Fave Five Jan 31

FFF birds on a wire

Join myself and others in this exercise of gratitude by heading over to Susanne’s at Living to Tell the Story.  She hosts us each week so we can find and share the blessings in our lives.

1.  Routine. I’ve had a catch-up week.  We’re catching up on house work and school and just being home.  I’ve loved seeing family and friends these past few weeks, but it’s also nice to just settle and get back into a routine- my little boy in particular is much happier with a routine.

2. Rain!  We sleep with the window open, so I woke to the delicious sound of wind and rain last night.  Although I couldn’t handle all the dreary, grey weather living in the Pacific Northwest, I LOVE having a bit of rain to break up the sunshine here in SoCal.

3. Knitting. I’m  decreasing the toe on my second sock!  They’re the same size, the stripes match up… whew.  Just need to finish them up and send them off to their recipient tomorrow.  :o)

4. Weight– I’ve lost 10 pounds since Christmas and just keep losing steadily.   Having gained 10-15 pounds with each of our fertility treatments (and we’ve done 3!), losing weight has been a big challenge.  It’s a bizarre thing to watch your body expand and grow that much over the course of just 8-12 days.  You can actually watch your face change from day to day.  Some folks do fine with the meds and don’t gain any weight, but I know quite a few women who have had the same experience.   It’s exciting to watch it come off because I feel so great as I lose- healthy  and energized!  :o)

Here’s one major thing that’s helped: a green smoothie for lunch.  Just combine:

– 8-12 oz fluid base (we use either water or the green juice from Trader Joe’s but you can also use almond milk)

-Greens (I use half a bag of spinach and half a bunch of kale… if I have baby bok choy around I add that  in addition to the spinach and kale)

-Fruit (I use 1 banana, 1.5 cups frozen berries, and fresh pineapple, if I have any on hand)

-Flaxseed meal (about a table spoon or so)

This makes enough for one big glass for me and a small glass for each of my kids to have along with their lunch.

5. Technology. Between blogs, FaceTime, Skype, and Facebook I’m able to keep up with friends and family quite literally around the globe.  It’s such a blessing.

Blessings on each of your weeks!  I hope you find joy in the mundane, hope in the despair.

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Tid Bits

There’s a sick irony to having the whole house come down with the stomach flu the same morning you post about being healthy in the coming year.  While the kiddos snuggled on the couch with blankets and buckets, watching movies and sipping broth, I had the time to peruse blogs and take an assortment of Zimbio quizzes (I’m apparently Albus Dumbledore, Princess Belle, and should have lived during the 1950s, in case you were curious, and I knew you were…).

Here are some tid bits…

Let Your Husband Love You

Wives need to be reminded of this often, I think.  I need it daily.  The other night I was on FaceTime with my husband and he mentioned how beautiful I looked (Yea, he’s a keeper).  I stared at him dumbfounded and my hand went automatically to my unkempt hair.  I hadn’t showered all day, I’d been cleaning up vomit and bleaching counters, I was sick and weak and so I just stared at the screen like an idiot. Then I made some off-handed comment about how he must be joking and moved on.  But folks, he wasn’t. He was dead serious.  He’d been waiting all day to talk with us.  He misses me and loves me and no matter how tangled and greasy my hair, how worn and weary my face, he honestly thinks I’m beautiful.  It’s weird.  And awesome.  And wonderful.   So yes, I think I’ll let him love me. And I’ll be grateful that he does. Because he needs to love me. And I need him to love me.

The Disgrace of Infertility

A good read on the struggles of infertility.  I highly recommend it to those who know someone suffering through infertility.  While I haven’t really felt shame or disgrace over the burden of infertility, I can certainly identify with the helplessness and despair.

And check out this article on 5 Things Infertile Couples Want Friends, Families, and Churches to Know.  I definitely left church crying on the third Mother’s Day we faced without children because every mother was given a rose and I was left empty handed and empty hearted. It’s not that I didn’t want them to celebrate… I just desperately wanted to be part of it too and it was a tangible reminder that I wasn’t. To this day, even as a mother of two beautiful children, mother’s day leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Because I know countless families are still hurting. But I also love that this article points out that infertility isn’t a blank check for self pity.  Everyone struggles- we all need the joy of the Lord as our strength, whether we struggle with infertility, singleness, cancer, loss of a child, financial burdens… and the list of sorrow goes on and on because we live in a fallen world.  So let’s all spread around some love, kindness, and tact.  :o)

What Your Four Year Old Needs to Know

This is a great read, written by Alicia over at A Magical Childhood. It reminds us that focusing on developmental benchmarks created by educational and child development professionals can make parents arrogant or forlorn… or both. Instead of the long list of things a kid should ‘know’, like ABCs, counting to 20, etc, she reminds us our children need to be secure, loved, and encouraged to embrace creativity. Everything else will follow in due course, but a child needs to be loved and given freedom to explore the world from a safe vantage point in order to thrive.

She also links to another page with more suggestions on ways to direct play to focus on development, like listening skills and fine motor development over ABCs and numbers.

Building Blocks1

I needed this reminder very much this month!   When it comes time for my monthly meeting with our Educational Supervisor from the charter school, I start stressing about benchmarks and our lack of ‘progress’ (I can’t forget the look she had when she wrote “Math Lessons 1-10” for the 3rd month in a row on our lesson plan objectives- as if maybe I wasn’t actually teaching the lessons… but I tell you what, I taught subitizing up to 5 for weeks and weeeeeks. I almost lost my mind. But eventually, we got it and moved on.).  Each month, I call my mum freaking out- have we done enough? Will our ES think I’m spending all our time playing and I’m not teaching enough formal school?  And each month, my worries are in vain (so you don’t get the wrong idea, our ES is a really sweet lady, it’s just her job to keep us on track with all those pesky common core standards).  When, oh when, will I stop borrowing trouble?

We spend 95% of our day playing: dressing up, painting, using play dough, going to the park, playing with LeapPads, reading books, driving cars and trains, going on hikes, splashing in waves at the beach (ok, so we do an inordinate amount of beach time), doing crafts, building legos & blocks, baking, going to the zoo, and just being kids.

Hiking Mission Dam1

Hiking Mission Dam2

Fall Crafts1

I have a child who blows these milestones out of the water and one who may forever lag behind peers (and then again, maybe not… she’s making fast progress in catching up!).  That’s one of the main reasons I’m homeschooling- so my 4 year old can read his world atlas by himself and my 7 year old can have the freedom to learn read without a classroom of kids reminding her she can’t.  And so we play, and play… and play.

And you know what? Somewhere in all that playing, she got it! She’s reading and SO. EXCITED.  She carries a chapter book around everywhere- even at the mall yesterday- even if she can’t read it all yet.  And each afternoon we are home, we have tea and the munchkins sit and listen to me read aloud.  We just finished up A Little Princess last week.  And started Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone yesterday (she may not be able to read at age level yet, but she can find London on a globe in a heart beat).  On that note, I think I’ll go put the kettle on…

2014: A Year of HEALTH

I was unfamiliar with the concept of a ‘Word of the Year’ until I read someone else posting their word in early January.  It was such a brilliant idea that I pondered and prayed at great length about exactly what I wanted 2014 to characterize for me and my family.

I desire 2014 to be characterized by HEALTH.

Physically

I’ve struggled with my health for years and frequently have debilitating pain.  I’m working on developing HEALTHFUL habits that will minimize my pain and maximize my potential for strength. I am determined to increase my exercise and sleep more consistently (a hard task as a full-time mom).

I’ve found that eating Paleo helps minimize my abdominal swelling and pain, as well as lowered my blood pressure dramatically in the first 30 days. While in the past I’ve had low blood pressure, for the last 2 years it’s stayed in the 184/92 range, sometimes spiking even higher.  But now it’s stayed a HEALTHY, low range since August of 2013.  I’m grateful to see a nurse practitioner who believes me when I told her I’d changed all this by simply changing my diet.

A word on Paleo- while I find it helps me and quite a few of my friends find it a beneficial lifestyle, each person is different. My Mum is a plant-based vegan and that lifestyle helps her live at optimum health. Interestingly, it’s fairly easy for us to prepare meals together because we both emphasize eating REAL FOOD- we just switch out the forms of protein.  I’m working on eliminating all processed food from my diet and my children’s diets. It’s a challenge, especially in social settings, but I’m blessed that both my kids are great eaters and would prefer to eat spaghetti squash over pasta anyhow.

Emotionally

My husband and I have struggled through the process of infertility for over 6 years now.  It’s been draining physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  This next year, I’m eager to focus on emotional HEALING from infertility and the stress of foster parenting and adopting.  We adore our children and are grateful for them every day. Adoption has ALWAYS been part of our family plan, long before we were even married.  But the timeline didn’t work quite how we’d hoped and I’m giving myself the freedom to grieve that. I’m giving myself freedom to grieve the loss of control (I’m a control freak, so this is a big deal 😉 ) over how and when we can  expand our family.  We want more children. Many, many more.  But we have no control over how and when- it comes down to recommendations of social workers, therapists, lawyers, etc.  And I have to grieve that loss.  I can be HEALTHY and happy emotionally.  I can have joy and strength through infertility.

Financially

We’re big fans of Dave Ramsey and we’ve learned a lot about good stewardship in the last few years but there’s always space to grow and improve.  Especially faced with 2 large moves in the next 7 months.   So we’re excited for increased financial HEALTH and freedom this year.

Spiritually

While the Lord has been our steadfast strength as we went through the various phases of infertility and as we have forded the wild waters of parenthood, I have a huge need to grow in faith and prayer.  Our church has been an abundant source of grace but I’m needing to grow HEALTHIER prayer and scripture reading habits  before launching out to strange new places with no friends or family around.

I’m so incredibly blessed that through the last 10 years God has given me a HEALTHY relationship with my soul mate.  Through war, being very young newly weds, infertility, parenthood, foster care… my love has been the joy of my life.  

I’m excited for the next year and all the hope and HEALTH it promises!

Fave Five Jan 24

Thank you, Susanne, for hosting us each week to meditate on the multitude of blessings in our lives!

1. A wonderful visit with my Mum!  She is such a delight and I don’t know what I will ever do living far away from her and my father! Thank goodness for FaceTime.

2. An insanely productive weekend.  Y’all, my Mum is a powerhouse of energy and determination.  We probably got rid of 150 pounds of recycle papers (letting go of some of those college papers was alarmingly hard… memories of a time before ‘Mom-Brain’) and give away.  My house feels lighter, as does my soul.

3. Another beach day. We just can’t get enough, even when it’s shrouded in fog. :o)  It was a joy to see my children play so well with others.  It’s been a long process of instructing them to interact socially and it’s such a pleasure seeing them play well with friends independently of my input.

cloudy beach day1

cloudy beach day2

4. Picking up a dear friend to hang out at the park while my kids played.  When we first came to our church, she, a bubbly Jr Higher, was the first person to greet us. It’s been a joy watching her grow and mature into the godly young woman she is now.  My Hubby has taken on the role of “big brother” and has definitely scared a few young suitors away. ;o)

5. Dinner out with a college friend.  I treasure this friend so much and will miss our times together after we move.

So grateful for the week I had- full of friends and family.  I hope your week has been full of friends and family as well!

There… and Back Again (FFF)

I’m so sorry I haven’t been to visit each of you this last week.  I shall this week, I promise.  It’s been hectic around here.  But the good, flurry-of-activity and falling-into-bed-exhausted-every-night kind of hectic.

1. I’m thankful for a safe drive home from my parents’ house.  It took us 2 hours longer than usual to get home due to heavy traffic and it seemed that all the crazies were out.  It was a full moon tonight, after all.

2. 10 days with my parents.  Such a blessing!  We had so many fun days, including many trips to the beach, the farmers’ market, and a day of riding the train up to Santa Barbara and visiting the Mission. My Aunt and Uncle, here from Chicago for a mid-winter thaw, were also able to join us for the train ride and a beach day!

My Happy Place

My Happy Place

 

3.  Some days homeschooling is especially great. Some days it’s especially hard.  We had both this week. ZoeGrace did an amazing job with her reading and it really seemed to finally ‘click’!  But due to an insurance mix-up, she spent much of the week off meds. Instead of formal schooling during that time, which would have been far too much for her to handle, homeschooling allowed us the freedom to get out to the beach and study tide pools.

We learned about the inter tidal zone…

2014-01-15 tide pool2

Found all sorts of interesting sea creatures…

2014-01-15 tide pool3

Sea Anemone or Sea Urchins?

2014-01-15 tide pool4

Barnacles or Mussels?

 

And were watched closely by a noble, white crane.

2014-01-15 tide pool5

I think Charlotte Mason would be proud. ;o)

4. A cooking class with my Mum and the wisecracking Chef AJ.  The class was informative (she even had a good referral for me to contact to learn more about non-dairy, non-processed baby formula… though we haven’t had any infants, many of my friends have and would love to feed their foster babies more nutritionally appropriate formula), full of yummy, health-creating food, and  completely entertaining.

Added bonus?  My daddy babysat and this Mama got a much needed break!  He definitely gets the “Bapa of the year award”.  :o)

5. My Mum surprised us this morning by driving down with me to San Diego to help clean and pack for TBM (the big move).  Any extra time with my parents is a blessing since we’ll be moving so far away.

It’s been a week full of family, and for that I am grateful! Thank you, Susanne, for reminding us to find the joy in each hectic, busy week!

Fave Five

Thank you, Susanne, for hosting Fave Fives each week!  It’s so encouraging to start the New Year focusing on the positive parts of the week.

1. Time spent with family. We’re up to visit my mum and dad.  Always a delight and the highlight of my week. :o)

2. I could watch my children play at the beach every. single. day.  And they are happy to play at the beach every. single. day.  Win-win.

Trying out the Zip Line

Trying out the Zip Line

3. Spending a relaxing evening with some dear girlfriends on Sunday.  We brought our 12 kiddos and let them snuggle up and watch Despicable Me 2 while we Mommas sipped wine and talked away the night.  Can’t believe none of us thought to get a picture of all the kids piled together on and around the couch!

4. There is always plenty of knitting going on when I’m with my talented mum.  I’m working on finishing up the loose ends- quite literally- for this grey cabled blanket and started my first ever sock.  I just love self-striping yarn, don’t you??

first sock1

5.  Trader Joe’s.  It sounds silly, I know, but bear me out.  It is a company that I love to support and shop at thanks to its ethos.

When my husband was deployed to Iraq (we were just engaged back then), I purchased a large number of his favorite protein bars to send in a care package and the grocer- from a store in a very non military beach city in Los Angeles- noticed and immediately brought out a whole box to send to him with the store’s thanks. A while ago, our favorite check-out clerk (who always remembers my son’s name and favorite super hero) knew that my husband was away at the time and brought me a bouquet of yellow flowers to cheer my day.  And just yesterday they did it again- proved that as a company Trader Joe’s truly cares about people.

I stopped in at a Trader Joe’s by my parents’ house for a few things and noticed an elderly couple sitting outside in the sun. As I walked out, I noticed they were still sitting there with their groceries.  I went over and asked if they needed a ride.  They replied that they lived in an assisted living home and had called the bus to come pick them up.  They thanked me graciously, but insisted I go on my way alone.  I felt just awful walking away.  However, they were quite insistent that they didn’t want to mess up the bus schedule.  As I looked over while putting away my cart, I noticed that one of the Trader Joe’s employees was setting up an umbrella so they could sit in the shade as they waited and had brought out some water bottles.  Occasions like this make me happy to shop at Trader Joe’s and this moment of kindness was a bittersweet highlight to my week. 

Hope your weeks have had glimpses of compassionate moments as well!

New Years Fave Five

I’m excited to join in with Susanne’s Fave Five, celebrating weekly blessings during 2014.

1. A trip to Legoland with my parents, sister and nephew!

cousins at legoland

The cousins love each other so much and since thousands of miles separate their homes, it is always a delight to be together.

2. An amazing church family that blesses and cares for me and my family during the usual ups and downs of military life.

3. I became a follower of FlyLady last January. While I’ve fluttered and spluttered my way along and am far from soaring, FlyLady has brought freedom and forgiveness (and success!) to my abominable housekeeping!

christmas decor 2013

Thanks to FlyLady, I packed up my Christmas decorations with ease and am able to bravely face the 2 cross country moves I will have before unpacking them next Christmas.

4. We celebrated our sweet Liam’s 4th birthday!

liam's bday 2013

He is a sweet, tender-hearted boy with such a fierce, stubborn streak that we treasure, knowing it will help him stand strong in the Lord as an adult. I love his joy of learning Scripture. We work on a verse at bedtime each night and he gets so excited when he finally has it down and understands what he has memorized. Daddy and I can’t wait to see how God will grow you this next year, sweet little warrior!

5. Reflecting on the past year.  It’s been a tumultuous 2 years for us and this past year has seen so much growth in our children.  I wrote long lists in my journal of accomplishments and trials our children endured this year. Hope you all had a good first week of 2014~ reflecting on the past year and looking toward the hope of the coming year!