Sunday, May 29, 2016

Can ACV Really Do All That?

I keep hearing people tout the health benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar. Homeopathic remedies have long been a part of Appalachian life, and living in the Foothills of Appalachia where the Bluegrass Kisses the Mountains I have heard my fair share of ways to use various plants for medicinal purposes. Despite home-remedies having been a legitimate way of healing for many centuries, the influx of doctor prescribed medicines has overshadowed what our ancestors knew.

Recently there has been an interest in returning to our roots...and leaves, and flowers, and buds. I have a friend who has started a small homeopathic healing business, and I asked her advice on getting rid of sinus congestion. Bragg's Organic Apple Cider Vinegar was the answer. She says she inhales the vapors from a mixture of water/ACV that has been brought to a boil and then removed from the heat. I had heard of using ACV for various ailments before, but I had never personally tried using it. I decided it was worth a shot, though. No harm could be done by having on hand extra ACV with the mother.

When I read the label, it suggested using ACV as an energy pick-me-up. Goodness, could I use one of those! I homeschool and in addition to the energy drain from that I already had longstanding issues with flagging energy and various other sleep disturbances, so if ACV could fix those... Hot Dog! I'd sure try it. I also needed to flush my kidneys to try to get rid of the lower-back pain I'd held onto for going on a month, and lemon water was helping some but not getting rid of it completely.

The first day (05/23/16) I mixed a small batch - 2 tsp ACV and 1 tsp honey to an 8oz glass of warm water (45 seconds in the microwave on high). It wasn't horrible tasting, just a bit tart. The second day (05/24/16) I added in 2 tsp lemon juice, since the ACV lent it a citrus note anyway. It was better. The third day (05/25/16) I went all out - 8 tsp ACV, 8 tsp lemon juice, 1 TB honey, 8 oz warm water (I shook it up to melt the honey), and enough cool water to make 32 oz. I put it in my Nalgene bottle to keep it handy. It tasted much better! The fourth and fifth days (05/26 & 05/27/16) I went a step further to mask the vinegar taste and added 4 oz apple juice. It tasted fantastic. I noticed that I felt better - I was less irritable the more I drank, I was sleeping better (like a rock, if I'm honest) with fewer disturbances. Now, whether this can be attributed to the addition of ACV to my life or simply that I was better hydrating myself I don't know.

The sixth day (05/28/16) I had been away from home overnight and was rushing to go on a homeschool field trip and didn't get a chance to mix my concoction. At around 2:15pm my afternoon drag hit hard. I was sitting watching a superb live performance at Fort Boonesborough, and I fell asleep. My drag usually lasts about 30 minutes, and then I'm A-ok and wide awake. Hmmm... could there be a correlation? The five days prior I had drank at least some quantity of ACV throughout the day, but this day I had not had any. I was drinking water, but it was just plain bottled water.

Right after I bought the Bragg's, I searched for benefits of ACV and found a helpful page listing 25 uses, though they aren't all health related. The Bragg's site has many uses listed as well. Whether the energy boost and kidney cleanse are due to the ACV or simply to the increased hydration I'm getting I don't know. At this point I don't really care either way. I just know that I feel so much better in less than a week - my energy level seems to be improving, and we'll see about the kidneys. I still haven't tried inhaling the ACV vapors, because after drinking the ACV my sinus congestion is much improved as well.

If you're looking for a cure for what ails you, you might want to give ACV a try... you might be as surprised as I was.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Komboskini and Me

A couple of years ago while vacationing in Treasure Island, Florida we took a day-trip.  My daughter loved princesses and nearby Weeki Wachee springs had a show of The Little Mermaid featuring live mermaids.  Okay, so they aren't born as mermaids, but they are women wearing elaborate mermaid tails swimming in a crystal clear natural spring.  Even to me it was amazing, and I was already in my late-20s.  Since Weeki Wachee is close to Tarpon Springs, a place full of childhood vacation memories, we decided to stop by and eat authentic Greek food (Mykonos).  Of course you can't go to Tarpon Springs without at least walking through some of the shops - sponges, handmade soaps, clothes, and trinkets abound.  The last shop we went in before the thunderstorm hit was Greek Town Imports.  At the checkout counter was a display of bracelets, which appeared to be intricately woven.  The graphic on the sign proclaimed they were prayer bracelets handmade by monks in Greece.  I nearly bought one, but since I'm a fairly crafty person I also suspected I could make my own, save $10, and learn something new in the process.  I was wrong...

I researched Orthodox prayer bracelets, found a tutorial, assembled my materials, and proceeded to tie knots...just not the kind I was attempting.  I tied and untied, untangled, and retied the same two strings many times before giving up.  I gave up on the bracelet, but I couldn't get it out of my head.  I revisited the instructional website many times, but I never made any more sense out of it or tried to tie another knot.

Flash forward to July 21, 2015

My brother, sister-in-law, husband, mom, and kids had planned to canoe the Weeki Wachee River with Paddling Adventures (located in the parking lot of the park) and then eat at Tarpon Springs.  When we called the day before to make our reservations, we were told that their canoes and kayaks were booked for the entire week.  In fact they informed us that in order to guarantee a spot you need to reserve 3-5 weeks in advance of when you want to paddle...or bring your own watercraft!  I suggested that we (all 10 of us who were vacationing) go ahead and drive the hour-and-a-half from Treasure Island to Weeki Wachee and at least ride the riverboat, see a mermaid show, and maybe also watch an animal show.  All of that is included in the price of admission.  Unfortunately there was an equipment malfunction in the mermaid diving area, so the only thing we were able to do was ride the riverboat.  However, the park was generous enough to refund the money of all guests (who requested it) who had arrived prior to the first mermaid show and were leaving because the shows were cancelled.  We had arrived less than 30 minutes before the first show, so this applied to us.

Refund in hand we drove back to Tarpon Springs.  If you've never been to Tarpon Springs, I highly recommend that you get there early in the day, find a place to park ($3/day), and very slowly take it all in.  This is a small waterfront town, crowded with people, shops, and boats.  If you have time ride the sponge-diving boat and watch them harvest sponges.  At the very least sit by the water and watch the boats for a while.  We chose to eat at Dimitri's on the Water, and it was A-mazing!  The staff was friendly, we were seated promptly, the service was wonderful, the food was generously piled on plates, and we were able to eat on the covered patio by the water...and watch the boats.  After eating there were a few shops we wanted to check out.  My mamaw and mom went in search of dried sponges, the rest of us headed toward Taste of Greece for dessert.  I love dessert, but I was so stuffed after eating part of a Roasted Lamb Wrap and Spread Sampler at Dimitri's that I couldn't even look at the cases of delectable desserts.  Instead my foursome started walking back toward the entrance to Dodecanese Boulevard in search of the little yellow shop where I saw the bracelet.

We found the little yellow shop, but it had a sign in the window saying it had moved to the corner by Antonia's.  We found Antonia's but it was the corner shop...so we walked around the corner.  There were doors for the shop, but they said to use the other door...and there was no other door.  We went inside Antonia's to ask how to get to the other shop and saw that the shops were adjoining.  After walking to the back, instructing my kids to keep their hands off all the breakable pretties, we found the little yellow shop - Greek Town Imports.  I asked if they were open, because the shelves weren't stocked, and boxes were piled everywhere.  Handymen were still hanging fixtures, and several employees were unpacking boxes.  The elderly gentleman said they were open and then, "I told you we were moving."  I said, "It wasn't me, I haven't been here in about two or three years."  He replied, "Yeah, that's when I start telling people we're moving, three years ago."  A younger man asked how he could help me, so I told him - the last time I was in your store you had prayer bracelets, do you still have them?

The man took me to the back and started showing me the different bracelets - thick ones in red and black, or thin ones in black with plastic crosses or blue beads.  I chose a thin black one with blue beads, which he said was the traditional style.  The cord is waxed and lasts longer, so that was also a selling point.  The only problem was that the bracelet was so tiny that I was positive it wouldn't even fit my 4 year-old's wrist.  I asked, "How do you adjust it?"  There was no clasp, or knot and loop, no way to open the bracelet to put it on.  He said, "Basically you point your fingers like this and roll it on.  It will get bigger.  I've had mine on for four years now."  The woman behind him said, "I've had mine on for nine years!  If it gets too big, when you're in the shower, just pinch the knots together like this to tighten it back up."  I thanked them, still skeptical that the bracelet would ever fit me even though I have thin wrists.  I paid, and the woman who rang me up said, "Oh!  You're Greek!?"  I explained about seeing the bracelets before, and trying to learn to make the knot.  She said, "I'm Greek, and I don't know how to make the knot.  These are made by the monks in the Athos region of northern Greece."

Again I thanked them, and we were on our way.  I made my fingers and hand look like the man had shown me, and I started trying to roll the bracelet across my knuckles and onto my wrist.  I tried my right hand...uh uh, not going to work.  I tried my left hand...oops, not going to fit there either.  I contemplated putting it on my key-ring or giving it to one of my kids, but I bought it for a purpose and wanted to wear it.  I kept trying to make my hand smaller and smaller, rolling the bracelet, getting it across two knuckles just to have it roll back up toward my fingertips.  It was frustrating...and painful if I'm being perfectly honest.  Finally!  I managed to get it on my left wrist, which works better for me since I'm right-handed.


The komboskini is used by Orthodox Christians to guide prayer and prostrations.  There are different lengths of prayer rope - short ones with 33 knots to symbolize the years of Christ's life, or longer ones with 50, 100, 300, even 500 knots!  Some use the spaces between knots, larger knots, or beads to guide prostrations.  According to the research I've done, there is one prayer that is said with each knot - Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.  As the monks tie each knot into the rope, they pray.  So not only is the prayer rope used to guide prayer and meditation, it is created while in prayer.  Each knot, called The Angelic Knot, is actually 7 interlocking crosses.  The legend passed down states that a monk wanting to make a prayer rope kept having his knots untied by a demon until an angel of God appeared and taught the monk to tie the special 7 cross knot which was so difficult and full of crosses that the demon could no longer untie the rope.


I am not Greek Orthodox.  I am Baptist.  I do not pray short, repetitive prayers.  I do not bow or make prostrations after each prayer.  That just isn't how I was taught.  So why did I buy this prayer bracelet that is used by a different denomination of Christianity to guide prayers that are vastly different than mine?  To remind me...that I should pray without ceasing, that God is always with me encircling me with His love, that I need to focus my mind when I pray, and that as children of God we are all interconnected.



If you would like to learn more and possibly learn to make the prayer knot, click HERE.
There are numerous YouTube video tutorials as well.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Finding Rainbows in the Rain

I feel like I need to write a disclaimer for this post before I begin.  I typically do not share personal information.  I do not like to open up and bare my soul, especially when there is the risk for criticism or judgment.  I am not sharing this to gain sympathy.  I am sharing in the hopes that someone going through this will have peace that they are not alone.

Have you ever had a day where it seems like it rains nonstop?  You look outside and the sun is shining, your kids are playing happily, nothing specific has gone wrong, but inside you feel like it's raining.  That's the kind of day I was having...actually that's the week I was having.  Small things seemed insurmountable, everything my kids were doing made me feel hot and itchy and irritable, my stomach felt like snakes writhing inside, I was struggling to keep my emotions capped.

It started Sunday at church, sitting behind my mamaw...she just seemed so small and frail, she reminded me of her older sister who passed away last year, and it broke my heart.  When she stepped up to the pulpit to sing - Lord it's just another hill that I'm climbing, Lord it's just another tear to wipe away.  If I can just hold on a little longer, I'll be rejoicing in Heaven someday - I could barely contain my tears.  She sang the first few bars alone, and then the pianist, pastor, and two guitarists joined her.  I have listened to my mamaw sing since I was born, but it just tugged my heart strings that day.  That song in particular gets to me anyway, and when I'm having a rough time I ask her to sing it.  I didn't ask this time, but I needed it.  Sunday was Father's Day, and I was already feeling broken-hearted.  The day just picked the scab trying to cover the small/huge hole in my heart left by someone I love who I never had the chance to meet.  To say it was a rough start to the day would be a slight understatement.

This week has been stressful, rewarding, full of blessings, but stressFULL.  We are wrapping up Vacation Bible School, and this was the first time I have ever been asked to plan and execute the week.  When I was asked I thought about declining.  In fact I never formally accepted the request!  I asked for time to pray about it and talk to my husband, but as soon as I sent that email an idea popped into my head and it snowballed from there into this amazing week.  I felt like God was leading me to what He wanted me to do, gently nudging me by giving me a lightbulb moment that made it impossible to say no.  Amazing as this week may be, and as easy as the week was to plan, it has still been stressful.  I tend to be a perfectionist, feel like I have to be in control of every single thing, and overthink and analyze every little detail until I make myself sick.  

We began VBS on Tuesday.  I managed to have everything organized and a lot of things completed before Monday.  Still there are certain things you can't do ahead.  Each night I have tried to prepare the next day's crafts for four age groups - I had them planned from the beginning, but I wanted an example to show for each individual craft, and I wanted only to take the supplies for that particular night's crafts so I didn't get confused about who was supposed to be doing what.  

On Tuesday my husband's Fatherversary gift arrived - our 10th anniversary was earlier this month - and the box was perfect for the kids to make the rocket they wanted to give to Daddy.  While he fitted the new roll pan on his work truck and drilled holes outside, I helped the kids remake the box into a really nice rocket inside as a surprise for him.  They decorated it with stickers and marker drawings while I made VBS signs and got craft supplies organized and ready to walk out the door.





Apparently the hundreds of stickers the kids used on Tuesday weren't enough.  Wednesday while I was trying to get sample crafts made and supplies together in the dining room, the children decided to decorate the rocket some more.  They were being well-behaved, having fun, using every sticker we have...and we have a lot of stickers.  Earlier in the day we had been in the pool with my mom and our cousin, and the conversation had turned to my upcoming gallbladder surgery.  That put me on edge, because I am terrified of surgery.  Until that point I had been able to distract myself for a couple of weeks - the pain had subsided right after I made my appointment for surgery, I had been able to eat normally for the first time since Easter, I was no longer having the referred pain in my ribs, and I was crazy busy with summer activities and VBS prep.  Talking about the surgery brought it all back.  

After I got Wednesday's sample craft ready, I looked at my pre-admittance testing and surgical orders to see if there was anything special I needed to do based on the information my cousin gave about her surgery.  On the list of things to bring to the PAT appointment was a letter of clearance from your cardiologist.  I started getting the ants-in-my-pants feeling.  No one said anything about clearance!  I have a cardiologist, and what if I was supposed to call him and get an appointment so he could check me out and be sure I'm healthy enough to undergo surgery!?  They're doing an EKG and blood work at my PAT appointment, isn't that enough?  I haven't seen my cardio in a couple of years because after my initial need to see him was explored I was released as an as-needed-basis patient.  What if they won't let me have the surgery because I don't have the paper saying I'm ok, or what if I'm not ok and my heart stops while I'm under anesthesia and I die and my husband has to try to raise our kids without me.  Would they still remember me when they're adults if I die now - they're still so young.  Will they remember how much I love them...  Oh, I tell you, if I was still in pain 24/7 it would be so much easier NOT to have this train of thought.  With the absence of pain driving me toward the surgery comes the influx of depressive anxiety-filled thought processes, which makes me feel like a weenie because it's such a simple procedure that I feel like I shouldn't have any qualms at all.  Back to finding rainbows...

I looked up from my papers when my daughter walked by to get yet another sheet of stickers from the drawer.  I looked into the living room where she was taking the stickers, and I see empty sticker sheets lying on the floor and hardly a bare spot of cardboard remaining on the rocket.  I lost it.  I didn't yell, but I sternly instructed them to stop using so many stickers because they were going to use them all and I wasn't going to buy them anymore because that's not what they are meant for and what are they going to do when all their stickers are gone and they don't have any for the other projects they wanted them for and the stickers are all going to fall off anyway when we put the rocket in the attic because that's where it's going and it's hot up there and the sticky won't last in the heat and don't put another sticker on pick up your mess and put the stickers up.  Even as the words were coming out of my mouth I realized how ridiculous I sounded, how unreasonable I was being, but by that point I was like a runaway train that can't be stopped.  I reached for a bite-size Snicker's (which didn't make me feel like myself, by the way), and the second it was in my mouth I started to hyperventilate.  My nose is highly unreliable right now due to allergies, and the bite-size Snicker's took up all the room in my mouth...I couldn't get it chewed up and swallowed fast enough, and the lump in my throat was growing by the second.  I felt like I was choking.  I walked to the back of the house, and tried to calm down, but it suddenly started raining.

Hot, salty rain poured down my face.  I walked back to the dining room, squatted beside my chair, and tried to get a grip.  By then the kids had done what I asked - picked up the empty sheets, put away some of the stickers, and taken off the excess stickers that were already falling off - and then they came to check on me.  I couldn't squat any longer, because my energy was gone, so I sat in the floor and it continued to rain.  I held my kids close and it rained on their heads.  I lost count of how many times I told them I love them.  Then my son went and got every stuffed animal from his bed and brought them to me to hold in my lap.  When he decided that wasn't good enough, he traded the bears for his Spider Man blanket.  My daughter tried to cheer me up by eating gummy worms, because my kids eating candy always cheers me up (?), and they kept telling me it was ok while they patted me.  When I could finally open my eyes, I was a bit stunned by what I saw.  Our solar-powered rainbow make was throwing the most vibrant and stunning rainbows all around the kitchen.  They were racing across the floor at my feet, soaring across the ceiling, running up the walls.  Rainbows were everywhere.  It has been so overcast, and we've been so busy for the last month or more that I've missed the rainbows, I'd forgotten that little spinning prism in my window, I'd forgotten how beautiful it could be.  *These images are from April*






Eventually my daughter disappeared into her room, where she made me a necklace.  My son covered me head-to-toe in his blanket and got under it with me, where he kept saying, "It's Mommy and brother time, isn't Mommy.  No one else is allowed because it's just Mommy and brother time."  I tell you, that four year old kid is wise.  Being in the dark, under a hot fleece blanket, helped.  I laid back on the floor, and I didn't have the strength to raise my head off the floor.  As I lay there, getting my breathing under control, two things occurred to me:  1) rainbows are God's promise that the storm is over and it will get better, 2) you can't have rainbows without rain.

I've dealt with depression and anxiety since I was 7, and being in stressful situations tends to bring it out - the upcoming surgery combined with trying to make sure everything was perfect for VBS built up the perfect storm for an anxiety attack.  Just remember, even in your darkest storm, when the rain won't let up and the clouds make it hard to see, the Son is out there, and a rainbow is coming.  Don't stop looking for the rainbows in the rain.


"Behind the Clouds"
- Brad Paisley -

When you're feeling lonely, lost and let down
Seems like those dark skies are following you around
And life's just one big shade of gray
You wonder if you'll see the light of day

Behind the clouds, the sun is shining
Believe me even though you can't quite make it out
You may not see the silver lining
But there's a big blue sky waiting right behind the clouds

I've heard it said that this too shall pass
Good times or bad times, neither one lasts
But thinking that your luck won't ever change
Is like thinking it won't ever stop once it starts to rain

Behind the clouds, the sun is shining
Believe me even though you can't quite make it out
You may not see the silver lining
But there's a big blue sky waiting right behind the clouds
Yeah, there's a big blue sky waiting right behind the clouds

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Who's Responsible for This Mess?

Over the last several years the stuff in my house has grown to epic proportions.  Things get bought, brought, borrowed, gifted... but nothing ever leaves.  My mom will tell you that this is how it was in my childhood as well.  At least in my room.  It was bad enough then that I remember coming home from school to 33 gallon trash bags full of my stuff sitting outside the bedroom.  I wasn't allowed to go through it or beg for its salvation.  If I wasn't responsible enough to clean it all up, I wasn't allowed to plead the case for keeping any of it.

When I got married almost 10 years ago, my parents finally got tired of babysitting my stuff and boxed up the contents of my room and said it had to move with me.  Sadly, most of those things are still in the boxes in which they arrived at my new/old house.  It isn't that I don't know how to sort things, throw things away, say goodbye to things.  I know how to do all that.  Decluttering is overwhelming, and my problem always lies in where to begin.  So I'm beginning here...

My name is Amanda, and I am a horrible housekeeper.  

I am not hanging my head in shame.  I am holding my head high, because I know that I can do better.  I'm not admitting defeat, no thing, no stuff, nothing is going to get me down.  I refuse to live another able-bodied day without getting my house straightened out.

I have blustered about the mess for too long without doing anything constructive about it.  
February, being the shortest (and often most hated) month of the year, is a good month to begin a new project.  You're still early in the year, but by February it doesn't quite feel so much like a resolution.  Let's be clear about something:  I have made that resolution many times, and it never stuck.  My house still looks like a wreck.  All.  The.  Time.  There, I said it.  I own it.  When my cousin asked for people to join a February clean-up challenge, I hesitated.  Granted it was only 28 days, but there is so much stuff in my house!  The paper alone might take me a full year to sort through.  In the end I joined, and I felt accomplished for the first time in a long time.  I felt happy about cleaning.  My kitchen looked amazing...until I started cleaning the rest of the house.  My cabinets and pantry are still fantastic, but the floor is a bit crowded.  (Now that I've seen I can manage with stuff in the center of the floor, maybe it's time to petition the hubs for a center island.)  I even started sorting through clothes, which for whatever reason I have a weird emotional attachment to.  I have two tall kitchen trash bags full of clothes I need to donate.  I started going through paper, and just the old bills, receipts, and medical statements took me an entire afternoon to shred and filled a 33 gallon trash bag.  It's sad, really.  Sad that I have let my house get into such a state of junkedupedness.  But after the first week and a half, I slacked off.  Things got busy, hectic, complicated, and I quit unstuffing my house.  And now it's a full month later, and I'm no better off.

I have blamed the husband for the state of our house - after all he hasn't volunteered to clean it up, and when he helps me he asks me what to do with every single thing he finds.  I know he doesn't do it to be difficult, instead he does it because he doesn't want to put anything where I don't want it or to throw away something I might need.  

I have blamed the kids - I mean, really, where does all the stuff come from when you have a kid?  You come home from the hospital with a carseat and a kid and suddenly your home is overrun with stuffed animals, blankets, toys, books, drawings, and life.  And I love every minute of it!  Unless of course I step on a Hotwheels car and bend the axle that my 4 year old will then ask me to repair, and when I repair it the wheel is inevitably going to come off and he will ask me to glue it back on.  No glue on this planet will hold a plastic tire on a metal axle, sorry kiddo.

That brings me to my current question:  who's responsible for this mess?

The short answer is, ME.  I have always blamed everyone but the person responsible.  

Who chooses to read a book (or write this post) instead of sweep the floor?  Who chooses to let the laundry go for one more day?  Who decides that a few dirty dishes don't justify filling a sink and wasting water?  Who can't seem to get a handle on all the stuff?  That would all be ME.  I keep waiting for my small world to change and one day to wake up to a spotless home that isn't piled up, or at the very least for my hard work to actually pay off with a house that remains clean after I've worked diligently for a week to get it in top shape again.  The fact is that unless I change my world, unless I stop being my own worst enemy, unless I care an awful lot about my house being an enjoyable, less stressful environment, nothing is going to change...it's not.  I will be the one who has to concede the victory and let my stuff rule my life.

Last night I had taken all I could.  I simply could NOT look at this mess any longer.  I cleaned on my dining room for four hours, stopping at 1:45am only because I was hungry and my knee was aching.  I found enough pencils to last until my kids graduate college.  I threw things away.  I jammed out to my favorite music...quietly of course, since I was the only one awake.  I felt good about my progress for once, and it was a noticeable difference.  Tonight I am trying to catch up on laundry and dishes that have both been untended for several weeks due to some county-wide water issues.  

My daughter said something earlier that most 6 year olds wouldn't think about - I'm so excited, because tomorrow is a new day!  When did she get so wise!?  Tomorrow is a new day, and I'm so excited because I can decide to change.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Motherhood 101: A Crash Course in Anxiety

I don't know about all you other mothers out in Weblandia, but my journey to first-time motherhood went a little something like this:

1. Visit OB for pre-pregnancy check-up to make sure all systems are GO. Instead get told that due to previous history of poly-cystic ovaries (not PCOS), the recommendation is to forgo all attempts at making a baby without medical intervention, begin a regimen of clomid, and ta-da - there will be a baby!
1a. Get furious with doctor for being presumptuous, "fire" him, find a new OB.
2. Visit new OB, wait 5 hours (yes, hours) for doctor who is "running a little behind" to complete initial new-patient exam. Get TVU, identify poly-cystic ovary on one side only, get the run-down on getting pregnant and my options.
2a. Start prometrium followed by femara, see doctor for mid-cycle TVU to check for follicles, get told there are no "good" ones and baby won't happen this time around.
3. Ignore doctor, listen instead to my own body.
3a. September 29, 2007 pee on a stick, immediately see two very dark pink lines, cry, call husband and swear him to secrecy until we make sure everything is "ok" (whatever that means), cry some more.
4. October 5, 2007 start puking, end up in hospital 3 times for hyperemesis gravidarum, puke daily (as in ALL day) until January 26, 2007 2008 (in addition to anxiety, you also become forgetful...and can't proofread, apparently). Also experience excruciating heartburn, car sickness, and near-constant intense hunger and cravings for all things chocolate accompanied by 55 pound weight-gain.
5. Begin having the Braxton Hicks contractions February 18, 2008. End up in hospital a couple of times for monitoring and once for pre-term labor in the antepartum unit (that was fun...).
6. Wake up at 3:30am one morning late in May thinking I was having more Braxton Hicks and told hubby to go on to work. He instead timed my contractions for the obligatory one hour, during which they were barely 5 minutes apart. When he called my OB, she shouted at him to get me to the hospital nearly an hour away (ha...ha...ha, more like 30 minutes that morning). By the time we drove one mile across town to pick up my mom, we were at 2-3 minutes on the contractions. It was GO time for real.
7. Labor takes relatively little time, and then there is a beautiful baby girl and lots of tears, and ANXIETY.

Now, don't get me wrong, I am no stranger to anxiety. We go way back. The thing is, prior to becoming a mother, the anxiety was typically short-lived and centered around things like - why did I think 3 graduate level classes that involve a ton of computer work would be a good idea to complete while 5-9 months pregnant (it was not easy to type laying on my left side while drinking a glass of water...I hate you Braxton Hicks)?
After I became a mother, that all shifted to this tiny little creature that had lived in a protected environment inside me for 9 months. I was ok (most of the time) during the day, but as evening approached the anxiety set in. I felt like I was going to crawl out of my skin. I cried...no, I sobbed. I clutched my baby to me as I sat in my sage green marshmallow-fluff glider chair, rocking and crying and praying. I prayed aloud, and it soothed her.

It's been 6 1/2 years, and I hate to break it to you, but the anxiety doesn't get any better. Now there are even MORE things to be anxious about. Truthfully speaking, anxiety is a worthless response as a parent. The Bible tells us in Matthew 6:34 - "Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." In other words - don't worry about tomorrow, it will take care of itself; there is enough trouble to deal with today.

It's hard, though, not being anxious. It's a first response for me. I try not to even watch the news, because it just gives me one more thing to worry over. There are nights where I feel as if I remain in a twilight-like sleep. I never sleep deeply on those nights, the anxiety hovers above me waiting to consume me, and I wake frequently and pray God will take the anxiety away and allow me to rest. These days it doesn't just happen at night. I worry about my children all day - my daughter more so than my son, simply because she isn't with me all day.

That is all about to change. My original plan, long before the wailing cries of a newborn kept me awake all night, was to homeschool my children (all 4 that I planned to have). They would never know the constraints of sitting at a desk doing busy work day-in and -out. They would know the joy and love of learning that I experienced as a child. Then my daughter grew a little older, and I realized that our personalities were both so strong (and alike) that we butted heads on a lot of things. She is undeniably stubborn (like me), but she is so intelligent and my desire is to cultivate that instead of killing it with boredom.

Last year she insisted on going to public school for kindergarten. I had taught her to read over the summer, and I thought, "Ok, we'll do kindergarten. Then we'll homeschool." Little Miss burst my bubble when she also insisted on going to first grade at "real" school with her friends. I was a little bit on the devastated side of things. After a few weeks of school it was painfully obvious that no one in our house was happy. Mysterious tummy aches every morning, dark circles under eyes, begging to stay home - insisting she didn't have to go to school, bad attitude after school, exhausted and cranky... I could go on. I kept insisting that she couldn't "quit" school because she had to finish what she started, even though my heart was screaming - YAY, homeschool! We could always change our minds next year, start off fresh at the beginning with a second-grade curriculum. As the weeks turned into a month, then two months, I could see there was no real change in the way either of us felt. I desperately wanted her home with me, learning with me, having fun with school instead of being bored. That begs a question...

When is the right time to let your kid drop out of school? I set the deadline for change at the Friday before her fall break. That deadline came and nothing had changed enough to satisfy me. Fall break was glorious (after the first day), and I saw a glimpse of the child my daughter was before she started school last year. She was happy! I started homeschooling my son with Sonlight PK 4/5 six weeks ago, so while my daughter was on fall break she got to witness what homeschool could be like for her. I did some research on my options, and I just couldn't justify paying so much for a curriculum I would only use for half a school-year. There are so many homeschool groups, and I finally found a few that service my area and joined them. Those Facebook groups are how I found out about Christianbook.com having homeschool curricula at a discounted rate! Joy of joys!

I had heard good things about ACEs PACEs, so my husband and I decided that would be a better idea to get our daughter through the remainder of her first grade year - Christmas break is going to be our disenrollment date. It was less than half the cost of the Sonlight curriculum, and honestly some of it seems more like kindergarten (maybe just for my kid, though) than first grade. I ordered it. It was delivered today. We unpacked everything, put the binders together, and then we moved on to a 10-months-belated gingerbread house making extravaganza...at our dining room table. We ate dinner, the kids got ready for and into bed, I turned on Ludovico Einaudi's Nightbook cd (which is a Godsend, by the way), and when I walked back into the living room and saw the packets of PACEs spread across the floor that useless emotion flooded my body (not for the first time today).

What the HECK was I thinking? This is going to be a disaster. What if my mom is right and we butt heads so much that she ends up HATING me? I couldn't stand it if that happened. I guess it's good this is a trial run...kind of...and that I can always re-enroll her before second grade. Oh, Dear Lord, please tell me this was the right thing to do!

After that mental breakdown, it hit me - WHY am I anxious? Is it the cost? Am I truly afraid my daughter is going to refuse to do her work and then be behind her peers by half a school-year if/when I re-enroll her? Am I disbelieving in my own abilities to teach...even though that is what I went through 6 years of college for? Am I not fully trusting that GOD will be with me each minute of each hour of each day that I spend educating my child?

Anxiety is not 100% useless - sometimes it alerts us to real danger. This is not one of those cases.
Lord God, take this useless anxiety away from me, give me peace and faith that this is Your will. This is going to be an adventure...maybe the second-greatest one of my life. I'm already living my greatest adventure - motherhood. Thank you for blessing me with these wonderful children and trusting me with their care.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

What Makes You Happy Mommy?

This question is enough to bring forth a flood of words, but also a bit of panic.  What if I couldn't think of an answer?

Last night, my son (who just turned 4) looked at me and said, "What makes you happy, Mommy?"  I don't know if he was genuinely curious, or if he was scared that nothing made Mommy happy - he'd been in trouble quite a few times yesterday.  My general response was, "Lots of things make me happy, Jaxson."  Of course that was not a good enough answer, so he countered with, "Like what?"

After I caught my breath (crickets chirped briefly in my mind), I couldn't stem the flow of things that make me happy...

Getting to see a sunrise or sunset, rainbows, dancing in the rain, listening to rain, reading a good book, watching a movie with my loves, snuggling with my kids, cooking, eating really good food, dark chocolate, black coffee, making things with my hands (crafting, sewing), going to church, learning something new, making something for my kids, reading to my kids, Jaxson, Emelyn, spending time with my parents/brother/sister-in-law/husband/kids (especially when we all get along), the beach, taking a walk, experiencing a first with my kids, seeing my kids learn a new skill or get one "right," taking a nap, sleeping on clean sheets, a hot shower, dancing, singing (even if I am off-key), hot cocoa with lots of marshmallows, waiting for the first snowfall, watching icy snow glitter in the glow of street lamps, spending Thanksgiving with my family, our annual "special cabin" trip, camping, playing a game, gardening, canning, sitting on Mamaw's porch swing listening to the sounds of the woods, finding a perfect leaf in fall colors, butterflies, hearing birds sing, seeing a wild rabbit, having a home, still having more brown hair than silver hair, the sound of tree frogs chirruping instead of croaking, going fishing, eating a bowl of popcorn, driving through the country, seeing a dolphin, watching an electrical storm over the ocean, making shapes out of clouds, writing, drawing, coloring, flowers, handmade pottery...

I guess to that list I should add - having children who remind me that I have more things to be thankful for and happy about than things that make me sad.  I asked him what made him happy, and one of the first things he said was, "Hugging you and loving you."  All I could do was hug him and tell him that those two things make me very happy, too.

What would you say if your child asked you?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

School Days, School Days...

...Dear old golden rule days.  Readin' and 'ritin' and 'rithmetic, taught to the tune of the hickory stick.

It's back to school already.  When I was in elementary school, we didn't go back until around the third week of August, and it seemed that we only went for the last 2 days of that first week.  Now, school starts earlier each year, and gets out later each summer.  Our kids have had one day shy of exactly 2 months off school for summer break.  That's not nearly enough time!  While I can't control the school calendar and requirements (which for the most part I disagree with), and while homeschooling was once an option, it doesn't really suit our present personality and learning traits.  The only thing I can do is try to make our down-time at home a little easier to manage and more enjoyable.  

I'm big on planning ahead and making schedules (that are not always kept to).  I am not big on cleaning, so please don't think this is going to detail how to get your kids to do chores without complaint or how to do a month's worth of cleaning in 10 minutes a day.  That ain't this blog...  What I will tell you is my self-devised plan for making our mornings and evenings run like clockwork.

I am a cookbook collector.  I also love to cook (see my other blog That's 'licious, Mommy!).  Before the birth of my children, my husband and I fended for ourselves at home.  Oftentimes that meant that we ate corn dogs and mac 'n cheese multiple times a week - hey, we were young - and we just didn't keep a lot of food items that required large amounts of time-consuming prep work.  Then, during my first pregnancy, I ended up in and out of the hospital from extreme morning (aka all-day) sickness and later from the evil Braxton Hicks contractions and eventually pre-term labor.  At that point I was also enrolled in 3 very intense Library Science master's level courses trying to finish my degree in as little time as possible to keep my student loan costs down.  Long story short, my husband and I were relieved, and grateful, to eat with my family every night.  It kept me off my feet, kept baby happier, kept the contractions down.  After baby arrived we didn't go back to cooking at home - we had settled into a routine.

Fast forward 5 years to our daughter's kindergarten year.  This routine we had settled into meant that most nights we weren't getting supper over with until nearly 10pm.  For a kid who requires amounts of sleep rivaling a newborn, that wasn't going to cut it.  There was no way I would be able to get her up and at school before 8am.  She's a very slow mover in the mornings and, like me, doesn't always wake up hungry.  Something had to change, and it had to start with us staying home more so our kids could stay on a consistent routine.

I pored over my Fix-It and Forget-It Big Cookbook.  I looked at every page.  I made a spreadsheet of recipes that sounded like something my family would eat.  I color coded each section of recipes by main ingredient:  bean, pork, beef, chicken, vegetable.  I printed it out, stapled it, and kept it in the cookbook.  Then each week I picked 3-4 different recipes, went grocery shopping over the weekend, and cooked at home Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and sometimes Friday.  Dance class was on Wednesday, so we decided that was Breakfast night at my parents' house.  Each recipe I cooked was rated - up to 5 stars - and I wrote the date and any notes I had about what I changed, liked, or disliked about it.  I noted in the index which recipes had been tried with a check-mark and the date.  Somewhere around Christmas it all fell apart.  We had a harsh winter, missing nearly 30 days of school, and it threw everything off balance.  We fell back into our old routine of cooking at my parents' house every night.  The only difference being that I did most of the cooking, and I made sure that we were still home by around 9pm.

My daughter is at a new school this year, because our school system has divided the schools by level - PK, Elementary (Primary, 1-2), Intermediate (3-5), Middle (6-8), High (9-12).  Since we are a low-income county, every child in every school receives a free breakfast and lunch.  We took advantage of that last year, sending a lunch very rarely.  This year she requested that we send her lunch more often, and I can't argue with that.  I hardly ever bought a school lunch - mostly pizza on Fridays - until high school when I could get a salad and a pretzel or pizza/hamburger every day.  

Thankfully we get the school breakfast and lunch menus a month ahead, so menu in hand she and I went through every day and I made her choose which days she was going to eat a school lunch.  This was my first step toward streamlining our morning routine.  If I knew which days she was eating at school vs taking a lunch, I would be more prepared.  I wouldn't be scrambling the morning of a take-your-lunch day wondering what to fix her.  I brandished my handy-dandy pink highlighter and set to work identifying the main dish of each lunch she would eat a school.  Then I got to thinking...

...I know what she's eating at school, but what about the stuff I'm sending from home?  This can't be a last minute decision, folks.  So, I made a list of 10 lunches I knew (beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt) that she would eat.  She is not a picky eater, but there are some things she prefers and will eat willingly more often than certain other things.  If I could pack her a PBJ every day, it would be all-good.  So that left me with a highlighted calendar and a list.  How was I going to synthesize the information into something easy to read, easy to use, that I didn't have to spend hours changing every month?

I was envisioning a calendar with only 5 days.  Something that would allow me to note the days she planned to eat at school and what she planned to take from home on the off-days.  Then I got to thinking that packing a lunch wasn't the only hang-up during our morning routine.  What about breakfast?  If I left it up to my kids they would eat PBJ three times a day, every day.  So instead I asked her for 4 breakfasts that she loved that were quick to prepare.  We settled on Muffins (Monday, leftover from Sunday), PBJ (Tuesday/Friday), Cream of Wheat/Oatmeal (Wednesday), and Yogurt/Fruit and Cereal Bar (Thursday).  This is not apt to change unless we have a special leftover breakfast item from the weekend - waffles, biscuits, pancakes, etc.  

Taking that into consideration, I created a calendar that was simple yet displayed all the necessary information.  I wrote in the days she would be eating at school, and then I filled in the blanks with the 10 lunches I know she loves.  I tried not to put two meat-sandwiches or two soups in the same week.  I didn't ask which lunch she wanted on which day, I just randomly assigned lunches to days and filled it in.  I tried to list everything that I would need to pack in her box or bag.  The morning of (or evening before) I also try to remember to include a disposable spoon, a napkin, and a straw so she doesn't have to try to remember to pick up anything in the lunch line.  I taped the list of lunches to the cookbook shelf beside the refrigerator, and I taped the calendar to the door of the fridge where it is in plain sight.




Here's a link to the document I created:  Breakfast/Lunch

As I mentioned before, I like to have my meals planned out.  Last year I chose enough crockpot meals to see us through the entire year with a few alternates.  With the winter we had, the amount of school we missed, I didn't get through all of them so they are on reserve for this year.  However, I didn't want to rely just on my crockpot (shhh, don't say that too loud).  Sometimes it's a bit boring to use the same kitchen tool every single day, and I should know because I have a LOT of kitchen tools (and I'm a Pampered Chef consultant :]).  Plus I have all these gorgeously illustrated (and written) cookbooks with mouth-watering recipes that I have been dying to cook.  Cooking and making things for people is how I express my love, and I really wanted to be a chef - it was second only to being a mommy!  Sorry, tendency to ramble...  

I pulled a few of my cookbooks:  Taste of Home Winning Recipes (2010), The Everything Meals for a Month Cookbook, and Taste of Home Cooking for Kids/Kids Party Food.  I sat down and went page-by-page through Winning Recipes and wrote down 100+ recipes that I want to try.  I realize I can't do them all this year, but my kids will be in school for the next 14 years, so I've got plenty of time.  I just needed a similar calendar to plan out our dinners.  I haven't started filling it in yet, but I will over the weekend.  There is a space for Main Dish and Sides for Mon-Fri.  I can have my shopping list made out for the entire month, and when a certain cut of meat or other food item goes on sale I can see how much I need for the month and freeze what I'm not using immediately.  An update will follow after I have a picture of my completed dinner calendar.

Here's a link to the document I created:  Dinner