Loved from afar....reflections after loss and Orlando

My mother died on December 24, 2011. At the time I was 30, I had been married for 10 years and had 3 children with one on the way. I had started a good career as a teacher, at a school I really really liked, my husband was finally going to graduate college and was a stay-at-home dad with plans to get a pretty good job or stay home in the fall. Life was ok.

Losing my mother put my husband and I in a tailspin. She was an integral part of our family. Picking up my children from school, having weekly dinners with us and generally just being a great grandmother to her grand children. But more than that, she was my friend. She was my husband's friend. We had no way (or desire) to replace her. But, there was such a huge void. It was more than the cliched "hole in your heart"....it was a crater in my life!

Over the last 4.5 years we have attempted to make small changes and edits to our lives to allow the pain of that crater to be some what diminished from the pain it was originally. But it has taken some serious work and a lot of time.

This summer, I am teaching summer school at my mother's last school assignment as an Art Teacher before she died. There are several pieces of art around the building and they are all captivating, which was her style. But, she also left a more everlasting piece of herself. Her love for gardening. She started and created a beautiful courtyard, complete with a seedling of her grandmother's rose bush. I have been asked to help maintain those flowers, and oh what a gift it is. It is a quiet gift of her love to get to care for her roses.

Earlier this week there was a shooting in Orlando. If you had not already heard, it was pretty awful. My heart hurts for those who have lost loved ones. For those who feel threatened. For those who have felt this pain. Then more recently this week, a child was ripped from his parents at a beach in Orlando at a Disney Resort Hotel.

There is no simple way to solve the many problems that are affecting our society right now. For what ever reason, some people have real fundamental problems with other people for religious, social, cultural or other reasons. I do not pretend that I understand what is going on.

All I can say to those who have lost loved ones or are affected by the many tragedies; you are loved.

I hope over time you are able to find love and support in these times and are able to find peace.

Look for the moments when your loved ones will speak to you. Because they will. It will be subtle and quiet, but it will be there.

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Day 3/365: Surrogacy

A long time ago I leaned about surrogacy. Surrogacy is when a woman carries a baby for a couple unable to conceive and carry their baby on their own. 

When I learned about surrogacy I was in high school. Now I have several children of my own and know that being a surrogate is something I am meant to do. Having babies is, apparently, something I am REALLY good at. Not sure why I got that particular "gift", but I did. 

Finding the right couple has been a challenge. I'm quite sure that one day I will meet the right couple who I will be able to help. Not sure when that will be, but I know in my heart, it will happen. 

Friends, if you're the praying kind, or spiritual in whatever way suits you; please direct your energy at the mama who needs me. She's in quite a struggle. Asking someone to care for your child is hard. Think how picky mamas can be about babysitters! But asking someone to carry your unborn child is an insurmountable fear and relinquishment of responsibility. How scary that must be! How great the compassionate she will need for that journey! How awesome the gift and responsibility. 

Tonite, mama, you're in my heart. May we meet soon that I can help fulfill this dream and may the journey be as smooth and calm for you as possible! 


Day 2/365: today

Today I really wanted to be present. To focus on my kids and the sunshine and being present in the moment. And it was awesome. 

We played in the sunshine, kicked our soccer ball, threw the softball, played in the swings, went on a nature walk, ate Popsicles, met friends and had a great day. I doubt this day will stand out in my children's or even my memory, years from now. But it was one of those really wonderful and really simple days. 

We came home, had pizza and they were right back outside, together. Playing their own game on our trampoline. Now everyone is just about asleep and all I can think is how today was exactly the kind of day I want to have with them. 

Our park, happily covered with people and sunshine. 

Day 1/365: Time to be reflective

There's a whole lot going on in my head. In nearly every corner of my life, I am at a crossroads. 

Career: I've been teaching high school biology for 6 years, spoken at several national conferences in what I do in my classroom and I'm about to self publish my first book on the same. 

Children: My 5 children are, quite literally, at every stage of child life development other than participating in college. 

Personally: I've run a marathon and an ultra and I know what it feels like to be at my top physically. 

Mentally: I'm not any where near middle aged, but I've lived a colorful life thus far. I miss my mother terribly, as her loss was premature. 

House/home: We have decisions to make regarding either selling or "fancying" up and sticking around for a few more years. 

What does all this mean? I'm not sure. But I'm planning to spend the next year working it out. Or cleaning, we'll see how it goes!

In the meantime; some ducks from the zoo today. 


Clear and Precise Instructions

With 5 kids, a job and what I'd like to call a life, there is little room for miscommunication. I just don't have time to deal with incorrect instructions for filling out forms, signing up for things or missing out because we just didn't know.

It seems that this is a necessary fact in nearly all aspects of my life. I think it's why I appreciate lists so much.

So, today, here are a few ways to improve communication skills in your own life.

I think you might recognize these....

1. Who? Who do you intend to involve, or for that matter, exclude. For example, if your child gets an invitation to a party, do not assume that all of the children are invited. If it is a friend hosting and you feel comfortable asking, ask. If not, you have 2 choices; either ask or don't ask. If you ask, be prepared for them to say no, it's their party. If they say yes, great! Proceed as necessary. If you are the host, make your mind up ahead of time and invite who you intend to.

2. What? Make sure you give and get clear instructions regarding what is expected of you. It is much easier for everyone if you clarify for yourself whatever you don't understand. The moment you think of a question, it is time to clarify to make sure you proceed forward correctly. This makes everything better.

3. When? How do people ever do anything spontaneous anymore? I have no idea! Because I always have a when. When are you arriving, when am I arriving, when do I need to leave my house to be on-time? Am I perfect at this, HECK NO! I have 5 kids, you silly person. But, I know when I needed to be there... Double checking date, day of the week and time are all important!

4. Why? Well, I should hope you have not arbitrarily agreed to do something without knowing what it was, but the purpose is still important. That said, understanding the purpose of your event will have a direct effect on number 5 in this list...

5. How? How should you dress? How should you act? How should you expect your children to act? All of this is answered in understanding how this thing, whatever it is, is about to go down...

6. Anything else? You don't always have to understand anyone's reasoning for doing anything. But you should know if you are expected to bring plates and napkins to a party. These details are important to more than just you. Check on them.

If you get through these items and you are still unclear about what is going on, maybe you need to call your host, the friend, or possibly, your boss. It's only kind to make sure that everyone is on the same page. As you continue to do these things, you will become better prepared for events and more and more people will (we can only hope) quit thinking that mom = mindreader....because it doesn't. But asking these questions and knowing what is expected of us, will help us all feel better about meeting any of the expectations laid out for us.

Keep it up my friends, you're doing great!
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Coupons, a cooking club and a meal plan

A few weeks ago I shared that I was trying to save money by being more conscious of where and how I was spending money. One friend suggested I try couponing. So, I'm giving it a go. It's a bit of a numbers game and I am just getting started, but I used the coupons to help plan out the meal plan for this week. I got 2 newspapers to double my coupons and organized them into categories that worked for me: Baby, Cleaning, Dog, Hair & Body, Mouth, Feminine, OTC, Paper & Plastic, General Food, Fridge & Frozen, Restaurants and Extras. Since Thanksgiving is coming up, I'm keeping a running list of recipes that we will be using so I can put all of the coupons for those recipes in the very front to start getting those things together. I'm also planning to try to be more aware of the circulars that jam up my mailbox and may even save a few extras digitally. I use a few different apps on my phone to help with saving money, I'll link them if you don't have them so that you can start saving some money too!!! Where it is applicable, I'll put my referral code next to the link and then you can thank me by joining with my referral code and then let me know what you think of the savings apps too!!! Some of them are super user friendly and that only makes it more awesome!! 

In no particular order....

1. Cartwheel for Target, secret coupons or percentages off for every item you can think of! The more you use it, the more coupons you can have on your barcode at a time!
And a RedCard!

2. Kroger Mobile Coupons; it's like having secret Kroger coupons and the regular mailed circular in your phone! How easy is that? Click on the coupons to add them to your list!

3. Ibotta: (referral Code: azbqrq) Earn rebates for items you purchase all the time!! My total savings since I joined are up to $30.95. Once you join and use my code, you get an extra $2!

4. Receipt Hog, (referral code: clump306) snap pics of your receipts and then you get coins that add up to amazon cash. Spin the wheel to win extra spins or cash credit for your last receipt!!! Once you sign up and use it with the referral code, we each get extra spins!

And now for the meal plan: 

Sunday: Breakfast for dinner; pancakes, bacon, and eggs

Monday: Taco Night!!!

Tuesday: Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans

Wednesday: Chicken Alfredo and Broccoli

Thursday: Pizza Night

Friday: Sausages, Macaroni and Cheese, and a yet-to-be-named Green Veggie

Saturday: Leftovers

On our family landing board, I put up the meal plan so that I can stop getting asked by people who read, "what's for dinner?" But, I figured since I need to hold myself accountable to keeping my house a little cleaner, I'd add a chore for each night. If I can stick to this, well, my house might look MUCH better!!!

I'm also working on making my friends join me in a cookbook club! We'll get together periodically, each making something from a new cookbook and get to all share in the work! I'm excited!!! Anyone ever done one?

Got any time saving tips or tricks you'd like to share?

I don't have much time to spare!!!


It's Raining Monday

I'm sure by now, those who follow the blog closely could point out that I forgot my meal plan post last night. I could make excuses about how tired I was after a busy swim meet weekend or I could just say, "I'm sorry."

I'm sorry. 

If you were waiting for it; here's the plan:

Monday: tacos
Tuesday: breakfast
Wednesday: Brauts, smashed potatoes, green veggie of choice
Thursday: leftovers
Friday: grilled chicken and veggies (and Mac and cheese for the kiddos)
Saturday: burgers and fries

I've been thinking a lot about recreational sports and activities and how we oversee sporting activities for kids. Have you noticed the egos that are going crazy? It's the adults. Not the kids. Generally speaking, of course. 

Many times the people who are getting the most emotional, upset and dramatic about anything that is going on are the ones who are supposed to be "adults". I find this confusing. 

Let's try to work on setting an appropriate example of good sportsmanship, modeling appropriate language and losing gracefully. 

Here's a few suggestions:

1. Congratulate a parent on their child's good performance, time, etc. (especially if they beat your kid or are on an opposing team.)

2. Cheer for great plays/swims/runs/hits etc. If it's great, it's great!

3. Congratulate the winners of a game/match/race, even if they are not your child/team. Don't complain about the referees, clock, ball, bat, etc. 

4. Let the coaches coach and try to say to your child, "I enjoyed watching you play". 

5. Thank the referees, coaches, volunteers, etc for their efforts in helping with that event. 

6. Pick up your trash. No matter where your contest takes place, do not leave your trash. It's just rude. Seriously. 

7. Be mindful of others. If you must complain, because sometimes you just need to whine and get it out, respect small ears. Reserve the more colorful, strong language for after you leave. 

8. Remember your company. Similar to number 7; sometimes we forget when we are "in our space" that your guests/hosts, or their friends, may be nearby. Let's not make them feel unwelcomed in that moment of complaint. They make take personally your whining. Maybe you have a solution you can offer later for improving for next time.

9. If you must have your phone, resist emails and focus on what's in front of you. Photograph your child/their team and share it with the team. 

10. Encourage your child to thank the coaches, referees and volunteers; when appropriate. We're not talking about kissing up or attempting special favor, just appreciating their time. 

Have any others? Please feel free to share in the comments! 



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