Tuesday, February 28, 2012

.5 inclines

In response to my friend, Laurie's, recent blog post about how misplaced priorities can sap the joy right out of motherhood I wanted to write about what she refers to as ".5 inclines." Here's the illustration she shared at her blog to provide context for you:

One helpful illustration a pastor gave was about his friend who was accustomed to running on a treadmill for exercise. His friend noticed one week that he wasn’t able to get to the same distance as easily lately. At the end of the week, he realized that the treadmill had been set at a .5 degree incline. It was just .5 degrees, but it made a huge difference in what he was able to accomplish. I think life for moms is full of .5 inclines. Maybe it’s a sick child, a teething baby, a husband working long hours, a head cold, any little thing that sets the normal pace of life at a bit of an incline. Are you feeling burdened lately by what used to feel routine? Maybe there’s a .5 incline that needs to be accommodated. You may want to make life easier somewhere else for that temporary season so that you save energy for your little “blessings”.

So, I thought I'd share some of the ".5 inclines" I have or do experience in my life and how I seek to accommodate for them so that the joy of motherhood (and marriage I might add) doesn't elude me. This is my aim. Am I always successful? No. Am I mostly successful? I would have to say no to that as well. BUT, I have grown and am growing and maybe, just maybe something here in this post might prove helpful to someone reading it.

My ongoing .5 inclines would include chronic health issues for mostly my son and myself that require an onslaught of doctors appointments from time to time. In January, we had 10. Less than some with chronic medical issues, more than others. Nevertheless, it wratchets up the stress and breaks into our routines and I would most definitely say it is a .5 incline in my daily living.

Another .5 incline would be my husband’s busy season; it runs from about mid January to late March/mid April (or so that’s how it’s supposed to go). He’s an accountant. Enough said.

I could mention other .5 inclines in my life, but these are the two biggies. Ironically, these two sets of circumstances have been occurring for almost the same amount of time in my life. My husband jumped into public accounting 8 years ago; my and my son’s health issues began about 7.5 years ago, when my boys were first born. There have been rough days here and many ugly moments, but I think I have learned something over the course of those 8 years.

Here are some ways I seek to accommodate for more stressful or demanding circumstances in my life so that I can maintain energy and joy in mothering and marriage.

Laurie wisely and aptly directed our attention to the source of all joy, Jesus, and how to derive the proper motivation and encouragement from Him in her post. My thoughts here are very practical but certainly find their heart in the wise words of my friend.


Some of the most defining moments of my day happen in the moments I take to spend reading and meditating on God’s Word and praying. However, something I’ve had to shed over the years is the guilt of not having a lengthy quiet time BEFORE everyone wakes up in the morning. This is so often prescribed at ladies’ meetings and growth groups and other contexts of the like. And, certainly there is biblical precedence and wisdom behind such advice. However, especially during my husband’s busy season, it doesn’t serve me best.

I wake rather early with my husband to make his breakfast and lunch. If I can manage to keep my eyelids open, I do try to read God’s Word and pray. But often I am nodding off even if I’m sitting in a hard back chair. So, often I will read and pray however long I can stay awake and then I let my body go back to sleep.

That’s not the end of “quiet time” for me, though. If quiet time or devotions, whatever you want to call it, were just about checking something off a list of “to do’s” for the day, it would be the end. However, for me quiet time is about communing with my Lord and hearing from Him about how to live my life, receiving encouragement and hope to take the next step of obedience.

So, I ‘do’ quiet time similar to the way I eat….I nibble all day long…a little bite here, a little bite there. I keep books in my bathroom and read when I get that rare opportunity to go. I keep my Bible and/or devotional book I’m reading at that moment with me wherever I go. Sometimes I will even take it in the car. I keep prayer lists in my car as well. I listen to the online audio-bible or a sermon during dinner prep. Nibble.nibble.nibble. And, that’s how I survive. Because my days are long and so are the nights. Mornings come early and I am always tired. But, I must eat-spiritually and physically. So, I nibble. And it serves us all for this season of our life.


Seriously, I’m still at the ponytail stage. I made a decision many years ago to stop highlighting my hair. It was costly of both my time and money. So, I do an all over color once a year and thankfully found a color that fades out into the natural color of my roots, so I never have that “you need a touch up” look. It works really well for me. I know this wouldn’t work for everyone.

Makeup—I don’t typically bother with makeup unless I’m going to a doctor’s office, church or some other event. Three days of my week, I’m at the gym anyway and don’t normally get to shower until after my kids are in bed, so I don’t bother with the morning makeup routine. That said, as I age, I am having more and more days where I look in the mirror and I can’t even stand to look at myself without makeup, so I will apply. And, I’m sure my hubby loves those days. J


A few years ago, it dawned on me that I could buy virtually anything I needed at Target. So, during LA’s busy season especially, I do. Clothes, shoes, toys, gifts, food, medicine, whatever. And, I do it at Target because it’s so close to my house I could walk there. I do not have time to shop at the mall or other clothing retailers. If we’re wearing it and it’s not a hand-me-down, we probably bought it at Target.


I don’t answer the phone and I keep the lid of my computer shut or on a different level of the house entirely on those days I’m really lacking self control. This became especially important when I began to homeschool. I could go on and on about this, but I’ll just state it that it works for me on so many levels and is necessary for me for so many reasons. Maybe it’s something that you want to consider.


The condition of my home is far lower than my ideal standard. It’s not clean like I want it to be; it’s not decorated like I want it to be. We’ve lived in our home for 9 years and have painted only 5 out of 10 spaces. Our master bedroom has pink carpet in it with a pink/green patchwork border going around it. It’s hideous. Dare I even mention the layers of dust on my bedroom blinds or window sills?

That said, I do try to keep it orderly, somewhat clean and have tried my hand at painting/decorating a little bit. When I do attend to this area, I do what I call a “quick and dirty” job of it. I don’t clean as thoroughly as I would like nor as I was taught. *sorry, mom* I can’t remember the last time I cleaned out my fridge, and believe it or not, I’m one of those people who actually enjoys cleaning. I do. I know it’s neurotic, but I do.

The few times I’ve picked up a paintbrush or sought to beautify my home in some way, it’s not meticulously done. It’s “quick and dirty.” I recently had a hole in my living room wall that was patched and had ‘mud’ on it that needed sanding and painted. I had a dinner party I was preparing for and needed it done. Hubby was gone from the time he woke up to the time he went to bed. I had to do it. I couldn’t find sand paper, so I used an electric sander. I couldn’t find a paint tray so I used newspaper to hold the paint. It got done. Was it done the right way? Nope. But, it got done. Quick and dirty.


Many might think that during a season of stress or extra demands on one’s time and energy that she should refrain from serving others. God’s Word, however, encourages me to reconsider that perspective when it says, “He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” (Proverbs 11:25). I do believe there are times when God calls us to give beyond what we believe we have to give. I have seen Him time and time again provide energy and resources and (unusually behaved children J) when I’ve chosen to serve in a season where I am giving and giving and giving of myself to my children more than usual.

On the other hand, I am also reminded of the truth posed in James 4:6 that says “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Armed with this, I do ask for help and support from others for during my .5 incline seasons. A lot. I need a lot of babysitting for the various doctors’ appointments. So, I ask. And ask. And ask again. If people have offered meals, I have said, “Yes. We’ll take that. Thanks so much!” J

In past busy seasons I have even asked friends to have the kids and me for dinner or for the afternoon as a standing appointment one day a week to get in some fellowship for me and to help pass the time by when LA’s gone most of the day or traveling.

I call (or now, text) friends A LOT to ask for prayer because I’m a weak woman. I grow faint hearted and discouraged easily. I have amazing friends who bear God’s image to me and don’t grow weary of me but rather keep encouraging me and praying for me and cheering me on when I’m in the “pity pit” and want to give up.

Likely, there are areas where I need to accommodate more effectively for the .5 inclines God brings into my life because I’m still not the model of joyful motherhood and am definitely a beast of a wife to my husband at times (oh, like all last week). Nevertheless, I have made intentional efforts at cutting things out and letting things go that end up misaligning the few things that at the end of my life I want to say really were my priorities.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


We've done it for a year now: gathered, eaten, drank, laughed and learned more than we ever thought we wanted to know about brewing beer.

Along with my husband and me, three other couples get together once a quarter to "break bread." We're not talking your run-of-the-mill grocery store Wonder bread. We're talking artisan, crusty sourdough or a brioche. And, it's not a quick trip to Panera before we gather to pick up those breads; it's a labor in the kitchen for hours to make those breads from scratch kind of group.

Most of the participants in this group, what I affectionately call "foodies", are food enthusiasts. We not only love to eat, but we love to cook and bake and try new flavor combinations. There are a few exceptions, but those are the unfortunate spouse or two who graciously come along for the ride (and free food). Overall, though, we all enjoy learning and talking about food and drinks.

Care to know some of the fine food and drink of which we've partaken? Some of my favorites have been dry rubbed ribs, pureed cauliflower, Mississippi Buck, and creme brulee.

Sometimes a theme shapes the food and drink we all contribute, and whoever hosts decides on that theme. This past Saturday Lawrence and I hosted and asked everyone to bring something red in honor of Valentine's Day. We decided on veal/chicken parmesan for the entree and sangria for a red drink.

I tried my hand at Emeril's Veal Parmesan along with his Sangria, and Giada's Chicken Parmesan. Sadly, I was not impressed with the Sangria; it was not bubbly or sweet enough as far as Sangrias go. I loved that Giada's Chicken Parmesan was not breaded or fried but used fresh herbs instead to acquire flavor. It was good and I think would have been better had I not overcooked the chicken or served it next to Emeril's Veal. Where his Sangria lacked in flavor, his veal parmesan well made up for it.

I became an Emeril fan last night. He had me at "BAM". Actually, it was his own version of Creole Seasoning which he calls Essence that made the dish so spectacular. Reading through the recipe, I was nervous about the direction he took it in, that of spicy with kicks of red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper. But, the heat is what absolutely made this dish. The pancetta in the sauce probably didn't hurt either. YUM!

We started our evening with amazing bruschetta, what my son would call "world famous", at least the world of Sovereign Grace Church of Joppa (my local church). It is a Doug Shriner recipe, and anyone who's had the privilege of eating food that Doug's made knows that it's always good. His bruschetta recipe never disappoints.

Following our appetizer, we enjoyed something new for all of us, Borscht, a Russian red beet based soup. Served with one's choice of sour cream, mayonnaise or apple cider vinegar, it was surprisingly better than its name sounds. I enjoyed mine with the tang of apple cider vinegar.

By far we left the best for last, red velvet cake. For me who tries too hard to "healthify" even the desserts we eat here at the Almengor's, the taste of good old refined white sugar, white flour and full fat cream cheese was just to die for. And, I likely would if I ate regularly as much of that cake as I did last night! Oh my!

Here are some rather fuzzy pictures of our enjoyable evening in red:

February 26, 2012 Foodies

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Bella's 5th birthday dress up tea party

My girlie had the unfortunate timing of being born during the busiest season of the year in my husband's work. He's an accountant; she was born Feb.12, 2007. So, this has meant that while the boys have enjoyed thought out, themed, eventful birthday celebrations, she has had the more traditional, simple celebrations with just our families, cake, icecream, and dinner at home, not that there's anything wrong with that. at all.

But, for Bella's fifth birthday, I decided I wanted to put forth some extra effort and throw a theme party that would include some of her favorite peeps. Asking Bella what kind of party she wanted, she immediately and confidently replied, "a dress up tea party." So, I did what every other mother in America would do and consulted Pinterest.

I found some really fun ideas there, pinned them all to my board entitled, "Bella's dress up tea party" and went to work. If you are not utilizing Pinterest yet, what's your problem? Just kidding. :) I have found it a wonderful online tool to hold all the creative and practical ideas I come upon surfing the world wide web. And, while like so many others will confess, I have lost hours of my life (usually late at night) surfing pinterest, I have also implimented a number of the items I've pinned. So, it's not a complete waste of time.

Here are some pictures from Bella's dress up tea party. You can click on the photo, and it will take you to my picasa web album where you can view a slideshow of her party pictures. Enjoy. And then go on Pinterest.com and follow all my boards. ;-)

2012-02 Bella's tea party