A Day In Our Life

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Am I the only one who wonders what other people live like? Who wishes for a peek into another family’s day to day life?

Well, never fear. Here is a quick overview of what a day in our life looks like. (Disclaimer: I don’t only do this for your enjoyment! Time passes so quickly with kids, and I want to be able to look back and remember these days).

7am: Jesse leaves for work. It’s so sad that we don’t get up with him, but then again, maybe he secretly enjoys his quiet morning times? Neither the boys or myself are morning people, that’s for sure!

8am: Gregory wakes up, comes to my bed where we get in our morning dose of “snuggle time” (I always make him go potty first! Learned that the hard way!)

8:30: As unbelievable as this sounds, AJ does not wake up until sometime between 8:30-9am! He’s my late sleeper! When I hear him stirring, I go in and get him and we start our breakfast routine.

9am: I drink coffee leftover from Jesse’s breakfast preparation (we use a French Press exclusively) and cook breakfast while the boys play trains. We eat gluten free oatmeal with berries and almond milk, 99.9999% of the time.

9:30am-11am: After breakfast is cleaned up, I prep for my day. This usually involves daily prayers, checking/answering any emails that involve my online teaching (some kids live on the East Coast and have questions about their homework), prepping for the day’s teaching, taking a shower, making the beds, etc. The boys are really good at playing independently during the morning, and their shouts and laughter always fill the house while I’m working.

11am-12pm: Get ready for my online teaching. This involves changing AJ’s diaper (he’s, ahem, quite regular and punctual), uploading any documents into my virtual classroom, making some fresh coffee to drink during class, getting the kids a snack, etc.

11:50-12:00pm: I log in to my virtual classroom and listen to the kids arrive and start chatting. I move my computer to my office desk in the bedroom, and put a 30-45 minute show on for the boys (this is their only TV time of the day. I reserve it exclusively for while I’m teaching, otherwise they try to burn the house down…it’s like kids have a six sense about going nuts when mom’s attention is divided!).

12-1pm: I teach from my computer. I really really enjoy my job, I can’t stress that enough. Zero commute, lots of freedom to read some of my favorite poems and stories while interacting with 19 pretty awesome homeschool kids from all around the US…what’s not to love?

1-1:30pm: The boys usually interrupt the last 5 minutes of my class because they’re hungry. I sign off and make all of us lunch.

1:30-2pm: Since the boys are usually a bit attention-needy at this time, we all read books and sing songs together. We used to take a walk around this time, but we’ve since realized that our neighborhood is not very safe, so we’ve been staying indoors more. Fortunately, this part will change once we move!

2pm: After much convincing, I put AJ down for his only nap of the day. I retreat to my office to read, answer emails and make phone calls, while Gregory does a craft next to me or plays Transformers in the other room.

3pm: I usually do a few chores around this time while I’m prepping dinner. If I put something in the crockpot around this time, it’s ready around 6 for dinner. If it’s not a “crockpot” night, I wait to prep dinner until around 5 and do laundry and chores instead.

4pm: AJ wakes up from his nap. Sometimes we go to the park, run errands, or go to appointments at this time.

5:30pm: Finish prepping dinner, right about the time Jesse is walking in the door.

6pm: Eat Dinner, clean up immediately after (I get too tired later!)

7pm: Jesse and I relax in the living room while the boys go for “one-last-hurrah!” playtime in their bedroom.

8pm: Family Prayers, stories, teeth brushing and pjs for the boys.

8:30pm: Lights out for the boys, but they still chatter and laugh in there together for quite some time. Those two are the best of friends (and worst of enemies, at times!).

8:30-10:00pm: Jesse finishes any school reading/prep, while I browse Pinterest, blog, or read for my graduate classes.

10:00pm-11:00pm: Both of us watch a TV show together, depending on what series we’re into at the moment. We’ve found that 20-45 minute TV episodes are much more manageable than a movie!

11:30pm: Jesse and I get ready for bed.

 

There are some exceptions to this schedule. When I do yoga, I leave after dinner, around 7pm. I’ve also just started graduate school, so on Mondays I leave for class around 6:30 and don’t return until after 10pm! When we decide to attend a sporting event for Jesse’s school, we leave after dinner and don’t get back until around 9pm.

So, there you have it– our relaxing, carefree day-to-day schedule!

Why I Love Yoga

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Last month, I wrote a few times about how I’d become a huge fan of Bikram “hot” yoga in just a short time. With just a few weeks of practicing, I could already tell what I huge difference it was making in my health and mental outlook. I was calmer, saner, and my digestion was better than it had been in months. I was a better wife and mother as a result.

But the deal I had was just a Groupon– $29 for a month of unlimited yoga. A normal month costs anywhere from $89-109, which is just not in the budget until we sell our house in CA. Bikram is also the first type of yoga I’d ever tried, so I figured I could use these penny-pinching months to try out a few different studios and get a feel for what else is out there.

I scoured Groupon for any yoga studios close to us. Luckily, Dallas has a lot of them, so I picked one that was supposedly 13 minutes away by surface streets (although, in reality, it ends up taking me 20-30 min., since I go in the evening and it’s rush hour).

And, while I love Bikram….I gotta say. I think the truth is just that I love yoga. Plain and simple. I love the challenge, I love that it’s something people can do up to and through their 50s and 60s (and beyond, in some cases!), and I love all the benefits. Getting away for some kid-free time doesn’t hurt either. Shopping used to be my “get away from the kids” time, but then I always had the regret that followed.

Just learned this one for the first time tonight! Gotta learn how to stand straight and look in the other direction

Just learned this one for the first time tonight! Gotta learn how to stand straight and look in the other direction

My current studio (for the month) has some of the liveliest and friendly yoga instructors that I have ever met. They are super hands-on, which I would’ve thought would freak me out, since I’m a very “no touchy” type. But all of the instruction is SUPER helpful, and when you think about it, isn’t that why you go to classes instead of just practicing by yourself in the living room? To GET that hands-on training that’s going to keep you progressing and away from injury?

After a yoga class, I sleep like a baby. My normal back pain (I broke my tailbone during Gregory’s birth, and it’s never been straight since) disappears, my stomach-aches lessen. My headaches and sinus pressure have been minimal if not completely absent (A HUGE thing for me!).

Mentally, just knowing that I have “me” time coming up later in the evening gets me through those rough toddler cranky hours. I come away relaxed, focused, and stress free. I am normally a very high energy and intense person, but I come away from class thinking, “Who cares? Everything will be okay, I just know it.” I can’t explain the feeling, try as I might, but let’s just say, someone flipped me off on my drive home last night (his fault, not mine, honestly), and it didn’t even phase me. Normally, something like that would bug me for hours!

Spiritually, I ALWAYS pray better after a yoga class. Once you have been mindful of the body/spirit connection, putting aside all of your earthly cares, it’s so much easier to be still and listen to God. I have heard so many Christians disparage yoga, but I can only conclude that they haven’t tried it and are relying on articles and internet opinions. I actually spoke with my priest recently about this very thing, and he answered by saying that it’s not for everyone, but it isn’t inherently bad, it’s how we participate in and make of it that can make it good or bad. I also know another yoga instructor who says that yoga is what ultimately led her to Christianity!

So, in a nutshell, there you have it– why I love yoga (and you should to!). If you are on the fence, I would definitely encourage you to give it a try, because you never know how much benefit it will bring.

Handling Stress

Stress Relief Tea

I mentioned (okay, SHOUTED!) that our lives have been very stressful lately. To make a long story VERY short, our current rental in TX is a horrible situation (as close to living in a 3rd world country as I have ever been). Our escrow is proceeding, but has been full of some extremely costly surprises (to the tune of $22,000!). Our tenants have taken all of our kindness and seen it as weakness and have threatened to take all sorts of legal action against us (thankfully, due to the rental problems we’ve been having in TX, we are not only very familiar with the law, but also already have consulted with a lawyer!).

And then, last night as Jesse and I were discussing all of the craziness listed above, we very clearly heard gunfire outside on the street, not too far from our front door. And you know what? We actually started laughing because it seemed so very fitting that there would be actual sound effects for the tragedy play that is our life right now. (And, lest you think we’ve completely lost our minds, the gunfire did, in fact, worry us, and we called 9-1-1-. Can’t wait to be out of here!)

My body does not handle stress well. I became aware of this back when our foster care situation got life-threatening and out of hand. I discovered that my body “somitisizes” stress, which means that my nervous system ceases to communicate with my brain and takes on a life of it’s own. This means that even if the immediate “threat” is gone, or, even if it’s of minor proportions, my nervous system is already in such a heightened state that I remain in “fight or flight” mode. All. The. Time. I become very nauseous, like a fist is clenching my stomach. I get ulcers. I shake at random times, as though I’m about to perform onstage. I don’t hear people right next to me unless they shout urgently. My body remains ready to handle crisis at all times, and I can’t fully calm down, no matter how hard I try!

How do I know all this? Well, things got so bad with all of my food allergies (fight or flight mode makes the body think that certain foods are harmful, mimicking a food allergy) that I finally saw a specialized doctor. Through treatment and supplements, I’m finally managing my autoimmune issues! I have already been able to add several foods back into my diet (not gluten, milk, potatoes or chocolate yet…but eventually I will!).

Such specialized and helpful treatment is expensive, however. I am just fortunate enough that my doctor and his family are also dear friends from church who were willing to “trade” services with me for music lessons.

But I do have a few other coping mechanisms  for handling stress that I thought I’d share, in case anyone else suffers too on a day to day basis!

1. Calming Tea: This stuff from Yogi is the BOMB. The lavender/chamomile combination really helps.

2. Wine. Duh. As the saying goes, “Coffee to change the things I can change, Wine to accept the things I can’t”. Sadly, however, if you get ulcers like I do, coffee and wine are acidic and can make the problem worse. I also avoid tomatoes and citrus fruits.

3. Essential Oils: DoTerra has a blend called, “Balance”, made from Spruce Leaf, Frankincense, Blue Tansy, and Blue Chamomile . The moment I start to “freak out”, I rub it on my feet and up and down my spine. I feel almost instant anxiety relief! It smells woodsy, almost like Big Sur!

4. Heat: A warm blanket or shower do wonders for the nervous system! I missed this one the most when we didn’t have hot water for 3 months (yeah, did I mention we have landlord issues here in TX?).

5. The RIGHT foods: I know that some people turn to comfort foods when the going gets rough, but I’ve found that sugar and carbs make me feel a whole lot worse a few hours later. But if I eat a HUGE serving of protein? It actually gets to the source of some of the problem, since I often forget to eat the right things when I’m stressed. I know that oftentimes when people get busy, proper nutrition is the first thing to go out the window. Many people eat a lot of fast food when they are stressed out, not realizing that the wrong foods will only cloud their thinking and lower their energy, effectively perpetuating the problem!

6. Watching movies with a kick-A heroine (or hero): Lately, I’ve found that if I watch a move where the main character is overly competent, possibly with super-human abilities, I feel better somehow, as though I’m channeling their strength. Is this just me? Please tell me I’m not alone 🙂

7. Prayer: This may not apply or make sense to you if you do not ascribe to any particular religion, but certain scientific studies show that prayer significantly lowers blood pressure. I know that it definitely does for me (which isn’t the real reason why I do it, but still, people, it works). Prayer always reminds me of what’s important and widens my scope, turning my focus away from just me and my problems, especially since Orthodox daily prayers mention the entire world and everyone in it in a variety of ways.

What methods do you have for lowering stress?

Hell Week

Texas Townhouse doormat signature

You guys, this past week has been just shy of hellish. Every day there’s been a new problem, crisis or issue to solve, and it’s just left me feeling drained and unable to write. No one wants to live like this, so why would I want anybody to read about it?

But I’ll give you the short version just so you know I’m not making this up. The last I wrote, we had not had heat in our townhouse for many days and our landlord kept sending the same unqualified general repair man to fix it. By Friday, we still didn’t have heat, and we had just made it through one of the coldest weeks of the winter (our highs were in the low 40s, on average). It was so cold in our apartment that I could see my breath and had to keep the kids bundled in jackets and mittens at all times.

After the same clueless repairman showed up 5 hours late for our appointment to repair the d$%* thing on Friday, the weather turned warmer and we didn’t use the heat again. All was well, we thought. The weather got cold enough Monday night that the thing kicked on sometime after we fell asleep. At 4am, we were awoken by black smoke filling the house and the smoke detectors all going off. Bewildered and dazed, we shut off the heat, fanned the smoke detectors, and got the alarms to stop. Not knowing what else to do, we went back to sleep (although I was so sick with worry that I barely slept at all).

Tuesday, I started calling around trying to make sense of what had happened. I called the fire department, our HOA, a heat service/repair company, and finally, a lawyer. You see, we can’t get anything fixed without the landlord’s permission, and yet none of the people I talked to had any jurisdiction over the townhouse. Our property management never returned any of my calls or emails (to this day, no one has called to check or respond to any of my communication, including my certified letter), just sent the same person to try and fix it again. I used to have a positive experience when I was looking for a Miami shores property manager to rent a nice vacation house, so I thought all properly managers are so enthusiastic. Apparently, I was wrong. My husband stepped in, however, and said that we would not let this man touch it again, since the fire department forbade us to turn it on without a qualified heating specialist there to oversee (plus the guy CAUSED the problem and had already tried four times to fix it!). We used words like, “in case of a LAWSUIT”, the block burning down (all of our attics are connected), so we got him to back off. A qualified professional did come to look at it in the evening (we were the ones to make the appointment AND pay for it, our landlord could care less), did a few things that were in our rights to fix, and declared it safe.

And then, this morning, I got an extremely angry call from our tenant in CA. One of the fungicide products we applied to the CA house (in order for Section 1  pest items to be cleared for our escrow) was filling the house with such a strong and pungent petroleum odor that our tenants can no longer stay there. Our tenant was so furious she spent a full 10 minutes chewing me out, right before I was supposed to go online and teach my class. I made calls to the termite company, our contractor, and even to the company that makes the fungicide product. All three said that because the product was applied outside, it should be safe, but our tenant insisted that the smell was unlivable and making her child ill. We think that because the heater sucks air out from under the house, it was sucking the petroleum fumes right into the living areas.

Having just gone through a tenant/landlord issue where I felt that the safety of my children was compromised, I actually understand completely. After I spent hundreds of dollars booking a vacation rental for them (they have 2 kids and a dog, so hotels are hard), my tenant arrived and found it filthy and “lived in”, with the second bedroom full of needles and sewing machines (not shown in the pictures)!! We already got a refund, but we had to find somewhere for our tenants to stay at the very last minute. Luckily, my best friend’s parents own a gorgeous mansion of a house there that they already use as a rental property, and so they graciously gave it to our tenants for one night to give us time to find a better solution.

The option period on our CA house is supposed to end tomorrow, and I don’t even want to know the list of demands this buyer is going to bring to the table, but it probably involves lots of $ signs.

And we are so weary. So tired of dealing with this mess. I mean, I would almost pay anything to be done with this situation right now so that we can move out of our scary rental situation and stop simultaneously being a landlord.

So, see what I mean? A pretty hellish week.

I’ve spent my days hovered around my phone, solving crisis after crisis while my kids’ behavior becomes out of control since they aren’t getting enough attention. I spent most of Tuesday in tears, mostly because the fire department chewed me out for not calling 911, telling me what a dangerous situation we had been in. I guess at the time, we didn’t think it was that bad because we got the smoke alarms to go off. Looking back though, I can only shudder to think about what would’ve happened if the kids’ bedroom door was closed and the smoke had just stayed in there. On the phone, I suddenly felt like a horrible mother for not being proactive enough, yet I’m also trying to be smart and reasonable with our finances, you know?

On top of it all, of my autoimmune issues have kicked into high gear, and I can no longer sleep because my stomach is churning and in knots. I am nauseous all the time and can hardly keep food down. My whole body hurts and aches, very similar to fibromyalgia, which it turns out, is how my body now responds to severe stress. I washed my hands the other day, and my skin was so sensitive the water felt like knives. I don’t know how people with diagnosed fibromyalgia live like this every day! At least I know that my symptoms will mostly go away once the stress does. But to live like this forever? My hat is off to anyone with this disease, let me tell you.

I debated whether or not to write anything about all of our troubles, but then I realized– how many other people are going through a pretty terrible week too? I don’t want to be fake. I don’t want people to enviously think our life is sunshine and roses all the time . We all have tough weeks, and we make it through, somehow. I want to record this situation as a testimony to that fact.

Feel free to pray for us as the week draws to a close. We will know soon whether our CA buyer will continue, and whether or not we can finally move out of our TX rental. OR, we might be putting our CA house back on the market, in which case, we need prayer that another buyer comes along right away, especially now that we’ve done a billion repairs and spent all of our savings.

Thanks for listening, as always 🙂