Of sacrifice, suffering, and skipping Starbucks

Every week day, I pack up my two kids and drop my husband off at a train station about 20 minutes away. Then we pick him up again at the end of the day. We commute with my husband, sort of. He commutes much farther to NYC… but we commute too.

Back to our weekly routine… picking Daddy up at the train station #njtransit #commute #hardworkingman #family

A photo posted by Michelle (@ohthesimplejoys) on

The other day we were picking Bodie up from his train and it was later in the day than usual, the kids were crankier than usual, and there were no parking spaces at this particular station. So I’m just doing the carpool circlin’ thing and I get this text…

“Train’s stopped, not sure for how long.” or something like that. Ugh.

I thought, noooo not today! Not on this day that is already late, and with fussy babies and no parking places! Typing it out now it sounds silly. That text could have been something MUCH worse, it wasn’t so bad, but at the time it seemed pretty bad.

So I start thinking to myself, I could go to the drive through Starbucks and get a really delicious caffeinated treat. Yum. Oh I don’t drink coffee anymore. Well, when we lived in LA and I was pregnant, I used to go to the McDonald’s drive thru (I know, worst mom ever) and get those little McD’s soft serve ice cream cones… I could go get one of those now!

So I sat there, thinking about treats I could give myself to make myself feel better about the suffering I’d have to endure waiting for my husband. And then I stopped. Because that seemed so… kind of wrong.

I thought about suffering. I thought about why we suffer. I thought about sacrifice. I thought that actually,  I was being pretty silly and my husband’s train would start moving soon. We would all be just fine. I didn’t need to panic and go find something to make myself feel better right now.

This small example is relevant on a much larger scale.  We humans sometimes have this constant need to fill our lives with joyful things; to avoid sacrifice, to escape our troubles and sorrows both big and small. But those escapes, the things we fill that hole with are never enough. They always make us feel worse. We can only truly be fulfilled by accepting our suffering both big and small (and really, really tiny as this ended up being).

healing, suffer, suffering, sacrifice, parenting, family, life, chrustianity, catholocism

Christianity delves deeper into this suffering and sacrifice and rightly notes that by doing this, we are drawn closer to God, and to goodness. In practice, offering up my own little sufferings and not trying to fill my life with things that bring me immediate joy only to disappoint me later has brought many cathartic tears, and much true happiness.

On that day at that train station, it turned out that I had misread my husband’s text. He had said that the train was stopped, but he didn’t think it would be for long, and they weren’t far away. He came home, the kids didn’t totally fall apart.

If I’d sought out immediate gratification, perhaps the caffeine or sugar would have made me cranky. Perhaps I wouldn’t have been back in time to meet his train arrival. Perhaps lots of things, but it definitely wouldn’t have made me truly happy. Being willing to endure suffering gives us peace, real peace, peace that is not rocked by minor upsets or even major problems.

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Our homeschool, not-so-back-to-school plan for preschool

 

I have been spending some time thinking about what kind of homeschooling we want to do, what activities to include, whether to use curriculum or not… etc.

And based on intuition, a hodge podge of articles I’ve read, and advice from my cousin and my mother-in-law… we’re keeping it pretty low key and play based.

There may be days for beautiful old schoolhouse style Catholic curriculum, and tiger mom levels of go-gettum, but this year of preschool isn’t it.

This year we’re doing play dough, going outside, singing songs, lots of field trips, baking and cooking, and reading of books. So many books. Like Peter Rabbit and A Child’s Garden of Verses and probably the book version of Frozen a million more times.

We’re slooooowly doing letter sounds and “what is a pattern” and learning that the term “last night” is not the best term for describing anything that happened at some point in the past.

We might do a gymnastics class, because really, who isn’t inspired to try gymnastics after seeing this amazing, amazing woman:

And we’ll reassess often. Change things as we need to. I’m excited for this year! How about you? What are your schooling plans for this year?

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Fresh n’ Lean vegan meal delivery service review

***Disclaimer: Fresh n’ Lean provided me with the foods in this article for the purposes of this review. All thoughts, opinions, etc. are honest and my own.***

I am not a vegan, but I certainly appreciate tasty vegan food… and I was thrilled that this big ol’ vegan box of goodies came to me on a weekend that I would be spending around family members who DO mostly eat vegan food.

These dishes were pretty tasty, and all I had to do was heat them up. Sharing them was a treat. We had a family style tasting, and here’s what we thought:

Fresh n’ Lean Box:

fresh n' lean, vegan, meal delivery service vegetarian oh the simple joys dinner lunch breakfast food

Nicely packed. The Fresh n’ Lean folks assured me that my box could sit on my porch for awhile if I wasn’t there to pick it up. It came with lots of ice packs, and they called me to make sure I’d be around the day it was delivered. There was not excessive packaging, and I think most of it was recyclable.

The Food:

fresh n lean meal box delivery service vegan breakfast lunch dinner

We shared all the dishes and discussed our thoughts and opinions. I think the meals were very creative, and would work well for a busy person or professional who wants to eat healthy vegan food without having to cook. I did really appreciate that each meal seemed like it would be quite filling and nutritious. Here is what we thought of each item:

Walnut Passion Muffins

There was so much flavor packed into these little gluten free muffins. The texture wasn’t bad, moist and pretty crumbly. I am not sure what kind of GF flour was used, but this little guy was full of richness and sweetness. It was a little overwhelming, but tasty.

Mediterranean Artichoke Lentils

This was a very hearty and filling dish. Big yummy mushrooms, and a nice lemon flavor too. We didn’t really care for the olives, but we did like many aspects of this dish.

Curry Cauliflower Penne

Very mild, not very “curryish”. It was pretty sweet, and the noodles were a little soggy / made it an odd combination. I must say though, we are all curry loving people, so if you are new to curries and enjoy sweet meals, this would be a dish for you.

Dried Fruit Oatmeal

oatmeal dried fruit vegan fresh n lean oh the simple joys meal delivery service vegeterian

One family member in particular really loved this dish. He said it was “wonderful breakfast food”. It was sweet, and quite fruity. Not for everyone, and I do prefer fresh made oatmeal, but I can see many people enjoying this dish.

Mint Almond Quinoa and Cauliflower

General consensus of this dish was “it’s okay, a little dry”. I liked it and thought it was fun to eat. The mint was a little weird / surprising, but one of us really liked that. I think someone put some of the lentils on top of this, and enjoyed that.

To sum it up…

Thanks Fresh n’ Lean for the fun experience of tasting these dishes! We had a great time together as a family doing a vegan tasting of these foods.

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You know, he’s a boy.

Last night I was writing to my mother in law, who is coming to visit soon.

I wrote, “You are visiting at a great time. James now gives hugs and kisses.He also pulls hair, punches, and kicks… you know, he’s a boy.”

Then I paused. He’s a boy. And boys will be boys, right? If he was a girl, would I accept his playful punches, or correct them? Am I teaching my son that I will tolerate these things?

He is five months old. He has a sweet little loving heart and he sometimes doesn’t know his own strength. He definitely doesn’t yet understand that with strength, comes responsibility.

Tonight we went to a restaurant, and my strong, curious, little boy pulled our waitresses hair, broke a ceramic spoon, and then broke a plate. It was one of the most embarrassing experiences of my mom life to date.

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And yet, it is on me. I let him too near the table, twice. I haven’t taught him that he can’t do these things. I have thought to myself “he’s just a baby” or “he’s such a boy” and made excuses instead of teaching him not to hit or grab.

And, he is just a baby, but better for me to learn this now and begin to teach him, than start when it’s too late. My corrections may go over his sweet little head for a bit, but eventually they’ll stick.

My son may be a boy, and act like one… but I will not excuse myself from raising him well from the time he is young . I will up my parenting game and teach him to know his strength and to use it responsibly.

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A season of preparation, and finally, Easter

The past few seasons have been like a whirlwind. I got married and had a baby in the same week. My in-laws stayed with us for an extended visit to help after James was born. Lent started, we worked on getting the house cleaned and organized. My country focused on who would be the next president. My toddler adjusted (or is adjusting?) to life with her new brother. I am adjusting to being a new wife. I had my first hours, days, and weeks as a stay at home mother of two.

And through it all, I’ve had these feelings, these unshakeable intuitions. I didn’t want to talk about them at first, because… well, I felt like they were whisperings of the Holy Spirit and that those precious, mystical intuitions were something to keep hush about. And not just because people would look at me like I’m crazy if I went around talking about how God was nudging me.

holy spirit catholic lent easter christian faith testimony oh the simple joys God is good

So starting this winter I had this intuition, this whisper inside me saying: prepare. I didn’t know what I was preparing for. I tried to prepare mentally, spiritually, and outwardly. I tried to live simply and minimize my life, get organized, donate old clothes. Change can be big and scary, but since I had this gentle and comforting warning, I felt at peace with whatever Big Change might come next. I wondered what it might be. I didn’t take myself too seriously, because you never know how reliable these kinds of intuitions are. But it felt reliable. So I watched, I waited. It was Lent, so I prayed and I spent less time on social media and more time with my children.

On the eve of the terrorist attack in Belgium, I had a nightmare. I don’t remember the details but I knew it was big and bad and that everything would change and my nightmare gave me the day: Easter Sunday. I woke up sort of skeptically terrified. I knew that it was just a dream. But I feared there would be a huge terrorist attack, or that a loved one would die, or that something would happen to me or Bodie or my children. Have you ever had a dream like that? Where you know that it’s just a dream and yet you can’t shake the feeling of, “What if it isn’t”?

So, I tried not to obsess. I stared at my babies beautiful faces more and spent even less time on the internet. I cried and I prayed. (Postpartum hormones anyone?) I told myself, it is just a dream. After a day or two I moved on and worried about it less often. Then I read this article and realized: these feelings and intuitions are about this liturgical season. My children weren’t going to die, Jesus was.

No giant worldly change was coming. It hit me like a ton of bricks, Lent is supposed to be a season of spiritual preparation. Good Friday is supposed to be big and horrible and tragic and devastating. My heart broke for Mary, who must have known what was coming for her son. Who had to watch her baby be strung up and crucified and ridiculed and tortured and killed. But then I was filled with the peace and joy of the resurrection, of Easter Sunday coming, and because of this, we are safe. Saved.

Realizing this all made me think wow, is this some kind of liturgical seasonal affective disorder? Some bad postpartum anxiety? But I think not. It isn’t a disorder, it’s a blessing. It is something that I’ve prayed for — to be closer to Jesus and experience his experiences, even those that are painful.

God is good, and when we pray to be close to Him, he draws us near in unexpected ways.

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