A Desert of Busyness

Life gets complicated, sometimes.

First off, we did move again, so here we are in a new state. We actually left North Carolina on the very day that we traveled there last year, in an odd, unplanned coincidence. Now, we’re in the middle of all the unpacking, the tortuous paperwork, and errands involved with relocating the entire existence of ten people. Again. And I’m learning to navigate a new city. Again.

I’ve mentioned before (more than once!) that we are in the middle of a lot of transition. A major faith change from Protestant to Catholic, two cross-country moves in a year, a new job landed and lost, multiple child health issues, a new high school graduate, a house bought and now on the market out of state, and looming financial issues as a stopgap job cuts our already-tight budget in half. My two oldest are learning to drive, too. (Gulp.)

If that weren’t enough upheaval, we might not be homeschooling all the kids this year, for the first time ever. We have gradually felt more and more overwhelmed with the homeschooling, what with all the other craziness, and we’re feeling like perhaps a different path would be better for our family at this tumultuous point in our lives. And so, in a last-minute scramble, we are trying to get our 4 elementary aged kiddos into the local Catholic school, in a town we just moved to a week and a half ago. School starts next week, and they probably don’t have spots for all of them, but it’s likely that at least the younger ones will get in, and Rebecca may homeschool a while longer and enter whenever a spot opens up for her. I’m more than a little nervous, though, about how this new schedule may bring even more upheaval and busyness to our lives as we adjust. Will it be harder or easier? I don’t even know. I just think it’s the road we’re being led to.

So I have kind of found myself longing for just a little blank space in my life. My days are packed full, every minute, every day. But, as I went to bed the other night lamenting to myself about my lack of down time, rest, vacation, about my breakneck firehose life that won’t seem to let up for the last few years, I thought of the Israelites complaining in the desert.

In the desert, God was leading Israel from enslavement to the Promised Land. In between lay the desert, with all its uncertainty, privation, and discomfort. The Israelites did what we all do in such a place, of course – complain. Rebel, even. They were probably really tired and no little afraid. But God wasn’t honored in their complaints, let alone their rebellion.

This long season of nonstop busyness is, for me, a kind of desert – and not the one I’m still homesick for back in Utah, either. I don’t thrive on this kind of thing – I like to smell the roses, rock my babies, and drink tea.  I like to change the diapers, do the laundry, cook tasty things, and mind my own business. I tear up a little, actually, thinking of years past when that is exactly what I did with many of my days. Those quiet days seem so long ago. Simplicity, hygge…these are the things I thrive on.

But, I have to be present where I am. God has put me in this season, this wasteland of an over-crammed schedule and endless crisis management. I can’t change this busyness, right now; all these things I’m doing have to happen, and they have to happen now. They can’t be responsibly set aside. In this my desert, I can only be faithful each day, fulfilling the responsibilities and needs before me, keeping Jesus at the center, attending to my own care as best I can, and trusting God that His manna is on its way, and that he will make a road for our sojourn here.

How about you, reader-friends? If you are in your own desert journey, leave a comment and let me know how I can pray for you. 

 

 

 

 

 

How I’m staying sane while my world has gone mad

So while things haven’t really gone swimmingly for us this year, at least they have finally calmed down a little. It’s really only the eye of the storm; we are tackling another interstate move in only 6 weeks, and Mark is still searching and searching for work. I so appreciate the suggestions from you all; we’ve decided to head for Missouri to be near family again.

So the crazy marches on. But for right now, our house is listed, and my sick kiddo is still getting better and has far fewer hospital visits and less gear to contend with. I can almost pretend life is normal.

In the lull, I’m trying to recover my sanity, while I also pack and keep my house absurdly clean in case we get a showing. Have I mentioned that we have 8 kids, a large hairy white dog, two cats, a rabbit, and a parakeet? So while I’m in the kitchen trying to make it look like no one has ever eaten anything in this home:

  • my 9 year old is in the living room accidentally spraying the walls with milk (I’m not kidding, that happened tonight)
  • my 2 year old is in the bathroom giggling while he pours soapy water on the floor
  • the dog wanders across the newly swept floor, casually shakes, and instantly sheds her entire winter coat
  • my 7 year old is knocking over another glass of milk in the dining room.
  • and what is the 4 year old is up to? Don’t ask.

Wait, we were talking about sanity. How I’m staying sane. Sorry, I got sidetracked. (Am I staying sane? Let’s just assume, for now. K? Good.)

I’m sleeping with my Rosary

Between some insomnia, and overwhelming busyness cutting into my prayer time, when I stumbled across this quote from St. Bernadette, it struck me as the perfect solution: “In the evening, when you go to sleep, hold your beads, doze off reciting them. Do like those babies who go to sleep mumbling, ‘Mamma! Mamma!'”

This is a practice that I don’t do all the time, but when I am very, very stressed out, I do find it a viable and very helpful way to keep up with prayer time.

I’m learning French.

My daughter introduced me to Duolingo, a charming little free app that lets you learn a foreign language in teeny little bits. I have my goal set to 5 minutes a day, and I’m still blazing through the surprising amount I remember from high school. I have always adored language learning and especially French, and just the little bit of something different that I love helps me feel more like me and less like a human fire extinguisher.

I’m focusing on my health. 

Months of high-stress crisis living have taken their toll on me, not to mention certain middle-agey things that seem to be happening. Did you ever wonder why women gain weight after 40? Now I think I know. It’s because it becomes physically impossible not to eat the entire jar of Nutella. Not that I’m 40 yet, but it’s staring me down, friends.

So, I’m fighting it by running again, and picking up my kettlebell more often, and trying to (mostly) eat like a normal person. This is hard, but I’m a zillion times happier on the days when I’ve done it.

I’m blogging.

This not only takes my mind off things and helps me to connect with others (which is of great value in itself), but I am also working on building this little blog into a business that can contribute to our family income. I’ve spent a lot of time and effort lately on education for myself in the areas of blogging and working from home. It’s been slow going with all the nuttiness happening, but I’m still making progress, and I love that I can set it aside when I have to deal with life.

So, with this little project well underway, I have found a lovely resource to share with you all: The Ultimate Work at Home Bundle. I was thrilled when I saw this recommended by bloggers who have been in the trenches for a good long while and who have built a solid business out of it.

I have not spent a lot of money on my business, but most of what I have spent is on educational resources.  I’m excited to dig into this bundle, which includes 30 eBooks, 14 full eCourses, 4 printables, and 1 audiobook, and comes highly recommended by longtime, successful work-at-home moms. (I’m especially delighted to see two ebooks from Jeff Goins, whose blog has been helpful to me.) It’s a complete library compiled to help you:

  • Identify your marketable skills
  • Juggle your responsibilities and find work + life balance
  • Manage your time efficiently
  • Avoid the most common pitfalls of the work-at-home lifestyle
  • Understand the legal and financial implications of your business (this is the one I need the most help with!)
  • Discover how to get into the business that most appeals to you, whether it’s a wholesale product, service-based, handmade, transcription, becoming a VA, or any other number of opportunities

It also comes with over $500 worth of bonus offers; the package includes 50 digital products and it’s worth over $2,300.

By offering the bundle for a short time only, the team at Ultimate Bundles is able to give us access to over $2,300 worth of amazing products for a whopping 98% off! It’s on sale for 6 days (including today, which is pretty much over, so we’re down to 5 days now). Consider this your heads up if working from home is something you aspire to, or already do! 🙂

The sale ends June 12th, and they do mean it. I missed out on a homemaking bundle a while back because I kind of assumed they’d extend the deadline and maybe knock the price down even more…but this one doesn’t work that way. When the clock runs out, the sale is done.

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(Disclosure: I’m an affiliate of Ultimate Bundles; sales made through my links help pay for another stinking moving truck – at no additional cost to you.)

What are your favorite self-care tips when life gets…lifey? Do share!

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{SQT} A few weeks of trouble: a family update

So hey, our family has some news. Some crazy stuff went down for us in this past month.

~1~

We had a kid with medical problems; she had to spend a week in the hospital, which is located a good 45 minutes away from us. It was a really stressful time, waiting for test results and dealing with the dizzying logistics of needing to be in two cities at one time. But, the tests all came back good, and she is home and recovering well, though in need of ongoing medical care for a while.

~2~

While we had a kid in the hospital, both our cars were out of commission. Our main vehicle, the Tahoe, got run into by somebody, blowing a tire and causing a bunch of minor body damage. It had to be in the shop for two weeks, during which time we were supposed to have an equivalent rental car, but obtaining said rental car was such a logistical nightmare that it took a week for us to accomplish it.

~3~

At the same time as all this, our other car, a vintage 1795 Subaru, broke down and left us stranded no less than three times, all of them on the way to or from the hospital. I think the poor, moth-eaten old guy just didn’t feel up to the responsibility of being the main family car. The third breakdown proved to be a crazy expensive one, and I don’t believe that car will ever make it home from the car lot where we kind of abandoned it in the midst of the hospital chaos. The car guys are being really patient with us, unless they already sold it for scrap and just haven’t told us yet.

~4~

And now the really big news: about three weeks ago, Mark lost his job – you know, that job I talked about in my post on Lent last year?  The job that we picked up, left everything behind, and bought our first house for?

That’s the one.

So, long story short, we’re probably moving again. We had planned to stay where we are permanently, but the loss of this stable job has us looking at selling the house we just bought and moving again. Good jobs in Mark’s field are nearly nonexistent since the recession, but there are certainly none to be found in rural NC, and we sorely miss the family we left behind. We are likely not headed back to Utah, though, since our family there is in the middle of a relocation themselves. Prayers would be much appreciated as Mark is back on the job market so soon after thinking we were finally done with that. Good jobs are so hard to find, and we are now on a firm timeline until the paychecks stop coming.  Also, prayers that our house would sell in good time at a good price, and finally that we won’t all go mad in the midst of still more upheaval and transition.

~5~

Just for kicks, allow me to provide a short rundown of the other items in my life that have broken, malfunctioned, or otherwise complicated things:

My phone. Our desktop computer. The lawnmower; we had once chance to mow the grass in the middle of all the chaos, but the mower wouldn’t start. Now it’s been raining for approximately forever and the grass is only slightly shorter than the house. (I exaggerate. Maybe.) Emily’s toe. (No, joke, I’m afraid. Running in the house=bad idea).

~6~

So, it’s been a run of bad luck at our house, and it’s been hard to stay positive. The job loss has me ricocheting unpredictably from feeling like this is all a blessing in disguise and an adventure, to complete gloom and despair. Which is, I suppose, a very human response. Landing a full time teaching job and buying our first house – these were big goals, and it felt amazing to reach them. Then, just as suddenly, they are gone, the job lost and the house to be sold.

~7~

I found a wonderful quote for such a time in the book of Daniel:

“Through tears she looked up to heaven, for she trusted in the Lord wholeheartedly.” – Daniel 13:35

Though nobody died, and nobody is dying, for which I am deeply thankful, it was still easy for me this Lent to remember that I am dust, and to dust I shall return. And that the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

For more Quick Takes, visit Kelly at This Ain’t The Lyceum.

{SQT} Moving: the last two weeks in seven quick takes

Seven Quick Takes

~1~

So obviously I can’t move and blog…or move and sleep, or move and eat…or move and anything, really…at the same time. After subsisting on potato chips and Drumsticks for a couple of weeks (I don’t think this post gets a “fitness” tag), we loaded our truck on Saturday (with most of our friends out of town. It was awesome timing), and cleaned on Monday.

It takes so little time, sweat, and tears, to write that.

~2~

But, it’s over now, and we get a little hiatus at Mark’s folks’ house for a month or so while we work on buying a house. We’re first time homebuyers, hopefully, and it’s all a little scary, so prayers would be lovely. We originally intended to rent, but it appears that, as a family of 10 with 7 pets, we have maybe outgrown renting. No rentals to be found that we can fit into without sending the landlord into hysterics. It’s been a longtime dream of mine to buy a house, and life has just not cooperated – till, possibly, now. We’ve got one under contract, and wow. It is just as exciting and nerve wracking as everyone always says it is.

~3~

13442315_10209861757084438_4948868528322850170_nIn other moving related news, my daughter Becca, who is an Irish dancer, did great in her two recent competitions. She is really bummed to have to leave her school, teacher, and friends behind. It’s hard to watch her be sad about that. The closest school to our new town is a good 40 minutes away, and we are still trying to figure out what to do.13522026_10210019086057564_7519230255893922185_n

~4~

Miss Emily, 3, got a new haircut yesterday. The fact that I had time for this reflects that moving out is over, and I officially have a few minutes to breathe, here and there. She now has the shortest hair any of my girls have ever had. It’s adorable. And brushable. We had so many battles over brushing her hair, that when she said, “Mama! Please cut it off,” I said, “okay, baby.” And we did.

~5~

Summer prep for a new home school year is always a big deal – but toss an interstate move and a major church shift into the mix, and it’s big. Really big. Curriculum changes, state law changes, moving during the time when I need to be prepping, not to mention no place to have my curriculum mailed to. Hopefully, two months from now, I will have an amazing story of how I brilliantly pulled it all together (or how it all fell into my lap in spite of me. Or how it all went wrong and we managed anyway, more likely). For now, I’m reading Catholic Home Schooling. I started 3 months ago. Don’t rush me.

~6~

Paint colors! Is having a house under contract too soon to pick out paint colors?

Don’t answer that.

Answer this instead:

Mystic Sea or Grand Hotel Mackinac Blue for a kitchen with orangey-brown tile on the counters and a brick fireplace?

And, any recommendations for an interesting-but-relaxing master bedroom color?

~7~

This was the little girls when we got to church Sunday morning after moving out the day before:

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Pretty much sums it up.

For more Quick Takes, visit Kelly at This Ain’t The Lyceum.

{SQT} 36 hours of panic in 7 quick takes

Seven Quick Takes

Or, how one mom and 8 kids cleaned the whole house in a day and a half, and lived to tell about it.

~1~

Panic

This is very important. Almost as important as an extra cup of coffee and the promise of a frappe when we’re done. Because when an untidy mom has to get ready for a rental inspection complete with realtor photos 2 1/2 weeks before moving out, and it looks like this, that’s the only answer. These are uncut, folks. You may want to scroll past if you are obsessively clean and/or have a weak heart.

Honestly, the pictures make it look pretty good comparatively. Only ample amounts of adrenaline could get us through.

~2~

Delegate

I took a sheet of paper, folded it, and unfolded it to make a grid from the creases. Then I put a kid’s name in each box. I went through the house, using a random housecleaning checklist from Pinterest. (Because I don’t have one of my own, clearly.) When I saw what all needed done, I sorted the jobs into the boxes of the kids who could accomplish each one.

My 16 year old deep cleaned the second bathroom, which gets neglected – and if you are a guest, you might be allowed to believe it doesn’t exist.

My 14 year old took over general operations, like dishes and laundry. The laundry was pretty behind, and she got it out of the way and kept the dishes from piling up.

~3~

Play

The middle kids weeded the front flowerbed, picked up their rooms, and did a “penny pickup.” (That’s a game. It’s fun. They run around and pick up, and keep track of how many items they pick up and put in the right place. I pay a penny per item. We don’t do it very often, but when the house is terrible and I’m strapped for time, it’s a miracle for only a few bucks.)

~4~

Stash

I couldn’t make the whole house perfect, and I didn’t need to. I moved some bigger junky looking things like empty rubbermaid bins and a broken dresser drawer awaiting repairs out to the garage.

~5~

Detail

Once the stuff was out of the way, I ran around doing whatever details I could see – wiping walls, swiping counters, straightening slipcovers, tacking up that dang piece of trim that keeps falling down. Like that.

~6~

Rescue

At T minus 15 minutes to the arrival of the realtor, my 3 year old woke up from her nap shrieking. She had several angry looking spider bites on her arm. So naturally I ripped her bed apart and even flipped it over trying to find that thing – to comfort her, to exact vengeance on the demon that robbed me of at least an hour of sleeping child, and to affirm that said demon wasn’t the poisonous variety, driven from some dark corner by the moving. Couldn’t find it, but there is a warrant out for its arrest. And Emily is fine.

~7~

Panic

Because I was going to spend that last 15 minutes straightening the kitchen, not hunting spiders. So I frantically called my teens back to help, which they did before vanishing out to go for a nice walk in the sweltering heat in full afternoon sun in order to not be around for the inspection.

Well, it worked out. Here’s what we came up with:

My house has never been that clean, ever. It’s kind of nice, but now I have to get back to packing, sooo…see ya, clean house. Maybe we’ll meet up again someday; some other house, some other time.

🙂

For more Quick Takes, visit Kelly at This Ain’t The Lyceum.

10 Grain Waffles

Moving is getting pretty thick, here, now. We move out in 2 1/2 weeks now, and the crazy…oh, the crazy. Had to drop the running, but I did love it and I am looking forward to starting up again during our few weeks hiatus with my awesome in-laws, before we head east!

Running isn’t the only casualty of crazy. My kids have started swirling mournfully through the kitchen at mealtimes, asking why I don’t make pancakes anymore. Poor things, they are right. I don’t. It’s cereal for breakfast these days, and now our landlord is trying to sell the house…which means we need to let the realtor show the house. With 8 kids. Packing to move out of state. Getting ready for a new job.

It’s a special flavor of crazy. It makes my brain hurt.

So we aren’t making waffles these days, but in case you’d like to, here is a recipe I’m mildly proud of. I don’t make up my own recipes much, I just like to tinker with other peoples’. This one is an exception, and it’s a favorite.

10 Grain Waffles

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Light, crisp whole grain waffles

Credit – www.greencatholicburrow.com

  • 1 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 c 10-grain hot cereal (dry)
  • 1 heaping T baking powder
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 3/4 c milk
  • 1/2 c oil
  1. Mix the dry ingredients in a medium bowl; mix the egg yolks, milk, and oil in another.
  2. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix till just combined.
  3. Beat the egg whites till stiff, then fold lightly into batter.  Leave a few fluffs of egg white.  It should look like the picture.
  4. Bake according to your waffle baker’s instructions.  Serve it up with butter and real maple syrup. Unless you like that weird fake stuff, in which case, hooray for your budget. 😉

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The Feast of St. Joan of Arc, the easy way

We wanted to have a French party for the feast of St. Joan of Arc, since she is Rebecca’s confirmation saint. So we did, kinda. Since we are getting ready to move, for most of the day my kitchen looked like this:20160530_152536.jpg

And like this:

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Basically, like this:

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It’s French. Says so right there on the box.

So, we had “French” pot roast.  It’s a lot like any other pot roast, but I added wine. We also had croissants from a can, and, um, salad.  With French cafe music in the background.

And, eclair for dessert.  The sort made from graham crackers, generic French (!) vanilla pudding, and Cool Whip.  And canned frosting. Haven’t had it? It’s luscious. Look for Eclair Cake on Pinterest and you’ll find your way.

It was definitely low labor, but it was fun and the kiddos loved it. 🙂

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Basil the Great, KonMari, and the Great Eastbound Adventure

Desert caravan LCCN2001705578 (This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission from purchases made through affiliate links. My opinions are entirely my own. Thanks bunches.)

In a few months, we move east.

All ten of us.

We’re paying for the move by the cubic foot.  On a worn-out shoestring that’s been ready to snap for a couple of years.  So naturally, I took to Facebook to ask for advice. The advice I came out with all boiled down to what I already knew: get rid of stuff. Lots of stuff.

All. The. Stuff.

I read this post, and it’s been the foundation of my efforts.  Haley helped me realize that life does go on even if you don’t hoard your baby items.  Tight finances turn me into a hoarder – too scared to let anything go for fear I will need it. But I came across this quote from Basil the Great:

“The bread you store up belongs to the hungry; the cloak that lies in your chest belongs to the naked; the gold you have hidden in the ground belongs to the poor.”

It doesn’t make any sense to hang onto all the hand-me-downs and spare jackets and spare parts, at the cost of moving them across the nation.  There are people who need these things, and they are good things that should be used, not left to moulder in my garage for years on end. I’m not paring down, folks. I’m renovating. If I wouldn’t buy it for what it will cost me to move it, out it goes. And if I don’t need it, or use it, or love it, it isn’t even really mine. It really belongs to the person who needs it.

I’ve been going through the whole house, and selling/donating tons of toys, clothes, baby things, you name it.  The goal is half our stuff – except books.  (Any books gone is a good thing, but one must not expect too much.)

I also read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up – you know, the crazy Japanese decluttering book. It’s a little weird, (and in a family of 10 who even folds socks? We’re proud of ourselves if they match, guys.) but I like it overall and it’s also helped as I have had to decide what to keep and what not to. Honestly I am not convinced the KonMari system really can work for a family (this is a gal who got rid of her vacuum because it didn’t make her happy, until she got tired of cleaning her floors by hand and got a new one. If she can think for one second that she might be happier without a vacuum, we do not inhabit the same universe) but I do love a minimalist approach, and I always want everything as simple as possible.  I found the book to be very encouraging for developing a freer, more generous attitude towards our stuff. Also,  I don’t like a mess, but I’m not good at keeping up with things. Less stuff=less work AND less mess. Win.

My mother always used to tell me, “If you can’t take care of your things, you don’t deserve to have them.” I hated that, but the truth is, she was right.

It’s only lately I have decided that maybe the answer isn’t to wave my wand and somehow make myself into a person who is better at taking care of stuff.

Maybe I just need less stuff.  

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