Posts Tagged ‘Motherhood’

Me Time: Making Your Reading Time a Priority

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009


I have been really trying to devote more time to reading in the evening instead of watching television. I have the tendency to become a television junkie when the new fall season starts, but this year, I seem more interested in reading. We have a fantastic library system and I am definitely cashing in and spending some time under my favorite cozy quilt to get some reading done.

Setting up a book basket in our front room just for me has been a great way to incorporate reading back into my life. I visit the library for a little me time every other week and stock up on great reads. With borrowing from the library, there is no guilt if I decide that I don’t like a book… I just return it for the next unfortunate soul.

Many times I hear from people that they don’t have time to read. I have found that I can usually carve a little time out for just about anything in my life, but I have to make it a priority in order to make the time for it.

Take advantage of reading windows- Reading for me is carved into that tiny window of time between getting one child off to school and then the other. I find a window when we have time with the television off and the kids are spending their quiet time reading or drawing. Another window is generously given to me by my husband when he completes the kid’s evening routine and I disappear on the couch. These tiny pockets of time are how it works for me now. I look forward to having bigger windows of opportunity in the future, but I crave these little pockets of time for me!

Join or start a book club- My book club has been the biggest motivator to read at least one book each month. Being in a group can challenge you to read books that you would have never read before. I look forward to my book club each month and I love the books that I have totally loved that would have never made my reading list.

Turn the television and computer off- I know it is hard, but if I keep the television and computer off in the evening, I know that I can spend that time reading instead. Find a quiet space in your home that is television and computer free and designate that as your reading spot. Encourage your other family members to do the same!

My scaled down social networking probably has not boosted traffic to the site or made me the social media maven I sometimes wish I could be, but boy, do I feel a sense of satisfaction when I read a book!

Create your own book basket- Who says book baskets are just for kids? Fill a basket up for yourself and make a regularly scheduled date with yourself to visit the library. Put it on the calendar and savor those moments of peace choosing great books to read.

Do it for your kids- When my kids see me digging into my book basket, they want to dig into theirs too. Think of what an incredible example you are when you are showing them how much fun it is to read. It is through your example that they will learn a love of reading!

Read what you want- We have enough pressures on us as mothers, but to be pressured to always be reading award-winning books doesn’t have to be one of them. If your life is full of stress and chaos, a good chick lit book might be just what the doctor ordered. I like to read one heavy book and one light book and alternate them. When my children were smaller all I wanted to read was something that would make me laugh. No matter what you read… just keep reading!

What if you don’t have a great library system? Well, there are some great reading alternatives out there! Here are a few book resources that I have gathered for the book lovers of the world:

GoodReads or Shelfari- I use GoodReads to keep track of all of the things that I am reading or plan to read. I am not good about remembering the books I have read or that I would like to read in the future. This site helps me keep track of my impressions of books and keep my bookshelves fully stocked with the books I am really interested in reading. I love to keep a pad of paper with me in my purse or make notes into my cell phone when I am at the bookstore so if I happen upon a book I am interested in, I can jot down a note so I can pick it up at my local library.

BookCrossing- This site offers a fun way for you to clear out your bookshelves. The idea is simple, but so fun. Just put a tag within your book to track it and release your book into the wild, which just means leave it somewhere where someone else can find it (coffee shops, doctor’s offices, schools, etc.). When someone finds a book with a BookCrossing ID number in it, they can enter that code into the site and report where the book has moved to. It is a fun way to track where your books have traveled and see how far they can go.

Library Elf- This program helps you keep track of your library materials so you won’t get socked with late fees. Elf is an Internet-based tool for keeping track of what’s due, overdue and ready for pickup. Reminders are sent when the user wants it — before items are due (up to seven days advance notice, weekly notice or everyday reminders). For my local friends, South Bend is not currently participating, but the Elkhart Library is. The basic membership to Library Elf is free.

Frugal Reader, Paperback Swap, & Bookmooch- Just three of many sites where you can exchange books for free. You simply sign up for a membership and list the books on your bookshelf. You can then browse the books from other members and make a request to receive a book. When you are done with the book, you can list it back on the site or keep the book. New members start out usually with credits to get started on exchanging books. The more you ship and share, the more credits you recive to get more books.

Bookins- This is another great site where you can not only swap books, but also movies. Their system will automatically arrange for shipments from you to one member and from a third member back to you, and so on. You never have to contact anyone, there is no bidding, and there are no hassles of dealing with different traders and personalities for each exchange. The shipping charges are always a flat $4.49 for the service. You can keep what you get or exchange it again when you are done.

SwapSimple- This is a site where you can list textbooks, books, games or DVDs. Begin by listing what you have to be available to others. Right when you list an item, they will figure out what it’s current market value is, and award you 20% of it’s value up front for your use. You g
et the remaining 80% when you send your item to another swapper. This means you can list items, and get items immediately!

Amazon’s Free Kindle Downloads- For those that have moved towards the electronic books, Amazon has books available to download for free through February 28th. Be sure to snag these books and save!

I challenge you to bring reading back into your life- even if it is the teeniest pane of a window and even if the literature is lighthearted and non-award-worthy!

These are a few of the books that I have been working on these last two months…

The Penny Pinchers Club by Sarah Strohmeyer

I absolutely adored this book. If you are a Sophie Kinsella fan, you will really love this book and the hilarity that ensues.

Kat is an assistant to an interior designer barely making any money at all. She doesn’t seem to notice that she is spending more money than she has until she is faced with the stunned resolution that her marriage is falling apart.

On the advice of her lawyer, Kat is advised to begin saving a minimum of $500 a week to build a nest egg for herself so that she can handle the financial blow of the divorce and beginning to live on her own.

She joins the local Penny Pinchers Club and vows to stop shopping and start saving to reach her financial goals. She learns important lessons in bulk shopping, saving on her electric bill, and how much sweet rewards are savored when only enjoyed occasionally.

The life lessons build up to a great finish where Kat makes a discovery about herself and who she can be through her penny pinching efforts.
The Pretend Wife by Bridget Asher

This was a really great chick lit book about a woman who offers to be a pretend wife to her old college flame. Elliott’s mother is passing away and she is worried that her son will not be taken care of when she dies.

In a drunken pact, Gwen and her husband Peter, decide she can be his pretend wife for one weekend for his mother.

Of course, the old feelings resurface and Gwen has to choose between her predictably normal marriage and falling in love with her whole heart.

There is a great little twist at the end and it is a fast read that I devoured in two days!
The Last Bridge by Teri Coyne

It has been a long time since a book kept me up all night, but I could not put this book down. Just as a warning, the book does have rough language and abuse in it. If you can’t handle that sort of thing, just skip over this one!

“The Last Bridge,” jumps back and forth from the past and the present, sharing the difficult life of the main character Cat. Cat suffers through terrible emotional, physical, and sexual abuse at the hands of her father and escapes by sketching a comic book version of herself escaping “The Hand” of abuse.

She begins a relationship with a boy named Addison who loves her unconditionally. Although Addison cannot protect her from the abuse of her father, he makes her feel beautiful and loved. There love is a secret one as her father’s abusive reign will not allow anyone else to love his daughter.

She escapes town, leaving with a huge secret, and returns as a grown women after learning of her mother’s suicide. She is faced with all of the people from her past and her life is falling apart from alcoholism and the year’s of brutal abuse she has endured. She is now faced with discovering a cryptic goodbye note from her mother, the demons of her childhood, and all of the people who could not help her out of that abuse.

I don’t want to give away any of the plot because what makes this book so great is the many twists and turns that I did not expect. If you are a Jodi Picoult fan, I think you will appreciate the unexpected twists and the descriptive use of language that Coyne uses. Her knack for storytelling will immediately suck you in.

I felt like I was on a roller coaster ride, but I had to know how it would all turn out. An excellent read and I can’t wait to read more from this author!

The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes by Diane Chamberlain

I have never read a book by Diane Chamberlain, but if this is any indication of her writing style, I am permanently hooked on this author.

This book focuses on a sixteen year old girl who has lost her mother and seems to be very alone in the world. She works as a waitress and waits on the table of a handsome young man who sweeps her off of her feet. Despite their age difference, he seems to be very taken with her and she is head over heels in love with him.

He makes a confession that he is on a mission to release his sister from jail for a wrongfully accused crime. He asks her to partner with him and his brother to free their sister from jail. All she will have to do is to sit with the senator’s wife, whom they plan to kidnap, as bait to get the local senator to agree to release their sister.

The crime goes completely wrong and forever alters the path of CeeCee Wilkes. She is forced to change her identity and lives with a horrible secret of what has happened during that fateful night that she assisted with the kidnapping.

This one had me on the edge of my seat and I could not put it down until I knew what had happened. It is one of the best books that I have read in a long time and I would highly recommend it!

The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

Two families awaken to find their daughters missing in a small Iowa town. The girls are inseparable best friends, both vanishing into the early morning light without a trace.

The two girls become fast friends as Calli suffers from mutism that is brought on by a traumatic event from her childhood. While Calli is unable to talk she finds her voice at school through her best friend Petra.

When the girls go missing, both family’s lives are intertwined as they search for their daughters and a case of the whodunit leaves you guessing throughout the book.

Do you make time to read? What are some books you have read lately that you could recommend?

And Then There Was One…

Thursday, August 20th, 2009




Her face is pressed against the window and tears are rolling down her face. “I want to go to school. Why can’t I go to school?” Gently I tell her, “Sweetie, you can go next year, I promise.” For one entire month, this was part of our morning routine, as her brother would ride away on his school bus.

We would talk about what her perfect first day of school would be like when that big day came. “I will have a flower dress. I will have flower shoes. I will ride a flower bus. I will have a purple backpack.” We would play pretend school and talk about what she would learn.

To Emily’s delight, her year is finally here. I drove all over town to find her flower dress, her flower shoes, and her purple backpack. I couldn’t find a flower bus to drive her in, but everything else was exactly as she envisioned it.

As we pulled up, my eyes filled with happy tears for her. This was her big day that she had waited for. As I opened her door and leaned in to grab her backpack, she put her two hands on my cheeks and said, “Mommy, I will be right back!” It was a voice I did not recognize. A voice of a little girl who has suddenly become independent. A girl who won’t always hold my hand, who has to get in her seat by herself, a girl that would rather wear her clothes backwards then let her mom assist her.

My big girl grew up and her big eyes were filled with delight when she arrived. There were no tears and barely a nod in my direction as I left.

Yes, this was her day and my day too. We worked hard for this day.

And then it was just me, in a house by myself. I have not been alone in my house like that for over three years. It felt strange and very quiet to be alone.

A new stage in my motherhood journey is here.

My Frugal Family: The Summertime Edition

Thursday, August 6th, 2009


This summer has been a quiet one for our family. Intended trips were vetoed in favor of staycations and saving fuel. Our backyard update has been just the fix we needed though to enjoy quiet afternoons and evenings in our very own space. Our sweat equity has paid off and we have felt less impacted by the rising cost of fuel because all we desire is to spend time in our fresh new space.

I plop myself into a lawn chair and I look out over our large yard. I can see two sets of feet dancing behind the sheets, as the clothes blow on our clothesline. The children are giggling uncontrollably as they play peek-a-boo and try to catch one another, flipping the sheets back and forth.

I have set up all of their outdoor toys and it is always the laundry line that is the most fascinating to them. My daughter pulls off a towel and runs over to me shouting, “Queen, Queen.” Yes, she has somehow moved up the chain of royalty and no longer considers herself a princess, but who can blame her? Given the choice, I would aim for the queen title myself.

My son has wrapped a blue piece of tape around his head and tells me that he is a Ninja. I laugh to myself as I see the Ninja and Queen are holding hands and running together. Only in my backyard would moments like these even be possible.

The kids run through the sprinklers and hold their mouths open to catch the water. Drinks rest on the picnic table, but there is nothing like a cold spray of water in your face to catch a drop of water in your mouth. They are soaked, but the sunshine keeps them warm.

I bring out the popsicles- the same exact color, design, and shape so no squabbles can form. I fear what would happen if a Ninja and Queen had to battle it out for the best popsicle in town. Thankfully, they are so excited for their treat that they forget to fight. They sit underneath our small tree for shade and laugh because it is so cold in their mouth.

My queen is getting tired though and I pull her into my lap and hold her close. Her beach towel is wrapped around her and I lean in to smell her hair. It is the smell of sunshine, of baby shampoo, of sweetness that is like nothing else. I curl my fingers around her pigtails and let them go so little wet ringlets form around my finger. In my head, just one word keeps coming to mind and I quietly chant it in my head, “Blessed. Blessed. Blessed.”

No matter what happens in the economy, no matter how high the groceries get, and no matter how much the gas prices increase… I am blessed. It is the first thing I think when I wake up and it is the last thought on my mind as my head hits the pillow.

I am one lucky girl!

Simple Writings Bring Simple Pleasures

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

One of my dearest friends and I built our relationship up through daily email exchanges about our lives. We started emailing when my husband and I were just newlyweds and she was in a committed relationship. Our emails continued as we journeyed to Massachusetts and settled down in our first home, through my pregnancy, her engagement, her marriage, and her first baby, my second baby, her second baby… each email carefully documented our daily joys and struggles. When I became a mother my emails were full of joy, but a lot of whining about sleep, difficulty transitioning into motherhood, problems nursing, and general woes. Her emails were filled with encouragement and hope of a light at the end of the tunnel. When she wrote about motherhood though, she rarely complained but just reveled in the joy of being a mother. She was like that, she just enjoyed life.

Whatever she wrote about though, I seemed to want. It wasn’t belongings, but a sense of peace and of tranquility that she seemed to capture, that I had never had. I was always running, always going, always busy…I now realize that I didn’t take the time to enjoy the simple things, the simple life, and the simple goodness that could be created by being still for a moment.

I am trying to transition out of the busy bee world and into a more quiet time with my children. Perhaps it is melancholy because my firstborn will be attending first grade next year or perhaps it is just the realization that I don’t need to be running or constantly entertained to enjoy a quiet spell in my life.

Today was just one example of what a quiet day for us is like. The windows were cracked and I could feel the fresh air blowing into our house and the smell of freshly cut grass. I look down at my daughter as I feel her deliberate and persistent tapping on my leg. As I look down at her, I smile because she is wearing a pair of my shoes on her chubby little feet. Of all her toys, it is these shoes she loves and she calls them her “tap shoes” as she scoots the sandals across the floor. I look over at my son who is curled at one end of our sofa with a book. I can hear him as he sounds out each word very carefully and slowly, just as he has been taught in school. I revel in his growing vocabulary and how much he has learned this year- he has grown so much.

The smell of fresh muffins travels through the room as I wrap up my baking for the week ahead. This batch of muffins is stuffed to the brim with oatmeal and a little bit of chocolate, to balance out the heartiness and make them more appealing to my children. The muffins smell like freshly baked cookies and the kids begin to count down the minutes until they will be cool enough to handle.

I hum a little bit as I tidy up the kitchen, from the day spent baking, and fill the sink with the dirty dishes. The suds and warm water fill the sink and I dip my hands into the bubbles to finish the day’s dishes. As I scrub, I look out the window at our sweet little garden that we planted together. I recall the tender way my son wanted to help plant each and every plant, asking each time, “What can I do, mommy?” He was there for each step of the process and helped to water our finished product. He was just as proud and dirty as me that day.

I then sit at the other end of the sofa with my son and the sound of my knitting needles, Emily’s tap shoes, and my son’s quiet readings are all you hear. We enjoy the quiet of this day and look forward to our idyllic summer together. This stillness is what I need and I see our children growing from it. Not from the organized activities, the well-thought and well-executed organized crafts, the busy running. No, they thrive in the quiet and stillness…and so do I.

Do you see how the mundane can be made to sound lovely? Just as advertisers would have us believe that a new car will give us this amazing life we have always dreamed of, simple writing about simple pleasures may invoke that same enthusiasm. Suddenly baking muffins, knitting, quiet moments, a tiny garden, and doing dishes sound lovely…and you begin to want that. Imagine if the whole world returned to these simple pleasures- joy in the laundry hanging on the line, kids playing in sprinklers instead of with electronic gadgets, freshly baked goodies straight from your own oven, an appreciation for the beauty in nature instead of the beauty of our exterior selves…I would imagine that it would put a lot of companies out of business.

Today I challenge you to a day of simplicity and I look forward to hearing what special and simple things bring you the most joy in your life.

Is it your children’s laughter? Is it a freshly cracked library book? Is it the quiet time you spend with your spouse after your children have went to bed? Is it that first cup of morning coffee with a dash of cream? What are some simple pleasures that bring you happiness? Revel in those things, bring those things into your life, focus on those simple and amazing pleasures and see if it doesn’t bring into perspective the beautiful life you are already leading.

What simple pleasures in life do you enjoy the most?

Graduation Day

Monday, May 25th, 2009

Ethan,

We are so proud of you, Ethan! You did it! You graduated kindergarten with flying colors and wowed us all this year. I can’t believe you are reading, adding, subtracting, multiplying, and doing it all with that boundless energy that we so admire!

I was sad to see you on that big yellow school bus on your first day of school. I clung to the side of the bus as you assured me that it was all going to be okay. You were so right. You did great and I could not be more proud.

This is just the beginning, son! You are going to do so many great things, meet so many great people, and touch people’s lives in great ways. God has a purpose for you and I can’t wait to see that all unfold.

xoxo,
Mom

Hope

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

We eat our lunch together, as we always do. Emily makes the same exact request as she always does- a peanut butter & jelly sandwich, a few chips, applesauce, and lemonade. She dips her fingers in the applesauce, just as she does every single day, and is eating it off her fingers. I try to guide her to use the spoon, just as I always do, and settle in next to her.

The scenery is different today though. We are watching the inauguration of our new President and she watches in awe of the fanfare, the tiny people waving their American flags, and wiggles in time to the music. She even attempts to hum along to the music and, for some strange reason, my independent little girl asks if I will hold her as we watch.

And I watch, with tears streaming down my face, as our President makes his speech. I feel hope in my heart for our country. This isn’t a political stance for me, but a hope that the changing of the guards will bring new ideas and new opportunities for our country. A hope that we can turn this economy around for our family, our friends, those we don’t even know. That life could be better. The possibility for what the future could hold. An undeniable hope.

Yes, some things remain the same and some things, they are changing.

Did you watch the inauguration with your children or are you discussing this historic day with them? Any family nights planned? I would love to hear what you are doing today and what you are talking about with your kids!

Today I Am 31

Friday, January 16th, 2009

I can make big things happen.

In the end, this is all that matters.

My desire to learn will never end.


My capacity to love my children encompasses every fiber of my body and embeds itself deeper every year.

Some moments in my life are far grander than I dreamed possible.

I can survive that first day of kindergarten, even if I cried like a baby for two days straight.

Each year that passes I will look more like my mother.

I have discovered the beauty in things I did not appreciate.

No matter how big I get, I will always be daddy’s little girl.

I have found a life of simplicity is the best kind of life to lead.

I will be rewarded for my hard work.

I am finding that the more work I put into it, the more my house becomes my very own dream home.

If I have only one word to describe this year of life for me it would be content. I am finally content with who I am and where I am going in life. I am content with what I have and the possibility of what might be attained.

It has been a wonderful year and I thank you for sharing it with me.

xoxoxo,
Amy

My First Notre Dame Game

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

Despite living minutes away from the Notre Dame campus and enjoying all that tailgating has to offer, I have never been to a game. I don’t have the connections or finances to afford going to the game. It was one of those things that I always hoped to do and this weekend my day finally came.

My dad got two tickets to a game and a chance to dine for breakfast and dinner at a local country club through his work for free this weekend. My mom was his original date, but when I went on and on about how I have always wanted to go, she gave me her ticket so I could have a date with my dad.

Growing up, my mom & dad both worked and they equally shared duties with me. One parent worked nights and one worked days and I feel like I kind of got the best of both worlds. I am sure it was hard for their marriage, but it was great for a little girl who wanted to be the apple of each of her parent’s eyes.

Since I returned home five years ago, there are few opportunities for my dad and I to have that time together anymore. His work schedule is intense, my life as a busy mom can be intense, and we both long for that quality time together.

I don’t know who was happier in this picture, me or him. It was just what we both needed and I am so lucky to have a dad who shows me off like I am the next best thing to sliced bread, a mom who would give up her ticket so we could have this opportunity to be together, and a husband who would take care of the kids so I could have some special time with my dad.

This was the view from my seat- we were just behind the press and photographers for the game. I soaked this moment in for all it was worth- drinking in the beauty of the campus, savoring my moment in the sun, and at peace because my dad & I finally got some time together.

The pictures aren’t great because I took them with my camera phone, but I won’t forget any of it for a single second.

Go, Irish!

Thank you, Daddy, for bringing me with you- I will never ever forget it!

xoxoxo

Snacks For Mom: Do You Have Them?

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

I shared with you that I am trying to manage my time better, but one thing that often gets pushed to to the side are my own eating habits.

I can guide my children to make good food choices, but I can go for hours on end without eating well myself. Normally, I end up snacking towards the end of the day and it all balances out, but lately this plan hasn’t been working so well.

I am hypoglycemic, which is just a fancy way of saying that I have low blood sugar. I have always had problems, but after I had Emily, it has seemed to have gotten worse.

These past couple of weeks have been really horrible and I have felt really rundown. I break out in a sweat, I have the shakes, my vision gets blurry, I feel faint, and I get extremely irritable. It seems like something like low blood sugar should be such a minor thing, but it can suck up hours of my day where I feel sluggish and generally out of it. I am sure my exercise routine is contributing towards the need for more eating, but I have been letting it go.

I decided to make it a priority this week and stocked our pantry with some mommy snacks. I got myself some cheese sticks, yogurts, fiber bars, and some canned & fresh fruit. I also bought black beans and whole grain rice to make tortillas for my lunches and to replace any late night cravings for junk food. I don’t know why, but I find it difficult to “blow” grocery money on myself for these quick snacks. I feel like I should be making all of these things, but sometimes time is more limited and then I find myself in these slumps with nothing stocked to eat. The planner in me knows that I could do a better job of this, but sometimes it is nice to have a couple store-bought goodies packed in your purse for when you feel a slump coming on.

As I sat munching on my fiber bar this afternoon, I suddenly felt two eyes watching me. Emily came around the corner and pointed to my bar. She threw down her apple and started kicking and screaming for me to give it to her, as only a two year-old can do. As I shook my head no, my mouth full of food, she began escalating and I felt my stomach rumbling in protest from the interrupted and stressful snack. Can’t a girl eat a fiber bar without having to share it?

I will admit that I now find myself sneaking into the bathroom or an unlit corner of the house to sneak in a little nutrition for myself, lest I have to share with everyone else in the house. Images of my own poor mother hovering over the sink to shove a little treat in her mouth and all us kids circling her like a pack of wolves comes rushing back to me. We could sniff those Girl Scout Cookies out like nobody’s business and I doubt my mother had many meals where she didn’t have to sacrifice a few bites between the three of us.

Do you have a favorite healthy mommy snack that you could recommend? What keeps you going during the day? Secret mommy confession… do you hide your snacks or keep them separate from the rest of the family’s food? Fess up! Where do you put your stash?

And My Heart Breaks…

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008



I woke up this morning to red eyes and a tear-stained pillow because I had been anticipating the big event in our house. I still can hardly believe that he went to school today.

Last night we went to his back-to-school night and met his teacher. Ethan spent the evening working on a card to bring her and we got apples at the supermarket so he could give her one. When he walked in with his apple and card, he was so excited to hand it to her. “Will she put it on the corner of her desk, mommy?” I think he saw this on a show or in a book somewhere because the apple placement was almost more important than the apple itself. When she thanked him for the apple and centered it on her desk, he pointed to the corner of her desk. “Could you put the apple here instead?” She grinned, but obliged. I tried to make quiet small talk with the teacher and signed my name on the volunteer sheet. It took everything in me to not say things like, “My son is so amazing- you have no idea how amazing he is! He is so incredibly gifted and smart! Will you love having him around as much as I have?” I didn’t want to be that mom though so we said our goodbyes and held hands as we walked out the door.

It’s funny, when my daughter looks at a picture of our family she points at each person and says their name. “That’s my mommy. That’s my daddy. That’s my Ethan.” The inflection and the possessiveness of that phrase let’s you know just how special he is. He is hers and only hers. He is her big brother, her hero, and her best friend.

As I watch him climb the bus, that possessiveness rings in my heart. That’s my boy. That’s my colicky baby. That’s my stoic toddler. That’s my bubbly preschooler. That’s my gentle & kind son. That’s my Ethan. My. My. My.

Bittersweet.