Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Extreme Makeover: Me Edition

{ae filkins}
Amber hosts this weekly encouragement session for those of us who want to make healthier choices for our lives. Go on over and check out her adorable blog!

Amber's question today is "What is your biggest obstacle right now?" That's easy - myself! I have spent much time and effort and prayer in changing old habits and creating new ones, and my heart is slowly changing. I needed a major heart change because I was in love with food. Every once in a while, that old romance resurfaces and I start to flirt with the chocolate again, but God has brought me a long way in helping me to let go of anything that gets in the way of my relationship with Him. How can food get in the way of my relationship with God, you may ask. When I've been tired, stressed, lonely, down, or bored, all of my life, I have turned to food for comfort and fulfillment, instead of turning to God, who alone has the ability to fill my heart. But the reason that I am my own biggest obstacle is that I always try to take on too much at once. My kids are at school, so I have a hundred projects in the wings:

I am trying to get the house clean and dust-free because of my allergies

I want to clean, sort, organize and purge junk from my house

In the midst of purging, I'm trying to find stuff to sell on eBay

I'm trying my hand at couponing so that I can help my hubby make ends meet

I picked apples last week and I want to make applesauce (I guess I shouldn't be in too much of a rush - my dear friend and neighbor told me that one year, she didn't get to canning her applesauce until February!!!)

Oh, and here's another good and worthwhile distraction: I am going to a Christian women's conference the weekend after next where I am giving a workshop entitled "Creating a Christ-Centered Approach to Weight Loss," so I'm spending a good amount of time preparing for that. The funny part is that I haven't lost any weight yet!!! But there are some ladies helping me out who are in various stages of their journey - I'll be the one who's still laying the foundation for lifelong weight management! Talk about humility training. . .

And the list goes on and on and on. So I end up sabotaging my efforts to eat healthy and get exercise in - I push these things to the back burner, even though I know I have to keep them on the front. I keep thinking, "after this one big project is done, then I'll have time to exercise." But NO, it has to be now. And I need someone to kick my butt to keep doing it. Anyone? Kick my butt and I'll be forever grateful.

Mga Kababayan Ko

My thoughts today are with "my countrymen" (this is what "mga kababayan ko" means in Tagalog, the language in the Philippines.) No, the Philippines isn't my home country, but I did live there for 15 months. It feels a little bit like this catastrophic flooding has happened in my hometown. I walked those streets that were under several feet of water and are now laden with thick mud. Many of my Filipino friends' Facebook pages are devoted to recruiting help for the cleanup effort: requests for money, supplies, even rubber life rafts.

I think God gave me an extremely strong sense of empathy. It's very hard for me to separate myself from the tragedies that other people endure. Especially when I see pictures on the web, like the one I saw yesterday, of a man carrying the lifeless body of a child out of the mud. Absolutely gut-wrenching, especially for a mom.

There are other catastrophes from years past that have stayed with me as well. September 11, of course. Who will ever forget September 11? For many years, I had dreams that I was witnessing another terrorist attack, watching another plane smash into a building full of people. I cannot go into a crowded area without thinking, "What would happen if we all had to make a quick escape?" I especially had to beat down feelings of claustrophobia when I was in downtown Chicago: "If something bad happened, how would I get out of here?"

I still have occasional dreams about the December 26, 2004 tsunami in Indonesia. In my dreams, I can see the flood waters fast approaching and I'm thinking ahead to my best plan of escape. That horrible event claimed an unthinkable 160,000 lives.

Every day, I drive over a bridge on the way to and from school. After I drop my kids off, the bridge is usually a little more congested with traffic going toward downtown for the workday. I am usually at a stand-still on the bridge at some point. And every single day, I think of the bridge collapse in Minnesota.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm excessively fearful or morbid in my thoughts, but then I think, I'm probably just human.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


All right, so I have allergies. Nothing really exciting though. I thought it would be cool to be allergic to rice cakes or something so no one could ever try to make me eat one of those vile things again.

Mold, dust, and pet dander. Yup, those are the little devils that have been giving me sinus headaches (and probably migraines). That doesn't explain physical fatigue, but it does explain sleepiness and my head feeling like it's stuffed with fluff (yes, just like Winnie the Pooh).

So, the doc shoved several medications at me AND told me to come back weekly for allergy shots AND told me to try to minimize dust and mold in the house (ha ha, that's a good one) AND especially to eliminate dust from our bedroom (and I literally laughed out loud when he told me that).

This is supposed to be my semi-retirement, a time to take it easy, rest up and relax until all my health issues are resolved. Instead I have to CLEAN MY HOUSE FROM TOP TO BOTTOM AND ELIMINATE ALL DUST AND MOLD. (No, I'm not getting rid of the cats - I may just varnish them.) Wow, there go my slow-paced, coffee-drinking days.

Time to fire up the vacuum cleaner!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Extreme Makeover: Me Edition - I'm Back!

{ae filkins}
Hi everyone - I'm back!

And not much to report. There is definitely progress, but not the kind I hoped for, which is loads of fat falling off me. I battled with major fatigue all summer. And I am still fighting it, but here are a few significant changes in my life that I hope will help:

1. My kids are in school! Hallelujah! I have time to myself and peace during the day.

2. It turned out the CPAP wasn't really helping me because I had extremely mild sleep apnea, so no more CPAP. I'm going to see my dentist about a dental device for mild sleep apnea. The sleep specialist prescribed a ton of sleep meds for me, but I decided to wait it out a little bit. After trying the CPAP and some sleep aids all summer, I thought I would go "au naturel" for a little while. With more down time, more time to exercise, and a better routine, I thought maybe I could get back into a good sleep pattern. I still have some bad nights, but last night was awesome! I think God is at work here!

3. My doctor discovered I have a Vitamin D and Vitamin B deficiency (rather, they're on the very LOW end of normal), so he gave me a B12 shot and I'm taking Vitamin D supplements. Also, I'm seeing an allergist tomorrow and hopefully that will be productive.

As I mentioned, I have more structure and more routine, which translates to more time to plan healthy foods, more time to do The Lord's Table devotional, and more time to exercise. So, good things are in place, and for a few weeks now, I have been consistently eating well and avoiding lots of junk food - LAST NIGHT, my hubby brought home DONUTS, and I simply said, "I shouldn't", and that was the end of it. God is really taking away my obsession with food and it's AWESOME!!!

I've been doing a 30-40 minute power walk most days.

As far as my goals to lose 40 lbs. by the time I turn 40, I'm thinking it's not so realistic any more because now I only have 4 months left, instead of the 8 months I had when I started, and I'm still battling the first 5 lbs. that keep yo-yo-ing! But I'm going to get healthy no matter what, and God is at work in my life, so I should be happy with that.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Where, Oh, Where Has My Funny Gone?

All right, people! Where the heck is my funny?

It seems that for 6 months, all I wanted to do was blog. And I wanted to make people laugh. And now, my brain is all dried up. Is that what happens when you're 39, going on 40? Dried up brain. No sense of humor. No creativity.

I just wanted you all to know I haven't forgotten about you. I haven't forsaken my blog. I just don't know what on earth to write about.

Maybe it's because many of my posts in the past were about the stresses of my life, and now the stress is greatly relieved. I'm livin' a brand new life - kids at school, mom at home drinkin' coffee. I'm really loving it! OK, so that's what it is - it's the "kids are at school" honeymoon. Ahh, I'm glad to know that it's temporary.

Otherwise, I'm going to have to get myself a rocker and an afghan.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Happy Birthday, Faith!

Guess who this is?

It's Faith, 7 years ago today! We laugh at this picture. Faith calls it her "crabby" picture. She was obviously not happy about having her hair washed! One thing I remember about Faith in the hospital is that her body temperature was a little low, so the nurse told me to hold her to my bare skin and cover us both with a blanket - what a bonding moment!

This is Faith on her first birthday - what a cutie!

And this is a random picture of Faith from when she was 4. It's my favorite picture of her because it shows off her gorgeous blue eyes.

Happy Birthday, my baby girl! Don't grow up too fast!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


There's something new in my life and I am very much enjoying it. It's called peace. Quiet. Solitude. I knew I would enjoy it, but I didn't realize how much. I am experiencing a new inner peace that I haven't had for a very long time. I almost feel guilty about being so peaceful now that my kids are in school.

But to be honest, I am seeing now, with crystal clarity, that God led me to this place. I do believe it was His will for us to homeschool for a time. It helped my children to grow in confidence. It helped them to grow in their relationship with me. It gave me time to form them and train them to some extent, even though we have a long way to go. Most of all, it showed me that I just can't do it!

I am a perfectionist. I want my life to be perfect. I want to think that if I just work hard enough at something, I can do it. I want to agree with the homeschooling zealots who say it's the only way or that it is possible for anyone if you just find your groove.

Well, I'm sorry. For me, it's not possible. As soon as the kids went to school, I had peace. Not just because the house is quiet (which is really awesome!) But because I believe God orchestrated this for us. He brought me to a point where I would be open to letting my kids go out to school, and then this awesome Charter Academy opened up this very year. My kids are enjoying it, but they do not like the strictness. All right - that is exactly what they need: rules, schedule, an ordered learning environment. They are learning traditional morals and values. They are being taught by excellent and very friendly teachers, many of whom are Christian.

And what I need is solitude. That is my language. That is my way of recharging. I am an introvert. I love people. I love my friends. I LOVE MY FAMILY!!! But if I don't get down time (quiet time, solitude), I will shut down. And for the past 5 years of homeschooling, I've been shutting down. I got to a point where all I ever wanted to do was sleep. I couldn't cope with the reality of life and the constant needs of my children. Now I have time to recharge every day. I have the energy to love my children well and to be interested in them. I have the desire to spend time with them.

God created me this way, and I've been working on my mental and emotional health for a long time. And for the first time in a very long time, I feel as if I'm making some headway.

Ahhhh. Peace.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Conversation at the Dinner Table

Al: So, what do you like about school?

Evan (4-year-old Kindergartener): I like Ashley. I like to be by her.

Al: Is she cute?

Evan: She's hot!

Commence the laughing so hard that we almost wet our pants. . . .

Thursday, September 10, 2009


I'll be the first to admit that I haven't set the best example of consistency with my children. Our years of homeschooling were riddled with excuses about not doing school because we were tired or mom was having a psychotic episode or whatever. So, they're not used to this ridiculously strict schedule of having to be at school EVERY DAY. . .ON TIME!

Yesterday, Joy did not want me to leave her at school. She clung to me and insisted she was going to throw up. I held my ground and did not waver at all. I told her she was simply not coming home with me. I prayed with her, got her calmed down, and she ended up having the best day out of all my children. I walked away feeling very good about my parenting skills.

This morning, not so much.

Two kids wanted to stay home because "they weren't feeling well." While I think Joy was just suffering from nerves again, Hope's excuse was realistic. She had a sudden onset of a cold last night. Strangest thing I ever saw - when she got home from school she was out jumping on the trampoline and by bedtime, she was sniffling, coughing and stuffy-headed. It's going around, and chances are, all my kids are going to get everything that's going around because they have never been around so many germs in their lives.

Hope woke up this morning with a stuffy head, headache, and cough. My "mom instinct" was to keep her at home, but after consulting with my hubby, we agreed that our kids shouldn't stay home for every cold, so I medicated her symptoms, told her to take a warm shower and get ready for school.

Meanwhile, Joy would NOT get out of bed. School starts at 8, and at 7:30 AM, she was still lying in the fetal position, in complete denial. It's a 12-minute drive to school - without traffic - meaning we HAD to walk out the door and my 8-year-old hadn't even emerged from dreamland yet.

That's when the screaming started. And it didn't stop until I dropped the kids off at school. Actually, I managed to restrain myself while I was actually walking the kids into school, which was a good thing because the place happened to be swarming with suits who were there for a ribbon-cutting ceremony (remember? brand new school?) Friendly staff members asked me, "Are you staying for the ceremony?"

I simply said I couldn't make it. Ahem. What I really meant was that I had successfully deposited my children in their appointed places and now I was going to go home and have several cups of coffee and gobs of chocolate and hope my blood pressure would go down before I had to pick the kids up again.

I expected that there would be days like this. I did not expect that they would come so soon. This does not bode well for the remaining 177 days of school.

Lord, Have Mercy.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

First Day of School

OK, so let me get this straight:

I can drop my kids off at 7:30 AM. They will be fed breakfast AND lunch. They will learn everything they need to know for their grade level. They will make friends and have fun. They will be under competent supervision until I arrive to get them at 3:25 PM. And they can do this EVERY DAY? For 180 days out of EVERY YEAR?

Umm, why didn't I get this before? Before I spent every single Sunday afternoon correcting papers and making new lesson plans. Before I regularly tried to simultaneously cook dinner, help someone with math, fold laundry, AND get the rest of the kids to clean the house, set the table and take out the trash.

Today seems a little bit surreal. I can sleep ANY time I want to, without a child knocking on my door, asking if it's ok to have a second bowl of cereal. I can hang out at the computer without someone yelling, "He's sniffing so loud and it's grossing me out!" I can make my lunch without children tearing through the kitchen, laughing or screaming at each other. AND I can visit the bathroom for as long as I want, without anyone trying to find me!

And in days to come. . . .I can actually go to Meijer to just buy groceries and not be pestered by at least one child who insists that they need a new pair of shoes today. I can take my time shopping because no one will be complaining, "We'll never get out of this store. I'll be graduating from high school before you're done shopping." I can go the YMCA and swim without wondering if my 4-year-old will drown while I do a lap or two. (Actually, I was always fairly sure he wouldn't drown, but I had to make it look like I was at least concerned about him.) I can go anywhere I want without arranging child care, leaving my cell phone number, or telling anyone what time I'll be back (as long as it's before 3:25 PM, that is).

Wow, I am just in awe of my newfound freedom.

A girl could get used to this.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Lessons In Humility

Hey, I'm back! Can you hear the angels signing as the clouds part and the sun shines down on me??? :)

Well, I started thinking about this post in Church yesterday. I was really trying to pay attention, but I was continually distracted, and you will read why. It seems I may have written a similar post before, but that's because this pretty much happens every week.

If you want to experience true humility (or humiliation, as the case may be), bring several young children to Church on Sunday morning. It's not like this is a new thing for our family. We do it EVERY Sunday, and pretty much every Sunday, I walk away feeling as if any pride about my child-rearing skill that I had mustered up during the week has been taken down a notch or two.

Let's begin with the cold sore, shall we? That would be the nasty cold sore on my daughter's lip that she felt compelled to pick until it let out all of its disgusting contents and started to bleed. So I had to bring her to the bathroom to wash her hands and stop the bleeding. I have to admit that it looked better than when it was a disgusting pus-bag sitting on my adorable 6-year-old's lip. Yeah, gross, I know. Welcome to my world.

Then my son came back from the children's liturgy with his upper lip all wet and shiny with runny nose contents. I tried to tear off a piece of the paper towel that Faith was holding on her bleeding cold sore, but he wasn't having any of it. I don't blame him, really - at one point, she had the paper towel just stuck to the cold sore and hanging off her face. So, Evan just kept licking at his lip, and he reassured me, "I'll wipe it when I get home."

So far, this is all par for the course with young children. But I haven't even gotten started about the fighting. Somehow, there is always a fight about who gets to sit by me during Mass. Every. Single. Sunday. It's as if that is the only hour of the week that they get to spend any time with me. I think it's more the case that they know we won't wallop them during the holiest moments of the Consecration, so that's when the fighting and bickering and resistance to parental authority reach their peak. I try to discretely whisper in their ear, "If you don't knock it off, you will get a spank when we get home", and pretending they can't hear what I'm saying, they will respond in their loudest possible "whispering" voice, "WHAT DID YOU SAY???" And when I finally say it loud enough for them and the rest of the Church to hear, the floodgates open with, "Well, he's squeezing my hand too tight!" and "She's stepping on my shoelace!" All the while, using such a loud "whisper" that they might as well go up and borrow the priest's microphone to broadcast all of their sibling rivalry to the other Mass-goers. It's pretty ironic that, by the time we offer each other a "sign of peace" (usually a handshake, or a hug or kiss, when it comes to family members), my kids are squeezing each other's hands and saying, "Peashbewifyou" through clenched teeth.

But, by far, the most humiliating moment of our Church experience yesterday was when my son, the 4-year-old class clown, was standing in front of me while I was trying to kneel down for a very solemn moment of the service. I was trying to cuddle him and keep him quiet, and I was wearing a v-neck shirt which had started to migrate south because he was pulling against me. During what I'm sure was the QUIETEST, MOST SOLEMN moment of the Mass, my son observed rather loudly, "Mom, I can see your boobs!

I can't wait until next Sunday.