Afternoon Showers and 6 Other Things I’m Loving

I was taking a shower one afternoon. The kids were playing calmly like I’d asked them to do, and as my soapy fingers massaged my scalp, the quiet solitude massaged my soul. Ahhh. Time to re-energize. Time to think.

I love afternoon showers.

My thoughts flowed warm and free as the water overhead, and in my mind, this list of things I’m loving began to write itself.

1. Getting Up Early (after a full night of sleep)

I am not historically an early riser because I’m typically a late nighter. In recent months, my normal routine had been to stay up late (way too late) and then get up whenever I’ve met my minimum sleep needs. It was working, but it’s not the most efficient way to run a household.

Thankfully, my husband just began a new endeavor in self-discipline (i.e. Farrell’s), and it has helped to draw me out of the night owl rut. Since his 6:15 a.m. class is getting us up earlier, we’re ready for bed earlier. I love the discipline of rising early – but only when it follows the discipline of turning in on time.

2. Having a Gym Membership

Travis isn’t the only one getting into shape. My birthday wish was to start a membership at the YMCA, and though that’s a gift that keeps on giving (or should I say “taking” – money, that is), Travis satisfied my request.

I’ve had a few short-lived gym memberships in the years since becoming a mom. Getting one would seem like a good idea, then the expense of childcare or the limit of my energies would cut it short. Somehow, I think this time will be different.

The kids love it, too. The girls have been won over by the Frozen coloring sheets in the kids’ room, and Abel by the “big kid” privileges of an eight-year-old. He can shoot baskets in the gym, or he can work out in the cardio area alongside me. It’s a special time for all of us.

A Family Membership at the Y is working well for us in our current location and life stage.

A Family Membership is working well for us in our current location and life stage.

3. My NIKE Legend 2.0 Slim Poly Training Pants

I bought these with birthday money in preparation for my gym membership, and I can’t believe I’ve been missing out on such wonderfulness all this time! Well, actually I can. I’ve tried on dri-fit pants from various brands before, but always stripped them right back off thinking my legs looked hideous in them. But this pair is different… to my eyes, anyway. The fit is perfect and the feel is fabulous. The only problem is that I can’t wear them every day. ;-)

4. My Kindle Paperwhite

I am a book lover. Like, a lover of the physical book. I love reading books, but I also love seeing them, holding them, owning them. That’s why I was hesitant to think I’d like a Kindle – because owning one would necessitate, at least to some degree, that hard-copy books give way to their ghostly counterparts. But seeing some potential value in that, I asked for a Kindle Paperwhite at Christmastime and haven’t regretted it. Sure, there are some books of which I would still choose a hard copy over a Kindle version, but there are several books (or ebooks) that I wouldn’t read at all if I didn’t have the Kindle option. (Plus, it’s kind of fun being able to take a piece of my book collection with me wherever I go!)

Two places I love to use my Kindle Paperwhite: in bed and on the treadmill.

One place I’m looking forward to using my Kindle Paperwhite: at the pool!

It's no book, but it's earning its place on my bookshelf.

It’s no book, but it’s earning its place on my bookshelf.

5. Being in a Writer’s Group

Speaking of the pool, it was there one day last summer that I was telling a friend I had been thinking of joining a writer’s group but hadn’t because I was afraid I wasn’t qualified and wouldn’t fit in. She encouraged me that I was qualified and that I should absolutely give it a shot. (I can’t tell you how much her belief in me meant.) Coincidentally(?), a few days later another friend told me about a Christian writer’s group that local author Elaine Marie Cooper was starting up. I contacted her, she welcomed me, and I’ve been meeting monthly with this group ever since.

I’m not sure what the Lord would have me to write outside of this blog, but I do know that He’s given me a passion for writing and that I feel fulfilled when I feed it. I’m so glad my friend encouraged me to do that.

One resource my writer's group led me to. I chose to buy it in hard-copy. :-)

One resource my writer’s group led me to. I chose to buy it in hard-copy. :-)

6. Chore Training

The realization that my kids are old enough to be truly helpful around the house is revolutionizing my life. They’ve always been expected to pick up their own toys, but my perfectionist nature has kept me from handing over more household responsibilities to them – until now. In the days leading up to the selling of our house, I realized that I was drowning. I am one person, and I was spinning my wheels trying to keep up with the messes of a six-person family. It had to stop – for more reasons than one.

That’s why I’m viewing our time in this rental property as training grounds. The fact that the place isn’t mine helps me to let go just enough to let my kids learn, mess up, correct, and perfect their new chores; and my hope is that by the time we move into our new house which will host twice the housework of the former one, the kids will be in the groove of helping – and doing it well.

The kids are learning to help with meal cleanup. Revolutionary.

The kids are learning to help with meal cleanup. Revolutionary.

 
What things are you loving right now? Would any of these make your list?

Distracted by To-Dos

I was going back through some old posts over the weekend, and found this one that I had written on 1/16/2014 but never published — because, I think, we weren’t quite ready at that time to make our pending move web official. I’m publishing it now because, although that’s all said and done, it’s interesting to see where my thoughts were in those busy days leading up to the listing of our house.

***

There is so much to do, and yet I feel so distracted… almost paralyzed by my indecision of what to tackle next. Oddly, I don’t feel stressed about my load, but I fear I will get to that point if I don’t get my energies refocused soon. Oh, I’ve been busy and productive, all right, but it seems that after weeks of pushing, pushing, pushing through my to-do list, my brain is threatening to disengage.

Every year about this time, for the past several years, my husband and I seem to be objectively reevaluating our housing situation. We’ve known for a while that our 1300-square-foot (plus a small finished basement), 3-bedroom house isn’t going to comfortably accommodate our family of 6 forever; but my sentimentality and contentedness (coupled with my strong dislike of packing and moving) has continued to keep us here.

I haven’t wanted to move until the point at which it would really feel “worth it”; and I guess that time is now. After spending the late fall and early winter exploring housing options, neighborhoods, and builders, we decided it’s finally time to make a move… literally. But first, we have a house to sell.

And that is what has consumed my energies over the past several weeks: packing my “excess” and preening my house in preparation to list it.

As much work as it’s been (and will continue to be), I’ve actually found it to be an enjoyable process. I mean, really… decluttering ALWAYS feels good, especially in the cabin-fevered dead of winter. And painting over our custom-picked wall colors with a neutral palette has actually served for me as a grateful and gradual detaching from this house. As personal touches were erased from the walls, so was a piece of my sense of ownership.

But even as we allow ourselves to slowly step away from this place, I remain content, comfortable, and thankful. This house has been our home. It’s the place that saw our family grow from three to six. It’s the place where I labored—and then grieved—through miscarriage. It’s the only home my girls have known—and the only one that Abel remembers.

There’s a show on HGTV called Love It or List It. For us, it’s love it AND list it. As we put our final investments into this house, we do so with gladness and deep care. We are so grateful for this little corner of the world that God provided for us almost seven years ago, but we also know it’s time to move on.

So if I seem a little distracted or preoccupied, it’s probably because I have thoughts of packing, cleaning, moving, and designing all whirring simultaneously through my head, pushing me along a timeline that isn’t really even certain. As much as I want to kick back and enjoy my freshly decluttered house before the craziness of having it listed ensues, I know that what I really need to do is scrub. So maybe that’s what I should do now.

Or is it….

Feeding My Family 6 Meals a Day

If there is one homemaker duty that I’ve been struggling to find joy in lately, it’s cooking. I told you in a previous post that I had been lacking passion in this responsibility and that our move has sort of given me a boost. Well, another much-needed boost (i.e. kick in the butt) has happened: Travis signed up for Farrell’s, and with it, I apparently signed on for a little workout of my own – culinary style.

The Farrell’s nutrition plan, which Travis (and now our whole family) is attempting to follow, requires the eating of six small, balanced meals per day. This has required commitment from Travis, of course, in the area of self-control (portion size and food selection), and from me in the areas of shopping, planning, prepping, and serving.

Feeding My Family 6 Meals a Day | Eternal Outlook [with Angela]

To be completely honest, prior to this I had pretty much been hating – and therefore denying – snack time. When I’m struggling to find joy in cooking, the last thing I want to do is spend my in-between-meals time figuring out snacks and standing in the kitchen fixing them.

But, If I’m to do my part in supporting Travis through this (and I want to), I don’t really have a choice.

Sunday night, just before the next morning’s start of his 10-week class, we went grocery shopping, with list in hand, as a family. It was fun. We bought healthy stuff, we had ideas, we had motivation, and it was a team effort.

Five days in, I can say it’s actually going pretty well. We’re transitioning our bodies to an eat-every-three-hours schedule, the fridge is full of “fuel,” and I’m shifting my thinking in regards to food prep. As much as I’d previously been struggling to enjoy it – and sort of dreading having to do it more often – somehow, the demand of discipline has had a way of bringing joy to the process.

I’ve been reminded that eating (and feeding my family) is supposed to be enjoyable. God created us to eat the good food that He also created. Our bodies were made to crave – and to require – the fuel that keeps us going. Our social culture, like social cultures the world over, is built around food and the fellowship that happens when we dine together with others – because it’s enjoyable!

I’m not going to claim that I’ve got this down – I don’t. I’m still very much struggling (failing) to make a written plan (though I am getting by sufficiently by thinking ahead and keeping the shelves stocked with options), and I’ve fought frustration with the voicing of that familiar phrase, “I’m hungry,” when there’s something I’d rather be doing than putting another meal together. But I am surviving and growing (so far), and that’s worth something!

Coming up with ideas for six balanced and healthy meals a day is no easy task for this recovering burned-out mama, but here are some of the protein/carb/veggie combos I’ve been serving this week.

Meal #1 (“Breakfast”) – sausage patties and hashbrowns, breakfast burritos, breakfast casserole, scrambled eggs with fried potatoes and kiolbassa sausage (my current favorite way to eat eggs [which are not my favorite food, by the way])

Meals #2, #4, and #6 (Mid-morning, Mid-afternoon, and Late-evening) – fresh carrots, fresh celery, frozen peas (straight out of the freezer – one of my kids’ favorite snacks), small deli sandwiches, cheese and crackers, fresh fruit (apples, strawberries, grapes), fruit and yogurt smoothies, peanut butter balls, cheese sticks, applesauce

Meals #3 and #6 (“Lunch” and “Supper”) – chicken breasts with bacon and swiss cheese, steamed broccoli; baked beans with kiolbassa sausage; tuna sandwiches; pork chops, baked potatoes, sauteed green beans; beef tacos; grilled turkey and cheese sandwiches; beef stew; salmon patties, mashed potatoes, sweetened tomatoes

A few other “fuel” ideas on my (unwritten) plan include: hard-boiled eggs; deviled eggs; and dinner salad with chicken, bacon, eggs, and veggies (mmm… sounds good!).

A new week is approaching. What ideas can you share with me for small meals that balance protein and carbs? What are your favorite fibrous snacks?

Moving Beyond the Burnout

Moving Beyond the Burnout

Sometimes a fresh start is what I need to feel new again. Before we moved, I was feeling burned out in almost every non-negotiable aspect of my life. Cooking, cleaning, homeschooling… I was going through the motions out of mere obligation, doing just enough to get by.

This had become true even in my spiritual life. I was going to church, attending small group, and praying and reading Scripture with the kids, but I wasn’t doing anything to go deeper on a personal level.

That’s not a fun place to be – lacking passion for almost every responsibility and feeling powerless to find it.

Fortunately, God answers prayer. He loves the prayer that cries out, Change me, God! I can’t do this on my own!

It’s true. I couldn’t reignite in myself a passion for cooking. I couldn’t spark my own contentment with spending four hours a day schooling the kids when I could be doing countless other (less important but easier) things. And I certainly couldn’t light the fire under my spiritual butt that would get me up and running back to regular, sincere devotion.

I needed the Holy Spirit’s power to move beyond the burnout. I would have to cooperate with Him, yes, but change wasn’t happening without divine help.

You never know in what form that help might come, but you can be sure that when you ask for it with pure and honorable motives, it will eventually come.

For me, it looked something like moving the hub of my household to a tiny kitchen, coming through the insane busyness of selling a house, and confessing to my small group that I was flailing in my spiritual disciplines.

All thanks to the power of God and the fresh beginnings only He can provide, passion is slowly returning to me. I’m rediscovering some culinary joy, I’m remembering that homeschooling is my biggest present priority, and I’m reintroducing spiritual discipline through a daily Bible reading plan.

But still I know that I haven’t “arrived.” These hard things of life don’t just come easy. They require a continual choice.

My help has come. Actually, He was there all the while I was trying to work it out on my own. Today, head down and hands up, I choose to move forward in newness. I choose to keep doing my part while letting Him do His. And I choose to give Him the glory for it all.

Enjoying the Ease

This past week has been a little weird. The first in about twelve that I haven’t had some expectation or another pressing down on me, I’ve felt so at ease it almost makes me uneasy. A meme someone posted on Facebook captures my predicament perfectly:

 
Coming off of what has been one of the busiest stretches of my life — preparing a house for market, keeping it in “untouched” condition while living in it with a family of six, and then packing and moving, and all that while still doing the usual duties of a homeschooling mommy — the normal, everyday demands are feeling like nothing.

Carving three to four hours out of my day to homeschool my kids instead of doing countless other things that could be done? It’s nothing. Calling it a day and putting my feet up to watch American Idol with the family a couple nights a week? Nothing. Taking the kids on a walk to the park and sitting there completely focused on them instead of on some double-tasking project (reading, emailing, searching, browsing)? It’s nothing. And everything.

The freedom and release I’m feeling right now means everything. It’s still weird, though. I had to ask myself today, I’m not feeling like I’m on vacation, am I? Living in a different place, short-term, fewer responsibilities, no stress…. Nah, that’s not it. Is it?

I don’t think it is. This place is feeling like home, and… I’m still me. The unnecessary pressure I can’t help but put on myself will be returning, I’m afraid. Soon enough I’ll be stressing over the odds and ends that remain unplaced or worrying about wrapping up the school year or….

So, for now, I’m trying to enjoy the ease — even if I am forgetting everything. :-)

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