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The Breeder's Digest

The more the merrier! ...or something like that.

One Word 2015
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I haven't blogged in forever.  Every now and again I'd get nostalgic for my every day writing.  Then I'd think about the curent state of my life and think, "Do I really want a record of THIS????"
The easy answer was always, "No I don't!"  I mean, what could possibly be entertaining or productive or remotely enjoyable about life written about during struggle?  So I'd go and lay on my couch and do something totally important like watch an entire straight season of "Ink Master" and ignore that tiny part inside of me that said, "Get up and write."

Then again, sometimes writing through the bad is a good way to unburden...and going back to read about the shadows when you are finally standing in the light provides a very real sense of joy and satisfaction.
And that brings me to this post, about my yearly "One Word" (even though the new year started a million days ago it seems).
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There's something to be said for the importance of having a word, because even though I didn't recall much about the blog post in which I'd declared my word for 2014, somehow that word must have wedged itself into my subconscious, because sure enough, this past year was all about FREEDOM.  When I went back to read what I had written in January of 2014 I was shocked to see how closely I'd ahered to my intent.  It made me happy to realize I'd claimed some of the freedom I'd hoped for myself...and maybe a little bit proud - because like most freedoms mine came at a cost, and to realize I was brave enough to break out of those prisons even though I knew I might suffer a few scrapes and burns in the process is the triumph amidst the trials.

I became free of a lot of things in 2014: an unhappy marriage, some toxic friendships, some strongly held (but incorrect) beliefs about myself, a few bad habits and a few unproductive committments.  Is my life perfect?  Am I dancing on rainbows?  Not exactly...but I am unburdened in a way that I have never been before, even though in theory I should be struggling under the weight of some of the bigger changes I'm facing.

Last year I got busy picking up all the loose ends in my life so I could try to weave them back into something strong and durable. Going back to finish my grad school work to become a certified teacher was my first step.  It had been 5 years since I'd dropped out of classes so I was scared it would be hard to go back, but I HAD to do it for myself and for my kids, so I took the leap and got very lucky.  A few good connections and the blessing of a wonderful advisor dropped me right back into the program much more quickly that I'd even anticipated.   One day I was tentatively sending emails about finishing my coursework, and 4 days later I was student teaching (right at the end of the school year, no less!).

I was placed in one of our local Catholic schools and from there, my blessings multiplied.  My supervising teacher was kind and funny and supportive.  My advisor placed herself at my back to push and encourage and support and facilitate my goals.  Being in a classroom invigorated me all over again.  The people I worked with were lovely.  And the kids?  Oh how I missed having students!   Before the year was over I had an offer for part-time employment in the fall that my advisor said I could count towards my final student teaching credits (a HUGE break for me!) In between all of this I was still doing coursework while simultaneously trying to recreate a new life as a single parent (again) and find firm footing in a life that was turbulent and uncertain and stressful.

So here I am, halfway through the school year, loving life way more than I should if you looked at my life on paper.  I'm not going to lie- it's been hard - and it is still hard at times.  We're not yet divorced, but I think Rob and I have mellowed into a place of mutual respect and understanding.  All of the kids have weathered all these new changes and challenges with varying degrees of ennui and resentment and disappointment.  In between, they have all been growing and changing and maturing and developing - all things which bring with them their own difficulties.  Hayden is a driver (!) He is talking about college (!!)  Larissa is a full-day kindergartener and every minute leaving her "baby Riss" status in the dust.  Eliza will be a teen in a few short weeks.  Weston will be getting his learner's permit.  Kellan is the master of all things Pokemon.  Working and parenting and trying to find myself in the midst of al this chaos has been hard.  It is still hard.  I learned quickly that I had to be okay with things not being exactly the way they used to be or precisely the way I wanted them to be.  I had to give up on some of my expectation and lower my standards in a few places.  THAT IS HARD.  I am a perfectionist.  I struggle with change.  I like to have control over things.  THAT IS AN IMPOSSIBLE WAY TO LIVE.  It took some tears and some struggles and a LOT of prayer, but I think I'm finally wearing the mantle of my new life less like an ill-fitting, itchy sweater and more like a t-shirt that just needs a few more washes to feel broken-in.

And that is why my word for 2015 is:


There are so many interpretations for the word ENOUGH which is what makes it so perfect for the place I'm at right now.  This year.
Of course there is the hard-core JLo verson of ENOUGH.  Even I've been around the block enough to know that Jenny is correct: Everyone DOES have a limit and I had to start acknowledging mine.  Far too often I would let myself be pushed over or... I would hang on to certain relationships or obligations even though I doing so made my gut feel awful.  So I started channeling my inner Lopez and started saying "NO".  There was no reason for me to make myself feel terrible for the sake of sparing others that emotion.  I efficiently (but not rudely) cut ties with people and places that weren't working for me.  Not to say I didn't still feel a few pangs of guilt or fear, but guess what?  Those bad things were quickly overwhelmed by my much better feelings of relief.  Freedom!
The emotional "ENOUGHS" were a bit harder.  Many of them focused on the kids.  All of my mom-guilt was turning my kids into entitled, spoiled, disrespectful jerks and I was suffering.  They were too, they just didn't realize it.  This is still a work in progress - the hardest work EVER - but I'm still doing it.  As much as I love my kids, they were hurting me and my heart finally said,"Enough is enough."  I started being harder on them.  I stopped doing everything for them.  I started letting them experience the consequences of their actions.  Am I super great at doing this?  Hell no.  But even though it's hard, the results always prove that it's the right way.  I am learning how to parent "enough".  You get led to belive that you have to be 100% all-in to be a great mom, but truly, less is more.  It really is "enough."
Ahhh...the ME "ENOUGHS".  We're all our own worst critic, no?  Going back to work and taking care of a house and a life and myself and 2 dogs and 5 kids is hard.  I am always thinking about the enoughs I don't have: I don't have enough time, I don't sleep enough, I don't work out enough, my house isn't clean enough, my meals aren't good enough.  UGH.  Enough with that.  As much as it kills me (and it does), right now, at this moment in time, ENOUGH is good enough.  I don't get to volunteer at the kids' school like I used to, but I do it at least a couple times a month and that is plenty.  We don't have enough great meals, but we are eating - most of the time together - and that is enough.  I am not in the best shape of my life, but I work out at least 3 times a week and that is enough.  Things could be worse.

The STUFF "enough" is the worst.  I will never make enough money on my own to raise 5 kids.  I could, but at the expense of my time with them...time that I know is fleeting and finite.  I wish I could afford fancy clothes and great vacations and even simple pleasures like a manicure every now and again.  College looms.  The kids' activities are expensive.  Just plain living costs an arm and a  leg.  I'm sure at some point we'll have to move and I wonder what kind of home I'll be able to afford.  I have to time my own haircuts to ensure that they occur after I have covered all of our "necessary" expenses.  I envy my friends with "new" everything, and fun vacations, and nice clothes and pretty hands.  I wish I could replace our dingy carpets.  I would love to have a nice, new, not 16-years-old mattress.  I would love to buy clothes from a real store - not TJ Maxx or Goodwill or Kohl's with a coupon.  Very quickly that envy destroys me, so I have to remind myself that everything we have right now is totally enough: a roof over our heads, money to get us what we need, our health, each other.  When I focus on being grateful for what we have, It is indeed, enough.  The blessings will come.   I have faith.

This has already been a tough year and it's only just started which is why I have to keep the mantra of "enough" in my head.  Eyes on the prize, look straight ahead, don't doubt, don't judge, don't panic, don't fear, don't despair.

JKL as Matthew McConaughey would say...

I am going to start writing more.  Maybe not every day, and maybe not a whole lot, but I'm going to try.  And that, my friends, is ENOUGH.
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My favorite things 2014
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A couple of years ago I linked to a blog that I really like.  Melissa does a "Favorite Things" post every year and invites people to join in the fun...because it is fun to stop and think about your "favorites" -- especially since most of the time they are the smallest of things.  How easy it is to forget that pleasure can come in the simplest of ways!  Go check out her blog (and those of the other participants!),  Just click on this button!

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Here is my list of favorite things (in no particular order), 2014 edition.

1)  Kerrygold butter. Sure, it's more expensive that your average 4-stick box of store brand butter, but once you try Kerrygold, everything else will taste as waxy and flavorless as Chapstick.  I put a tablespoon in my coffee every morning instead of creamer and I might sometimes eat it straight off the knife...

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2) SONS OF ANARCHY on FX.
I didn't get hooked on this show until last season and now there are only 2 shows left before the series is OVER!  Good news!   All six of the previous seasons are available on iTunes.

This show is all at once dirty and sexy and violent and moving and emotional and philosophical....the series creator Kurt Sutter really knows how to get into the very deepest, darkest recesses of people's minds and hearts.  His wife, Katy Sagall (aka Peg Bundy) is phenomenal in this series....and the guys are not hard to look at either.

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3) FolkArt Home Decor Chalk Paint

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I wanted to change up the look of a sofa table in my house, but I didn't want to spend a lot of time or money doing it.  I knew that chalk paint would be the best option but I was too cheap and too lazy to order the wildly famous "Annie Sloan" brand and wait for it to arrive.  After a bit of research on the internet, I found out that FolkArt now has a line of chalk paints.  I went to JoAnn fabrics armed with a 50% coupon and spent less than $4.00 on a container of paint.  I made my daughter go through a separate line with the same coupon so I could spend the same amount on the dark wax.  WOW!  Totally great results!  The paint went straight on to my untreated, unprepped table in a smooth, even coat and dried almost instantly.  The project took me less than 2 days and I'm thrilled with the results.  Awesome find!

4) BUZZFEED - especially the quizzes.

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It's the ultimate time-wasting site, but oh, so worth it!  It runs the gamut from important news to silly videos and everything in between, but if you want to feel socially relevant and somewhat informed about the news of the world, Buzzfeed can accommodate.  The most fun are the quizzes.  Some are more "scientific" than others, but who doesn't have 2 minutes to find out what color M&M they are?
Here are a couple of fun ones:

For the literary snob.
For the TV watcher.
For the child of the 80's.


5) DAILY ODD COMPLIMENT
Everyone has "that" relationship with someone that requires more than your average, "Thanks for being a friend," tip of the hat.  Daily odd compliment fits the bill.  One example:  "I like having you around because my weirdness doesn't look so weird when you're doing it too."

6) Fabletics
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This is the athletic wear site founded by Kate Hudson.  You can become a VIP member and receive special discounts on entire outfits on a monthly basis or you can buy ala carte, but either way there are some great deals to be had.  I own a huge amount of workout gear, and I daresay that some of these pieces rival (for me anyway), the quality, fit and comfort of the pricey lululemon brand.  I just purchased the pants in the picture and I LOVE them - so does everyone else based upon the many compliments I receive.

7) PINE BROTHERS Cough Drops
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These are a blast from the past that have just recently become available again.  All natural, firm texure, and sweet flavor - all perfect for soothing a scratchy throat without leaving a bad taste in your mouth or a cloud of eucalyptus smell around you!  You can get them at most Walgreens or buy them through the link above.  I have to remind myself that they are NOT candy.

8)  Synergy Kombucha Chia Drink

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It's an acquired taste, and kind of pricey ($3.50+ per bottle) but this is one of my favorite drinks.  The health benefits aren't bad either.

9) Jewelry from World Market
World Market has a wide variety of baubles suitable for any taste.  Their pieces are colorful, unique and wonderfully affordable.  Every piece I've ever purchased has merited a, "Where did you get that??"  Perfect as gifts!

10)  This picture.

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It's random, I know...but no matter what my mood, this photo of someone injured while wearing a frog mascot costume cracks me up.


Inspiration for the Week
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Inspiration for the Week
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July 4th, 2014
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This year I think has been the beginning of the end in terms of doing things together as a family.

I always knew my bigger kids would drift into their teenaged wastelands and leave some things behind...I just never imagined it would happen so fast...or all at once.

For every 4th of July as long as I can remember we have all done certain things together: RibFest, parade, festival, fireworks.  It's become more or less a tradition.

Not anymore.  The older boys much prefer the dark confines of their basement lair where they can spend the majority of their days (and nights) engaged in pretend warfare.  Eliza on the other hand, cannot sit idle for more than an hour at a time.  When she's not at gymnastics she's with one of her dozen friends.  Trying to pry them away from their preferences is hard, and understandably, it's hard to entertain a "big" kid with "little" kid activities.

This year we made it to RibFest with my friend Katie and her three kids. Between us we divided and conquered the multitude of children running every which way.  At one point I was charged with her 5-year-old son who chose that particular moment to have a series of mini breakdowns in the balloon animal line.  Each time he would crumple to the ground like a marionette whose strings had suddenly been cut.  After episode five or six, I faced the throng of sympathetic onlookers, shrugged and said, "He's not my kid."  Ah...such relief in such few words!

A few fits aside, it was a gorgeous day for playing, petting animals (Kellan is still NOT a fan), body art, eating, and getting free stuff from the vendor tents!


A couple of days later was our local parade.  The thing to do in our town is stake out space with lawn chairs or "CAUTION" tape up to three (!) days in advance along the route.  I got up early Saturday morning with my mallet and stakes looking more like a vampire hunter than anything else, and secured a nice, ample spot in a great area for my brood.  As it turned out, the older boys had zero interest in attending the parade and Eliza was headed to the local festival with friends which left me and the littles -- and an embarrassingly huge parcel of real estate to sit in. Thankfully, before the parade started I saw a friend's husband and two boys searching for a spot in line.  I beckoned them over and invited them to fill in some of our empty space!  It actually turned out great - he had somewhere to sit, we both had another adult to chat with, and Kellan and Riss had a candy gathering companion.  Win win!



That evening I was ditched by the big kids again.  The boys still had zero interest in celebrating our nation and Eliza had plans...you guessed it...with friends.  No biggie....Kellan, Riss and I went to a friend's parent's house.  They live right on the lake where the set off the fireworks so we had a front row seat to the show.  It wasn't exactly the July 4th I was used to, or the one that I'd anticipated, but I guess you could say it still ended....with a bang.


Friday Five: Killing Time
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Have I mentioned yet how much time I have spent NOT enjoying summer?

We've experienced a series of spectacular storms throughout the summer thus far which have kept us indoors/on dry land for days at a time. When we're not dodging storms, I'm driving kids.  The "extra" time I have in between shuttle appointments is roughly 27.5 minutes.  You would think that "almost" a half-hour would be just as good as a straight 30 minutes, but I'm telling you, those 2.5 minutes that I typically fall short are the ones that really break me. Give me 30 minutes or give me death!  That is my new mantra.

1)  The thrift store is usually good for killing 20 minutes or so.  The kids are easily bribed by the promise of a new book, and occasionally  I'll get suckered into buying a game like "Don't Break the Ice" for $0.99.  This game is basically 1% actual ice breaking and 99% putting the ice back together.  Wheee!



2)  Another thing that really kills my schedule are the unexpected waits and the activities that suddenly come up.  Eliza will instruct me to pick her up from a sleepover at 10:00 only to get in the car and inform me that she is due at another friend's house across town at 10:15.

As Weston is starting high school and Larissa is entering kindergarten, they both needed physicals.  We were scheduled for a 10:00 start time (which I remembered just as I was buckling the kids into the car for a morning at the Farmer's Market.  Grrrrrr!)  What should have been two 15 minute appointments turned into a solid 100 minute block.  Instead of having an extra hour to run a couple of errands, I had just enough time to literally run out of the doctor's office and race to the other side of town to get Eliza from gymnastics.  Usually I'm adamant that the kids not randomly touch/play with things in the exam room, but after 20 minutes of waiting, I let Larissa have at it. I was ready to conduct the exam myself at that point.



During the appointment there was a lot of scrambling to figure out whether shot records were updated.  The paperwork required to keep five kids alive is astounding.  I'm surprised that the dogs' records weren't mixed in there as well.  For all I know, Larissa got a shots for distemper and rabies!

3) All this rain has wreaked havoc with the baseball season.  There are games being rescheduled at the last minute which makes for a lot of "Keystone Cops"-like exits from our house.  Weston has to be at the field 1 hour early for warm-ups, but unfortunately main street traffic in our town makes it virtually impossible to leave and accomplish much of anything in that hour, so I'm usually relegated to the bleachers to catch up on my serious reading while the other kids get completely filthy in baseball diamond dust.  (Our summer bath count is up to at least 5,000).


I have my finger on the pulse of what's happening in the world today, let me tell you.  (And the world's pulse is pretty damn weak).

Truth: I heard  that the typical People Magazine article is written so that it can be read entirely in one bathroom visit.  The sad thing is...I don't even have the luxury of that kind of time!! Let's recap: I do NOT have enough free time in one sitting to complete a People Magazine article.

4) Speaking of baseball, Weston has had a rough season.  He has been in a terrible hitting slump since day one, and he is NOT the kid you want to give platitudes to.  AT. ALL.  His team has struggled to gel as well, so basically every game I brace myself for the drive home that inevitably includes phrases such as, "I am the worst baseball player in the history of Babe Ruth (his league)!!)" and "I hate this stupid game", and my personal favorite, "I hate you for signing me up for this stupid game."  Ahhhh...the rich rewards of parenting.

Thankfully in the last several games his team has pulled together and Wes has seemed to have found his inner Bull Durham.  Tonight he went 3 for 3, including a pair of doubles (whew!)  He's really a great athlete and despite the (ahem) bumps in the road, I do love watching him play.



5) I'm not kidding, this is what it's like to be in my car.  All. The. Time.
Actually, there's a LOT more screaming and crying and mean words -- they caught on that I was recording them.


Inspiration for the Week
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Friday Five: The Wisdom of the New Yorker
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Every Christmas I buy myself a copy of The New Yorker desktop calendar.  Best cartoons ever.

Here are some classics from the recent month (and one oldie that I love).

1)  This is the truth.  You could be having the worst day ever, but as soon as you hear the ice cream truck everything is magically 1000% better.



2)  This is basically my Friday night softball team.  We are terrible...but mostly because half of our team bellies up to the dugout bar before every game.  UGH.



3) Seriously...every week when I am wading through the piles of crap that my kids have I wonder how much worse it'll get in the future.  I went to a baby shower recently and there are about 10 billion products that didn't exist when I had my last baby...only 5 years ago.



4) We were just out to dinner the other night and as I looked around the restaurant it seemed that most of the diners there were either watching one of the TVs on the wall or staring at their iPhones in lieu of actually interacting with the people at their table.  This is one of my biggest pet peeves.  My family is BANNED from having electronics of any kind at the dinner table - at home or otherwise.



5)  This one is on my fridge.  It speaks the TRUTH!


Almost Wordless Wednesday: Old Glory
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God knows how I pulled it off, but in a short evening I got patriotic and made this:



Of course, my freedom was short-lived, because although I live in the land of the free, my house is actually the home of the slave.

Summer With Kids
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Raising kids at different ages and stages is a challenge...and no matter what people say, it does NOT get easier as they get older and kids do NOT grow out of tantrums!

This is how I begin every single day....and how I end almost every single day.



I start with good intentions and a plan -- a plan which is quickly derailed by the kids.  Sometimes it's a change in schedule or a missed alarm. Sometimes it's an impromptu playdate.  Most of the time it's the fighting.  And bickering.  And whining.  And bickering.  And fighting.  And whining.  ((SIGH))

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This is what the garbage can looks like after a weekend.  My boys have chosen to opt out of living life in the outside world and have chosen instead to exist in the basement with their animated world and online friends.  I have truly given up.  I'm so tired of the battle that ensues when I try to get them to do anything but "game" that it's just easier to ignore them.  That's probably a bad tactic but it's all I have right now.



Not one "natural" food product in the lot.  This photo depresses me, actually.  Let's move on.

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Both of the girls are really into shopping right now.  We had a couple of hours to kill while Kellan was at nature camp the other morning so Eliza asked if I would take her and a friend to the outdoor mall nearby.  I had barely parked the car when they disappeared into the nearest Aeropostale.  As soon as Larissa set eyes on Justice, she insisted that we go inside.  She really gets into the whole process of picking out and trying on clothes.  It's like watching a model walk at Fashion Week the way she works the mirror.  Eliza just outgrew her Justice addiction a year or two ago, and Larissa is picking up just where she left off.  UGH.



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I play on a really fun sand volleyball league every Sunday night.  It's my second year of playing and I love it.  The younger kids love coming with me, mostly because there are always other kids to play with and they can spend most of the time doing this.  (Did I mention, Sunday night is always bath night??)



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Every now and again our wonderful babysitter comes and relieves me.  One hour without kids feels amazing.  Of course I miss them...but they are always just a selfie away ;)



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