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5 Year Anniversary

October 7, 2017
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How Keith n’ Jess got started:

A snippet of a conversation I documented, March 2011~

“I was just going to talk to you today about how I can’t do this ‘taking it slow’ thing anymore. I want you to be mine.” -K
“I’m not scared anymore. And I’m okay with having you forever. Are you ready?” -J
“Yeah I’m ready.”
“Sure?”
“I’ve made my decision.”
“Then let’s do it.”

In September of 2017 we celebrated 5 years of commitment to each other.

I am so thankful for us, and I love the life we have built together.

To be honest, I feel insecure about my life *only* when I think about how it must seem from the outside looking in. I do not think I have an enviable life when up against society’s measuring stick. Keith and I, we are poor. We live in a very old apartment in which our children share a bedroom and we do not spend money on any vacations or personal luxuries. Everything we own is either cheap or handed down. We also both struggle with 2 opposite mental disorders which can cause conflict between us. We are often over-worked, overwhelmed by outside life circumstances, sleep deprived, and exhausted (which we’ve learned to call adulthood). Despite all of that- or maybe even because it eliminates the pressure of living up to anyone’s expectations- I can’t help but feel consistently, sincerely, and deeply grateful for what I have and the life I live with Keith.

I feel so thankful. I’m thankful that I still feel very much in love with him. …I keep waiting for that feeling to fade! But now I’m beginning to wonder if it ever will. Maybe I lucked out. Haha, don’t get me wrong! There have been times I’ve been so mad, and so annoyed, and so disappointed and he’s felt the same towards me. But then he holds my hand for 30 seconds or we pause for a minute to say ‘sorry’ or we just make fun of ourselves and laugh it out, and all the sudden my heart is full again and I can’t get enough of him.

I appreciate using him as a sounding board to sort through confusing emotions. I enjoy cuddling, watching him love our children, receiving chocolates, and the many wonderful surprise homemade meals he cooks up.

I love you, Keith! I’m happy to have launched Year Six with you. Here’s to another year of adventure (Lord, have mercy!) and holding on tight to one another while we weather the storm.

Categories: Ciao Bella Vita : Daily Journal

First Day of Fourth Grade

September 23, 2017
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My baby is growing up. From cute to adorable to handsome!

baby adry

First Day of Kindergarten

First Day of Kindergarten

 

First Day of Fourth Grade

First Day of Fourth Grade

I think that, up until a few days ago, I was in denial about the challenges a new school, new expectations, the cusp of pre-teenhood, and new hormones would bring. I figured the challenges would creep up one-by-one, gradually. But instead they came as a tidal wave and within the span of an evening I transitioned from being the mom of a kid dealing with simple kid issues, to the mom of a kid with complexities and confusion and insecurities. Like, I should have known that this is the year kids start being hypertuned to what others think.

For example, in first grade when we attempted to get Adry into flag football he was far more concerned with chatting with friends on the field than winning or points or anything else. His teammates would be yelling, come on, Adry, get the ball! And he’d say, but I was talking! I was more than fine with that! I was like, my kid doesn’t give a damn… that’s fantastic. But now, since he’s not macho/coordinated/fourth-grade-gym-class-soccer-champion, it’s become a part of his identity– not good enough, not cool enough, not enough, less than, unworthy. And it’s not just gym class, it’s everything. It’s breakin’ my HEART! As his 33 year old mother who’s been there done that I wish I could just tell him it doesn’t even matter at all but of course I know I can’t say that because that’s not true. It does matter. At least to him, right now in his life, it does matter. And telling him it doesn’t demeans these feelings he has that are great big and overwhelming to him.

But I guess Adry has always been a complex kid, and I’ve found it to be challenging yet endearing because it gives him layers and depth. He’s never been comfortable on the surface. He suppresses, analyzes, explores self-awareness, and inevitably we sometimes endure the mini-emotional breakdowns that coincide with such a personality.

Other things about Adry remain the same: he’s a great big brother that loves his little sister; he’s brave and loves to try thrilling new things (roller coasters, high dives); and he loves the same group of school buddies. His eyes are turning hazel and his hair is blonder than ever. He loves YouTube and video games and playing with friends. I am thankful that he is confident I will be his biggest supporter and his biggest advocate and he can talk to me about anything. That means the world to me. I love him so very much.

So. Fourth grade! …Hold on to yo’ butts.

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Categories: Ciao Bella Vita : Daily Journal

Summer of ’17 (Part II)

September 16, 2017
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Ella Bella <3s Tara Bear

Playing Doggies

Playing Doggies at Tara’s Birthday Party

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playtime at Tara's house

Playtime at Tara’s House

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Version 2

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Taylor J. got married!

This kid:

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grew up, got even taller, and became a husband. And I can’t even process it because, like, wait, wasn’t this ^^^ just last month or something?

Ryan was his wedding DJ and introduced the newlyweds and their bridal party to the Blues Brother’s theme song, which was perfect.

It’s always nice to be reunited with the good ol’ Family Frens. I love them all and I am thankful for each of them.

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Dad turned 55!

He set up some yard games, and Ella was the true badminton champ.

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This is what it looks like to be 55. He was riding this kids’ bike trying to dodge golf discs that were being hurled at him. Happy birthday, Dad! 😀

Ella The Artist 

Fun in Grandpa Sanders’ Garage

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Labor Day Poolside Fun

We like to say goodbye to summer by enjoying the Grandview pool on the last day of the season that it’s open.

Adry n' Grandma

Adry n’ Grandma

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The pool wears Eleanor out. She has to take catnaps during each break period.

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Goodbye, Summer 2017! 

 

Categories: Ciao Bella Vita : Daily Journal

Summer of ’17 (Part I)

September 9, 2017
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I am so behind on my journaling. I am going to try to combine a bunch of my summer photos in a couple of big huge picture posts. Here y’go!

Fourth of July

was a lot of fun.

We experienced Red White & Boom at Audubon Park, and I loved it so much there I want to make it my yearly Red White & Boom tradition.

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Thanks for this photo, Matt.

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The next day we went to the Dublin fireworks and saw Peter Frampton live! After the show we were so close to where they set off the fireworks it was probably literally one of the very best displays I’ve ever experienced. I was mesmerized!

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Park of Roses Picnic

I adore this park.

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Photo Cred: Rebecca

Photo by Rebecca

Photo Cred: Rebecca

Photo by Rebecca

Photo Cred: Rebecca

Photo by Rebecca

Attempted Potterfest

For just a minute (30 seconds?) Eleanor was Hedwig and Adry was Dumbledore!

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But Potterfest was a bust. It pretty much went like this:

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A trip to Grandpa’s Cheesebarn and Sweeties made up for it for some of us!

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Misc.

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Adry at Niagra Falls with his dad and Grandma Ellwood

Adry at Niagra Falls with his dad and Grandma Ellwood

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Me n' My Girl

Me n’ My Girl

Eleanor learned how to help with household chores (and enjoyed splashing in a pool and visiting Carl the Turtle and other fun things) with Grandma Martin this summer!

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She also had many great adventures with Aunt Alexz while she was on summer break!

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And Grandpa Sanders, too!

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Dress enhanced by Grandma Martin

Dress enhanced by Grandma Martin

Adry on Lake Eerie during a trip with his dad

Adry on Lake Eerie during a trip with his dad

 

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Spoiled by Grandma Sanders– new dress up shoes and clothes just because

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And although Jazz and Ribs Fest was stressful this year, this full arch double rainbow (can’t make out the second rainbow in these pics) was unforgettable.

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The Bunny Water Park/ Mt Vernon Water Park

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We took a trip to Mount Vernon for Maya’s first birthday party. The kids got to play with Logan and Lilly (my cousin’s son and niece) at the water park up there. We had a lot of fun!

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Categories: Ciao Bella Vita : Daily Journal

take a sad song, and make it better

July 1, 2017
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I never thought I’d be writing this, but I believe it is time.

A lot has been going on in my little world for years now- a lot that I’ve kept close to my chest; a lot that I haven’t talked about. I can’t talk about some of it and I don’t entirely want to talk about the rest of it. It’s been… overwhelming. Heh. I don’t even really know how I’ve held it together. My whole fucking entire world has been on my shoulders, and now that it’s in pieces, well… I’m just so apathetic about it. I mean. I fought so hard for it… and now it’s gone. I lost. It feels. so. twisted. I feel guilty for even writing that because I don’t want to offend my parents or anyone else, but sometimes when I think too hard, or think at all, I’m just… what the fuck, y’all. What the fuck. How did my life become this?

Anyway, to cut to the chase and to make a very very (very) long and complicated story short and simple— The Sanders Family is now a split family.

Dad is living apart from Mom and they’re working on a disillusion. And that’s not all! They are also both seeing people they intend to stay with. We get to navigate all the life changes at once!

Dad is with a gracious, kind, intelligent and beautiful artist named Suzanne. She is like this sociable Bohemian-esque free spirit with long flowy hair who paints for a living and has friends and stuff, haha.  For those of you who’ve known my dad all these years, your eyes are probably bugging out of your head right now. I know! mine are, too! I used to think- if anything ever happened to Mom, Dad was sure to become a hermit or something in a house full of his hundreds of hobbies. I thought that surely he’d find new instruments to play that no one has ever heard of, and spend the rest of his days playing records/listening to NPR and making things out of wood.  I am, of course, thankful that I like Suzanne, as unexpected as she is! Mom seems to be okay with Suzanne. Suzanne it seems is also willing to accept our wackadoo clan and hang out with all of us as a family… I mean, the situation at this point is as positive as one could hope… And I don’t know what else to say, y’all- that’s that! We will see how the future unfolds.

My mom has been a bit more private about her situation, so I guess I won’t talk about that yet.

Sometimes I have fantasies that we will end up like Modern Family where we are all quirky and dysfunctional AF but we are still one family, for better or worse, forever. But I am also trying not to get my hopes up, because being let down still feels raw and incredibly painful. Right now? I just don’t want to care. I’m done caring. I’m tired of caring. I have cared too intensely for far too long and it’s time to rest. Right now I just want to be selfish. Like, I want to be a child that tests my boundaries to see how unconditionally loved I actually am. (Am I?) I don’t want to be nice. (I am not not being nice!) I don’t want to try to hold this together and make this work. I need other people to figure this out.

I am thankful I have both of my parents, and they love me and my kids. I am sure to not take that for granted, and I count my blessings every day.

 

Categories: Ciao Bella Vita : Daily Journal

Easter Sunday 2017

April 29, 2017
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Adry had no interest in being a part of our Easter Selfie Sesh. We wanted him to join.

Adry had no interest in being a part of our Easter Selfie Sesh. We wanted him to join.

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Mom's Easter Sunday Lunch Table

Mom’s Easter Sunday Lunch Table

 

Blurry. Adry is helping Ella find her Easter basket.

Adry is helping Ella find her Easter basket.

Ella's bloomers kept falling off of her tiny self.

Ella’s bloomers kept falling off of her tiny self.

Chocolate!

Chocolate!

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Adry, looking for his basket

Adry, looking for his basket

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Not pictured: Mom, Dad, Uncle Matt, Aunt Alexz, Uncle J, Aunt Becca…

The kids both enjoyed Easter Service at Grace Central, as well as the toys, books, and candy in their Easter baskets. Afterward, everyone gathered for a delicious lunch, and then took a walk to the park in the neighborhood to watch the kids play.

Categories: Ciao Bella Vita : Daily Journal

A Lent Reflection, 2017

April 22, 2017
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I observe Lent in different, non-traditional ways each year. This year I did a few small things to foster some soul-searching:

  1. I visited a different church with my family each Sunday. Mostly for a learning experience. Maybe to find out if there is actually a place out there with which I feel I can identify and maybe even belong one day. I experienced High Church services, heard sermons from female pastors and gay pastors, as well pastors that said things like, “maybe this is not what you believe, and that’s okay. It’s more than okay-it’s great. But here’s how I have interpreted this passage based on the following research, and I would love to hear what you think…” I really appreciated seeing how different people worship, meditate, find center and focus, praise, connect, and learn. But our adventure is not yet complete! There’s still a couple more places on our list we’d like to try, and a couple of places we’d like to visit for a 2nd time.
  2. I used 1 or 2 lunch breaks per week to try to read through Mike McHargue’s book Finding God in The Waves. Sadly, even though I got this book on Christmas I still have not managed to finish it. So that project is still ongoing as well. It’ not a long book, and it’s an easy read-“easy” because Mike McHargue is brilliant at communicating complex ideas in terms anyone can understand. But my life is so chaotic that I have to schedule reading time, and then force myself to sit down for 20 minutes twice/week to accomplish it… Then if I come across something I want to think about, I stop reading and let it sink in. So, it takes me forever, but I am almost finished! Just about. In what I’ve read so far, I have found tremendous hope and, quite unexpectedly, great inspiration to make mindful prayer/meditation and church a priority in my life again. He has methodically addressed every issue I’ve had with faith, church, and the Bible and has offered research-based, scientific evidence on the neurological benefits of belief, prayer, and even church.

“The Loving God affects the brain in ways that are remarkably different from The Angry God. People who focus on God’s love develop thicker, richer gray matter in their prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex. This development offers them better focus, concentration, compassion, and empathy. They have lower stress levels and lower blood pressure, and it’s easier for them to forgive themselves and others. Over time, they even show less activity in the amygdala. […] Most religions involve an understanding of God that includes both love and anger. […] I find this neuroscience comforting. First, it helps me understand what causes faith to either go wrong or become a positive force in society. It also tells me that, contrary to some claims, there’s no scientific evidence that religion is bad for people. Saying ‘religion is bad’ is a lot like saying ‘eating is bad.’ Eating can be bad, but it depends on what you eat or how much you eat. Religion can be bad, but it depends on how you view God and how attached your faith is to an authoritarian system. […] Neurotheology shows us the folly of viewing the battle between faith and skepticism as a war of ideas. More than that, it shows us that most critiques of faith tend to be about the effects of authoritarian systems built on an Angry God model. When atheists criticize oppressive religious systems, I stand with them. But to paint all faith with the same brush is to oversimplify the matter, and this view ignores the insights of neuroscientists and anthropologists who find merit in healthy spiritual expression.”

3. I used my nighttime 10-15 minutes of TV/relax time to read William Barclay’s Gospel of Matthew instead.

“Christianity transforms life for the individual man. […] Christianity transformed life for women. The Jew in his morning prayer thanked God that God had not made him a Gentile, a slave or a woman. In Greek civilization the woman lived a life of utter seclusion with nothing to do beyond household tasks. […] In eastern lands it was often possible to see a family on a journey. The father would be mounted on an ass; the mother would be walking and often bent beneath a burden. One demonstrable historical truth is that Christianity transformed life for women. […] Christianity transformed life for the weak and the ill. In heathen life the weak and the ill were considered a nuisance. In Sparta a child, when he was born, was submitted to the examiners; if he was fit, he was allowed to live; if he was weakly or deformed, he was exposed to death on the mountainside. Dr. A, Rendle Short points out that the first blind asylum was founded by Thalasius, a Christian monk; the first free dispensary was founded by Apollonius, a Christian merchant; the first hospital of which there is any record was founded by Fabiola, a Christian lady. […] Christianity transformed the life for the aged. […] Christianity transformed life for the child. […] Anyone who asks the question: “What has Christianity done for the world?” has delivered himself into a Christian debater’s hands. There is nothing in history so unanswerably demonstrable as the transforming power of Christianity and of Christ on the individual life and the life of society.”

This year, the time I spent observing Lent renewed my sense of perseverance to pursue spirituality without the need to have concrete beliefs. I have found peace in my doubts, hope in the unseen and have zero desire to NEED to claim absolute truth. The TRUTH is that there is merit in belief in God, prayer & meditation, and even following Jesus’ teachings. I do not need to know that it is true beyond doubt in order to experience it and reap the benefits.

 

Categories: Ciao Bella Vita : Daily Journal

Easter Egg Hunt 2017

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Eleanor takes tumbling classes (which, by the way, is adorable. She calls it ‘BOUNCE!’ class, and she proudly shows off her splits, kicks, forward rolls, and top-notch bouncing skills). At the beginning of April we participated in the annual Easter Egg Hunt and Open Gym at the place she has BOUNCE!, and both of the kids had a great time.

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Eleanor is cheating and trying to snatch some eggs before the go-ahead.

Eleanor is cheating and trying to snatch some eggs before the go-ahead.

Grandma is helping her go through the loot.

Grandma is helping her go through the loot.

So is Big Brother.

So is Big Brother.

...using all her strength to try to open an egg by herself!

…using all her strength to try to open an egg by herself!

 

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The Mom and Dad Selfie

The Mom and Dad Selfie

Shamelessly Eating My Kids' Chocolate

Shamelessly Eating My Kids’ Chocolate

Categories: Ciao Bella Vita : Daily Journal