I – “Is It Really That Bad?”

For the month of April I’m blogging alphabetically about quick, easy, and practical ways to relieve stress. To see the other posts in this series, click here.

don't forgetI might be the queen of catastrophic thinking. I really hate to admit that. It’s one of my least favorite traits. Luckily, it’s not actually a trait at all. It’s just faulty thinking. With some work, I can change this about myself.

My extreme catastrophic thinking basically means I go from small problem to life-altering-negative-consequences in about 2.5 seconds. It’s not rational, it’s not providing a good example to my kiddos, and it’s certainly not good for my stress levels and emotional well-being.

To get started on breaking this habit, I’m going to start asking myself a simple question. “Is it really that bad?” When things seem to be spiraling out of control, I’m going to ask myself, “Is it really that bad?” When I seem to have made a fatal parenting error, I’m going to ask myself, “Is it really that bad?” When I realize we did the entire science project wrong or left a key ingredient out of the cake, or made a wrong turn, I’m going to ask, “Is it really that bad? Or does it just seem really bad in this moment to me?”

My most recent A to Z epiphany is that a little change in perspective can make a huge difference. I’m going to start really working on checking my perspective to make sure it’s realistic and rational. If it’s true that perception is reality, changing my perception can change my reality.

Remember those “W.W.J.D?” bracelets that were really big among church kids back in the 90s? I feel like I need to make myself one that says I.I.R.T.B? I guess it’s not quite as catchy, but it would remind me to check my thinking when I’m starting to freak out. Maybe I’ll just tie a string around my finger. One way or another, I’m going to find a way to remember to ask myself, “It is really that bad?”

Success in the Midst of Chaos

Life is so busy these days.

Honestly, I feel naive to even say that. By this point in my life, I’ve come to realize that life is busy. Period. Different seasons have different feels. Some seasons have more peace than others. But all seasons of life are busy in their own way. Life is, was, and always will be busy.

So, yes, my life is busy. But it’s also one of those times that feels unpleasantly busy. When that happens, I tend to scale back wherever I can. This week I skipped our co-op and a rosary group that I really enjoy. Perhaps that was counterproductive, as I love the time I spend with those ladies, but not having to get all five littles out the door and monitor their behavior at both of those events was a huge relief for me.

Busyness (Despite several online dictionaries’ assurance, I’m still not convinced that’s how busyness should be spelled.) aside, we’ve accomplished quite a bit around the house. Since we’re going to be moving within the month, which is not something we had planned, we have quite a bit to tackle around here. Lucky for me, my stress projects have put a very positive dent in all that needs to be done. This week we have also:

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My sweet Andy helping paint our kitchen when we moved in back in 2010.

1. Painted both boys’ rooms. Ben’s room was covered in crayon, not because I allow my children to color on the walls, but because Ben always finds a way to cut or color or spread toothpaste or glitter on things that shouldn’t be cut, colored, toothpasted, or glittered. Andy and Jack’s room was just gross. There was like this gray funk over all the walls. It must be a growing boy thing. Both rooms are now beautiful and neutral. Hopefully they will remain that way for the next month.

2. I cleaned the grout in the master bath. Seriously – do other people struggle with grout like I do?? It’s just gets so nasty. Is there some secret to keeping it clean? Or an easier method to clean it? Toothbrushes and magic erasers are the best methods I’ve found. Needless to say, there will definitely be no grout in the new house after we renovate. I hate grout! It is my house cleaning nemesis. Fortunately, all the grout in my house is almost clean. All I have left to tackle is the kitchen.

And somehow, in the midst of all the chaos of everything else going on…

3. …I had a really great little visit with one of my confirmandi. Well…he’s not a confirmand anymore – he was confirmed last spring, but I don’t know how else to refer to him. Anyone have a cute way to refer to the kiddos they’ve sponsored for Confirmation? Anyway, he texted because he’s having a tough time and wanted to chat. He came over Monday afternoon and we had a great little visit while my kiddos ran around like lunatics. Even though it was a great visit, he needs some prayer. Would you mind offering a quick prayer for him?…………….Thanks!! :)

So that’s it for me. Small successes in the midst of crazy, busy, chaos. But, hey, that’s life right? Share your small successes over at Small Success Thursday. Make it a great day!

J is for Juggling

All April long, I’m blogging alphabetically about Adjusting to Life to Life with Baby Number 5. Click here to see all the posts in this series.

busy momAdding a new baby to the mix shakes things up. Changes your routine. Makes everything different. This is exactly as it should be as you learn how to be a family with your newest little member.  I recently found this awesome analogy written by a woman who just had her third child.

“Adding a new baby to your family is a bit like adding a ball of fire to your juggling routine. The norm is thrown off balance, management of the unknown ball of fire becomes a big priority, and you find yourself living in chaos as you try to not drop all the balls at once into a fiery heap. Eventually the fire fades, the balls equal out, and a new normal takes over.

Having done this adding game three times in the past four years, I find that even though the initial addition is always difficult to juggle no matter how many times I’ve done it before, the new normal resumes more quickly each time. For that I am thankful.” [Read the rest here.]

I can’t think of a more perfect description.

I definitely feel like I’m juggling these days. But, this time around, my ball of fire isn’t my newborn, it’s my school work.

As I desperately try to wrap up these last two month of graduate school, it really feels like it might all come crashing down and engulf everything in flames at any given moment.

My sweet husband keeps patiently reminding me that the end is just around the corner. Intellectually, I know he’s right, but it still seems so far away.

I’ve ordered my cap and gown, my graduation invitations have arrived, and we’re starting to work on party details. But, somehow, graduation seems farther away then ever. How is that possible?

SST # 6: Looking for our New Groove

Small-Success-Thursday-550x330Our sweet Sophia has been here for 3.5 weeks now. She is so perfectly amazing! But having a new person in the house, especially a demanding newborn type that doesn’t sleep very much, throws everything off. I like to imagine that my household normally runs like a well oiled machine. (I have a very active imagination.) But, thanks to our sweet little one, everything that used to run so “smoothly” has gone up in smoke. I don’t say that with any resentment or ill-feelings. Everything is exactly as it should be. Our life as a family of 6 no longer exists, so it only makes sense that there will be an adjustment period while we learn how to function as a family of seven. Before long, everything will be running along “smoothly” again. In the meantime it’s up-and-down and trial-and-error until we figure this thing out. This week I caught a few glimpses of our new life as a family of 7 falling into place. Those glimpses are my small successes of the week.

1. Date night with my hubby! Yes, it’s true! Our sitter was already in the habit of coming over on Monday nights for our childbirth class, so we decided to keep the routine going. We’re planning to have her over every other week for a real date night. I’m so excited! We spent our night out hitting up Costco for food for Soph’s baptism reception and then had an absolutely fantastic dinner at Bonefish Grill. Bonus points because Josh won a gift card for Bonefish at work. I think we spent around $20 for a fantastic evening. And Sophie was so good! I carried her in my fabulous Gemini baby carrier and she barely made a peep. Extra bonus points because I got to enjoy sweet snuggles and baby bonding simultaneously with my date night.

2. I got up with the kids. Since I’m awake quite a bit during the night with the babe, I’ve been sleeping in most mornings. But, one day this week, I was up with the kids at 6 AM. It made for a super smooth-sailing day and got me super excited about failing back into a routine. Granted, it only happened one day, but, like I said, these are just glimpses of what life will be like when we find our new groove.

2014-03-26 12.57.213. Andy learned to change a diaper! My sweet 8-year-old asked if he could learn to change diapers. At first I said no. He asked a few more times, and I finally decided that I need to take help where I can get it. So I taught him. And he did great! I’ve only let him change the 16-month-old. And only wet diapers, not dirty. But he is so proud of himself. And I’m very grateful for the help!

4. I ran an errand BY MYSELF with all the kiddos. I had to go turn in some paperwork at the church and return a casserole dish to one of the guys who works there, so I loaded up all the kiddos and we went. This is a really big deal for me. It usually takes nothing short of an act of God to get me out of the house for the first time when we add a new family member. Not knowing how to juggle them all in public really overwhelms me. But I did it! Well…sort of. We only went up to the Church, which isn’t exactly “public.” (Everyone who’s there during the day knows me.) And it’s only 5 minutes from my house. And only Ben, Sophie, and I got out of the car. And it was a quick errand, so there wasn’t much time for anyone to melt down or anything. But, hey, I put them all in the car and went somewhere BY MYSELF and that counts for something.

So there you have it. My small successes for the week. What are yours? Share them over at CatholicMom.com!

7 Years, 7 Lessons

anniversary

Today, Josh and I celebrate 7 years of marriage. I’m not sure how that happened. On the one hand, I can’t remember what it’s like not to be married. At the same time, it seems like it was just yesterday when we were rolling around Memphis with far to much free time and expendable income. In honor of the seven years we’ve been together, I thought I’d make a list of seven things I’ve learned about being married so far.

  1. Whoever said the first year of marriage is the hardest probably wasn’t married for more than one year. And I don’t think I’m alone on this. I once bought a book entitled “What I Wish Someone Had Told Me About the First Five Years of Marriage.” I never actually read it. I bought it somewhere around year 5 and the title alone was enough to bring me comfort. Knowing that it was ok that we didn’t get it all figured yet was a great relief. So far, for us, I think the sixth year of marriage was the hardest. I suppose only time will tell if it was indeed THE hardest year.
  2. The couple that prays together, stays together. I know this might sound cheesy, but it is so very true. Our marriage is so much easier when each of us is focused on growing in holiness (i.e. growing in our own individual relationship with God). Our fights don’t last as long, we’re more patient and forgiving with each other, and we’re generally more pleasant people when God is number one. We’ve ebbed and flowed in this area, so we’ve seen it from both sides at various points in our marriage. It’s not just a maturity thing or something like that. We really are better people when we are aware of how completely dependent we are on God’s grace to make it through the day.
  3. Girls/guys nights out aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. It’s definitely nice to get away for some “me time” every now and then, but we’ve both found that girls/guys nights aren’t very positive or uplifting experiences. Almost always, the evenings turn into a flogging of the opposite sex, particularly the spouses or significant others of those in attendance. Speaking ill of your spouse and/or being around those who constantly do is not a good thing for your marriage. We much prefer couple or family gatherings. It’s not uncommon for these events to end up as completely gender segregated as a 7th grade dance, but it’s a much different environment. No one is there to “escape” from the other, which drastically changes the mood and conversations.
  4. Expectations, especially unspoken ones, are more toxic than cyanide. I haven’t found anything in our marriage that can ruin a perfect day or situation quite like expectations. We all have them. But we need to let go of them. And the ones we can’t or don’t want to let go of? We need to communicate them. Clearly.
  5. Be willing to suffer together. It’s kind of an at-least-we’re-in-it-together type mentality. If Josh has to bring home a pile of work, I make sure I’m also doing something along the sames lines, like homework or my own work. If I’m pacing back and forth with a screaming baby, he cleans the kitchen or starts the laundry. We’ve learned that when one of us is sitting comfortably reading or watching TV, while the other is engaged in some unpleasant task, it usually sparks some kind of fight. Usually about something stupid. That’s because the problem isn’t whatever stupid fight erupts; the problem is that one of us is frustrated. It’s a lot easier to express frustration when you feel the other one “gets it” instead of looking up and realizing that the other is completely oblivious to what you’re dealing with at the present moment. (In all honesty, this is probably a much bigger deal to me than it is to Josh. Regardless, learning this lesson has cut back on many stupid fights.)
  6. It’s important to acquire some basic knowledge about all of the things your spouse is interested in.  Yes, all of the things. I’m still working on this. Learning about what the other is interested in shows you value and respect the other person. Their whole person. Even the parts that you find completely boring and stupid. Like Japanese candlesticks. Like I said, I’m still working on this one. If he can go baby shopping with me, I can learn a little something about those colored graphs. (Note: Josh just supplied the baby shopping example. I was shocked. I really had no idea how much he dislikes baby shopping. Guess he’s much better at this skill than I am.)
  7. Your pride is not more valuable than your spouse. We’re both prideful people. And we’re both stubborn. Back in the day, we could stay mad at each other for days, just to avoid having to be the one to give in. It’s so not worth it. No matter how badly it stings, apologize or cave in or whatever. It’s so much better than driving a wedge between you. This is a relatively new skill for us. Sometimes we stand there shocked at how quickly we can get over something that would have caused a major battle not all that long ago. This is probably one of the hardest lessons learned, and definitely one of the most valuable.

So there you have it. They’re not listed in any particular order, and they may not be profound, but these are the little lessons that have made our marriage what it is today. Like the little card on the flowers Josh sent me today said, I’m looking forward to seeing what the next seven years will bring!

On Being an Armless Supermom

As  I was just discussing with a girlfriend, I desperately need to invest in a baby sling or carrier to free up my hands. My lack of entries is evidence of the amount of time I actually have these days without a baby in my arms. So is my messy house, my subpar dinners, and my to do list, which has many more items added to it these days than items crossed off. Having three little ones at home has definitely been a huge change in terms of what I can get accomplished during the day. I’m either going to have to lower my standards for what being a homemaker means, quickly figure out a way to juggle my new responsibilities with my old ones, or quite possibly go crazy.

In all honesty the transition from two to three has been a breeze. Many people over the years, ranging from my mother to my Intro to Psychology professor freshman year of college, have told me how difficult the transition between two and three children is. I’ve heard horror stories about sibling jealousy, marital discord, and parental incompetence. I’m pleased to report that we are having issues in none of those areas. The boys are getting along smashingly…sometimes literally. My marriage seems to be unaffected. To my knowledge, neither Josh nor I feel incompetent to handle our brood, which now outnumbers us by one. As I recall, the transition from one to two was much worse. Ben has moved right in and I don’t think any of us remember life without him.

The only real challenges I’m facing are those encountered during the day on account of having no free hands. And as I mentioned earlier, this situation can be quickly remedied with the purchase of a sling or carrier. This purchase definitely needs to occur sooner rather than later or I might never be able to find the floor of my house, we may go broke thanks to my desperate pleas for Josh to pick up dinner on his way home, or we may just have to revert to people who never eat home-cooked meals and don’t remember what it’s like to find clean laundry in the dresser or what their house actually looks like sans mess.

The later is absolutely not an option. I am plagued with perfectionism and I could never live like that. I take pride in my home-cooked meals that I’m strategically placing on the table as Josh walks through the door in the evening. I love it when my mother inquires how my house could possibly be so clean despite the little monkeys that live here. Making a home is what I’ve chosen to do with my life and I intend to do it to the very best of my ability.

Truthfully, that mentality can be rather problematic for me. It makes me a little crazy sometimes as I’m racing to meet some goal or stretching to meet a standard that only exists in my own mind. However, for the time being, I’m perfectly capable of juggling my high expectations for myself and I don’t have any intention to lower them.  Down the road, sometime after reality smacks me in the face, I may write an entry or two documenting my journey to embracing realistic expectations of keeping house, raising a family, and what it means to be a good wife and mother. In the meantime we absolutely must purchase a baby carrier so I’m not forced to face my own human limitations.

It’s a Brand New Day

new-dayI’ve spent my whole life keeping most of my thoughts and feelings tucked deep inside, fearing that their escape would cause others to dislike me. I’ve avoided much needed confrontations, missed many opportunities to share my thoughts, and allowed others to make false assumptions about me. I’ve spent my whole life trying to be whatever it was that I thought everyone else thought I should be.

While I accept full responsibility for all of the things I did and didn’t do, I attribute the cause to my childhood. In my house, we were taught that we were always being watched and judged by others. We were taught that our opinions were only right if they were the same as our mother’s. We were taught that voicing our own opinions was actually attacking the opinions of those around us.

I’ve come to realize that none of that is true. People are supposed to be different. We are all individuals, including me. I don’t have to agree with someone in order to have a meaningful relationship with them, and the same is true in reverse. It is ok not to agree. It is ok to say something that might upset someone else. It is ok to be who I am.

I fear that I actually don’t know who I am at this point. I have been too busy trying to be what I thought I should be instead of discovering who I am. I fully intend to change that.

My first step in that direction is to be honest, both with myself and those I care about. Hopefully, I won’t loose anyone I love in the process. If I do, I will know that they didn’t actually love me but the person I allowed them to think I was.

My current goal in life is to detox all the false assumptions I’ve been living under. My new battle cry shall be: OUT WITH THE FAKE AND ACCEPT WHAT’S REAL! Perfect doesn’t exist, therefore I will no longer measure myself against an unattainable standard.