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Friday Morning Coffee Date

Coffee Mug

In just a few hours, I will be headed to an “in person” coffee date with all of my bestie girls from church, but before we get ahead of ourselves, I am going to drink my coffee here and chat. (You can check out all of my coffee dates here).

If we were having coffee together right now, I’d tell you that….

Jesse and I had the “when should we have a 3rd baby” talk the other night. An actual serious talk. It kind of freaked me out, which tells me that I am NOT ready to have another baby, mostly because I hate pregnancy (there, I said it! now you know my secret!). The whole conversation actually reached this place where I said, “No, Jesse, tell me what you MEAN.” He looked confused, so I said, “No, tell me what your FEELINGS are about this.” We both looked at each other and then burst out laughing hysterically because of how stereotypical that all came out– guy says what he thinks, girl asks to know what he FEELS.

But, just to be clear, Baby #3 is far off, I can assure you. I’d much rather adopt than be pregnant again.

And yet, I bought a few baby girl clothes at a garage sale last Saturday (I know! I know! I have a problem!!). Just looking at them made my heart hurt, so I stopped the pain by buying them 🙂 I love having rambunctious little boys, but I want to buy pink things! Someday. Or now. Depends on my self control in the moment, really.

I have not done much Preschooling with Gregory this semester. I teach an elementary class online 4 days a week, and after I get done with the lesson planning and grading, part of me is just DONE. I feel bad about this, and I am making a concerted effort to do more things with him this coming year. He just turned 4, and he’s already sounding out words and reading some, so I think we can’t be too far behind in getting ready for Kindergarten, right? He’s always singing or painting too (he says, Momma, I’m your Painter Boy!).

Gregory watched the “Thriller” music video on Halloween, and hasn’t stopped talking about “the monster song” and practicing Michael Jackson-esque moves (especially in church!). I’m partly ashamed and partly proud. I don’t know which to be, really. Michael Jackson or Sesame Street? Motherhood is so confusing.

My family is FLYING OUT TO DALLAS FOR THANKSGIVING!!! I am so crazy excited about this, I can’t even put it into words. A whole week with my family, here in Dallas, the city I love! Both of my brothers got leave from the military, so it will the FIRST TIME we’ve all been together in over 2 years!!

I’m officially a yoga addict. More on that later. And I think I’m kind of good at it? Or I’m really bad and no one has the heart to tell me. Any-hoo.

We’ve been going to church a lot during the week. We try to go on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and then of course on Sundays. I mention this because I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about it. If church is something that keeps us spiritually healthy, shouldn’t we be going as often as possible? I mean, we get gym memberships to keep us physically fit, don’t we need church to keep us spiritually fit? I don’t think that church is something we can “grow out of”, and, personally, anybody who thinks they don’t need church is either in denial or going to the wrong church. I can say, there are a lot of churches out there that would not help me AT ALL spiritually, and I can definitely understand those people that leave in droves. I go to church because my life depends on it, quite literally. Mini-Rant-Over-and-Out.

Our foster boys were finally moved from the home we found for them in CA. I can already tell that this is for the best, and that they are doing much better as a result. Kids know when they’re not wanted, and it must be such a relief to be settled again! They have been separated, which breaks my heart, but God knows what they need. Gregory and I have been lighting candles for them every Sunday in front of St. John of San Francisco’s icon (he founded an orphanage and cares deeply for orphans and foster children). I also have been able to text one of the boys regularly, which does my Momma Heart good.

It’s SO COLD here now! Winter has definitely arrived. The leaves were just beginning to turn, due to our late and long Indian Summer here, but I kind of don’t care. I WANT SNOW!!! Speaking of which, I need to keep my eye out for snow boots for both boys. Last time we lived in Dallas, Gregory was just a bitty baby! I just know that both boys are going to want to play in the snow lots this winter, so boots I must find! I’d like them to also double as rain boots, so, you know, that challenge should get interesting.

I moved my herb garden into our sunroom, and the boys have mistaken it for a second sandbox. Sad Momma….

I went on a date with Jesse last night. An actual, real life, no kids allowed, date! This is only our second one since moving to Dallas. We hung out at the Galleria mall, spied on all the ice skaters, ate a few GIANT bacon burgers. Gregory got really jealous as we were about to leave, saying that only HE was allowed to go on dates with me, and that we should leave Dadda at home (awww!). He settled down with the promise of us bringing him back a small candy from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.

I’ve been getting a lot of cool opportunities to work with people in this blogging community. It’s been exciting, and for a blogger who just made it out of her rookie year? I’m all star struck and excited over here. More coming later!

I should probably throw on some pants and go to my ladies church gathering now…this was fun!

Afternoon Coffee Date– Pain, Suffering, and whether God is really Good

Helen at coffee date

Today’s coffee date is brought to you by my second round of coffee late in the afternoon. Why? Because this morning I was blessed with a real-life coffee date, you know, the kind with real people sitting in front of me? Not to diss this blog or the friends I’ve made here, but I kinda prefer the real-life version! Any-who. Who says I can’t have both?

A group of my friends from church (all of whom have remained my friends from the first time we lived in Dallas, through our time in CA, and now for Round 2 of Dallas) have started a twice a month get-together, where we all convene at a different house and let the kids go crazy in another room while we chat.

We have also been inviting a wise lady (the one in the picture above, who did not want her face shown!) from our parish, a mom to 5 kids, Grandma to many, who’s been married happily for 50+ years. This lady has experienced trials within the family, including job loss, cancer and divorce, so she knows what it means to suffer, praising God through it all. My friends and I have decided that while she still worships on this earth with us, we would love to sit at her feet and glean knowledge from her like breadcrumbs. She’s also one of the most humble people– truly, she is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met.

We talked last time about motherhood, but today’s topic of conversation was about being a wife. We read from an Orthodox book (I need to track down the title!), from a chapter titled, “Give Up Control to Have More Power”. This was so convicting and deeply powerful for all of us.

What we have to remember in this day and age is that information– thoughts and words– and our interpretation of information– feelings and emotions– are not the fuel of life, nor the substance of change. LOVE is the fuel of life, the very substance of our being. God created us out of love and sustains us literally by Divine Grace., by His Energies, which is precisely Love. When we receive the Holy Mysteries, we receive the very Body and Blood of Christ, who, St. John testifies, “is Love”. Love does not turn us away in the communion line despite the faults of our own that are even obvious to us(and more so the ones that aren’t). Neither should we consider it our job to withhold love pending some change in behavior on the part of our spouse. When our husbands come to learn that our love is there for them whether or not we personally get what we want, even if it means that something they are doing is causing us to suffer, they find a springboard to what Fr. Paul calls the metanoia (or literally, change of heart) that turns us back to God and further towards the person we were created to be.

There are so many times I hear about marriages that come to a stand still because change is needed, and the couple has no tools with which to conquer the things that are separating them. It’s so easy within a marriage to withhold our love and approval until change has been met, no? Today’s conversation revolved around supporting our husband’s decisions, because until he feels loved and supported for who he is, regardless of outcome, he will continue to make the same mistakes. Tough love doesn’t work within a marriage– unconditional love and support do.

The world would probably tell us otherwise, but I decided long ago to listen to people who have been married for decades than the world’s 50% divorce rate! Yes?

We also talked a lot about fighting the world’s definition of feminine, and pursuing what we were created to be– the difference between “submission”, and the better, more Orthodox way of “surrender”. Surrender looks like giving up control for intimacy, because fighting for control can rob us of our humanity. We talked about how to be truly feminine, we have to be what we were created for. No matter how hard our culture tries to blur the line between men and women, women can do the one thing that men cannot– they can nurture and bring forth life, whether that’s in the form of babies, friendships, art, or important causes. Instead of fighting to replace everything masculine with something gender neutral, we can own what is already ours, something that is more powerful than any of the other posturing and bravado we see shouted by the media. Orthodox churches, for the majority, do not struggle with the gender battle (ie., why can’t we have female priests? female readers? female deacons?), because we look at the altar and see Mary, the Mother of God, holding the highest place of honor that any human other than Jesus can have. She held the Life of the World within herself, and brought it into the world. She fulfilled the most important act in all of humanity, breaking the curse of Eve. She did not just give birth to a baby, she gave birth to what would save all of Humanity. All the other roles women have been fighting for pale in comparison.

Anyways, it was a wonderful coffee date, and I am so thankful to have this group of women who constantly amaze and inspire me. I have felt for the past few weeks that I am in the middle of a huge growth spurt, one that comes after many months of chaos and hardship. It’s easy to think that times of rest should go on for as long as we want, but I have felt that part of what it means to rest is also to grow. To take stock of so many things that have happened and how they have affected me.

One of the things I am currently processing (and, this comes last, but it is definitely a doozy!) is how God can be a loving God. I have heard of many who go through this crisis of belief, where they struggle with believing that God is truly Good, given all the evil that goes on in the world. Although I have experienced a lot of loss and death in my life, I have never had this crisis firsthand.

But I’m neck-deep in right now. Just a few weeks ago, I found out that our beloved foster boys, the ones who we left in CA with a permanent adoptive home, are now back in the system once more. We are in Dallas, across the country, unable to help them, unable to barely get a word in with their social worker, and it feels helpless and heartbreaking. Like truly gut-wrenching heart-breaking. Not a night has gone by since we heard the news where I haven’t cried myself to sleep.

And I think: God, these are your babies. You took away their earthly mother and father. You have not provided them with another mother or father. The system is their parent, and it is failing them. God, if you are not even choosing to protect your babies, who are innocents caught in the cross fire of adults who keep making mistakes, why would you ever choose to protect me?

I love that I was able to bring these raw thoughts forward today and have our mentor (who was also a foster parent, in addition to mothering her 5 children!) tell me that I can scream and shout these things to the Lord and He won’t love me any less. She told me to read the Psalms, where David spends chapter after chapter crying out in anger and anguish at the Lord. If these things pain me, they pain God much more, because He loves them more. Pain and suffering are not indications that we are far from God, or that He is not looking out for us. We do not believe in a “Prosperity Gospel”, where God only shows His love through earthly blessings and rewards.

Someone else also brought up their favorite part of Revelations, where the martyrs cry out saying, “Don’t forget about us and the blood we spilled!” and the Lord listens and gives them their say. Someday, even if it’s not soon, I know that our boys will be given a chance to be heard, and that the evils done against them by their parents will be healed.

I will continue to struggle and grow through these thoughts and frustrations, but I am so happy for a group of friends who can walk alongside me in these ways.

Coffee Date

coffee burlap bag

Well, everyone, I definitely need this coffee date. It’s been a hell-uv-uh week. Perhaps I should spike my coffee with a bit of Kalua this time? Baileys?

Hmm. How shall I begin?

Our house is on the market. I have 15 tips to share with you all tomorrow, but it’s exhausting, this “make-your-house-look-like-no-one-lives-here-except-4-boys-and-2-adults-do” stuff. We’ve had around 6 showings so far, no offers yet. Fingers crossed!

We don’t quite have a definite plan of what we’re going to do when we get to TX. Buy? (Where?) Rent? (Where?) We’ll probably end up renting, at this rate. Our timeline is a bit scrunched, especially if our house takes a few weeks to sell. If we rent for a few months, we give ourselves some breathing room, you know? But then we move twice, which isn’t my favorite idea.

We got back from Spokane, and I got a NASTY sinus infection. Like, nose tripled in size, ears about to burst, throat so sore it felt like strep. I eased my pain slightly with all of my essential oils, but after 5 days of no improvement I dragged myself to the dr. and got antibiotics. Sigh of relief….until it gave me a yeast infection (TMI? Sorry. Nope, not sorry), despite all of the yogurt and probiotics I ate. And then you add that to the nasty sunburn I got on ONE shoulder last Monday….I’d like a day of feeling normal, please?

Before I’m done complaining (yeah, right!), I want to tell you that our foster boys are back with us for the foreseeable future. They will no longer be reuniting with their family due to an incident that occurred, and my heart is just breaking for them. All these precious boys want is to be with people who love them, and the very people that should be protecting them are the ones they need protection FROM. I can’t go into any more detail than that, but their story is gut-wrenching, kick-you-in-the-face sad. It’s very hard for me to care about normal, everyday things lately, because all I can think about are these boys and how they’ve been so very wronged in their short lives.

On a more positive note, I’ve had so many wonderfully perfect moments with Gregory and AJ this past week. Moments that make me want to take pictures and hold them close forever. Reading books together, laughing at all the funny parts, feeding the ducks today, playing doctor with one another (their new favorite game), singing little songs (AJ’s little 2 year old voice is the SWEETEST!). Being a mom is the best job out there, hands down.

Gregory in playground

Speaking of my boys, they have had a hard time adjusting to all the stress surrounding our foster care situation. Last week, when Gregory got in trouble, he started sobbing uncontrollably, “DON’T SEND ME AWAY! DON’T SEND ME AWAY!”. He didn’t understand why our foster boys were leaving (visits with their family) and thought we were sending them away when they were bad. It breaks my heart to think that he doesn’t know he’s mine, that he fears being left somewhere. It’s hard to realize and come to grips with the struggles and scars we all get from caring for the big and hurting world around us.

I felt so loved after I posted about my fears last week. I received so many sweet messages, it was like one big virtual online hug. You have no idea how long I’d been sitting on those thoughts and fears before writing them. I think that’s how it works– we fear it until we talk about it.

AJ playground smiling

I held a piano recital two Sundays ago for my 18 piano students. It was fun, but also sad. One kid played Auld Lang Syne and I felt like crying. They all did so marvelously! My 5 older kids (junior high and up) played Pride and Prejudice and David Lanz songs. It was like listening to a cd that I helped create! So fulfilling!

We are chaperoning for our school’s Prom this Saturday. It’s on a boat. I REALLY hope I don’t get seasick and puke!….

How has your week been? If you’d like to join, post in the comments!

 

Coffee Date

coffee-mug

//image source via// 

Hello to all the new readers I have. I wanted to introduce you to one of my favorite things to do here on the blogosphere– virtual coffee dates, a good reminder that despite any how many Pinterest links or articles I have, this is still my space. It was created to be an outlet for me and the thoughts I need to write down. Writing keeps me healthy and sane!

I love that I few of you have borrowed this idea and have been using it on your own blogs, so please! If you’ve written a similar post lately, link it in the comments and I promise I will read it. This is a coffee date, after all 🙂

If we were to sit down with a cup of coffee right now I’d tell you that:

* I’m super stressed out right now in my own personal life. There is so much going on, I can hardly keep my head on straight! In the past week, I’ve lost my keys and cell phone too many times to count, broken a few glasses just by being clumsy, and my stomach is always churning and in knots. I’m sure I’ll be able to share more in the coming weeks, when I can share some more of my “real” life on the blogosphere.

* There are so many cute babies around right now, especially all over Facebook. I counted the other day, and in my newsfeed I saw FIFTEEN new and adorable smooshy babies. I desperately do not want to have another baby right now, but Baby Fever is real, people. For this reason, I commanded all of my friends to stop having babies, especially cute ones (they say there’s no such thing as an ugly baby but I’ve actually seen a few before. So it CAN happen).

photo (4)

* I’m in my college roommate’s wedding tomorrow! It’s a super fancy wedding at a Napa Valley winery, and I’m wearing a one-shoulder full length gown. There will be lots of pictures next week, you can count on it.

* Speaking of fun weddings, did you ever see So You Think You Can Dance stars’ Twitch and Allison’s wedding? Super cute!

* Our foster boys are beginning the intense reunification process with biological family, and it’s exciting to watch. We’ve never been through this part of foster care, and everything is so new and different. Caring for someone without attaching to them is more difficult than it sounds! Learning how to coordinate visits and schedules with another family makes me understand a bit of what it must be like to be divorced and sharing kids, without the animosity though (we’re lucky and have a really great relationship with the kids’ bio family!). Getting to tell the boys that they get to go to their first overnight visit with family was like Christmas yesterday. They were BEAMING and filled with so much joy.

* We owed $1,200 in taxes this year! Oh, the joys of being an adult 🙁

* Our garden is in full bloom! I’m always so surprised by how quickly little seedlings turn into plants.

* It has been HOT here in CA, around 95 degrees in the afternoons. Why? Why? May is just barely here, and already it feels like August. Just yesterday, it feels like, we were getting on-and-off again rainy cold weather.

* Jesse and I have the weirdest conversations:

photo (5)

* We’ve been potty training my 3 year old for almost a month now. I know, I know, there’s that 3 day training method, but we’ve tried that TWICE, and it seriously does not work for Gregory’s personality. He freaks out and shuts down. So, instead, we’ve been taking things gradually, just trying to have a few successful ventures on the toilet every day. So far, he averages a couple pees and poos a day, with only an accident or two in there. When he does have an accident, he gets super ashamed and won’t talk about it. He actually came out of his room the other day and said, “Don’t go in there. I don’t want you to see what I did.” Poor kid, he’s so similar to me in personality that I totally get it. Firstborn pressure, I tell ya.

* I’m considering going on a complete elimination diet once the summer hits, where I eat two or three food groups total, then slowly add things like eggs or milk back in to see if they could be what bothers my stomach. Getting rid of gluten (almost a whole year ago! Wow!) really helped, but there are still days where my tummy is so uncomfortable and irritated.

* My boys (Jesse, Gregory and AJ) mean more to me than anything in the world. Some days I love just sitting and holding them, feeling content to never go anywhere ever again so long as I can just be with them. Does anyone else feel the same way?

* My kitchen is a disaster right now, so I should probably kick you out and go clean it. I also need to finish hemming my bridesmaids dress before we leave. You know, cuz I’m super prepared like this. Why I EVER decided I was qualified to go all Edwards Scissor Hands on a $200 dress is beyond me.

Remember, leave a link below! I’d love to read about your life too!