The Dead Sea, Clogged Toilets and a Spelling Bee Champ

Life is full of ups and downs. Dark days and bright spots. Days when you feel alone and like the worst spouse/parent on the planet and days when you feel like it’s all rainbows and green lights.

When I was in the 5th grade I won my school spelling bee. I remember it clearly. The winning word was puce. More importantly, I defeated a 6th grader. That was a big deal. When I went into the school gym later, the kids cheered for me. That was a good day.

Then there was  hard day when someone thoughtlessly made a hurtful comment about one of my kids and their behavior/character. It was unintentional; but I still went into a bathroom stall and cried. I felt like the absolute, worst mom ever. That was a bad day.

Good days, bad days. We all have them. An amazing day can quickly be followed by a day you’d rather just forget

A few months ago, (Though now it seems like forever and a day ago.) The Hubs left on a  a 12 day trip to Israel. (I say two weeks because it’s sounds much more dramatic than 12 days. ) When your other half is gone and you are parenting solo for that long, there is bound to be some bad days.

Don’t get me wrong. I realize him being gone for 2 weeks is a drop in the bucket compared to those moms who are actual single parents. They do it alone day in and day out, every day. How about those military spouses whose partners are gone for months at a time? I am most definitely not you. You guys are amazing. You are strong and brave. My hat goes off to you.

But The Hubs had never been gone this long and definitely not while we had kids.

So as I said, The Hubs spent 2 weeks in Israel. When the opportunity came up several months ago it was a no brainer. Of course he had to go. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

As the trip drew nearer, I began to get more anxious. I  began to second guess my decision. Why am I such an amazing and selfless wife to let him leave me for two weeks with two kids and two dogs?!? Amazing and selfless were his words, not mine. I was not feeling so amazing or selfless, instead I spent the days leading up to his departure fighting back tears.

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//The Kiss Jar. One kiss for each day dad was gone. When the jar was empty,

dad came home//

The first week he was gone was hard. Just hard. It sucked. The calendar was full of commitments I couldn’t change. There was a lot of running around and finding sitters (or arranging drop offs with their Mimi) and just doing things alone. While the busyness of those days made the days go faster, it made for one stressed mama.

And I just missed his face.

Yes, there was a major meltdown (from child and me); the likes of which we hadn’t seen in quite some time. But what pushed me over the edge was the clogged toilet.

First, let me explain to you how often I deep clean my kid’s bathroom. Not often is the correct answer. Admitting that is really gross; but essential to the story. Well, I decided to clean that bathroom top to bottom. I scrubbed that toilet and sanitized every surface in sight. The floor was mopped and sink shiny.

And then one of my kids clogged the toilet.

And then I tried to flush when I should have plunged.

And then the toilet overflowed.

Thankfully most of the nasty stuffed had been flushed; but this murky toilet water gushed all over my newly cleaned floor.

Earlier that day The Hubs had sent me a picture of him floating in the Dead Sea. (Trust me. I see the irony here.) When I stopped to soak in how truly amazing that picture was and what a surreal experience that must be for him, for the first time I felt jealous. Up until that day I had felt nothing but happy for him.

I was holding down the fort and he was floating in the Dead Sea.

I was on my hands and knees cleaning up poo water and he was seeing and experiencing things I would have loved to see and experience.

The next day was church and though it may seem like it can’t get any worse than wading in poo water, it ended up being the worst day yet. I was just having some bad days.

One week down, One more whole, long week to go.

Monday, though, was a good. day. My girl was participating in the Spelling Bee. We had studied hard, she was stepping out of her comfort zone and we were both excited and nervous.

As we went through several rounds of words I thought, “Why are all the third graders such dang good spellers?”

The group started to thin out and it was down to one boy and my girl. At this point I was beyond proud of her. I knew she probably wouldn’t win and I was just giddy she  had made it this far.

Now don’t get me wrong. I believe in my girl 100%; but this other kid was a spelling machine!! Remember Drago from the Rocky movies? He was like the Drago of spelling. He didn’t hesitate. He didn’t pause. Nothing was stopping this guy.

Did I mention I won the spelling bee in the 5th grade? I loved watching these kids spell. There is nothing like a good spelling bee!

There is something so heart filling about seeing your kids work hard at something and succeed, even if it’s not first place.

She got second place. (There was  no stopping Spelling Drago.) We were both so excited. Her huge smile said it all. I think mine was bigger.

My string of bad days melted away. In fact, as The Hubs return came closer, ( I could count the remaining days on one hand) the days slowed down and got better, easier. I thought, “I can do this.”

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So, I took away 2 pretty big lessons from my short stint as a solo parent.

First- If you think marriage is 50/50 you need to redo the math. It’s really 100/100. Sometimes, it may feel off balance like I’m going 30% and he’s doing 70% and vice versa. The Hubs has been very thoughtful and has been trying to “pay me back” for letting him go. And yes, I needed some alone time and I’ve been on a girl’s weekend since then. But marriage isn’t about keeping score or making sure things are even. He went because it was a great opportunity and he would have done the same for me if the tables had been turned. There will be times when he picks up the slack and does more in our partnership and then there will be times when I will do more. That’s called balance.

Second- I realized how I need to get away and recharge a little more. There are times when “Me Time” seems virtually non-existent. There is nothing like spending 2 weeks without a break to realize that taking some time out for yourself each week (or even each day) is not too much to ask. In fact, it’s essential. I would take time for myself and then feel guilty that I had been gone from the house for too long.

If there is something that brings you joy and fills your bucket, then do it. I’m trying to do that more. What can I give my family if my own bucket is empty?

I feared my post would come off whiny and complaining because yes, we all have bad days and we deal with it. I’m not the only one with kids who melt down, toilets that overflow or have to do bedtime alone.

I guess that’s the point, though. You aren’t alone. If you are having a really bad day or a never- ending string of bad days, you aren’t the only one. There’s another mom out there who is cleaning up poo water, too. It might just be me.

 

 

 

 

Five Things I Learned in February

Can I just say that February was a doozy?!?

This is one reason why the blog has been so quiet and why I’m just now posting almost halfway through March.

February has been busy, rainy and left me parenting solo for two weeks while The Hubs was in Israel. Yes, Israel. Israel as in 10 hours ahead, he was going to sleep while I was waking up, Israel.

I’m trying to get back into my writing groove and I’ll be honest. It’s been challenging.

When you put something off unintentionally (or intentionally) and then put it off, and put if off and put if off………you get the picture, it becomes so difficult to just bite the bullet and do “it”. It could be simple like a phone call or difficult like a hard conversation. Or it could be sitting my butt down and typing out a blog post.

I had some good reasons for being MIA, like my husband left the country for two weeks and I was feeling a tad overwhelmed. But now the excuses are gone and my fingers are tapping at the keyboard once more.

Ya, so February. Kinda nuts. But here’s what I’ve learned:

1.) Boys are gross. Between the not getting the pee in the toilet (I shared a toilet with H for 4 days due to some plumbing problems.  G-R-O-S-S.), the eating of the boogers, the blowing of the spit bubbles and the general licking of well, everything; it’s disgusting. This does not diminish my love for him in way at all; but it’s yucky just the same.

2.) Cooking is not my jam and that’s okay. And it’s only taken me 16 years to figure this out!! I have felt guilty and a subpar wife and mom for years because of my lack of creativity and general culinary skills. And here’s the thing…… I just don’t enjoy cooking that much. I still have to cook (My family still needs to eat.). And while I appreciate his help, The Hubs can’t make breakfast for dinner every night. But I’m going to give myself a much needed break in the guilt department and chalk it up to the fact that I’m better at other things. Cooking is not one of them. And that’s okay.

3.) Speaking of guilt,  I’m ready to throw my mommy guilt out the window. Who wants to join me? I haven’t perfected this way of thinking yet, but I’m working on it. As a matter of fact, I have a lot of thoughts bubbling up inside of me on this topic. So much so, that I’m working on another blog post about it right now. For now, let’s just say I find the mommy guilt to be exhausting and I’m tired of being tired.

4.) The Hubs and I have been trying to encourage our kids to try new things and step out of their comfort zones, even if (and when) they fail. I’m beginning to see that this is one of the best gifts we can give them. Lily played basketball for the first time this year. This was very much out of her comfort zone and I don’t know that basketball will even be her thing. But she tried something that was a little scary to her at first and found out she really enjoyed it.

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Here’s Lily’s team, The Fever, with Coach Mike. They came in first!!

 

She didn’t score a basket until the very last game. I knew that she may very well go the whole season and not score a single basket. I was just happy that she was out there moving and gaining confidence. Let me tell you, when she did score a basket (at the buzzer no less) I blubbered like a baby. A baby! I was emotionally drained for the rest of the day. Through all this, it’s also teaching me to step out of my comfort zone and try new things, too.

5.) Speaking of crying, am I’m going to cry and be a hot mess when my kids do sports? This world is so new to me and I don’t quite know how to handle all the feelings that come with your kids competing in sports. I did not grow up doing any sport really. I’ve realized that sports, as a parent, is emotionally exhausting!! I’m also coming to realize that my Saturdays are never going to be the same again. RIP lazy Saturday mornings.

As you can see, February had a lot going on. Now that spring is just around the corner I know life is going to get even busier. I’m praying that I will embrace the crazy and take time to savor the little moments and my people.

Hello, February!

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Hello, February with your cold mornings and wet days I see in the forecast; with your Valentine’s Day and barrage of candy!!! I’m looking forward to our ice skating days on Wednesdays, celebrating my 18th Valentine’s Day with The Hubs, and our cozy mornings around the school table (our kitchen table).

This month I will…….

>take time to really love my family by being fully present when I’m with them. That means not trying to get other stuff done when I’m spending time with them. Less multi-tasking; more playing.

>take time for me. That means more sleep and eating healthy. This also means Round 2 of the Whole30 because I tried last month and failed, horribly. I did complete the Whole30 successfully last May, though, and blogged a little about it here and here.

>read more and watch TV less. (Read about my 2017 Reading Challenge here.)Except for binge watching Frasier with The Hubs. I love Frasier and Niles. They are so lovable and pompous. Watching Frasier brings me joy.

This month I will not…….

>put things in my body that make me feel like crap. No cheesy enchiladas and refried beans. Lesson learned! That was a horrible night.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    >listen to the negative thoughts that tell me I cannot do something. I will shut them up, shove them aside and do the hard stuff.

>let the rainy days keep us from getting outside. At the same time, I’ll use some of those rainy days as an excuse to cuddle on the couch with my kiddos or maybe watch a few more episodes of Frasier.

What are your February goals?

 

 

Flabby Arms and Taco Salad

Ok, truth here. My first couple weeks of 2017 were not my favorite. I felt tired, impatient, was dragging my feet to start school with the kids, and feeling a general malaise.

There was non-stop rain. Kids and pups had been underfoot 24/7. My patience wore thin.

And then people started to get sick. Blurg!

The whole family, but especially The Hubs and I, had started a plan to eat better. We’d begun to cut out sugar, carbs and soda (Soda gets it’s own category because we are kind of addicted to Pepsi and Mountain Dew.) So my body pretty much revolted against me because I refused to give it all the things it was craving.

I had not been crushing my New Year’s goals like I envisioned. (Good thing it’s only January. There’s time to turn things around, right?)

I wish I was a glass half- full kind of girl. I tend to lean towards the half-empty crowd. I’m working on that. As I said in my previous post, God and I are working on the Worrier that is me!

As you can see, I was already in a funk. I was a prime candidate for negative thoughts and worry to take root.

But one night, a couple of weeks into the new year, God taught me a great lesson about Worry and how our thoughts are so powerful. And it all happened during the 5 minutes it took to brown hamburger meat for a taco salad.

I usually crave a quiet house because I hardly ever have one. Completing thoughts just isn’t a regular occurrence these days. I’m often grasping for simple words like “knife” and “shoe.” I just end up calling everything a “thingie” and somehow the kids and The Hubs know what I’m talking about.

But sometimes, when I do get those quiets moments, they lead to no good. You know those moments. The ones in the shower (That’s where all my most brilliant and worst thoughts occur.) or while I’m folding clothes in the garage. (And no one has figured out where I am yet.) That night my quiet moment happened while I was browning meat for taco salad.

Everyone was occupied (H had fallen asleep on the couch.) and I was happily standing at the stove browning away. As I vigorously whisked my wooden spoon, I noticed how much my arm flesh jiggled. I was taken aback and little disgusted.

“Geeze, my arms are jiggly. I really need to work on that.” Note to Self. “I’m just barely getting started on this healthy eating thing and now I have to work in an arm workout?!?  I can’t even remember the last time I walked around the block. Ugh…. I have so much to do to get healthier!! I’m never going to be able to do this.”

See what I did there? My thoughts spiraled into that deep, dark, defeated place in about 30 seconds.

I then whispered to myself, “Take it one day at a time. One meal at a time. Forget the jiggly arms, for now.”

But it didn’t end with the Jiggly Arms. Then my mind jumped to Little H.

He’d been having a tough time in Sunday School the past couple of weeks. This is not our first rodeo in having “tough days”. We’ve  had lots of “tough days” at Sunday School, Awanas, Target, you name it. But he’d been doing so much better at church. Our first week back at our church’s weekly club for kids (Awanas) was that night.

Inner monologue number two.

“What is going on now? Why won’t he just listen? We are going back to Awanas for the first time after a long break. Maybe I should talk to his teacher and let her know he’s been struggling. He’s been so tired and taking extra naps lately. Is he growing? Is he coming down with something? Should I give the teachers a heads up?”

This is 4 min. and 30 seconds into browning the meat.

I had a choice at that moment: To let the worry take over and try to fix things myself (Just like I had a choice to let the negative thoughts about my arm flesh discourage me from my eating plan.) or to not worry and take things as they came.

Don’t borrow tomorrow’s worry.

Don’t go down that road of “The Worst Is Bound To Happen.”

Maybe H will have a bad night. But maybe he won’t!

I commanded my thoughts to not assume the worst. Yes, I said Commanded. I told the Worrier in me to not try to fix something that hadn’t even broken yet.

I decided to not jump in and talk to his teacher. I just prayed that God would give him a great night or give The Hubs and I wisdom if he didn’t.

The meat was browned at this point and I was adding in the seasoning. I began to set the table and The Hubs gently woke up H and called Lily to dinner.

My mind and my thoughts are the most unruly part of me. They take me from  zero to  freaking out in about 30 seconds.

God has been challenging me to not let worry control me and take me down paths I have no business traveling.

I’m doing a Bible study called Loving God with All Your Mind by Elizabeth George. She talks about taking our thoughts captive. This is a proactive word- Captive. I am going after  and chasing down those unruly thoughts and putting them in their place. It takes effort. It takes work. And more often than not, I fail. But God is so good and His Word is so powerful.  It tells me to focus on what is true.

Philippians 4:8 Finally Brethren, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.

When I read this verse and then actually started to do what it said, I began to experience little victories in this struggle with worry. Most of what I fret over is not true and it’s definitely not lovely. And it wasn’t until I started doing this Bible study and really started to pay attention to my thoughts that I realized how much worry overwhelmed me. I’m an internalizer- big time. It so easy for me to pack those fears quietly down within me without even realizing I am doing it. I know I have so far to go; so I have to read and meditate on this verse often.

But that is how powerful God’s Word is. It sheds light on the dark places and gives us a way to be victorious, to make the right choices.

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You may ask, you got all this while standing at your stove for 5 minutes?? Well, the mind is a powerful thing!

And while my arms are still jiggling away, H did just fine that night at Awanas. He’s still five and  can give Tigger a run for his money. But he did just fine.

 

 

My Christmas “Do Not Do” List

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I’m big on traditions. I’m a kind of a holiday tradition nut. I’ve blogged about our different traditions several times here on the blog. I’ll link those posts at the bottom of this post if you want to check them out.

As my kids get older and we get busier (and I seem to get more tired!!), I’ve taken a look at our list of traditions and sometimes feel like it’s becoming a list of to-do’s to check off. I’m starting to feel tired just thinking about them.

Don’t get me wrong. I love this time of year and want to make it special for my kids and family. I also don’t want to be an exhausted wreck come December 26th.

So I’m doing myself 2 favors:

1.) I’m staying off Pinterest because hello, Pinterest is partially the reason how we get ourselves in our overextended boats.

2.) I’m cutting back on our yearly traditions and doing just the few that really bring us joy and involve the least amount of work for me:) I might do more next year; but this year, I’m giving myself a break.

Being together, talking, reading Christmas stories, watching Christmas movies, playing games, looking out for how we can serve others during the holidays, taking naps. That’s the ticket.

I read a great article here about what Not To Do during the holidays.

Here are past posts about some of our favorite things to do at Christmas.

Our Ten Favorite Christmas Traditions

Our Favorite Christmas Books and Christmas Movies 

 

Now, go eat some leftovers, put up your feet and watch Christmas with the Kranks.

 

Our Gratitude Pumpkin:: Year 3

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If I made a list of the biggest life lessons I’ve learned this year, at the top would probably be this:: Having JOY in life is a choice. ( Actually, it’s a command. I Thessalonians 5:10 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.) Being joyful is a reflection of who I am as Christian to others. It’s a reflection of Christ.

Being thankful and having a constant posture of gratitude is definitely NOT always easy. Like most things, it takes effort and repeated practice until the behavior you want to achieve becomes habit. Being thankful takes practice. Some days it’s easy. Some days it’s like pulling teeth to find something to be thankful for.

I am learning this in my life right now. And while I’m learning this lesson I’m also asking myself, how do I teach this to my kids?

Being an example and living it out for my kids to see is the best way I know to teach them this lesson. But, we  have come up with a fun way in our home to develop the habit of thankfulness – The Gratitude Pumpkin.

It’s just a fun twist on what a lot of people do during the Thanksgiving season. Each day we list something or someone we are thankful for. We write it on our pumpkin. By Thanksgiving our pumpkin is full.

It gives me something to do with one of the 5 million pumpkins I have in the house. Okay, more like 20. Yes, I’m a pumpkin addict.

We got off to a little late of a start this year; but our pumpkin is filling up nicely.

2016

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Only 50% of us were willing to pose for this picture. And you can’t see all of it; but it does say scary spiders off to the left.

 

And here’s our pumpkins from past years.

2015

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2014

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This is actually something new we tried this year. We wrote what we were thankful for on a pumpkin throughout the month of November. We may not do this next year; but it sure was fun.

It’s funny that this was the caption I put with the picture because the tradition actually stuck.

 

How are you developing a heart of gratitude? I’d love to hear other’s ideas of how they are practicing this or teaching it to their kids.

 

Choosing Between Good and Best

I was browsing through some old posts of mine. I stumbled upon this post and wanted to share it again here. It’s from a year ago when I wrote and posted every day in October as part of a writing challenge. My theme for the month was My Best Yes. 

It’s funny how my very own words were the ones that convicted me. It’s so easy to get off track and fall back into bad habits and practices.

I’ve been feeling a bit like a chicken with my head cut off these days, running from here to there and everywhere in between. I’ve been doing a lot of good things, fun things. But some of the most important things have been falling through the cracks.

Time to get back on track. Maybe say “no” to things that are good, but just not the best for me or my family right now. And then there are commitments and activities that are just part of our lives right now. It’s a season we are in. How is my attitude while I’m doing them, though? The right attitude can make all the difference.

Here’s to making some Best Yes decisions!

You can click the link below and read the post.

A Tale of Two Sisters