Friday, February 26, 2010

Small details

1. I can't stop tinkering with the layout & look of my blog. I tend to obsess over weird, inconsequential details. For instance, I spent a good amount of time yesterday trying to straighten a picture hanging on my living room wall but was able to completely ignore the dust on that picture (and all over the rest of the living room for that matter). It's that way with the blog - I can't seem to get the look I'm really going for. It's like trying to straighten a picture on the wall that is making me crazy. Maybe nobody else even notices, but I can't stop obsessing. So, I keep trying different things. I think I need more template choices. I know I could import some from other sites, but then I'd REALLY be in trouble.

I also spent a good amount of time worrying about my blog title. First I had it listed as 'Stair Step Boys'. Then, I wondered if stair & step should really be 2 words or just one. Also, would people think I was talking about step-children, or would they realize these are my own children? Do other people even know what the term stairstep means? (Granted, I do explain it in the 'about me' section). So, I decided to change it to one word, 'Stairstep', but I'm still second-guessing myself. According to the dictionary it's not even a word.

2. I talked to my mom this morning. She mentioned that she had checked out the blog. She commented that it seems I still really enjoy writing. Which I do!

"I also see," she said, "that you've given up Facebook for Lent."


"But, how much time are you spending on your blog?"

Um...well... Ok, so I still spend a lot of time on the computer. But, I see the blog as at least having some value. I guess I'm justifying it as an appropriate use of time by way of helping me maintain my sanity.

3. School was closed today due to snow and high winds. My son, Wyatt, was thrilled that he didn't have to go to school. This is about the 4th snow day they've had so far this year. I asked him if he realized that he will have to make up these snow days.

"What?!" He looked at me incredulously.

I explained to him that a school year must be 180 days. And, that they will either tack days on to the end of the year or they will go to school on other days they were supposed to have off.

"That's not fair."

I felt kind of bad that I popped his bubble just a bit.

4. Last night I almost caved in to a craving for something sweet. I love to bake. But, I haven't been baking since Lent began since I didn't want to have temptation right in front of me. However, my husband and boys were still looking for dessert & suggested that maybe I could bake something for them.

So, I made oatmeal raisin bars. They came out of the oven just as we were finishing eating dinner. My husband had to go away for the night. The boys were especially rammy. And, I was pretty stressed. So, he arranged for the oldest 3 to visit at Grandma & Grandpa's house for about an hour. This left me alone in the house with Baby Joseph...and those warm oatmeal, raisin bars.

They smelled heavenly. They looked delightful. And, it had been a stressful day. Sweets are always my go-to comfort item. Those bars were calling my name. And, really, aren't they almost the same thing as baked oatmeal? If I just thought of them as baked oatmeal, then they wouldn't really count as a sweet, right?

I am pleased to say that I resisted. It was hard, but I did it. This was my first real temptation since starting Lent, so I'm not doing too badly. I'm just not sure that I'm going to be baking for my family again any time in the near future.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Clothing dilemna

Today I was trading out Joseph's 0-3 month clothes for his 3-6 month clothes. Even though he is only 2 months old, he is like my other boys in that he outgrows his clothes early. This was bittersweet for me. After having 4 boys we feel our family is complete. Barring any surprises that God could have in store for us, we don't plan to have any more children. So, this is the last time that I will ever pack up those 0-3 month clothes. This time I'm not putting them back in the attic knowing that I'll use them again.

This feels so strange and a little sad to me. At the same time, it also signals the start of a new chapter in our family's life. Once Joseph has moved through the baby stage, we will be done completely with that stage, never to experience it again. And, I suppose the sweet part of this new chapter is that there is a light at the end of the tunnel of sleep deprivation, diapers, and nursing. As precious as each moment is, there is also the promise that someday my body will be my own again, my husband and I will be able to have a complete conversation, and I will be able to rediscover things that I enjoy as my children become more and more independent.

So, what do I do with these clothes, now that we are done with them? Many were hand me downs from friends to start. Plus, now four of my own children have worn them. Many things are stained or worn or just outdated. There are still some nice pieces. Do I save them for my sisters for when they have their own children? (Of course there is no guarantee they'll even have boys). Do I bag them up and take them to Goodwill? Do I wait until the summer months & have a yard sale? Or, do I hang on to them in case we ever do have 'a surprise'? (My husband's answer to the last one is a resounding "No!") It remains to be seen.

Lent Update (Day 8): I am actually noticing a difference in the way my body feels since banishing candy & dessert from my diet. I feel pretty good! I notice that I'm not having the mid-afternoon crash that I had been experiencing. And, I feel lighter. Unfortunately, the scale hasn't really moved down yet. But, it has stopped moving up! Sarah over on Clover Lane has an interesting post today on sugar detoxing. She has eliminated sugar almost entirely from her and her family's diet. I'm not sure I could carry it out to the extreme that she has, but her post definitely had some great points. While you're over there, she also had a post yesterday on how she initiated healthier eating overall with her family. Good stuff.
Oh, and Facebook? I miss seeing other people's posts. But, I really haven't been missing the virtual zoo & fish games we were playing ( they ate up most of my time too!). My boys miss the games though. They've asked several times if we could log on to facebook so they could play. I think they are slowly getting used to the idea that my answer will be 'no' until 40 days have gone by. Maybe they'll even forget about them by then.

Some topics I'm thinking about including in some upcoming posts are 'Frugal Living & what that means for our family', 'The Rambunctiousness of Boys. Help Me!', 'How Much TV is too much?', 'How to Encourage our children to take part in family chores.', and 'Gardening Fever'. Stay tuned, because I'd love to read you comments & ideas on each of these topics as well!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What a difference a day makes

Well, I'm happy to say that I'm in a much better mood than I was yesterday. I don't really have a good explanation for this other than it must still be some postpartum hormone fluctuation. When my husband came home for lunch today (Yes, I'm very lucky that my husband works very close by and comes home for lunch every day!) he asked how my day was. I told him it's actually a good day unlike the day before. "I was miserable yesterday," I said. "Yes. You were," he agreed. Well, at least he's truthful.

So, being in a better mood, I'm taking inventory of some changes I'd like to make in our house to hopefully make it a bit more homey.

First, we have this corner of our living room. We have a very small living room with barely enough room for our sofa and love seat. Right now I have an old victrola cabinet I bought years ago at an auction in the corner. But, this is the only space where I can feasibly fit a bookshelf. I would like something that is tall, and probably black. I'm thinking of checking out Ikea since they usually have cool, reasonably priced stuff.

Here is why we need a bookshelf. Currently I have books shoved on the bottom two shelves of our corner cabinet in the living room. As you can see, the top two shelves contain our china, my vintage glasses & punch bowl, and some of my grandmother's antique serving platters. I'd like to be able to display these items a bit better & use all the shelving for that purpose.

This is the area in our kitchen/dining room where I'm considering moving the old victrola cabinet. This is the area between our front door & a window. Notice the plastic piece covering a hole in the wainscoting. There used to be an old, rather ugly propane heater here which my husband removed. (Our home was built & owned by an Old Order Mennonite family before my husband bought it. There was no electricity. And, the heating was by way of the propane heaters in various rooms, and radiator heat supplied by a furnace. We still use the radiators, but removed all the propane heaters). We haven't repaired that area of wainscoting yet, so I'm thinking the cabinet would hide it nicely.

Finally, here is a bench that I purchased at a yard sale last year. We have it under our food cabinet facing the kitchen. It has worked out nicely because my husband can sit there and talk to me while I'm preparing dinner. The down side is that the children use it to climb up and look in the food cabinet for snacks. The bench is definitely weathered & I'm trying to decide if I want to sand it down and stain it or paint it. If I do paint it, what color would I use?

So, these are couple of projects that I'd like to tackle. I'll post pictures of the 'after' looks when I'm done.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A New Look

I've been playing around a bit with my blog. I was curious about how people went about creating really cool looking headers for their blogs using pictures & designs. Well, I found a blog that explained how to do this using Picasa. The directions are straightforward and easy to follow even for a non-techy like me. Check out the blog Clover Lane to see how it's done. I'll probably still play around with it a bit, but I like how it looks for now.

Today has been one of those days when I'm feeling what I suppose is some lingering postpartum depression. I can't really put a finger on the heaviness although there are some good doses of guilt and frustration mixed in. It was just a few days ago in my post titled "Parenthood" that I discussed the importance of enjoying my children and spending time with them instead of getting wrapped up in my To Do List. It sounds good on paper anyway. I've just been feeling so stressed by the everyday demands of caring for four boys and trying to keep house that I really have been missing out on the joy of parenthood. I'm just not sure how to change my mindset.
Comparison is one of my downfalls. I look at other mothers around me (or moms on blogs) and I always feel like I fall short. Other moms seem to have clean, orderly, well-decorated homes. Other moms seem to be thinner, hipper, and better dressed than me. Other moms seem to have more patience for their children, time for their husband, and passion for God. How do they do it? Enter in frustration & guilt.

I'm not sure I have had any huge revelation on how to change all this around. This has been an on-going struggle for me. Sometimes I feel like I have a grip on it & sometimes it definitely has a grip on me. So, I continue to pray and to seek God.

On an entirely different note, I am considering posting the birth story of Baby Joseph. After each of my boys was born I wrote down the details of their birth. I started Joseph's story, but here it is almost 2 months later and I haven't finished it. I thought that if I give myself a deadline for posting it on here that it will motivate me to finish it. So, stay tuned. My goal is to have the story finished and posted in the next week.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Random Monday Thoughts

- So, my husband and I watched the Canada/USA Olympic hockey game last night. I was actually a little sad that the Canadians didn't win. Is that unpatriotic of me? Anyway, it was an exciting game and both teams played all-out. Once again I'm perplexed. Why isn't ice hockey more popular here in the U.S.? It's a thousand times more interesting to watch than football in my book. Go figure.

- I had to run to the store today with the 3 boys who are at home during the day. I had been grocery shopping on Friday. But, I should have gotten a bigger pack of diapers for Baby Joseph! Grrr. It can be really frustrating to constantly need to run to the store because I forgot something or didn't get enough of it the previous time. And, there's no such thing as a quick run to the store when you have small children in tow! Our diaper run took about 45 minutes...and the store is just about a minute down the road!

- Related to my grocery store run is a pet peeve of mine. I hesitate to mention this because, after all, 'peeve' is the root word for 'peevish'. And, I would hate to come across as peevish. But, here it is... Why do they need to give me 3 separate bags for 4 items???!!! I bought milk, diapers (they were out of the mega box, so once again I was buying one of the smaller packs...which probably means ANOTHER diaper run later this week), a large container of yogurt, and a box of Poptarts. I am not even kidding that my cashier put the diapers in one bag, the yogurt in one bag, and the Poptarts in another bag! Perhaps this is my fault on 2 different levels. 1. I have the eco-friendly reusable grocery totes, but I almost always forget to bring them to the store with me. 2. Usually, if I see the cashier bagging things in a ridiculous number of bags, I'll ask them to put more in one bag. But, today, I wasn't really paying attention and by the time I was done paying it was just easier to grab my bags and go. But, seriously, am I the only one this happens to? Does it bug anyone else?

- Day 6 of Lent Update - I think I'm missing sweets more than I'm missing Facebook. I'm trying to come up with healthier alternatives to satisfy my sweet tooth. I've been nibbling on raisins, dried pineapple chunks (which are actually very sugary), and fresh fruit. Plus today I tried vanilla yogurt topped with granola cereal. Yummy. But, I really miss chocolate! As far as my Facebook alternatives, there's this blog, I've been reading an actual book, and I've been trying to find other new blogs to read. If you have a blog, or a favorite blog you like to read, please post a comment with the blog listed & I'll check it out!

Friday, February 19, 2010


There is a commercial on TV right now for a new show that will be coming out soon called "Parenthood". I really don't know much about the show other than that the commercial really gets me each time I see it. It goes something like this...The word 'parenthood' flashes on the screen soon followed by the words 'is too short'. Cue the song 'Forever Young' (which by itself almost always makes me cry) and clips of the show where parents are interacting with their children of various ages. I get a lump in my throat every single time.

First I need to say that I disagree slightly with the commercial, but only on the semantic level. Parenthood can't really be 'too short' because parenthood never really ends. From the moment of becoming a mother or father, you are changed forever. Something inside shifts and completely alters your outlook on life. You will always be a parent. But, I understand what they mean and what they are trying to get across. That period of time that we have as parents where our children depend on us completely for nurture and guidance is so short. We raise our children, we hope and pray we have prepared them for life, and although we are always there for them, they will move on into the blink of an eye.

My children are still very young, but I see how swiftly the last 6 1/2 years have gone. Wasn't it just yesterday that my husband and I were bringing home our firstborn from the hospital? It was just a moment ago that we were oohing and aahing over his first steps and first words. Now he's in first grade and reading books! He's gotten old enough to have his own opinions and thoughts. And, he's been joined by 3 brothers who are just as quickly moving through the different stages of childhood.

Today at my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group I was talking to another MOPS mom who is as close to being in the exact same stage of motherhood as me as anyone can be. Her fourth child was born just two weeks after my fourth. And, our other children are very similar in age too. She mentioned a book she recently read and said the thing from this book that stuck out to her was the question, 'Why do you want to be a stay home mom?' Her answer was 'to be with her children'. And, she said that this challenged her to remember that as she went through her days.

This really struck a chord with me as well. I get so caught up in the busy-ness of daily life. Everyone needs to be fed, dressed, and cared for. There are 2 sets of diapers to be changed (2 year old and infant), laundry to be done, dishes to be washed, floors to be swept, bills to be paid, etc., etc. And, each day as a SAHM I get up and do the same things again. It never all gets done and there seems to be no end in sight. I get stressed and frustrated that I can't seem to keep a clean and orderly house. 95% of the time if someone dropped in unexpectedly I'd be embarrassed by the state of my home.

And yet, this means nothing to my children. All they know is that they want and need mommy. With the addition of our baby Joseph, who requires so much of my time, the older boys are starting to feel the effects. They are missing their time with mommy. And, then I put pressure on myself to get stuff around the house done. There's a constant 'to do' list running in my head. I find myself frequently saying to my children, "Just a minute", "Mommy needs to finish this first", "I'll come help you after I get this done". I've realized that I'm pushing my children aside more and more frequently.

Yes, there are still chores to be done. But, would my children prefer I mop the floor or play a game with them? Would they rather I prepare a 'from scratch' meal or sit with them as they read a book or watch a show? Which will they remember?
And, when my children reach that age where they are too old to sit on my lap, will I care about the clutter & dust that was in my house while they were small? Or, will I long to return to the time when I can hold them? Am I being purposeful in my motherhood? Am I enjoying my children in the stage they are in now?

This time really is too short.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Man, could I go for a piece of chocolate

My husband is away tonight at a men's meeting. I'm home alone with all four boys. I could REALLY use a piece of chocolate right now...

This is the 2 year old son Charlie.

This is the crime. Granted, I did tell him to go get a tissue. And, up until a week ago when I bought actual tissues we did use toilet paper as tissues. Still, this was not what I expected to see when walking into the downstairs bathroom.

By the way, here is my man clan. The man in the clan is my husband John. The man children in order from smallest to largest are, Joseph, Charlie, Edison, and Wyatt.

And, on a completely separate topic...Here is another goal of mine during the next 40 days. It is to declutter. An idea I saw recently was to dispose of, donate, etc. 40 bags of stuff in 40 days. Well, after going through the boys' drawers & pulling out clothes they don't wear along with stained and ripped clothing, this is what we have. The local Goodwill also takes the stained and ripped stuff & sends it to a place which recycles clothing. This pile of bags also includes 2 full bags of magazines that were laying around which I donated to the local library. They take used magazines and books for their annual book sale. It feels so good to let go of things that are just taking up space. I can't wait to fill some more bags. Next up: my closet & dresser.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

40 Days

I am not Catholic, nor have I ever been Catholic. I grew up in a very conservative Brethren in Christ church. And, now, my husband and I attend a more evangelical, charismatic church. Something that we Protestants don't seem to focus on too much is Lent. Oh, we love Fastnacht Day (aka Fat Tuesday) here in our area which is known for it's Mennonite and Amish community & culture. But, we pretty much leave the rest of the Lenten season up to our Catholic brothers and sisters.

This year however, I decided to recognize the Lenten period by going the traditional route of giving up something. I had only done this once before years earlier when I gave up caffeine during Lent. (Trust me. It was brutal.) I mentioned in an earlier post that I was considering giving up something this year of great importance to me...Facebook. And, yes, I've decided to do it! I'm giving up Facebook during Lent. I've also decided to give up sweets (desserts, candy, pastries). Sounds crazy doesn't it? Either Facebook or sweets alone would be brutal. Combined? Mommy may not be the easiest person to live with for the next few weeks. But, notice, I am NOT giving up at least there's that.

But why? Why have I decided to recognize a religious event that is largely ignored by us Protestants? Well, the surface answer is that I want to take some time to recognize the suffering that Jesus endured on our behalf. I have chosen to give up two things that have become more important to me than they probably should be.

Facebook, while a way for me as a SAHM to stay connected and not feel alone, has also become a huge time-waster. I am actually rather obsessive about checking it multiple times during the day. On top of that, my sons and I have gotten sucked into some of the games applications available on Facebook (Zoo World & Fishville to be exact)and that eats up even more time. Plus, I don't like the fact that my boys are mirroring my obsession with checking our virtual zoo or fish tank.

As far as the sweets go, it's another area where I can't seem to exercise moderation. And, I'm never really satisfied after noshing on candy, or pie, or ice cream or whatever other indulgence is available. And, the fact that it's 7 weeks since my youngest son was born and the scale is threatening to go higher than it was WHILE I WAS PREGNANT is also a clue that something needs to change.

Both Facebook and sweets are things that I have been turning to when I am bored, frustrated, overwhelmed, stressed, etc. As a SAHM with 4 boys ages 6 & under, that can be frequent. And, I never feel better afterwards. So many times I feel worse. These things which should be and can be enjoyable are becoming a negative in my life. So, I feel God is asking me to turn away from them for a period of time and turn instead to Him.

But, here's the interesting thing about Lent that as a Protestant I didn't really realize. Lent lasts for a period of 40 days - from Ash Wednesday (right after Fastnacht Day!) until Palm Sunday. Now, 40 days of fasting is something which we Protestants can somewhat understand. After all Jesus was called into the desert for 40 days during which he fasted and Satan attempted to test him. The Israelites spent 40 years wandering in their own wilderness. 40 is a significant number and marks periods of time that are often times of testing & trial, but also time of preparation.

And, there we have the BIG reason that I've decided to celebrate Lent this year. I am hoping and praying that these 40 days will be a time of preparation. I want to prepare my heart and mind for what God has in store for my life, my husband's life, and for our family. I have been feeling the nudge to pray for my husband over the last few months and that God would give him vision. John has always been very missions minded. As a matter of fact, shortly after we first met he left for a year-long missions trip to Nairobi, Kenya. He had always felt he had direction and vision up to that point. But, since marrying and starting a family, his attention has been consumed with providing for his family and the daily busy-ness of life. He is longing for a clear vision again.

Praying this for my husband can be scary, because I'm not sure what vision God might give him. Also, I tend to be worrier and I'm not a huge fan of change. Ok - I deal with change kicking and screaming. So, if I am going to ask God for this, I also need to ask for Him to prepare my heart. And there you have it.

Will this be easy? Probably not. Are there potentially great rewards? Absolutely. I plan to keep you posted here and there on how I'm doing on this Lenten journey. I don't anticipate that my updates will always be particularly spiritual, but hopefully they will be honest. For now, I'm going to go nibble on some banana chips and raisins to help satisfy my sweet tooth!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I'm Not Stubborn...much

I'm really not a stubborn person. At least I don't think I am. I'm just someone on whom reverse psychology works really well. If you tell me something can't be done, I'm going to find a way to do it. Let me explain the situation that led to this self-analysis.

My oldest son was finally returning to school after 3 snow days last week and a holiday yesterday. Iit was definitely time for all of us to return to our normal routine. Well, as I looked out the front window this morning I realized that, although my husband had shoveled a path from our house to our van, we had never cleared a path to the front gate where the bus picks up my son. Keep in mind that we had 2 storm systems that dumped an accumulated total of over 2 feet of snow. In addition there had been drifting. Plus, the snowplows had pushed a good deal of snow up against our fence and gate.

Nonetheless, it's a relatively short path from our front porch to the gate and I figured it was do-able. So, I called my husband to find out where the snow shovel was. When I called him he told me that the snow in front of the gate had frozen solid and he didn't think I was going to be able to shovel it out. He said he'd tackle it sometime later today, but that for this morning Wyatt would just have to wait for the bus farther down. He didn't even tell me where the shovel was.

Well! That was like throwing down a gauntlet! Let me tell you about something similar that had happened years earlier when I was single and moving into a new apartment. My room-mate and I had asked a couple guys we knew to help us with the move. I had a bulky, heavy sofa that we had to get up to our second floor apartment. The guys got stuck coming around the bend in the staircase & tried to maneuver it around, but gave up, left the sofa where it was and went upstairs declaring that the sofa would never make it up those stairs. Who are you kidding?! I needed my sofa! So, while everyone else was upstairs talking I went back to the sofa, and by myself!, I wiggled it around the corner and moved it inch my inch up the stairs until I had the sofa at the top. Ha!

So, this morning that same determination kicked in. I put on my snowboots, found the shovel, and went out there to tackle the snow. The path part was easy. The snow was deep but easy to move. Chipping out an area around the gate & fence was a little harder, but I did it! And, my son was able to get on the bus at his normal spot. Now, I can't wait until my husband comes home for lunch and sees what I accomplished. Am I proud of myself? You betcha!

Monday, February 15, 2010

One of Those Days

Today is one of those days I find myself spinning my wheels. I have a long list of things I'd like to accomplish, but everything I start something one of my boys needs me or there is some new dispute to resolve. It doesn't make it any easier that my oldest son is home from school for President's Day after having 3 snow days last week! We're all getting on each other's nerves. Fortunately, my husband took Wyatt along on a delivery he had to make, so for a couple hours I just have the 3 other boys.

The bad thing about days like this is that I feel so unable to focus and when I do have that spare moment I end up checking Facebook (rather obsessively actually) or surfing for some other info on the internet. I've come to the conclusion that the computer, while a blessing, can also be a curse. With this blog I'm trying to be more purposeful in my computer time. I actually feel like writing here holds some value (as per the sentiments I voiced in my very first post). But, I'm considering giving up Facebook (the main culprit for wasting my time on the computer) for a period of 40 days...over Lent actually. Can I do it? I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

My Kind of Sports

I don't really care for sports. You won't find me getting excited about baseball, football, or basketball. Actually, I find them all rather dull. But, we've been watching bits and pieces of the Winter Olympics in our house and I'm really enjoying it! The luge, downhill skiing, speed skating, snowboarding, etc. are actually exciting to watch. I think in general it's because it's more of an individual competition. Each person has a chance to shine, whereas in group sports the individual isn't as important. Anyway, the winter olympics = my kind of sports.

Two other quick thoughts for the day:

While we were watching parts of the couple's figure skating (which is not really my favorite by the always makes me nervous), my oldest son Wyatt was noticing the outfit of one of the female figure skaters. "Mom", he said. "That girls needs to cover her legs!" I guess he was concerned about her getting cold. :)

Also, today is Valentine's Day. My husband and boys got me a box of variety chocolates. You can never go wrong with chocolate in my book! And, being the nice mommy that I am, I shared my special chocolates with my family. The boys were trying to figure out which chocolate to pick. They realized each one was different, but they kept asking me how you know what's inside. I couldn't resist quoting Forrest Gump, 'Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.' Unfortunately I've had that line stuck in my head the remainder of the day. I guess that's what I get for feeling the need to use movie quotations any chance I get.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Did I mention I'm a procrastinator?

I'm playing around with my blog a bit. I'm fiddling with the layout, trying to figure out how to add more pictures, and reviewing my profile. I'm doing all this when there is mountain of laundry to be washed, chickens that still need to be fed, cupcakes to be baked, a floor to sweep, etc. etc. Yet, here I am in blogworld. So, I thought it only fair that you know this much about me...I am a very talented procrastinator!

She Read My Mind

Do you ever have days as a mother that you wish someone could read your mind? Well, I have them all the time...especially since I have a husband and sons who aren't exactly intuitive. I often find myself daydreaming that someone would miraculously know what I need and offer it to me no strings attached. Ah, bliss!

Well, today was one of those days that I REALLY wished this could happen. We've been more or less snowed in for a week. My 6 year old has been had school canceled the last 3 days. The boys were going stir crazy. I was going stir crazy! I was seriously chomping at the bit. I needed some time away from all of my little angels and away from my house.

Since I am a Facebook fanatic, I post pretty much everything that crosses my mind there. I mentioned in my posting this morning that I really needed time away. And guess what?! Someone read my mind. Well, technically my Facebook post tipped her off. But, my husband's cousin saw my post, told her mom about it, and, at 9 a.m. that wonderful woman called me and offered to come over with her daughters and niece to stay with my boys.

Can you hear the angels singing? I could! It was exactly what the doctor ordered for this burned out mommy. So, by 10 a.m., the reinforcements arrived with a pot of homemade potato soup and cookies for lunch. I escaped for 2 glorious hours. And, although I didn't do anything earth-shattering...I just ran to the bank and grocery store, it was awesome! When I returned, she had even folded my laundry.

Today I started my day feeling overwhelmed and burned out. But, now, I just feel blessed!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Going Away with Boys a.k.a. The Misadventures of my Life

We were invited to a birthday party/ superbowl party this past weekend by dear friends of ours. They graciously extended the invitation to our children as well. And, they assured us that their own daughter would be there and some other children too. Still, I was hesitant and nervous about taking my boys to this party. It has been my experience that going away with our children is often more stressful than it is fun.

Of course if we are going to an outdoor event where the boy-energy doesn't need to be contained, we're OK. And, usually, events involving family are relatively stress free as well. But, when we are planning an outing that requires a certain amount of decorum or, at the very least, behavior that does not include running, jumping, wrestling, yelling, farting, etc. I start to get nervous. It's not that my boys are poorly behaved necessarily (although this does come into play too sometimes), it's just that they are boys. And, 'bringing it down a notch' as I often request takes a great deal of effort on their part.

I hate to use the old adage, "Boys will be boys". That phrase can be used as a poor excuse for bad behavior. I do want my boys to be polite, considerate, well behaved young men. But, on the other hand, boys really are a breed of their own. I grew up with all sisters. And, although, I spent years and years working with children before becoming a mother, I was still completely taken aback by the reality of raising boys. It's exhausting! Exhilarating but exhausting.

So, when we go away with the boys, I feel like I spend the majority of my time being mommy-cop. I'm hyper-vigilant to make sure they aren't about to break anything, offend anyone, annoy anyone, or create a general ruckus. And, the end result is that I don't end up having very much fun. My husband is much more relaxed about the whole thing and doesn't even seem to notice the misdemeanors his boys are about to commit. As a matter of fact, he can often be the catalyst for some of the excitable behavior. He seems to enjoy getting other people's children wound up too - tossing them them in the air, turning them upside down. All the while, I'm tense...and feeling like I need to be apologizing perpetually for my man clan.

This leads into my dilemna. Do I just need to relax or do I need to instill better social skills into my children? They are young, but this is the best time to teach them, right? Sometimes it feels like it would just be easier to hide my head in the sand in regard to this issue and just avoid it altogether by not going away with our children. But, I don't believe that's the best solution either. So, for now, I tell my boys my expectations for their behavior and hope for the best.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Time Management or Something

We experienced our first major snowstorm this weekend. I do remember the excitement and joy I felt as a child when it snowed. I still experience that to some degree now. But, even so, I am always amazed at the sheer glee of my boys when it snows. I'm not exaggerating when I say that my oldest son was awake at 4:30 this morning and could barely be contained when he looked out his window and saw how much snow fell overnight. It didn't matter to him that it wasn't a decent hour of the morning yet and he actually became angry at my request that he go back to bed.

It didn't take much encouragement at all for them to suit up for some snow play when we adults finally did get around to waking up, getting dressed, and having breakfast. Quick as lightning our oldest two, who always seem to need my help on normal days with simple tasks such as putting on a shirt, had on their snow gear with no assistance from mom or dad and were out the door. My husband got himself and the two year old ready and soon followed them, leaving me and the baby alone for awhile. And, since we are fortunate enough that my husband's parents live just two doors down and love to have our boys visit, my husband returned minus children about an hour later.

Ah. A respite. A bit of time without the normal noise and chaos in the house. Granted, the baby is still at a stage where he requires quite a bit of my attention. But, still, having only one of the normal four offspring underfoot makes a huge difference in the amount of time I have 'to do something'. Which, brings me to my dilemna. What to do?!

Oh, I have no lack of options. There's certainly always cleaning and laundry and this would be a perfect opportunity to achieve some of those tasks that never seem to get done...such as cleaning the bathrooms or mopping the kitchen floor, or (ugh) dusting. But, what fun would that be? Perhaps I should do something that I enjoy such as baking or reading. Or maybe I should do something that I rarely get to do but always file away under the category of "when I get the time" in my perpetual 'to do' list in my head. After all, this would be a great time to organize or download some pictures or to tackle filing away those piles of paper that accumulate in various holding piles around the house. Maybe I should organize a closet or some drawers. Then again, since I am the mother of four, I am always exhausted. So, maybe a nap is in order.

What do I do with this precious commodity 'time'? And, this is my problem. I am terrible at time management. I am easily overwhelmed. And, I end up piddling away my time checking Facebook, doing some maintenance cleaning such as doing the dishes or picking up a few pieces of clutter. And, before you know it, that long stretch of time that I was so excited to have is gone. The boys will be back. The normal hubbub of the house will return. And, the opportunity will have passed.

Maybe I should just go play in the snow!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Here We Go!

In my single days I really enjoyed journaling. I enjoyed it so much that I filled journal book after journal book with my thoughts. Writing was very therapeutic for me. I could put a voice to my frustrations, my joys, my longings. And, when I took the time put thoughts on paper, those thoughts became less confused or random and I could actually start to make sense of everything that was crowding my mind.

I'm not sure why, but after I got married my journaling slowed down considerably. Maybe I thought that my husband would be my new sounding board & I wouldn't need to rely on writing as I had before. And while my husband did and still does take the time to listen to me when I need to process my thoughts by way of speaking, I noticed that I was editing those thoughts. Even speaking to my partner for life and most intimate friend wasn't the same as writing it down.

Then, I just got lazy and didn't take the time to journal. And, shortly after that, the boys started to arrive and life became too busy for anything as luxurious as writing. Oh, I've tried here and there & have made an effort to record major events such as each of their births. But, my journals still remain sadly empty and silent.

So, in December, my husband and I went to a Christmas banquet for motorcycle safety instructors in our region. (Motorcycle safety training is a part time job my husband took on several years ago). We were seated at a table with with 3 other couples we'd never met before. And, conversation, actually flowed fairly long as I was talking about my husband or my children. But, at one point in the evening my husband got up to talk to another group of people and I remained at the table. One of the men from our table turned to me and asked, "So, Karen, what do you enjoy doing when you have time off from your children?" I was so embarrassed because I could not think of an answer! It seems that everything I do revolves around my children, my husband, and my household. I floundered for awhile & mentioned swing dancing, which, in truth, is something my husband and I did when we were dating and haven't done in years. And, I also thought about mentioning writing. But, again, to be truthful I haven't really written in years either!

I have had in the back of my mind for a while now that I'd like to start a blog. I enjoy reading other blogs and writing one seemed an appealing and fun way to get back to writing. After the conversation I had at the banquet I was also reminded of the importance of finding something that I enjoy doing...something that helps define Karen, not just Karen the Mom.

So, while I will most likely focus a great deal on issues related to parenting and boys in this blog, I will share other thoughts as well. And, hopefully this first post will be the first of many as I discover my love of writing again.
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