If My Life Came With An Owner’s Manual…

It would look like this.

And it would most certainly have, hidden somewhere between it’s well worn pages, one of these.

I used to be really organized, always on time, always wore makeup…That was soooo 2 kids ago.  I’ve had lots of ups and downs, typically congruent with pregnancy, but I was doing well for awhile.
Last year something unexpected happened. I got sick, and I re-injured my back. Not going to go into detail on that, other than to say that my usual ability to hold things together disappeared.  I was incapable of working, cooking, cleaning, teaching… of being me.  Over and over, I wished that I had followed through and made a User’s Manual for our house so that people COULD help. So that if I was in a car accident or otherwise unavailable all of the people who depend on me wouldn’t be completely lost.
Over the last two months I’m finally feeling like myself again and I think it’s time to do it. I’m making an owner’s manual for my life and my family.  I know many people call it a Home Management Binder, a Family Organization Binder.  I googled all of these and didn’t find anything that quite fit my style. So last week I decided that for the beginning of my new year I would make my own. And then I decided that I’d share them, which I’ve never done before. Maybe someone else out there is looking for something like mine and they can’t find it. And maybe they don’t enjoy playing around in Excel as much as I do… Yes, I’m that strange.

So I invite you over the next few weeks to get organized with me, starting today..

This is my binder.  I really wanted to buy a cute one, but sadly they are only available in 1 inch.  I thought about it. I really did. But I can’t see how all 6 of us and our daily “Dos” are  going to fit in ONE inch.  So, I bought this two inch in the prettiest color I could find, with a sad sigh.

 I bought one of those page turners so that it wouldn’t get as messy.  The idea is to NOT add more messy to life, right? You can’t tell from the photo but the colored tabs are my Monthly tabs.

 In each month I have a Monthly calendar and a weekly agenda.  Both I designed myself and are available for download.   I found some great ones online, but NONE of them were 2 page.  Also I must have cuteness in my life, like birds and trees. Take a look!

There’s just no way I can fit a whole month on one page, so here ya go.

For my weekly sheet, I wanted something that gave me space to write scheduled items, but I needed it to be flexible. I also wanted a place to put my menu plan, without having to waste another sheet. Once again, it didn’t exist. So, introducing…
Keep in mind that this is my first attempt at  sharing a free printable.  If you use them, please comment and tell me what you think! PLEASE. I really want some feedback!

After my monthly tabs, I have a simple tab sheet for each family member.

For Travis he can have his own To Do sheet and a scribble sheet for things he doesn’t want to forget.  (Those printables will be available tomorrow, so come back for them!!) For the kids, I have their weekly school agendas, chores, and behavior chart (that’s another post coming, too!). For the younger two, they have a Potty Chart that we put stickers on every time they go.  Nice. I know.  Sadly, it’s a big issue in our house.  Read these if you’re new to the blog and want a laugh at my expense. 😉

Urine In Contacts= Not a Good Substitute for Saline
Today- A Pathetic Tale of Miserable Hilarity and The Quest For A Shower
Extreme Potty Training Makeover
#8 Is it Possible That I’m Thankful for Food Allergies

Last, I bought pocket files for my binder, and sticky tabs to attach to them.  Why in the world has no one made these yet? Here’s a shot of my pocket tabs. First one holds the stickers for Lucas and Irie to use on their potty charts.

Now it seemed like every blog post I found on making one of these said something like “decide what tabs you want, and label them.”  Ok, I need a little more than that and it took me several tries to get it right. So, I will say decide what tabs you want, but here are mine as an example, in this order (after the month tabs and the people tabs).  I chose the order that I thought I would use most often.

Stickers/Stamps– So I can find them, because we use them often.
School– Homeschool papers, notes from classes, events fliers, etc.
Routines– Our Morning, School, Evening, Weekly routines typed up with directions/addresses and contact info where necessary.  For accountability and for babysitters, who happen to LOVE this.
Meals- Recipes I want to try, the rare coupon that we’re not allergic to,  What’s in the freezer (again for babysitters, when I’m on call I never know when I’ll have to run to the hospital!)
Home/Construction–  Notes on progress, ideas, budget, receipts, photos of designs and such… Someday this file will be much lighter…
Doula/CBE– Notes for the new program I’m putting together, receipts, contact info, paperwork to be filed
Gluten Free Rebel– All of the same type of stuff for my baking/cooking business HERE
4GiggleQuacks– My kids crazy idea in the works… HERE
Bills- I just like to leave this toward the end… But the bills go here and I have an amazing husband who balances them for me so this is HIS tab.
Receipts- For any others that need to be kept around, returns that need to be made, extended waranty…
Medical– I really don’t like this tab.  But it gets a good bit of use around here.  Sometimes it’s notes from the doctor, or magazine clippings to research.
Miscellaneous- Because there’s always something.

 So now it’s your turn. What tabs would you need? What’s missing?

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow to see what I’ve got for you to add to your User’s Guide for Life!


1 Comment

Filed under Family, homeschooling, Motherhood, Purging Clutter, Uncategorized

Retreat, Before You Move Forward

retreat- {ree treet}
vb 1. to treat  again
 2. to withdraw or retire in the face of or from action with an enemy, either due to defeat or in order to adopt a more favourable position.
3. an asylum, as for the insane.
4. a retirement or a period of retirement for religious exercises and meditation.

Many of us seek retreat.  An escape, an out, a pause or intermission on the regular ticking of the clock as our days march on ahead, dragging us with them.  Whether it’s a women’s retreat, a couple’s retreat, a solo retreat.    Looking on dictionary.com these are a few of  the definitions offered for the word retreat, and in my 3 days away from my family and home, I found all of them to be true.

Most of the responses to my plans for a retreat seemed based on an assumption of the first definition. That I owed it to myself and needed the escape.  It’s true that we need to keep balance, and we have to care for ourselves to care for others. But let us get something straight.
We don’t deserve time off.
Never in history were mothers promised  a break. Nowhere is it written  that mothers we are entitled to a full nights sleep . It’s not that we can’t have them and that they can’t be needed or wonderful.  But we are not owed them and we can endure the cadence of our days without them.   It’s the mindset that we deserve them and are owed anything that is damaging, not the taking them when the opportunity arises.

But yes, I was being treated, for my birthday to 3 very quiet days away.  Which is so not me. Completely unheard of… ((as half my readers snicker at the idea of ME being silent for more than 5 minutes…)
It started a few years ago, in a fit of tears and exhaustion.  With a 5, 3 and 1 year old and suffering from 24/7 nausea with my 4th, one day I told my husband I needed a break.  My birthday was a few months away and he valiantly offered that I should get a few friends and go have a girls weekend like other moms seem to do.  The offer threw me off guard.  I’m not the kind of woman that goes to girls night out on the town, not to mention weekends away. I’d never done anything like that!!   It sounded like the perfect answer, logically… except that I couldn’t do it.  So then I shocked my poor husband right back.  My immediate response was No! That isn’t it at all!  I knew there was something deeper that I needed. I longed for seclusion, silence and peace; time alone to reconnect with the beauty in life, and my Maker.  I know… it surprised me, too.

I decided that I wanted to go on a silent retreat. I googled and found the nearest options to Atlanta, but knew that it wasn’t time. Leaving my babes was too much work. So for the past 3+ years I have been lying in wait until the time was right for me to fall back.  Last year I tried. I knew that there was a women’s silent retreat right around my birthday and hoped to go. As the time grew closer I knew it wouldn’t work.  Eden wasn’t sleeping through the night (yes, almost 2 years old then) and was still nursing.   She just wasn’t ready for 3 nights away from me not to mention that Lucas was still not fully potty trained.  I would have spent the whole time nerve wracked over giving my dear husband such a long coldhearted dose of my reality.
This year when the new retreat calendar went up, the December retreat actually started ON my birthday. I knew it was my time. So I reserved my spot and blocked off my calendar.  I was going to be alone and silent.

It was a wickedly crazy day, full of ironic twists of fate that made it the most un-birthday-like day possible.  All four of my children behaved like rotten, wild hyenas.   They trashed my house and I didn’t even get time for breakfast, which is traditionally served to me in bed on my birthday but somehow was forgotten.   They wailed and moaned all morning as the poor heating and air guys tried to work around the drama to install the new HVAC.  We locked my keys in the house and I missed my own birthday lunch with my mom.   It went on and on, baffling me at every step. Craziest. Day. Ever.
When I finally arrived at the retreat house I was shaking from low blood sugar and traumatized by the 1+ hour in suburbian traffic that my  intown sensibilities were completely unaccustomed to. This is where definition #3 above comes in.  I was really feeling ready to be admitted for observation…sedation even sounded nice.

But I knew the truth.  I knew that I was facing an attack on my time and my spirit.  When I looked back over my day I was amazed that I even made it there. And I knew that definition #2 was a reality and very much played out in my life that day.  There I sat, with a glass of wine in my hand trying to relax; retreating from the fray, certainly ready to adopt a more favorable position.

That first night was rough. I had to really adjust and slough off some tension to be able to dig into myself and accept the peace and quiet.  I was so wired that I couldn’t sleep so I read the entire book, Letters To Malcolm by C. S. Lewis before the sun rose.

I spent the next three days in peace, slumber, beauty, reading, nature, prayer, strength, meditation, sunlight, confession, quiet, solitude ,tears, awe, dancing, pain, laughter, love, and growth…most definitely growth.  The nuns who lead the retreat were amazing and in those few days they impacted me as much as any other spiritual mentor I’ve had my entire life.  Amazing women.

So, in the end my retreat was what it should be, And that would be definition #4. It brought me back to my beginning.  A retirement.  An exercising of the spiritual muscles that atrophied from lack of use. To where He meets me;  where He waits, patiently, to give all good things.  The retreat gave me the chance to chose again. To chose my family and  my life.  My man and my children. My home and my God. All that he has for me, all of the unknown.

All photos in this post were taken by me while on retreat. Here is a slideshow with a few more.  If you are looking for a silent retreat, I absolutely recommend  Ignatius House in Atlanta.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

1 Comment

Filed under Family, Inner Sessions, Uncategorized

Happy New Year!!! Wait..Huh?

New Year? That is, like, sooooo three weeks ago!  Yes,yes. I know this. But, you see, in our home the exchanging of one year for another happens dead center of a whirlwind.  Every. Single. Year. Five of our six birthdays, several other family birthdays and celebrations, the 12 days of Christmas (because we celebrate for the long haul here)….  For the last several years the whole New-Year-lost-in-the-shuffle has frustrated me.  It’s not possible amid the throws  of  festivities and obligatory celebration for me to stop and center myself.  I’ve not been successful at even CONSIDERING resolution of anything other than survival.
So this year I decided to postpone our family’s turn over to the new, intentionally holding it off to be more purposeful in my actions.  The idea hit me in the fall and I was excited to see if I could make it work.  I wanted to see how it would affect my motivation and focus on the changes that I want for myself and my family.
It occurred to me in October that one of my main goals, one of the things most important to me, is to return to the blogosphere. And this time I want to be intentional about it.  A few years ago my blog was pretty hopping. I was writing consistently and had a good number of readers.  I got so much out of sharing, and was constantly encouraged by how others had found my vulnerability helpful in their own day.
Life changed and time became scarce after #4 was born.   I backed off of blogging and moved to Facebook, thinking that I would find the ease of short status updates to be a relief .  I’ve really regretted it ever since. So, I’m coming back home to the blog and going to be a distant visitor on Facebook.  I’ve tried to come back several times and not been able to remain consistent. This time, I’ve worked on blog posts since October and lined them up so that I won’t go silent! I’ve typed my heat out many nights and hope that you all enjoy the telling of my days.

The rest of the world is three weeks into the year and I’m sure  the newness of it has worn off. Resolutions that were exciting have turned to struggles or even feelings of failure.

I invite you to start over again with me. Make tomorrow morning your beginning.  Stop what you’re doing right now. Celebrate the end of this day and look with excitement toward the dawning of a new one.

Because life is amazing. It is beautiful. And it is new every morning.

Leave a comment

Filed under Inner Sessions, Uncategorized

Well, Gluten Happens :-(

This weekend my whole crew of littles were fed from the wrong spaghetti leftovers. They were accidentally “Glutened” by mistake, and the mistake ultimately was mine for not having made sure myself that those leftovers went straight in the trash and never made it into my fridge.  I thought they were pitched, but instead they’re wreaking havoc in my children’s digestive systems.  Selah is doing well, just they typical rash.  She’s actually off on a hike with a friend’s family today.  Jake has been grouchy. touchy and had one accident that I know of.  He doesn’t say anything anymore if he’s bleeding.  At seven  years old, he’s decided to be a man about it and I have to trust that he’ll let me know if he needs help.  Lucas and Irie are both in pull-ups, with full blown loss of control and bleeding rashes.
Life in our house is rough when #$*% happens. And by $#&%  I do mean gluten.  Being gluten-free has become very trendy lately. On one hand I love that there are more options, and I DO believe that the majority of people shouldn’t be eating gluten.  Certainly not as much as we do!
But there’s one little side effect of everyone wanting to treat gluten like a dietary choice. People like my family don’t have a choice.  So when their friends know others who are “gluten-free” but cheat when they want to (I’m personally guilty of this for me, but NOT for my kids) they assume that everyone can.  It’s like someone on a diet.  But this isn’t a diet.  Gluten tears my babies up.  It throws our whole household off for a few days. My children have intestinal bleeding and bleeding rashes.  It’s not the same as sneaking a bite of cake and not counting the calories. It’s devastating.
And no one has acted as if it’s not serious for us.  We’re surrounded by loving friends and family who care.  I’m so grateful for that!  It’s just that I see the general public being more aware of gluten, but in a way that desensitizes them.  They see it as a fad. And who doesn’t know someone who read an article and decided that they must be gluten intolerant? Once again, they most likely are!  And I love sharing and helping people become GF.  It’s just the way it is perceived as a simple choice in general that scares me.  And I suppose for me, I wonder if people think that I’m doing it for attention (let me tell you, NO ONE in their right mind would be doing this for 6+ years, with 4 kids, for an ego boost).

Anyway, that’s the end of my rant.  Shit happens. In my house, it tends to start out with gluten.   I just needed to pout publicly for a minute.  It’s not what I typically blog about at all, but darn it.  It stinks.
And speaking of stink, some uninvited guest seems to have climbed up into the new, lovely wall that my husband finished in the bathroom a few weeks ago.  The stench is so overwhelming that I’d almost RATHER change a pullup in the living room than sit and “wait” with them in the reekugb stench of our only bathroom.  See, there’s always a silver lining, right?  Travis will be back from Greenville late tonight so I don’t see much hope of finding the offender today.

Lucas is crying and leaking down his leg.  Irie is at my side crying and saying that her tummy hurts. Jake just ran through the house screaming “I’m not going to make it to the bathroom!”

Lord have mercy on my babies and their poor bellies and bumms!



Filed under All Posts, Family, History

When God Became A Native…

At the beginning of December I went on a silent retreat. I haven’t posted about it. It was so sacred and private that I just don’t know what to share.  One day while I was there, because we were focusing on the Advent Season, one of the readings we heard was this.  It sounds a lot like all of the he begot so-and-so… but to me there was something powerful about contemplating all of the past behind this sacred birth.  I thought that I would share it here so that you can ponder it as well.  May your Christmas be full of life and love.

For December 25th 

Today, the twenty-fifth day of December, unknown ages from the time when God
created the heavens and the earth and then formed man and women in his own image.
Several thousand years after the flood, when God made the rainbow shine forth as a sign of the covenant.
Twenty-one centuries from the time of Abraham and Sarah; thirteen centuries after Moses led the people of
Israel out of Egypt.
Eleven hundred years from the time of Ruth and the Judges; one thousand years from the anointing of
David as king; in the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel.
In the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad; the seven hundred and fifty-second year from the
foundation of the city of Rome.
The forty-second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus; the whole world being at peace, Jesus Christ,
eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming, being
conceived by the Holy Spirit, and nine months having passed since his conception, was born in Bethlehem
of Judea of the Virgin Mary.
Today is the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.

Leave a comment

Filed under Belief, Family, Inner Sessions

A Whirlwind Wednesday, because wordless isn’t my style…

Oh, how time has been crunched lately!  Here are a few photos of enjoying life and family in the last week…

If this doesn’t make you tired, I don’t know what will!!

Last day of schoolwork before Winter Break!!! We’re all ready for it.

  Volunteering at Bethlehem Walk

Getting to be Uncle Stephan’s apprentice rocked someone’s little world!
Little show stealer.
Facepainting and hanging out with the Edgewood kids at Advent
Early Christmas present! Adopting our sweet Reepicheep.

Third Advent candle! He's getting closer!!!

Wholesome Home
Finally found time for a tree!
When called Eden, the youngest has started responding, “No! I Irie!” She’s got serious opinions on her, that one!
Symphony Street Orchestra Field Trip
Getting some musical culture.
God loves us and gives us sunny days in December!

This little taste tester, Farah, wanted more chocolate. So did her Mom.

Gathering pecans. I find myself wanting to sing "If I Had a Hammer"

I caught this one at the end of the driveway, trying to sell them to people driving by.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

#9 Thankful For The Stampede-Revisiting the Song Of The Zebra

I’m thankful for the stampede of children that daily tramples my nerves.  And I don’t mean that as a metaphor as much as the literal sound they make galloping up and down the hallway every. single. day.   Their love for one another and joy in being together is worth every irritating moment of it.  Because wild horses couldn’t drive me away from these children.

My daughter has an incredible talent that not many people aren’t aware of.  It started five years ago with her obsession over zebras.   Her ability at the age of four to mimic the sound of a zebra was so uncanny that I had to blog about it (HERE).   After that point her talent expanded to include an eerily realistic gallop that she developed going up and down our hallway 50+ times a day.  Her dedication to perfecting it was impressive.   As time went on she enjoyed the honor of schooling her three younger siblings in her technique and precision and I know am the proud mother of four phenomenal gallopers.  And this week it’s been even more prevalent on my daily irritation radar, bringing me lots of opportunity to practice patience.

Why?  Because this week is daylight savings  and we join with millions of parents in the USA, experiencing the dreaded morning adjustment.  This means that my husband and I are waking to the stampede at 5am instead of 6.  Repeatedly they charge up and down the hallway, through the center of our home and right outside our bedroom door.  It’s quite the honor. Really it is.

In keeping my perspective, I am processing the daily charge down the hallway with lots of contemplation on patience and loving my children where they are at.   Enjoying their love for each other and enjoyment of family companionship.

It reminded today of the blog post written so long ago along the same lines, back when it all started with a sweet little four year old.

A four year old and her Song Of The Zebra.

Leave a comment

Filed under All Posts, Family, Inner Sessions