Thursday, December 29, 2016

Dear 2016

Dear 2016,

In two days, you will be gone.  Never to grace us with your presence again.  While some of your characteristics I have no problem leaving behind, there are many that I feel prompted to express my gratitude for.

You have taught me a truckload of life lessons. Patience with my husband as we worked together on his battle with depression.  An almost fairy tale story as we chose to fall in love with each other again and unified to conquer our next season of life together.

Humbleness as I fell on my knees, begging God for help with the overwhelming emotions our youngest son was constantly experiencing.  Irony as "experts" guided and directed him, helping him to at last relax and understand his emotions.  I see him experience more joy in each day.  His hugs and "I love you, mom." make every battle, every book, every tear, and every appointment we had feel worth it.

 Assurance as my oldest son mastered the one skill that would make his journey through life easier.  Confidence as all the research I had done became personal experience as I saw him jump from a 1st grade reading level to a fifth grade reading level in 6 months.

You revealed to me that I am strong enough to change, to set aside excuses, and to actually complete the tasks I prioritize.  I have struggled with being overweight for as long as I can remember.  There was always an argument going on in my head.  All the time.  One side would say that everyone is beautiful, no matter what their size.  What is on the inside is what counts.  If I lost weight, I would be a hypocrite. I'm too old, too big, too broken to even try.  The other half of my brain would come back with how much better I would feel.  How wonderful it would be to fit into smaller clothes.  The lasting health benefits that come with being a healthier weight.  I could still be a good person, even if I weighed less.  This constant bickering had been set on repeat for so long that it had become the script for every choice I made.  Choice after choice was made, and this script then became my life.

Yet, 2016, you flipped a switch in my brain.  Progress has been slow, but steady.  The argument is only a quiet background noise because you brought information, motivation, and inspiration into my life.  The script has changed.  I am healthier now than I have ever been.

So, pushing is something that is frowned upon in my family.  I ask my children not to emotionally push me to make a choice and I will scold them when they physically push each other.  2016, you pushed me.  I can't tell you how many times this year I have had to talk myself out of having a panic attack, how often I have had to pull out the scientific dialog on the flight, fight, or freeze response and how there was no bear, no oncoming train, no real danger that I was facing.  Rejection and embarrassment are not fatal.  I have been stretched, felt uncomfortable, and set aside my desire to live in a constant bubble of peace.  To try.  To simply put myself, my imperfect but willing self, out there. I can look back and see how each experience is woven to another.  These experiences are creating a beautiful design and it takes my breath away when I consider all that you have done for me, 2016.

When a pebble is tossed into a calm pond, it creates ripples that reach far beyond the actual size of the pebble.  The ripples could not have been created without the pebble experiencing the frightening toss in the air, or without the pebble accepting that it must be submerged in water.  Drowning, swallowed up, without any assurance that it will all work out for good.  You, 2016, were my pebble and my life is the pond.  You may seem small, but you have had a big impact on the pond.

I'm praying that your successor will continue on with the ripples you have set in motion. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for all you have done and I bid thee farewell.


Friday, March 4, 2016

Clarity, and God's Timing

I was driving home from a meeting today.  Three kids in the back seat, music on the radio, the sun shining through the windows, and I just realized that this clarity I've been feeling could only come from God.

It was like God had been at the meeting with me.  The meeting wasn't in a church, or some coffee house.  It was in the office of a government run organization.

We didn't talk about God.  We didn't talk about anything spiritual, or religious.  We just talked about us partnering together on the music class I teach.

The children were in the room with us.  Two sat on the floor drawing, and the older one sat in the chair next to me reading, and listening to the conversation.

I couldn't have asked for a better meeting because I would have felt selfish and unrealistic for such things, but it was like God was just there.  With me.  

So, why would He give me clarity now?
Hadn't I needed it before?
Wouldn't things be better if He had shown me these things sooner?

So many things could have been prevented if I had just understood but...

I wasn't ready.

I just wasn't ready.

I've been asking for what seems like a long time.  Hopefully, a person would ask because they were ready, but I'm reminded that this isn't always the case.  My children ask me questions all the time and their young brains aren't ready for the answers.

The path I'm on has led me to this place. The good, the bad, the loss, the love, the pain, and the joy.

Like a young child, I have been asking.  I have pleaded with You, argued with You, and tried to negotiate with you. 
I thank You for waiting until I was ready to see.  To understand.  To respond.
  Thank You for Your patience, and Your timing in things as I continue to search and to ask.

Thank you for Your love in ALL things.



Thursday, March 3, 2016

Beyond Motherhood: How I am learning to take care of myself, and how it has changed our lives.

Parenting is hard.  Putting someone else's needs before your own.  Changing our world completely to help them know that they are loved.  Changing ourselves so they never, ever doubt our devotion.

When you have toothpicks holding your eyes open because the baby was up every hour.

When your toddler needs help with their food, and your own plate of food gets cold.

When you haven't showered, or gotten dressed, or changed pajamas, because all the little voices keep needing more, and more, and more, and you simply have no energy left.

Their needs, because it's all about them.

But should it be?

As a mom, I feel like I totally have their basic needs covered.  You know, like the food, shelter, safety, clothing, love, and education stuff.  We even get to add the extras; sports, vacations, trips to the bakery, toys to play with, scheduled play dates, nature walks, field trips, books to read, tea time, attending church, sleep overs...  My children are thriving.

I love them so much (and for the most part, I just love to be around them).

Yet, when did it become a requirement that in order to be a good mom, you had to put all of your own needs aside, and focus solely on them?

I'm talking about the giving up who you are as an individual, as a Child of God, as a creative, artistic, and passionate person, to focus solely on them?

Now, I don't know what stage of parenting you are in.  It's going to look different for each of us.  Plus, I believe that motherhood is one of the most important ministries that God calls us to.

I'm not talking about neglecting your children, or treating them like they are not loved, or not cared for, or not important to you.

What I'm thinking about-

What I want you to think about is- 

Where is the line between need and want?

If we have a better balance between these two things, would we have more time to do things that interest us?  To develop our own selves?  

As a mom, am I done with all things that are not related to motherhood?

Join me as I explain how I stopped doing everything my children wanted, took a lot of self-imposed pressure off myself, found out that I am a person outside of just being a mom, and how my whole family has benefitted from me taking care of me.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

My Kid In the Kitchen: Homemade Macaroni and Cheese and a Bonus!

What a nice treat to have Matt make our lunch for us.

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese
2 out of 4 critics (under the age of ten) loved it.  The others two want the chemical filled boxed kind instead.

Adding the spices...

It's challenging to hold the pot and scrape all the contents out.  Matt usually starts this process, and I help him finish it.

Putting bread crumbs on half.  Gotta please the crowd, right?

The finished product.

Plus, a bonus for Matt.  A Pampered Chef Cooking Show that was very hands on.  

After the party, Matt said "Mom!  We need to go to more of these parties!"

I swear, he's going to break my budget.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Running Around in Circles

It's an abnormally warm winter day.  I step outside of my hibernated state and just breathe.  No jacket, no shoes.

I have three new ideas for my business swirling around in my head.  Yes, my head seems to be always thinking.  Always analyzing.  Always questioning.

Through the screen window, I hear my five year old ask for help.  He wants to come outside but is afraid that he'll let the dog out, too.  I help him, and watch as he wanders around our front porch.

Testing what bare feet feel like after months of being bundled up.

He asks if he can go out to the front yard.  Sure, I reply.  Then, I see him start to run in circles around the raised bed that surrounds our flag pole.

Around, around, and around.

I wonder why he's running around in circles.  I'm curious to know if he has some game mapped out in his mind, or if he is just running some energy out.

I stop just short of asking.

He doesn't always need to take the time to think about the why.  He doesn't have to stop the fun, and explain to me the reason behind his choice.  He doesn't even have to have a reason. 

He feels his body moving through time and space, stomping his feet hard on the ground, challenging himself, breathing the fresh air.  Experiencing joy.

As a mom, an educator by profession, and a newbie entrepreneur, I want to know the why, but I also know the value of just watching your child run around in circles.

Monday, February 15, 2016

An Uncommon Reason to do Freezer Meals

I've been freezer cooking for only six weeks. (I'm no expert)  

I've been freezer cooking for six weeks!! (It's working enough that I didn't disregard the plan at the first mistake.)

Hello!  My name is Wendelyn Daly.  I am a recovering control freak.  I am taking one teeny tiny step at a time to give up said control and free my mind, my time, and my creativity.

As a mama who homeschools her two children, manages a home, passionately loves her husband, volunteers at our church, helps out with the neighbor girl, recently started a business, and wants to make a positive impact on our community (and the world), my brain wants to go in twenty directions at the same time.  Sometimes, my brain can go in three directions, but I do my best work when it has one direction.  That's right.  ONE.  Not always gonna happen, but it's good to be aware of what I need to do to be the most effective.

For years I have wanted to try freezer cooking.  The idea has literally been taking up space in my brain for years.  One winter day, I decided to try it.  I mean, what else is there to do on a winter day when you've exhausted all other options?

I did a little research. Thank you, Pinterest!  I put together seven freezer friendly recipes, and made a shopping list that would cover meals for weeks.  First two overwhelming things completed.  
Then, I went shopping.  I won't bore you with the details, multiple stores, best deals I can manage, blah, blah, blah.

Did I mention I despise grocery shopping?  Like, avoid it until the only option is to eat out.  Eat out?  Why, yes!  I would love to spend (at least) four times as much money to have someone cook and clean up for me.  

I spent an afternoon preparing 14 dump and freeze meals.  Two weeks later, I threw out all but three of the recipes, gathered three more, and started again.

(9 freezer meals, three mini meals for my husband for when the kids and I go out of town, and twenty breakfast burritos to make mornings a little easier.)

That brings us to week six and here's what I've discovered this far:

1) I still have evenings when I would like to prepare a meal.  Spend an hour in my kitchen, puttering around, and making one of those yummy meals that would not freeze well.  Plan accordingly.

2) There are crockpot freezer friendly meals, and there are casserole friendly meals.  Do what fits your day, your week, your life.

3) The hardest part is remembering to take the meal out to thaw the day or the night before.  If I can do it, you can do it. Give yourself time to work on the new habit, and cut yourself some slack.  You're only human.

4) We are not as tempted to our meals out.  When my kids complain they're hungry?  It's a fifteen or thirty minute drive home, and dinner is waiting.  It would take us just as long to swing through the drive through, and the meal at home is way more tasty and a whole lot healthier.  Save money and be more healthy?  Yes, please!!!

5) I have more time.  Originally I looked at how much time it would take to plan for, shop for, and prepare freezer meals, I thought, "Who has that kind of time? and "Would this be the final straw that broke the camels back?"  Seriously, taking a chunk of my time to do the work frees up multiple slots of time.  This has freed my brain of the constant planning, thinking, and doing.

I recently read the book "An Organized Mind" by Daniel J. Levitin.  I am in no way as articulate as the author, but he talks about how our brains are limited in capacity.  If we take information, tasks, ideas, goals, etc., out of our brains, put it on an external memory drive, (like, a piece of paper, a calendar, an app on your phone, etc), you will free up space in your brain.

Guess what I've been doing with my additional brain space?  Playing the piano-- for enjoyment. Journaling.  Reading my Bible. Reading more books.  Enjoying the everyday, and sometimes mundane tasks, more than I had before.  Slowing down, basking in the conversations, the questions and the noticing.  Organizing other areas of our days.  This spills over to leave more time and brain space for the things we enjoy.

Try it!  If not with freezer cooking, then with something else.  Do something that relieves that stressed out brain of yours.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

My Kids In the Kitchen: Chocolate Chip Cookies

Liam was four when looked at his older brother, Matthew, and said "Will you please stop talking?  I want a turn to talk."

At five, Liam's still finding his voice.  The place where he fits.  His unique passions.  He gets exposure to various activities because his older brother is doing them.  

As his mom, I am constantly reminding myself to slow down, pay attention, and be open to what Liam is communicating. Most of the time, it's not through words.

As I tucked Liam into bed, he asked "Can we make chocolate chip cookies?"  "Well, not right now.  It's bedtime."  "No, not tonight.  Tomorrow." (He made it sound like THAT was obvious, but I'm pretty sure if I had said yes, he would have been out of that bed in two seconds.)  "Yes.  Tomorrow we can make cookies."

Yes.  It's a pretty simple word.  Kinda hard to say when you're mind is running through all the important things you have to get done.  Can I squeeze one more thing into my day?  One more activity that  doesn't feel like it's the highest priority?  I don't even want dozens of yummy cookies around, tempting me.  Mocking my will-power.

I have spent years choosing to make life less cluttered.  Our home, our schedule.
It's not perfect, but it helps me say YES.  To enjoy the yes.

Brotherly love. ❤️

Ready for the oven!

This was the batch that Liam scooped.

The yummy cookies.  This recipe has whole wheat flour and oatmeal in them.  They helped me feel a little less guilty.  A little.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Unconditional Love; How My Perspective Has Changed

"I'm such an idiot." he said.

He looked at my face, and sheepishly corrected himself.

"I feel like such an idiot."

It was one of those parenting moments that I struggle with.  My oldest, who was 9 (1/2) at the time, had chosen to do something that he had been told not to do.  As a consequence, he had to miss watching a television show with the family, going to bed instead.

He apologized, asked for forgiveness, and begged to be able to do something to make it better.  I wasn't sure if it was to correct the situation because he felt bad about his choice, or if it was to change the consequence.  Or both?

Which brings me to the part of the story where I am sitting on the edge of his bed, tucking him in, and he calls himself an idiot.  My mind races back to my own childhood when I had made mistakes and punished myself with negative talk.  It didn't matter if my parents knew what I had done, I felt despair about the horrible person I was.  At 11, or 9.  14, or even 5.

My son talked to me about how "his brain just couldn't remember" and "how there was something wrong with him."

I understood his heart.  I had been there once.  It still lurks over in the darkest corners, waiting for me to forget the truth about my value, God's love for me, His Son's sacrifice, and the people in my life who see me but still they love me and choose to spend time with me.

Gently, I remind my son that he does remember things that are important to him.  How just that day, I had "caught" him doing something I had once instructed him to do.  Without being reminded. 

 How we all make mistakes.  Only God is perfect.

That tomorrow was a new day.  A chance to do it all again.  A chance to remember.

Most of all, how much we loved him.  How much I loved him.  Every bit of him, and nothing he could ever do would change my love.

((I'm very thankful that my oldest feels the need to talk about things, and that he does.  My younger son, who is five, is still learning how to listen to his heart, to talk about issues that may be bothering him.  I have to seek him out and prompt him.))

Parenting gives me a different perspective on God.  It's changed from "The Creator of the Universe finding ways to teach me a lesson, to make me become the person He wants me to be.  I must earn His love by doing better."  to "The same Creator of the Universe, holds me tight while I learn from my mistakes.  His love helps me become the person He knows I am meant to be.  His love for me is unconditional."

Thursday, February 4, 2016

My Kid in the Kitchen: Dinner and a Cooking Lesson

My nine year old chef, Matthew, has totally taken off with his cooking skills.  As a homeschooling mom who leans more towards organic, interest led learning, I get super excited every time I piece together all his accomplishments.

Note-  as much as I love and believe in the "organic, interest lead learning process", I still struggle with traditional schooling habits.  I guess you could say that this journey is not only about my children's education, but my continued education, too.

Matt independently made a spaghetti dinner.  He even browned the hamburger.  (Gulp!  Not sure why, but that was hard for me to let him do.)

Matthew, his brother, and two of their friends made chocolate chip oatmeal bars while I washed dishes.  One of their friend's, who is a natural leader, read the recipe and gave instructions.  The other three took turns measuring, pouring, and mixing.

Our neighbor invited Matt over to her house for a cooking lesson.  He made cheesecake and pizza dough.  I looked at the recipes he brought home and was thrilled to see that he had written part of it out.

It was a wonderful weekend full of delicious cheesecake!

The pizzas that Matt made with his pizza dough.  He needed help rolling it out because it was still cold from being in the fridge.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

If Only

If only my husband didn't have to go to work so early, I would be able to start my day with exercising.

If only my children slept in a little later, I would be able to get into the habit of reading my bible.

If only I wasn't working full time, I would have more time to read.

If only we had our finances in order, I would be happier.

If only I went to bed earlier, I would be able to get up earlier and get more done.

If only I had our house more organized, I wouldn't have to spend so much time cleaning.

If only I didn't (fill in this blank with just about anything), then I could read more books.

If only things were different, I would be able to enjoy life to the fullest.

The "if only's" consumed my life. 
They dictated my decisions.
My journey was controlled by them.

I didn't even realize it.

Something changed.  I'm not sure what the variation was, but I hear the "if only" whisper to me and I don't let them tell me what to do.

I no longer allow not being able to do it the perfect way, or at the perfect time, to STOP ME FROM DOING IT AT ALL.

I get the extra hour of sleep, and exercise at 10:30 in the morning.  Or 4:00 in the afternoon.  Or, 9:00 at night.

I read my bible while my children are awake.  Sometimes it's first thing in the morning and sometimes it's right before I go to bed.

I exercise three times a week.  Four times a week.  Sometimes, two times a week.

I lowered my standards for a perfect, ready for a magazine shoot ready home.   There are spots where clutter has taken over.  There is dirt on the floor from the kids... and the dog.  Guess what, we live here.  Not just for show. It's for the messy, loving, music making, silly jokes, project starting (hopefully completing), baking, playing, cleaning, stepping over that toy on the floor, LIVE here kind of life.

I won't be happier with more money.  We have all the money we need right now, and I will keep trying.  Spending, saving, giving, paying, sacrificing, splurging, and throwing the whole spreadsheet out the window to start from scratch.

I go to bed when I need to.  I know I need about 8 hours of sleep per night, and on average, that's what I get.  I go to sleep when I need to, and I get up when I need to.  No need to over-complicate my life.

I found ways to read more books.  The Overdrive App and listening to audio-books I've checked out from the library with this app has changed my life.  I listen to them as I get ready, as I clean, as I make dinner, as I drive, and as I exercise.  Yet, I still love to feel the weight of the book in my hand.  The smell of the paper.  The action of turning the crisp pages, makes my heart sing.  So, I read.  I consume books from the library like I have never done before.  I read while my kids are watching a show.  I read while they're in the tub.  I read while they play outside, at the playground, or with each other.  I read until my eyes get so heavy, I can't keep them open.  Then, I turn on my audiobook, set the timer, and wait to fall asleep.

I have a long, long way to go.  There is so much more to learn, explore, experience, and enjoy.

Today I will not wait for things to come in line.  I won't even give the expert's advice a second thought.

The "if only's" belong in the past.  The "going to's" are the present, and the "I have's" are my future.

Friday, January 22, 2016

My Kid In the Kitchen: Boxed Cake with Homemade Frosting

Matthew is nine (and a half), and wants to be the next Master Chef, Jr.  I am his mother and I have serious control issues when it comes to the kitchen.  Can we say OCD?  Yet, I am on this homeschool journey to raise children who are not only academically intelligent, but creative, responsible, and interdependent.

(Please note: you do not have to be homeschooling your children to journey with me.  That little piece of info simply lets you in on my frame of mind.)

He's failed at cakes before by not adding the right amount of certain ingredients.  This time, the cake turned out just right.

The frosting recipe is from my Godmother.  This was the first time I stood back and watched him independently read the recipe and make it...

("I think I know that 8's too high")

...and frost it.

(With a clean shirt.)

Serve it.

I watched as my son felt the thrill of accomplishment.  He successfully completed a life skill from beginning to end, without the help of his recovering-control-freak mother.

The house was still standing. 
The world was still spinning.

All there was left for me to do was to eat cake.

How Young Children Learn Video #3, Encouragement

How Young Children Learn Video #3, Encouragement

By focusing on all the wonderful behaviors and skills that your child displays, and communicating them to your child, you will be giving them a positive association with music and with learning.

You can find the first two videos by following the links below.

How Young Children Learn Video #2, Enjoyment

These videos are designed to explain to parents how to help their child get the most out of the Music for me classes.  This specific video talks about how important it is for the children to enjoy the classes, and how by letting your child go at their own pace will help them feel comfortable, supported, and ready to learn.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

My Kid In the Kitchen: Calzones

Wednesday's are super busy for us.  With only 25 minutes between art class and music classes, I try to pack a lunch for us.  Saves a little money and slightly healthier.

I was up first this morning and got the dough ready for the calzones.  Then, I asked Matt to finish them for me.  With a little extra encouragement (he got bored), he completed all of the calzones.  Cutting the dough, rolling out each piece, filling them with cheese and pepperoni, basting them with garlic oil, and sprinkling them with Italian Seasoning.  He got carried away with that one!

Such an easy, portable lunch.

How Children Learn, Preparation

Good morning!  I'm doing a series about how children learn for the parents of the children in the Music for me classes that I'm teaching.

Although I specifically talk about it in the context of my music class, these methods and concepts can be applied to other areas as well.

The first video is about preparing your child for what's to come.  A step that can easily get overlooked in our busy lives.

For more information on the Music for me classes, visit my Facebook page.

Friday, January 15, 2016

My Kid in the Kitchen: Deviled Eggs

I'm a teeny tiny bit of a control freak in the kitchen.  ((Small)). My oldest son, Matthew, is 9 1/2 and wants to be the next Master Chef Jr.  It's hard for me to let go, let him try, allow mistakes to happen, and look at the mess.

Here's the thing- It's good for him to try.  It's great for him to make mistakes, and it's even better that he learns to clean up after himself.

He asked to make deviled eggs and I said yes.  After watching a video about it on YouTube, he was ready to go.

They turned out super yummy!