Saturday, April 21, 2018

Real Life Confessions

A couple weeks ago my sister and I were having a rare, uninterrupted chat over the phone when we both said that women need to share more real life stuff.  Personally, I need to hear more about other people's struggles and dark valleys.  

I for sure have some struggles and dark valleys to share at some point, but today I'm keeping it light with a top 5 list...from the last week.

1--I didn't get up any earlier than 5:30AM any day last week and many mornings it was closer to 6!!!!!  Not good.  My kids do better at getting out of bed right away than I do.

2--I can't tell you the last time that I vacuumed my house.  I'm sitting her to trying to remember and I cannot.  Maybe 10 days ago. 

3--Two days last week I was at school for 12 hours straight.   Not because I was getting caught up on work, but because I was supervising a group of students at a catering event. 

4--I cooked one real meal last week.  The other nights we had leftovers and ate at the school event mentioned in #3.  

5--I spent my entire Friday night catching up on TV and watching movies I had in my watchlist on Amazon.  My kids were gone for the weekend and after a  50 hour work week and three nights of kids' activities I was crazy tired.  

Monday, July 10, 2017

10 Daily Habits In No Specific Order

Out of Bed Before My Family
My day is just not the same if I don't do this.  I aim for 5AM during the week and 6AM on the weekends.  I need this time to get myself together spiritually, emotionally and sometimes physically.  I like to use this time to have my quiet time, listen to music I like or an audio book and just get a head start on my day.  If we're headed out the door first thing in the morning, I like to be ready before I start getting my kids ready.  Trying to get everyone ready at the same time just doesn't work for us.

Coffee and Quiet Time
This kind of fits in to the previous habit and kind of not.  I program my coffee maker the night before so I can pour a cup as soon as I get up.  For my quiet time, I use the following apps, but read in my Bible.
First 5 by Proverbs 31 
I like the app ALOT.  The scripture readings take you through books of the Bible and the commentary is so good.

She Reads Truth
Skip the app on this one.  I don't like that they charge you to read the plans when you can go to the website and do it for free.  

Tidy the Downstairs
The main floor of our house is one big open space which I love, but if part of it is cluttered it all feels cluttered.  So before I go to bed I like to have all the dishes done and the clutter picked up.  It makes me kind of crabby to come downstairs to a mess.  

15-20 Minute Clean 
I literally set my timer for 10 or 15 minutes and just clean.  For example, this afternoon I set my timer for 10 minutes and vacuumed, dry mopped and then mopped the floor of the master bathroom.  Then I set my timer for 5 minutes and did the kids' bathroom.  I can't stick to a do this on this day routine and Fly Lady makes me crazy, but this works.  During the school year, this kind of helps me reset from work to home.  Other 15 minutes jobs include cleaning bathrooms, dusting, de-cluttering, mirrors and glass, kitchen appliances, furniture.  

Supervise Kid Chores
My kids help with the following list of chores.  They alternate the unloading of the dishwasher each day and the other things are assigned as needed.  They typically do one or two chores per day.

  • Unloading the dishwasher
  • Vacuuming downstairs
  • Pet Care - feeding, watering, walking
  • Dusting
  • Mopping
  • Emptying trash cans and taking trash to and from the curb
  • Cleaning the vanity and mirror in their bathroom

Eat a Frog I make sure that I make sure and take care of the most pressing item on my to do list first.  During the school year, I have a school list and home list and sometimes two frogs to eat.  I try to take care of this before I do anything else.  I'm a natural procrastinator so I have to work hard at this habit.

Sort all the Paper
Ugh.  I really try to file all the paper as soon as it comes in the house.  Some goes straight into the trash or recycling.  Some goes in my to shred box.  Other pieces go in the kiddos baskets or keepsake boxes.  I keep important documents in an accordian file for the year.  Some things I even take pictures of.  I just can't stand piles of paper, which is ironic because my classroom is a hot mess of paper :/

One Load of Laundry Start to Finish
Pretty self explanatory.  If I'm home for most of the day I try to do laundry throughout the day.  I can't handle laundry piles.  I just can't do it.

War Room
This movie had such an impact on my faith walk.  I'll do a detailed post on this some day, but for now the main idea is that I spend focused, intentional time praying specific prayers.  I don't have a closet to spare for this...yet so I have all my prayers in a notebook and just try to find a quiet place wherever I can.  I don't always do this in the morning.  I like to, but it's more of an as needed habit.

One on One Time with Each Kiddo
Sometimes this is easy and other times I have to really work to make it happen.  My daughter likes to do everything with me and that lends itself to lots of one on one time.  I have to draw out my son a little more.  We take bike rides together, watch funny videos together and I try to read with him every night before bed.  And when I sense that he really has alot on his mind, I also make him run an errand with me.  There's something about being in the car together that opens up conversation.  

Do Something Nice for...Myself, My Family & My House

I borrowed this habit from my pastor.  This never looks the same, but here's an example from today.  
Self - writing
Family - Organized play dates for my kiddos and re-arranged my schedule to take care of an errand for my husband
House - Washed and dried all the throw rugs

Yesterday (Sunday)
Self - took a hot bath after a super long day and read in the tub for 10 minutes
Family - Made a fun treat, helped my husband with an outdoor project 
House - Fixed my living room curtains after looking at them and disliking them since I put them up THREE years ago!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Ugliness of Step Mom Jealousy

A couple days ago, the oldest two kids were spending the night with my parents and the younger two were with their mom.  These nights without any kiddos in the house are few and far between.  I was excited for an awesome date night.

We went to try a little hole in the wall place in town.  All was well and we were having a great time.  And then... my husband saw this poster advertising their Saturday special.  And then...he commented on how much the younger two would enjoy that.  And then...he was making plans to take them there on Saturday.  And then...I just wasn't enjoying the evening any more.  At all.

My husband sensed it.  He asked me about it.  These feelings are impossible to express and equally impossible to just let go of.  How do you tell your husband that you're jealous of his children?  You don't.  You say something else or you try to just get over it.

Maybe this seems silly to you, but it's not just the planning ahead for Saturday with the kids on date night.  It's the often feeling like you're an outsider when the kids are with their dad.  It's feeling rejected when the kids always ask for their dad to do things for them.  It's raising my kids one way on their time and standing on the side lines when the step kids arrive.  It's doing all the mom things and receiving very little of the mom affection or appreciation.  It's having every day interrupted by the bio mom in one way or another.  It's not being able to celebrate your anniversary on your anniversary because it's my husband's weekend with his children.  It's other people not understanding why one week we bring one set of kids to church and the next week a different set.

You see, it's. all. the. things.

And I can cope for a long time and then a couple of comments on date night do me in and all the ugly feelings want to spill out, but I can't really share with my husband or it does more harm than good.

So, instead I pray ALOT.  I have a couple of good friends who listen without judgment.  I have a sister who understands my need to really vent once in a while.  I write.  I go to a step moms meet up and every so often I even go to counseling.

Step mom life can be so hard.  No one talks about that because no one except step moms really understands.

So struggling step mom, know that I get it.  I so get it.

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Black Dog

I have struggled with depression on and off for most of my adult life.  Sometimes the black dog comes when I least expect it and begins to bark sharply at me.  Other times,  I can recognize the black dog in the distance and I do everything I can to shoo him away.  I don't much care for the black dog.  I love most dogs and I have two of my own, but I'd rather this one leave me alone.

The summer after my freshman year of college I decided to stay on campus and take summer classes.  I was afraid to go home.  Many things in my life had changed and I just didn't want to face all my high school friends.  I tried very hard to stay busy, but I was terribly lonely and ended up going home almost every weekend anyway.  I spent most of my time with my family.  I was carrying around some pretty heavy feelings and felt unable to talk to anyone, but didn't want to be alone.

Fast forward to the fall and I was hurting very badly.   I felt completely alone.  I made decisions that I regretted and that regret made me feel worse.  I didn't know who to talk to or what to do.  I slept whenever I wasn't in class or at work.  Most of the time I felt like I was walking around in a fog.  Eventually one of my friends lovingly confronted me and helped me get back on track.  To this day I am thankful that she didn't just feel sorry for me or wait for me to get better.  She loved me enough to do something.  She helped me find my way back to myself and ultimately to the truth of God's Word.

A few years later, I was in my third year of teaching when the black dog snuck up on me.  I was completely overwhelmed.  My job had been consuming my whole life for a long time and I bounced back and forth between loving it and resenting it.  I was newly married, but I spent most week nights alone since we worked opposite shifts.  When we did have time together, I was made to feel like I wasn't enough.  It was a perfect storm.  Eventually it became too easy to call in sick to work on a semi-regular basis and write sub plans rather than trying to face the day.  My administrators never called me out on my absences, but others noticed and that just sent me deeper in to feelings of self-loathing.  That time, I went on medication.  I needed to be able to go to work and I needed to feel better.  I knew that without the medication, I was headed to a very dark place and that scared me.

The medication made me feel more normal, less empty, more like myself.  I was able to finish the school year strong and I never said a word to anyone even my husband.  Structure and routine helped, forming new friendships helped and I went off medication.  That time I thought that I had beat depression for good.  I was convinced that my depression was situational and nothing more.

Fast forward many years.  I had two children.  I survived almost a decade of being married to someone who was capable of living two lives.  I discovered deep, painful secrets about my husband's other life.  Eventually, my marriage ended.  In the middle of all of that, my oldest child was struggling in school.  It took everything I had just to get him out of bed and ready for school every day.  One would think that would send the black dog running at full speed, but that's not what happened at all.

I was a single mom.  There was no choice but to keep moving forward.  My family and friends rallied around me.  I found a good Christian counselor.  My goal during that period was to emerge from that mess better, not bitter.  To place every one of my ugly feelings in God's hands.  To seek healing and wholeness.  To find a place where I could forgive my ex-husband.  All those things happened.  Not over night, but eventually.

This is what I learned about myself.  I am prone to depression.  I know that it runs in my family.  I know what causes the black dog to enter my life.  I have to work to keep him away.

  • When I look at the darkness.  That's all I see and everything around me gets darker and darker.  I have to choose to look for light because the light drives away the darkness.  
  • I don't do stress well.  Stress makes everything feel bigger than it is.  Stress makes me physically sick.  When I know that it's a stressful teaching season, I show myself grace and let ALOT of things go.
  • I have to practice really good self care.  Starting my day early in peaceful quiet before I am hit head on with the needs of my family is essential.  Daily Bible reading and prayer are essential.  Keeping my house in functional order is essential.  Being intentional about maintaining friendships is essential.  
  • Most importantly, I have to surrender all the worries and hurt feelings and unmet expectations and fears to Jesus.  I just have to let it go and let Him handle it because if I don't, I will overthink it all into a dark place.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Best Advice My Mom Ever Gave Me

A few weeks after I returned to work after being home with my newborn daughter and my two year old son, I had a meltdown moment with my mom.  A moment where I told her that it was all too much.  Being a mom of two kids under the age of two.  The lack of sleep.  The full-time teaching job.  Keeping a house together.  Grocery shopping. Errands.  

She listened and then she said these powerful words.  Since that moment, I have learned to show myself grace and to let go of my own over the top expectations.  

My mom always worked full-time.  She wasn't giving me advice about something that she didn't know about.  She had been there.  More than once.  

I still have PLENTY of moments where I feel overwhelmed.  Mom life is non-stop. My older kids are now 9 and 7 which means I sleep more and they are fairly independent.  The time investment looks different in many ways, but it's still a significant investment.

Some days I have it all together.  Our house looks decent.  I try a new recipe. The laundry is caught up.  The reading minutes are done.  The backpacks are cleaned out.  My kids eat a wholesome breakfast.

Other days I make it to work in the nick of time.  My kids eat cereal for breakfast and take out or frozen pizza for dinner.  The house looks like a bomb went off.  

And both are okay.  

Friday, September 11, 2015

Why I'm Getting Up Earlier

I really am a morning person.  Deep down I know it is better for me to get up before the rest of my house. All that said, I have been struggling in this area.  Badly.  

During the school year, the absolute latest I can sleep and get all of us to school on time is 5:40am.  What time have I gotten up most of the 100+ days of the current school year?  5:40am.  Not good.  Every night I set my alarm for 5:00.  Every morning I hit snooze until 5:40.  

Weekends are worse.  For a long time I have been waking up to my kids on Saturday and Sunday.  7am or 8am or maybe even later.  I love them to pieces, but waking up to a constant stream of requests is not so pleasant.  It does not create a great tone for the day.  Not at all.  

Summers are just down right embarrassing.  Let's not even talk about that...

When I think about changing bad habits, this is #1 on my list.  I have to train myself to be an early riser.  

What's working for me...

1--I plug my iPhone in in the master bathroom and set my alarm for 5am.  I'm on day 4 and I've done pretty good so far.  Minus the snow day and the sick day this week.  But, progress is progress.  When my alarm goes off I turn on the light, start the shower, count to 10 (seriously), and then turn off the alarm.  

2--Going to bed by 9:30 or 10pm.  I read a little and then try to shut down for the night by 10:30.  

Today, even though it was Saturday I got up at 5:15.  Here's a list of everything I accomplished today:
  • Showered, dressed, dried part of my hair
  • Bible study, coffee
  • Graded 3 assignments @ 20 students/assignment
  • Started the dishwasher
Kids up at 7am
  • Breakfast for kiddos
  • Helped Miss G with her Hello Kitty sticker project
  • Finished getting ready to go take care of a couple errands
  • Washed and dried sheets
  • Started second load of sheets
  • Wrote long email to my student teacher outlining the week
  • Went to Target to take care of Valentine's Day stuff
  • Went to the local library to re-stock on books
  • Lunch
  • Read with the littles for 45 minutes
  • Helped littles pick up living room
  • Helped littles find activities for rest time
  • Outlined and posted lesson plans for the week
  • Snack
  • 2 more loads of laundry
  • Cleaned 2 toilets
  • Dinner in the crock pot
  • Unloaded and re-started the dishwasher
  • Helped Miss G address and put together half of her Valentines
  • Re-organized/cleaned out our mud room drop spot
  • Spent 30 minutes cleaning out the basement
  • Dinner
  • Unloaded and re-started the dishwasher again.
  • Cleaned up from dinner.
  • Read to littles again
  • Put littles to bed.
  • Updated blog
I am so impressed with myself!  Usually I wouldn't accomplish half the things on this list during the whole weekend.  

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Teacher Mom Rant

I have been a high school teacher for fourteen years....2 schools....probably a dozen different classes....upwards of 2,500 different students.  I LOVE what I do.  I have had the opportunity to teach some great kids.  I've also taught plenty of at-risk students.  Students who carry heavy burdens.  Students who are raising their younger siblings because mom and dad are home, but can't (or won't) parent.  Students who face significant challenges just to get to school every day.

Then there are all of my special education students.  Students who work so hard to learn how to to learn.  Students who will re-take test after test just to improve by a couple of points.  Students who would give anything to know what it feels like for school to be easy.  I have always felt copious amounts of empathy for my students who struggle.  I try hard to encourage them.  I search for ways to modify strategies for them.  I try to figure out the source of their behavior.  I try not to judge.  I learn from them.

I'm now raising a child with high functioning autism and an IEP.  A precious boy who loves tractors, Matchbox cars, playing in the dirt and mud, farming with his Papa, and creating incredible Lego projects.  A little boy who loves watching funny You Tube videos, tormenting his sister, riding his bike, and tries desperately to make friends and feel like he belongs.

A boy who currently hates school.  A boy who carries a behavior plan in his folder.  A boy who other kiddos just can't quite understand.  A boy with a winning smile who loves to tell jokes.  A boy who can give me directions to his grandparents house an hour away from the backseat.  A boy who consistently scores two grades ahead in reading and two grades behind in math.  A boy who will most likely never fit the mold in a traditional classroom.  A boy who needs his teacher to try and understand where he is coming from and why.

The lines have blurred for me.  I want what is best for my son.  I want his teacher to want to try and understand.  I want his teacher to see all his strengths.  I want his teacher to offer encouragement and find ways to reach him.  I want my son to like school, to have friends and to achieve goals.

As a mama who loves her son, it breaks my heart when education professionals try to hammer those square pegs into round holes.  The sad news is all too often, the square pegs only fit when they break.  My son breaks a little every day when he is nit picked over minor behaviors.  He breaks a little every time you are quick to point out his mistakes, but fail to acknowledge his strengths.  He breaks a little more when all you see is a behavior and not a person.

We have to do better.  We have to see the worth in EACH child.  We have to be willing to search for the cause of the behavior and do our best to problem solve solutions that protect children's dignity.  We have to treat EACH child like they are someone else's entire world.  Because they are.  Please.