Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Day #42: Work Priorities

Today I had a meeting with the small business development center pertaining to the preschool I would like to open...someday.  A few short months ago I believed I would be knee deep into the business preparing for the upcoming school year, but a major road bump put a halt to the preschool opening in the fall.  Initially I was crushed.  I had spent so much time putting together a plan, finding a location, meeting with families, etc.  It was so terribly disappointing to tell everyone, "Sorry.  It's a no-go."

Fast-forward a few months.  The disappointment has faded and been replaced with content and acceptance.  I hold tight to the saying, "Everything happens for a reason."  Now is simply not the time.  I still have small children at home who need their mommy and From Cover to Cover is growing and thriving as well.  Perhaps my purpose right now is to raise my babies and help kids in the area through service.  The downfall?  Neither position pays well...well, at all.

Realizing that while my contribution to our family and my community is not one of financial gain, it may be more important than any dollar amount I would receive from the preschool.  I suppose the beauty of our lives here is that we truly never know where our path will lead us.  Accepting this truth and transitioning to being content in my current role has been so freeing.

I have been blessed with the gift of organization and a servant heart.  Serving my family and these children in my community that have so little are my work priorities right now.  In time this may change, but for now I will focus on this season.  I will give it my best effort and patiently wait for the doors that will open in the future.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Day #41: The Urge to Purge

Everyone I look I see stuff.  Clutter.  How much of this stuff do we really need?  I am feeling the urge to purge.  I know I've written about it before, but the feeling continues to intensify.  It's hard to part with our possessions, but I simply cannot live in this house anymore with all of this stuff!

It is impossible to keep things organized.  We do a clean sweep pick up daily and a big pick up each weekend, but I still feel like our home is just so jumbled.  It's okay for a home with small children to look and feel this way, but when it is affecting my mood and interfering with life, then it's time to purge.

Now, to put the plan into action.  Easier said than done!

Day #40: Mind Over Matter

For months I have been trying to carve out time for exercise.  To get into a routine and feel healthy again.  Unfortunately, I get in a good workout and then wait about another week before I attempt another.  Last spring, once I got the "all-clear" from the doctor, I started the From Couch to 5K program.  This was a big challenge for me, as I simply am not a runner.  A mile has always been a challenge.  My mind is just not my friend when it comes to hitting the pavement.  I surprised myself, though, and I finished it.

Today I had the opportunity to go the gym alone.  No worrying about how the kiddos are doing. Just me, my music, and the track.  My initial goal was a mile.  I have run very little since completing my 5K last summer (which actually turned out to be 4 miles, who knew?!), so I thought it would be a reasonable challenge.  I hit the track, turned on my workout playlist, and began to run; slowly, but running.

I hit the mile mark and thought, "Hey, I feel pretty good!  I should keep going!"  For once my mind didn't stop me.  I ended up running for 30 minutes.  At my pace, that's about 2 1/2 miles.  Wow!  I was proud of that accomplishment.  Lesson learned.  I can do it, if only I don't let my mind trick me into thinking otherwise.  I left feeling energized and accomplished.  Here's to hoping it's not another week before I am able to so again!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Day #39: Enjoying the Game

My oldest is 7.  He's always been very creative, detailed, and into sports.  Nearly every day for 4 years he's played some sort of a sports game:  baseball outside, basketball inside, or with one of his several sets of "guys" (hockey, baseball, football, and basketball to be exact!) he loves to play with.  While he loves his friends, he loves to play alone and get lost in his games.  He is an introvert at heart.

In his room you will find jerseys from all of his favorite teams in home and away colors.  Each day he comes home from school with his schedule showing the game for the afternoon.  Some days he even brings home tickets he's made for the stuffed animals that will make up his crowd. If he's going to play a game, he'll change into his uniform, set up a stadium, bring the fans to the game, and get the music prepared.  If he's going to play with his guys, he'll complete all of these steps except for changing!  For as long as I can remember, he just loves sports...period.

At times, I admit, I find this frustrating.  He enjoys this part of his life so much and gets so into it, we run into disappointment, and often some tantrums, if we can't fit a game in on any given day. These games can take hours.  He loves to report to us who has scored, how the game is going, and any other little details he finds important.  There are days when I get annoyed with the reports every few minutes.  I struggle with feelings of guilt because I don't sit and watch them like I used to.  It's such a big part of his life and I know that someday it will abruptly stop and I will think to myself, "I wish I would have taken the time to watch him."

When it comes down to it, I think it's just his way of dreaming of things yet to come.  It's his creative outlet and a way for him to put all of the sports knowledge swimming around in his brain to good use.  Today I caught a glimpse of how much he wants someone to pay attention to his game.  How important it is to him to be noticed.  It was the seventh inning of his baseball game and I realized soon it would be time to sing the 7th Inning Stretch:  "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."  His voice got louder as he approached the third out in the top half of the inning and he looked around to see if anyone would watch what was to come.  I've seen this hundreds of times over, but it still brings a smile to my face.  I can still see this sweet little boy playing his games in the backyard when he was just a preschooler.  The little boy who sang the "National Anthem" to start his games, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in the middle, and if we were lucky, "Go Cubs Go" on a winning game day.

These will be the memories that will be engrained in my mind when I think of my oldest son growing up.  I often wonder what he'll be when he grows up:  a baseball player, a sports announcer, a sports writer.  If his profession has nothing to do with sports I will be shocked!

I love my little boy and his imagination.  I just need to remind myself to stop and soak in some of the games while they last.  All too soon the sounds from the stands will be gone...          


Day #38: Life in the Slow Lane

Lately I've attempted to live life in the slow lane:  literally.  We often have the option to hop on the interstate to get to our destination or to take the "scenic route" as well called it growing up. This past month I've opted for the scenic route when we drive to preschool and most of our errands.  It's been fun to take in the scenery and not feel the need to put the pedal to the metal.

Yesterday I took a drive with my youngest son in a successful effort to get him to nap.  We were at my parents' house, my childhood home, and hit the two lane, farm country road.  I've traveled those roads many times, but this time it was different.  I found myself gazing around the country and memories of my childhood came to me as I passed by houses (some still standing and some now demolished) where I spent time growing up.  It's hard to believe some of those memories are nearly 30 years old.

Life continues to go on at an increasingly fast pace.  It is so easy to get caught up in the rush, but pulling over into the slow lane is good for the mind and the soul.  My drive yesterday was so peaceful and full of memories.  Memories I may have not recalled if I had not taken the time to simply slow down.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Day #37: Giving Extra

We have begun our week without Dad.  My day started at 4:30 this morning to wish him good-bye and I must admit I am ready for  While I had a few hours of quiet time this morning (I tried to go back to sleep.  I really did), I prayed for patience, energy, and the ability to give a little extra.  I know my kiddos will miss their daddy.  They look forward to that door opening at the end of the work day and playing with him on the weekend.  It will be a little different this weekend, but it is my goal to make sure we have a little extra fun!

I also hope to give extra hugs and kisses, allow a little extra time when they're sad at bedtime, and a little extra forgiveness when they're grumpy.  The presence of someone as important as Dad will surely be felt over the next week.  This is not our norm, so this mama will have to buck up, put my feelings aside, and do my best to give all of those extras this week.  (Did I mention he bought me a box of local chocolates before he left?!  They'll be devoured soon!).  I plan to give my best effort!


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Day #36: Quick Prayers...Many, Many Times Per Day

My husband is heading out of town for nearly a week.  This makes me feel very stressed, anxious, and quite honestly, a little jealous.  While most of it is for work, some is for play and even the work portion contains extra and/or over-the-top activities that may just be considered fun (if you ask me).  Every year I dread this time period.  At times I feel like a whiney brat, but maybe it's okay to not look forward to the challenges that lie ahead in the next week.  Maybe it's okay to wish that I had some time or the opportunity to travel somewhere new.  Life will certainly not stop here just because he's gone.  In fact, I feel like there is a ridiculous amount of "stuff" on the calendar.  I am trying to eliminate some of them.  In addition, we have a lot of outside distractions we're dealing with right now, so I'm feeling pretty overwhelmed.

I am trying very hard to say a quick prayer when my feelings or concerns begin to surface this week.  It's not the easiest task, but I'm trying.  I fully understand my life could be much worse.  My kids are healthy, I have help, and the problems we are currently faced with are temporary.  It will all be okay.  I just need to have faith that I can get through this week without losing my cool too often (because let's face it, it will happen!) from the stress and lack of sleep that is sure to come.  Quick prayers, over and over again.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Day #35: Bird Watching

Recently I've noticed an increase in bird activity in our backyard.  Spring has sprung and birds are out gathering materials to make their nests.  We have a little yellow birdhouse hanging in our tree and today my oldest daughter and I spent some time watching a bird fly back and forth with sticks and grass to build it's nest inside of this birdhouse.

This doesn't sound like anything magical by any means, but generally I am moving much too quickly to stop and watch the birds, let alone invite my daughter over to the window to watch with me.  We had a great conversation, not only about that particular bird, but some robins that were in our backyard as well.

How wonderful to hear her observations, to answer her questions, and to simply share a few moments enjoying nature's wonder.  Being intentional...slowing down.  It really is all about the simple things.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Day #34: The View From the Floor

I don't spend as much time as I should on the floor.  Standing, sitting on the couch, running around the house, but not on the floor.  Today I took the time to sit on the floor and do you know what happened?  Little bodies flocked to my lap.  Sometimes for just a few seconds, but sometimes for a few minutes.  The lap is an inviting place.

We read a few books, played with a few toys, and just snuggled on the floor.  Now I know what I'm missing and I promise to do it more!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Days #30-33: Appreciating the Milestones

Wow.  Last week was crazy!  Party preparation and planning took over.  Add in Easter Sunday and we have a whole lot of stress and little sleep.  Today I feel like I'm ten pounds lighter!  Over the years I have tamed down my birthday parties a bit, but it still takes a lot of time to get ready for the big day.  We celebrated both of the girls' birthdays together, so it was a bit of extra work!

We had a wonderful weekend and are so blessed to have such a loving, thoughtful family.  We may have just celebrated our last first birthday and holiday, so I did my best to soak it up.  It was a special weekend made even better by beautiful weather.  We have been tremendously blessed and must remind ourselves of this when life gets chaotic and stressful.  This is our life...and for that we have been blessed.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Day #28-29: Travel Priorities

Travel priorities.  This area seems to be the most fun to prioritize.  Dream of places to visit, plan vacations, provide experiences for our children and ourselves to see the wonders of places near and far?  Fun at it's best!  
There are countless places to visit and so many natural wonders to see, it can be a difficult task to narrow down the list to "must-do's" and "would-like-to-do's!"  Naturally we have to factor in money, time, and the ages of our children when preparing the wish list and creating a rough outline of our travel destinations.  

Recently I read a blog post about family vacations and the advice in it resonated with me:  do not skip the family vacation.  Regardless of your circumstances, take a family vacation.  Hey, we only live once and our kids are only with us for so long before their grown and on their own!  Take the family vacation!  Both my husband and I have fond memories of the family vacations we took when we were children.  It is our hope that our children will look back fondly on these years as well.  

After thinking about this for quite a few days, here is a brief list of our travel priorities:
- We will take a family summer vacation each year
- We will take a non-kid vacation (be it long weekend or something more extravagant) once a year
- We will not be afraid of road trips.  You can see a lot more on the ground!
- We will experience Disney at least once when all of the kids will remember it
- We will take the ballpark tour with our family before the leave the nest (we hope!)
- We will take the time to learn along the way.
- Input from all family members will be considered when planning vacations.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Day #27: Kids are Wise

Less is more today:

"Mommy, I will always love you.  I will always forgive you, too."-Daughter, Age5

This says it all...

Monday, April 14, 2014

Day #25-26: Slow Down Time!

What a busy weekend celebrating our beautiful little girls' birthdays.  On Saturday, we enjoyed lunch as a family and a movie with friends and had a lot of snuggle time with the little babe on Sunday since she was sick.  Poor baby had a double ear infection.  What an unwanted gift!

While some tears were shed, I feel pretty good today.  Last night when I put my head on my pillow I thought to myself, "Phew, you made it!"  Sounds so silly, but I know in a flash that these sweet (and often temperamental) little kiddos will be all grown up.  Each year their birthdays seem to come around even faster.  I think that is why I feel so compelled to try to slow down and soak up the good (and not so good) moments now.  Soon they will not want to hang out with good old Mom.  I'll have all of the time in the world then to clean, surf the net, and sneak in some television watching!

Here's to a great week of intentional living!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Day #24: Nostalgia

Birthdays are always hard for me.  Some days seem to last forever, but in the blink of an eye another year has rolled around.  This year I am struggling even more than normal.  You see, my girls' birthdays are just a day apart.  Last year I was impatiently awaiting the arrival of our little surprise bundle of joy and now I am preparing to celebrate a fifth and first birthday.  

Five seems so old, after all she will head to kindergarten in the fall.  No more carefree days at home relatively shielded from the reality of the real world and the not-so-pleasant experiences she will more than likely encounter.  Oh, I know it's not all bad, there are plenty of wonderful experiences and opportunities that go along with heading off to school, but there are also tough, sad moments along the way, too.  My daughter is a sweet, sensitive, imaginative little beauty.  She is so excited to grow up and her mommy would just love for her to stay innocent forever.  It's so hard to watch them grow and leave the nest, if only for awhile.  Sigh...

My sweet little baby is turning one.  That first year is one I'd love to be able to freeze forever.  I've struggled with all of my baby's first birthdays, but this one is even more difficult.  There is a good possibility this is the last first birthday celebration we will have.  The last baby of my own that I will hold so close.  The last firsts we will experience.  The last sweet snuggles.  I love, love, love babies.  I may be hours and hours behind on sleep and yearning for a bit of me time, but I wouldn't trade these years for anything.  For as long as I can remember I dreamt of having a lot of kids.  I was never certain how many, but I knew I would love a big family.  We are fortunate this has been our reality.  I'm just not so sure how I could already be at this juncture in my life.  I had dinner with some ladies this past weekend and one of them put it so simply, "I think we always thought about having children, we just never thought about being done having children.  It's so final."  

It is so final.  I'm just not ready to close the door just yet.  Ah, it is just so hard.  

This weekend I will do my best to hide the tears I know will come.  I've felt so emotional and anxious since the calendar switched to April.  I will celebrate all we have been blessed with and count my lucky stars that I get to be "Mom" to these four sweet little kiddos.  I'll also do my best to imprint these memories in my mind and remind myself on the days when I feel like I'm going to go crazy that I wouldn't want my life to be any different.

Happy Birthday to my sweet little daughters.  Your mommy loves you so!



Thursday, April 10, 2014

Day #23: Finding Joy in the Mundane

Today I am intentionally focusing on finding joy in the mundane activities.  You know, the tasks that seem to constantly play on repeat:  scrubbing the bathrooms, giving baths, changing diapers, preparing meals, laundry, picking up the house, packing a lunch, vacuuming, shopping for groceries.  You get the picture, right?  While all of these activities may seem boring, I've come to realize how valuable they truly are.  Most are thankless jobs we do without thought, but have you ever thought of it in this way:  We are serving our families every day by partaking in these activities.  We are showing love, kindness, and fulfilling our purpose as mothers.  We are setting examples and hopefully establishing good habits with our kids.  It IS important!

So, today while I was scrubbing the toilets and bathrooms I thought to myself, "This is how I show love."  What an odd what to show it, but oh how true!


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Days #21-22: Removing the Distraction

Time has not been on my side the past few days (well, at least time for blogging).  I've been focusing on ways to de-clutter and organize our house and working on ridding my daily life of the distractions that suck up so much of my time.  The first step?  Removing that cute little blue Facebook icon from my phone.  As my one friend put it, "Out of sight, out of mind."  My intention was to make it more difficult to access the time-sucking site I enjoy so much.  I love reading updates, blog posts, and articles that interest me.  I just need to do less of it...a lot less I think.  So, no Facebook icon it is!

My hope is that in the next month my house will be sufficiently de-cluttered and better organized.  A little spring cleaning will do us all some good and children playing outside will give me the opportunity to have a few less helping hands when I'm working on parting with items.  They take after their mom I'm afraid.  Everything seems to have meaning.  Now to separate the emotion from the "stuff...."


Monday, April 7, 2014

Days #19-20: The Process of Simplifying

Why is it that weekends go so quickly?!  I feel pulled in so many directions and once Sunday night hits I become a bit frustrated I didn't have the opportunity to finish what I started.  I am hoping to get our home de-cluttered and organized so I don't find myself in this situation day after day, week after week.

The art of living simply really does take some work.  Right now we are sifting through our personal possessions to remove what we don't use or need.  I am a sentimental person and find myself emotionally tied to so many things.  It can be hard to let go, but I know we will all be better off if we can weed through and remove some of the unnecessary "stuff."  Rooms will be easier to clean up, we can more easily find the things we actually enjoy, and our home will look less cluttered, which will help us all feel better!

We continue to focus on developing our family purpose statement and evaluating our priorities as well.  This truly has been a way of thinking we are both benefitting from.  The discussions we have had are thought-provoking and a great way to really focus on what matters the most:  putting our family first and determining what is important versus what is just outside noise we need to quiet.

How is your journey going?!


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Day #18: Slowing Down

There a days life throws us a slight curveball and forces us to change our normal pace.  Friday was one of those days.  My sweet little baby woke with a fever and just needed snuggle time with Mommy.  We are so fortunate that Grandma was available to chaperone a school field trip last minute and took our little guy with her while our oldest daughter was at preschool.  This gave me the whole morning to just snuggle my sweet, sleeping baby and help ease her discomfort a bit.

Yes, there were plenty of things I could have done during that time.  I could have laid her down and had a very productive cleaning and de-cluttering our house, but I wouldn't trade those baby snuggles for anything.  Soon those days will be gone and my arms will be aching for those moments.  Some days I just need to slow down and soak up the season of life we are in.  There are days when our sweet kiddos just need their mama...they could care less about a vacuumed floor or dusted woodwork!


Friday, April 4, 2014

Day #17: Exercise

Exercise.  Something I so desperately need and crave.  I have a gym membership, but it's turned into a monthly donation to the company.  The child care is not a good fit for me, so I just don't go.  I'm planning to rip off the bandaid this month and cancel it.  No more, "Maybe we'll use it?!"  It's a waste of money and I need to just cancel it.

That still leaves the exercise dilemma.  Today I decided to pull out my new yoga mat and DVD and get to work.  30 minutes of fat-burning yoga later and I feel such relief that I finally did something!  I even did it at home, alone with the kids, in the middle of the morning.  We could get into a routine with this.  Once the weather warms up, I plan to hit the pavement running again.  I miss my early morning runs and cannot wait to get back into shape.

Time.  For me and my health.  It's a priority and must be worked into the daily grind somehow.  Perhaps I've figured out a way to do it without the gym membership.  Even better!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Day #16: Education

Let's be honest.  When it comes to education, I have a lot of frustration with the system currently in place in our country.  I am pleased with the skills my first grade son has developed in just a few brief years in formal education, but I am concerned about what lies ahead for all of my children.  With such formal guidelines about the curriculum and content taught, I feel like there is little room for exploring personal interests, extending learning beyond what is required, and having the opportunity to creatively express themselves.  Our system is broken and in desperate need of fixing.  We reside in a great school district that is known for achieving at a high level, but there are times when I feel my kids would better be served if we were a homeschool family.  It is a discussion that my husband and I have had many times, but at this time we plan to continue with our public school system.

The good news?  Learning stretches far beyond the classroom.  When we consider priorities, education is at the top of the list.  Preparing some guidelines for priorities within the education spectrum has been a beneficial exercise.  Here are just a few we've come up with:

-  Beginning in infancy, our children will be exposed to print.  They will be read to, have easily-accessible materials in all areas of the home, and spend at least 20 minutes a day engaging in reading activities.
-School comes first.  When making decisions about commitments, we will consider them only if they do not interfere with being prepared for school (homework, bedtime, reading, etc.)
-Our home is a giant classroom.  Creativity, imaginative play, and free time to explore will be valued.  We will provide materials and toys that encourage the kids to engage in these activities.
-We, as parents, are their primary teachers.  We will lead by example.  We want them to realize it is a lifelong process that is fun.
-We will respect our children's interests and do our best to provide them with opportunities to learn as much as they want about the subject, both through life experiences, activities, and printed materials.

From this list, I think we could create a million goals.  The most important guideline:  our kids need time to be kids.  They need to explore, play, and be given developmentally appropriate opportunities to make connections and learn.  We value our children's unique personalities and interests and will do our best to be their biggest supporter and encourage them in their pursuit of learning.



Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Day #15: Progress

Dare I say I'm seeing some positive results?  This morning I woke feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day.  We made it through our usual busy morning routine with minimal problems and I even sat down to do a puzzle with my little guy when my mind was trying to convince me otherwise.  I pushed away those nagging, "This will make you late!" thoughts and happily pieced together the puzzle with him.  Were we a few minutes late getting out of the door?  Yes!  Was it worth it?  Definitely.

It's those moments that I often miss because I am too concerned about my to-do list, being late, or distracted.  There are even times I say no because I just don't want to sit down and do it.  Does that make me an awful mother?  No.  It does, however, make me want to be more of a "yes" mom than a "no" mom.  I think those one-on-one moments mean more to my sweet little kiddos than I realize.  I don't want them to look back on their childhood and think, "Geez, my mom never sat down and did that with me.  She was always too busy."

Great lesson today.  I love this project and hope you're finding some value in yours as well!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Day #14: You Are What You Eat

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I intend to create a plan that focuses on our priorities in several different areas.  Today I am addressing food.  Over the past five years, we have significantly changed what we eat and it is an area of our life that is important to both my husband and I.  As the chef and grocery shopper, I admit that it's more my doing than my husband's, but over time he has become much more "on board" with the plan that we follow.  There are some theories that we believe to be true:  the rise in food allergies and illnesses are due, in part, to GMO's; organic food is the best option.  While the nutritional content may be the same on the label, the different methods used in the growing, production, and way the animals are fed are the important factors.

In general, these are the guidelines we do our best to follow:
- When possible, organic is the first option
- When possible, purchase Non-GMO products (often labeled as part of the Non-GMO project).
-Make seasonings, marinades, and sauces ourselves
-No food dye, MSG, or caramel color
-The majority of our food is made from simple, from scratch recipes.  By planning ahead, healthy doesn't have to equate to hours spent in the kitchen.

Generally I can work all of this into our grocery shopping budget.  There is a lot of money freed up when you quit buying filler snacks and processed food and focus on preparing the majority of what you eat from scratch.

There are a few goals we would like to accomplish to compliment these guidelines.  First, we plan to make two raised bed gardens and grow a variety of vegetables this spring and summer.  I hope we have some success!  I think it will be a great family project and the kids will enjoy watching everything grow.  Second, we would like to purchase large quantities of meat that meet our guidelines:  either fed with Non-GMO feed or grass fed.  Finally, I would like to make a point of visiting the local Farmer's Market weekly to purchase staples that we cannot grow or raise ourselves.

Our health is important and as a firm believer in the old saying, "You are What You Eat," I hope our children value healthy eating as much as we have in our older, wiser days!  This certainly doesn't imply that we eat this way 100% of the time, but we do our best to make it a priority.