Things are Always Better in the Morning

I have written the following blog over the past two days.  It is an account of my first two days back to real life.  I almost didn’t publish, but then I remembered one of the reasons I decided to write this blog is to record the realities of balancing work and home.  So here goes . . .

The alarm rang at 5:00 a.m.  I was out the door by 6:52 and deep into my work by 8:00.  I had a busy day.  At 4:00 I scurried home to pick up my daughter for a piano lesson and play practice.  After I dropped off Lizzy, I had to take Nathan to the Urgent Care Center (long story, but he is fine) and then off to the pharmacy for medication.  We ate a quick bite at Subway and then rushed back home so that my hubby could use my jumper cables to awaken his sleeping car so that he could return to pick Lizzy up from practice. I have been home for about a half hour.  It is now 9:03 p.m. and I am exhausted.  Somewhere in the midst of the mayhem, my husband asked, “How was your first day back?”

It started off well.  It actually felt good to take a shower and get dressed this morning.  I cheerfully drank my morning tea and headed into work blasting Taylor Swift.  I was happy to see the staff and the children return to school.  I had a great deal of work to do and my day was really productive.  I got crabby after school.  I was in a rush to get home so that I could get all of my children where they needed to be.   The traffic was horrendous.  The roads were still very icy and slick, so drivers were really being cautious.  Then I learned that my son wasn’t feeling well which added to my frustration. I was really worried about him.  I had to get him to Urgent Care.   As my vehicle crept along in rush hour traffic, I became more and more enraged.  I just wanted to get to my destination, get my son to the doctor, and get back home.  I was tired.  It was a long day.

How many times do you feel like your life is just stuck in traffic?  You are in such a hurry to do something or go somewhere or get something done and you can’t.  You are just stuck.  Every now and again you get to go a few feet and creep along, but basically you are stuck.  As I sat in traffic today, the clock kept ticking away and there was nothing I could do about it.  Maybe another reason we hate to be stuck in traffic is because we cannot control it.  There is no way to get around or get out.  We just have to patiently wait until the jam subsides.  Why is it that we have to wait so long?

When I went to bed last night, I was feeling miserable.  I wrote my blog, but didn’t post because I just felt like it was way too depressing.  But then this morning came, and I felt a little bit better.  In my favorite book To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee writes “things are always better in the morning” and yes, Friday morning was better.  I had another great work day and my son was feeling a little bit better by Friday night.

Speaking of “Mockingbird”  and traffic jams, my mother and I took a trip a few years ago to Monroeville, Alabama where Harper Lee grew up and modeled  the fictional small, tired town of Maycomb.  I have always wanted to go to Monroeville. Before I became a principal I taught high school English for 10 years.  Every year in the spring, my students and I read To Kill a Mockingbird and Jem, Scout and Dill became my own personal friends.  I have such precious memories of sharing this novel with my students and no matter how many times I read and studied the book, I always cried when I read the final chapter.  For years, I wanted to take my students to the town and watch a re-enactment of the play which is performed every year in the Old Courthouse.  Harper Lee grew up watching her father try cases in this courthouse.  It truly was a magical moment when I walked into that courthouse for the first time.  A piece of history came to life as I observed the dark mahogany colored wood, the spiraling balcony and the judges podium.  The town was very small, very desolate, and empty. In the center of what looked like was once a small, charming tourist town, stood the beautiful Old Courthouse.

My mom and I set out on “our longest journey ever.”   We were so very excited when we hit the road and began driving South.  We listened to music, had great conversation in the car, laughed and enjoyed the scenery of small, quiet country towns.  About half way to Monroeville, we stopped at a truck stop to make a phone call to the Old Courthouse.  The actress who played the role of Scout would be giving tours of the fictional “Maycomb” and my Mom and I wanted to see if tickets were still available.  That phone call started the mayhem that would continue to plague us for the rest of the trip.  Mary Badham, the actress, was ill and could not make the trip.  We had already paid big bucks for a special evening with Mary and a dinner.  We truly were disappointed, but tried to stay positive as we continued our journey.  When we got to the town, we checked into our hotel and then decided to get some dinner.  Much to our surprise, the town is literally shut down except for a few hours a day.  All of the local restaurants were closed and we found one small place to get some sandwiches.  The next day we visited the magical courthouse and learned that visitors can get car tour maps to drive around and tour some of the local historical sites.  We drove for miles to see Harper Lee’s residence, some old log homes, some historical churches, an old school, and an old mill.  When we got to the mill, it was closed for repair.  I remembered that we laughed and laughed because our trip did not go as planned.  On the eve of the Mockingbird play, mother nature decided to rain.  I remember one of the actors saying that in all the years the play was performed, this was only the second time it had rained.  It felt like the chapter in Mockingbird when the children first see snow!  The set of the play was outside on the courthouse lawn and so the first entire Act had to be cut out.  We were all seated in the courthouse and the play began with Act 2.  Afterwards, we attended a reception with the actors and tents had to be set up so that we could visit.  All in all, much like my first day back to work, our trip didn’t go as planned.

The next morning, we were in quite a hurry to go back home.  My children were calling and asking “How much longer until you get home?”  We left on Saturday and Mother’s Day was the next morning.  I was determined we would drive straight through and get home, until we reached the main highway and became stuck in the worst traffic jam I have ever been in my entire life!  We sat completely parked for at least 5 hours.  There was no movement, no end in sight, nothing we could do but sit.  My son kept calling my phone asking “How long until you come home Mommy?”  I was so frustrated!  When we finally did reach an exit, everyone was getting off, including about 50 semi-trucks so the back route was just as treacherous.  There was so much traffic, time continued to idly tick by.

Finally, after hours and hours of torture, we decided to check into a hotel for the night and start fresh in the morning.  My son was really disappointed and I felt really bad, but there was nothing more I could do.  But, things are always better in the morning.  My mom and I finally made it home, and now we laugh as we recount our adventure to Monroeville.

I have no regrets.  It was a wonderful trip, despite all of the complications.  I got to spend time with my mother and visit one of my favorite historical places!  I got to see history in the desolate town and surrounding sights.   Even though I only got to see half of the play, the actors and actresses where phenomenal and I will never forget it.

Traffic sometimes gets in the way of our lives.  I suppose the way we deal with traffic is most important.  We will encounter many, many traffic jams in our lives.  I think we just have to remember that “things are always better in the morning.”

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Monroe County Museum

Tick Tock Tick Tock . . . Mom is Going Back to Work.

This chair is where I have been living for a little over the last two weeks. I have had everything at my disposal . . . my computer, phone, tea, dogs, electric blanket, remote control, and books, but aP1070418fter my two week vacation and three unexpected snow days, reality has set in.  Tomorrow, I will head back to work.  No more pajama lounging, endless snacking or marathon movie watching for awhile.  Life is calling me back to reality and my schedule is going to get busy, really quick!  Today has been a moderate lounge day.  It is four twenty two p.m. and I am still sporting my pajamas but I have also been doing some last minute chores that I have continued to put off for the last few days.  I am amazed at how peaceful and calm I have been these last few weeks since my regular HECTIC routine has come to a complete halt,  My body has caught up with physical rest, my mind has been free of worry, and my focus has been on enjoying the things I like to do at home, but never have time to do.  I actually feel “caught up” which I never feel.  SO the question is, once I get back to my career, how do I maintain and balance this feeling of calm?  Is it even possible to do both?  How do I separate my busy work life from my home life? How do I accomplish all of my work projects?   How do I feel rested at the end of a long day?  How do I not let my mind continue to play and re-play the tape of the days events over and over and over?  How do I keep up with all of my house chores?  How do I give my children and my husband my full attention?  How do I find time for myself?  Just thinking about these questions already lifts some anxiety from within because I know the rigmarole that lies ahead.  My intent is not to be depressing with this post.  I am just being honest, real about how working moms must balance all of the intricate parts of their lives and sometimes we lose ourselves in all of “it.”  I am so thankful that I have had these past few weeks to take a break from my life.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy my job or find satisfaction in helping those I serve in my work.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy attending my children’s events or cabbing them back and forth, or finding time to go out with friends on weekends, or keeping up with laundry, reading my devotional books, cooking a great meal, watching my favorite televisions shows and finding time to nap  I love doing all of those things.  I just wish there were a way to find more balance so that each part of my life gets my very best each and every time.  As I move forward tomorrow with jumping back into my life, I will document some of the strategies I will try for maintaining balance. I am open to any suggestions or ideas you all have as well.  I know I am not the only working Mom struggling to keep up.  Simply put, I am happy for the life that I have, even though it is a busy life.  I am thankful to have friends who are in this with me.  We have to help each other so that we can find peace amidst the chaos.

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They are NOT as Innocent as they Look – How to get dog urine out of your carpet!

I love my dogs, Chloe Marie and Benny Chris, like they are humans.  I think they must be the most spoiled dogs on this planet.  They have priority seating in the living room, are pampered and loved by all of us constantly, get the most relaxing spa baths at the doggie salon, and pretty much “run” our household!  But, don’t let these little stinkers fool you.  They are not as innocent as they look.  With the frigid temperatures outside, we have been very cautious about letting them outside to go potty for long periods of time.  In fact, they have pretty much gone out for 30 seconds at a time to do their business and then come right back in.  My dogs are fully potty trained.  They know and understand that they are supposed to go outside to pee and poop.  Many dog articles that I have read will tell you that if your dogs still have accidents in the house, they are not house trained.  I beg to differ.  I know that my dogs are potty trained because they are “sneakers.”  They sneak around behind my back and potty when I am not around.  They only do this under 2 circumstances – in extremely cold weather or rainy conditions.  At all other times, they potty where they are supposed to.  Like clockwork, my dogs wake me up every night around 3:00 a.m. for their middle of the night potty session.  I groggily ascend two flights of stairs to the basement and let them outside in their dog pen.  When I climb back up the stairs, Chloe will hide from me and purposely lag behind.  I know she is trying to do a sneak poop.  I now have to say her name and make sure she climbs back up the stairs with me.  She knows it too!  When I say her name, Chloe comes running up the stairs and looks at me like I have no idea what she was trying to do.  Needless to say, since we have moved into the new house with white carpet (not my choice), I have discovered small spots of pee and pebbles of poop from these middle of the night sneakings.  I own two carpet cleaners and have a myriad of pet cleaning soaps – none of which take out nasty urine stains.  Once again, I have gone to the Internet in search of a cure and believe it or not, I finally found it!  Thanks to my research, I have discovered the trick for removing nasty pet stains from your carpet and I have done many tests since my carpet is white.  Here goes:

  • The three ingredients needed are Hydrogen Peroxide, white vinegar and baking soda.
  • I only use baking soda if the stain is dry.
  • Saturate the area with the peroxide.  I mean saturate!  Do not blot it up.
  • Pour vinegar over the peroxide.  The peroxide will take out the color and the vinegar removes the smell.
  • If the stain is dry, you can also pour over some baking soda.
  • Cover the area with a small towel so that no-one steps in it.
  • When the area dries, the stain will completely disappear.
  • If the stain is dry, you may need to repeat a few times.
  • Also, do not pour the vinegar on first.  You must apply the peroxide first.

I hope this works for you.  I have found this remedy on more than one occasion. Simply put, this is a great solution to a really nasty problem! Image

French Toast – It’s All About the Bread

My son Nathan has become quite the cook.  He is 11 years old and enjoys spending time in the kitchen creating “new” recipes.  Most of the time, this is a good thing.  We have a great time together laughing, talking, singing and cooking.  Sometimes he decides to get creative and make his own creations.  He simply adds this and that without thinking about how the ingredients might taste when they are all mixed together.  His cooking began about 5 years ago when we were camping (We are avid campers).  I always take my skillet and make pancakes in the morning.  Nathan took over the skillet and instantly became our pancake man!  This morning, on my last day of winter break, Nathan and I decided to try a new French Toast recipe.  Once again, I went to the Internet in search of the perfect recipe.  What I discovered is that most of the recipes are similar, but the secret to creating the most fluffy, delicious pieces of French Toast is in the bread.  I had never heard of Challah bread until I read about it.  On my last trip tot he grocery store, I found a large loaf in the bakery.  The other secret is to leave the bag open the night before you make it and let the bread harden.  A slightly stale bread makes for really solid pieces of French Toast instead of soggy, wet pieces of bread.  Nathan and I used a recipe from allrecipes.com.  I will attach the link for you.  I put in a little extra cinnamon and vanilla.  It was delicious.  Of course, Nathan took his famous seat at the helm of the griddle!  We did not have any fresh fruit, but the next time we make this, I will buy some blueberries and strawberries.  This was a great recipe to start our still very chilly Midwest day! Simply put, making the perfect French Toast is all about the bread.

The link to the recipe is: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/fluffy-french-toast/

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Cooking for Five

I love to cook!  I love preparing homemade meals for my family.  I just feel like the aromas coming from my kitchen make my home, home.  We associate different meals and different dishes with special holidays and family.  I want my children to wake up in their beds to the savoring smells of omlettes, cinnemon rolls and blueberry muffins.  I enjoy making crock pot meals and soup recipes on cold days.  We always embrace comfort food recipes in the winter and grill out in the summer. I love walking into my house at the end of a long work day to smell pot roast simmering.  I find such joy when my children ask for seconds and make requests. Cooking is a part of my heritage as both of my grandmothers were excellent cooks.  I find joy in trying to master their recipes.  I am honored to even have the opportunity to try them.  I am also always trying to find new recipes to add to my collection of favorites.  Tonight I tried a stir fry for the first time ever.  It was a big hit and there were no left overs so I am sharing the recipe.  The total preparation time was about 30 minutes, but the outcome delicious.  Since I have been home for the past few weeks, I have been able to do some Internet searching to find some new recipes.  I will attach the recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.  I made no adaptions and think I might even make the Teriyaki sauce as a marinade for steaks.  Simply, simple, my joy tonight was family dinner. Image

The link to this recipe is http://www.melskitchencafe.com/2013/07/teriyaki-chicken-stir-fry-30-minute-meal.html

Winter Wonderland Joy

P1070397I simply love being at home!  By profession, I am an elementary school principal.  This is a career that I have worked very hard to achieve and maintain.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy being an educator and God has definitely put me in this role to help others.  However, I also love being at home and spending time with my children.  In April, my husband and I moved into the home of our dreams.  We live on 3 1/2 acres on a beautiful piece of property.  Officially, my winter break was supposed to end last Friday and today was supposed to be my first day back to work.  Ole’ mother nature decided to dump over a foot of snow on most of the state of Indiana and today the temperatures are in the double digit negatives!  The local new station just reported that we have not only one, but two snow days!  For me, getting a snow day is like winning the lottery.  I LOVE snow days!

Lucky for me and the kids, we are delighting in my most favorite “small pleasures” of life –  fuzzy pajamas, my electric blanket, hot chocolate, tea and apple cider, crock pot recipes, warm bubble baths, the fireplace, games, and some good movies.  I wonder how long I could feast on these home delicacies before I would get bored.  The view from the back deck of our home is astounding.  The scenary looks like a winter wonder fairy land.  Every time I walk by a window, I pause for a few extra seconds to look at the beauty of the trees, the snow and ice.  It is beautiful.  God creates such beauty in nature.  I feel surrounded by His presence here.  Maybe that is another reason I love my new home so much.   Simply put, one of the joys of life is being given the opportunity to embrace the comforts God has given us and enjoy the beauty that surrounds us.  Wherever you are today, relish in your favorite comfort and take a close look around.  What can you find that is beautiful?