Bits and Pieces

Here’s a little bit of current life around here, 2018 style.

drinking || Kevita. It’s a fermented probiotic beverage, which (I think) is fancy-talk for kombucha, which (I think) is fancy talk for sour, fizzy tea. I’d tried it in the past and found it passable, but my sister introduced me to the Kevita brand, specifically the Pineapple Peach flavor, and YUM. It is so good! I drink it when I’m starting to drag in the afternoon and need a pick-me-up. Or when I’m feeling munchy but don’t want to actually eat anything. I’ve tried several other flavors and also really like the dragonfruit lemongrass, raspberry lemon,  tart cherry, and lemon ginger. The lime mojito is pretty good, too, and I’ll drink the the blueberry cherry in a pinch. I’m not a big fan of the coconut ones. Hint for local friends – it’s expensive at Pick n Save. Less expensive at Festival, and even less expensive than that at Target and Woodmans.

reading || Sacred Enneagram by Christopher Heuertz. I’ve read chunks of a number of enneagram books – The Road Back to You, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, The Wisdom of the Enneagram, The Enneagram of Parenting. This is by far my favorite one so far. I wish I could explain why, but I’m not sure–it just resonates with me. I’m still working out my type. For a while, I was pretty sure I was a 9. The more I learn, the less sure I am. I feel like this book is helping me narrow in on some questions and details that may help in that process.

listening || to two things. First, the Waitress soundtrack. The Broadway show toured here in January, and I went to see it (twice, if I’m totally honest). It seriously made me so happy, which is strange because there’s definitely some moral justification that would usually upset me. But it’s just such a sweet story, both in that it’s touching and it includes pies, and listening to the soundtrack just makes me happy. And makes me want pie. You can stream it for free on Amazon if you have Prime. Also, this is another one to avoid around your children if they’re inclined to listen to lyrics.

Second recommendation – the Insight Timer app. I’ve been using it for mindfulness and meditation, and it is really excellent – and also FREE! My favorite guided meditations are all by Sarah Blondin, but if she’s not you’re speed there are thousands of other options. Check it out!

watching || well, nothing at the moment. But I just recently finished The Crown, Victoria, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and I llloooooovveeeddd all three. Seriously loved. Here are my thoughts…

The Crown – watch if you like British royalty. I love it and grew up in Canada believing that the Queen was my spirit animal, so if this does not describe you I cannot guarantee you’ll like it. I watch the show with Google beside me because I’m constantly looking up if things really happened as they’re depicted. Makes me very curious about history in general and British history specifically. I’ll be sad to see Claire Foy and Matt Smith replaced next season.

Victoria – feels similar to The Crown, but I don’t think you need to have any level of historical knowledge about this era. It’s more Downton-ish than The Crown-ish, if that makes any sense. I can’t wait for the second season to stream.

Mrs. Maisel – this show was so spunky and bold and smart. I sort of want to be her, except not really, but kind of. Not so much her specifically, but I want her zest and guts and talent. And the costumes/sets are divine! If you are easily offended by language or a small amount of nudity, do not watch this. Also, don’t watch in front of your kids.

practicing || my word of the year – action. I’m so much better at thinking things through than I am at doing anything with my thoughts! If only wishes came true by their own power. Lately I’m trying to take action on some school planning ideas. I find it really hard to keep up on planning – I mean, I generally know what comes next, but to actually write it down and have everything prepped isn’t my forte. Yet, when I don’t do it, it adds so much stress!

mulling || over some church struggles. This will probably earn a post of its own if I can bring it to some sense of cohesion in my mind, but right now I’m just muddled and melancholy and questioning the whole meaning of faith communities and the purpose of church. You know, the little things. 😉

dreading || six more weeks of winter. But it’s Wisconsin so it’ll probably be more like ten more weeks of winter? We’ve gotten off easy so far, I suppose, but I want flip flops. Which, according to Gabe I could still have because he thinks slides are a completely acceptable form of footwear. He even wore them to church yesterday. In a snowstorm. Across slushy, unshoveled sidewalks. With no coat. I’d complain (loudly) about what’s wrong with him except that I distinctly remember walking to school during 7th and 8th grade wearing boat shoes AND NO SOCKS through northern Maine snowbanks. The exposed parts of my heels would get painfully red and chapped, yet every day I trudged on in the name of fashion and middle school acceptance… <insert eye roll here>

trying || to move more. Ideally I’d love to say I’m trying to work out more, but I’m not at that level right now. I’m at the “just keep moving” level right now, which won’t get me Olympics-ready (ha!), but might stave away things that start creeping up on 40-year-0lds. You know, like I am now. (Wah!)

anticipating || Da-DAAA-da-Da-Da-Da-Da…tell me someone out there knew I was humming the Olympic song??? I have such fond memories of Olympics past. Especially this one. I think Isla and Jude are old enough to appreciate them this year which should make things fun, and I realized that as homeschoolers, we can bring in loads of fun educational activities to tie them into our learning across all ages. We’ll see how far I get on those plans…hopefully far enough to make it a fun and memorable experience for all 4 of us this winter!

How about you? What have you been up to lately?

O Tannenbaum…

You know what? My Christmas tree is still up.

There. I said it.

It’s January 20 and my Christmas tree is up and instead of taking it down I’m sitting here writing a blog post. Because OF COURSE. This is only after I spent about 30 minutes surfing through Netflix trying to find something “just so” to put on tv – something that was both interesting but could play in the background and I wouldn’t miss if I got absorbed in something else.

FYI – that doesn’t really exist. Either it’s interesting and I want to watch it or it’s lame and I might as well turn off the tv and save the electricity. So (after about 10 more minutes) I settled on an instrumental playlist on Spotify, and here I am! Ready to write so I can continue avoiding taking down my Christmas tree!

Would anyone guess that my word of the year is action? No? lol

(Side note…wouldn’t you know it! UPS just showed up at my house with a package, so of course I had to stop what I was doing and check out the contents. More avoidance of my to-do list FTW!)

Lately, the thing is that my soul is moving slowly while my life feels like it’s moving at a breakneck pace. Gabe is 13, a teenager. Isla is 6.  Six! Tahd and I have been together for 20 years. I’m turning 40 in a week. I noticed I’ve started pulling text with fine print farther away from my eyes so I can see it more clearly.

(I’m pretending that last one is all in my head. Here’s a picture of Isla turning 6 to distract me…It totally cracks me up, and I CAN SEE IT JUST FINE.)

Sometimes (i.e. usually) it feels like time is running out and I have practically one foot in the grave, which I know logically is not true. But everything in life just keeps going faster and faster all while the little voice within me screams, “SLOW THE HELL DOWN!!!!” If each successive decade keeps picking up as much pace as my 30s have, I’m going to blink about three times and find myself 90.

Does anyone else feel the same? And did anyone else find it came on suddenly, or at least suddenly reached a new level of urgency? Is this what “midlife crisis” means? 😉

So I dubbed this the year of action, not because I want to lean into the frantic sense of time scarcity, but because I don’t want to waste time. I’m choosing to believe that I have enough time to do the things tucked inside my heart and dreams. What I don’t have is time to fritter away on the inaction that comes from endless planning, circular worry, and loops of Netflix.

Except The Crown. Did you watch The Crown? So good! Watch Victoria next if you haven’t. I liked that almost as much.

With all that said, I think it’s time for me to get to work on that tree. I’ve put it off long enough, right? Time to take action.

Here I go…




I know most people start their New Year’s resolutions on January 1, but I’m more a January 2 sort of girl. The first just comes with so much pressure to start well and get it right, which doesn’t go well with being exhausted from staying up the night before. So my January 1 pattern is to eat my junk food and enjoy my chocolate and sit inactively on the couch. But January 2? Look out. I’m coming in like a lion.

Or something. 😉

Which makes today’s choice all the more perplexing, because I scheduled some bright and early dental work. Welcome, 2018! Here, let me fill a few holes in your teeth in your honor?


I hate dental work. I have so much dental anxiety, which isn’t to say it’s my dentist’s fault. I actually really love my dentist. But sitting in that chair…the whine of the drill…the tugging and prodding and tap tap tapping…it makes my toes curl and I have to actively remind myself to take breaths. Like, every breath. I’d hold my breath the entire time I was there if I could.  This isn’t exactly the most uplifting way to start my year.

But in another sense, it seemed like a good way to start the year–to eat the frog, so to speak. Do the hard thing first. Push through. Get it over with. Wouldn’t it be nice if getting my teeth drilled were the hardest thing I had to do this year? My anxiety is high even asking that question. Quick! Let me find some wood on which to knock!

I was listening to a podcast this week (love this show so, so much!) where she talked about a verse in Colossians 3:

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.” ~ verse 15

Did you see it–that little, pivotal word in there? I’ve seen this verse a hundred times and never noticed what Emily said about it:

“God offers his peace to act as your umpire, to release you from having to keep it together. Your only job?

Let him.

Receive the peace that belongs to you. It is not an easy thing to do, to quiet the voices of fear and shame and hurry — but the peace of Christ will stand between you and everything else.

You have the letting power.”

If you look at the rest of the larger passage, it’s all about things to do–put on compassionate hearts, put on patience, put on love, forgive each other, and so on. But this one little blip in the middle is all about letting. I have the peace if I will let.

2017 didn’t go how I expected. Nothing terrible happened, but it was harder than usual and there was little sense of gentleness or ease. My word for 2018 is “action” because I want to focus on some goals that have repeatedly pushed to the bottom of the barrel–things like my health, writing, and several relationships.  It’s hard to break old patterns. It’s hard to move from inertia to…what? Ertia? 😉

How do I let? I like what it says in the Amplified version. Bolding is mine:

Let the peace of Christ [the inner calm of one who walks daily with Him] be the controlling factor in your hearts [deciding and settling questions that arise].

It doesn’t directly tell how, but I think that must become apparent through the “walks daily with Him” portion, something I didn’t do with any consistency during 2017. Faith is one of these action areas on which I want to focus in 2018, and I’d decided that before I’d listened to this podcast or read these verses. But now that I have, I’m really looking forward to growing this portion of my faith, the letting portion. The peace of God portion. I need this now more than ever.

And just because I know these two things get wrapped up in churchy, trite ways, let me say this: I still have anxiety. I still take anxiety medication. I don’t expect the peace of God to fix my emotional and mental health anymore than I expect to pray my vision back to uncorrected 20/20, although I believe either thing is within the realm of God’s possibility. No, I think God’s peace can coincide with anxiety. They’re not mutually exclusive. I can LET my anxiety run away with itself and crowd out God’s peace, or I can hold one in each hand, LETTING God’s peace be the counterweight to my anxiety.

Looking forward to exploring this concept of letting more in 2018. What are you looking forward to?

Lessons From a Broken Air Conditioner

Late in the summer, our air conditioner went out. Just completely and totally bit it, with no warning whatsoever. Well, strike that. That’s probably technically true, but in actuality I think it warned me early on but I mistook it’s warning for a minor glitch (involving spraying what I initially thought might be contaminated sewer water all through our hvac and, by extension, our house) and thought I’d fixed the problem when, in fact, I had not.

And just in case you’re as worried as I was, there was actually no poop water involved. So there’s that.

Anyway, while Tahd was away on a work trip (because, always) while I was pounding and sweating and swearing away in the basement at the condenser, it occurred to me that we had, in fact, lived in this house for a long time without ever having replaced something major.  No furnace, no roof, no hot water heater, and, yes, no air conditioner. Thirteen years, in fact. And none of this paraphernalia was new when we moved in.  Lucky us, I guess!

We’ve done the regular house things like painting and replacing faucets and fixing fences and even some DIY flooring work. Tahd has him some skills! 😉 In fact, it seems like there’s always a house project or ten on the back burner.  Our house is old and well-lived-in, and there’s always something to do.

We kicked off our school year at the beginning of September, and it’s been gradually wearing me done.  Which is to be expected, I suppose. Homeschooling is hard. Heck, education aside, just raising kids is hard. Exhausting, even. So it shouldn’t surprise me that I’ve gotten to the whinnying of November, eight weeks, with hardly a moment for myself and feel depleted. What did I think was going to happen?

Some realizations dawn over me slowly through trial and circumstance. Usually that’s the case. A precious few hit like lightning bolts out of nowhere, and that’s what the broken air conditioner did for me. It sent me a lightning bolt.

Self-care is not self-indulgence.

Somewhere along the way for me, self-care became associated with things like getting your nails done, taking a luxurious bath, buying yourself a treat, going out for dinner, eating some (or all the…) chocolate. Hear me here–there’s nothing wrong with any of these things! Not a thing!

But they’re not the primary things that feed my soul. I delight in them, certainly, but for me, they’re indulgences.  I tend spend a lot of my life rattling around inside my own head, so the things that feed my soul typically revolve around either intentionally engaging with or intentionally quieting the deeper parts of my spirit.  My most valuable sensorial experiences bring me back to the physical world via simplicity–the foundational essentials like moving my body, making sure I’m hydrated, and getting enough sleep.

For me, bubble baths and manicures are like building a beautiful enclosure and installing elaborate landscaping around my broken air conditioner without ever actually replacing it.

It helped me so much when I thought about my self-care in terms of home maintenance. I’d never expect my house to plug along unattended under the weight of our bustling family. No one would. That’s why landlords paint after tenants move out and home improvement stores run DIY classes and I have to book my concrete guy months in advance. Homes require basic maintenance, not just for looks but for safety and functionality.

Why do I expect to be any different?

To be the wife, mother, and woman I want to be, I need to keep my body healthy and I need to take care of my mind.  Period. These aren’t negotiables. They’re minimums, not indulgences. Just like Tahd had to fix the igniter on our furnace during one of our Wisconsin winters, I have to take care of my body and mind. They’re central to who I am, who I can be, and what I can offer to the world.

So I’ve been thinking about what I need to meet these minimums, even when things are hectic and stressful like they are now.  Which is probably just a description of regular life for those of us in these middle years–the not-a-child and not-retired era that spans most of the decades of our existences.

For me, I need quiet–not a lot, but a little. A few hours every week is ideal, but even every two weeks keeps my crazies at bay. My soul comes back to itself and I remember who I am independent of my identity as wife and mother.

I need to get dressed and do some sort of makeup and hairstyle every day. I imagine this is laughable to people who work outside the home for whom this would hardly merit a mention. But when I stay at home every day, it gets easy for me to slide into inertia and “forget” to get dressed.  If I’m having a funk-filled melancholic pajama day, I can often completely change my energy if I get dressed and do a little hair and makeup.

I need to drink water. I forget all the time, and I drag when I’m dehydrated.

I need to move my body. It regulates my mood and manages my depression like nothing else–better, even, than antidepressants.

I need some sort of creative outlet, some way to add beauty and soul to the world. I think this is why I love writing and photography, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be these two things. Sometimes just a beautifully-lettered heading on the next page of my bullet journal makes me happy all the way to my toes.  Sometimes, engaging in creativity feels indulgent to me and seems unnecessary, but without it, I get cranky and restless and paralyzed, and I remember that God created this need within me and honoring Him means honoring this part of me.

I need to cultivate peace–peace within myself, within my relationships, within my environment, and on behalf of others.

Maybe you’re geared to be more of a sensory person, and the feeling you get in a hot bath of the water floating your cares away speaks to you. Maybe the sight of your weekly manicure reminds you that you’re worthy of investing in yourself. Maybe the taste of a decadent, gourmet meal brings you together with loved ones who feed your extroverted soul.

It’s not about guilt over how simple or elaborate your self-care techniques are.  Nobody gets points for being super simple or for going above-and-beyond. Self-care is not a game. The extravagance of your self-care (or lack of it) does not define your worth. It’s simply about knowing what you need and doing what it takes to tend to your minimums.  If you have leftover resources for indulgences, great! Enjoy!  But the first level of work–your minimum–must be done, or we become like houses with immaculate curb appeal but are falling apart on the inside.

It is not indulgent to take care of yourself. It is necessary. Full stop. And that…well, that is what I learned about myself from a broken air conditioner.

Confessions of a First Year Homeschooler

We’ve just kicked off our second year as homeschoolers. On one hand, you’d think I’d feel like my experience prepared me for the second year, and it did, at least a little bit. But since Isla was due to start kindergarten, we added her to our mix, which means this year is an entirely different ball of wax–another year of growing and learning for me, I guess? Anyway, I’d been meaning to put down in black and white some of my observations on our experiences as novice homeschoolers. I wonder what my list will look like at the end of this year as “second time first year homeschoolers?” lol

On pulling a child out who had already been in public school for a while || this worked to our advantage. Gabe has a strong personality and dislikes it when others are in charge of him. Had we homeschooled from the get-go, establishing authority would have been a challenge. But because public school had done the work of setting up the structure and expectations, I could simply slide into using them without having to face confrontation after confrontation with him resisting.

On deschooling || I’ve seen a number of discussions about how if you’re taking your child out of public school, you should take a period of time to do basically nothing as a “deschooling” period – a chance to reset the norm and reengage with a love of learning. We didn’t really do this, but I don’t regret ignoring this piece of advice. What I did learn this year is that for the health of our relationships–not the health of our education, but the actual relationships–we all need some level of structure, and deschooling would have quickly devolved into chaos and power struggle. I’m not saying deschooling is bad or no one should do it; I’m just confident that it would have been a problem for us.

On independence || I didn’t foster much of it last year. Gabe wasn’t particularly motivated to take responsibility for his learning (unless it was learning Minecraft moves/commands/building structures). This is an area in which deschooling might have helped us, but probably to the detriment of our overall relationship. I’m hoping to foster more independence during the 2017-18 school year.

On being with my kids all. the. time…… || if there’s structure, this is okay for me. If it’s all free-form time and people are asking me to play with them/get them a snack/help them find xyz/whining about being bored every few minutes, I lose my mind. Structure gives us a framework around which to hang our day – me included. Granted, I didn’t do a great job at implementing structure. I treated our first year as an experiment in which we tried to figure out what kind of homeschoolers we’d be. However, now I know, or at least I have a better idea. Over the summer, I gave a lot of thought on how to muster the discipline needed to stick to a routine. Left to my own devices, I’m not great at this.  But with three people depending on me, I really need to hone this skill.

On finding curriculum || starting out, I bought things that looked fun and interesting to me. I’m not an all-in-one traditional curriculum person, so this eclectic method appealed to me. However, I quickly realized that a highly eclectic method puts a lot of the burden directly on me, and I started burning out. Around Christmas, we made some curriculum changes, and this was for the better.  It also meant we didn’t finish all of our curriculum by June, so we’re continuing much of it this fall. We’ll see how that pans out.

Fun things we did || beach days, poetry tea times, going to the children’s museum, staying up late to chart election returns, visiting the Art Institute of Chicago, (mostly) daily morning meetings, keeping a year-long weather tree, an archery field trip, creating a time capsule…Fun stuff is where I imagine homeschooling to shine, right? There’s so much room for creativity and exploration! We did some things but not as many as I imagined we’d do.

Things we didn’t do || participate in a co-op. I didn’t want to be overwhelmed by commitments, so I decided to stick to the things we could do close to home or group events that were one-time things. We’ve joined two co-ops this year, so we’ll see how that’s different and which is a better fit.

Things I wouldn’t do again || I signed Gabe up for an online writing class, which was like pulling teeth for him. I wish I hadn’t done it because it created so much conflict and the benefit he gained from it was insignificant. It wasn’t a particularly interesting class. I also picked too many things that required hands-on planning and instruction on my part, which was exhausting and hard to keep up on.  Another area in which we struggled was getting our hours. In Wisconsin, you have to do 875 hours of instruction; however, I didn’t anticipate Gabe’s level of anxiety kicking in so much at varying points of the year, and this made sticking to a schedule difficult.  This year (along with some other interventions), we’re going to front-load the year with hours so that if we run into similar situations, we won’t feel as pressed for time as we get toward the spring.

Best books we read || by far, our favorite family read-aloud was By The Great Horn Spoon by Sid Fleischman. I also loved doing Lentil with the little kids in the Five-In-A-Row manner. Gabe and I enjoyed reading The Omnivores Dilemma together, too. I’m hoping this one has some long-term payoffs in terms of his dietary choices.  Also, can I just say how much I love family reading aloud? Even with Gabe, who is plenty old enough to read himself. It’s just a really fun time of bonding over interesting stories!

Books we disliked || we super disliked The Phantom Tollbooth. What was that about??? So bizarre. This book has quite a committed following, but we did not get the allure. We also weren’t crazy about Danny, Champion of the World. It was okay but went very slowly for us. I’m not sure why because it’s not a long book. But it took forever!

I’ll be back another time with an update about things we’re planning for this year. We’re about a month into it so far, and it’s going fairly well!

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