Monday, November 25, 2013

Nice Mommy Only Works Days

I love the theme of MOPS this year. It is all about embracing the "Beautiful Mess" that is our lives. Embracing the story and who we are. In the MOPS magazine (actual paper, flip-the-pages from back to front magazine) I read an article entitled "Night Shift Mommy" and it was quite convicting to me. I feel similarly that the kids' bed time is my time to "clock out"and check out and I get grumpy when they get up wanting more from me between bedtime and morning. As the writer says "Nice mommy only works days!", but also with the lack of sleep Night Shift Mommy has been working days too because Nice mommy is just too tired.

I love my children and they need me 24/7. They need me at my best and I don't get to clock out. The best I can do is get a couple of hours "off" on weekends when Daddy is home, and I need to make the most of that. I need to make sure I get enough sleep even if it means going to bed when they do, even though I would like to stay up and watch something with my honey or just read for a while.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Thankful: Day 18

I am so thankful for my daughter. I can't believe the conversations we can have already and she is only three years old. I plan to nurture that relationship so she will always know I love her unconditionally and I am always there for her.

My bond with my mother is something I cherish. I hope that one day my daughter will cherish our relationship as much. She is such a beautiful person, inside and out. I look forward to will enjoy watching her mature and grow (but there is no hurry).

I am so blessed to be able to focus on being a mother at this point in her life.

Having Ice Cream on our latest Mother-Daughter Date

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Thankful: Day 17

I am thankful for technology and social media.

There are many who disparage Facebook and consider it a guilty pleasure. I have had moments like that but if it were not for social media I would not have been able to keep up with and make the friendships that I have made.

Social media is a unique platform that helps you to get to know people on a different level than in face-to-face interactions. I have been able to grow friendships even long-distance because of it. I have even met friends through IRL friends who shared common interests (parenting, homeschooling, gluten-free cooking, etc.) and while these friends are not a replacement for personal interaction, I still value them. I know who to go to with advice because I read their blogs and I have a background into their experience.

I have been kind of slow to get into Skype but after moving an hour away from our families, Skype has helped our children interact with those we can no longer see every day. Children (at least mine) have a hard time associating a voice over a phone with the person and Skype adds the visual element that helps them make that connection. My mother reads books to my 3 year old sometimes and it gives her some Nonna time that she misses.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Thankful: Day 16

I am thankful for MOPS. Any mom with little ones would benefit and be encouraged by the experience.

It is hard for me to jump into big social situations. It is even harder for me to leave my children with people I don't know, even for just a couple hours. Through this experience I have learned that I do need this time for building up myself as a mom.

The few conversations I have had so far with my group have been uplifting and encouraging. The speakers have been interesting. I LOVE the crafts!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Thankful: Day 15

I am thankful for my age. I turned 35 this year. I don't feel that "old" really. I still feel like a kid in many ways. (Parenthood will do that to you). Looking back I am not where I thought I would be at this point in my life. My life is SO much better! Did I accomplish all of my "goals"? No. Am I rich and "successful"? Not by societal standards, but yes in many other ways. I love my life more now than ever and I am happier than I ever thought I would be.

My perspective of self-worth has changed so much in the last few years. I am thankful for perspective. I am happy I am not who and where I thought I should be 10 or 15 years ago. I wouldn't trade who I am now for my 20 year old body.

My life isn't perfect but it is pretty great. I am thankful that I can see that. I am thankful for the help I have had by my husband, friends, family and Holy Spirit to see that.

Hugging Style

I read this post about hugs and it is just too funny! I grew up with an Italian mom and American dad. We lived in Italy until I was 7 and I went through a bit of culture shock when I moved to the states. 

Between hugs, kisses on the cheek, it was ALL so confusing at first. Social norms were very stressful for me to learn as a young unidentified introvert. They used to call me "shy" but I wasn't really, I like being around people but I don't like being the center of attention and I especially don't like drawing attention to myself by doing something awkward. Over the years I opted to take my cues from those around me. "When in Rome!" right? I don't mind hugs but I rarely initiate unless it is a family member or very good friend and that is the kind of relationship we have established already.

I am trying to teach my own children to respect the personal space of others and I don't force them to hug even family unless they want to. I think my in-laws were uncomfortable (maybe even offended) with this at first, but I think they understand now that my 3 year old enthusiastically goes up to them and wants a hug all on her own initiative. I hope it is so much more meaningful to them than an automatic, imposed action. I find my children are naturally affectionate to those around them and they model the behavior that they see without being forced to.

As social creatures I think we need non-sexual physical interaction, though individual needs may vary greatly. You might even call it a need for platonic intimacy, which gets kind of confusing for teenagers approaching puberty and even young adults. As a society we may help our youth to recognize this need as a way to prevent pre-marital sex. We all need affection, but there is a time between puberty and marriage that we don't have many socially acceptable outlets. I theorize that it may be this unfulfilled need that we are not addressing as the average age people get married gets higher and it may contribute to the high incidence of premarital sex. (I personally don't make it my business what people do in private, but when they involve children either by influence or by conception, it becomes everyone's problem.)

On the flip side, some people feel that any physical contact is potentially dangerous for becoming inappropriate. I would argue that our puritanical values have made even hugging awkward for some who fear temptation or even just the appearance of evil. When in close proximity, it is easy to make a wrong move by accident and cause an extremely awkward moment. For this reason, many err on the side of caution and just don't hug. In an effort to set clear boundaries, some people miss out on a natural source of legal dopamine. Hugs can counter depression.

I personally don't feel that hugs are "too intimate" at all. Intent is the key. I cannot control another person's intent, but I know my own. For me it is a friendly gesture of support that communicates something words cannot. In some situations words are the wrong thing to say. 

What is your hugging "style"?

MOPS: Meal Planning

Our MOPS meeting was about meal planning. Our speaker today was one of our own moms. I appreciated her honest walk-through of her process of meal planning. I really like people who tell of their own experience without pretenses. She was real.

My own version of meal planning has evolved over the years. It was hard for me to come to the realization that we had to plan meals, but I have learned to enjoy it. I didn't grow up meal planning. My mother can just throw stuff together. That is how I learned to cook, but I also like to make certain meals and I don't like having to go to the store because I'm missing one ingredient (or many). I don't like grocery shopping and eventually by meal planning I figured out how to only go grocery shopping once a week. I could probably go every two weeks except for the fresh produce and the small apartment fridge.

As with many things, we can learn by doing. Just pick one way. Try it out for a while. See what works for you and what doesn't. Our MOPS speaker today showed us her way of meal planning, and it is a good way to do it, but each of us has to do what works for us. I liked how she presented it in a very open-ended way.

We all have challenges. We all have goals. We all have some sort of budgetary restriction. We can all save money and time, while sticking to our family's goals and challenges if we take up some intentional planning with our meals.

These days I plan about 5 dinners per week. I plan on having leftovers or a back-up easy meal (maybe a crock-pot freezer meal) the other two days. I pack up leftovers and freeze them for David to take for lunch. We only recently settled into this routine and it is working very well for us. I am thankful he likes leftovers. We have eggs for breakfast. Sometimes a breakfast meat, sometimes just cheese. My 3 year old likes cereal or yogurt for breakfast and then she has a bigger mid-morning snack. David takes leftovers for lunch. I eat leftovers or I will make myself a salad, quick soup (from scratch) or sandwich.

Some things I have learned recently to reduce waste and maximize efficiency:

1) When I only need 1/2 and onion or pepper, I chop up the rest and freeze it otherwise it ends up in the back of my fridge and goes bad before I remember to use it. If it's in the freezer I use it in stir-fries or soups when I need it.

2) I buy meat in bulk and freeze it in meal-sized portions, OR I cook it and then divide it up into meal sized portions. I sometimes buy in bulk from Zaycon Foods and I prepare crock pot freezer meals in gallon freezer bags. I can just put the whole bag in the crock pot and have a meal ready in about 4 hours. If I have stuff to do I put it in at about lunch time and it is ready by dinner time. Here is a link to my crock pot recipes. 

3) Putting leftovers in the freezer. While David doesn't mind leftovers, he prefers to eat the same thing at a later date. I don't blame him and this has greatly reduced how much we have to discard. By freezing it doesn't go bad before he wants to eat it and we cycle through meals with some variety and he can even choose what he wants to take each day. We use containers that have dividers and I add frozen vegetables on the side (that I transfer directly from the bag frozen) that end up getting steamed while he warms up the leftover entree.

4) Going into Costco with a plan, knowing it is a war zone. Let's face it: Costco is full of expensive temptations. Go there with a list. Only buy what is on your list. If you can't do this, don't go to Costco. We only buy what we know we will need. I have very specific things I know I will use. I don't buy anything that I will only use more of (or have to waste some of) if I buy it in bulk. Generally I buy unprocessed meats, eggs, cheese, coffee, grains, legumes, vitamins, OTC medications, supplements, diapers, wipes, toilet paper, printer ink cartridges (if you wait for their coupon you get $20 off two double XL packages, which is a great deal). I can't afford to buy processed meats, meals or specialty cheeses or anything else that generally gets featured at the taste-test carts.

5) I find I save a lot of money buying in bulk. We try to find a store that has gluten-free flours and pastas in the bulk section.

6) I am not a "couponer". I use coupons sometimes but they don't make coupons for most of the things I buy. The times I have tried to use a lot of coupons, I ended up going over in my budget because I was trying to change what we ate according to what we had coupons for and I found it did not save me money because I was buying things that were too processed and we just didn't eat. I cook from scratch and I save more money that way.

MOPS Craft: We made Friendship Soup Jars

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thankful: Day $@#*M%*&

Today I am thankful for grace and forgiveness. As a parent, I have many opportunities to feel I fall short of what I "should be", but I am learning to forgive myself, pick myself up and do my best again every day.

The beauty of grace and forgiveness is that it has a power that is totally counterintuitive and yet so beautifully brilliant. I think that is why people struggle with faith in our Lord and struggle with acceptance of His grace. You cannot earn it, you are given it. The only thing standing between us and salvation is faith.

In order to accept the Lord's forgiveness, we have to be able to forgive ourselves. It is easy to condemn ourselves, and there is a time for that, it is not a step that can be skipped, but then we must forgive ourselves in order to accept grace. I am thankful that I am learning to forgive myself.

I am naturally very hard on myself. Some have called me a perfectionist. That doesn't mean I have a perfect house, on the contrary, I can't EVER have a perfect house BECAUSE I'm a perfectionist. However, I am learning to accept "good enough" and prioritizing some things and accepting I cannot do everything.

So I've missed a few "thankful" posts. I would have liked to stay on top of this, but I started again today and will try to continue. Forgiving myself for my shortfall allows me to continue on more good work that I would not have done if I could not forgive myself. So I am thankful for it and for the grace of God who supports me each day in my growth as a parent, wife, daughter and friend.

At the Pumpkin Patch. No makeup. Just family memories.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Thankful: Day 8

I am thankful for my home. We downsized when we moved and got rid of a lot of stuff. I am still getting rid of stuff because I love living in a simplified, efficient home. It is possible to have too much space. Downsizing really helps you focus on what is really important in life.

Sure it is difficult when you have a lot of crafty hobbies. Keeping all the materials for homeschooling accessible has been a challenge. I wouldn't want a bigger space right now. Maybe in the future, but right now I am happy we have this home. I love the people in it. It is serving our purpose.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thankful: Day 7

I am so thankful for my mother. Today I learned that even our great relationship still has room to grow. We are still learning from each other.

I believe the Lord put us together for a reason. We are very close and if she were not my mother we may still be very good friends, but we do have very different personalities. We have very different love languages and sometimes we don't seem to communicate as efficiently as we should be able to for all the years that we've known each other. But what is awesome is that we always give each other the benefit of the doubt and we always work things out.

Today I was desperately lacking sleep. My son is 10 months old and has reverted back to waking every 2 hours at night. I don't remember when I had a full night's sleep. I got up this morning feeling like I was going insane from lack of REM. I had to consciously check myself every time I opened my mouth to make sure I wasn't snapping at anyone. I was about to bug a close friend by email and ask her advice when I realized I should probably call my mom first.

So I called her. She asked me if I wanted her to come a day early as she had planned to come tomorrow for a visit. I told her I just really wanted her advice. She said she had refrained from offering her advice until I asked but that she thought I should try cutting out coffee. She suggested to try to cut it out for a week and see if his sleeping improves. She said it could be that he doesn't process it as quickly and it keeps him up at night even though I drink it in the morning. It could also be that because he doesn't sleep enough during the day that he is over tired and wound up at night and can't stay asleep.

I humbly accepted her advice, desperate for anything that might help. I can't express how much I appreciated her waiting for me to ask her opinion. While she is full of wisdom and life experience she has, in the past, had a tendency to offer unsolicited advice. While it is a mild annoyance for me, I have tried to talk to her about it because it may aggravate other people more who don't know how well meaning she is and don't give her the benefit of the doubt that I do. I admit many times I have rebelliously rolled my eyes and ignored her advice, only to eventually realize she was right. It is much easier to follow her advice when I ask for it.

I realized she is learning to hold back and I am learning to swallow some pride.

Besides all that she is a great help with the kids and they love her. She did end up coming a day early. I got a much needed two hour nap. I feel so blessed and a little more sane. She helped distract the kids so I could focus on making dinner. We tag teamed the dishes and I'm kind of caught up.

I love my mom.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Thankful: Day 6

I am regretfully thankful for modern medicine and that God guided the decisions of those who had my life in their hands. Though I have a hard time trusting doctors and stay away from them as much as I can, I have to admit that they have one thing definitely figured out: emergency and acute care. When I have been led to seek medical care, I have been blessed with some skilled individuals.

I am not exaggerating when I say modern medicine has saved my life three times. Once, when I was 15 I would have died were it not for intense antibiotic treatments for impetigo that I developed as a complication of shingles. Two years ago an emergency surgery removed an infection that was a complication from Crohns disease that if we had caught it any later may have caused me to die from sepsis. The doctors were actually surprised I didn't have a blood infection already at the time. Then when my son was born, I was going into liver failure from cholestasis of pregnancy. The cesarean saved both our lives. His cord was wrapped around his neck tightly three times and he would not have survived a vaginal delivery.

I have had issues with some treatments for chronic illnesses. I'm not a fan of prescription drugs. I have met great doctors, mediocre doctors and downright horrible doctors. Overall, though, I am thankful to be alive. I am thankful to be a mom and to have both my children.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Thankful: Day 5

I am thankful for my husband's ADHD. We have faced some challenges because of it, but it is a part of who he is. Some of the benefits are that he is very creative, intelligent, innovative, resourceful and great with our children. He has found a job niche, which is really the key for people with ADHD. He thrives in that environment because 1) it is in a field that interests him, 2) he can be himself and is appreciated for it (I'm pretty sure the Symantec business model is designed around the ADHD mind), and 3) he has plenty of opportunity for growth which keeps him interested and building his career.

His diagnosis led to many positive things in our lives and it explained a lot. He has grown in confidence over the last year and I hope that will continue. Confidence is something many people with ADHD struggle with and I am happy to be there to see his grow.

If you know someone with ADHD or suspect they have it, or if you suspect you might have it, a great book is Driven to Distraction by Dr. Hallowel and Dr. Ratey. We found it at our local library, but here it is on Amazon.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Thankful: Day 4

I am thankful for hardships today. Our character is defined not by how we act when everything is peachy keen, but by how we make it through hardships. It isn't easy, but when you find yourself past the proverbial "light at the end of the tunnel" and you are looking the other way through the tunnel, you sometimes find how much you have grown through all of it. I know I have matured immensely through our struggles.

“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 
--1 Thessalonians 5:18

I don't know why we had to go through two very rough years of bad health, David not being able to get a job, then finally getting a job, then getting laid off, then a difficult pregnancy. Through it all, God was there and we had everything we needed. For that I am thankful. It definitely brought us closer to Him and to each other. The struggles are never going to be gone, at least not on this side of heaven, but we hope we have a break for a while at least. 

Even if we don't have a break, I know God is with us. I know we have each other. I am thankful for those I can lean on when times are rough. I am glad to be there when times are rough for others. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Thankful: Day 3

I am thankful for my wonderful husband of 7 years. We have been together for almost 11 years and I can't imagine my life without him. Through our struggles we have grown closer. I could not ask for a more loving, supportive, kind, helpful, patient, understanding man to be my husband and father to my children. He is proving to be the awesome father I imagined he could be when we met. I feel so strongly that we work as a team, using our individual strengths to head this family and to parent our children.

The trust and loyalty we share is more than I could have imagined possible. I respect and love him more every day even though I didn't know that was possible. This year I discovered a blog called Happy Wives Club. It has been both encouraging and affirming. It isn't sugar coating, but realistic happiness in marriage for the long haul.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Thankful: Day 2

I am so thankful for my beautiful, healthy, amazing, brilliant, charming and totally awesome children!! We had a complicated and dramatic birth experience with our little (who am I kidding, BIG!) Tiger. He was early, in distress, with a cord wrapped around his head three times. If I had not been experiencing liver problems and getting checked so routinely he may not have made it to term. I cannot tell you how thankful I am that he is alive and healthy.

His big sister loves him so much and she is teaching him how to share (most of the time) and likes playing and cuddling with him. I could not ask for a sweeter little girl. I am so happy that they have each other. I know they will be good friends as they grow up. It is something I have prayed for since before they were born.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Thankful: Day 1

Last year I participated in the "Thankful Posts" Meme. It might be cheesy but I love it. So I'm doing it again this year because I have had so many new things to be thankful for. We had so many changes in the last year.

I am thankful of where we live. There are so many blessings that came from this move and I will write more specifically about them in the coming days. Today I am so thankful we were able to move here back in January to be closer to David's job. I know now more than ever that it was the right move for us.