Sunday, May 26, 2013

Late Quick Takes AND WIWS


Can I do it?  Can I really link to BOTH Jen and FLAP?!?!  I'm gonna try!





Alright, let's get started!


1.

What I wore Sunday....



Nothing too exciting - it was a yucky day today and I didn't want to spend a ton of time on my hair or an outfit and then get caught in a downpour.    Here are the details:

From the ground up:

Shoes:  something from Younkers.   The insoles are worn out because I wear them ALL.OF.THE.TIME and I can't read the brand anymore.   I know they came from the clearance rack though and were less than $10.   I'm a cheapskate.
Skirt:  Target, in the maternity section.   (don't go making any wild assumptions.   It was just cute, and it made me feel good to pick out a size that was a size SMALLER than I normally wear.  Oh, and it was $20)
Cami:  J.Jill.   A standby for me.  I wear one pretty much every day, thanks to the nothing-on-front issue I inherited
Shirt:   Target.   My favourite.  I have one in just about every colour of the rainbow.

No special jewelry or hair today.   Again.....rain.  'Nuf said.

Rascal #2 joined me in the WIWS post.....because..........





2.



This is what he actually wore to Mass today!  :)  My baby's growing up........altar serving for the first time today.   I'm a proud Mama.  





3.

It was a super busy week.   We had a great Pentecost, with both Rascal #1 and Rascal #2 receiving their First Communion and Confirmation.    We had both sides of the family in attendance - two sets of grandparents and one cousin who came along for the ride.   



It was a beautiful day.





4.

One set of grandparents (the one who had the stowaway cousin) stayed through this past week.    Grandma and Cousin spent most of their time playing with me and the rascals, while Papa helped Mike in our backyard.   I forgot to take a before picture, but here are a few after shots:



Obviously we still have some work to do - filling in the grass and actually planting the plants IN the raised bed, but, well..........rain.   Tomorrow is supposed to be nice, so our plan is to plant, plant, plant!





5.

The reason we had kids:


slave labour


Kidding.


Kinda.


No, really.....I'm kidding.


(not really)






6.

Things to celebrate = lots of cake in the Circus


I love making cakes.   Two boys celebrating meant I had to make TWO cakes, of course!   I actually just made small ones for each boy - they got their own 4x4inch cake, and then the rest of us got cupcakes.   Here are the finished products:

Rascal #1's

Rascal #2's






7.

A funny to end the post - we went out for yummy Thai food the other night, and I looked over at Rascal #3 to see this:


He was making faces and checking out his reflection on his spoon.   It was hilarious.  Of course, as soon as I took the picture, he figured out that we were all watching him, and the funny business came to an end, but I'm so glad that I managed to sneak at least ONE picture!



*****

And with that, my QT/WIWS post is over!   We're winding down from all of the company, so I'll hopefully be able to do a couple blog posts over the next little bit.   Got some homeschooling on the mind......some more musings about "doing God's Will"...... and lots of thoughts about family size and our society.   Stay tuned!



Friday, May 17, 2013

Quick Takes - retreat version



Linking up with Jen again today!


1.

First off, thank you all for your kind words in all the forms you sent them in - texts, emails, messages, comments.    You really helped to make this week much better than last weekend.  I'm still sad about some things, but I'm starting to realize that God is using these to purify me.  Without them, I'm not sure I would have recognized some areas within myself that I need to work on.   I was definitely drifting into a lifestyle of complacency, and this really helped shock me back into where I should have been to begin with.    It's not easy, but I'm learning to embrace it and trying to love it.    Your messages and prayers were instrumental in that for me - thank you.



2.

Could I ask for prayers one more time?  I have to be cryptic, but please pray for this weekend for us.   There's a lot going on that was unplanned, and it has the potential to be life-changing for many.   I'll be able to fill you all in later - but please pray for now that His will is done and that I'm able to accept it willingly, whatever it may be!




3.

Remember last week, when I mentioned that Mike was taking the big rascals away for a daddy/son retreat weekend as the culmination of their First Communion/Confirmation prep?   They had an amazingly successful weekend, and I wanted to share some pictures of all of that with you.    Thank you so much for surrounding them in prayer - Mike told me it was even better than he had anticipated!!




4.

First things first.....setting the stage....
Mike took the boys back to this resort .  Amazing place.  It might become my new favourite place in Maine.

They spent some time journaling.....





5.

They talked about joining the Church Militant, and becoming a soldier for Christ (they'll also be making their Confirmation this weekend), and drew themselves in that role:







6.

They reviewed the seven Sacraments, and what each one was.......and how each one is a step on the ladder that helps us get to Heaven.   Mike also talked about how Mary reaches down from Heaven to help us up the ladder, and how we can always call on her to help us.

In the process......they built a ladder.










7.

They also took some time to talk about the sacrifice of the Mass, and the Eucharist.    Mike used their silhouettes to help them create this beautiful poster - helping them to remember that their faces, hearts, and minds should be focused on the Eucharist at all times (and not talking to those around them or generally being distracted by the environment).










******

They did a lot of other activities - scavenger hunts, hikes while talking about the gifts of the Holy Spirit,  things like that - - but Mike was too busy to take more pictures!    

Please hold these rascals in your prayers this Sunday as they receive the Sacraments.  I'm sure I'll share pictures next week!!

Have a great weekend, all!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Well, that was an interesting weekend...

For all of you who don't believe in spiritual attacks....well.......my weekend might convince you.


While Mike was off having a beautiful, Holy Spirit-filled weekend with the two oldest rascals, I was at home, wrestling with demons that I thought I'd successfully battled and won months ago.

And then the outside attacks started coming....

...attacks on our adoption, calling into question whether or not we *should* even be adopting - that our "motivations" weren't good enough and we were being selfish by wanting to grow our family in this manner.

...attacks directed toward Peter's birth parents, calling them monsters for giving up their child for adoption and not "making it work."   Monsters who were giving me a chance to be a mother and giving their child the chance to receive life-saving medical treatment and care. 

...attacks on my emotional state - having it pointed out time and time again that this Mother's Day should have been when we were welcoming little Jonathan home.  Maybe I've never noticed them in Mother's Days past, but it seemed to be that everywhere I turned, there was another message or meme about "Praying for those struggling with miscarriage on this Mother's Day" in my face.  I know they were intended to be compassionate and not ever intended to hurt, but, well, they hurt.  BADLY.   Of course, no one else probably remembers when my due date was.  No one else probably realized that this Mother's Day was supposed to be one of little onesies and new baby smells.   But the emotions it stirred up were raw and painful.   

....coming to the realization that the friend who I'd described as my best friend (in the very recent past) was not at all the person that I thought she was, and the pain and heartache that comes with that.  The utter sadness of the realization that I was not being supported - at all - in the way that I thought I had been

....the exhaustion of caring for one child who was also struggling with being the only one

....the fear of knowing that I needed to finally step out of my internet bubble and do the one thing that introverts hate the most:  socializing.   Internet friends are wonderful and so necessary for introverts like me...but real-life friends and experiences are needed, too.   (Yes, I recognize the irony of this post and that statement.  I'm working on it).



It was a long, hard, lonely weekend.    Issues that I thought I'd put to rest months, even years ago, reared their ugly heads.   All that work I did to try and change my habits and fight the temptations eventually got thrown out of the window, and Saturday night, I found myself devouring Thai food like there was no tomorrow and crying while reading one Mother's Day blog after another and realizing that this Mother's Day was being completely overshadowed by all of the negativity and pain swirling in my heart.    So, of course, being the good mother that I am, this led to MORE emotional eating as I worried about ruining Mother's Day for the rascals by being too sad and too upset and not happy enough or not appreciative enough.     It was fun, I tell you.

It also meant hardly any sleep for me this weekend, so I'm starting the week on very low energy levels (and horrible food choices thanks to emotionally eating my way through the weekend, which means I feel gross, anyway).    I took a nap as soon as Mike got home with the big boys, but I'm still dragging.  Trying to detox today with healthy food and tea and prayer, but I could use a few extra hands with today's rebound.

So, if you don't mind my shameless plea, would you please pray for me today?   My heart is aching with disappointment and pain, emptiness and sorrow.   Today's one of my favourite feast days - Fatima - so please, say a rosary for me or one of the Fatima prayers.   I'd appreciate it more than you would ever know.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!


Friday, May 10, 2013

Quick Takes



Hanging out with Jen again today!




1.

Good morning, all.   I've had all these great ideas for quick takes all week, and now when I'm sitting here to type them all out......I can't remember a single doggone one.   Whoops.   This should be interesting.





2. 

Let's see.  How about a prayer request to start off the weekend?   Could you all say a prayer for Rascals 1 and 2, and Mike?  They just left for a Father/Son weekend.  We're calling it a retreat, but really Mike is taking them away for the weekend as an end to their First Holy Communion and Confirmation prep.  This is the fun of homeschooling. :)  We've been working on them getting ready to receive the sacraments all year, and now that we're getting close to the actual date (the 19th), Mike is taking the two boys on a weekend away.  He's got all kinds of activities planned - hikes, crafts, lessons about the gifts of the Holy Spirit - and it should be an amazing weekend for them.  Please join me in surrounding them in prayer!





3.

Throw a couple extra prayers my way, if you would be so kind.   I'm slightly nervous about being on my own with Rascal #3.  I have a lot to get done this weekend, all while being the sole entertainment for a four year old who is used to having two big brothers around.   I'm worried I'm going to be tired and cranky.....and not very patient.   Pray for us!





4.

Speaking of the four year old, he made me giggle yesterday.  It was a holy day of obligation, so we headed to mass around noon (I was supposed to go at 9 am, but it was raining when we woke up - that soft, calming, soothing rain - and the boys were sleeping SOOOOO soundly that I just couldn't bring myself to wake them.   Noon is not normally a good time for mass with Rascal #3 - he gets antsy - but I thought I would try if it meant that they could get some good sleep).    Anywho, at one point, I was holding him on my hip and he was craning his neck wwaaaaaaayyyyyy back to look at the ceiling (he's fascinated by the basilica's architecture).   He whipped his head back up quickly (I thought he was going to hurt himself!!) and whispered excitedly:  "MOM!!   It looks like we're under a boat in here!"   Needless to say, I got a kick out of that, and here's why.   For all you naysayers that claim art and architecture cannot convey theological concepts.....well....even my 4 year old picked up on some things.   So there.  





5.

My favourite shirts are on sale at Target for $7.  Consider this your public service announcement.  I went and stocked up yesterday, mainly because my first round of them had lived a long and glorious life but all of my shirts were slowly dying a painful death of holes (Am I the only one that struggles with getting clothes caught on things and ripping holes in them?!?!) and armpit stains (is there a remedy for this?!?!).    These shirts are awesome.  Just enough spandex to make them look fitted and fancier than a regular old tshirt, but soft and comfortable like your favourite tshirt.  You can dress them up with accessories and skirts.....or wear them with jeans for an everyday kind of look.   Love love love them.  So excited to have nice shirts again - maybe now I'll stop wearing my "hole-y" shirt to mass!   

*cough cough if Target wants to give me free shirts for this glowing review, I would not fight it**





6.
Let's see, let's see.  What else did I want to tell you about this week?   Oh right!    My dear friend Kara is working hard to adopt a little boy from eastern Europe, and she was given the opportunity to do a fantabulous giveaway as a fundraiser.  The top prize is a pack of FOUR park hopper tickets to Disneyland OR Disney World....and that's just the big prize.  There are some awesome items that you could win!    All you have to do is go read about it and either donate or share the link on social media somehow.   Go do it right now - these are awesome prizes!     Go ahead - I'll wait!






7.

Do you have big plans for Mother's Day?    We're taking it easy here (my favourite kind of Mother's Day, honestly - I'm not a big fan of fighting the brunch crowds and whatnot) with a relaxing dinner at home - one of my favourites.  Mike will be on his way back from the weekend retreat, and Rascal #3 and I will head to Mass and then just veg at home waiting for the big boys.    My perfect Mother's Day, honestly!    I still have to finish my gift for my own mom (sorry, Mom - it won't be arriving this Sunday, I'll give it to you when you're here next week!), so I'll be working hard on that this weekend.   What do you have planned?  How do you celebrate Mother's Day?




****

Alright, my littlest rascal awaits!  Have a great weekend, all!



Thursday, May 9, 2013

Decision time again!

It's that time of year again.    

A recent field trip with a friend


I love and hate this time of year.

Rascal #2 working hard on his math problems



What time is it, Heidi?  you ask.

Rascal #1 researching Benjamin Franklin and Rascal #3 practicing subtraction

Time to evaluate each child and decide if we will continue homeschooling next year or register them in a local school, that is.


This is the time of year where I doubt everything that I've done all year long - all the different programs or choices I made in lesson planning - and worry that the kids haven't "progressed" enough for the state.   These are the days where I wonder whether or not they'd be better off in a traditional school, and if I'm somehow failing them by keeping them at home.


Most days I don't struggle with this.  I see the excitement on Rascal #2's face as he masters multiplication.  I watch the creativity blossom as Rascal #1 works hour after hour writing and illustrating a children's biography of Benjamin Franklin.   I see the satisfaction and pride beaming in Rascal #3's smile as he writes his numbers - on his own.   I know they're progressing.  I know they're learning.   I know that their natural curiosity is being fed and nurtured on a daily basis.  

But I still worry.   I think all of us homeschooling moms do that - it's hard not to, when so much is "riding" on your choices and hard work.   I'm sure school teachers feel the same at the end of the school year, looking at their classroom full of pupils.

It helps me to sit down and look at the pros and cons of homeschooling, in general, during this time of year.    Deciding to homeschool is very often not decided purely on the academics (although I'm sure some families do homeschool just for that reason - it seems that the majority of us do not).  It's usually much more complex than that.   So humour me for a bit, y'all, and walk through the pros and cons of homeschooling for our little circus.

The Pros

- Our faith can become the basis for everything we do in a way that most traditional schools cannot.    Science becomes a way to praise God for the beauty and intricacy of His creation.   We can study the architecture and building techniques of cathedrals.   We can insert saints into our study of world history.  We can build our daily schedule around prayer and - on holy days of obligation, like today - we can build our day around Mass (some people go every day as part of their daily schedule - we don't, yet).   Celebrating feast days can be an all-day event - including projects and lesson plans celebrating that saint - instead of just a special dessert that night after school.

- It's flexible.  Very flexible.   If it's an unexpected day of beautiful weather, we can move things around and start the day with a hike or early recess outside.    I can take the first appointments of the day at the doctor or dentist office - without worrying that the kids will have too many absences at school (often, we can bring school along with us to do in the waiting room!).    If Daddy has a day off in the middle of the week, but is working all weekend, we can take that weekday to spend time with him and make up the lessons on Saturday morning.   We can take our family vacations on weeks other than the local spring break, making travel and work plans MUCH easier (not to mention it's MUCH easier to find a house/dog/chicken sitter!)

- The boys learn daily life skills WITHOUT having to sacrifice time with friends or other activities.   We can take care of the chickens as part of our school day....or learn the skill of mopping the floor....or learn how to build a clothesline......all without having to say "no" to playdates.   There's just more time in the day to do things like this when you're not sitting at a desk from 8 am to 3 pm!

-  We have time to focus on what they really love.   Take gymnastics, for example.  We're at the gym on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.   For hours at a time.   If we were not homeschooling, a typical gym day would look like this:

school from 7:30-3 (including travel time to get to and from school)
rush to gym practice to get there by 3:30
practice from 3:30-5:30
rush home to eat dinner
homework
in bed by 8 pm

There'd be no time to play.   No time to relax.  Very little time to spend with the family.  Homeschooling opens up that entire 7:30 - 3:30 time period, leaving plenty of time to relax and play.

-  It takes much less time than you'd think.    We typically start school between 9:30 and 10 am, after sleeping in until 7:30 or 8, having a nice, cooked breakfast, and then our morning chores (bed making, kitchen cleaning, chicken care, etc).   Rascals #2 and #3 are usually done by the time we stop for lunch around noon, and Rascal #1 is not far behind after a lunch break.   That leaves a few more hours during the day for playtime, time to read or work on art projects, time to explore or go on field trips (or appointments!)......time for life.   It's amazing how much less time we can spend on a concept, solely because there is the opportunity for one-on-one teaching.

-  There's less of a chance for our children to learn behaviours or beliefs that are not consistent with our family's values.   I'll never forget the day I picked up Rascal #1 from a day at kindergarten to hear him start singing Lady Gaga in the car on the way home.   My heart stopped beating for a moment to hear my 6 year old singing about things that I'd hoped to keep away from him a little bit longer.   Now, I know I can't "shelter" them from everything forever......but for right now, I want him to be a child.   Our family wants this time to help our children grow in their identity as Catholic males and, well, the current culture isn't going to help them do that.   

-  There's no "us vs them" mentality, or at least, very little of it (I had to reword this, mainly because the boys are in a "spy" phase where they work together to spy on Mike and I throughout the day....so I guess, technically, there is a bit of "us vs them", haha).    One of the things I remember very clearly from my days as a youth minister was watching the difference between a couple of the teens (who were homeschooled) and those who weren't when it came to their view of authority figures.   Our traditional school system is set up to naturally create an "us (students) vs them (teachers or authority figures)" mindset - the oppressed vs the oppressor.    In my time as a youth minister, I watched this mindset slowly transfer over to include parents and all adults in the "them" category.  It was much less pronounced in teens who were homeschooled.    In my opinion, I think it is much easier for a child to grow up seeing their parent as a fellow teammate in a homeschooled environment.

-  I get to spend my days with three little men that I truly love to be around.   I don't miss out on cuddles or hugs or giggles.   I'm there to see the first time they master the monkey bars.  I get to see the excitement as they learn to read a story on their own.   I'm the one they call out for, excitedly, after creating a piece of artwork.    I don't hear about it after the fact, in a progress report, or in an end-of-the-year portfolio.  I'm there, walking with them, as they reach each milestone.

- We get to sleep in.   I know, I know, this sounds totally crazy, but it's a big deal for me.  Making sure that our kids get enough sleep is a huge priority of mine.   They're able to learn more, run faster, and enjoy life to the fullest when they've had enough sleep.   There's no staying up late to finish homework, or getting up early in order to catch the bus.   We can let them sleep in their own natural rhythms and wake to their own natural alarm clocks.  I do think this is one of the major factors in our lack of sicknesses in the past two years.   Their bodies are able to rest enough and fight off whatever germs we may come into contact with.

- My patience is growing.  I've become a better mother to my boys, and I'm completely convinced that homeschooling has had a huge hand in this.   Instead of rushing from one activity or school pick up/drop off or hurried dinner to another, I'm able to relax a bit.   My to-do list is much more flexible, and the amount of relief that has given me is huge.   Without that stress or anxiety hanging over my head, I'm able to laugh more.  I can listen more to the kids.   My patience with their behaviour or needs has grown immensely - and I think it's mostly due to the lack of stress I feel.   Now, whenever I hear another mom say something like "I don't think I'm patient enough to homeschool," there's a part of me that cringes inside.  I thought the same thing - in fact, it was the main reason why we didn't homeschool for the first two years of Rascal #1's school "career."   I was positive I would lose my temper too often and be yelling all of the time and it would ruin my relationship with the kids, when, in fact........homeschooling has done just the opposite.   

- We can focus on the subjects that the kids love, and let them learn about things that they are interested in.   Rascal #1 loves architecture......so we can study famous buildings and he can recreate them.   Rascal #2 loves math, all kinds of math.....so we can move more quickly in that subject than the others.

- On the flip side, we can spend more time in subjects where they struggle, without them getting "behind."   Each subject takes much less time at home than it does at school - which leaves us plenty of time each day to spend extra time on something that they're struggling with.   Rascal #1 struggles with math......so I can spend more time every day playing math games with him, or reviewing concepts.   Rascal #2 struggled with learning to read........so I could spend more time cuddled with him on the couch, reading our way through more stories and easy readers.    All of this can happen without sending them to a special class or tutor (and therefore, there is also no stigma of having to go to the "stupid" kid class), or without getting behind in our daily lesson plans.

I'm sure there are more pros to homeschooling, and I am leaving out something that pertains to your family, but for us, these are the major ones.   Feel free to add your own in the comment box below!


Cons

-  It takes dedication.  My laziness is a problem - I'd much rather spend the day playing instead of cracking open the lesson planner and working on tomorrow's plans.  I'm pretty good about keeping on top of the lessons for the boys (after all, I don't want to put them behind), but it's VERY hard for me to be dedicated enough to prep lessons or plan out our week or even get the next day's lessons ready the night before.    Laziness is a constant struggle for me.

-  I'm always with my kids.   I know, I know, this is in the list above, too.   Most of the time, this is a pro for homeschooling for me....but sometimes it is a con.   When I had a filling break and needed to go to the dentist, last-minute........it was a con.    When it's time for that yearly appointment at the doctor's office (you ladies know what I'm referring to)....it was a con.   It is significantly harder to find child care during the day than it is on a weekend or even in the evening.    It's also usually more expensive to hire a sitter during the school day than on the weekend, because the people who ARE available at 10 am on a Wednesday morning are college students or other moms, who either charge more or ask for babysitting services in return.   It can be done, but it takes much more work and planning.   Traditional school is "easier" in this regard - if the boys were in school, I'd have 8 hours a day to do things like this without worrying about what I'd do with them.   

-  It can be just as expensive as a private education.   We were blessed enough to find a lot of our school books either used or for free (given to us by friends), which opens up a lot of room in our education budget for "fun" things, like memberships to the zoo or tickets to go see the symphony.    All of those things add up, though, and the cost of schoolbooks and art supplies can grow pretty darn high. For us, it's still cheaper than three children in Catholic school, but it is definitely more expensive than I had anticipated originally.   We're blessed with a great job for Mike, though, and as of yet, it has not been a stumbling block.   Homeschooling can be done for very little cost, but it takes work and dedication (see the first con) to do so.

-  There is a constant undercurrent of doubt, at least for me.  I worry that I'm not providing my kids with enough chances to make friends or that I'm not fulfilling all of their academic needs.  I  worry that our friends and family members doubt my ability to teach the boys.   I worry that we'll be seen as that "weird" family by those in our extended community, and that the boys will have to fight this image for their entire lives.  I worry that I'm impeding their ability to grow and learn by keeping them at home.   If I sit back and really evaluate the boys objectively, most of these fears disappear........but on a regular, day-to-day basis, they are there, in the background, constantly nagging at me.




This time of year, all of these things start swirling to the surface, and I have to sit back and really evaluate each boy and their needs.   Is homeschooling the right fit for them, as an individual?   Can I - should I - be giving them something else in their educational journey?   Am I being objective enough?

It's a scary evaluation, and one that I dread.    It's so difficult to know whether or not you're doing the best job possible raising your child - and that changes from child to child.   Maybe Rascal #1 would do better in a traditional school.  Maybe Rascal #2 needs to be home right now.   But then again, I once was told that homeschooling was for the FAMILY, not just the child.    If I look at it through that lens, what is the best decision for our family?

I think, for the time being, we'll continue to homeschool......the pros outnumber the cons for us right now.    Maybe someday that will change, who knows?   Homeschooling is the right "fit" for our family at this point in time.

I just wish it wasn't so easy to second-guess everything........

***********

How about your family?   Did I miss any pros/cons for you?   Share your experience in the comments below!




Sunday, May 5, 2013

Musings: Eat organic or not?



Honestly, I don't really care.   I just thought it'd catch your attention, dear reader.  ;)

There seems to be A LOT of talk about this topic out there right now.  At least, it seems to be everywhere I normally look to for information - online news sites, Facebook posts by friends, other blogs I read......for some reason, everyone seems to be discussing whether or not organic food is a good choice.   I thought I'd add one more blog to the mix and put into words our thought process and decision making.   Maybe it'll resonate with you, who knows.  Feel free to ignore it....

We currently purchase mostly organic food.   It didn't used to be that way - it's been a gradual shift for us, as our diet and lifestyle changed in other ways.    Here's how it happened.

If you took a snapshot of my kitchen six years ago, it would have looked VERY different from now.   Back then, my fridge, freezer, and pantry was overflowing with items that you could purchase only at Sam's.  You know the ones - the bulk, plastic-wrapped packages of bananas.  The ginormous boxes of goldfish in the pantry.   The stockpile-sized bag of spaghetti noodles.  We went through milk (also purchased at Sam's) at the rate of about 3 gallons a week.

Then life changed.   We moved to Maine.   Mike started a wonderful residency that had the one downside of coming with a salary that worked out to be about $3/hour, after factoring how many hours he was actually WORKING.   Cost of living didn't really factor into the equation when we were looking at potential residency locations way back in the golden years of medical school.    It should have.  It was our one major mistake when ranking residency programs - we didn't really think about the salary and cost of living.    Honestly, I don't know if we would have changed a thing if we HAD looked at the financial piece (because Mike felt that strongly about the residency program after his interview), but it may have.  If nothing else, it probably would have changed where we chose to live in relation to the residency program.  

Anywho, we moved to the amazingly beautiful state of Maine and became immediately overwhelmed with sticker shock.   Everything was SO.MUCH.MORE.EXPENSIVE here - that three gallon of milk a week habit translated into about $45/month - and our budget was not prepared.

Meal times became quickly based around cheap starches - potatoes, pasta, rice - and cheap proteins, like beans.   Produce became a luxury, really, and was purchased solely based on sales and how long it lasted (oranges in winter - yes.   Strawberries in winter?  Not by a long shot).    Conventional produce was really our only option.

Then....we moved to the glorious state of Arizona.  Folks, Arizona was CHEAP.   We could translate our $600/month grocery budget (that previously meant beans and rice at *least* twice a week) to completely organic produce and MEAT EVERY SINGLE DAY.   And cheese.  Ahhh, cheese.  I could eat cheese with EVERY meal if I wanted to.   

***embarrassing Heidi story alert***

I actually called Mike from the grocery store the first time I went shopping in Arizona.   Crying.   Folks, I was CRYING WITH JOY at the grocery store the first time I went shopping.   It was that much of a change for us.

***okay, back to the regularly scheduled programming***

For the first time ever, we had to seriously sit down and think: "Is buying organic worth the money?"

The research began.   And, honestly, the research made it a much harder decision.   Why?   Well....because the research really isn't definitive.  By the time you wade through who paid for each study and who is the parent company of the company that paid for the study (since the majority of the common organic food companies are actually owned by traditional agriculture/food companies)....you'd get to the conclusions section and find that, guess what?   The study didn't really find anything, other than the urine of the participants in the study contained higher levels of pesticides (umm..duh, really).    There was no conclusive evidence saying that pesticides were harmful, medically-speaking....but there was no conclusive evidence saying that they were safe, medically-speaking.   The best most of the studies could come up with were that the data didn't show that there were additional risks of eating the pesticides (Basic Study Reading 101:   "no known risks" does NOT equal "proven safe."  Kinda like how "innocent" and "not guilty" don't really mean the same thing, either).

Anywho, we were sitting there with a budget that *could* finally afford to purchase organic food....and no real clear, definitive answer to whether or not we *should* be buying organic food for health reasons.

So we started trying to figure out what was important to us, as a family.    Our list really boiled down to a few things:

- that our kids ate well-balanced meals that provided a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and protein sources, with the emphasis being on plant-based nutrition

- that our kids were not ingesting a ton of processed food.  A box of mac and cheese here and there would be a treat, not a regular thing.   We wanted their diets (and ours) to be focused on fresh ingredients turned into made-from-scratch meals.

- that our kids (and ourselves) knew how food was grown and where it came from.   We didn't fall into the "locavore" movement, really (I wasn't setting requirements as to how close to our house our food was grown or produced, so we weren't hardcore), but we wanted the kids to recognize the natural rhythms built into our area's agriculture, and as much as possible, we wanted them to have the experience of going to the farm and being active participants in the production of food.    

This last one - that our kids knew how food was grown and where it came from - was of primary importance for us.  We wanted our kids to respect and support the people who worked their tails off so that we could eat every day.    As much as possible, we wanted the kids to participate in that - which usually meant we did as much "pick-your-own" options as possible.   Homeschooling tends to lend itself well to this idea, and a lot of our lesson plans involved a trip to a local farm or orchard.  This last goal also dictated whether or not we ate organic food when we lived in Arizona.    You see, we lived about 15 minutes from a beautiful, organic farm that had an amazing selection of "pick-your-own" fruits and veggies.    It oftentimes took me just as long to get to the "big box" grocery store to go shopping as it did to drive to the farm......so the majority of our food came from this farm.   Using this farm as our main source of food also allowed us to eat almost completely organic produce, while keeping within our budget....but that was more of a secondary effect. 

Did we feel healthier?   Yep.   But we also greatly adjusted our diet to live seasonally (forcing us to increase the variety of our nutrient intake) and primarily plant based.   Was it the organic food, or was it the overall change in our diet?   Honestly, my gut tells me (pun intended) that it was probably a little of all of that, and more.   I can't definitively say what our increased health was due to.   (We'd also have to take into account other lifestyle changes:   going from traditional schooling to homeschooling or moving from Maine to Arizona, for example).   All I know is that we no longer had sick visits at the doctor (we haven't had one in 3 years) and no more asthma attacks for Rascal #1.   Maybe it was the food, maybe it was the environment, maybe it was the lifestyle.  I have no clue - I just know that I'm grateful for the change in our family's health!

Then....we moved back to Maine.   Suddenly, our $600/month grocery budget for a family of five was no longer going to provide for things like organic produce and meat more than once or twice a week.   Again, we had to sit down and figure out what was most important to us when it came to feeding our family.....and look through the body of research that had appeared in the year and a half we'd been living in the desert.

Guess what?  The research still doesn't have a definitive answer.   All they can tell us is the same thing: there's no clear evidence (yet) for one side or the other of the argument.    

So we had to sit down and analyze - again - what was most important to us.   The list really hadn't changed in the year and a half of "luxury" grocery shopping (although, honestly, nothing FELT luxurious about picking peaches in the 100ยบ heat with the sun beating down on you).    Our most important goals were still:  eat a mostly plant-based diet, focusing on variety, and try to keep as close to the source of the food as possible so that the boys would continue to recognize the importance of the farmer to our ability to eat healthily.  We didn't really feel comfortable pumping our kids full of pesticides (after all, we'd removed pretty much all chemicals from our house in the previous year...it felt slightly "wrong" to add more back in).

How could we go about doing that in Maine?   Well, it really came down to prioritizing.

We gardened - and are expanding our plot this summer - trying to focus on the items that we base a lot of our meals around (things like kale, tomatoes, and squashes, for example).    We try to buy as local as possible - stopping at the local dairy for our milk and cheese  - or heading to a nearby farm to pick up our meats, lettuces and eggs (well, soon these will also come from our backyard).   Some organic items, like Maine potatoes,  have a cost that is within pennies of the conventional items.    In that case, I'll pay the extra $0.50 to buy the organic Maine potatoes over the conventional Idaho ones.

Our local community, in our tiny little village, is pretty reliant on the economical support of these local farms, many (if not most) of which are organic - Maine is a pretty "crunchy" state.   I play with our weekly menus to reflect what is "in season" in our little village.   In our eyes, this accomplishes our goals:   we're eating a larger variety of food (when looking at the "big" picture, or over the course of a year's time), our diets are mainly plant-based (because that's what our local economy is focused on), and our kids know where our food comes from.   A lot of the local choices are organic - but not all of them are.   We're still buying mostly (if not all) organic every week.....but again, it's more of a secondary result of our eating habits.

Is buying organic stretch sometimes for our budget?  Not really.   I know, it seems to go against everything you read out there, but really.....it isn't.  

Here's why:   we changed our diet and lifestyle.   Instead of buying the $5/pint organic strawberries when it's not strawberry season....I wait until the local strawberry farm (which happens to be pesticide-free) is opened up for picking.   We'll go every day of the week to pick berries - and I'll freeze and can everything I can get my hands on.     Instead of buying something because it "sounds good"....I'll go to the local farm stand and buy what they have - and work our menu around that.    Instead of buying organic lettuce - we grow our own and don't add any fertilizers or pesticides to it (it means we get less than the farms that do - but we get enough for our family).   

Not everyone can do this, I recognize that.   I feel very grateful that we are able to do so, and I say a prayer of thanksgiving every day when I am able to pull out a can of home-grown tomatoes to make dinner.    

So, yes, we eat organic (mostly)........but more primarily....we choose to grow our own, pick our own, and support our own.   It works for us.




Thursday, May 2, 2013

Quick Takes


Joining Jen again today!




1.

Hi, all.   It's technically Thursday night and I'm pooped after spending hours out and about.   I loved every minute of it, but this introvert is exhausted and ready to retreat into my bedroom and close the door.    Tomorrow's going to be just as crazy as a day, though, so I'm trying to quick-take-it-up now before burrowing into my bed.   There's a chance that I won't come back out on time tomorrow.  Sometimes it's tough being such an introvert!!





2.

Tomorrow's busy because, well.....I overbooked us, again.   Morning will be "normal," except that I need to get us started with school BEFORE 10 am (which never happens) so that we can be packed up and ready to leave the house for an 11:30 co-op.....and then go straight from co-op to gymnastics....then straight to gymnastics to dinner with friends......then straight from dinner to a diocesan event that a friend is speaking at.  All of these things are good and I want to do them......but I didn't realize how jam-packed they were all on one day.   By the time I roll into the driveway tomorrow, I'm pretty sure I won't be able to do anything but crack open a beer and collapse onto the couch.   Did I mention that Mike will be gone, on-call, all day and weekend, on top of that?   Eek!





3.

Random question for you:   how often are you and/or your family sick?   I've been pondering this question a lot recently.  It seems like everywhere I turn - - one of our friends is stuck at home sick.   We're talking high fevers and highly contagious illnesses.   I probably shouldn't say anything in case I jinx it, but......we haven't gotten sick in A LONG time.   Like...YEARS.   We had a week of cold-like symptoms this past January during the height of flu season here that I kept expecting to turn into the flu, but it never happened.    Then once the winter before, Rascal #3 had a week of a fever and being extra grumpy/groggy.....but that was it.    I haven't had to make a sick visit to the doctors in over two years.   All conventional wisdom would say that we should be sick all of the time - none of the boys were exclusively breastfed......my house is NOT clean (germ-wise - I haven't owned a bottle of Lysol in years)....and their father practically bathes in blood born pathogens and bacteria all day long at work.   So why aren't we sick more?    The contemplative side of me is wondering if it has anything to do with changes in diet and environment, mainly moving towards a mainly veggie diet and removing almost all commercial cleaning products from the house.   We started that about two years ago....and since then...well....we haven't gotten sick.   I find it odd.   Very odd.    But interesting.   Thoughts?





4.  

How about some pictures?   Look what we built Mike for his birthday!!   (well.....the truth is HE built it, but it was OUR idea!)


Yeppers.   A fire pit.   It's beautiful and we've already used it twice, and we love it.   Found it at Lowe's, in the garden center.   All of the pieces and for-once-actually-helpful-directions.  LOVE IT!





5.  

What I don't love about it?

We have a stash of Reese's and Hershey's from s'more making.   They're taunting me from the pantry.  I am positive that I am not losing weight this week.    I'm also positive that there's only 1 Reese's left in a package of 8 and no one else ate any.  Whoops.






6.

Meet Gladys


We inherited another chicken.   She's beautiful, and seems to be fitting in just fine.   It's a long story, but she's joined our family in honour of our buddy Brother Rex.   I love her.   





7.

Last random note, but you all should try it.   I made a new recipe for dinner tonight:  a chicken piccata recipe from the Whole Foods website.  It was delicious.  All of the boys gobbled it up.  Highly highly recommend it.



.......and on that note, I'm finishing my wine and heading to bed.   Good night, y'all!  

Thankful Thursdays

Don't forget to join in!

I think we Mainers might be getting spoiled with this stretch of amazing weather.  I'm sure it's going to come to an end sometime, but for now, I'm soaking up every single bit of vitamin D that I can.   The kids are requiring baths every.single.day (and the bathwater is GROSS) and sleeping more soundly than ever.......and I'm loving it!   

Join me today - tell me what you're thankful for!   Believe me, it will change the rest of your day if you take the next five minutes to verbalize the blessings in your life at this moment.   

Today, I'm thankful for:

- the sunshine

- great friends who make me smile with their emails and jokes

- two new NFP clients (pray for us!) that I get to share this amazing information with

- a husband who's off for the day and who uses it to be actively present to his family:  he's working on getting bikes ready to take the rascals out for a ride.

- homeschooling.  I know, I know, I say this one a lot, but I'm really thankful for this opportunity.   The boys get to have recess to enjoy the sun BEFORE lessons start, and I get to watch the excitement on Rascal #2's face as he reads all of the directions on his math worksheet all by himself for the first time (this is huge for us - he reads at grade level, but is two grade levels ahead in math, so the instructions are difficult for him to read on his own)



How about you?   Leave me a comment - what are you thankful for?  

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A beautiful morning....

I should be getting the boys inside and starting school.   I should be sweeping up the floors.   I should probably be emailing people back and returning calls instead of sitting here at the kitchen island, drinking coffee (it's HOT!  Woot!) and blogging.   

I'm not too good at doing what I should, I guess.

Instead, I'm sitting here, enjoying the sunshine that's pouring in through the windows.  I'm laughing while listening to the sounds of the rascals playing "house" outside with the poor chickens as their pets. (My gosh, those birds are patient!)   I'm savouring the taste of my hot coffee.   

And I'm not doing what I should be doing......but I think I am doing the RIGHT thing.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately (warning, Heidi's getting all contemplative on you):  about how what we think we "should" be doing or achieving isn't always what is the "right" thing to be doing.    It was a big component of my talk this past weekend at the youth convention.   (Thanks for the prayers, by the way - it went well!  No one threw anything at me, so I took that to mean it was a success, haha). My talk was on a topic that often time devolves into a screaming match where no one is really listening to each other, much less teaching each other anything:  marriage in today's culture.    My goal was to reach these teens with the beauty of marriage as a vocation (what the Church teaches) and explain to them a little bit of what the Church teaches marriage is and is not - my task was to compare the Church's understanding of marriage with our culture's.  It was a huge topic....and I was nervous that it wouldn't be received well.   I would guess that for the vast majority of us, the last time we had a conversation about marriage with a friend or family member - or even a completely stranger - it ended up turning into a debate filled with anger and hate and name-calling.   I didn't want this talk to turn into that - I really wanted to show them the GOODNESS of marriage as a vocation.

In preparing for the workshop, I realized that I needed to start from the very beginning (yes, pun intended, all you Theology of the Body-loving Catholics out there, haha) - how could they learn about marriage as a vocation if they didn't know what a vocation even was?   We Catholics are pretty guilty of associating the word "vocation" ONLY with the priesthood.   As I thought about it more and more in the weeks leading up to Convention, I realized that unless I talked about our purpose in life.....they wouldn't understand the idea of a vocation (in terms of meaning more than the priesthood).

So what IS our purpose in life?   Whoa, big question, huh?  How many different attempts have been made to answer that question?   I sat there, staring at my notes for this talk, terrified.  How the heck was I going to answer that question in a 45 minute talk - one that was supposed to be a workshop, not a lecture?   Then, how was I supposed to tie that into marriage?!?!   Scary stuff for this "just a mom."  

As I thought more and more about it, I realized that the big conflict between our culture and our vocation (including marriage), really came down to a case of the "shoulds."    Maybe it was because we're using the Baltimore Catechism in our homeschooling lessons, I don't know, but I realized that if I looked completely at the question of our purpose in life.......all of the rest of the workshop fell into place.    

The world (I'm using this to mean "our culture" because it's not just the American culture that says this) tells us all these things that we "should" do with our lives.  Usually it includes things like fancy degrees, lots of money and/or power, picture-perfect holidays and houses (yes, Pinterest, I'm looking at you!), beautiful, youthful bodies, and in the US, 2  children.   Our purpose in life, honestly, seems to be found in every HGTV show and glossy magazine.   Everything we do - all of the "shoulds" - are expected to be working towards achieving this goal of an air-brushed life.

I looked around my own life - how much do I do purely because it's something that I "should" do?   How many times have I gone to confession and confessed laziness or even sloth because I'm not doing what I "should" be doing?  (I'll give you a clue - it's pretty much every month).   Last month, my priest (God bless him) asked me a point-blank question (after asking me to clarify - I think because this is the same guy I see every month and well, like I said, it's a regular for me):  "Who's telling you what you "should" be doing?  Is it God's will for you?"

I'm not going to lie.   That simple question caused me A LOT of reflection, some of it painful, this past month.   It had A LOT to do with the direction my workshop talk went for these teens.  

Who was telling me what I should be doing?  Was it God's will for me?

I pulled out Rascal #1's copy of the Baltimore Catechism.    We started at the beginning last year, and have been plugging away for the past year and a half.  I vaguely remembered one of the questions/answers having to do with our purpose in life - and I thought it might help me understand what I "should" be doing in our daily life.   I wasn't disappointed.   I present to you questions/answers number 3 and 4:

3.   Why did God make us?
God made us to show forth His goodness and to share with us His everlasting happiness in Heaven.

4.   What must we do to gain the happiness of heaven?
To gain the happiness of heaven, we must know, love, and serve God in this world.


That's it, y'all.  That's our purpose in life, according to the Catholic Church:  To know, love, and serve God in this world and enjoy happiness with Him in heaven.  

That's all of the "shoulds" I need to focus on.   That's what our vocation is - a calling to a way of life that will help us achieve our purpose in life.   As soon as I went back to the basics......it all fell into place.   What should we be doing?    Living to know, love, and serve God and enjoy happiness in heaven.    That's it.   Everything we do or say should be ordered toward this goal.    And our vocation? It's how we do that.   God is calling us to a way of life (whether it be married or single or religious life) that is our personalized way of living that purpose.  Once I laid the basic foundation of purpose and vocation....it was natural to move into marriage as a vocation.   (And again, no one threw anything at me, so I'm calling it a success).

But I wanted to see what this meant in my own, personal life, not just in a 45 minute workshop for a couple hundred teenagers.   So,  I did an experiment in the weeks leading up to Convention.    Every time I felt that "I should be doing x, y, and z instead of a, b, and c" anxiety coming on, I forced myself to stop whatever I was doing, and say a quick prayer to know God's will in that moment.   I stole a phrase from a friend, and thought:

"Heidi, how is this helping you get to heaven and bring your brother?     What will help you to know, love, and serve God in this moment?"


It was kind of amazing.   I cannot even begin to document the times that I thought I "should" be doing something and I realized that it had absolutely no reflection on my ultimate purpose in life.   Whether or not the kitchen sink was perfectly clean and sparking had no reflection on my knowing, loving, and serving God in that moment.    Going outside with my boys and reading a story to them did help me to show them God (and therefore, serve Him) in that moment.   Calling a friend who I knew to be hurting helped me to know, love, and serve God.......making sure our playroom looked magazine-perfect did not.   

Over the past few weeks, again and again,  I sat back and thought about all of the "shoulds" that were pressing down on me every day and discerning if they came from the world or from God........ and it was quite eye-opening.  I wasn't living for Him.....I was living for the world.   I realized just how much I worried about being a "doctor's wife"... and how little I prioritized being "Mike's wife."   

I still have a lot of work to do when it comes to weeding out the "shoulds" in my life.   It's a delicate line to walk - discerning what is God's will for me in each moment without allowing my laziness to creep back in.   It's tiring - requiring constant prayer and evaluation.    I think this will be a battle that I will fight for the rest of my life - pride and sensuality are my bitter enemies on this battlefield.    

There is some relief in realizing that I have a purpose in life, and that God has called me into a path that will help me along the way.   He's calling me home, as long as I keep listening for Him.

St Gianna Beretta Molla's feast day was the other day - one of the days we were at the youth convention - and I stumbled upon this quote of hers while preparing for my workshop.    I think it's perfect, and I am reminded of it daily as I try to figure out what I really should be doing.    I think I need to have it framed and posted in every room of my house, it's that perfect for my struggle.  

"The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for what He is sending us every day in His goodness."

Maybe I'm over-reading it, but I don't think she meant the fleeting emotional happiness here on earth.  I think she meant eternal happiness - and the secret to that is living moment-by-moment while talking to God.  Thanking Him for the gift of that moment and listening to His call.   

That was my take-home from this weekend.   That was what I tried to teach the teens - it's all about our purpose in life.   


******

Some pictures from this weekend - it was a beautiful, glorious weekend and I am grateful that we were able to attend, especially as a family.