Fat Fridays: Mental Health Check In

Happy Friday everyone. 

It’s 8:45am and I’ve already had a busy morning. Made homemade muffins for the kids for breakfast. I’ve got a big batch of yeast bread started, sitting in a bowl on the mantel to rise. Walked around picking up all the winter clothing that was left on the floor yesterday after we had a small batch of snow (only happens a couple times a year for us). Lit all the candles in the house in an attempt to chase off the gloom from this cold gray morning. I’ve cleaned up several messes from my son’s puppy that we are babysitting during the day while he’s at work. And also let my cats in and out the door about 5,000 times. 

And I’ve been trying really hard to not be snappy at my kids. This is their second snow day home and in my current mood, I’ve found it challenging to have to deal with arguments, fussing, and just a bunch of energetic kids bouncing around the house. (Stop throwing playing cards at my candles, No, we are NOT playing basketball in the house, yes, we ARE going to clean your room, No, we are NOT going to do a science experiment that involves setting paper on fire.) 

I am struggling a lot with depression and irritability. I’ve been working on getting back to healthy eating, cutting out sugar and processed foods again, and my body is in shock and not happy as it is deprived of all it’s junk again. I know I’m making progress, I’m starting to crave healthy food again and I haven’t had a hard time staying away from the bad suff, but it always puts me in a bad mood when I come off sugar and junk. I have a feeling a lot of that is just physical things happening in my body. 

I’m coming off the High of the Holidays and feeling a predictable blah-ness from resuming normal life again. 

The last two years have been pretty traumatic and so I find myself facing this new year with a lot of hesitancy. What craziness is going to happen this year? 

We’ve got an upcoming court date for our foster daughter and I’m having to face a lot of inner-demons as I resolve to make my voice heard instead of staying quiet. 

I imagine everyone has a list of reasons for why their mental health is not doing so great right now. 

What am I doing about it? 

Well, I’ve been really focused on keeping my home in a constant state of tidiness and order and coziness. It is calming to me to sit in a clean room with candles lit and some pretty things to look at. I tend to be very comfortable with clutter and chaos, but lately I’ve been going the opposite direction and needing everything orderly and in its place. 

I’ve gotten back into daily Bible reading. I have a 12 month Read the BIble in Year. Each day has a date and a passage from the Old Testament, the New Testament, a Psalm and a Proverb. I have decided to start in the month of December and work my way backwards, cause that just feels more doable for me. I am finding this reading time to be a time of calm and peace. 

I am working hard on getting our whole family eating healthy again, and one of the things I’m focusing on is baking our own whole-grain bread again. I used to do this a lot, years ago, and then stopped. I find that I need to bake about every two days in order to keep up with the kids. There is something very soothing about making bread. It makes me feel grounded and connected to the earth. Weird? I don’t know. I just know that I am enjoying it and find it soothing. 

The last thing is I am trying to keep life as simple as possible. I’ve had to hit pause on keeping up with community events and concerns, what’s happening in our country, and just focus in on my home. 

And even doing all that, it’s still been a struggle. But, I’m hopeful. My body is going to adjust to the healthier diet again, we’ll get past our court date, spring will come again. Life keeps moving. We just have to take it one day at a time. 

The Perfect Day

Today has been one of those “Perfect” days. The kind where nothing overly impressive happens, you just feel connected with the goodness around you. 

We slept in this morning. Eight o’clock! Amazing! If you have a house full of small children, eight in the morning is late! 

We lazed around in our pajamas, reading books, kids playing busily. And then, sometime around eleven the kids gave me a list of things they wanted to do: go to the library, go to the park. 

Not till we get our chores done. 

So, we divided everything up and the house got clean pretty quickly. I put on my new cover for my futon couch and pulled a couple chairs from other parts of the house so I could have a living room with furniture again. (Got rid of the couches a while back, and haven’t been in a rush to put things back together again.)

I made a menu for the week and then went shopping and stayed within my budget. (Not sure why, but that is always So Satisfying!) And I bought some flowers to put on my mantel in the living room. 

The weather today is about ten degrees cooler than it has been the past month and suddenly my kids are willing to play outside again. And other neighborhood kids have emerged from their air conditioning as well and so I have a yard full of children all happily playing together. 

This coming Monday is a holiday so I don’t feel as pressured to get everything done immediately. 

My washing machine is busily doing it’s job. By Monday I will have a big mountain of clean clothes to fold and sort and put away.

One of the neighborhood kids was talking to me earlier, he’s new, never been in my house before. He looked around. 

You know, this place kind of reminds me of a mansion. 

I was startled and then laughed.

Well, it’s big, but it isn’t very fancy like a mansion. 

And I sit in my old, faded worn chair in my living room. The walls need painting, the trim has never been painted or finished in any way, still showing the marks of over a hundred years of use. My bookshelves are over-run with books. The floors have also not been finished in the past one hundred years, and my kids skating and scootering and shoving furniture all over the place has done nothing to improve their appearance. 

But things are tidy. There are bright flowers, the soothing sound of water bubbling in the fish tank, the hum of a fan. Silence. And then thunder as a horde of children run down the stairs and out the door. The sun is shining in through the windows. My fridge and pantry are full. I’ve run all my errands. We have plans to play at the park after supper. Tomorrow we get to go to church. 

Yes. It is one of those “Perfect” days. 

And it occurs to me, that most days have the potential to be perfect. It just takes an eye to see, and a heart to be thankful.

Corona-schooling

You all might be wondering how school is going in my household of 10 students in this time of pandemic and school closures. Well, it’s interesting.

 

We’ve got all kinds of personalities going on here. The highschooler symbolically slammed her books shut and declared the year over. Even though the school has made review work available for her. I can see her point of view. They aren’t offering any new material and, in typical teenager short-sightedness, she can see no reason to review for classes that she’s just going to be handed a grade for and to which she won’t be returning. 

 

The 8th grader, the one who marches to the beat of a different drum, is attacking Khan Academy, trying to teach herself the rest of her Algebra 1 class so that she’ll be prepared for the next math class she takes in High School. She’s also looking up the state standards that weren’t covered because of school closure and researching them, trying to teach them to herself. (I told my husband this, and he expressed my thoughts, “Who does that??”) 

 

The 6th, 5th, 4th, (2) 3rdgraders, 1st grader, kindergartner, and preschooler are all under my jurisdiction. I set up a chart. Every day they have to watch two of the school videos that are available on our School District’s website, read a book for 30 mins, read one chapter of the Bible (We’re all reading Mark), and practice 1 of their times tables. If they do all of that, they can play MINECRAFT for 30 mins. Since we have never had any kind of video/online/computer games available, this has been a big motivator. I’ve got kids crashing into my room at 7:30am, when I am only slightly awake and demanding that I help them get started on school. Minecraft is apparently a powerful tool. (In the afternoons, if they clean their zone, their bedrooms, and deep clean one item on my list, they get another 30 mins. My house is looking a lot cleaner!)

 

Despite how organized this all sounds, it gets pretty chaotic. 

 

So, today I was sitting on the end of my bed (my bedroom has somehow become the school room, not sure why) helping my preschooler do his reading lesson. (I’ve got the preschooler and kindergartner doing my old homeschool curriculum for kindergarten since they need one-on-one help.) He had a short little paragraph to read and I was pointing, one word a time as he made his way through the story, stopping to ask questions after each sentence. He was reading pretty slowly, so when the nine year old popped in front of me and told me she was ready to go over her times table with me, I nodded in agreement. Sure I can listen to two kids at the same time. 

 

So, here I am, pointing at the book, Here David, what’s this word…D..O…G.. Dog, that’s right, keep going..Ok, Nomi, 7×9…No, not 62, you’re really close….yes 63. So, David, what is the dog doing? Uh huh. 7×2. Yep. 14, 7×8? Here David, you’re reading right here. Not, BBB, it’s DDDD. Ok. That’s right, DOT good job! No, 7×8 is not 63, that’s what 7×9 is. No, not 49. No. Not 52. Right here David, stop getting distracted, what’s this word? No, Nomi, it’s not 54. If 7×9 is 63 what can you do to figure out 7×8!!! That’s right, start counting backwards. Yes.56. Ok David, so The Dog did not eat a fish…What do you think he’s going to eat? Let’s keep reading and find out! YES! 56!! That is correct! 7×3? Yep, you got it, 7×7? No, not 62. THINK!! 

(Just then, the other nine year old approaches and says he’s ready for me to listen to him read, a practice I’ve had to undertake to help keep him honest.) Not now sweetie, I can’t listen to you right now. You’ll have to wait. 7×7. 49 You got it. Here David, L…O…G… Log. Yes! The dog did not eat a log! Good job. No, I’ve already told you I can’t listen to you read, dear nine year old, go do something else!! 

 

ACCK!! (At this point the 3 year old did a somersault on the bed and hit me square in the back.) I turn around. Both the three and six year olds have burrowed under my covers and are proceeding to hit both me and David in the back (remember, we’re sitting on the end of the bed) and are stripping my bed of all it’s covers. STOP STOP STOP!! OFF MY BED!!! GO PLAY SOMEWHERE ELSE!!!!

 

7×4. Yes. 28, 7×6.. David, keep reading! What did the dog eat?? No, 7×6 is not 49, that’s 7×7. Will the dog eat a pot of tar? What do you think? Yeah, I think so too. Let’s keep reading and see what he eats…7×5. No. I didn’t already ask you this. And even if I did, just answer it and keep moving.  Oh look David, the sentence says, “the dog will eat his car..” huh. Well, that’s pretty silly. I uncover the picture that is supposed to stay hidden till the end of the story. Sure enough, there is a dog eating a car. Weird. David starts laughing hysterically. Apparently this reading book understood it’s target audience. 7×6..Oh, yeah, you’re right. I already did that. Ok quick, lets go over the ones you didn’t know. David, you’re done reading. Other nine year old, I’m ready to hear you read! 

 

And that is a glimpse into what corona-schooling a whole bunch of kids at the same time kind of looks like. At least over at my house.

It’s Urgent!

My house is clean. Upstairs and Downstairs. I am running the last two loads of laundry and once those are folded, I will be completely caught up on my laundry. The dishes are washed too. I know what I’m cooking for supper tonight. All the pets are cared for, and even my front porch is picked up. 

 

You might be wondering why. It is only Tuesday after all. I’m not entertaining tonight.

 

Well, I would say it has a lot to do with the fact that I have three new children. Since they have moved in, I have felt a driving need to keep everything clean and organized. Way too many people here to have it be messy. But, aside from that, I have been feeling a sense of Urgency. I don’t have time to waste. The kids are at school. Lets get these chores done now, because when they get home, they are going to be wanting, and demanding my full attention. I need to spend this evening reading books aloud, not cleaning up my kitchen. I need to have a plan for supper because I’m going to be asked “What are you making for supper?” and the fact that I have an answer is going to bring a sense of security and safety. 

 

As I am realizing how tenuous foster situations are, I am feeling a sense of urgency. I don’t know how long I have. How much love and stability can I cram in the time that I do have? 

 

The sad thing is, why haven’t I had this sense of urgency all along? I only have a limited time with my own children after all. I know this is true as I have already launched two children from my home. Time is of the essence. 

 

It took a major life change to help me remember just how precious time is, and how little of it we actually have. And how I need to be using the time I have to the best of my abilities, instead of lagging around saying, I’ll finish that task tomorrow, there’s no rush, I’ve got time. 

 

A couple weeks ago I had a startling dream. In my dream Jesus came back. For those of you who aren’t overly familiar with the Christian Faith, Jesus coming back is the Grand Finale. It’s what we’ve all been waiting for since he returned to heaven 2,000 years ago. It’s what scripture has told us to be anticipating. In fact, I found this quote, “One out of every twenty-five verses in the New Testament refers either to the rapture of the church or to Christ’s coming to reign over the world (cf. Jesse Forrest Silver, The Lords Return, p. 29).”

It’s pretty important. 

 

So, I had this dream. And I remember what stood out the most was this feeling of, “Ok. That’s it. Game over…Now what’s going to happen?”  I thought about the dream here and there, then about two days ago, there was this crazy loud noise, it sounded almost like a ram’s horn being blown and it was going on and on and on. And I was walking around my house, looking out windows, checking devices, trying to figure out where this sound was coming from. Again, my thoughts jumped to Second Coming…Is this it? Is Jesus about to show up? The sound eventually stopped, but I found it amusing that once again my thoughts were on Jesus coming back. Especially since this is not something I usually think about a whole lot. 

I don’t think that these dreams and thought patterns are supposed to mean that I am soon going to pin down a nearby date when Jesus is definitely going to return. But, I think having a spirit of expectancy, and even urgency about Jesus’ return is important. 

 

Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” 

 

Jesus not only saves us from the debt of our sin, but he’s also got stuff laid out for us to do while we are here on earth. And we actually have a limited time to do it in. For most of us, that time will be cut short when we die, not with Jesus showing up in the clouds. But, no matter how it’s cut short, the fact remains, our time is limited. 

 

All those good ideas of how we can serve others, help the people around us…we need to get moving on them. Not just sit around thinking, there’s no rush, I’ll do it later, I’ve got plenty of time. 

 

May we all live our lives with a sense of urgency. Our time is short.