{SQT} Thanks and Cake on Friday

Back in the saddle, and coming ‘atcha with a full plate of takes. Let’s hit it!

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1. Thanks to everyone who read and commented on Wednesday’s post. The words had been brewing for some time and after a rough Tuesday, I just had to type it out. I don’t like to look like a complainer or someone seeking attention; my gist is taking this life I’ve been given and sharing it in a positive and often funny way. But the truth is there are a lot of Tuesdays. However, after sharing my heart, I can tell you honestly, Wednesday was so much better. You can tell when tons of people are storming heaven on your behalf.

In the midst of feeling sorry for myself, I’d completely overlooked the significance of Wednesday’s feast until Micaela commented, and I was like duh.

Today is the solemnity of the Annunciation and I was just meditating on how big God asks our “Yes” to be. These aren’t little things God asks of us, but rather life changing, earth shattering things like accepting and caring for a whole human life that will change the course of history in the world. You say yes every day. Even when you say no and have to apologize, you end up saying yes.”

To everyone else who commented, I do plan on responding personally because each of you helped so much. Whether you’re a special needs parent or not, it’s okay to admit that what we do day in and day out is hard and we need God, and we need the support of one another to get through those tough times.

2. Then I saw that Mary posted and I was all emotional because it was like so much of her post was written just for me that day.

I said yes twenty-two years ago when God blessed Jerry and I with our daughter. Like Mary, we had no idea how the story would end but trusted that God would get us to where we needed to be.
Well, that may be stretching it a bit. Actually…that’s stretching it a lot. Think a taffy pull on speed.
We had no clue, but we loved her and we made the decision to fight for her and for our family to remain intact. We made mistakes. Many, Many mistakes along the way. Our faith wavered and we cried out to God time and time and time again begging Him for relief or healing or whatever we needed in that moment.
He gave us what we needed each time, until he didn’t.
I take that back…sort of. He didn’t not give us what we needed. He gave us the strength to survive what He needed to happen next. …
I am not a saint. I am not a super strong person or anything like that. I am simply a mother who found myself facing a situation that I felt completely unprepared for when Courtney’s seizures began. Jerry and I had no clue how to proceed but we knew we had to try our best to help our kid.
So for better of for worse, we did what we could. Each day a choice had to be made to make the best of whatever came our way or to give in to the fear and anxiety that hovered just above the surface of daily life.
Some days we chose fear but thankfully most days we chose hope.”

Cue waterworks.

The lesson is folks, trust and say yes.

3. Next time I’m feeling down on life, I’m going to remind myself that Mr. T has a new TV show coming out with THE BEST TITLE EVER.

‘I Pity the Tool’ will air on the DIY Network: I KID YOU NOT. 

The week keeps looking brighter.

4. I’ve received some request for a Quick Takes Template a la Conversion Diary, so based on Jen’s model, I’ve fashioned a template you can drop into the HTML of your post to make linking up a snap. In the words of the great Fulwiler herself (but updated with the correct code):

1. Click on this link.

2. Highlight everything and copy it.

3. Paste it into the HTML editor on your blogging platform. (To get to the HTML editor in Blogger or WordPress, click on the tab at the top of the new post screen that says HTML.)

That’s it! If you’d like to download the text file to your computer for future reference,  just right-click on the link and choose “Save Link As…”

The template includes links to each individual take. Just click on the number and it will take the page directly to that spot.

Let me know if you have any problems!

5. We’re coming up on the homestretch of Lent! Yay Easter! Yay spring! Yay school break! Our second trimester (from January to March) is always the hardest. Between winter weather, less daylight and Lent, it’s a long twelve weeks. Whatever materials are still being used in the homeschool by this point are definite keepers. For a family that’s usually lax in the science department, we’ve made tons of progress this trimester and there’s a lot of enthusiasm for learning more. I credit a few key resources:

 

For the days when I. just. couldn’t. even. the kids begged to watch Nova Science Now. We’ve watched the original Nova series but we much prefer the format of the ‘Now’ shows. Three seasons are free on Amazon Prime. We’ve completed various science badges on the DIY website and we all enjoy reading the Basher and Tiner books. The Basher books are just fun, and the Tiner books are a good fit for our history minded family.

6. This is my current favorite song, though I’m not necessarily a huge fan of Hozier. If Lucifer wrote a ballad today about his seduction of Eve, it would be this. Obviously the singer is enamored with a particular innocent woman, but only so far as he is able to corrupt her. It’s haunting because the melancholy melody indicates the singer, even if successful, will derive no pleasure from his conquest. That is Satan, dragging us down with sin for no other reason that to make us as miserable as him.

7. My favorite Flashback Friday song would have to be this one by Cake because their music completely confuses the kids every time it plays on the radio. Their faces literally contort and they ask “How old is this song?” “What is with his voice?” “Why does he want her to wear a long jacket?”. And I think back to when I would ask my parents about songs from their youth. “What does she want to ask Alice?” “Is that guy supposed to be Tarzan? Why do we care that a lion sleeps tonight?”

And the think the video is especially appropriate given this take’s subject matter. 

Do you have a favorite Flashback Friday song? Science book? Mr T character? coughcoughB.A.Baracuscoughcough Share them in your takes and link up below!


I’m Not A Good Example Of How To Do It Well

A bit of honesty, without trying to sound like what I said I wanted to avoid. 

In a nut shell, I’ve been feeling pretty overwhelmed around here lately. It started a couple of months back when we started seriously trying to get Fulton on a bathroom schedule (that I don’t wish to elaborate on too much for fear of embarrassing him when he’s older). It was one aspect of his care that got put off for probably too long because 1. we don’t fully understand some secondary issues he’s got going on in that department 2. we had to order specialized equipment for him to use the bathroom and 3. I knew it would take tons of time that I wasn’t sure I had.

But we started and in the last few months have made minimal progress getting him on a schedule which means our efforts completely consume a large chunk of my day. And Fulton’s unhappy and I’m unhappy and everyone else still has needs that need met. Patience and optimism has worn thin, but there’s no turning back and I’m just trying everything to rearrange my day to make it work.

When introducing me, people often mention the fact that I care for two special needs children in addition to homeschooling, and how sometimes I write really meaningful stuff about the experience. But the last couple of months, and weeks in particular, have reminded me that caring for special needs children does not equal days filled with spiritual enlightenment and deep insight. It’s typically a lot of hard work coupled with frustration. I think I fail more days than not at gleaning the grace and sanctity that are mixed within the tedious caregiving and instead fight back and resist against the never-ending tasks.

From a spiritual standpoint, I’ve been given a gold mine of graces to pick away at day in and day out. But I struggle to give up my whole day for the needs of others, and then feel like the world’s worst mom, and Catholic, for not joyfully living out my little way. I also fear that my children, Fulton in particular, will grow up thinking I resent being a mother and caregiver. I conscientiously spend a chunk of each day apologizing for my anger, telling them I love them and hoping that in someway they understand how hard it is to do what I do, or that at least they will look back as adults and forgive me.

This is why I don’t want the title ‘Superwoman’, ‘Mom Who Does It All’ or ‘Inspiration’. Don’t look to me as the example of how to spiritually rock this special needs mom game. I’m proof that anyone can do it, but not proof about how to do it well.

Our search for a nurse or aide is currently on hold while Tony’s job situation is in flux. Since the process to procure assistance is long and time-consuming, it’s not something we want to start, then have to restart if the kids insurance provider changes or if our family needs to relocate. I’m trying to make the best of what I know is a temporary situation, and generally failing the longer the situation plays out. 

So that’s what in my heart and mind right now. I can look back through the archives and find similar posts of woe and know that things will improve, so I’m not despairing so much as tired. I hesitate to say ‘This is my Lent” and just try to really own it for the next week and half because, this is my everyday life and it will continue through the celebration of Easter and until only God knows when. 

God has blessed me with five great kids and I never forget that. And I try to remember to thank Him daily for allowing me the opportunity to stay home and raise them all, even when it’s exceptionally hard like right now. I just wonder why I wasn’t given Julie Andrews levels of joy, patience and perseverance as part of this vocation.

{SQT} A New Look and the Same Old, Same Old

Let me start off by saying this week’s takes will not feature a reverse order link-up. Australians and West Coasters prepare to seize your tops spots as usual.

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1. I spent more time than usual in my bathrobe last weekend so I could present you with this!

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It’s a new cover design for my book, ‘The Best Laid Plans’. Spring is finally here and it’s the perfect time to clean out, KonMari your sock drawer, reevaluate your priorities and get organized. If you didn’t get a planner in January, now’s your chance! My planner is undated so you can start it immediately with no wasted pages. Or, buy one as you start thinking about next year’s homeschool plans (which is a lot easier to tackle then say, the pile of math workbooks that need correcting on your desk.)

For ONE WEEK ONLY (or, until next week’s Quick Takes go live) save 15% on printed and pdf copies of my planner. I don’t guarantee it will completely organize the chaos of your life, but hopefully everything will seem less overwhelming laid out nicely in front of you. Plus, it’s full of funny stuff I wrote.

If you ordered a planner with the old cover, or wish to use the new cover with your pdf download, you can snag a printable pdf here. Decoupage that bad boy on top of the old cover or, if you’re an over achiever, use this tutorial to make a new laminated cover. 

2. I’ll also be selling my planner in person at the CHAPLET Homeschool Conference in Berlin, NJ on Saturday, April 25th. Stick around to hear my talk entitled, “When It All Seems Like Too Much: Homeschooling Through Difficult Circumstances.” I love the CHAPLET Conference and the great variety of vendors. I always see old friends and I’d love to see you there too! I promise to write something ridiculous inside the cover of my planner for you, sign your shirt, snap a selfie or smile awkwardly while you avoid eye contact and walk away; your choice! Maureen Wittmann and Margot Davidson are also speaking so you can’t go wrong, even if I freeze up and start crying at the podium.

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Lots o’ vendors, friendly people and so much used curriculum you’ll need a hand truck! (Photo from the CHAPLET Conference Facebook page.)

3. I wrote about dealing with writer’s block earlier this week. As I’m trying to pick up my own momentum, I’ve been fooling around behind the scenes on my blog. In the process, I’ve studied many search terms that repeatedly drive people to my site. I’m pretty sure there’s something useful I could do with the information, but for now, my husband just gets constant updates on where I turn up in search rankings for unusual things. For instance, according to my analytics, I consistently turn up in searches for ‘nerf gun’, ‘wilson castaway’ and ‘hair shirt’. Not surprisingly, I get very few click throughs. I’m still trying to discern whether I need to feature more hair shirts on my blog, or figure out SEO better.

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I’m sorry, were you looking for the perfect Nerf gun for your 11 year old? Please accept this photo of me in a dress acting like Arnold Schwarzenegger instead.

4. Colleen wrote the post I would’ve written about ‘The Life Changing Art of Tidying Up’, if I wasn’t still trying to empty my house.

5. I cut Edie’s hair this week. It looks cute but man, I hate cutting the kids’ hair. It started with just trimming Addie’s bangs and buzzing Bryon’s head when they were little to save money. Now, I’ve got five kids who expect me to bust into Edward Scissorhands when things get scraggly. I do try to outsource to Cost Cutters or send Byron with Tony to the barber but somehow it always seems to get to the point that someone needs their hair cut right now and they’re willing to put up with my head grabbing and scissor pokes. Plus, it’s understandable that none of the kids enjoy carrying on this same conversation every. time. we go to a salon. “What grade are you in? What school? Oh you’re homeschooled? Do you like it? Do you like having your mom for a teacher? Do you like normal things or are you a freak who’s locked inside his house all day and forced to learn backward moral values?” Or at least it’s what I think I overhear from the waiting area. “Sure Addie, next time Mama will trim your ends at home….like the sheltering freak that I am.”

6. During family prayers on Tuesday, Tony read, “draw down upon us the constant succours of they mercy…”. To which the kids quickly exclaimed, “Suckers?? Why do we want suckers of mercy??” Noooooooooooooooo. Language lesson.

succour -assistance and support in times of hardship and distress.

suckers-  a gullible or easily deceived person.

7. Today is day 30 of my Whole30. The fact that I have not had cheese in 30 days and not in fact died merits a special take.

Link up your weekly takes below! Then buy my book! Or just link up your takes. I’ll still read them regardless.

 


{FF} Five Things to do When You Have Writers Block

Since I started blogging three years ago, it’s been common for me to go through creative slumps, or dry spells, when I find it absolutely painful to formulate a post, or hash out even a few favorites, takes or snapshot comments. In the past, I’d sometimes force myself to post anyway, often in a grumpy mood, and wind up with a long-winded rant or ramble about inconsequential minutiae even the most devoted stalker of a reader could not have cared less about. Other times, I wouldn’t post for a week or so and gloomily watch my page views disappear. I’d wonder whether I’d ever have another funny idea again and bemoan the fact that while I wasn’t blogging, everyone else and their mother’s blogs were blowing up with great, viral material.

Thankfully now I have the hindsight and experience (cause three years is like, 21 years in the blogosphere or something) to ride out the writer’s block and view it as an opportunity or a step towards the next big thing. I mean, this is my hobby, it’s how I unwind so it’s no good if writing is stressing me out. If you’re facing a blank page or screen, wondering if the creative juices will ever start flowing again, here’s five of my favorite things to pass the time and get your groove back.

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1.READ – Now’s the time to catch up on all the blogs in your blog reader or search out new blogs. Comment, share, follow, get inspired by what’s out there and widen your community. You might discover a new favorite link up or find the perfect post to parody. (Or is that just me?)

And don’t stick to screens, read books! Read what everyone else is recommending or something totally different. Pick a book about writing or koi ponds, it doesn’t matter. While I don’t post about books often, I am continually inspired by the language, characters, information and worlds I’ve discovered from voracious reading. Sometimes escaping to Jane Austin’s England is just the thing I need to bring me out of a funk. (Perhaps a ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ fashion post is in order?)

2. Jot down every idea – Got an idea for a post that you’re not sure about? Write down a few sentences if that’s all you’ve got. Inspiring quote? Save it. Anything that makes you think “Hmmm, that might make a neat post, article, etc.” record it somewhere. Check out posts featuring writers prompts or blog title ideas, and use them to brainstorm. Even if the idea doesn’t sound great now it might generate a gang buster of a post at 5 a.m. on Wednesday of next week. I keep a folder in Evernote just for potential blog posts. It currently contains 35 lousy ideas.

3. Work on your website – Clean it up: check for dead links, add pinnable pictures to old posts, organize your categories, add tags to photos for SEO, make sure everything is up to date, freshen up the look with a new header, ETC, ETC. In other words, do all the things you usually ignore because you’re busy writing. Then when you’re back in your groove, think how great your site will look and run for all those new readers! (Old posts can also spark great follow-up posts.)

4. Crowd source – Maybe there’s something your readers want you to write about, or maybe there’s other bloggers who’d love you to join their blog hop. I’ve gotten great ideas from Facebook fans, Twitter, reader emails and friends giving me ideas in person. Even if you don’t like the ideas now, always write them down.

5. Relax and be thankful – This too shall pass. Once I recognize a creative slump I just accept it, pray it passes quickly and try to busy myself with other things (besides obsessing about my stats.) I’m a homeschooling mom; I’ve got plenty to do besides blog all day anyway.

I get writer’s block almost the same times every year. Do you notice a pattern in your ability to write consistently? Maybe there are just some seasons of life that blogging will have to take a back seat to, and that fine. Recognize it so you can be prepared and reassured when the inevitable strikes. You will write again, don’t despair.

I’ve hit creative “rock bottoms” repeatedly and felt like just walking away from the internet all together several times. But almost immediately after those lows, I was blessed with some of my biggest highs (i.e. blogging opportunities or a post suddenly went viral.) Eventually I realized maybe God was giving me a breather, just to help keep me humble and keep my priorities in check, so I could fully appreciate and be grateful for the next big thing. It’s always good for me to stop and remember to give thanks for all the readers, page views, like, shares and community support I have right now. And even without any of that, I’m still so blessed with everything else in my life. Always keep perspective.

How do you tackle writer’s block, whether it be for a blog or other writing project? Share your tips in the comments below then swing back to Five Fab Favs hosted by Melody.

{SQT} Sun, Avoiding Face to Face Contact and The Hidden Side to Everything

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What a difference a week makes! We’ve had days of sunshine! Multiple. days. in. a. row. My kids are finally outside where they belong, and although the yard is too muddy for the wheelchairs the boys are crashing on the deck with reckless abandonment.

1. Just to recap: this was Saturday, when I went for a hike with my scouting group.

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And this was Monday when I enjoyed the salty sea air.

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2.  If you’re still cooped up in frigid temperatures, why not spend some time at a Catholic Women’s Conference? Talks from 27 of  your favorite Catholic women (and a few fellows) are available to watch over and over for $39.99. (Unless you want to use the code Lyceum at checkout, then you get $10 off – booyah!) That price also includes a study / discussion guide and several other nifty bonuses. When you consider the cost of an ‘in person’ conference it’s quite the deal and free from the stress of making small talk with strangers. (I mean, I’m an extrovert, so I’ll force a conversation on anyone, but if you’re more introverted, I’d think this would be right up your alley.) View with your friends and discuss… with wine and chocolate! Who doesn’t need a reason to hang with friends, enjoy food and beverage and listen to a spiritually uplifting talk?

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3. I got a notification from my library that the book “the life-changing magic of tidying up” had just arrived for me, after weeks of slowly moving down the hold list. However, I’m even more excited to read it after Rachel’s review.

Having read many, MANY books on organization, simple living and minimalism I wondered if I had much to learn, or purge. But after a couple of chapters I am hooked and already wondering how I will talk my children into adopting the KoriMari Method.  “No c’mon Byron. Just read this. Then you’ll want to fill this garbage bag with toys.”

4.  25 Pictures That Prove Orthodox Priests Will Bless Anything

For the record, Roman Catholic priests will bless a bunch of stuff too, but I doubt we’ll get government support for the blessing of our…

5. Are you in need of a baptism present? Are you looking for a beautiful picture book for your young child that is free of animals with attitude and Disney characters? Do you need something to keep your curious child quiet at Mass??? Annemarie to the rescue!!

I got a peek inside these little treasures and was immediately attracted to the bright, colorful illustrations. Annemarie does a wonderful job of anticipating what children think about upon glancing at a tabernacle or monstrance and offers a simple explanation, and scripture verse, to answer their questions. If you are often at a loss as to how to explain the mysteries of the faith to your probing preschooler, consider these first two books in the growing Curious Little Catholic Series. 

6. When I’m not listening to all my favorite Catholic podcasters, I like to shake things up with the Freakonomics Radio show. I’ve enjoyed all the Freakonomics books and the podcast episodes are in the same vein. I don’t think at all like an economist which is maybe why I find their approach so fascinating. They manage to show at least two sides to every story, and the root of the problem, however uncomfortable or unexpected it might be. Their recent podcast on energy efficiency is a new favorite.

The book that got me hooked.

 

7. After recommending so much stuff in this post, I feel like maybe I should update my “affiliate disclosure”.

For the record, all these opinions are my own and I’m just sharing them cause it’s my blog and I get to do that. There are a few affiliate links here and there and if you’re really opposed to giving me .04% of your potential purchase then please, don’t click and buy anything. Amazon doesn’t own my soul, even though they give me 10 cents every other month. If you think my weather related rants, parody posts or the steady stream of selfies is in any way motivated by sponsorship and that I’m not being authentic or “real” enough, please stop reading, or offer me something better.

You know the drill! Link up your Takes below! And this week to keep it fresh – reverse order link up! Just in case Daylight Savings time didn’t throw you off.