Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Wish For 2014 - Focus

2013 was an amazing year for me. I can't think of a lot that I might want to change in the new year. I worked hard to maintain balance between my family and my personal commitments. I began actively working on reaching my dreams, instead of just dreaming. I would like to write more, but that is something that suffers only for the benefit of my schooling and my family. I would love to write everyday, but I'd also love to play or read with my kids when I'm not doing my homework.

I worked on improving communication, not just in my marriage but everywhere. I worked on letting go of things that don't matter. I worked on putting more quality into my family time instead of just time.

Most days, I feel like I am living a dream.

Instead of trying to make up some specific resolution, I just need to continue with the big changes I'm already making. I suppose I could resolve to maintain my focus. To pay attention and be proud when I'm getting things right. To pay attention and learn when I'm getting things wrong. I have been on a positive path, and I need to make sure I stay on it.

I've never really been a resolution person anyway. I am definitely the kind of person who will maybe say I want to do something, but it's never really something I want that bad.

Focus is attainable. It is flexible. Just pay attention. Watch the kids play. Play with them. Listen to the little stories. Know what they like and offer options when I need time to work on something else.

Focus on my marriage. I know that I need to pay attention to it. The kids are getting older and I am reminded often that they won't be with me forever. I need the Trucker to know that I want to be with him when they are gone too.

Focus wide, not narrowly.

Focus on what makes my heart feel full. What makes me smile.

Focus on giggles.

Focus on the big picture. Meeting my goals.

I know it won't be hard. Well, no harder than everything else I'm doing. It won't be hard because I already do this every single day. I wake up and want to be MORE. I want to feel MORE. I am not sitting here beating myself up over yesterday if I didn't get it just right. I am reminding myself that everyday is new. I have another chance to try again, try a different angle. Just keep trying.

University is really helping me live one day at a time. While I am working several years on a long project for the benefit of my whole family, I can not look too far beyond today. I can't say how many times I told someone "That's okay, it's only one day." Tomorrow offers a new chance again.

It is far better to make steady, continuous changes to improve my life than it is to make a short lived resolution at new years. Our problems or worries don't magically change on one day, so why try to force a solution on one specific day?

I want to thank those of you who follow my little corner of the world on this blog. I am still simply amazed that anyone read my words in the first place! And that so many actually come back and read again makes my heart happy. I'm glad to share, I have to get things out of my head or I go crazy. I hope that you have found something useful and relevant to your life somewhere along the way.

I thank all of you who have shared my words. Those who join me on my facebook page and those who visit me on Twitter.  Please feel free to share your thoughts anytime with me. That is what the comments area and social media accounts are for! I would love to know more about you. I appreciate that I am not forgotten, even when there might be months between blog posts!

I wish you all the very best in the new year, keep chasing those dreams!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Calendar System For My Family

I am a bit of an agenda nerd. Ok, a lot of nerd. I'm kind of obsessed with my calendar and I never find anything that works well for us.
We used to use Cozi, and I loved it when I had an android phone with a widget that kept it in front of my face. When I switched to the iPhone, it became a pain. I never opened the app and sometimes the notifications didn't work the way I wanted. And looking at the calendar wasn't as easy, even with color coding the family members.
I like my iPhone calendar, and I sync it with my google account usually, but putting things there doesn't share it with the rest of the family. I have a lot of notifications and I customized it well. Some things have alerts, some don't really need alerts and I have it set just the way I need it.
But then the kids have plans of their own, or the Trucker makes plans and doesn't know what I have already. Or, of course, there are those days where the Trucker says something like "What the F### did you do all day?" I could pass him my phone but then he'd use up all my lives in whatever game I'm addicted to at the moment. Haha. No thank you!
I needed everything in one place.
A big wall calendar is helpful, but I need a lot of space to keep everything there. I searched and searched but there was just nothing that had enough space so I started this.
At first it was just a one week thing, one page that I kept in a page protector and wrote on with a dry erase marker. That was okay, but I have a lot of things to add to weeks ahead at times. So I just made a stack of these pages and kept them together on the fridge. No more dry erase. I have space for each of us and, though the picture above is not an accurate week here, the page gets pretty full. I don't keep these after the week is done, I just toss it in the recycle bag and move along.
In the beginning I had only Monday to Friday on the page. Those are my busy days, but within a few short weeks the Trucker and I were running into weekend conflicts. I always have one cleaning and laundry day on the weekend, and one day for plans that take us out of the house. So I didn't really need space for two days. Just one place to put the major weekend events and I write what day the plans are for. My week always starts with Monday and the weekend is just that, the end of the week. We've had a few hiccups, but nothing major with this set up.
Angel loves this set up too. She likes to see her name on the calendar and often adds her own appointments. The main reason I couldn't post an actual calendar week from our house is because by the end of the week, my whole page looks something like this:

She's a very busy girl!!
I write down everything. I write my class schedules and assignments on here. I have specific times for everything so that if I got hung up somewhere and I needed Grandma to pick up a child for me from school, she can look and see who gets out at what time. If we need a sitter, it is written down. If there is a hot lunch event at school, I write down the due date for the form, then the day of the lunch, what it is (eg. Subway) and that it was paid for. If we don't order, I write down "Hot Lunch - Not Ordered" and I know that Art needs to come home that day.
I copy my syllabus here, so I have an idea of what needs to be read for which class by what day. I write down appointments or play dates. I write down EVERYTHING. If I have to arrange a babysitter, I write down who is coming as soon as it is confirmed.
This planner has saved me so much stress. I still add most of this to my phone calendar because I want to have it with me, but this takes a load off my shoulders when it comes to sharing with everyone else. The Trucker and my mom can see when I have midterms coming or finals, and they know that I'm less likely to get the dishes done or I might need extra help with the kids. No one has to guess what is coming any more.  I don't forget library days.
I did forget Early Dismissal one day in December, but I had the alarm in my phone to remind me. I was only a few minutes late getting to the school. I'd been running from 8 in the morning and hadn't seen the house calendar! The alarm rang and totally shocked me! Having so much on a smart phone is a blessing some days, I was able to text a mom that I know well and she hung out with Art until I got there. Well, actually, I got there in time to pick up a back pack because Art headed to their house to play for a couple hours. To be fair, that was also the week of studying for finals and my van started having bigger issues. I had a lot in my head!
Having this organized was a life saver. Realizing what I can actually do with a week was so helpful, enough that I was able to start switching the books for home reading in the kindergarten classroom too. Now, when my classes finish, I head straight to the Angel's classroom and flip the readers for the class. The mom who had been doing it started a new job and had to stop, so when I offered time to the teacher she was ecstatic. Everything fell into place at just the right time.
Next term starts soon. I sat down and made up pages for now until March 30. I feel good. I feel in control and organized and I am looking forward to ironing out other problems as school resumes, since I no longer have to fight with scheduling errors.
It takes time to make this, photocopying doesn't quite do it. I want edge to edge print for everything and something with clear lines. Really, it's just tracing a bunch of straight lines. There is no perfect measurement involved, just the edge of a ruler. It takes time to re-write the repetitive items, but really, it doesn't take much. I spent half an hour tonight and made up three months. Most of the routines are copied, I had to stop for my little girl. So, maybe I'll spend an hour at most on preparing this for three months. Can't complain about that. I've spent years trying to buy an agenda that works right for me and never found one I really liked anywhere.
Sometimes it really is just better to make things yourself. Everyone is different.

Monday, December 23, 2013

All I Want For Christmas Is A Nap

What a crazy year I've had! School has been difficult and stressful and wonderful and amazing. I had a lot more to learn this year than just what my professors taught. The one thing that kept me going through my final exams was the idea that for one whole week I could drop kids off at school and spend a couple of hours all by myself. I had great intentions with this time too, like sleep. I could get a two hour nap with no interruptions.

Sadly, it didn't work that way. But it's okay. I've been having vehicle troubles and had to sort that out. Crazy Dodge Caravan that is like playing driving roulette. Will I have heat? Is it going to hesitate when I push the gas or am I gonna get slammed into my seat because it decides not to hesitate instead? Fun times. On the last day I had a chance to crawl in bed, only to have the phone ring and find out that the Trucker was on his way home at 9:30 in the morning. Nap time over. Haha.

I know I'm behind in posting, I simply don't have any time to write when school is in. I feel like I run non-stop. But I did find a few things that were helpful, and might help other moms who are in school also. The web is full of very generic "tips" for school when you have children, but honestly, they are crap.

Find quiet things for your kids to do while you do homework. Yeah, I figured that. The trouble is that decorating the walls with a Sharpie is actually pretty darn quiet. What is a mom to do? Yay, I got my essay done but now I have a couple hours of scrubbing the walls with SOS and hairspray. It's not really worth it. Sometimes, you just have to pay attention to the kids instead.

Get out of the house to do homework. Again, this is not as easy as it sounds. I had grand ideas, oh yes, I thought this would work. I gathered my books and papers and headed down to a quiet little coffee shop. Bought myself a nice treat. Cracked the lid of the coffee open and the textbook. There was only one other table in use. I thought this was perfect! Until those three people starting talking. They were so loud and animated, I couldn't focus on my reading at all.

The library is questionable. It depends on the time you go. There are noisy kids during some hours. Full seats during others. It just didn't work out. My only options would be going to a friends house (or family) and hiding there, but it has side effects too. For one, I lose some time driving there, and then there would definitely be at least a little visiting too. If I'm going to do all that, I might as well hide in my bedroom (the one with no locking door, of course).

Enlist friends or family to help with the kids. Again, a lot of good and bad here. My sister helped me out and took the kids off my hands at times. That was nice. But sometimes, you don't know how long you have. Sometimes, the kids come back so excited to share what they did, even though you are right in the depths of Dr. Faustus and somehow are magically pouring the greatest essay idea you have ever had out. Then you stop, listen to them, maybe even say "just let me finish this paragraph," and you turn back to the keyboard and poof, the magic is gone. Idea lost.

The trucker slowly came around and helped in a different way. He cooked a little more. He coordinated bathing and shower times more often. He started pitching in with laundry more. He found new ways to connect with the kids and this didn't just benefit me, it was good for him too. His whole outlook on family has changed in the last few months. But again, this is not a great dependable fix. He is a trucker after all. Some days he was home before the kids got out of school and he could pick them up. But more often than not, if I had a big project coming due, he had a long day and I'd be lucky if he was home before the kids bedtimes.

Keep an agenda, keep assignments organized and written down. An agenda is a wonderful thing, but I realized fast that having it written down for me was not going to give anyone else a clue about how much I had to get done. And I'm juggling three kids school calendars and events too. Plus the occasional thing that comes up for the Trucker. I've synced every device I have and even tried using a shared calendar option. But that only helps when others actually look at it. So I changed it. I made a week per page calendar for all of us and kept it on the fridge for everyone to see. And I wrote every thing down. Hot lunch orders, due dates for forms, assignments, everything went on there. It actually worked quite well and I will share more about that in a separate post, including pictures.

What I learned through all of this is that there is no real tip sheet for any mom on how to handle school. Each of us has a different family. I don't have kids that nap anymore, for example. I still have to help my 8th grader with homework and my 4th grader too. I have to read with Angel everyday, and not just bedtime stories.

I really took life one day at a time. It was liberating! A few things got missed, but nothing major. It is always surprising how you can adapt to things. No matter what has to get done, you find a way to get most of it done and the things that get missed are never the end of the world.

Now that I have time to write, I will share several things that came up and were very helpful. All of the above sounds negative to some degree, but it really wasn't. It was hard, but it was so very worthwhile. There has been so much positivity in my life since school started that it is amazing. My whole world has changed and I love every second of it. Even if I can't have a nap.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Ups and downs and Expectations

Last week was so full of tears and stress. I think I hit my lowest point so far this year. But I struggled through it and was well rewarded this week. Getting my marks back for the last of my midterms reminded me that this is worth fighting for!
I will never be able to do ALL of the things I want to be doing, but I'm getting there. 
Today I had tears again but they were more from a sense of accomplishment and pride. 

It's hard, so hard, so heartbreaking sometimes.  I have to  fulfill some roles whether I want to or not. Like cooking, cleaning, and laundry. Somehow I have to get these things done. I have help at home. But it's not always helpful... It just doesn't balance out.

I'm forced to choose all the time. And the choices are more difficult than any I've faced in my life. I may have made some similar decisions in the past, when I was working. Torn between kindergarten field trips and work, for example.

But this feels different. For one, I made the choice to go back to school. This is totally voluntary! And second, not only am I not bringing income in for my hours of work, I am actually driving us deeper in debt. The results of these two factors can torture me some days and it is very hard to focus on the big picture.

The choices I have now are based on making the most of my time in school. I don't want to simply pass my courses, I want to do it well. I have to study hard and do hours of work to master the topics I study. 

But I also still need to make sure the kids are okay. Deal with school, maintain self esteem, determine weaknesses and build strengths. Even more than that, though, I need to be present. I need to be an active part of my family. I need to listen to the rest of the family. I need to snuggle and hug and PLAY. I don't want to divide the family but I still have to do my schoolwork!

Fridays are sometimes hard, I want to be with the Trucker while he is at his Friday night job. But I want to be with the kids. But I want to study. Friday tends to be family focused until eight or so.  Once the Angel goes to bed, the Trucker is off to work and the boys are settled, I get the most focused and quiet study time of the whole week. I want to be somewhere else during that time but I monopolize on the quality of the time for me instead.

This weekend, I had to choose between a family movie night or studying. That is a heart wrenching position to be in. The movie wasn't anything special, but the time is. The kids won't all stay sitting and relax if we are not all doing the same thing. If Mom doesn't watch the movie and I would rather do something else, I can go do it. So more than just removing myself from the moment, I risk that moment for all of them. If only 2 or 3 sit down, it is no longer family movie night. 

I did choose the movie. But I folded laundry while I was watching it. I get spread too thin, quite easily. 

The last two weeks have been full of midterms. I got back my last grade today. I tanked on one of the exams but I can see why when I look at the big picture. All of my marks have been 80 or higher, except that one. I earned a wimpy 68%. Being me, and therefore super-perfectionist-overachiever, I was devastated by this. I cried and stewed and got really unpleasant for a few days. Even though I know the rational side of everything and how to fix it, I was emotionally broken. I figured I'd made the single greatest mistake ever. I'm giving up so much of what I want to be doing right now and then it doesn't even show in my grade?

I shifted. I analyzed everything to pieces. I changed my strategy and hit the last midterm with a totally different approach and came out with 102%. And I cried again.

I cried because I can do this. I cried because even when it's hard, I am managing okay. My kids still know I'm here for them, I can still have time for my marriage. I can still study and attend classes. I'm not doing as much of all the things I want to be doing, but I can still do a little of all of it. And in a few more weeks I will get a break.

There is nothing about this that is easy, but I'm getting there!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Balancing School And Motherhood

This week has been a big week for our house. With Angel starting kindergarten, I discovered a difficult truth. I no longer have the sole influence on any of my children. It's certainly not a bad thing, consider the line "It takes a village to raise a child." I have carefully chosen my 'team' to help raise my kids. Now, I have to put my faith into our collective efforts for yet another life.

There are no longer any morning snuggles with Angel after the boys go to school. My mornings are now rushed and busy. Three different schools to get to (on time) every morning. Waking up four of us and making sure we are all ready for the day is not always going to go smoothly.

The transition has been hardest on my Angel. Grandma has always been home in the mornings, so Angel generally woke up just after I took the boys to school. Now, she is up at the same time and leaves when the boys do. She has been the only child of mine who had the luxury of having Mommy home all day, everyday, since she was born. With my work from home job, I was rarely away from her except for occasional meetings.

Now, not only is Mommy leaving, but I am leaving her in an unfamiliar place. The first day of Kindergarten was terribly hard. She cried the WHOLE morning. The second day, she had a few moments without tears. I stayed in close contact with the teacher and we worked together to smooth her transition as much as possible. Monday was hard. Tuesday she said she didn't want to go to school anymore. Wednesday, I left her crying in the classroom again, but this time she was full of smiles when I picked her up.

Wednesday night was Meet The Teacher night. I knew that the importance of this night was not really about meeting the teacher, but giving Angel an opportunity to share her classroom with the rest of the family. Particularly Daddy. After she had shown everyone the things she likes about kindergarten and had the reassurance from all of us, she felt more comfortable in the classroom. (The Trucker often underestimates his influence on the children.)

Thursday she said she had a good morning, but she didn't want to talk about it. I didn't push. I do not want to overwhelm her with questions or make her think that I am worried about what she is doing while I am away. Friday was even better, though she still doesn't want to talk about it much. She now says she likes school and is looking forward to seeing her friends again next week.

My first full week of University was challenging. Yes, I had homework. Textbooks to read, terms and definitions to memorize. I knew this was going to be difficult. I was prepared for a week of figuring out my schedule, my adjusted daily routines. I've made a few steps in the right direction this week. But I ended up with a bigger priority.

I felt like I was drowning at a few points. The Trucker has injured his shoulder and is suffering low back pain again, so he's not really much more help than just another body in the house. I've scrambled to get dinners cooked and lunches made. I've stayed up past midnight to do homework because I just didn't have time in the daylight. I've left dishes on the counter and fell behind on laundry. I am grateful for my mother right now, she is picking up my slack with housework. She's not even complaining. In fact, she has mentioned how it's almost boring having no one in the house with her in the mornings! (Yay for me)

I'm exhausted and mentally drained.

But, I know with every ounce of my soul that I got things right this week. My number one priority was helping the kids adjust. School transition may be easier for the boys than for Angel, but it is still Transition. Art has new orthotics and also a new expectation to carry his Epi-pen on his body this year. He's had a lot of changes to remember and he is doing well. Macboy moved to grade eight and we had several issues with his class schedule this week. It is still not completely sorted out.

Angel had it the hardest by far. She has rarely been away from me at all. And when she has been away, it's almost always been that she stays home and I go out. I spent my week focused on her more than anything else. I played cars and built ramps. I made crafts and colored pictures. I played with Playdough for hours. It's paying off. It's showing her that even though we all have to change our mornings now, that is all that is changing. Home is still home. Mommy is still Mommy. We can and will always have time to play. I won't stop reading her stories even if the teacher is reading stories at school. I won't even stop when she learns how to read by herself.

I reinforced her sense of security. (I have had to do a lot of that with all three kids this summer.) I showed her that I will be waiting right outside her classroom door every day and that she can count on me. I will not leave her at school. I am not giving her away. I am COMING BACK. Every day.

I know that starting University is a big deal. I know that focusing on my homework and studying is important. I will not say that I avoided that in any way. It remained a priority, of course. But it was not the most important thing I did this week.

I've worked on my schedule and made a weekly planner for the fridge so I can keep track of four of us in school. Lots of things have needed to change and will continue to change. It's been a long challenging week. I expected it to be hard. Some days are actually easier than I expect while others are painful.

Being thirty five and starting University with three kids is complicated.  I have to think creatively. I have to stay motivated. I have to constantly review and assess my priorities. They change every day. I have to sit through a lecture, while thinking constantly about leaving my poor little girl in hysterics at school. YOU try to focus in that situation!!

This is only the beginning, I have a lot of time to get the daily routine nailed down. I can find a babysitter when I need it. I can leave the Trucker with the kids and go study away from my house. I can make this work.

It will be so much easier to manage going forward because I spent the time to show my children that everything is going to be okay and our lives don't really have to change that much. Every minute that I spend showing my kids that I am STILL here for them, every extra hug and snuggle, every moment of one on one time to ease their minds will come back to me. Each second lays groundwork for easier studying time in the weeks to come. The kids know what to expect and what will be expected of them.

I had many moments this week where I thought I wasn't going to make it. I thought I'd made a horrible selfish mistake. I thought I could never do what I needed to do. But I can, I have and I will. I have chosen to go back to school for my own reasons. Yes, purely selfish. It's got nothing to do with money or because I want to support my children better. I've had pretty decent wages in my past. I just want to spend my time doing things that I love. And that is definitely the message I want to send my kids.

I am not doing this at their expense, even if I am doing this only for me. I am showing them that the only person in the world who really knows what each of them wants to do with their life is themselves. I want them to learn this early. So they don't have to start over at 35.

My work, focus, effort this week has not been without reward. We are all learning and growing. No degree in the world can ever change the fact that I am a Mom. I will fight to remain the Mommy I have been. We will not just survive this time in our lives, we will thrive. Because I have learned that being the Mommy they need, the Mommy I always wanted to be, is the most important thing I can do every single day.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

And So It Begins, School Days For All

Last week, school started for the kids and I.  Tuesday and Wednesday were a trial run for the mornings, learning how to get my boys and I out the door on time. These days were an opportunity for me to really get an idea of how long my commute will be dropping the kids off at two schools and getting myself to class on time.

Thursday was Angel's first day. Thankfully my Thursday class starts a bit later, as it was a difficult start to the day. There were a lot of tears, hers at the school and a few of my own as I drove to my class. I sat through my Sociology class and tried hard to stay focused. I'm also grateful that the beginning of the year is not too intense. Yet.  I arrived at the Kindergarten classroom a few minutes early to be sure I was in the right place (Angel gave me specific instructions) when she came out of class.

My little girl was so red faced and puffy, it broke my heart. The teacher informed me that the crying did not stop, it would ease up now and then, but essentially, she cried the WHOLE MORNING. That is not what a mommy wants to hear, ever.

Chatting with the Angel afterwards, she said she had fun. She told me all about what they did in class and she seemed pretty happy with it. She also said she was happy to go back again Friday.

Friday morning was the same as Thursday. Lots of tears and clingy hugs. I hated to let her go. But I gave her my biggest hugs and lots of kisses and reminded her that I would be back, waiting right where she told me to wait at 11:30. And I ran out the door as soon as I had said goodbye.

I was late for my Psyc class and even more distracted than the day before, since I knew how hard Thursday had been. I prayed my way through my English class, willing the minutes to move faster so I could go and check on my little one. Friday, she came out of the classroom with a smile. She still had cried quite a lot, but eventually she found something she liked to do and that occupied her until the day was over.

I'm spending as much time as I can trying to reinforce the sense of security in her. Seems like I've been reassuring my children all summer. I want to show her that home will not change just because she leaves in the morning now. I am reminding her that I will still read with her, even if her teacher reads to her that day. I will still play with her even if she finds new friends at school. Home is still HERS.

Art has been amazing. He has really stepped up as a big brother and he is helping her so much. Both days, he was able to go into her classroom (at the teacher's request) to remind Angel that she is not alone in the school and help her find things she likes about Kindergarten. He's waited for her at recess and given up much of his morning free time to make sure she is having fun. She drives him insane most of the time at home, but he sure adores her and is looking out for her. I have never been so proud of that boy!

Macboy is adjusting well to grade eight. I think it bothers him that, like me, he is not in the same place as the Angel. I get an email or two everyday from him asking for an update. How was today, Mom? Did Angel like school? Coming from my boy that can't stand school and never has enjoyed it, this is quite nice. Everyone wants Angel to be happy.

For me, University is a big adjustment, even without my own kids to worry about. I'm surrounded by people closer to Macboy's age than mine. My Professors have been wonderful, especially my Psyc prof, who was very kind when I warned her that I might be late for a few classes while we adjust to Kindergarten. Turns out, her little one started Kindergarten too. At least there is someone my age.

The cool thing about University that I've noticed so far, is that no one cares. I've introduced myself to those who sit near me and in that precise moment, there is no age. We are all just students in a class that we have all chosen to take. In the classroom, I am not 35, I am simply a student. And being in a much different age category is definitely going to spare me from some college kid drama that I don't want anyway.

I will have to learn to juggle a lot of things. Homework and children, laundry and essays. Dinner and dishes with reading a textbook. The Trucker has to learn a bit about how to help me too. So far, not much has changed in terms of help around the house. The kids are helping out more at least, so I'm not trying to struggle through completely alone.

Friday night, my wonderful sister came by to hang out with my kids. She played with them all evening. I was able to cook dinner and clean it up and get some homework done. I was even able to relax and catch up on a couple TV shows while the Trucker was working his Friday night gig.  She is awesome.

Saturday was laundry and cleaning, with a few errands to run because I am still missing a few things for the four of us in school. Today, I will focus on my family. I need some real down-time before another busy week starts.

Friday, July 19, 2013

We Laughed, We Cried, We Cheered

The last few weeks have been...wait. I don't know what to call it except "a few weeks." Two weeks ago, we were counting our blessings as we enjoyed games night with some good friends. Relaxing and laughing and playing, so peaceful. We stayed up well past two a.m. and felt wonderful.
Until we woke up Sunday and found that our trailer with two quads on it was gone. A kind neighbor mentioned she noticed them missing at 7 a.m., so we have a narrow time slot of 2:30-7 for the stupid asses to hook up and take our things.
This is stressful. The idiots who take this stuff don't think about anything. Even friends and family aren't here to help as I teach my kids how to handle such a horrible violation of our space. Years of work building their sense of security shot down in just a few hours. It broke my heart when Art woke up Monday morning and panicked because our truck was gone too. Thankfully, I was able to explain that it was MONDAY and Dad had his truck at work.
The nights here have been loud. All of my kids talk more in their sleep when they are upset, so there have been plenty of midnight ramblings. It's hard for the Angel Baby to understand. She keeps asking when Daddy is going to go get the machines and bring them home. My thirteen year old? He's not as emotionally invested in the quads, as he's been losing interest over the last year or so. But he has definitely changed his perspective on trust and faith in humanity.
Twenty four hours altered everything in our world.
I try to focus on thoughts like "It's only stuff" and "thankfully, no one was hurt." But in reality, this is crap. It's just a big old pile of crap. I don't ride the machines, ever, but this was something that we all went out to do as a family. Even invited more family and friends. We made many, many memories with the quads. This was something that the Trucker did to unwind. He'd need a break away from working and family life, and he'd go out with the guys to ride the trails for a day. This was his escape, stolen in a moment.
I have heard every night noise for two weeks. I have heard a million sirens and noticed the police helicopter daily. Two nights ago, I nearly jumped off my bed in the middle of the night because I SWEAR someone coughed right outside my window.
My kids are doing better, but I am not. My small sense of security has been shattered. This is my space, and someone just spit in it. I am grateful for insurance, as it makes this less of a financial loss, but insurance can't fix our minds or our hearts.
Last weekend, however, was completely different.
Out of spite (or grief, or exhaustion) we made absolutely NO plans for the weekend. We wanted to just stay home alone and hide. Until we got a call at 10:30 that our niece was in labor. Poor girl, her friend had taken her to the hospital and then just left her there alone. Her mom couldn't get here to be with her, she no longer lives in the city with us. After a few calls, we figured out where she was and headed out. The Trucker and I met with our other niece at the doors of the hospital and the three of us headed in to support her.
The trucker headed home exhausted around 4:30 in the morning to get some sleep and be with my kids when they woke up. I stayed with my two nieces until the sweet little baby girl was born. We make a good team!
This baby girl came out crying, perfectly healthy and so very sweet. I got to see every moment. It was very strange being at the other end of the delivery room bed!! Sickly fascinating, you don't want to look but then at the same time you simply can't look away.
I felt a lot of emotions that night and it will all come later in a post of it's own. Watching a birth is a life altering event. For me, it was freedom. It was like emerging from the crap of the previous week with a brand new fresh start. Just like that baby girl. For her it was a brand new day, a start to her little life. I can start over too.
I made it home around noon on Sunday. The trucker was a great help and let me sleep a few hours in the afternoon. Even brought me dinner in bed!! Definitely a new experience! I rarely have seen breakfast in bed, except for the occasional Mother's Day, so supper was a very sweet gesture.
Baby girl and her Mommy have had a clean bill of health, both are doing well and are at home. She is having no troubles with nursing so far and is doing well overall.
ME? Not so much. The stress and frustration of the theft, followed by an unexpected all night adventure (no matter how exciting and meaningful for me) has shattered my system. I can not sleep. I can not shut off the world and fall asleep. Last night I was in bed early but still wide awake at 1:30.
I do not feel the edges of depression creeping in though and I am extremely grateful for that. I will start Melatonin tonight and hopefully reclaim my sleep cycle and bring my health back to normal. There has been so much to do, so much to take care of on top of the regular parts of living. But I am okay!
It's just stuff. It's gone and even the police have said that the likelihood of getting back is super small. And of course, if we do get them back, they are likely horribly damaged. This is a terrible situation, but we have each other. We have love, we have life, we have other stuff. This is far from the end of the world.
I know, because I know what 'the end of the world' has felt like. I know darkness and pain. I know tears and anger. And now, I know hope. I know love. I know trust. I know that things are not as bad as they seem and if I ever start to forget...
I know that I just have to visit that little baby girl and remember that I have new beginnings everyday. Beautiful, unexpected blessings are just waiting around the corner. I couldn't find the silver lining in the dark cloud that hit us, so the universe made it obvious. There is always a reason things happen in our lives.
Follow your heart, even when it is hurting,
and you will end up in magical places.
(and ... lock your doors, keep an eye over your yard and your neighbors'', kiss your kids. You never know what will happen in the blink of an eye.)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Just Answer Me!

Lately, life has been throwing a million questions at me. Big things and little things. Questions that make my mind spin and my heart ache. Always so many questions!! As this battle is waging in my head, I'm also surrounded by the hundreds of thousands of questions from a four year old.

Hers are not so complicated. Hers are simple. Her answers even easier. This is still an age where I can make something up instead of saying "I don't know." Which is important because "I don't know" is not an acceptable answer for a four year old.

There is always noise. My house is full and happy, which means lots of talking and giggles. Sometimes it overwhelms me and I just wish there would be five small minutes where NO ONE asked me for anything.

But I realize at the same time that I truly don't want that to happen. I know that one day, probably not too far away, I won't get all these questions. One day, these kids will find all their answers on their own. They may ask me occasionally, but it will never compare to where I am right now. Already Macboy has dramatically decreased his number of questions. Some of the remaining are about new video games or cool things he wants to get. "When can we go shopping,Mom?" Others are deep and profound and leave me speechless. Art is nearing the 'pre-teen' status and his questions are easy too. Not always easy to hear, but definitely easy to answer.

As I was reading Angel Baby's bedtime story last night, she stopped me in all the same places to ask all the same questions as we've had every single time we've read that story. Just as I opened my mouth to say "You ask me that every time!" I paused. I want her to ask me questions. I want her to be curious about her whole world and want to learn and explore everything she can. So, I answered the same question with the same answer. Again. And I will probably have to answer the same question again tonight.

I gave myself a knew perspective. She is not asking me because she doesn't know the answer. I'm not always sure WHY she asks. But I give her a consistent answer. I give her faith that I'm not going to change my mind. That thing on that guy's head is ALWAYS going to be a hat. What? A red hat, yes.

When you are four, you are scared of things that change. In two months, I will be preparing her for her first day of school and she will know that the guy in the story is still wearing the same red hat when she comes home. She knows that some things are real and consistent. Even when you have to leave your comforts and go somewhere new.

As she grows she will know, just as my boys do, that there really are NEVER any stupid questions. If you are unsure of something, ask. My boys test my limits often, but they know that even if I am angry, they can ask me their questions. Now that the boys are older, I can honestly tell them when I don't know something. And, I always make a point to find the answers to their questions.

I don't play games, I am honest. I don't hold back information just because they didn't ask a specific enough question. I tell them the truth and trust that they will take in what they are ready to take in.

Angel Baby will learn that it is always okay to ask a question. And she is learning that it's okay to ask more than once if you are unsure. She is learning that I will not judge her or ignore her. She is learning to trust me.

That's something I think we tend to forget as parents. Sure, I am teaching her the names and purposes of things around her. I teach her how to count and what her letters are. I teach her to draw and color. Soon I will be teaching her to read and write and create. But while I am spending my time teaching these everyday things, the value of each lesson goes far beyond what is in front of us.

I give my kids comfort and security. I give them a forever friend and unconditional love. In return, I get so, so much more.

So take a deep breath, my friends. When those questions seem unceasing, and you want to run away screaming, remember that you have an opportunity to teach something so much bigger. You are helping them understand their own universe.

Thank you for stopping by, it's always nice to have visitors.  Please, share with your loved ones if you feel moved to do so. I write for myself, but gain fresh perspective from knowing that I am not alone in this world. I appreciate every single one of you who stops by to say hello. And even those who say nothing. You are here, that's what counts.

Join me on my facebook page or engage with me on twitter. I always enjoy meeting new people.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Study Help For Finals First Timer

I get to learn grade seven social studies all over again! Macboy is ready for finals starting next week. He is a little anxious about social because he struggles with it. So do I, social studies is kinda stupid. At least for those of us who aren't interested in politics or naming the dead presidents of the US. We live in Canada, you know? Wait, I think we are out numbered, or nearly outnumbered, those who were born here. Not that I am complaining, Canada is awesome and everyone should want to live here. But, we can't distort our history to accommodate everyone, can we?

My boy has had test anxiety before and has overcome so very many obstacles on his way to junior high. I am so proud of him! I don't want to see his anxiety grow, so I've committed myself to helping him this week. We will break things down into smaller sections, review and  read, and find a way to make it make sense for him. 

Macboy has no trouble learning anything if he can find some relevance in it. He needs to know WHY he learns something and WHY it applies to his life. When he was in kindergarten and grade one and we were starting reading, he didn't want to do it. He questioned why he needed to learn it. So we took a drive after school one day and I showed him all the signs. Street signs, stop signs, store signs... everywhere. I told him that reading is important because it happens every day. He's not as avid a reader now, but he still does enjoy it.

With math it was easy, you also use math everyday. Science applies to everything that grows around us, plus his technical brain just gobbles up the science of robotics and physics. It makes sense.

Social? Well, social is harder. Current events is one big part of it, but as I make an effort to prevent the news from playing here, I can't really teach that. I don't believe in it, really. I don't want to know all the horrible things that happen in our world. I don't want to listen to political mudslinging campaigns. I don't want to make my children afraid of the world they live in. I have a hard time believing that there is more crime or natural disasters in the world today than ever before. I think we just have to hear about a whole lot more of it.

It's not that I don't feel for those people affected, but I don't want to hear it every single day. I will help my neighbor, I donate items to help where I can. I do my part, right here and now. I also don't expect someone in Japan to come running to my rescue when a tornado blows through our city. Right? And I am beyond sick of hearing the names of murderers and terrorists being repeated until they are lodged in our minds for eternity. Sick, evil people do not deserve fame! Treasure those who survive. Name the family who is grieving! Give them the fame. "Look at how strong and amazing these people are, they had their children taken in a horrible way, but look! They are still standing. They are strong. They have not stopped living!"

History is hard too. I've taught by example that things that are in the past should stay there. Now, I understand there is a big difference between a fight with your brother and a war between the natives and the explorers. But still. Beyond gratitude for the country we live in, as it is today, why do we need to learn about death? War is not now and has never been a good thing. Period. People DIE. For what? A slightly bigger (or smaller) piece of grass? Learn the names of the Generals who led thousands of young men to their death.  The names of the men who stood on the sides and sent teenagers into a minefield. I just can't teach him that this is good.

But, Minecraft to the rescue for us. Building communities, working together, solving problems.... that I can teach. I can teach him that there is more. We can learn from history, even if it means that we strive to never repeat it. I can show him how having his own specific job in a minecraft server is like real life. Each person has a job. Each job is needed to make the server world flourish. I can teach him about trade, this guy has cobble stone you need, and you have wheat he needs. Bam. Social studies. 

And suddenly, social becomes relevant to HIM. I hope to at least relieve the anxiety and boost his confidence going into the final. I'm not gonna cram him full of names and dates he'll forget. But we will cover everything we can. Sometimes, just having read it recently makes a big difference. I will let you know how this goes! Wish us luck!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Battling A Fear Of Bees

Last year on our last camping trip, Art was stung by a wasp. It got him right in the left temple. He had hives within minutes and his face (nose, lips, more) began to swell. It was pure torture. We were half an hour away from the nearest hospital, but the trucker got us there in record time. 

One of the scariest moments of my life. 

Thankfully, it was near the end of bee season. I have never loved winter as much as I do now. He did not go in to full anaphylactic shock. Thank God. Now, we have a lot of debate hanging over our shoulders. Was it more the location of the sting that caused a more severe reaction? A single strain of wasp that he reacts to, or all of them? I wasn't right beside him when it happened, so I don't know exactly WHAT stung him. 

We now carry an Epi-Pen everywhere we go. I'm grateful for it, but I hate the thought of ever having to use it. 

This spring, we caught a wasp starting a nest in our garage. It's been removed and destroyed, but I know that the little sucker probably didn't move too far. 

A few days ago, the boys were doing dishes in the kitchen. I went in to check on them and saw a wasp bumping up against the window. It left me two options, try to get the sucker out of the house or kill it. The sucker whipped past me and down the stairs. I ran to the door, knowing that they will often fly for the light and I hoped he flew out. But I stepped on something sharp when I hit the step and was bent over fixing my foot instead of watching the door.

Paranoia extreme!!

Did it fly out? Is it hiding downstairs?  Ugh. Two nights, I tossed and turned. Full of nightmares of the stupid thing stinging my boy in his sleep. I'd never know until morning! What if... what if... what if.... 

I scoured the basement. We cleaned up, moved everything. I constantly was searching windows and corners every time I went down there, trying to find a wasp that might not even still be in the house.

Last night, I went down to make some Sleepytime tea for us. I brewed two cups in the Keurig. Took the Trucker's cup to the bedroom and went back to get mine to take upstairs. BZZZZZZZZ right past my ear!! I nearly crapped myself. Then the stupid thing was flying at the ceiling light, way out of my reach. When he did land, it was right up at the top of the wall, so I yelled to the Trucker to come SAVE MEEEEEE... haha

Turns out he's just as chicken as I am. 

But, he could reach higher. One good baseball swing stunned the bee and then he headed for a lower place on the wall. Swing two was a direct hit... or was it? We couldn't find a dead wasp on the floor!?!?!?! Furniture was moved, a bag was tossed, then said bag grabbed again and shook like mad to make sure it wasn't hiding inside. It wasn't.

We did finally find the creature. Gave it a couple extra smacks to MAKE SURE it was dead, followed by a ceremonial flush. I celebrated the idea of sleep without dreams!

Then I crawled in bed. And my mind started.... What if it wasn't the same one? What if the nest is in the wall and that's how it's got in? What if I just pissed off a whole colony that is going to come swarming through some invisible hole and KILL US ALL???

Okay, not quite THAT bad, but not far from it.

This is awful. It is physically painful for me. And I am very concerned that my excessively paranoid fear of bees is going to rub off on Art. He's my outdoors kid. He's the 'get down and dirty in the mud' kid. He's the 'go exploring randomly in the bush when camping' kid. Why him? Why my kid? Why THAT kid? He's been stung before, twice. Why didn't he react then? He was even hit by a bee (NOT wasp) a few days ago with no real reaction. 

"These Are The Wrong Kind Of Bees"
I have always been one to run screaming when a bee or wasp was hanging around too close and now I have to be the strong one to get up close and personal and get it away from my kids. I'm the one who stays back at the campsite when the family goes out quadding, because I'm too afraid of riding with them. I'm also the one who will have to use the Epi-Pen if the need ever arises. I have to be the strong one. And I am not very strong these days. And especially if I'm at the campsite, while the family is far away in the bush facing bugs of all kind.

This summer is gonna kill me.

I know I don't need to be so worried. These kids have had 4 stings combined in their lives. BUT all 4 were ART. I know that the location of the sting (distance from the heart) can affect the severity of a reaction, and it was likely more extreme being on his face. I know that certain places have certain pesticides and chemicals around that may make these suckers more aggressive. I know that, for the most part, you leave them alone and they will leave you alone. I know that there are many, many species of bees and wasps and that he is not necessarily allergic to all of them. Not like I'm going to inspect each stupid insect to see if I should worry or not. And at this point, without serious allergy testing, I don't know what type he might be allergic to anyway. Which also means, that if I had allergy testing (which isn't 100% perfectly accurate), I am still going to worry about all of them because I'm certainly not going to start counting stripes or something to decide if I should panic or not.

And sure, lots of people are allergic to lots of things. I often remind myself that it is better to be allergic to bees than peanuts. I can see or hear bees most of the time. Nuts can be completely invisible. But no matter what, I wish we had no allergies at all.

I have read that sometimes people can have one bad reaction and then never have another. I've also read that the likelyhood of a severe reaction increases 60-70 percent in someone who has had a previous severe reaction. I've likely read too much.  

The scary thing is, I haven't been back to that place yet. We are preparing to go at the beginning of summer and I'm a wreck. To stand in the place where I watched my childs face begin to swell? I'm not sure I'm gonna be okay with that. The early summer weekends aren't so bad, there are not nearly as many wasps around and they are mostly busy with bug-work. By the end of the summer, it all changes. They know they are all going to die and get aggressive trying to get sugars to keep themselves in energy. The Trucker has already mentioned his hope for a September trip out there this year. I finally told him yesterday that I don't think I can do it.

The worst part, is not knowing. I don't know if this was a fluke thing. I don't know if the next reaction could be the last. I don't know anything. And I can't protect him. I can't put him in a bubble. I can't be with him 24/7. I can't teach him fear of living. I can't .... I can't control this. There is absolutely no way I can control nature at all. And I HATE that.  How do I convince Art that he is fine to go outside and play after school, when the thought of it picks at my mind the entire time he's out there? I'm certainly not going to force him to stay inside just for my sake. What kind of life would he have?

I am aware that my worry is excessive. It usually works that way for me. I will think it through a thousand different ways and once I've reached the end of all possible outcomes, I will decide the best way to move forward. It is a hard process for me. Truly. But it is MINE. It is the way I find the most peace with anything in this life of mine.

As I said, it's going to be a painfully long summer for me. I will be realistic and get through it one day at a time. That's how we do everything anyway, isn't it?

For now, I'm taking whatever precautions I can to protect our yard from invaders. I'm paying more attention when we all go through the doors. I'm not opening that window that has a huge hole in the screen until I fix the screen. And I'm making sure that we have our Epi-Pen with us at all times.

I hope to have a memorable summer, and I can't wait for winter. How about you?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Give Them Truth And Let Them Choose

Life is a funny thing. We grow up desiring some really superficial things, only to become 'adults' and realize that now that we are old enough to do whatever we want, it's not really worth doing.  Well, most of us anyway.

I've seen friends and family turn to drugs or alcohol. I have seen the dark sides of addiction in too many people that I've cared about. I am a born helper and knowing that there is nothing I can do to help someone kills me. When they make that choice for change, though, I can be there for them. It breaks my heart waiting for that choice, and sometimes, it just doesn't come. 

Why do we want all these things? Why do they seem so exciting before we can try it? Macboy is 13, I know that many kids his age have already experienced drugs, tobacco, alcohol and even sex. I also know that he is not doing any of these things. I am close to my kids, I am here and I am accessible. And also, one of the first to know what he is doing, because he tells me. I'm clinging to this relationship for as long as I can. I know that there will come a time that he won't want to tell me, but I hope we can get around it.

Yesterday was 'Health Day' at his school. All kinds of presentations were given all around the school and they classes made their way through them. I'm proud, because he said he didn't really learn anything that he didn't know already. I'm proud because I was the one to teach him most of that. I never want my kids to have to learn from other kids. I will always answer their questions and try to prepare them for what is coming.

But this Health Day did lead to an interesting discussion about drugs between him and I. We haven't had to have a lot of those drug talks, but we've had a few. He asked me questions about addiction, because he knows that I've had a long battle with nicotine. We've had an alcoholic in our lives. I've got a strung out cousin who is in and out of jail and rehab. I think we both felt better. 

I'm not saying we're angels, us parents. There are our own times of experiments and such. Though I can't speak for what the Trucker was like before I met him, I know that I have made good choices with my life. I won't lie to him either. If he is old enough to ask, he is old enough for honesty.

My downfall was drinking. I grew up with alcohol in the house and the first time I had rum (and got tipsy) was in grade 6. I was drunk often through grades 7-9. Not good. I was smart, though, and my marks didn't slip too low. And when I hit high school and the kids were all just starting to get into what I'd already done for awhile, I was kind of done with it. By the time I was old enough to legally drink, I was an extreme hangover walking. It quickly became painful to drink. I do have drinks every now and then, but it's not something I really enjoy or ever look forward to. More than 3 of anything and I'm down for a minimum of 24 hours. Which just can't be done when you have three kids!

Macboy is very logical. He often reminds me of Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory and it cracks me up. Our conversation yesterday was quite philosophical, really. And it's not really about health or the effects on a body. He asked "Why do people choose to give up control of themselves to a chemical substance?"  "Would you let someone else make all your choices for you? At least, if it's a person, you have a chance because they might not be stupid. A chemical makes no sense. Has no conscience. Doesn't care about YOU."

He then quizzed me about my nicotine addiction and my caffeine addiction.  Smart boy, that one.

What I don't understand is why time and nature work the way they do. Why do laws state that we must be such and such age before we can drink or buy cigarettes. Sure, it makes it harder for younger kids to get, but really, it just makes them desire it more. I think in some ways withholding access to these things makes the user more excessive when they finally can get it themselves. Many of us have that year or two of partying like mad, 'college years' and all that. Many of us try it out, and then realize that it was never worth the hype and the health risks are not worth a few short hours of whatever it is we've had. Many of us stop a lot of these dangerous things. But not all of us.

I find, with my kids, that anytime I try to restrict something, they just want it more. Candy, video games, staying up late, whatever. I am not a very strict parent, I'll admit. I have boundaries that can not be crossed, but I always make sure they understand why I have set those boundaries. My boys have both tasted beer and wine. Neither of them like it. It wasn't something I had that they couldn't. And now, it's not an issue at all. They simply know that they didn't like the taste. They ask why I have any of it, I answer as honestly as I can. I don't really know. In small doses, in moderation, I enjoy a few drinks with friends. I can relax in a different way and loosen up. But I don't do it all the time because drunk Wendy is not Wendy. 
No matter what anyone says. 

I believe that you can't be a different person just because of alcohol. I think some traits are lying under the surface, regardless of drugs or alcohol. The sober person can make the rational choice to NOT act on those impulses. An intoxicated person loses that inhibition. We do things we normally would not do. There is a reason we are inhibited! If we were ever intended to act the way we do when we are drunk, we would act that way everyday. I simply don't understand it. I guess I'd have had to become an alcoholic to understand, and if that is the case, I'm grateful to never understand.

I think it is simple human nature that makes us desire what we can't have. The grass is greener mentality. When we have it, we don't know what it means anyway. And then we grow up and realize it was never worth having anyway. 

Think of how much time we can waste in our lives, experimenting with things we never wanted to begin with. I can't imagine how much farther ahead I could be in my life if bars were nothing special. I grew up in a time where children were allowed in some bars up until a certain time of night. I sat and played games with friends while our parents drank together. I saw how they acted stranger and stranger after each drink, and I saw what I never wanted to be. 

I don't want to subject my children to seeing what I have seen, but I do want them to grow up knowing the truth. And I will continue to tell them things they may not want to hear, I will give them the truth they deserve. I will pray daily that they make the right choices when their time comes.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Close My Eyes And Think

The itch to write is really strong lately, but the words are just not flowing. Or, perhaps they are and I'm just not listening carefully enough. I need to slow my mind, stop the racing. Stop and focus on one thing.

I thank my previous education for my typing skills. They give me the power to close my eyes and just let the words pour from my head to the page, without a filter in between.

The sun that was so warm and bright this morning is hiding behind dark grey clouds and I feel like my motivation is hiding with it. So, I close my eyes and take in my surroundings. The kids are giggling downstairs. For a few brief moments they are all playing together. The giggles like a song to my subconscious, if only I could tap into their joy and steal just a tiny bit. Would they laugh less or would I be able to join? Probably neither. Perhaps stealing a little strength would deflate them. It would just bring everyone down.

Stop, breathe, listen. Inhale.... Mmmmm... Lilacs. Our tree is in full bloom right now and someone has put some flowers on the table. Sometimes, the scent is overwhelming. It is just another distraction. Sometimes, the light and the kids happy noises and a TV and the flowers and the smell of dinner cooking.... it's just enough to leave me reeling. Too much, just too much happening all around me. I crave silence and darkness to bring me back to earth.

This time, the scent of the lilacs - a combination of white and purple - is soothing. Like a warm caress of spring, wrapping me up and making me whole. It's a scent of home. It's a scent of spring. Spring is new beginnings, birth of the flowers and buds on the trees. Bugs and construction. Progress, for whatever that's worth.

I am making progress. I've been sticking to this weight loss plan of mine and doing okay. Today, I lacked appetite but I forced myself to eat breakfast and that turned things around for a while. I will still be on track after today. Progress is good. I have a dream of a new version of myself held firm in my mind. I don't need a degree to define me, I don't need to be skinny either. I know that I am enough, just as I am, right now. But I am taking steps to grow. I don't ever want to stop growing.

We cut back the lilac bush every few years. It grows tall and reaches the powerlines over our yard. It grows wide and hangs over the neighbor's fence. It constantly grows. No matter how much we cut down, it surges back in almost no time at all.

I'm glad I'm not grass, though I do sometimes relate. I struggle and persevere only to feel like I've had my head chopped off and thrown down, but I keep growing up. Keep starting over and pushing. Nothing really stops it.

I love to lay in the grass in the middle of summer. When it is soft and lush and green. Both literally and figuratively, nothing makes me feel more grounded. I am just a small piece in this life puzzle. Playing my part as best I can. Occasionally improvising and, often, dealing with an unexpected change of direction.

I am happy, for whatever that is worth. I don't know that in the grand scheme of things, it really matters a lot. it makes it easier to get things done, to spend time with my family and help them be the best they can be. When they are at their best, I feel I've done my best. This is my purpose. To find my dreams, to chase them and to teach those I love how to do the same. I want my kids to surpass my accomplishments. To grow up and 'show me how it's done.'

Some of my best writing comes in these times of melancholy. Some of it comes from anger. Sometimes, it's tear stained paper. But it's all emotion. The benefit of writing fiction is that I can take that litle bit of me and turn it into something so much more. I can turn it in to someone elses dream. I can turn it into someone's nightmare. The point is, I can change it. I can take my sadness and write the success of a protagonist. I can take whatever I'm feeling and make it anything I want.

This is where I thrive. If the rest of the world could get a tiny glimpse of what occurs in my head, they would want to live there too.

But life happens on the outside. And so, I must open my eyes and return to my reality. Guess it's time to cook some dinner and I should probably fold that laundry I've been avoiding all day.

And I am grateful that my reality is actually pretty good. I am blessed.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Reading and Rambling

I'm in the mood to write right now, but I have no clue what I actually want to write about. So, hold on to something, we're going on the rollercoaster ride of my brain with no real direction. I usually find that the road I want sort of makes itself appear. I'm just going to type all this randomness until something happens, or until I'm just done. Okay? Okay.

No, wait... I have to go switch the laundry...

Have I ever told you how much I hate doing laundry? At least I made three bucks on this load. I hate that no one checks their pockets here, but I love that no one checks their pockets. haha

I'm feeling mellow today. I finished a novel this afternoon, last of a series of 6. Which is funny because if I had known when I read the first one that there were six, I probably wouldn't have started it. I read one, then found out there were more. Thought it was a trilogy until I came across the fourth. Then I was done for a month or two. I thought it was strange that the story didn't really end. Each book has it's own ending, so you do feel that it is over, but that one seemed like it should wrap up the whole story, you know? And out of the blue, I stumble into "Book Six Has Been Released!"

Ummm... six? really? So I scramble to the library and get book five. Read it in a couple days and then checked for six. The library had copies on order, not even in yet- THAT new. Placed my hold and relished the feeling of being the first library patron to read this copy of this book... Yep, I'm that kind of book dork.

Anyway... I finished it today. I loved it. I really felt connected to the characters, even though they were under 15. It was well written. If I tried to describe it, you'd probably think I was nuts. The storyline is kind of sci fi, but very cool if you give it a shot. If you want some reading that will last awhile but not get boring, give the Gone Series by Michael Grant a try.

Well that was interesting. There are book trailer videos on the home page at that site. Funny how video doesn't really match up to your imagination.

Ever done that before? Picked up a book that you would have avoided if you knew it was a series?

I'm starting Perks of Being a Wallflower next.

I started a weight loss plan two weeks ago. Tracking over at SparkPeople, eating better and exercising more. I'm down 3.5 lbs so far. Lets hope I don't spring back up!! I hate that. I lost twenty lbs. last year but then gained 15 back in no time when I quit smoking. I'm done with that. This weight is coming OFF. I have a closet full of really nice clothes that I want to wear again. Dammit, I want to be too small for them!!! But first things first, I will go one day at a time and just keep paying attention and making good choices. I don't want to 'diet' really, no drastic measures. Just maintain my health and pray it all comes together.

24 school days left until summer.  Sad that I started counting down before the kids did.

Its a grey rainy day here today. Normally, I'd hate that. Today is okay, it's been so dry and there have been fires all over the place. We need the rain. I swear I can already see the grass getting greener.

This didn't really help my need to write. And it probably didn't provide much in the way of entertainment for you. It's a little heavy on the book review side too... I should watch that. I read a LOT. I apologize, sometimes it spills over.  Like when I read the Alchemist, it held on to me for a long time. I can't wait until someone else can say they got sucked right in to a novel that I wrote. But, my character is kind of in hiding write now. She's lost in the back of my mind. Perhaps thinking of what she needs to do next. I don't know. I know that she will make an appearance again very soon. She never stays away long. And usually, it's about 1 am when she starts filling my head with ideas.

Take care friends... I'm off to cook dinner and probably read some more.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Now We Are Really Living Right

This weekend was a long weekend for us, extended a little extra by choice. It was a wonderful weekend. We traveled to visit in-laws who live 5 hours away. Saturday was a day for the Trucker to enjoy his family. I chose to stay behind with my kids at their house, while everyone enjoyed an afternoon of golf.

First, I'd like to mention that in my dark places and dark days, I hated those moments. I felt the pressure of packing and preparing just to arrive somewhere and be 'stuck' at the house with my kids. I have often felt that it was time wasted; after all, I could just as easily spend a whole day alone with my kids at home. Why drive five hours to do it?  This time my perspective had shifted a bit.

I realized I had a perfect opportunity to do NOTHING. I didn't have to clean house. I didn't have to do laundry. I had absolutely no commitments anywhere. So, the kids and I had a glorious day of doing... nothing.

Which leads to the second point. In the process of doing nothing, we did so much more. I had no timelines, no deadlines, no chores; so, when the kids asked to do something, I could easily say "Yes."  We relaxed, took things slow and did whatever we felt like. It started with a little soak in a hot tub; Angel Baby quite enjoyed it. After lunch, we walked up the street to the park. We played until we just didn't feel like playing anymore. It was a great time and I have a ton of pictures. (I won't be posting them, sorry, I don't post many pictures of my kids here). We headed back to the house and relaxed. I read and the kids played. Then, we were due for another dip in the hot tub... because, well, when you have a hot tub at your disposal, you USE it. It's just a simple fact of life, right?

I did go out with the adults in the evening for a few hours, but up until then the kids had 100% of my attention, all day. A rare treat for all of us. They didn't have to wait when they asked me a question. I didn't have to put down a phone or turn away from a computer. The kids didn't even turn on the TV for the whole day. We were all content to just do what felt right to us.

One thing that made me feel good, one of many things that day, was that it didn't seem strange or awkward to any of us. The kids were not shocked by my attention. This was a great reminder that I must be doing something right. They know that they can count on my attention any time, so it was not a weird adjustment when I shifted and focused on them for a full day. That makes me proud. 

Even that night, when I crawled into an unfamiliar guest room bed, I was filled with such a feeling of peace. I was calm in a way I hadn't been for months. I've moved my life away from those dark places and can truly feel the sunshine in my life.

This peaceful feeling carried me through the whole weekend. And as we set off on our five hour drive home, the vehicle was a happy place. 

No one had any reason to rush. We stopped in so many little places on our drive home that it took more than seven hours to make our 5 hour trip. There were no electronics in the vehicle. The kids played and giggled that full belly giggle that makes everyone laugh. We explored a few places along the highway that we'd never stopped at before. 
By the time we got home, we were all exhausted but not with that 'drained and empty' feeling from a boring five hour drive. We were exhausted from happiness. Each of the kids fell asleep quick that night, and all three with smiles and sweet dreams.

I did try hard in my dark days to make these little moments happen. I am certainly glad that I did! I'm happy that no matter how hard it was to roll out of bed and even get dressed some days, I just kept doing it. I'm glad that even though I had days where I just wanted to lock myself in the bathroom just to get away from children, I didn't. I sat and listened to the crazy exaggerated stories that my children fed me twelve times or more. I looked them in the eye when they spoke as often as I could manage. And now, it's just something that happens all on it's own. I don't have to force myself to step off the beaten trail and do something different. I don't have to force myself to dive in with the kids and live like they do. I can just BE.

The old story goes "Practice Makes Perfect" and this is one instance where every ounce of practice I put forth has paid off tenfold. Even the Trucker is picking it up, he had no hesitation at all to stop at these random places and explore, just like we did on our long mountain trip last year. We are a much better family unit than we have ever been before and it just comes naturally. 

We are finally living life right.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Far From Perfect But Refreshed Anyway

I'm sure you have noticed some changes here. I hope you like what you see. I felt that since I write so little about Food these days, the theme was misleading. 

I am resigned to deal with the available options in Blogger, which are few, but I want to have some separation of topics as well. Hopefully it will help you to find what you actually want to read about. I've had a wide variety of stories listed over the last couple years, but I'm trying to find a decent way to share it all with you. 

I decided to change the heading of my little blog as well. No longer focusing solely on the negatives of what I can't do, but a fresh way to say "Hey, I'm not perfect. I can't do everything. But there are some really cool things I can do, or try to do anyway."

Welcome if you are new here. And thank you
if you have been here before, I'm glad you came back.

I am starting my degree in September and I am nervous. I'm worried about time management. I'm worried about Angel Baby transitioning. I'm worried about parking downtown. I'm worried about sharing classrooms with kids that are not much older than mine. But I am also so excited. I'm incredibly inspired and I am so ready to work for this. I do intend to write as much as I can about the trials and triumphs of returning to school. I have searched for blogs from others in my position and I'm really not finding anything helpful. There are single moms in school, 20 year olds with a baby, college after divorce... Some are even quite faith-based and not really about school at all.  Not that I have anything against single moms or young moms, and nothing against moms with faith, I am simply trying to find something specific.

So, I will share. I believe that going to school will be much more complicated than working full-time. I will have my class hours, but I will still have to juggle homework and studying along with taking care of my husband and three kids. This is going to be a huge transition for all of us. Many changes will come in the next several months as we try to work together to cover the bases that I'm missing since I will no longer be a stay at home mom. Maybe, through my trial and error, we might just find some great ideas or time-savers that everyone will love.

If you have a blog about a mom going back to school in similar circumstances, or know of one, please post in the comments or send me a message on Facebook or through email (you can find it in my profile). I'd love to find some.

So, please, while you are here, take a look around. Let me know your thoughts. Share any blogger tips you might have to make things better. Tell me what works and definitely tell me if something doesn't work!