Feb 292016
 

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February was the month I felt my legs being swept out from underneath me over and over again. Just as I thought I had regained my footing, something else came along to counteract my best intentions.

When I last left you, we were in the eye of Snowstorm Jonas which dumped about 14 inches of snow at our house. My daughter tried skiing in the front yard. Fortunately, we didn’t lose power but we spent an awful lot of time shoveling our long driveway. A friend who lives at the top of a hill hosted a snow playdate at her house complete with hot chocolate, s’mores and a snow cave! After this, my kids insisted that we buy sleds so we are prepared for any sledding opportunities that may come our way.

Digging out took almost two days!

Digging out took almost two days!

"Skiing" our front yard.

“Skiing” our front yard.

Just as we recovered from this, my husband left on a week-long business trip to the west coast which took away an important source of help as well as a lack of sleep from trying to stay in touch via midnight phone calls due to the time change.

Just as he came home, we received the very sad news that our dear “Grammy” was unwell and then passed away. It was back out to the west coast for my husband, along with our daughter, while we toughed it out here. I set to work finally taking down our Christmas decorations (while I felt bad about being this far behind, I know of at least one other busy person who still had a tree up and I was still receiving Christmas cards in the mail from a few people. For some of us, Christmas is a long season.) My kids and I camped out in our sunroom to ease the hurt feelings of those who wanted to travel with big sister. We celebrated Valentine’s Day and did one of my favorite photo shoots of the year.

One night in January, I was cleaning up our Christmas boxes, cut some hearts out of one, covered a table in packing material and set out paints.

One night in January, I was cleaning up our Christmas boxes, cut some hearts out of one, covered a table in packing material and set out paints.

The next day, I found this!  The kids were hard at work painting.  My son liked to mix all the colors together to make "mud" valentines.

The next day, I found this! The kids were hard at work painting. My son liked to mix all the colors together to make “mud” valentines.

My daughter, displaying supreme organizational skills created this valentine's box with one section for cards, another door for candy and a flap on the back to open to get it all out!  I was impressed.

My daughter, displaying supreme organizational skills created this valentine’s box with one section for cards, another door for candy and a flap on the back to open to get it all out! I was impressed.

I loved the plea on my other daughter's box "Please give candy."  And another "mud" creation from my son.

I loved the plea on my other daughter’s box “Please give candy.” And another “mud” creation from my son.

We hung up all the creations on our mantel and I just loved looking at it.

We hung up all the creations on our mantel and I just loved looking at it.

Since we were in mourning for Grammy, I found black outfits for all of us to wear.  They ended up working out great for our photo shoot and symbolized both great heartache and great love.

Since we were in mourning for Grammy, I found black outfits for all of us to wear. They ended up working out great for our photo shoot and symbolized both great heartache and great love.

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The next day, we received another 5 inches of snow in a surprise storm! My children were so excited to use their sleds. Our driveway does not have that much of a slope to it but I served as the “horse” pulling them down the driveway over and over. By the end, we had a pretty good ice track set up. Fortunately, there was no shoveling to be done as the next day it all melted away.

Add another 5 inches to our snow totals.

Add another 5 inches to our snow totals.

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There is not a single picture of the baby enjoying snow.  He cries every time we put him down.

There is not a single picture of the baby enjoying snow. He cries every time we put him down.

Not even the sled was enticing!

Not even the sled was enticing!

My husband and daughter arrived safely home . . . . but then all the children came down with the flu! It passed irritatingly from one child to the next in the most drawn out fashion. I got tired of cleaning up vomit in the middle of the night. Fortunately, I avoided most of the illness, having already been hit hard with the flu last fall. I ended up with a small chest cough and made sure to rest as much as possible so I didn’t end up with pneumonia again. It seemed to work but it did nothing for my productivity.

And then to top it all off, at the end of the month, we had a tornado alert! We hid out in the basement for an hour or so. The wind and rain were not so bad for us but our neighbors to the south were not so lucky.

From snow to tornadoes!

From snow to tornadoes!

In the midst of all this February turmoil, however, Grammy’s death gave me pause to think about life in general and I realized that while it is wonderful to be organized and maximize your time and do great things, in the end all that is really asked of us is that we wake up every morning, breathe in, breathe out and just exist. That is enough. That is valuable. We do service to those around us just by being here. Anything else we do is a bonus. We would do well to remember that about ourselves and about others as well.

So, that was February. I was going to end this essay by saying that things are now on the right track for March as the weather is so balmy and spring-like and the increased sunshine does wonders for my energy level. After taking my minivan in for an expensive servicing, I cleaned it out and detailed it this weekend (a hateful task as only a minivan owner can sympathize). It was wonderful to sit in my “new” car today. . . . until I turned on the AC to hear a terrible noise. So tomorrow, we are back in recovery mode.

March is supposedly “in like a lion and out like a lamb.” So far, the lion part is right.

How was your February?

 Posted by on February 29, 2016 General Tagged with: , , , , ,
Jun 042015
 
With spring came the arrival of my son!

With spring came the arrival of my son!

“When are we ever going to see that baby?” a friend recently inquired. Yes, my new baby is here! We added a wonderful, healthy son to our family.

Even with three other children, it is hard to remember how tiny newborn babies are. Our whole lives were reevaluated in “proportion” to our new little one.

Smiling in his sleep.

Smiling in his sleep.

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Fitting in to our new routine.  Here, at soccer practice.

Fitting in to our new routine. Here, at soccer practice.

All went well with the delivery and our recovery has been an enjoyable time with family and friends. Easter, Mother’s Day and Memorial Day passed in a blink. It has been a challenge to settle into a new rhythm as a family of 6. When you add a new baby to the family, everyone has to grow up a bit. The big sisters become ever more responsible and the “itty bitty” who was skiing with me just months ago is now the “big brother.”

The little brother becomes the big brother.

The little brother becomes the big brother.

It has truly been an enjoyable spring. Virginia is at its best in spring. While home recovering with my baby, my garden put on the most magnificent show of blooms. Even the iris which have never bloomed, bloomed this year. During this pregnancy, I developed a severe case of “rose colored glasses syndrome” where I found myself even appreciating how wonderful DC traffic was over the Christmas season. My affliction continues–although in milder form.

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Fern tendrils ready to open.

Fern tendrils ready to open.

Cherry blossoms in DC.

Cherry blossoms in DC.

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The leaves return.

The leaves return.

A new entry in my blooms from a plant I put in last year.

A new entry in my blooms from a plant I put in last year.

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The "miracle" irises.

The “miracle” irises.

Lanterns on the battlefield for Memorial Day.

Lanterns on the battlefield for Memorial Day.

Yet life with an infant is never all roses. Despite my bliss, it is a struggle to get going in the mornings. Usually, as soon as I open my eyes in the morning, I am already behind. There is mess to clean up from the night before, sheets to wash (again!) and outfits to change. Getting dressed is more challenging as I am currently at that in-between size where maternity clothes are too big but my regular clothes are too small. My laundry and dirty dishes seem to have quadrupled. My eldest son spontaneously decided to potty train just weeks after the baby came, which is wonderful, but added to my duties came sprinting to the potty at a moment’s notice and daily carpet cleaning.

On top of everything else, the Tooth Fairy has been to visit 3 times!

On top of everything else, the Tooth Fairy has been to visit 3 times!

We are also winding up our homeschooling efforts and preparing for standardized tests. For the past 8 weeks, we have essentially been conducting a math camp, completing 291 pages of second grade math and 307 pages of fourth grade math to finish up our Singapore Math curriculum.

During a math intensive day, I got the email from goop about “Postnatal Depletion

“On average, a mom’s brain shrinks 5% in the prenatal period . . . Part of the brain shrinkage mentioned above, Dr. Serrallach explains, is reprogramming: “It supports the creation of ‘baby radar,’ where mothers become intuitively aware of their child’s needs, if they are cold or hungry, or if they cry at night.” This hyper-vigilance becomes dangerous for the mother when she, in turn, is not supported.”

–“Postnatal Depletion,” goop

The very next thing I read was:

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I laughed at the irony.

I laughed again at my obstetrical follow-up appointment when I read the depression screening questionnaire. When it asked questions about whether I have difficulty sleeping, I knew that if I answered “Yes,” it would look like depression but if I answered “No” I would be certifiable (as who does sleep well with a newborn baby?).

I took solace in quotes like this one from blogger Eileen Ogintz in The New York Times:

“You have to be prepared that it’s not one Instagram moment after another. We have incredibly high expectations and . . . it’s not perfect. It’s a messy experience and aggravating.”

–Eileen Ogintz, “’Taking the Kids,’ for Nearly 20 Years,” The New York Times, April 28, 2015

Mother's Day 2015

Mother’s Day 2015

During my break from blogging, I have been enduring many life lessons on organizational challenges. I have been reading wise words from other organizational gurus and thinking about ideas for future blog posts.

I hope that spring has treated you well and am glad to be back with you on this organizational journey!

P.S. For anyone bothered by the math question, here are the solutions we came up with.

The tessellation that took us forever to solve.

The tessellation that took us forever to solve.

 Posted by on June 4, 2015 General Tagged with: , ,
Sep 212014
 
One of our many challenges upon arriving home: tackling the mountain of laundry!

One of our many challenges upon arriving home: tackling the mountain of laundry!

Hi Anne: We’ve missed your updates now for a couple of months…. “Sup?

I was actually thrilled to receive several recent inquiries about what is going on with my blog. It is nice to know that people miss you when you don’t post!

Fortunately, there is nothing catastrophic behind my lack of posts. It was a full summer with entertaining and cross-country travel. By the time we returned to Virginia, we were all a little wiped out but had to dive right in to the new homeschool year. Blogging was unfortunately moved to the bottom of the priority list.

I have felt completely behind this entire September. All of the activities that most families accomplish before the school year, like shopping for fall clothes and school supplies, visiting doctors for school physicals and eye exams, we had to push to September. In addition, we had a backlog of things to reset to normal from our trip, like doing laundry, writing a pile of thank you notes and washing and repairing the car. We are also in the middle of planning a large home improvement project and researching investments for our personal finances. So, gradually, we are catching up but it is taking us some time. We are going through the motions of our new homeschool and extracurricular routines but it all still feels a bit foreign and unnatural.

While I hope that all of you are having an awesome September and that your school or work routines are running just like clockwork, I am finding numerous examples of people who are closer to my experience where September is kind of a whirlwind of change and we are just trying to survive the storm. A few people in my life experienced major medical concerns during September and there is nothing that throws your life off balance like a medical crisis. Another friend wrote recently that she just feels a bit overwhelmed by her new fall scheduling and is waiting for things to settle into a routine.

In the blogging world, I was shocked to discover that very successful bloggers John and Sheri Petersik are taking a break from posting to reassess their life priorities in light of the birth of their second child this year. (Good for them! A second child is a huge adjustment for most people.)

Also in the blogging world, the local Fredericksburg couple who cashed out their 401k, sold their home and traveled the world for over 2 years, wrote a fascinating post about their struggle to transition back to regular life in the United States.

If you are in the whirlwind with me, I found it helpful to take some advice from Bob Harper, the famous fitness trainer from The Biggest Loser. This season’s show is all about former athletes. The stories are so human and humbling. These are people who have demonstrated great dedication and commitment and hard work during their careers yet still have fallen victim to their own personal demons. It takes a brave person to admit that on national television and it is inspiring to see these contestants have that courage and have the audacity to make a very difficult change.

On the first episode of the show, Bob is counseling a woman who is suffering from injuries. He tells her:

2014-09-17-harper-mindquote-white*I have no affiliation with The Biggest Loser or any other company mentioned in this post.

 Posted by on September 21, 2014 General Tagged with: , , ,
Jun 102013
 
Enjoying one of many rainstorms last week.

Enjoying one of many rainstorms last week.

Pardon me while I catch up on last week. It was a blur of activity.

A list of some of the fun we have been having:

  • Completed replacing the flooring in the family room
  • Began daily swimming lessons
  • Completed last day of preschool activities and teacher gifts
  • Attended a two-day homeschooling conference in Richmond
  • Traveled to DC to visit the Smithsonian

The downsides

  • Lack of sleep
  • Gained 7 pounds!! (still not sure exactly how this happened but lack of access to my kitchen during the home renovation and eating out a lot probably had something to do with it! Also, the large amount of rain we have had lately canceled many of our evening walks.)
  • Far behind on my cleaning and organizing efforts.

All this after just the first week of summer “vacation.” I mentioned before that summer requires flexibility and adapting to new routines. Boy, did I underestimate how true that would be for me! This week, I am trying to refocus and get back on track. Meanwhile, I will share the stories of last week to entertain you.

How is your first week of summer vacation going? Please share in the comments.

 Posted by on June 10, 2013 General Tagged with: , ,
Feb 072013
 

2013-02-07-anxiety

*One of the public service purposes of this blog is to promote understanding of proper mental health. Incidents like the Newtown shootings made us realize that we have a responsibility to be educated about mental health, to make sure professional help is accessible to us and to help others get it. Guest blogger Ryan Rivera writes today about an issue I see frequently discussed in women’s blogs: anxiety.

Anxiety has become a buzzword among conversations. It has become synonymous with stress and the feeling you want to explode because things are not working. The Anxiety Disorders Association of America indicates that women are more vulnerable to anxiety. There are a lot of women who have been battling anxiety for years now. Experts agree that anxiety cases are becoming more common and that untreated anxiety can get worse over time.

Is anxiety on a roll?
What is anxiety all about? Why so many women are suffering from it? Anxiety is normal and part of every human’s reservoir of emotions. It helps people recognize problems and a need to solve it. Anxiety, in its positive form, can help you focus and perform at peak levels. In some case, however, it can be debilitating. It becomes a health threat when it lasts longer than it should or begins to muddle a person’s life. Stress and anxiety are perfect bedfellows that can wreak havoc to almost all aspects of life.

How prevalent is it?
A 2005 study reveals that generalized anxiety disorder is more prevalent in women. Anxiety is more likely to affect individuals who belong to middle socio-economic status. In most cases, anxiety sufferers are those who have been separated, divorced or widowed. Research suggests that anxiety has links with genetics. It becomes apparent when a person is under stress. If left untreated, anxiety symptoms may become serious.

What are the symptoms?
The symptoms most often develop around the age of 22 but it is not clearly understood why. Anxiety suffers often seen to avoid common activities such as shopping or even driving. Often, they may be either unable to sleep or sweating profusely. And, because the symptoms of anxiety often resemble symptoms of other diseases, some people are being misdiagnosed. They find themselves undergoing treatment not aimed at ending anxiety and its root cause. Anxiety is generally detected around 9 to 12 years from the onset of the symptoms. Worse, only a handful of sufferers get proper medical attention. Part of the problem is people are afraid to seek professional help because of the social stigma of being labeled as insane.

What causes women to be anxious?
Let’s face it. The world is not as safe as it used to be. Fear has clouded people’s minds. Uncertainties drive people’s anxiety in turn manifests physically. Experts believe a shift in cultural values is a main factor in the rise of anxiety cases. Women are more aware of their feelings and get more emotional. Unhealthy diet and poor nutrition are also factors making the body less able to cope with anxiety.

Experts believe women may be born to worry. Women’s brains seem to be wired to emphasize past experiences when encountering new situations. The female brain is also thought to use different brain circuits to learn from stress than the male brain, which may make women more susceptible to stress-related illnesses.

Where can anxiety sufferers find help?
If you suspect you are suffering from unmanageable anxiety, the first step is to seek the help of the family doctor first. A competent doctor can detect if you need treatment for anxiety or some other disease. Further treatment can be given by a mental health professional once anxiety is properly diagnosed.

What kind of support do anxiety sufferers need?
Support is important against anxiety. Significant others, family and friends should learn more about anxiety. Encourage the sufferer to seek treatment. Never criticize people for relentless worrying and give positive feedback for healthy behavior. Set specific and realistic goals. Never assume you understand what the sufferer is experiencing. Always lend a caring ear to what the sufferer has to tell you.

Most mental health professionals recommend family-based anxiety treatment. The challenge can be daunting. It is important to remember that with treatment, people with anxiety can live fulfilling lives with successful careers.

About the Author:
Ryan Rivera used to suffer from anxiety attacks for seven years. He now dedicates his life to writing articles that will help people with anxiety, stress, panic attacks and depression.

 Posted by on February 7, 2013 General Tagged with: , ,