Thursday, January 29, 2015

7 Days, 5 Kids, 1 Mom - Feeding The Hungry Hordes

Ah, bedtime at last!

Or rather, writing time.  It is every bit of midnight and I should be in bed, but not before jotting down the happenings of the day.  Otherwise I will never get to sleep.

The most exciting thing today was that I finally made contact with Robert.  Hooray!!  Evidently he had  been faithfully sending me emails and pictures of all that he has been doing.  But I didn't get them until late this afternoon.  So, while I was agonizing over why doesn't he write, he was agonizing over my silence as well.  When I did start getting the emails, they were ones of concern, hoping that I was okay.  It was killing me, knowing that he was so worried about me and obviously not receiving my messages.  Finally, however, our correspondence did catch up with each other.  How did people manage in the 1700's?  I can't imagine being John Adams or Benjamin Franklin, in France, waiting anxiously for news from their war ravaged homeland.  News that would take months to cross the Atlantic, if it ever made it at all.  Your loved ones could be dead and buried for several months before you would ever hear anything about it.  My trials and tribulations in this science fiction age are so very insignificant.

Besides school, today we also ventured out on a provisioning foray.  We got a rather late start, not leaving the house until four o'clock.  And that was compounded by long lines at the bank and my irrepressible urge to put my two cents worth in on the radio show I was listening to, so by the time we actually hit the store, it was almost five.  We trudged onward, buying enough vittles to (hopefully!) last us the next two weeks.  By the time we finished up at Aldi's and Walmart and arrived home it was 7.  One of my New Year's Resolutions is to make more freezer meals.  So far the plan has worked out pretty well.  I have several meals from my last grocery trip still in the freezer.  I pulled one of them out to pop in the oven while I cooked up the fresh groceries.

In theory, this is how the plan should work:

Mary leaves for the store at a reasonable time.
Mary arrives home at a reasonable time.
Mary immediately begins to cook and assemble the planned meals as tonight's dinner burbles away in the oven so that the family may eat at a reasonable time.
Since Mary is washing dishes and putting away the remaining food as she goes, the kitchen should be cleaned up after dinner at a reasonable time.
Because of Mary's thrift and industry, there should be plenty of time for a cozy family evening around the fire, after which the children are lovingly tucked into bed at a reasonable time.

That scenario did not happen.

The Greek Chicken Spaghetti took much longer to cook than anticipated.  We didn't eat until 8:30.  Elle had an accident that required an immediate bath.  Ana ransacked the bags of produce that I so thoughtfully had left on the floor for her convenience.  No dishes were washed, most of the groceries were left strewn about the floor, half my meals were still un-assembled.

And I still needed to pack because we are leaving for Oklahoma City first thing in the morning.

That was when Elle stuck her ice cold hands under my shirt.

Things are kind of a blur after that point, but eventually all the kids wound up in bed.  I set the timer for 15 minutes and picked up the living room and dining room.  I vaccumed, just because I knew it would make me feel better.  I wasted copious amounts of time on my phone.  I had no idea that Cy had recorded me reading out loud this afternoon.  That stinker!  I might have had some chocolate . . .  Finally I plucked up my courage and plunged back into the fray, er, the kitchen.

Guess what?  My freezer is now fully stocked with delicious meals that I can pop into the oven, crockpot or take to a friend at a moments notice!  I think that is worth the investment.  Even if it is now rather unreasonably late.  I walked out of the kitchen at midnight, on the dot.

But you know, cooking while the house is quiet is kind of enjoyable.

Here is what I fixed tonight:

2 batches of Creamy Garlic Meatballs.  Basically these are dressed up frozen meatballs that I will serve over mashed potatoes.

2 pans of Lasagna.  I found it was much faster to just cook the meat instead of putting it in the fridge to potentially spoil before I ever found the time do something with it.

2 Sausage Spinach Casseroles.  I fried the sausage at the same time as I was frying the meat for the lasagna.

I still have Stroganoff (waiting for my darling's return dinner!) Cheeseburger Pie and one more pan of Chicken Spaghetti in the freezer as well.  That's nine meals that I don't have to worry about!  Nine afternoons that I can spend playing games with the kids or at the park, or going to the zoo or practicing the piano or writing the Great American Novel . . .

Who am I kidding?

I'll probably just take a nap.

And it will be awesome!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

7 Days, 5 Kids, 1 Mom - Days 1 & 2

I don't know why I resist going to bed when Robert is away.  No matter how tired, how frazzled, how "done" I might be, I will delay my bedtime routine for as long as I possibly can.  Then I read.

Getting out of bed is even harder.

Without him there to anchor the close and start of each day I am adrift.

We have never been this far apart.  Sure, he's had week long business trips before.  But, they were always in the States.  He was just a phone call away.

Right now, he is thirteen hours into the future.

What does Friday, the 16th look like from over there, darlin'?

Yesterday was a very long, restless, backwards day.  I eventually did fix breakfast, shower, bathe the girls, teach school, make the doctor's appointment, hang out with my friend, go to church and hurry the kids into bed.  But my heart was thousands of miles away.  It was a bizarre feeling.  I dropped Robert off at the airport at 5 a.m.  From that point on, he was traveling.  All morning, all afternoon, all evening, all night.  When I awoke at 7 this morning, he was still traveling.  It felt like we were caught in a time warp.  Finally, at 9:30, he arrived in Hanoi.  It was 10:30 p.m. for him.  My only communication so far has been two short emails sent from his phone.  By short I mean he typed the one line message in the subject line of the email!  But those brief communiques sent my heart to leaping and my stomach aflutter.  I haven't felt quite this way since those teenage days when I was hopelessly in love with a certain young lawyer.  We weren't sure if his phone would work over there.  Allegedly, he should be able to make calls with a WiFi connection.  But it doesn't seem to be working.  I will have to content myself with the occasional email or Facebook post.

This experience so far has added a whole new level of appreciation for our military families who go through much greater separations.  Having a loved one overseas is a very different feeling than one who is traveling Stateside.  I was not expecting to feel the physical distance and communication barriers so keenly.  Military wives are awesome!

Despite mooning like a lovesick teenager, we kept pretty busy today.

First up was violin lessons at 10:30
Chiropractor at 12
Taco Bell was urgently needed thereafter.
We ate our burritos and chalupas at the park, in the sunshine!
After basking, frisking and luxuriating in the glorious sun, (it's been a hard winter!)
We took in some Library Therapy
Happy mom and happy children couldn't wait to get home and look at all the cool books
But first Mean Mom made the kids clean out the van, since frostbite was no longer a clear and present danger
Then I forced them to endure 30 minutes of school on the computer - Horrors!
We watched a documentary about Benjamin Franklin before supper
We watched Peanuts after supper
I led Family Devotions, since Robert wasn't here to do it - sniff
Then we played the world's fastest round of Sorry.

Elle lost.
It didn't matter that all of us besides Dee lost along with her.
She took it personally.
I tried to explain, "Only one person can win, honey."  To which she indignantly retorted, "Well, I AM one person!"
Which is true.

I am only one person myself and I'm feeling it.

Good night, y'all!

Monday, January 26, 2015

7 Days, 5 Kids, 1 Mom - I Don't Want To Do This!

As many of you know, my husband just returned from a trip to Vietnam last week.  I am super glad he's home safe and sound!  While he was away, I tried my best to keep busy and productive.  I spent a lot of time on the computer, hoping to hear from him.  I also wrote, to keep myself sane.  This is the first installment of the series of posts that I wrote while he was gone.  Try not to cringe too much  . . .

*I am not ready for today.

*Robert is en route to Hanoi, Vietnam to visit an old friend from business school.

*He will be gone at least 7 days.

*Can I just hibernate for a week?

*I really am glad that he has this opportunity.  I wished I could have gone with him.

 Or sent the kids with him and I stay here.

 But, of course, neither solution is very practical.

*So here I am, at 8:57 a.m.  Delaying the beginning of the day, even though I have officially been up for five hours.

*I'm not dressed.

*The kids aren't dressed.

*No one has had breakfast.  (Well, I did fry myself an egg after returning from the airport at 5:45 this morning.  But the kids don't know that.  And I don't intend to ever tell them.  I will carry this to my grave.)

*The house is a wreck, particularly my room, since Robert packed his  bags at 1:30 a.m.  A mere two and half hours before we were due to wake up.  Yes, I'm operating on about two and a half hours of sleep.

*If it wasn't for a doctor's appointment this afternoon, I might not get dressed at all.

*I can't tell if Ana is throwing up or spitting up, therefore I'm unsure whether I should sanitize every surface she has touched or not.

*Of course, it's too late to sanitize my lips after she slimed them.

*I will try to keep a running log of the week's events and will post them once Robert is safely returned, because I don't believe in alerting the world that I will be home, alone, with five kids for seven nights.

*If I don't survive the week, I have arranged for this to be published posthumously, kind of like Captain Kirk's mission logs.

*Live long and prosper.

*I'm hitting the shower.


Monday, January 12, 2015

Crud 2015

Over the past month, everyone I know has been sick with either a stomach virus or the flu or both.  I have had this eerie, hunted feeling.  Like a virus was out there, stalking me; lurking on the shopping cart handle that Ana licked, creeping across the rim of the abandoned McDonald's cup in the parking lot that Elle seized before I could stop her, writhing across the surface of the wad of gum discovered under the cafe table, splattered in the sneeze droplets adorning my glasses.  In other words, it was just a matter of time until Index Patient Alpha surfaced.  The only question was: Who?

(By the way, If you are squeamish and prone to an over-active imagination, you might want to avoid reading vivid books on Ebola, such as The Hot Zone by Robert Preston.  On the other hand, if you want to read the true story that Steven King describes as "one of the most horrifying" things he had ever read, by all means, get this book!  You won't sleep for a week.)

Miss Elle is officially our Index Patient for Crud 2015.  It remains to be seen whether this will be a Level 4 outbreak such as last year's infamous Zombie Apocalypse Of Doom or if this will be a relatively benign virus.  Thank you to Miss Amanda for sending over her Doomsday kit.  It includes Sprite, Gatorade and crackers, disposable plates and forks, Lysol spray, latex gloves and, last but by no means least, two air filtration masks.  I'm telling you, she's more prepared for Ebola than the CDC!

 I hope you all have a happy and healthy week ahead.  If you don't hear from me for awhile it probably means I'm hip deep in the mommy trenches, mopping up vomit and soothing fevered brows.  It won't be as glamorous as a prime time Emergency Room drama, but I wouldn't miss it for the world.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Space Between the Notes

Happy New Year, friends!

I know it looked like I dropped off the face of the earth for awhile. . .  Sorry about that.   Life has been steaming ahead at full speed, whether I document it or not.  In the past three months I started several posts that I never wound up publishing.  We did a ton of school.  I accompanied Rob on a whirlwind business trip to Puerto Rico.  (I never did publish that post, mainly because I felt guilty about spending three days by the pool whilst everyone else was shivering through an unseasonably cold November)  I had surgery to remove several problem veins in both legs.  I did blog during that week, but pain medicine and PMS craziness conspired to keep me from deeming it publishable.  The computer started going whacky.  I spent every moment I could snatch trying to keep up with our online studies via my smart phone.  Then Christmas descended with all it's adrenaline pounding, last minute shopping panic and I decided that Facebook was more than I could handle, much less blogging.

Time for a cleansing breath.

Ah, that felt better.

I absolutely love the New Year season.  I love fresh starts.  I love looking back on the blessings and challenges of last year and looking forward to the possibilities of the future.

I like to make Resolutions and Goals and Long Term Plans.

After a solid month of feasting and festivities, I am longing, nay starving for a simple routine and a simple meal.  Maybe a workout video.  A quiet moment with coffee in one hand and my journal in the other.

I don't have all my Grand Resolutions worked out just yet.  Making more freezer meals, hanging the laundry on the line, spending more time outdoors with my children, less meltdowns, less binge chocolate eating, acquiring my first karate belt, finishing school before next September, these are all in the running as laudable and worthy goals.  But my real focus right now is on crafting my Mission Statement for the year.

2012's Mission Statement reflected my struggle to be free from the grip of depression and PTSD.  It was simply:

Free to serve
Free to love
Free to live

That was my prayer.  That was what directed my to do lists, my reading, the activities I engaged in.  It was my heart on paper.

In 2014, I was reminded of the importance of good habits.  This verse of prose on my refrigerator helped me keep my focus:

Sow an act, reap a habit,
Sow a habit, reap a character,
Sow a character, reap a destiny
                                                   Thomas `a Kempis

I don't have a pithy slogan to post on the fridge, just yet.  But I have given a lot of thought to the direction I want my heart and home to head in.

 My Focus for 2015

* Grace - received and given

* Peace - in my heart and in my home

* Simplicity - Less is more, enjoy and utilize what is at hand

* Margin - "Music is the space between the notes" - Claude Debussy

 Most of these concepts are already familiar to us.  We all recognize the need for more Grace, Peace and Simplicity in our lives.  Margin is a new one for me.  I recently read a book titled, "Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to  Overloaded Lives" by Dr. Richard Swenson.  It's kind of ironic that a book devoted to less has such a long title, but I digress.  It really is a thought provoking read.  I would highly recommend it.  At first I was at a loss as to how Margin and Simplicity would differ. They both seem to deal with enjoying less as the key to having more.  But the more I ponder, the more I see that both concepts are needed for a gracious balance.  Here is how I define the difference between Margin and Simplicity:

* Margin is a crisp black and white photo.  
   Simplicity softens the lines and adds a wee bit of tint.

* Margin is having time at the end of the day for a bath.
   Simplicity turns it into a date night by lighting a candle, adding bubbles and inviting your husband   to join you.          

* Margin is coming under budget by eating rice and beans.
   Simplicity turns on music and spreads the pretty table cloth you got as a wedding gift, but never use

* Margin is owning only what is necessary.
   Simplicity is loving and using every item.

In other words, if I am employing Margin in my life, I will leave myself plenty of space to get ready for church and to leave by.  Not rushing out the door screaming at the kids because we are late for "worship".

I will not accept more activities than my sanity and gas allowance will bear.  I only have a certain amount of time to do a certain amount of important things.  Things like brush my teeth and meet with God and read to my toddler and teach school and fix dinner and bandage life threatening boo-boos and the like.  There are a lot of things that I would like to do extra, but Margin tells me it's okay to say, "No."  Margin reminds me that No is a complete sentence.

Margin will help me get to bed in time.  It's 10:20 and I still haven't showered, but that's okay because it's still technically winter break and none of this takes effect until Monday anyways.  Wait a minute, that's not exactly Margin. . .

I guess Mr Debussy summed it up pretty well, "Music is the space between the notes."  Margin is the protected blank space in my life.  And that is precisely where the music happens.

I think I just found my pithy refrigerator statement.

Happy New Year to all!

 P. S.  I would love to be posting fabulous posts three times a week.  But that is just not going to happen.  I might be posting quite a bit less for a few months.  It depends on how the computer behaves, how school is going and if I have any Margin left for writing at the end of the day.  This is just the season where I am at.  I don't want to give up writing all together.  But I may need to scale it back for a bit.  Thank you all for your support and encouragement, it has been such a blessing. :-)