Friday, August 26, 2016

7 Quick Takes Summertime

I'm linking up with Kelly at This Ain't The Lyceum   to give you this week's quick takes.  Are you ready?
it's been awhile huh?  
We did a lot this summer. let me tell you about it

I've told you guys, we live in a small-ish house. It's a solid 1000 square feet, and we have a finished basement, but it still feels small sometimes.
At the beginning of the summer, we had a cousins sleepover for three nights...
with 15 kids
and 5 adults.
it was awesome chaos.  
My favorite part was the star wars movie night! 


 I traveled with my dear friend Erin to Peoria for the "Finding Your Fiat" conference.  By the absolute grace of God, two of my sisters decided the day before we left to attend to join us.  We had so much fun and I gained some real insights into my spiritual life. It was really great to attend an event in ministry where I just got to attend.  It's been awhile.

We traveled to Minnesota to visit Aaron's closest friends from college. I was a bit nervous about this trip. We decided to stay at the home of one of his friends.  That's always a bit of a risk with a crew like ours. We almost always stay in hotels to avoid our kids breaking stuff, melting down, embarrassing us in the thousands of ways they are capable of embarrassing us.  But, alas, they were really well behaved.  Aaron's friends showed us a type of hospitality that was off the charts and it ended up being a really memorable trip.

On our way back from MN, we decided to hotwire a hotel in Chicago.  Apparently, in Chicago, on July 4th weekend, hotels are insanely cheap. We stayed at a complete luxury hotel (and you know I love me some fancy).  We ate at restaurants, enjoyed lake Michigan, did some shopping and enjoyed our little family unit.  The kids freaked at Lake Michigan. And friends, I'm just going to put this on the record- Chicago is awesome. I love it and I want to move there. But I cannot afford it. 
That is all.

We headed on down to Kentucky for a weekend. We haven't been to Kentucky to see my sisters in almost two years.  For those of you that might not know, my two sisters, married two brothers, and they both live in Lexington.  The kids very best friends are their cousins, so anytime we can get them all together is a great time.  Oh, and there is the most delicious food in the world in Lexington (and other places) called Raisin' Canes. I am obsessed, we had it three times.  Other than that, our kids finally got to meet their newest cousin, Lucy Kate!

We rode on an airplane to travel to Myrtle Beach SC to attend a family reunion on my Mother-in-Law's side.  It's crazy, but I have actually only met a couple people on her side. They are spread all throughout the US of A, and we have missed the last couple reunions.  We had so much fun meeting everyone, the kids loved the ocean (Malia probably the most), and once again, we really enjoyed the time we had together.  The travel was a bit intense.  To save money, we flew out of Fort Wayne, Indiana.  The bummer was, when we got home, we had to drive three hours back to Michigan.  I wouldn't recommend that travel situation with four little ones.  #themoreyouknow

Get ready for all the cheese.
Aaron and I celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary in June.
I talk about it all the time but marriage is hard. Aaron has reminded me more than once that in our first two years of marriage I said all the time..
 "I can't believe I married you, and now I am stuck with you because I don't want to be divorced, but you tricked me into it".  
I wouldn't say this sarcastically, usually with tears in my eyes. 
(I'm not anything if not mellow dramatic).

Things are stronger than ever between us, and I can honestly say I love him a hundred times more than I did on our wedding day.
Maybe we got lucky, or grace is good, maybe we are learning something, or getting better at this...the reasons could be long, but I feel like as a couple we are stronger than ever. 

I know we will go through valleys a lot in our marriage, but man, I've been enjoying our mountain top experience of being in love this summer.  We've been talking a lot about what we want our family to look like, what we want our values to be, etc..
I might write more about that later. 
The thing is though, things are good with this one, and that's made this summer awesome.

 That's it for my 'quick takes' this week. Here's a question for you, if you want to comment on facebook or this blog, what was YOUR favorite summer memory?!?!?!


The reading doesn't have to stop here, head on over to http://thisaintthelyceum.org/ to read more quick takes!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Thoughts on Starting Kindergarten

I knew all-day Kindergarten was going to be hard for me. Like, real hard. The all day thing has bothered me practically since he was born. I completely understand all-day kindergarten makes sense for full time working parents, but man, I'm just not ready for it.  Aaron is completely psyched though. Aaron is totally excited. Aaron has a countdown next to his bed because he cannot wait.  He met his teachers, picked out his backpack, and is asking me daily about when he gets to go.

And I'm sick to my stomach about it.

The years with just me went by waaaaaaaay too quick.
Strangers will be with him during the day more than I will.
He's not a baby anymore, and although the baby years are hard... I know the complicated reality of raising children in today's culture is just beginning.

So here's how we are coping.

On Saturday, I was downstairs with all three boys.  We were talking about school and how much I am going to miss them (Joseph is starting Pre-K), but how happy I am for them. It made me think of the song below.

(trigger warning... if you have children growing up and you are melancholy about that, click with care)

I decided to play the freaking song, while snuggling with my three boys.
I, of course, got teary eye'd.  But I was holding it together.

Then the husband comes downstairs.  He saw I was upset.

"What's wrong?"

Innocent question...

So I start explaining how sad I am that Aaron is going to all day kindergarten, and how sad I am that Joey is going to preschool.  And then it starts, the ugly cry... "IT'S ALL GOING TOO FAST, I'M JUST GOING TO MISS THEM SO MUCH"...

Because I am so selfish, I didn't even consider my three boys watching me ugly cry.  All of a sudden little Aaron puts his face down, and within five seconds he is in hysterics...



I wiped my tears, calmed down, but sweet little Aaron was beyond comfort.  We let him cry it out with his whole heart and then, to get him to stop (my ears were hurting), I finally told him if he didn't want to go to kindergarten he didn't have to.

<<<Before you judge me too hard core, realize he dried his eyes and five minutes later I asked him if he would go to school and he said, "Yes, I am excited">>>

The moral of the story?

Next Monday is the first day of school, and I am not going to do well, you can feel free to pray :)

Or give me advice, but I don't think advice will stop this heartache :(

It just goes too fast.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Things I Don't Say 'Thank You' for...

This morning, my friend Ann posted this article.  She did so with a reminder to be grateful for our spouses. She understands the necessity of that gratefulness in a deeper way now, since she lost her husband, my friend Paul.  And it got me thinking…

My husband, Aaron, drives an old van without air conditioning. 
It’s been a HOT summer, and humid, and gross. He gets off of work around 5, or 5:30 every day, drives home in a van without air conditioning in dress pants, a button down shirt and sometimes a tie.  A van that sits in the sun all day long.  In the Spring, we totaled two cars, in the span of 2 weeks. Aaron is a bit frugal (cheap) by nature.  I am a bit of a spender (bougie) by nature.  I wanted a really nice van, with the automatic things, and fancy dvd players.  He made that happen, but had to compromise by driving around a less charming van.  A van without air conditioning, that smells like stale cigarettes and doesn’t even have a cd player.  This summer, I haven’t heard him complain once about driving home in the heat, in his van, without air. 

And I haven’t really thought to say thank you.

My husband works all day.  When I say ‘all day’ I don’t mean 9:00 am-5:00 pm.  He gets up around 6:00 am and begins to answer international emails.  He takes a break to shower around eight, and then goes into work.  He comes home, plays with the kids for a second, tries to be present with me, then turns on his computer to prepare work for his offshore guys who will work while we sleep.  Often times, he works 2-3 hours a night.  My husband knows how much this bothers me. Working all the time is a dangerous habit for a man, and I bring that up often.  So, when he gets home, he asks me when I would like him to work.   He usually begins as I go to bed, staying up till 11 or 12 at night, in order to do everything he needs to do.

And I don’t usually say thank you.

My husband wakes up with the early risers.  He allows me to stay in bed and say my daily prayers. My prayers are really necessary to my sanity. I am a nicer mom when I start my day with Scripture.  I yell less. I can take on the demands of our four children (the constant.freaking.demands) if I beg Jesus in the morning to give me the strength to joyfully live my vocation.  So, Aaron gets up first.  He wakes up with the younger two, locks the door so the older two can’t disturb me, changes the babies and begins his work for the day.  He does this pretty much every morning.

But once I start the morning breakfast routine, the servant part of my job, I rarely think to thank him for starting me off right.

There’s other things too...

The laundry loads up and down the stairs
The trash in and out of the house
The bills that I never have to worry about
The oil changes
The car fill-ups
The meat grilled for weekly meals.

I don’t say thank you a lot.

My sister, Theresa, pointed out last month, we do a lot more with our time when we know we are being appreciated.  That has led me to reflect on how far a simple ‘thank you’ can go to encourage us in this vocation of marriage. I’ve been thinking about the necessity of grace, and being kind to one’s spouse.   I’ve been trying to place myself in Aaron’s shoes, the stresses he carries, the way he serves.  
I’ve been wondering how I got to a place where I forget to say thank you.

I think it’s started with life getting insanely busy with children.  You know, the pregnancies, the hormones, the feeling sorry for myself.  I began to think more about the things I should be thanked for, than the things my husband was doing on a daily basis.  I turned inward to the sacrifices I make for our family, often times completely overlooking the way Aaron lays down his life for us. 

I'm going to start saying thank you more often. I'm going to look for opportunities to be grateful for my spouse and how he provides for our family in so many ways.  Marriage is hard in 2016,  Marriage is hard in 2016 when you've chosen to have 4 kids in six years.  I want to try my hardest to have a good marriage, and I think a really big key to that, is going to be saying, 'thank you'.

Those are my thoughts for today.

Friday, May 27, 2016

7 Quick Takes- Because I know you wanted them...

I'm linking up with Kelly at This Ain't The Lyceum   to give you this week's quick takes.  Are you ready?

Last week, I read an article title (not the article... ain't nobody got time for that) which linked depression to clutter.  I agreed with the title statement (who knows about the article?).  I have toy-binged for the last 1.5 years, every six months- but it's time to release the clutter in other places as well. So I cleansed my linen closet, which hasn't been tended to in six years.  And I organized our family room bookshelf, which had become the catch all for everything in our home.  My plan today is to go at my kitchen drawers...wish me luck.
It's amazing how freeing it feels to let go of stuff.  I've found I have to donate or throw out quickly, if I think too much about it, I hesitate.  If I haven't used something in a year, it's gone. With the exception of my punch bowl.  I am keeping it.
This picture SERIOUSLY doesn't do my hard work justice because the 'before' was taken after 1.5 huge garbage bags of stuff was removed.

During the cleaning, I found the didgeridoo Aaron bought when we were both in Australia together, staying at the same school with a couple hundred other people, but never met.  Anyway, I found it, put it aside and asked Aaron to bring it down to our storage room when he had a chance. 
So far, there have been two occasions when I am hiding in a room, trying to talk to my sisters on the phone. I look up to the door being slowly opened, the end of a didgeridoo peeking into the room and Aaron begins blowing... 
So annoying.
And really funny.
Should have just thrown it out ;)

I had a really great, 'I'm totally in love with my husband' moment last night.
We went to go see X-Men through an event meant to sell a business application.
As we checked in we were told there would be a contest for the 'best tweet' sent during the movie.  I said to the people at the table, 'Oh, we are going to win'.
I am married to a very funny man. 
And I take crazy pride in that.
I was certain, we would win the Apple I-Watch being given away.
It ends up we got 'second place' (a YETI tumbler... who knew?) but ONLY because the contest was just for the first hour of the movie and we didn't know that.  Aaron had just shot off two tweets and was getting warmed up.  
I am very proud of my husband though, and during the movie I couldn't wipe the smile off my face.
He is a hard worker
He is a good father
He always tries to be better

X-men was really, really good.
I love those movies. And I love the guy who's really fast (I forget his name)
And I REALLY love Charles.
A lot.
But not as much as my funny husband

We started at the fancy gym.  I do love it. So.Much.
But I forgot that Gym Daycares breed germs.
Everyone is sick here today.  Just colds, but it's annoying.

We bought a plot in our community garden.
In theory we are going to plant stuff this weekend.
This was Big Aaron's idea. 
I do not garden, I don't love outside, and I don't love bugs.
What are the easiest and most satisfying things to plant?
I can't believe we are doing this.
BUT, lest you begin to judge...
I agreed to it because I think it's really cool.
I think it's really good for the kids.
I think it's really good for the community.
I think it will be a really good project for our family...
I don't have to like it.

Aaron completed Pre-K this week.
He was allowed to choose a place to go out to dinner as a family.
He chose Panera (obviously) where all the boys ordered a bagel, cream cheese, juice box and a bag of chips.
How's that for a healthy dinner.

He's pretty much a teenager now that he's done with Pre-K

Have a great week and don't forget to go check out more Takes--- Click this link.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Selfless Love is Life-giving

My brother and I with Paul and Ann
Today is my friends, Paul and Ann's anniversary.  Eight years ago they were married.  The day was perfect in every single way.  I've written about this before, but at the time of the wedding, I didn't know Ann very well. Paul and I had been friends for almost a decade, but I had only met his fiance one or two times.  In her goodness, she gave me a tremendous gift.  Barely knowing me, she invited me to stand up in their wedding as a bridesmaid. "If you were a man, you'd be one of Paul's groomsmen, so I would love for you to be a bridesmaid of mine."  I was nervous heading down to the wedding, Paul was one of my very best friends, he was leaving me as one of the last single people in our group... and I was going to be spending a lot of time with strangers (Ann's other bridesmaids).

But, of course, the 'other' bridesmaids, Ann, and Ann's family...were absolutely perfect.  The wedding was wonderful.  The party was a huge success and the marriage of Paul and Ann began.

Selfless love is life-giving.

Joey and John Paul meeting Caeli
Paul and Ann's daughter Caeli celebrated her third birthday yesterday. One thing I love about the faith I practice is the understanding that children are gifts.  The love between a man and a woman, sprinkled with God's Divine Goodness, gives us little people.   People who share in our traits, and people who we are given the enormous task of raising up to be Saints, to be Disciples.  The profound responsibility of it sometimes overwhelms me.  The selflessness it takes to surrender one's body to grow a child and then to deliver that child into the world is awe-inspiring.  There is such sacrifice when we are raising children,  as our actions become motivated by the life of another.   It is so intense, but so rewarding.  The love between a man and a woman, with God's Divine touch actually creates PEOPLE.

Children are a fantastic witness to the life-giving aspect of God's love.  I don't think it was an accident  that God blessed Paul and Ann on their anniversary with their sweet baby girl.  This day, which holds a profound sadness for Ann now that Paul has passed away, also gives us all a reminder of what can happen when two people choose to love each other and follow God.  LIFE is born.

Selfless love is life-giving.

The love of Paul and Ann is shown through all of their children, but that's not the only life-giving witness they have provided for me, through their marriage.  A few months after Paul joined the heavenly kingdom, my mom was talking about the love between him and Ann. She talked about how their love will truly go on for ages, both through their children, but also through the impact their love had on others.

The people who read about their story online and felt a pull to give generously.
The people who emailed and messaged to say they were praying for the first time in years.
The community banding together,  BUILDING AND FURNISHING A HOUSE!  A house with a foundation that was poured by Paul before he got sick.

Their love moved through the community at a rapid pace 1.5 years ago.

Their love moved people to reconcile with one another.
Their love woke people up in the middle of the night the evening before Paul passed away to join together in prayer, as a vigil of sorts.
Their love inspired complete strangers to say, 'Hey I want to LIVE like PAUL. and I want to LOVE like Annie'.

Their love united tens of thousands of people to live a more intentional, more prayerful, and kinder existence here on earth.

Selfless love is life-giving.

I cry all the time for Paul.  This morning, dropping little A off at school, we listened to, 'I Can Only Imagine', the song I heard minutes after finding out Paul had 'gone home'. As I pulled into Aaron's school, I wiped tears away before getting out of my van.  Two nights ago, I sat with one of my very best friends, Kellie, and we both pondered how it could be possible to grieve him so hard.  How very challenging it is to know we will not see him again until the end of our lives.  We both sputtered through words as we fought back tears that just keep falling.

But man, on days like today...

Days when I remember the wedding of Paul and Ann 8 years ago...

Days when I pray for their beautiful daughter, a gift born from their love, as she celebrates her 3rd birthday...

Days when I allow myself to think about how profoundly life-giving the love of Paul and Ann was and is...

It makes me want to be better. Love better.  Pray more. Laugh longer.  And remember if I can allow my selfish heart to sacrificially love... life-giving grace will surely come.

Pray for Ann and the kids today friends, I know they could use it.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Whole30 It's NOT hard

So- we finished our whole30 last week.  We went 33 days though, because, as Aaron said, "We are people who go 110%."

You can check out this website to get the specifics of the program, but basically, it's eating fruits, veggies, and meat/seafood, but not eating dairy, processed food, or grains.  There's a lot of 'no' on the program.   But a lot of yes too, because ALL fruits, and ALL veggies, and ALL seafood sure does gives you a lot of options.

I wrote about this before, but 2016 is our year of health and weight loss.  We will be married six years in a couple of weeks, and honestly, it's been a little crazy- what with the four children and such.  This year, we've decided to make personal health a priority, and the whole30 was a piece of that puzzle.

There were four main reasons I wanted to do it.

1.  I hate vegetables and needed a better relationship with them.
2.  The discipline of saying, 'no' to certain foods intrigued me.
3.  I wanted to do something with Aaron in regards to health.
4.  To view food as fuel.

I didn't like a lot about the website's explanation about their program. Actually, the whole 'tone' annoyed me.  I didn't love things like the program saying banana pancakes aren't compliant because they aren't in the 'spirit' of the whole30, even though they use all compliant ingredients.  Maybe I am just rebellious by nature, but um, that seemed a little much?

However, one thing I really liked is within the explanation, they talk about how it's not hard.
 “It is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Quitting heroin is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard. You won’t get any coddling, and you won’t get any sympathy for your ‘struggles’.”

I like that.  For me, it was a good reminder.  One of my main motivations for doing the whole30 was something an alumni of my youth ministry program said to me a few years ago.  He said that for him, it was helpful to think of food as fuel. It has a purpose, and it's purpose is to fuel our bodies.  If we frame eating that way, we want to eat the food that fuels us the most.  Every time I started to think of how 'hard' the whole30 was.... I remembered it actually wasn't that hard.

Some things made it a bit easier for us...
We had stopped drinking anything but water, pretty much at the start of the year. Also, I can eat a very monotonous diet. I am an extremely picky eater, so for me to eat the same things day in and day out is not challenging at all. We were doing it together, so it was fun in a way.  Finally, we didn't do it with our kids. I can't imagine a world where that would have worked.

Every morning started with 2 eggs, 3 pieces of bacon and an apple.  The other two meals, pretty much consisted of a protein and vegetables.  A banana for energy when I felt hungry, and pistachios as my 'treat' at the end of the day... eh, voila, I had my whole30.

I did realize some things were missing.  Not drinking alcohol and not putting creamer in my coffee was a challenge.  Making every meal and food prepping took a little extra time.  Though, because we were doing it together, I didn't hate it.  Going to weddings, barbecues, and other events was tricky. Aaron was out of town for a week, he had to eat conference food, and had to be really creative.  It sucked for him not to eat the treats, or the garlic bread.

So, now that it's done.  Here are my thoughts.

First, I didn't see a crazy increase in energy or anything like that.  I'm not great about knowing how my body responds to things, so perhaps that's why.  Even though I didn't notice feeling better, at the end of our whole thirty (on Friday of last week), we ate all the non-compliant stuff again.  And, Saturday, I definitely felt that.  I didn't feel good. My stomach didn't feel good.  Now, that could have SOMETHING to do with the four cocktails I consumed at my birthday dinner- we will never quite be sure :)

Veggies.  I like them now.  Well, that's not true. I like cucumbers, broccoli, tomato, and carrots. And I liked them before as well.  But we did make a good curried cauliflower I liked (and by 'we', I mean Aaron).  And I simply survived on crispy roasted broccoli.

The discipline of saying 'no' was awesome.  That's the habit part of the 30 days I will take with me.

Doing it together was super cool. We shopped together, we prepped as a team, Aaron grilled and we both committed to eating a particular way for 33 days.  I liked it.

Seeing food as fuel was awesome as well.  Food is a gift, eating a huge variety is a privilege.  Our food choices are a daily blessing we shouldn't be taking for granted.  I did a lot of thinking about that these last 33 days.

Going forward...
It's not suppose to be a lifestyle of eating, but I think Aaron and I decided, in our home, we are pretty much going to continue eating like this.  When we go to other people's houses, out to dinner, special occasions, we won't be strict at all, but eating like this is working for our lives.

Cool Stuff...
I lost about 12-14 lbs give or take.  That was nice. I am now closer to my 60 lb end of year goal.
This morning, I am drinking my coffee without creamer in it.  Creamer is in the fridge.  Turns out, I don't hate black coffee ;)

And that my friends, was our experience with the Whole 30.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Sometimes I give myself High-5s

Yesterday, I broke it down with 10 confessions of a SAHM.
It was real.
A lot of people related.
And many laughed.
Laughter is good, and kind of the point.

Sometimes we are gross around here. And sometimes the struggle is real. Like, really real.
But, also, sometimes I'm like, 'Hey, I'm not totally screwing this up'.

So, as a companion to yesterday, I'm going to give you a list of ten moments I high-five myself for in this world of SAHMommying. I bet some of you can give yourselves big ol' high fives for this stuff too.

We pray. Everyday with our kids.
Sometimes it's a cluster.  But every night we gather together and our prayer looks like this.
We pray the 'Angel of God'

And then, just like my childhood say...

"I love you baby Jesus, Blessed Mother, Saint Joseph, all you Holy Angels and Saints, watch me while I sleep"
"God bless mommy, daddy, aaron, joseph, john paul, malia paul, all my aunts and uncles, all my cousins, and everybody in the whole wide world"

We don't miss a night. And it's good, and I am glad it's part of our routine.

Every night, after I turn off the ipad (so real bedtime) I go into the boy's room and each of them answers the following questions...
"what was the best part of your day?"
"what was the hardest part of your day"
John Paul, every night mumbles something about McDonalds for both questions, but the big boys answer. And it's a nice way to end the day.

Since Malia Paul joined our family, I make my bed every day.  It makes a difference in my mental sanity. And I am proud that I have gone eight months strong making my bed.  It's the little things people.

We clean and vacuum our playroom once a month. 
It used to be every six months.
I've come a long way.

By 10:00 am most days, including on the weekends, the entire family is dressed, all the way down to socks. Now, you might not be impressed with this, but if you've ever had 4 kids in 5.5 years... you know what a huge accomplishment that is.

I toy cleanse once a month.  I donate or chuck out broken ones.  Once a month might seem extreme to you, but it is necessary for my sanity. I think, for the first four years of my marriage, I couldn't get a handle on housework because we had way too much junk. I am in a constant process of making sure junk does not rule our lives.

I have blogged THREE TIMES this week. And I have a fourth one planned.

My children love each other, a lot. They give each other hugs and kisses. They say sorry when they've done something wrong.
Two nights ago, little Aaron asked to sleep in Joey's bed.
Around 3:30 am, Joey couldn't find his blanket.
He got up and turned on the light and started looking for the blanket.
Aaron got up too.
Aaron told him to turn off the light, but not before he helped him find his blanket.
They are taking care of one another. 
It's a great comfort to my mom's heart.

We totaled one car and one van in April.
It was stressful.
We bought two 'new to us' vans without a shred of debt.
It's because we've learned to manage our money and adult-well when it comes to finances.
That was a huge paradigm shift for me- to spend only what I have. 
We live within our means, and that's awesome.

Three days ago Aaron was mowing the lawn.  Lil' A and Joey trailed behind him with their lawn mowers, and then rode their bikes in the front of the house while he finished up. I was inside with John Paul, who is not afraid of anything, with the exception of lawn-mowers. We were watching Aaron through the window with Malia on my lap. I thought to myself, 'my gosh, I am living the dream, I am really and truly living everything I've ever wanted'.