Saturday, January 30, 2010

New Perspective

This afternoon, I was busy cursing winter under my breath. Saturday brings me the despicable task of sweeping all the floors and mopping everything clean again. Doing this in the month of January means that I sweep an entire sandbox full of rocks into my dustpan. Despite being "Mom the Shoe Nazi" (as Evan calls me) and freaking out at my family if they try to wear their shoes more than 2 feet beyond the garage door, the sand and gravel and rock salt are invading my house.

I was also cursing because I would dearly love to shoo my boys outside for the afternoon. Today though, it was chilly, muddy, and icy all at once, and hello? I don't want to add mud and snow to the mess on the floor.

So I was grouching and grumping as I stepped onto my back deck to shake out some rugs when I must have been hit in the head with a brick or something, because all of sudden I was struck with the simple beauty of a winter afternoon.




The farm fields behind our house were dusted with snow, and looked like a baker had sprinkled them with powdered sugar. The air had just the perfect amount of bite to it, so that instead of making it hard to breathe, it awakened your senses. The sun had just started to sink lower in the sky, and the light was so golden...rich. And I was dazzled. Invigorated.

I'm not giving up my pining for spring. I still can't wait to mow the grass and throw open the windows to warm spring breezes. But I am glad to have had this reminder that beauty comes in all seasons.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Company Girl Coffee



Today I am thinking of an old friend who is having a difficult week. She is the mother of one of my best friends, and also the mother of my first boyfriend. She played a HUGE role in my teenage years, and was like an extra mother to me. As an adult, she has become a trusted friend.

In November, my friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. After two surgeries in December, this month she started chemotherapy and radiation treatments. This week, her hair began to fall out. Last night, her husband shaved off the last of her hair for her.

I remember when my own Mom had to go through this same step. My Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in June of 2002. The surgeries were hard physically and emotionally, the chemo made her miserable, but one of the hardest steps was loosing her hair. When it was reduced to clumps here and there, she asked my Dad to shave the rest off for her. As women, we identify so much of our look and personality through our hair. To suddenly be stripped of this is shocking. My mother described it feeling as though she had to walk in public naked.

I was at my parents home when my dad shaved her hair, and it is a moment I will never forget. The tenderness between my parents. My mother's bravery. My mom asking a 3 1/2 year old Evan to hold her hand while her hair fell down around her. Evan standing next to her, holding her hand and patting her shoulder. All of it is etched into a forever memory. When it was all done, Evan looked at her and said, "Wow! That looks cool! Now you are my circle head Grandma!" We all laughed, and it was that child like humor that saved the moment.

And so, as my friend also goes through this experience this week, I am praying for her. I am praying that she is blessed with health, comfort, and peace. But most of all, I pray that she receives strength to get through the tougher moments.

If you could spare a second, please pray for her. The power of prayer is amazing! I know it will help immeasurably.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Kitty Cat Hats

A couple of weeks ago, on cjane enjoy it, Courtney showed a picture of her adorable son The Chief wearing a handmade knitted kitty cat hat. Modeled by as cute a chubby cheeked youngster as The Chief, the hats were irresistible. I loved the cat ears on the top, and I knew Charlie and Sammy would too. Courtney mentioned the hats were made by a talented reader of her blog, Amy, who has a business called Something to Meow About.

I emailed Amy right away to ask if she would make a Kitty Cat Hat for Charlie and Sammy. Look what came in the mail today:



I love, love, LOVE these hats. They are gorgeous, and the attention to detail is amazing! The boys love them so much they spent the rest of the day wearing them and pretending they were kitties.

You too can have one of these scrumptious creations! Just email Amy at: ladyamybug@yahoo.com

Thank you Amy!!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Worried...

I am worried about Evan.

Evan was identified in Kindergarten with a reading disability. Immediately after hearing the news, I was of course concerned, but I also felt that we had an immense amount of time to help him catch up.

Then I blinked, and I was married with two babies. My time after work shrank considerably.

Then I blinked again, and now Evan is suddenly in 5th grade. And that immense amount of time has disappeared.

He makes progress every year, but slow progress. This year after testing we discovered he is two years behind his peers in reading development. Sitting in the meeting, hearing he reads at the level of a 3rd grader, I wanted to vomit. We have had him tutored, he is in special ed classes at school, and we have been doing eye therapy for over a year now, all in an effort to help him become a better reader. And still. So far behind.

As Evan grows up, and begins to look more grown up and act more grown up, I begin to envision his future. How will he ever get through high school like this? Will a private high school even accept him? What about college? You can't go to college if you can't read. How will he support himself? My mother's heart spirals into a cycle of worry when I think about it.

I have tried about every thing I can think of to help him. The only other thing I can think of is having him sit next to Charlie this spring and summer as I teach Charlie to read. Would it help to start from the beginning? The older Evan gets, the harder it is to make him work on these beginning reading tasks, because it makes him feel humiliated.

Panic is starting to set in. I don't know what else to do to help him.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sucess!

I have been working along with Rachel Ann at Home Sanctuary to accomplish one of my New Year's goals. I wanted creating Sanctuary for my family to be a major focus for me this year. Luckily for me, one of the first tasks Rachel Ann assigned was to take a close look at our weekly schedule, and then to use that to create a weekly Housekeeping Schedule.

This was so helpful. In the summer, when I am off work, it is SO much easier to get everyday chores done. When I am working full time, it's another story. Setting a schedule and involving my family was a great idea. We divided up tasks based on our schedule of weekly activities, and both Evan and Jeff agreed to be assigned regular jobs.

This was my first whole week of following with the schedule and sticking to it. And it ROCKED. My laundry was done ahead of schedule today. My house is clean. I even had time for a couple of organizing projects around the house. I completely cleared off the fridge and reorganized it today. When Charlie came through the room when I was done, he asked, "Hey, who got us a new fridge Mom?" Wow. That little comment showed me just how badly this needed to be done!

And now, I even have some me time at the end of the day! A perfect way to end a Sunday. Thanks Rachel Ann, for such a great idea.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Attitude Adjustment

I am in need of a serious attitude adjustment.

Tax season is always a struggle for me as a wife. Intellectually, I know this is a time when I can really step up to the plate and show Jeff my love and support. I should be doing my best to make our home a place of sanctuary, to take care of the kids, and to offer him a positive shoulder to lean on when he is tired from working long hours.

Emotionally though, all I can seem to do lately is pity myself. I think grumpy thoughts about having to work a full time job, always be in charge of the house and the kids, and on and on. I find my brain running through this litany of complaints over and over again as I go through my daily tasks and by the time Jeff comes home I am like Mount Vesuvias. Poor guy. He just wants a warm meal and a friendly face, and instead he comes home to me. Grouchy Selfish Wife.

I need to keep joy front and center in my attitude. I am lucky to be wife to this man who works so hard to support us. I am lucky to have three beautiful boys to care for, and a home to call our own. I know these things. I know I need to be joyful. But how?

I so wish I was better at looking outside of myself and focusing on others. I wish I was better at being a joyful mother and wife. It's the best thing for my family. I am going to start by praying for Jeff, and my kids. I find it is a lot harder to be mad at someone you are praying intently for. You'll be able to find me in the next few weeks cleaning the bathrooms and fervently muttering prayers at the same time.

Here's hoping I can turn myself around. My family deserves it.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Blog Love

Look! It's here!! My blog just had a beautiful make over.

Emily over at The Blog Fairy did an amazing job. She was so easy to work with, she was fast, and she knew exactly what I wanted, just by me answering a few questions in an email.

Seriously. I could just sit here and stare at it all day long!! (Which would be bad...as I may have about 20 loads of laundry waiting for me.)

Thanks Emily for making The Sole Woman beautiful!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Company Girl Coffee: January 22



WOW am I late getting around to this post this week! It's so late that maybe I should offer you a glass of wine instead of coffee. How 'bout it? Maybe some appetizers too...boy that sounds yummy.

The Big News around The Sole Woman this week is that I am getting a visit from The Blog Fairy!!! I have really loved the look of my blog, but it has been almost two years since the last redo, and I felt like it was time for a change. So check back soon! I'm getting some new diggs around here, and I am in love with the work Emily at The Blog Fairy did. She is an excellent designer!

I am also really excited because we recently booked a vacation for our family this summer. It will be the first time in two years that we have taken a trip as a family. We've been working so hard to replenish our savings after the whole two babies-a new house-and a minivan-in one year debacle of 2006. Now that Mr. Sole Woman is feeling more confident of the finances, we are going to get to have some family relaxation time! It will also be a little celebration of our 5 year anniversary.

We will be visiting Pine Beach Resort in northern Minnesota. This will be our third trip to the resort. We stay in a cabin right on the beach at Lake Belle Taine. It is so amazing to wake up to the sound of water lapping at the shore, grab a cup of coffee, and drink it on the deck over looking the water while a magnificent sunrise dazzles the senses. Charlie was only 6 months old the last time we went, and Sam has never been, so I can't wait to see what the little boys think. Now, if only July were a little closer!!!

I hope all of you have had a great week, and have an even better weekend!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Nervous Nellie

Hi friends.

Don't have much to say, or to report. Just thought I'd stop in to say hello.

Not much new around here, other than the miserable winter weather. It has been densely foggy for the last 6 days. A wet, drippy fog that doesn't disappear until after noon. It's also a freezing fog, leaving morning streets shiny with ice and slick spots. I have had a white knuckle drive to work every morning since Thursday.

Overnight tonight we are supposed to get accumulating ice. So far, they haven't called off school, and that makes me really nervous. I am not too bad at driving in snow, but ice is a whole lot scarier. I am pretty nervous about the drive to work tomorrow.

How many days left until spring?!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Birthday Love



Four years ago today, at 3:45 PM, I got to see the beautiful face of my Charlie for the first time.



At 10 pounds, 23 1/4 inches, it was a face that already had deliciously chubby cheeks.

All of the people that helped to welcome Charlie into the world 4 years ago today came to our house to help celebrate. One of the most special things for me about Charlie's birth was that my awesome friend Christi was there to help.


Christi with her daughter Alyssa

There is something so powerful about sharing the birth experience with other women. Having Christi there to rub my back, encourage me that I was almost there, and to see Charlie make his entrance meant more to me than I can put in words. It means just as much when Christi and her family come to help Charlie welcome in a new year.

Both of my darling Godson's came over to party. Aren't they the most handsome boys?


Godson Colin is 5



Godson Joel is ALMOST 3. (I was there to see his birth!! It was one of the most AWESOME moments of my life! Joel is Christi's son).

Charlie is my most high spirited child. He is fearless, determined, and stubborn. He is a social butterfly, and will talk to everyone and anyone. He is a snuggler to the extreme, and gives the best of hugs. He tries my patience like no other, and fills my heart with love and joy, all at the same time. He is a gift I am forever thankful for.

One of my clearest memories of that first week home with my new baby Charlie was sitting curled up in a recliner with Charlie tucked into the crook of my arm, a warm quilt tucked around both of us. I spent the whole day snuggling with him, just looking at him. Memorizing his features, and touching his sweet new baby skin.

Yesterday, after the guests had gone home, I sat down in that same chair to rest for a minute. Charlie brought over that very same quilt, and asked if he could snuggle. Tired from all the excitement and missing his afternoon nap, he curled up into my side, the quilt tucked in close around us, and went to sleep. I looked down into his 4 year old face, and kissed his sweet cheeks. It was one of those perfect moments that life gifts us. I tucked it into my heart to take out and remember when Charlie is grown. The perfect way to end a wonderful day.

Happy Birthday Char Char. I love you to the moon and back!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Company Coffee January 15


Come on in girls!! The coffee's always hot at The Sole Woman!

How was your week? I hope you all had a great one.

We were busy going back to school and to work. Having three weeks off due to Christmas break and two blizzards was good, and it was bad. We had lots of family time, we slept late every day, we snuggled in on the couch, and watched some great movies. Unfortunately, we also got completely away from our routine and structure. By Wednesday the kids and I were having to drag ourselves out of bed and prop our eyelids open. It really showed me how much of a positive impact having a basic schedule and routine around the house helps everyone.

Thursday was a KILLER. I worked a full day, and had a late meeting after school before we could leave. I needed to stop at Costco on the way home, so it was 5:30 by the time we were pulling into our neighborhood. Very late for us. I was pleased to see that our neighborhood had been plowed again while we were gone, and we finally had a two lane road again after about 3 weeks of narrow one lane driving. As we got closer to our house, I noticed that there were cars all up and down the street sitting with there hazard lights on. "What in the world?!" I thought. "What's everybody doing?"

And then I saw it. No one could get into their driveways because the plow had created a 3 foot wall of ice in front of each house. Ice. 3 feet of it! We were already late and I had been trying to figure out how I would manage dinner, homework, and bath by myself while Jeff worked late. Now I had to add ice chipping to the list. When it rains, it pours!! And sometimes, it pours ice.

I made it though! I tried to focus on the bicep workout I was getting. The power of positive thinking!!!

We have a big weekend ahead. Charlie's birthday is on Sunday. My middle baby is turning 4! We are having friends and family on Saturday for a celebration. Charlie is PUMPED for birthday fun! And while I am a little sad that he is getting so big, I can't wait to help him welcome in this new year.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend!!


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Prime Example of Why Men Can Be Hard to Live With

Tonight, while sitting next to Evan on the couch, I noticed that his toenails had grown to an amazing length. The following conversation ensued:

Me: Evan, you really need to cut your toenails tonight.

Evan: Can't do that Mom. I need them. They're good tools.

Me: (Very puzzled but trying to keep up) Tools? Give me an example.

Evan: Every night when I'm sweeping the kitchen floor, I use my toenails to scrape stuck pieces of food off the floor so I can sweep the stuck pieces up.

Jeff: (Completely serious) Makes sense to me. Let the kid keep his toenails.

Me: (Speechless) ....

Monday, January 11, 2010

Ah Tax Season!! How I Hate Thee!!

Oh friends. I am so discouraged this week.

And it's only Monday.

We are back in the throws of tax season around here. Back to the days when the kids see Jeff only when they kiss him good bye before school in the morning. I know I probably shouldn't complain about this when there are so many wives around the country who are dealing with their families on their own while their husbands are deployed for many months. I know what we go through isn't as bad as that, but it is still hard for me. I am praying for patience. For inspiration to be supportive to my husband while he is tired and overworked and doing his best to support our family. And for joy. Lots of insight to find joy in all these moments I am the sole caretaker of my kids.

I am also thinking I am a nutcase. I recently decided I would go back to school this summer, and tackle my masters degree. I made this decision in November, when the crusty, ugly, dark, and dank memories of tax season were pushed into a far off corner of my brain. Now that I've had a refresher course on how much fun it is to work a full day, take care of everything on the home front by myself, and still have school work to do in the evenings, I am wondering how in the world I will handle having homework again.

I'm not changing my mind yet, but I am going to take a step back and pray for direction. I am an expert at biting off more than I can chew, and usually for no more reason than to prove to myself that I can accomplish something. It may be time to learn I don't have to prove myself to myself anymore. And if anyone knows how to do that, I'd love some tips.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Company Girl Coffee January 8th


Come on in out of the cold girls! I have fresh coffee on to warm you up. Or, if you prefer tea, thanks to Rachel Ann I discovered this week that I have 23 different varieties of tea in my pantry for you to choose from!

Yup. 23.

One of my sanctuary tasks this week was to fill up some garbage bags with trash from any area of the house. Rachel Ann talked about cleaning out her pantry, and I knew mine was a mess I just kept shutting the door on, so that's where I started too.

I found many horrifying discoveries, but the worst/funniest? I just kept pulling out box after box of tea bags. Before long, Evan was laughing at me, and grouping them into piles on the counter. After the pantry, I moved on to the cupboard where I keep spices and baking items, and pulled out a lot more trash. AND more tea bags!

When I was done, I thought to myself, "What in the WORLD?! How did this happen?" And here is what I've come up with. When we get groceries, I try in general to put things in the same spot. But if there's not room, I just shove it in somewhere. Anywhere. And apparently this causes a back log of tea bags. I also need to do some more careful inventorying before hitting the grocery store.

No more shoving things in for me. Even if the results are great at getting your grumpy 11 year old to crack a smile.

It's frigid at our house today. Temps are at -30 below. No kidding! The furnace can barely keep up, so we have been gravitating towards the living room andthe fireplace, and the cozy blankets we keep by the couch.

Here's Charlie and kitty Ray keeping each other warm:



At least we can drink warm tea when we are chilly!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

I have a job? Really? Because it feels like I haven't been there in WEEKS!

No school again today my friends! The road conditions were treacherous, but even worse than that the windchills were sustained at -20 to -35 all day long.

AND no school again tomorrow, as it is expected to be even colder, if you can imagine. Which I can't. When it's that cold, it's just cold. You can't really tell the difference between -20 and -35.

I wish I could come here and report that my house is now spotless. I did do the laundry, but mostly I took a nap with Sam, and I played Beatles rock band. Totally great game, but also totally addicting. Especially if you are a Beatles fan like me.

Tomorrow my goal is to get off my hiney and make SANCTUARY for my family. It's clean the house Friday for me!

I've loved the break, but is really turning me into a sloth. My kids have only been in school for one day this week. It's been like having three weeks off for Christmas vacation. We are so out of schedule and routine, and it is turning my brain to mush.

I actually had a dream while I was napping that I was playing outside with the boys and the grass was green, there was a warm wind blowing, and the sun was shining. HEAVEN! How many more weeks until spring?!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Snow Day! AGAIN

This is the worst winter I remember in AGES. In FOREVER.

We already have 27 inches of snow on the ground.

Today will bring roughly 6 more inches, plus my personal favorite, blizzard force winds which make fabulous snow drifts! I love shoveling snow drifts! NOT.

To make it really fun, tomorrow the windchill will be -35. Awesome!

And my dear Mr. Kleffman? I love him dearly, but instead of buying us a snow blower, he bought us another shovel. The man cannot stand to part with a dollar. And most of the time, that's nice. Except when it is the worst winter in AGES and FOREVER and I am desperate for a snow blower.

We are off of school again today after only one day back with students after Christmas break. I love me a good snow day, but I actually would really like to be with my students. We have so much to do!

I am convinced Nebraska was picked up a couple of months ago and put in Alaska. This is just no fun.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Family Video

For Christmas this year, my Aunt Connie made a DVD for everyone in my family that included a video made of both my Grandma Rose and Grandpa Dave (who died this past June) in 1992. In the video, both are describing what they know of their family history, and their childhood memories. It also includes a video from 1999 of Dave describing his experiences in WWII, and on D-Day. It is such a treasure to have these, and I am so thankful that Connie had the foresight to take them.

I watched the video last Tuesday, right after our family Christmas party. I fully expected the video of my Grandpa to make me sad, and it did. Not just because he passed away so recently, but really because I felt that we lost him so much longer ago to Alzheimers. I don't think I had a conversation with him where he was fully present mentally past 2003. It was lovely to hear him and see him the way I remember him.

What I didn't expect was that the video of my Grandma Rose would hit me even harder. My Grandma is still with us, and she is sharp as a tack mentally. But as she has aged, she is much feebler physically, and her mental outlook is so pessimistic. She thinks and talks mostly about her health, and truly that is understandable considering the amount of medical issues that she has. She doesn't like to leave the house, and it is hard to have a conversation with her sometimes, and she has started to shut people out because she is so depressed.

Seeing her in the video from 18 years ago brought me to instant tears. There was the Grandma I remembered, laughing and telling stories. Looking lively and sitting in the kitchen I loved to be in. It felt like sitting across the kitchen table from her as she used to be. Again, I am so thankful to have this on tape, but it made it painfully obvious how much ground she has lost lately.

Time can be an ugly thing. There are so many times when I wish I could stop it entirely. But since I can't, I will use this as one more reminder to savor moments as much as I can.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Company Girl Coffee: New Years Day

Pull up a comfy chair, get cozy, and settle in for a virtual cup of coffee while we visit! It's company girl coffee day over at Home Sanctuary. I am proud to be a new company girl. I will be linking up with Rachel Anne on Fridays for some "coffee", and I will be working throughout each month to accomplish the small tasks Rachel Anne assigns around the house to make my home more of a sanctuary for my husband and kids.

Which leads me right into my post for today...NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS. Except this year I am not making any resolutions, I am doing some goal setting. Lots of people on blogs this week have been talking about how goals are more achievable than resolutions because they include planned steps. Makes sense to me, so that is what I am going to try.

1. SANCTUARY: My goal for 2010 at home is to make my home a more peaceful and enjoyable place for my family. I enjoy organizing and cleaning, but sometimes as a working mom I don't do such a great job. I am especially great at stuffing piles of stuff in corners and closets, thinking that I will get to them someday. Sadly, someday never arrives! Which is why my storage room looks like a bomb went off in it. I am going to conquer the the piles this year, and this summer I am going to have a garage sale to clear out the clutter.

2. HEALTH: I usually make a resolution about loosing weight. I have learned over the past 3 years though that my metabolic disorder and PCOS make this darn near impossible. Instead, this year I am resolving to make healthy changes in my eating and lifestyle so that I can be a more healthy me. I AM going to get that cholesterol back down. My awesome friend Christi has agreed to be my partner, and I am counting on her to bully me all year, and kick my butt when I get off track.

3. RELATIONSHIPS: I am not a patient person by nature. I am also bossy, and have a need to control every aspect of everything. As a teacher who works with 30 six year olds every day, I often feel that my students get the best of my patient reserves, and my own family gets the left overs. This year, I am going to take 15 minutes for myself when we get home, to do a mini recharge. I am going to work to be a better Mom and Wife, which are my two most important jobs in life.

To get started on the sanctuary, today we are going to take down the Christmas tree and de-Christmas the house. I find this task to be SO depressing, but today I am going to try and focus on a fresh and clean start.

And in a totally random way to end this post, here is a picture from this week:



This is Jeff and Sam watching the Cowboys game on Sunday. Sam had his new Cowboys jersey on, and it was just so cute to see both of them snuggled up together and so intent on the game. It amazes me just how much Sam understands about football at only 3 years old. Jeff finally got his football buddy!

I hope all of you have a wonderful day today!!

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