Category Archives: Life in general

Attitude of Gratitude

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There are many phrases I’d like to cross stitch on a pillow… most are not child-friendly because it’s funny when you see something unexpected spelled out in prim and proper embroidery string Xs. But instead of being crass and embarrassing my mother, I graphic-designed a little cross stitch reminder that we can all use (well, maybe I should just speak for myself, but I have a sneaking suspicion that being more thankful is a universal goal to strive for).

Yes, it’s that time of year, with Thanksgiving looming for us in the States, that we turn to being thankful. Posting thankfulness updates on Facebook. Making thankfulness crafts/trees to do with our kids. Planning huge family gatherings focused on stuffing ourselves with turkey and taking turns sharing the things we are most thankful for with each other. And I love it, I love that autumn brings with it a new focus on gratitude, or perhaps a renewed focus. But I hope to let my own gratitude show year-round. Yes, I will make my lists for November and I will decorate trees with leaves of thanks with my family but after the fourth Thursday in November, I will continue to give things for my many blessings (and even the hardships). Don’t let gratitude be a seasonal phase, let it saturate your spirit and carry you through the whole year.

I think that finding the silver lining and appreciating the little things alongside the big things in life are part of the key to happiness. Gratitude doesn’t ensure that all will go your way or that you won’t have bad days (or weeks or even months) but it does give you some measure of defense against the bad in the world. It takes guts to have gratitude in the face things that could bring you down. Count your blessings. Name them every day. Appreciate what you have. Be thankful.

Tuesday Musings

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  • Jack is back at school today (praise be) though after I posted yesterday I myself had quite an adverse intestinal episode so I ended up laying on the couch for the rest of the afternoon, bribing Jack to watch cartoons and movies so I could rest. Children are such good sharers when they don’t need to be. Then last night Jack kept waking himself up crying and babbling incoherent things from 9 until midnight. He was mainly very mad at his own face because his nose was running and I suspect he had a bit of snot that was tickling him and causing him issues, at one point he pitifully moaned, “Why does God do this to me? I hate my face!” He remembers done of this. Which is good because he was pretty displeased when I laughed at him after his outburst.
  • I have used our backpack blower multiple times this autumn season to blow our leaves back into the woods. And still there are more leaves. On Sunday I spent close to three hours getting the lawn completely cleaned off. Two days later you can hardly tell I did anything. Fall is pretty but it is kind of a pain. [I feel the same way about winter and pretty much all times of year. Spring = rain and mud; Summer = hotness and humidity. I am basically never satisfied.]
  • After reading blog posts and seeing Instagram raves about it, I have started taking a “shot” of Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar (with the ‘Mother’) almost every day to ward off sore throats and strep. I think it is working… while I have gotten sick and had a bit of a head cold, it did not travel any further south to my throat, which is almost always the case. But even after weeks of taking it I cannot swallow it without making a terrible face and audibly gasping. That stuff is no joke. Strangely I cannot convince my children to join me in this endeavor… they’ll be sorry when they get strep throat.
  • I cannot say enough times how much I love our “new” house and neighborhood. The fact that the boys have friends to play with and that will show up or call them to come over, it just makes me so very happy. There are tons of positives to where we live but my favorite is that my kids will have the kind of childhood where they will be out riding around the neighborhood with friends (if ever Liam decides he will learn to ride his bike sans training wheels) and have plenty of playmates at the ready. One of the other moms apologized for her son calling us up a couple times (he had found the school directory) and I honestly could say it didn’t bother me because both my extroverted kids and I love having people over and going to see other people. Cannot get enough of socializing… that is me in a nutshell (“No… this is me in a nutshell” – name that movie.)
  • Speaking of extroversion – I took one of those quick Facebook surveys that is going around an it determined I am ENFP – The Inspirer. In chatting with a friend about the results, we agreed that Simon is likely ISTJ, my opposite. Which is not to say that he is fully introverted, just that he could happily stay home and not socialize whereas that fills me right up. He can happily chat up a stranger (and often does) whereas I’d much rather just talk to people I already know or will see again. It makes us a fine balance but one could see where it can also lead to friction (just sayin’).
  • The boys are competing in a tae kwon do tournament in a couple weekends and while I am excited for them to have the experience. The schedule keeps creeping longer and longer and it looks like we’ll be there from morning until mid-afternoon. Do you recall yesterday how I said my kids only like to do things for 10 minutes at a time? Yeah – I’m sure they will suddenly develop attention spans that last for inordinate amounts of time – that happens, right? [I joke and I’m sure it will be “fine” but still – that’s a long time, especially since Simon will be coaching Calvin’s rugby team near Cleveland for the weekend. Perfect timing, that.]
  • But the following weekend after the tournament is my annual girl’s weekend get away with my college friends and so at least I have the thought of that to carry me through.
  • One of Liam’s great joys in life is when Jack falls asleep pretty soon after they go to bed and then he can come back out to the living room with the premise of “needing a little cuddle.” I admit, while I like my down time, I love these times with him. It’s then that he will finally open up about what has happened in his day, things he’s enjoying at school and what things are bugging him (which is usually nothing – the thing that appears to bother him the most in life is his little brother which is both understandable and unfortunate).
  • I keep making my friend Kate’s “Garbage Bowl Salad” – it lasts for days and is pretty healthy (not to mention delicious): chop up one each: granny smith apple, gala apple, English cucumber, red pepper, orange pepper, yellow pepper – toss all together in large bowl. Serve individual bowls with cubed Monterrey Jack cheese, Craisins and dry roasted peanuts, dressed with  Ken’s Light Sweet Vidalia Onion Dressing. Enjoy.
  • Another favorite, feed-yourself-for-many-meals AND easy recipe: Taco Chili: brown ground turkey with packet of taco seasoning – throw in slow cooker with  2 cans corn, 2 cans black beans (drained), 1 jar salsa verde, 1 bottle V8 – cook on low all day. Serve with sour cream, shredded cheese and/or avocado.
  • My granny square quilt is coming along – 4 rows in with 8 to go + the border so I’m almost a third of the way there! Which is good because crocheting (or CROTCH-et-ing, as Liam first pronounced it) really cuts into my texting because two things you can’t successfully do together is crochet and text – unless you have at least three hands or more advanced technology that I do.
  • I also relearned how to finger knit and have made a handful of scarves since Melissa taught me last week. You can never have too many scarves (despite what my husband might think). Other things you cannot have too many of: shoes, purses (or handbags, as Simon likes to call them), earrings and good friends.
  • I was pleasantly surprised by my sweet friend, Sandy, on her birthday when she brought me lunch as part of her desire to do 38 random acts of kindness on her 38th birthday – she is good people, may you all have a friend like her in your life! Inspires me to think of what I can do for my birthday next year – thanks, friend!
  • We got pumpkins a while back with the intention of carving them for Halloween – we have put it off long enough but I really HATE carving pumpkins and then dealing with rotten, half-eaten Jack-o-lanterns until we pitch them. But carve them we shall because I am not a scrooge – or whatever not festivizing Halloween is.

A case of the Mondays

ememby_todayisgoingtobeawesomePoor Jack has been feeling out of sorts lately, fighting a bug I think, so today we are hanging out together at home while he gets to experience the joy of a sick day. Though I think that joy is lost on him… he’s not one to just lay around and do nothing for long periods of time (and in this house we apparently define long periods of time as anything over 10 minutes; which is as unfortunate as all three of my boys defining wake up time as any time before 7 a.m., including on weekends). Hopefully getting to stay home for the day will fix whatever is ailing him… starting kindergarten has been a big adjustment for him and though he doesn’t complain (about that), I think he needs a break from real life like any other person – yes, my five-year-old needs a mental health day.

Of course it is only 9:30 in the morning and we have many hours in front of us… someone might want to send us chocolate. And if this continues tomorrow, well, I tag Simon for staying home… that or tough love mom who sends her kid to school in the face of phantom, non-descript illness.

 

Fear is not real

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In preparation for November’s book club, I just finished reading And Life Goes On by one of my favorite bloggers, Tricia Lott Williford and one of the chapter intros included a quote from Wild by Cheryl Strayed (another book club book – FTW).

Fear begets fear. Power begets power. I willed myself to beget power. And it wasn’t long before I actually wasn’t afraid.

I supposed that and the quote above all go in line with the power of positive thinking and mind over matter. But it is true – though dangerous situations are all around us and unpleasant “things” can occur at any time – fear stems from our minds. The unhealthy fear that keeps us from moving forward or trying new things, that fear is not real – it is truly a product of our own doing.

I have been thinking lately of what I am afraid of; what (in my head) is holding me back from things I want to pursue? In general, I don’t worry a ton about the big “what ifs” in life. What if someone I love gets cancer? What if someone I love dies unexpectedly? What if that car in front of me blows a tire and causes an accident? These are all possibilities and they would not be what I would choose for my life, but if they happen, I would/could/will deal with it. It would not be impossible. It might not be pleasant and it might feel near impossible, but it would not end me.

I don’t believe in the idea that we invite trouble into our lives by talking about it. I believe that things happen, regardless of what we do. I jokingly talk of karma when it comes to a rude person at the grocery store but I don’t really believe that we get anything we do or don’t deserve. Well, I do believe we get plenty we don’t deserve – we are blessed with so much goodness simply because of where we lucked out with being born. And if you believe in salvation and grace like I do, we get heaven simply because we say yes to Jesus. Talk about getting what we don’t deserve.

But I still have fears. Fears related to money. Fears related to parenting. Fears related to the other relationships in my life. Fear stinks and should have no place in our hearts and our heads. I think we should change out those fears and instead be proactive, addressing them and then moving past them, flipping them on their head and acknowledging that, yes, they come out of a true place we should look at but they should not stop us in our tracks. If we have a fear related to something, then do the work to turn it from a fear into a concern – something you are intentional about addressing. If you are afraid of losing a job or running out savings – meet with a financial planner, create a 10-year plan, go back to school and reinforce your achievements. If you are afraid you are failing your kids in your parenting – talk with someone, gain some perspective, work on your attitude and coping skills. If you are afraid that you are failing in your relationships, give them more of your time and your love. Fear needs only to be the signal to ourselves that we need to give something a little more attention so we can either fix a real problem or soothe our own concerns and diffuse the internal atomic bomb that is waiting inside of us to go off and wreck us. Dangers and problems are real, yes, but we don’t need to be afraid. We have it in us to handle things. And where we fail, well, then there’s God and His army of helpers who are at the ready to surround us and lift us up.

Do not be afraid. Easier said than done, amiright? I’m working on it, but God already has it all under control. Repeat after me, “Fear is not real.”

Hey there – you’re pretty

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Back again after a long month… I missed you, did you miss me? Of course you did. It seems like time for a little update.

School is off and running and I believe we are enjoying our golden year of no homework. I hate homework, well, I don’t mind homework for myself because I actually enjoy doing it, but I HATE having to get my eldest to do his homework. It is the very worst. But we learned at curriculum night that Liam’s teacher doesn’t believe in homework and while that may come back to bite us next year when homework will likely return to our reality, for now, that fact makes this teacher my favorite person. And since kindergarteners don’t get homework, our evenings are quite blissful (outside of the fact we have two boys who are “spirited” and we are two parents who are “tired”). Hip, hip for the golden year! I shall remember you fondly for the rest of my days.

Jack’s teacher sort of bribed him into talking to the class about his hand, something he and I were both fine with, she knows his currency and offered him a fruit snack pack if he would field any questions about his hand the first day of class. He reported that he stood up and said, “This is my little hand. I was born this way; it’s just the way God made me.” And that was it. He did say one girl didn’t seem to be paying attention so she asked him about it multiple times after that – which appears to be a five-year-old quirk as I’ve had it reported to me that Jack is also relentless (and annoying) with his repetitive question-asking.

The day after Jack came off the bus crying because a kid had been hitting him and insisting on calling him ‘Jackson,’ I got a call from his teacher to report that she had another parent report to her that Jack was hitting their daughter on the playground. Sigh. SIGH. Jack admitted that he had done that and he missed out on recess that day. His teacher was thankfully understanding and said that her own son is very much like Jack so she’s “got his number” – I wish she would share it with me.

So school is going… well.

Outside of school, Jack managed to be the first person in our family to get non-surgically related stitches. Right across the top of his forehead. Thanks to a fairly unspectacular fall that fairly spectacularly smacked his head right into the fiberglass on our neighbor’s boat, we got to make our first visit to the pediatric emergency room, which is very nice (the peds ER, that is, head wounds are not very nice). We were getting ready to go watch fireworks on the river when Jack fell and for a moment I thought maybe he would just have a bit of a bruise and then his head moved and I saw the smear of blood and knew that was likely not the case. (For the record, when you get blood on somebody’s boat, I think the proper follow up is to give them a gift card to one of your favorite restaurants. It’s only right. The note should read: “Thanks for cleaning our child’s blood off your boat – sorry about that. And also thanks for entertaining our older child while we went to the hospital. Please enjoy some good food.”) And while I don’t freak out at blood and the like, I have learned that I do exclaim, “Oh sh!t!” I can confirm this because just the week prior, when Jack fell face first onto the rocks on the river behind another neighbor’s house, I said the same thing. He probably could have gotten a stitch in his chin but we just bandaged him up that time. And while we’re confirming things, I can confirm that the Samsung Galaxy 5 can be fully submerged in the river and still work seconds later, so those ads/claims are 100% accurate. In other news, I feel like I have aged a couple years in the past month.

Liam is proving to be our less exciting child which can only mean there’s something up his sleeve. He just regularly scares the crap out of us by popping out of his room an hour or so after bedtime because he “wants a cuddle” or jumps up from his bed and exclaims, “Surprise” when we check in on him on our way to bed. I mean, really.

Work/life is going well for both Simon and I – the transition to “normal” schedules is coming along. As transitions go, it’s kind of as expected. There’s a learning curve on many levels and I think as long as we remain aware of it and diligent about working the kinks out, we’ll find the new normal. It’s an adjustment, which I realize sounds vague and meh, but it’s true. I’m so happy to be figuring it out and making new habits and traditions with our family… but change is always a little hard, even good change, because we are creatures of habit at our core, my husband especially, so when something rocks that comfort… well, it can feel uncomfortable. But still SO GOOD! Having a husband home in the evening. Being about to go to the grocery store after 8 p.m. BY MYSELF… swoon… I am living the life.

I am continually reminded how fast and fleeting life is… the whole ‘days are long but the years are short mentality.’ Some days feel like a freaking eternity, Lord knows, but my do the months fly right by. The good, the bad and the perplexing… like why do my children LOVE to dance around naked? Why are they offended by shirts with collars, pants with snaps/buttons and having to wear new shoes? Why does Liam run around and shout “banana” in the most annoying voice I have ever heard? And in the next minute run up to me and give me a hug, thanking me for being a good mom? How can Jack be both victim and assailant in the same day? Why does Simon (almost) never put his coffee cup in the dishwasher but instead takes the time to rinse it and set it next to the sink, three feet away from where it should go? And for Simon’s benefit… why do I remove my shoes wherever I happen to be and then leave them there, all over the house? And why does George insist on barking at stupid things like the ice coming out of the ice maker or the sump pump turning on?

So that’s where we are… I’m also starting to think about some business planning for both professional and personal endeavors… 2015 has some room in it for new things. Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. I should go cross stitch that on a pillow.