Monday, July 21, 2014

Mid-Summer Daybook

Outside my window...

Our backyard is shaping up. We are in the process of building an extended covered patio roof. I should say, Mike is in the process and I just told him my desires for it. He's good at following through with my requests but is frustrated that he can only work on the project in small increments of time before life calls him back to other obligations.

I am wearing....

My exercise shorts, dry-weave top, & running shoes. I will have an hour of time this morning to wait between picking up kids and driving them on to the next activity. I want to be ready to use that time wisely!

I am grateful for....

This life I've been gifted....a secure marriage to a holy man, beautiful children, friends I can grow in faith with, a comfortable house, and the financial means to make homemaking a priority in building up the domestic church.

I am pondering....

Marian Consecration. I re-consecrated with a group from St. Edwards last Wednesday. I was privileged to once again facilitate the group. It is such a spiritual gift in my life because every time  a new group forms, I am in such need of renewal and I am never disappointed by the end of the 6- weeks.  It is a joy to be able to spiritually refresh and even better to watch the incredible transformations that happen to those in the group, many of whom begin with alot of trepidation and timidity. I feel like a mother hen watching them spread their wings and take off. This has been a treasure in my life and I am so blessed to be a part of this devotion on the parish level. Here is the program we use: 33 Days to Morning Glory .

I am praying for....

My sister's family is going through a big transition and even though it will be good for them, it is bringing alot of stress. I am saying a novena to  Our Lady of Good Remedy for them.

I am praying for my children, especially those that are young adults, I place them under the Blessed Mother's mantle. She knows what they need and can "mother" them with more influence than I.

A few friends have asked for prayers for broken-ness in their immediate and extended families. The devil loves to destroy families and so much healing is needed in this area.

I am reading...

I am always reading a few books at the same time. I've been working on "The Little Oratory" by Clayton and Lawler summer series here at Summer in the Little Oratory along with Elizabeth's blog . More on how that is changing our home later. I just finished the "33 Days to Morning Glory" retreat book as I talked about above. Also, just finished "The Shadow of His Wings" by Fr. Gereon Goldmann, which was an inspiring account of a priest's life while being part of the German army during WWII. If you don't believe in divine intervention, you will after reading his story! I am about to start " The Everyday Catholics Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours" by Daria Sockey. You can probaby figure where I hope to go with this read.....

I am learning.....

How to play the piano!! Taking lessons once a week with Andrew has been a treat. I am progressing, slower than he is, but I am still improving bits at a time and I love that I can sit at our baby grand and actually play a tune. I also learned to crochet last summer. It's been nice having something creative to do at the times when there is idle "sitting time" which seems to happen most at swim meets, long car rides, and doctor appointments. I am more than half way done a shawl, which is the first project I've worked on that isn't lopsided! I am also learning to keep my  mouth shut. This handy skill has helped keep peace when certain people who live with me are feeling grumpy or rebellious and whether consciously or unconsciously try to get me to play that game....

For better health....

"Don't be obsessed with the number on the scale", perhaps you've heard this before. Well, I've always been maybe not obsessed, but aware of that number. I decided after the holidays to stop weighing myself weekly and just eat healthy, exercise, and judge my eating habits by how my clothes fit. Epic Fail!! So, I didn't exercise regularly, ate whatever I felt like, and felt my clothes get tighter. At my annual doctor's appointment last week I had gained 8 lbs since the year before. So, I am back to eating healthy-- which means green smoothies for breakfast, juicing veggies, limiting breads, smaller dinner portions, adding in regular exercise, and weighing myself. So while I can fool myself into thinking the second bowl of ice cream won't hurt, or 2 days of exercise is just as good as 4, the scale doesn't lie, especially not in middle-age.


The week ahead...

 Lots of appointments to take care of: vet, 4 dentist visits, piano, parent volunteer obligation, Daddy-daughter dance, squeezing in a morning visit to a friend's house and then the end of the week is......

I am looking forward to.....

The Edel Gathering !!!! This Fri-Sun I will be in Austin enjoying a Catholic Mom's getaway weekend. I will be traveling with some friends, making (hopefully) lots of new friends, and just having a blast! This has been months in planning and it hasn't hit me yet that it is just days away!



Friday, July 11, 2014

Puppies and Swim Team-- Yup, that's my summer!

The fourth of July was last weekend. When I lived in NJ, this holiday signified the official beginning of summer. Usually kids had been out of school about 2 weeks (or less) and summer rhythms were being formulated. Here in TX, by the time the fourth rolls around we are in the middle of extreme heat, looong summer days have been felt for quite some time and some of us are already dreaming of cool fall evenings. The little ones have been finished their school year since before Memorial Day, so it's about time to start thinking about a summer tune up--- can you say math fact reviews and reading logs?

Our summer has been busy. Since the kids started swim team some 17-18 years ago, there is never a total relaxation when school lets out. It's more of coordination of practice times and Saturday swim meets. Texas has kicked it up a notch-- swim meets here start earlier and last until mid-afternoon. Since the heat/humidity is a little taste of what hell must be like, it's much more draining (on those of us who aren't cooling off in the water--parents!). With Andrew in his second year of competitive year-round swimming, the summer season doesn't just run April-June, but extends another whole month until the end of July-- Yippee!! On the upside--Kyle once again coached the summer league and Andrew and Kaitlyn were participants. Andrew broke 3 individual team records and 2 relay ones. Fun for parents! If you do have to suffer  enjoy watching your kids on swim team, at least it's more exciting having them beat records! Kyle drew rave reviews from parents and really is in his element when coaching and Kaitlyn is there for the fun.
Kaitlyn at the start!


Andrew has sculpted some swimming muscles this year!

Those important turns!


Coach Kyle
Celebrating an undefeated season! 




















 Now for the puppies. Since I don't have any toddlers or pre-schoolers running around my home and it's hard to turn off 25 years of running a household filled with the chaos that ensues while raising a litter large family, I have subjected us for the past 3 years to rescuing puppies,or taking in pregnant mama dogs left at the shelter. Providing the  "The Home for Wayward Pregnant Dogs" and "the Mama to Mama Dogs" as
I have been called. Our latest mama-to-be arrived late March, gave birth to 8 healthy puppies (including one I had to revive at birth--whole other story), and started being adopted out at 7 weeks of age. Unfortunately, mama dog became very ill shortly after weaning the pups and didn't survive.( Difficult-- I don't want to focus on this except to say, "please  don't neglect your pets!") At first the pups were going like hot cakes. Even though I couldn't attend any of the rescue group's weekend adoption events ( see above paragraph for explanation!), the internet and word-of-mouth publicity seemed to be doing the job! Until the last puppy, we call her Dahlia, was left. Poor little Dally has been with us over 3 weeks, alone, and now thinks we're her forever family! She's had some internet interest and even went home for 3 days with a family, but for one reason or another, the adoptions haven't been a good fit. Today, hopefully, is her lucky day! A family is coming in a few hours. I believe they will like her and take her home, but she's not an 8 week old fur ball anymore. She's 3 1/2 months of chewing, running, barking, and all-over mischievous puppyhood rolled into one! She chases our cat-- these people have 2! She plays hard with our 2-year old 50 lb. lab mix; they have a 6 yr. old dachshund. I am praying this works for their family and they'll fall in love with her sweet cuddles and licky-licks! I love when I can have a small part of bringing joy to a family as they adopt one of the puppies I 'saved' by fostering, but mostly..... I love these little guys, but I need a break!!


So, with the last puppy hopefully going home today and only two more weekends of swim meets, my relaxation will soon start!!! Happy Summer!!!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Sounds Like a Plan!

Having order is a lovely way to live. Creating schedules, itineraries, and  to-do lists give me great satisfaction, especially when I can check-off, cross out, or say ‘that went really well, thanks to the planning!” During  most years of our family life, I've had a laundry schedule, monthly dinner menus, and  a color-coded calendar mounted on the fridge. Obviously, I enjoy  predictability and structure.  I've noticed that in seasons of extra stress, whether from an over-booked schedule or lots of unplanned doctor visits or personal issues, having at least some part of the day ordered has given me great comfort and probably saved me from going over the edge. Likewise, when I've gotten away from the strict planning, I've found myself falling apart under the everyday busy-ness which is our lives.  The ever present “what should I cook for dinner tonight?” at 4 o’clock in the afternoon is one such stress that can break me when it’s a particularly hectic day.

I just completed a 6-week online workshop which included podcasts and essays called “Restore”. It is for moms who've experienced burn-out and how to recover.  While I've had a pretty good last few months, I've equally had a few rough years. Last year around this time, I was coming out of a burn-out situation and had let my daily plan, including the dinner schedule, go. I haven’t restored any of it yet and although I've been managing each day satisfactorily, I haven’t been thriving. Living day to day with no set plan other than the kids’ weekly activities recorded on an electronic calendar have left me a bit unnerved.   
I chuckled at the irony of the first podcast which was a lesson on letting your plans go, God has you right where you are needed regardless of what your written down schedule says you are supposed to be doing.  A few days later, our lesson was on how to plan your day! As odd as it sounds, there is much wisdom here! Planning is good, as long as we are open to God’s will when it doesn't go our way.  He already has a plan for us, we just have to figure it out and say Yes to letting go of what we've written on paper (or in our mind!).
One important facet of the schedule that I have repeatedly failed to include was me! Like most moms, my day is mostly dictated by the kids’ activities. Add in homeschooling, and, yeah, not much time left for anything else, but that's all about to change!

 About two years ago I had the privilege of visiting the local residence of some Dominican Sisters in our area. They live in a suburban neighborhood and have come here from their convent in Tennessee to build and run a high school. I was one of the lucky women invited for breakfast in their lovely home. Like I said, it’s in a subdivision much like my own and yet, walking into their house a feeling of peace was immediately felt. Perhaps it’s because I wasn't tripping over someone’s shoes left by the door or there wasn't’ any ‘stuff’ laying around and cluttering the space.  We had an intimate and enjoyable visit, just ten women and the three nuns. One of the questions they answered for us was about a ‘typical day’ for them. I know that most religious follow a Rule, which isn't a bad idea for we lay folks either. One thing that struck me, however, was that as part of their Rule, there was a scheduled hour daily from 7 pm to 8 pm for leisure which usually meant playing a board game or cards, working together on a jigsaw puzzle or doing some other kind of handi-craft.  I was fascinated!  In another life, about 20 years ago, I used to sit in the evenings and work on needlecrafts. It was so relaxing after a busy day taking care of little ones or working. ( I worked part-time back then). There wasn't any guilt about the house not being clean enough yet to sit, or another load of laundry to be folded. What happened?? Somewhere in-between running carpools and planning curriculum for our family I forgot about nurturing this side of me! It seems that my evenings, once the kids are picked up from their activities, are spent doing last minute counter wipes, laundry rotations, or straightening up. I never just sit and “play”.

Well, that’s all about to change! Thanks to the Restore Workshop,  I have a new planner notebook just waiting to be filled in with dinner menus, household schedules for upkeep, and (what I’m most excited about) my daily routine, or Rule.  These daily sheets will have scheduled time for prayer throughout the day, quiet time, exercise, and allotment for leisure! They also include long term goals for myself and each month a list of 3 strategies for achieving each goal I am working toward.  I’m so excited to have a set time to sit and read or crochet, or play a game with the kids. You must understand that if it’s written on the schedule I will be able to leave the clothes in the dryer (they’ll still be there tomorrow, right?) or the random dirty bowl in the sink and just have down time, creative time, fun time! I know there will be days when God’s plan doesn't match at all with what I've written and I might not follow any of what’s on the paper, but I’m open to that!


So, armed with my planner and a new attitude, I’m psyched to order my life a little better and even have some time for fun!


Monday, March 24, 2014

Here in the Tunnel

My last post said I was on vacation. That was 2 1/2 years ago!! I'd love to say that I've been soaking up the sun on a beautiful white-sand beach since then while sipping bright colored daiquiris with little umbrellas in them, but that's, of course, not reality. I've been in the same house on the same street trying to keep life from over taking my sense of self and my purpose here.

At the time of my last post, my world was becoming a dark and frantic place. When you watch a loved one slipping through the tight grip you've had on him since he was a babe, feelings of despair, frenzy, and discord are born. Control is a desperate feeling to lose. You know you are entering a dark tunnel, but you don't know how long it is or if there will be any light along the way. The world in your periphery becomes secondary and when that affects others in the family,who need you, that is a very bad situation to have.

So, life is this journey, you see, and it's never what we think it will be. But, when you take your feelings of hopelessness and you surrender them to our Lord, amazing things begin to happen. You realize the truth in "God is good, all the time" and "God can take evil and make something good of it." You start to have thoughts that help you understand that even if someone is making bad choices and you desperately want to help, the best and most important decision you can make is to give that person away. Yes, give him to Jesus, give him to the Blessed Mother, give him to the saints, and plead, beg, bargain, whatever it takes!

Along the way you notice a few things: 1) you cannot do this, you cannot make it through this time of life without the graces of God 2) so you Trust, you give it over and you find a way to believe that with your fervent prayers & sacrifices you don't just think, you 3) Know, that God has this. He has your loved ones, he knows their plan, their journey. It was never yours to control. It is theirs to walk, listen, & choose. 4) Your job is to grow with them. Your prayer life will bloom tenfold!, your chance to practice virtue when you are dying to go to vice are frequent, you draw closer to the cross, you look at Jesus & thank Him for giving you this small share of suffering so that you can unite it to His passion. 5) and last, you stay Faithful, because as I said in the beginning, you don't know how long this tunnel is, but you have found that there is alot of light along this path if you're willing to open the curtain and let it shine through!!

There have been many moments I've wanted to share on my blog, but I couldn't find the words or the motivation. I'm sure that much of what I've learned the past few years will now slowly unfold in these future posts. When I finally felt in my heart that it was time to return here, I didn't know what I would write. How do you bridge over 2 years of emptiness? As I began to type,  I let the words just flow and am quite surprised at how they spilled onto the page effortlessly. I am happy to be here. Actually, I am thrilled to be here!!


My table center-piece this lent. A reminder of our daily path.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

On Vacation....Come Back Later!

I'm experiencing a new appreciation for family vacations. I'm on one right now, yay!!! Last time I went away was exactly a year ago, however, it only involved myself and half of my children. We were with extended family. There were many fun times, but not much family bonding--when I say that I'm talking about my immediate family. Of course there wasn't, we weren't all there!! The kids made memories with their cousins, which is important, but it didn't do much for our nuclear family unit.

I've heard of a new thing called a "stay-cation" where the working parent(s) takes their vacation time from work, but they don't physically go away from home. They might take some day trips with the family, but mostly it involves sleeping later and catching up on household projects that one never has time to do when working. My husband did this last year when I was away with the younger kids. He took the older boys to a professional baseball game and fishing for a day in the gulf, but mostly worked on unfinished household tasks. He recently told me he needed a vacation and hadn't been on one in years. So, I'm thinking this stay-cation thing didn't quite fit the bill of relaxing and recharging a person as a real vacation does!

We have a big vacation to a famous theme park planned for September. Again, this will involve only half the kids. This will be our family's fourth trek to this magical place and while I'm excited to share that with the kids, I know that I always come home feeling exhausted and... well.... needing a vacation!


So, when this opportunity basically fell in our lap to buy a week at a beach condo in Alabama from a family we barely knew who couldn't make the trip, we felt as if it was meant to be. Not only can we all go (except our oldest who is now out of the nest), but it's extremely affordable. A nine hour drive is a cake walk to seasoned cross-country travelers as our family is.

This is a real vacation. What does that mean? It means no worries about cooking, cleaning, laundry, straightening up the house, or driving kids to activities. It means sleeping in until we naturally wake up, doing whatever we feel like on that given day even if we're at the beach but decide to go to the pool instead.

It means sneaking in a little schooling without the kids knowing. Hey, who can resist a Confederate Civil War Fort right on the penninsula where we're staying!!
It means siblings bonding and sharing friendships over found jellyfish, sandcastles, and boogie boards!
It means stalking sea birds that look interesting enough to touch!
It means dealing with a sunburn when someone distracts you when you're putting on the sunscreen!
It means taking trips we normally wouldn't have the chance to do, like going on a Dolphin Cruise!
And visiting tacky-themed souvenir shops!
It means laying on top of each other to watch TV, it's Shark Week after all, and we don't have cable at home!
The only problem is that it can't last forever!!!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Jumping into Fall


I'm not usually an Autumn gal. It's not that I don't love the colorful foliage on the trees, the cool, crisp evenings, or hot beef stew that always ends up in my crock-pot. It's just that living in the Northeast most of my life, fall means that the endless cold winter is just around the corner and that's something I've never looked forward to!! Here in Texas, I've waited for the fall seasonal changes up until we are about to put up the Christmas tree. Then I realize it's come and practically gone and I haven't even worn a sweater yet! But not this year, no sirree!


I hate to admit that I wished the summer away..... but I did, sadly at that. I had my plans, my expectations, my to-do list, but by mid-June I knew things were not going my way. For me, it was a dreadful summer and I hate to say that because nothing bad happened. My entire nuclear family was home, just like I always want it to be. My older boys are practically adults--maybe one or two of them are by certain standards and yet I long for the days when they took direction from me, I ran the show in this house, my rules were followed to the Tee and that was just how it should be. But not now. Two came home from college in early May, one finished junior year of high school and all three of them went into sloth-mode. Okay, the oldest spent a month with an army obligation & took a summer class. He's off the hook. But the other two----Mama Mia!!


I don't want to sound like a complainer--so I won't. I didn't want to be a nag, so after 4 weeks of reminding them to put the cereal away when they ate their breakfast, (at 2 in the afternoon cause that's when they woke up) I just did it for them. The point is, I want them to feel welcome in their home and not chastised or hounded to death, but things will change next summer and they are all aware of it!!! (btw--this is not just about a little cereal being left out!)


The disruption and lack of routine upset the entire balance of our family. Bad habits were picked up by the younger three who watched the older ones laze around. I am still un-doing some damage to the littlest boy. Who wants an 8 year-old with a teenage attitude?! Not me!!


So, good-bye summer of 2010 and good riddens!! I've already started putting out my fall decorations--the scarecrows & pumpkins and my, they look good! Today my house was filled with the comforting aroma of autumn thanks to a scented candle that was burning all afternoon. I splurged and bought a huge, HUGE pot of mums which are all buds now, but will open shortly into burgundy blooms. They grace my front porch. It may still be in the 90's most days around here, but you'll be sure to find me curled up in front of the fireplace, sipping hot cider. I'll be the one wearing the sweater!!


(just a little side note: I can't wait for the boys to come back from college for a visit--it's just not home without them!)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Daybook "Down the Shore"--yep, we really say that!


Outside my window:
I am sitting on the deck of the shore house, 3 stories up, the sky is clear blue with the sea breeze blowing lightly on me. It's going to be a nice beach day.




I am listening to:
Cars whizz by me on the street below and seagulls chirping in the background.




I am grateful for:
Time away from the daily grind, a change of scenery, and the chance for my younger kids to make memories at the beach with their cousins.



I am thankful for:
My family and our good health. A teen that my son knew from elementary school days passed away yesterday from cancer. He was 17. Last summer when we were visiting here in NJ at the seashore, he came to visit us with 3 of my son's other friends. It was exactly a year ago this week. He looked healthy, said he was in remission.....



I am pondering:
What a difference a year can make! Live each day to the fullest, make amends for wrong-doings, pray!!!



I am reading:
Summer vacation twaddle!! I loaded my Kindle with free books before we left. I did pay for one and I must recommend it "The Glass Castle-- a memoir" by Jeannette Walls. An amazing story of growing up in poverty and rising above--loved it!!



I am thinking:
That I miss my husband!! We've never been separated for more than a week in our 22 year marriage and I wish he could be sharing this vacation with me.



On my iPod:
Before we left for vacation, Michelle and I filled my iPod (finally) with all my favorite CDs. It's such a luxury for me to bring my tunes along wherever I go. I know--finally getting caught up to the rest of the "plugged-in" generation. Better late than never....



Toward Rhythm & Beauty:
The unstructured rhythm of vacation is a nice break. I've been able to jog or exercise on a bike most days and that feels great! Sitting in a beach chair watching the waves crash on the shoreline sure has a rhythm to it, lol! I love sitting with my feet in the water in a low chair while reading a novel, feeling the sun beating down on me--does it get any better than that? Oh--I'm getting a nice tan too!



I am hoping & praying:
For Derek's family. Please pray for them--I can't imagine their pain. I went to Derek's my space page last night. A large picture of Jesus was posted with his words "someone I would most like to meet". His quotes were from the Bible and messages of living life to the fullest. Words you don't see often on a 17 yr. old's blog. I am hoping Derek's wish has come true....




In the garden:
Mike said he'd be pruning back the palm trees this week. My flowers...I haven't seen for 10 days and I've forgotten to remind Mike to water them. Hmmmm, wonder what I'll find upon my return.




Around the house:
I've been told that it's been vacuumed & mopped. Mike's been doing minor repairs that he never has time to do. He tells me it looks great and I'm sure it does!!



From the kitchen:
We've been eating out or ordering in every day. That's been a treat! Hoping my waistline can take it!!



A picture I'm sharing:
What do you do after feeding the seagulls.....chase them, of course!!