorm started by - tah dah - the media! - in one of Pope Benedict XVI's first talks, when he was speaking about Mohammad. Whatever the media grabbed onto made it sound like Benedict was rude and ignorant and mean. I remember hearing that sound bite and thinking, "Wow, that does not sound like the Church to me". All I had to do was simply go to the transcript of his actual speech. Yes, the quote the media flung about was accurate, but it was entirely out of context and changed the whole meaning of it all.

I look at any news organization kind of like Wikipedia: a good place to start with a little information about a subject, but not at all reliable, or even necessarily true.

Or maybe more like a reality show. 

In other words, do not believe everything you hear. When possible, go to the source.


Staring forty in the face, fatter than I have ever been my entire life, with the body left-over from carrying Four Strapping Sons into this world (complete with c-section scars!), I bought my first ever bikini top.

Less like this

More like this

Not that anyone will see it. When worn, it is safely hidden under my super-duty, can't-touch-this, rashguard swim shirt.

Apparently my Irish heritage strangled my Native American heritage in a death match.I go white-red-white. That is it.

We went to a water park earlier this summer. In spite of applying 50 SPF many times throughout the day, I burned. So I went home and bought a a water shirt. Then I realized something has to go under the shirt. So, I bought a bikini top.

It is much more exciting than it sounds. It certainly has not impressed Art Guy.


It is August. It is Texas. It is hot.

Dallas 7 day Forecast

We are getting ready to vacation at a beach in Delaware, where the highs are in the low-to-mid 80's. Can you even GO to the beach when it is only 82?

I am thinking our family, used to hotter-than-heck-Texas weather, will be huddled under parkas or something. "I'm a little chilly."Teeth chattering. Only toes dipped in the water.


I am catching up on some Amazing Race. Love that show! I so want to be on it and have excellent adventures. ArtGuy and I would be the bickering couple. I would be constantly out-of-breath and red in the face. We would snap at each other often as we navigate the crazy tasks given. We would make awesome television!

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Husbands, Love Your Wives, v. 1

I have been thinking a great deal about love and marriage this year, for some reason. And - hey! I have a Masters degree in Theology of Marriage and Family! The least I can do is muse on the subject on my little blog.
Notice the title -"v.1". I hope to write about it from time-to-time. Not that I have a plan. I probably should not be allowed to write anything until I am fully awake (which I suspect I am not, judging by the heinous typos I am making. And hoping I catch. Sorry if I don't.).
And listen, I know it goes both ways, but for now, I am JUST writing about husbands loving wives.

The Gospel reading this past Sunday is one that actually makes me think about marriage:

"What father among you would hand his son a snake
when he asks for a fish?
Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?"
Luke 11:11-12

Or, as we often hear - "or hand him a stone when he asks for bread".

The same applies to husbands and wives.

What husband among you would give your wife nothing when she asks for more time with you? Or a lecture when she needs your listening ear? Or coldness when she needs more intimacy? Or an argument when she expresses a need?

It is much more appalling to think of handing a child a stone when he is starving, asking for bread, than it is to imagine a husband not meeting the emotional needs of his spouse.. However, many wives "starve" in marriage and receive stones or scorpions in response to their requests for emotionally nourishing bread.

 I know there are many men who seem to understand that their wives may have emotional needs (talking, encouragement, support, attention, affection)  that demand a lot more attention that what they themselves need to feel whole (even if they do not "understand" the reasons for these needs); however, there are also many men out there that are so confused by these needs, or the frequency of these needs, or the depth of these needs that their response to their wives' emotional needs is the exact opposite of what she really needs.

A stone for bread. A scorpion for an egg. A snake for a fish.

The fruit of this is seen in the quality of the relationship. A wife who is emotionally starving is rarely a happy woman.

I like the think (okay,  maybe giggle) that the constantly complaining wife of Proverbs is actually one who just needs her husband to pay her some da$#ed attention! I like to think of this series of statements not as a warning about marrying a grouchy woman, but a warning to husbands to care for their wives in every way. If they do not - even if they believe they do - they will know it. For one, their wives will usually tell them, but if they choose not to believe her, then they will be living with the consequences:

It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a contentious wife.  - Prov. 21:9

It is better to live in a desert land than with a contentious and fretful wife. Prov. 21:19

It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a contentious wife. Prov. 25:24

A continual dripping on a rainy day and a contentious wife are alike; Prov. 27:15

It is almost like God is giving wives permission to make their husbands' lives a living hell if they chose to not address their wives' emotional needs! I know, I know  - He isn't. I think.

(Or, I could be watching too many superhero movies, where a kind-of geeky under-dog gets special powers  proceeds to annoy the heck out of those who ignored her before. Or, as previously stated, I could be writing before I am fully awake. Have mercy on me.)

A Christian wife, who look to her husband to love her as Christ loves the church, may even find her relationship with God challenged when her husband - who may be a good man in most ways - neglects her emotional needs.

The danger for women, of course, is to be overly-emotional or overly-demanding of attention and affection. No one likes a leech, girls. Don't suck the life out of your man!

Husbands and wives are called to model Christ's love to one another. They are to be Jesus to one another. We need to think about how we are representing Jesus in our marriage.

And pray. A lot.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

You Know Not the Day Nor the Hour

I was going to post on something light-hearted and fun.VBS (which was awesome) or my silly kids or something clever about homeschooling.

But, this is on my heart right now and so this is what you get.

My friend was riding his bike this morning, a relatively cool morning for late July in Texas. On the trail, he came across an accident that had recently happened. An 8-yr-old girl had wiped out on the trail. She had been out riding with her dad. I understand she was wearing a helmet.
They Careflighted her to the hospital. We have been praying for this unknown little girl today, assuming she was fine, because, hey! she was wearing a helmet.
She was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Just like that. Gone.

My heart breaks for the family. For the dad, who was just out riding bikes with his kids. For what should  have been a normal morning.

Nothing will ever be the same. He will always think, "If only we had . . .", "if only I had . . ".

That is all I know - there could be details I am not aware of, but I know for certain there is a family grieving tonight. What started out as just a normal day ended up as tragedy.

You hug your kids, you send them out the door, but you just never know. There are no guarantees.

Life is precious and sweet.

Friday, July 26, 2013

7 Quick Takes, and day 5 of 7 Posts

Lots of 7's today!

5th day of a week of 7 posts! Whoo hoo!

And, as it is Friday, it is also 7 Quick Takes!

And both are thanks to Jen at Conversion Diary.

here we go:


I have not been writing for a while. I felt like I needed to take time off and relax and pay attention to my kids and not worry about "Will I ever make it as a writer?"
I don't even know how to answer that question anyways. Yes, I am published. No, nothing in the past few years. So, what does that mean? No one is breaking down my door to get me to pen fabulous words that will dazzle and delight, so what does that say? Shouldn't I want to write no matter if anyone ever sees it?
Waiting, seeing, wondering . . .


My boys are arguing about farts downstairs. And cooking and eating fish. I can hear them. Sigh.

Boys are very, very weird. My life as an adult has been totally shaped by them. I never thought I would have all boys, and the fact of having all boys has made my Life of Parenthood very different. No one ever wants to go shopping, get a manicure, watch sappy movies. Like any good human, I have adapted.
My daily ablutions are short and to the point. There is a point-of-no-return with boys - leave 'em alone for too long and you may find very bad things happening, or very weird things. Or nothing. They keep you guessing.


VBS just ended at our church. Well, I suppose it is ending today. We have 2 sessions at St. Gabriel's: a morning session that runs Monday-Friday mornings and an evening session that runs Sunday evening-Thursday evening. You only attend one. We prefer the evening, because it is smaller, close-knit and we have our days free. Only we are very, very tired at the end of the week.

This year was Romeo's first year to volunteer as a teen helper. The Young Adult and Cookie Boy both are seasoned vets, but Romeo was nervous and excited to be a real helper. He had a great time and fell in love with all those little kids. He loved helping, but he also came home with crafts. He is 11, that funny age between little kid and teen. Love it.
That left the Monkey as my only attendee! I remember the days when I would go volunteer with VBS and NONE of my kids were old enough to attend.
I feel old. . .


 . . . which leads me to the contemplation that my birthday is only 3 weeks away. The Big One - 4.0.


Which I will celebrate with my husband's entire family at a beach in Delaware. We have added a gazillion more people to the family since our last beach vacation 8 years ago. It should be very interesting!
Nothing I love better than turning a Big (kind of traumatic) Birthday at a BEACH, which means swimsuits.


My battle with my weight over the past 7 years is ridiculous. No amount of changing my eating habits or exercise seems to make a difference. I lose a little, and it creeps back on. and on. and on.

While going to the beach sounds fun, in theory, having to hang out in my bathing suit is making me cringe. I bought a second one - a swim shirt and shorts - so that helps. But, still.

it will do nothing for my self-esteem.

And before you tell me not to care, let me tell you - I do care. Very much. But I will still have fun.


 August is less than a week away. I am flipping out, I tell you! August may still technically be summer, it is already full! Okay, yes, I get to go to the beach, and that will help. But I have lots of paperwork to finish up for my new preschool music teacher job, plus lesson planning for that, plus regular homeschool lesson planning, plus finishing up paperwork from the last school year (bet that helps make you feel like a better parent now, doesn't it?), plus First Lego League team planning, plus trying to figure out how to haul my kids all over creation for classes and manage to feed us every night (which is kind of hard to do when you are NOT HOME!), plus all the regular stuff.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

7-in-7,day 4: Dirty Little House Secrets

My house is a mess.

I wonder how many blog posts I have begun that way. But it is true, so there it is.

I have analyzed many, many times WHY the house is so messy. The most obvious answer is: my family! Romeo is the only one of my men who shows any concern about cleaning. The Monkey does help, but he is young yet.

I have this dream (nightmare or fantasy? I am not sure.) that I go away for a while - not sure where. Let's imagine Hawaii or Salzburg - somewhere fabulous. Anyway, I am gone for a month or two. I return to a scene of horror.
My men are lounging around the house in dirty clothes. Piles of toys, books, junk and trash litter the living room, stairs and bedrooms. Dirty dishes piled in the sink. Message light blinking frantically on the phone, because either a) no one thought to check and see if there were messages or b) no one remembered how to get them off, in spite of the hand-written instructions I have on the wall. A 5-inch layer of dust coats everything. The kitchen floor has clearly not been mopped and maybe not even swept while I was away. The bathrooms are downright scary.
A look of horror washes over my face. My men jump up to exclaim, "We were were going to clean up! You just got home an hour early! Honest!"

Yeah. This is a very likely scenario of what would happen were I to be gone for a month or two.

I have tried many systems of getting the family clean and/or organized, but to no avail. I have limited cleaning time myself, but I do what I can.

In the process, things get neglected. And that is where we are today. Neglected.

My big summer plan to clean and organize the house has not happened, due to illnesses and fun.

But today, that begins to change. My neighbors have a 16-year-old son who needs money AND likes to organize. He is coming over this afternoon to help me get a handle on the whole thing. Only problem is, he will SEE our dysfunction. It will probably scar him for life!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

(This) Woman's Best Friend

Over the past several years, I have changed my eating habits substantially.

Brown rice, quinoa, beans, real whole wheat bread stock my pantry. Chocolate Covered Katie and Skinny Ms. are bookmarked on the computer and Kindle. My vegetarian cookbook sits on my counter, because I use it so frequently. Cauliflower - cauliflower, for heaven's sake - sits in my fridge (this, coming from a girl who does not like vegetables, should tell you have far I have come).

Yet, there are times in this woman's life (about once a month) when she just needs chocolate. Ice cream. Ice cream that screams, "This is chocolate"!

That time was recent in our house. I sent my husband out with one mission - "As chocolate as you can get".

This is what he came home with. I did not know this existed. It was Chocolate.

Should just come with the label, "For that special time of the month"!


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

7-in-7, Day 2 - So Much Internet Goodness

My, oh my! This post is late today (see #4 for the reason why)

There is SO MUCH internet goodness today. Friends are posting stuff left and right on fb that has me happy, thoughtful and saying, "coooool"!

1) First up - this cool blog from Hannah at The Art in Life, "My Husband is not my soul mate". We hear lots of things about God and marriage, one of them being, "God has someone out there for you". The truth is, there are probably lots of someones out there for you. God gave us free will and we use it. Every choice we make takes us a different direction (just like a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book, which I LOVE... I mean, LOVED!). Marriage is a choice - one person, for life. And that gets made day after day after day. Love in marriage cannot rest on a feeling, because when the feeling goes, what is the point of the marriage? But when love is a choice - a choice of an exercise of our free will, then love becomes a daily offering.
Ursula Le Guin, a great science fiction writer, said this: "Love doesn't just sit there, like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new."
Not that God does not care who we marry. It just is not written in permanent ink from the day of our birth. 

2) Numero dos - this very cool poem called "We Need Saints". On fb today, it is making the rounds as something said by Pope Francis at World Youth Day, and maybe he quoted it. However, it is a poem, apparently inspired by JPII. I am really not sure of the exact origin, but I love the poem. Thanks to Mario St. Francis for this translation from the Portuguese on his site.
We Need Saints
We need saints without veil or cassock.
We need saints who wear jeans and sneakers.
We need saints who go to the movies,
listen to music and hang out with friends.

We need saints who put God in first place,
but who let go of their power.

We need saints who have time everyday to pray
and who know how to date in purity and chastity,
or who consecrate their chastity.
We need modern saints, Saints of the 21st century
with a spirituality that is part of our time.

We need saints committed to the poor
and the necessary social changes.

We need saints who live in the world and who are sanctified in the world,
who are not afraid to live in the world.

We need saints who drink Coke and eat hot dogs, who wear jeans,
who are Internet-savvy, who listen to CDs.

We need saints who passionately love the Eucharist
and who are not ashamed to drink a soda or eat pizza on weekends with friends.

We need saints who like movies, the theater, music, dance, sports.

We need saints who are social, open, normal,
friendly, happy and who are good companions.

We need saints who are in the world
and know how to taste the pure and nice things of the world
but who aren’t of the world.

3. A really cool video celebrating geeky girls! I did not ever think of myself as a geek when I was younger. But now I realize, it was there all along. I have always loved Star Trek NG and I got my first gaming system when I was 9. I learned computer programming on an old TI. As a Big Girl now, I love Avengers, comic books, sci fi movies, video games and I coach robotics and engineering team. I am PROUD to be a geeky girl!

4.  Our first official off-season First Lego League meeting today. This is the 4th season for Storm System, and the boys are super excited over the theme for this year, Nature's Fury. We have the game mat and the pieces, but we do not have building instructions yet. 
Our new parent banner!

The challenge release date is August 27, which seems a long, long time away. However, I know it will get here much faster than I imagine, and before I know it, I will be howling about competition time!
I made them play Pictionary to begin the meeting. That announcement was met with howls of dismay and protest. Sigh. Some had never played it, some did not know how to play it, and some were "really horrible at it - I can't do it - I will really stink at it". Just like a real FLL meeting!
Cruel coach that I am, I made them play anyway. And - gasp! - they had fun. Imagine that! They were much better at it than they thought. Plus, there is teamwork, cooperation and lots of opportunities for encouragement (hence the coach in me went, "Hmmmm, perfect! They will have fun AND learn at the same time. Mwah haaah haaaah haaah!").
"Log Cabin"

"Rain Forest"

The figure in the middle clearly demonstrates that this is a drawing of a pirate! Not sure if he has devil horns or huge ears or what is on his head!
The game came down to the last draw. It was a close one! Good thing we are a robotics and engineering team, and not a fine arts team!