Monday, June 28, 2010

Toy Story 3

Like so many families seem to be doing this week, we went today to see Toy Story 3. It was likely the best movie I've seen in quite some time. I laughed, and I cried, through the whole movie.



Yes, you read that right... I cried. What? It's a kids movie! About toys!

Well, you see... I'm a mother, and I've got little boys. And, well, Andy (the main human character) is going away to college. And of course they had to show flashbacks to his younger years playing with all his toys, making up scenarios for the toys, running around, and just being a little boy. And then, he's suddenly this big kid, a 17-year-old, packing up and getting ready to leave for school.

Well, it gave me a sense of flashing forward, to my boys growing up and moving on, and even just simply not being little boys anymore, losing that playfulness of youth. And my little Blaise doesn't look so different than young Andy, making the whole scenario seem so much more real(and my Andy, Blaise's daddy, looks quite a bit like the older version of the Pixar character).



So, yes, I cried. Then cried again. Then cried some more at the end.

Which did not escape the watchful eyes of my husband, nor escape questioning in the car. :)




Just a disclaimer: While this movie was great, there were a couple parts that were mildly not so great. There was a scary part with an incinerator, and it didn't look like it would possibly turn out - but reassure your kids, it does. After all, it is a kids movie. Also, I was not so thrilled about Barbie's and Ken's first reactions to each other and a couple of their interactions, though it basically sneaks under the radar of kids my children's ages and is really very mild and works well enough into the plot.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Faith vs. Works: What's the Difference??

I find the classic question by Protestants to be intriguing. Are we saved by faith or by works? What!??

First of all, we're not saved by either. We're saved by the grace of God! In no way can we secure our own trip to Heaven, whether by strong faith or worthy deeds.

Secondly, what's the difference, really?? Love and charity are both products of faith. "We love because He first loved us" (not sure the verse). Love is of God; all love comes from God. We are incapable of love except in relationship to Him, who is the source of that love. If we know God and have true faith, how can we not love God? And since we are all created in the image of God, if we love God, we must love others as well. And what are good works really but our acting in love and charity to our fellow human beings, out of love for and faith in God? Without faith, works are dead; they are empty. In the same way, without works, faith is dead; it bears no fruit.

Jesus commands us to follow Him and then goes about loving others and giving to those who are in need. He says, "Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for Me" and "Love others as I have loved you." What He is calling us to do are good works - but not just out of guilt or a feeling of duty. He is calling us to do good works that are born of faith and love. Faith is the foundation, but charity and works are the fruit.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

My Little Helpers

One day, already about a month ago, the boys (Blaise especially) was really excited about helping me. And I had a few things I wanted done. So I did what any mom would do: I put him to work.


First we reorganized the closet, using cardboard shoe racks my mom had been getting rid of. He helped me vacuum out the dust, pile one on top of the other in the closet, and place shoes in them. Before we just had a pile of shoes in and around the closet. Much better!



While we had the shop vac out, he worked on vacuuming the garage, while Isaac brought a few things to the recycling can for me (basically because he wanted his picture taken too)




Blaise and I also reorganized the quiet time room, using a desk my parents also needed to get rid of as a TV stand. I have to say, while that's not what the desk was made for, it looks much better than the old diaper boxes and safe we had been using before.

Because Blaise is enjoying helping out, I've started giving him his first unofficial chore, which I am so far very inconsistent in asking his help: clearing and washing the table after dinner. He's so proud to help (though helping to pick up his toys and such is usually a different story). He also saw today that there was paint on the window behind his chair from one of his projects. He asked for cleaner and a rag to wipe it up and practically ended up washing the whole bottom part of the window for me! But I have to be careful too because one day, also not long ago, he helped me clean the bathroom and had a headache by the end of our cleaning which lasted the rest of the day... I assume from the cleaning products. Oh, but do I need to encourage that desire to help now!

House Goal

This is my goal: For our home to be a refuge, a place where the pace is slower than the world outside, where joy and love are abundant, and where God is welcomed and celebrated.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Cutting Back

I have so many posts floating around in my head... mainly about the boys. But they take so long to write, complete with pictures and all. The ones that take less time are ones like this:

I AM NO LONGER WORKING FULL TIME!!!! WOO HOO! I just finished my last week of full time work and will cut back next week to 20-23 hours!!! Yay! I'm so excited to spend more time with the boys and be less busy! I'm hoping this will help with feeling more balanced in terms of spending my time in ways that I more strongly value.... such as with my family and hopefully more often in prayer and such.

Perhaps I'll be able to post about some of our adventures and times together!

Oh, yes, and I have a great weekend planned, seeing some wonderful friends both days this weekend - most notably, I'll be spending some time with a few great friends Sunday evening - Katie from HuMAMAe Vitae and Sarita, who is a missionary with her beautiful family, as well as another one or two friends. And I'm hoping my arms will be full all through our time together, holding a couple of beautiful babies!

Meanwhile, it is 8:00 and I'm going to bed! It's been a long week! Goodnight!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Paradigm, continued

I finally have (hopefully) enough time to finish my post! I'll repeat what I already said, since my next thought flows together. For ease of reading, I'll put anything new in italics.

"Paradigms power perceptions, and perceptions power emotions. Most emotions are responses to perception - what you think is true about a given situation. If your perception is false, then your emotional response to it will be false too. So check your perceptions, and beyond that check the truthfulness of your paradigms -what you believe. Just because you believe something firmly doesn't make it true. Be willing to reexamine what you believe. The more you live in the truth, the more your emotions will help you see clearly. But even then, you don't want to trust them more than [you trust God]" (The Shack, Wm Paul Young).

I see this clearly illustrated in my own life. The paradigm I too often live by lately is that my life is too difficult that that too many expectations and responsibilities are being thrown at me. This drives me to perceive any setback or struggle to be unfair and to be more than I can handle. Therefore, I am quick to feel anxious, stressed, angered, impatient.

If I can switch my paradigm from "this is too difficult; I can't handle all of this" to "with God's help, I can and will make it through this time in my life, and will enjoy it. I have been given so many blessings," my perceptions will likely change and so will my quick emotions. My expectations of each moment will decrease, as will my frustrations when things don't go smoothly, or when I need to do something I really don't feel like doing, and I will not feel like I'm being treated unfairly. I may begin to enjoy moments I now find only tolerable or mildly amusing, and better tolerate situations I now find to cause stress and impatience, thus allowing my emotions to be more often the enjoyable kind and less often the depressing kind.

A friend who has anxiety issues says that those of us with anxiety and depression start at a certain level of anxiety or stress, whereas most people start at a much lower level; therefore, it takes less to push us over the maximum threshold to tolerable stress or anxiety. To make matters more difficult, our maximum threshold may be lower than the average person's.

What is the cause of the heightened baseline level and lowered maximum threshold? Is it genetic - something we're born with and cannot change, controlled by biochemical forces? Or have we, through training ourselves and our brains, developed unhealthy paradigms and perceptions and influenced our neurochemistry through repetitive behavior and thoughts, creating neural synapses and changing the balance of neurotransmitters and endocrine hormones to reflect these disordered paradigms, biasing ourselves toward further stress, anxiety, and depression? The most obvious answer is that the truth lies somewhere in between.

I took a class (NOI, "Explain Pain") just over a week ago regarding chronic pain, which has implications for emotional "pain" such as depression and anxiety, in that physical pain looks just like emotional pain on brain mapping diagnostics, and the same neurotransmitters and endocrine hormones are involved. This class has given me hope that the plasticity within our brains allows for changed neurochemistry adequate for our stress response to become more normalized, thus decreasing at least the extent of depression and anxiety. The instructor said that our brains are self-constructing and constantly changing, according to input and our changing paradigms, beliefs, and experiences. Our brains adapt to our thoughts, experiences, and expressions of self. He told us that processes in our brains can be modulated, "turned up" or "turned down," by cognitive mechanisms such as anticipation of a dangerous, stressful, or unfair situation, or by expectation of smooth sailing, as well as by humor (thus "laughter is the best medicine"). So, in the case of someone with anxiety, anticipation of a stressful situation primes us for further stress and anxiety. Now, since our brains can adapt to cognitive mechanisms (thoughts, or "self-talk") as well as beliefs and experiences, it follows that changing a paradigm, and thus changing our perceptions, can have a powerful impact. It can actually cause new synapses to form to reflect this new paradigm, and allow the old, unused synapses to die. Our instructor says this can happen quickly, even over the matter of days. Even so, habits run deep, as does any genetic influence involved in depression and anxiety. And, just as synapses can quickly form to reflect a new found optimism, they can also form to reflect a return to pessimism. So those of us who suffer from depression and/or anxiety must remain diligent in continuing in a positive paradigm.

Interestingly, our instructor also went over the steps of a conceptual or paradigm shift, steps that will likely take more than a few days and slow the process substantially. These steps typically occur after paradigms and perceptions are challenged and include the following:
1) The person is not ready for a change
2) Getting serious about making a change
3) Making a plan
4) Taking action
5) Working at it
6) Change happens.
Obviously, the length of time allotted to each of these steps varies with each person, and a person may stall or just stop during any of these steps. But, despite neural connections changing fairly quickly and easily, common sense says that these steps must be completed before a true paradigm shift and adequate neural adaptation can take effect. And, in the case of depression an anxiety, step 6 may be accompanied by an indefinite continuation of step 5, due to possible genetic predisposition and the general stress that is an unfortunate part of our lives. So we must be sure not to get too complacent or impatient, and be sure to continue relying on God at all times.


In short, this is not a magic "cure" but is based in medical research and does promise to work if approached with perseverance, hope, and prayer. I have been working on this myself for 10 days, and while I have seen a few backslides, I have seen a change in myself as well - and during the most trying time of the month. That also gives me hope.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Paradigm

"Paradigms power perceptions, and perceptions power emotions. Most emotions are responses to perception - what you think is true about a given situation. If your perception is false, then your emotional response to it will be false too. So check your perceptions, and beyond that check the truthfulness of your paradigms -what you believe. Just because you believe something firmly doesn't make it true. Be willing to reexamine what you believe. The more you live in the truth, the more your emotions will help you see clearly. But even then, you don't want to trust them more than [you trust God]" (The Shack, Wm Paul Young).

The paradigm I too often live by lately is that my life is too difficult that that too many expectations and responsibilities are being thrown at me. This drives me to perceive any setback or struggle to be unfair and to be more than I can handle. Therefore, I am quick to feel anxious, stressed, angered, impatient.

If I can switch my paradigm from "this is too difficult; I can't handle all of this" to "with God's help, I can and will make it through this time in my life, and will enjoy it. I have been given so many blessings," my perceptions will likely change and so will my quick emotions. My expectations of each moment will decrease, as will my frustrations when things don't go smoothly, or when I need to do something I really don't feel like doing, and I will not feel like I'm being treated unfairly. I may begin to enjoy moments I now find only tolerable or mildly amusing and tolerate better situations I now find to cause stress and impatience, thus causing my emotions to be more often the enjoyable kind and less often the depressing kind.

A friend who has anxiety issues says that those of us with anxiety and depression start at a certain level of anxiety or stress, whereas most people start at a much lower level; therefore, it takes less to push us over the maximum threshold to tolerable stress or anxiety. To make matters more difficult, our maximum threshold may be lower than the average person's.

What is the cause of the heightened baseline level and lowered maximum threshold? Is it genetic - something we're born with and cannot change, controlled by biochemical forces? Or have we, through training ourselves and our brains, developed unhealthy paradigms and perceptions and influenced our neurochemistry through repetitive behavior and thoughts, creating neural synapses and changing the balance of neurotransmitters and endocrine hormones, biasing ourselves toward further stress, anxiety, and depression? The most obvious answer is that the truth lies somewhere in between.

This thought is to be continued... in the meantime, any thoughts regarding this question, or other comments?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Projects in Pictures I

We finally emptied pictures from our camera onto the computer. I had taken several pictures of projects the boys and I had done and will do a short series on those.

The first one was done soon before Thanksgiving 2009.



















While I had planned to frost these, I was too tired to attempt the frosting with the boys. One last picture, just because it's cute:

Saturday, June 5, 2010

On my week as a "stay-at-home" mom

Not sure what to say about my week at home. But I feel like I should say something since staying at home is what I am SO looking forward to. So I will write just a few observations.

1. I'm more tired than I thought I'd be. I know staying at home is hard, and so I was partially expecting it. But I didn't think it would be so exhausting getting things done around the house. I had a list for the week: laundry, wash the kitchen floor, and clean the bathrooms. And keep up on dishes. Oh, and several phone calls. The laundry and dishes were not a big deal, but the day that I cleaned the kitchen floor and the day I cleaned the bathrooms did not go well at all. When I would just hang out with the boys, things went well, but as soon as I would try to check anything off my list or spend any amount of time in another room, the whining and clinging started. I would just sit and spend all day with the boys if I could, but then the house would be in shambles.

2. I still have a lot of work to do with Blaise, my older son, though I'm not sure if I would just be spinning my wheels. His mood can flip so quickly. And our days are so dependent on his moods. He's the reason I couldn't get anything done at home; Isaac honestly isn't so whiny and clingy. I'm thinking about feeding him more peanuts, which sounds silly, except that I read that peanuts contain tryptophan, which is a precursor to serotonin, and I refuse to even consider giving a 5 year old antidepressants, though I do think he's got some depression already. Poor kiddo. Perhaps increasing his serotonin levels will help him. He is such a wonderful child. He is so helpful; one of these days, I will post pictures of him helping me this week. After Andy came home Wed, Blaise and I organized the shoes in our closet in a couple of cardboard shoe racks and also set up the TV and movies on a small desk we got from my parents, among other things. He was a great help with both and felt so proud. Perhaps part of the problem is my own impatience and depressed feelings; Sometimes I just want to get stuff done rather than having him help me. Although his helping me clean the bathrooms this morning is what set off our bad day; he apparently has a sensitivity to the bathroom cleaner I was using and had a headache for the better part of the day after that - which for him also means crabbiness for the better part of the day. I don't know what to do about him.

3. I am dreading going back to work. I don't think I'm the physical therapist I... well, maybe the problem is that I don't have the desire to be a good PT anymore. I do my best while I'm there, but I don't have confidence in my abilities... I have been faced with some tougher cases lately, but I also see my coworkers with patients and truly am not the PT they are. And I don't care; I just want to be done. I wish I had never went into PT. Though, as God does, He has used this for good. I have more confidence in talking with people and taking charge in relationships than I used to. At one point, I made a list of 5-10 ways I have grown by being a PT; but I can't remember any of the other points now. Two weeks ago, a patient of mine hit the nail on the head when he thanked me for having the patience with him and my other patients; he said it must be hard to maintain that level of patience. Well, honestly, it's all a show on most days. I started to notice my losing patience with Andy and the kids more often than I used to about six months ago. More recently, I have little patience for my patients or coworkers at work. I just want to be left alone and not have so many people depending on me, too often. I am the "authority figure" for my patients at work; they come to me with their pain and problems and look to me to show them how to fix it. Then I come home and am asked to do everything for the kids (Andy helps a lot). I usually enjoy scratching Andy's back at night, but too often that just seems like one more thing. I'm an introvert. I need my time, but the bike rides I go on, going to Church to pray, and talking with understanding friends just doesn't seem to be enough sometimes. I dread going back to work because I just want to focus on one aspect of my life for a while - and my family will not go away, nor do I want them to, so the other option is work - and it frustrates me that, as Andy often reminds me, that is not an option right now. Though in a year it will likely be an option.

4. I admire homeschoolers, but I don't think I will be able to do that, especially not with Blaise. If Blaise and I didn't but heads so often, I may still consider it. Perhaps someday I'll think about it again. For now, we've got 4 great Catholic schools in the area that we will be considering.

5. The boys and I are not good at staying home all day. Perhaps because Blaise gets bored, or perhaps because I find too many things that need to be done.

I hope this post did not come off as my just complaining. Yesterday, I would have been singing the praises of being able to stay at home all week. Today is another day. But I'm still glad I was able to be home this week; it was a blessing to be allowed that opportunity.

A Question for Moms of Boys

This is a question especially for all you moms who have boys 5 years and older: When can one expect a boy to start behaving during Mass? By behaving, I mean staying reasonably still, being fairly quiet, listening when we ask them to settle down, and facing the front most of the time.
Our older boy is nearly 5, and I'm wondering what I can expect from him especially, and when I can expect him to improve further. Our 3 1/2 year old is most of the time better than our nearly 5 year old.
Currently the boys only come to Church with us on average every 2 to 3 weeks because I am so exhausted by the end of Mass when we bring them with us. But I also want the boys to get used to going to Mass and to know it's just a part of our lives, and my husband and I also like to participate in Mass together. Are we doing the boys a disservice by not bringing them, or is it ok in the long run to keep them home? Any tips on getting them to enjoy Mass or on wanting to come with us or wanting to behave? Or on just getting them to behave in general?
Thanks for your opinions!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Countdown to Graduation: 1 year!!

Yesterday marks the one year mark until I hope to be staying home following Andy's graduation. One year! I started this countdown unofficially at 23 months. Nearly a year has passed since then. Looking back, the year has gone somewhat quickly, especially the last three months.

This week, I'm home with the boys. I took the week off as a break from work as well as to take an opportunity to spend time with my boys. Yesterday we had a nice morning, but it all blew up around noon, as the boys were tired and recovering after a wonderful weekend at my parents' cottage, but they slept until 7:45 this morning - unheard of in this house - and are fairly recovered now. And we're enjoying this day, with relatively little whining. This type of day is the reason I want to stay home - being able to guide and direct them in how to behave and how to talk, and to enjoy them. We even did a project this morning! I will include a picture of the finished product. The house isn't clean, but I didn't stay home this week to clean all day.






Time to go and enjoy my family! I hope you're having a great day too!