Excerpts of Erynn

a blog about… nothing in particular and everything at once

I Got a Tattoo… Two Years Ago July 21, 2017

Filed under: Depression,diary — Erynn Sprouse @ 11:44 pm

Photo Jul 21, 11 19 56 PMToday marks two years of (more) freedom. Today marks two years since I committed in permanent ink in my skin to cleaning up my self-talk. It’s two years of learning, of growing, of progress. Sometimes it’s felt like two steps forward, one step back. Sometimes it’s felt like three steps back, for that matter. But I’ve come a long way in my journey with depression and suicidality (for one thing, I can say/ type that word! It doesn’t feel like it holds the power or shame over me that it did… though it still makes me nervous!). Here are some things I’ve learned and worked to ingrain for myself…

  • It doesn’t matter what others think. It matters whether or not I’m living up to God’s standards, and it matters what my husband thinks. Other than that, no one’s opinion matters even one whit (which is not to say that their advice is meaningless, unwanted or useless… but once a decision is made, others’ opinions become moot).
  • Taking care of myeslf is not only okay; it’s necessary.
  • It’s okay to have a down day, and it doesn’t have to be a down day by global standards. Denying a down day only makes it worse.
  • Things don’t have to be perfect to work (see the flub in my tattoo next to the “y”?)
  • Photo Jul 21, 11 17 32 PMAn ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Maybe two. If I keep up my self-care, or at least most of it, things go much better for me.
  • Sometimes self-care isn’t fun, but it’s still necessary. (Flossing? Blah)
  • Word definitions matter. Things get twisted on a blue day. Words that might be harmless one day get redefined, and turned into weapons. This is one of IB‘s best tricks lately. “Silly” means “fun” on a good day, but on a bad day, it means “frivolous and bird-brained” (don’t we say some ugly things to ourselves? I’d never call someone else bird-brained!).
  • I can turn a down day around… at least somewhat.
  • Some of my down days are hormonally related. It seems like since I had my youngest, depression is a PMS symptom for me. So is a SERIOUS hankering for chocolate, and when that time rolls around, I indulge moderately. Chocolate really is medicinal, y’all. ;)

My list could go on and on. But I’m so excited about this progress. There’s a passage in the book Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand** (it’s not in the movie) about the stranded soldiers in a partially deflated raft with sharks below, occasionally rubbing their backs on the bottom of the raft. The guys on the raft don’t know when a shark might jump over the edge and try to drag them down into the depths… and THAT is what depression felt like. It felt like one wrong move would bring the sharks. I felt the sharks just below the surface always. If they swam away for a moment, it wasn’t a relief, it was a terror that when they struck, it would be doubly hard.

But not so now.

The day after I got my tattoo, it felt like the sharks sank 10′ down. In sight, yes. But not so ever-present. Today, they usually feel out of sight. I don’t think it was the tattoo itself (ink in skin is not an anti-depressant). I think it was the acknowledgement of my problems and issues, and the irreversible commitment to (and thus the major step toward) healing. [I almost put “indelible” instead of “irreversible.” That would’ve been punny. ;) ]

Photo Jul 21, 11 07 06 PM

My hair went from several inches past my shoulders to touching the tops and lots of layers. By the way, some numbers say I’m a millennial, but my selfie skills say I’m not. Haha!

Today I spent the end of the day by myself, out and about. Honestly, it took some pushing from my husband for me to do it. But I’m glad I did. This morning I decided I wanted to celebrate this anniversary, and I knew just how I wanted to do it. I feel like I’ve come a long way in fixing my inner monologue, cleaning up my self-talk, and now I want to shift my focus towards self-care. My plans were along those lines. I wanted to go get my hair cut (something I haven’t done in over two years) and I wanted to sit at Starbucks and reflect on & write about the past two years. Over the course of the day, IB did his best to turn my planned celebration and self-care into a silly self-indulgence. And it worked. Once I handed the kiddos over to Jeremy and was trying to pick out a new hairstyle, the twister’s twisting had done its work. But Jeremy encouraged me to go. And my dear best friend (who always takes his side!! Sometimes I tease her that I need a new best friend who will take MY side every once in a while!!) encouraged me to go. So I did. I got my hair cut. The sweet stylist didn’t even charge me for the shampoo & style that she should’ve, so I tipped generously and was still able to go get some of the products she’d used to fix my hair (in cheaper Walmart-available versions).

Photo Jul 21, 11 21 48 PM

Then I took myself out to dinner, and did some journaling while I ate, and now I’m sitting at Starbucks in the warm July (amazingly bug-less!!) night air… writing this.

 

Before I sign off, I want to make something very, very clear. I am NOT saying that what worked for me will work for everyone. I am NOT saying that I have found the solution for depression and suicidality. I am saying that this has really helped me, and I’m glad, and I’m inviting you to be glad with me. That’s it. If any of it helps you, too, fantastic. But I have no way to know whether it will or not, so if you need help, then please, please, please GET HELP. Get whatever help you need, and the sooner, the better.

**I really enjoyed the book Unbroken, BUT… you’ve heard of cussing like a sailor, right? Well, sounds like some soldiers in the Army aren’t much different in that regard. There are definitely some R-rated things in there.

Part One: I Got a Tattoo
Part Two: Bad Day
On self-care/ prevention/ helps: What to Do on a Blue Day

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Review: 15 Healthy & Gluten Free Meals in under 2 Hours January 14, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Erynn Sprouse @ 9:03 pm

Today’s mission was this:

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To be quite clear, this post is NOT going to explain how to make 15 meals in under 2 hours. For that, you’ll have to go to the original source (which– spoiler alert– I highly recommend you do). This post is to get down what we thought, to explain how we did it, and what I’d do differently if/ when we do it again.

Cost: about $140

  • The plan is FREE
  • We already had some of the staples and all the THM-specific ingredients (they could’ve been substituted for non-THM ingredients anyway)
  • We shopped at Aldi and HEB
  • We bought all the foil pan things, but I don’t think I would next time (more on that below)
  • We have a bunch of freezer bags leftover and some other ingredients too.
  • We’ll need to purchase things like low carb tortillas, fajita toppings and some veggies for side dishes later, but c’mon… $140 for 15 meals that will feed my crowd of 8??? That’s awesome.

Time: waaaay more than 2 hours

  • We really weren’t in a hurry and didn’t even try to get it done in under 2 hours. I bet if we had been, my husband and I coulda knocked it out in about 45 minutes, not counting cooking time.
  • Meh… who am I kidding? We have six kids (five of them under 10) running around. No way we could get it done that quickly. ;)

The plan: 4.5 of 5 stars

  • It’s FREE. Honestly, I’m amazed Jen at WorkingatHomeschool is offering it for FREE (did I mention it’s FREE?). There *is* a lot of advertising on the site. Just slightly above average for a blog, I’d say. She has several other free plans, too, including Trim Healthy Mama (THM) friendly breakfast burritos, which is what I think I might try next.
  • Downloadable, PDF format, 9 page packet. In the packet, there are lots of helpful things. The things I found most helpful were the shopping list,  prep directions, instructions for prep stations, and the step-by-step directions. There are two inventory sheets in there too, but I have a different system (which I’ll share further down in this post).
  • I do kinda wish there were suggestions for sides because I stink at coming up with those.

The recipes

  • This is meant to be for Trim Healthy Mama followers, so if you don’t have the cookbook, you’re pretty well sunk.
  • We haven’t had any (except one) of these recipes before, so I can’t vouch for them, but they look great. I don’t think we’ve had any THM recipes we didn’t like. Well… except for the smoothie that had okra in it. Not too shocking that we didn’t like that one.
  • Some are stupid-easy. Which… to be honest, makes me feel a little silly to be freezer prepping them, but it’s like my sweet hubby pointed out: that’s just less work, so isn’t that a good thing?
  • I love that several of the chosen recipes are Fuel Pull. That means I can make it whatever I need it to be (S or E or even keep it FP) with the side dishes.

What we did differently this time & what we’d do differently next time:

  • Next time, I would only buy 2 square foil pans. You’ll see why below.
  • BLT Frittata (S):
    • *someone* forgot to put the bacon in. I didn’t cry… but kinda wanted to. ;)
    • We had too much mix for the two foil pie pans, and ended up putting it into three.
    • The third one was a bit smaller, so we think we might send it to the office with Jeremy or maybe give it to someone else. Either way, it’d be nice to be able to pull out individual pieces, so I cut it and put parchment separators between the pieces
    • Next time, I’d make it in two square foil pans… and remember to add the bacon. Actually, next time I’d probably just skip this recipe. My gang aren’t frittata people.
  • Wacha Want Mexican Chicken (FP): We just dumped the salsa in the bag of chicken without dividing it into gallon size bags.
  • Mama’s Famous Meatloaf (S):
    • We used half ground turkey, half 85% lean ground beef.
    • We cooked the meatloaf rather than freezing it raw. There’s a note that she froze it raw with the sauce on top and it was “juicy.” Seemed better to cook it before freezing it. We’ve frozen other meatloaves raw in the past, though.
    • The meatloaf shrank a lot, so we dumped off the fat, wrapped it in foil and put it in a gallon-size bag with a baggie  of the sauce in with it. More freezer space!
    • Next time I’d just make it in my regular 9×13 pan.
  • Papster Thighs (S): This is really just chicken thighs with seasoning on it, so instead of using foil pans, we just put the seasoning in a baggie and stapled it to the bag of chicken with instructions written on the baggie.
  • Slow Fajitas (FP): Next time I’d make it with venison.
  • Balsamic Chicken (FP):
    • I kinda jammed everything for one recipe into one gallon-sized bag. Next time, I’d dump the ingredients straight into the frozen bag of chicken.
    • Instead of chicken broth, I added water and chicken bouillon powder (probably not *technically* on plan… don’t tell the THM police).

As promised, my freezer inventory system explained… It’s really not complicated. I have a paper inside a sheet protector posted inside one of my cupboards that says “In the Deep Freeze.” I wrote the name of each item on a little post-it– color coded, one item per post-it– and stuck it to the sheet protector. For example, today I made three batches of Balsamic Chicken, so I put three “Balsamic Chicken” post-its on the inventory page. When I use something, I take off the post-it and toss it.

 

The spider incident October 29, 2016

Filed under: diary,Marriage — Erynn Sprouse @ 5:47 pm

Spiders and I… we’re not really friends. There’s a meme with a house up in flames and the caption, “There was a spider, I panicked. But I think it’s gone now.” I don’t know… sounds like a pretty reasonable response to me.

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The other day I was driving our 12 passenger van when I spotted a rather large jumping spider just to the left of the windshield.

In other words, it was only about 12″ from my head.

I’d like to tell you that I calmly pulled over the van and smashed the thing, but that wouldn’t really be blog-worthy, now would it? And I wouldn’t get to tell you the best part. But more on that in a minute.

It took some deep breaths to do it smoothly, but I got the van pulled onto the shoulder of the road, slammed it into park, and clambered over to the passenger side.

Isaiah is my spider guy. He finds them fascinating and really enjoys learning about them. We have a long-standing agreement, though: he kills them when I ask. I don’t think he minds, anyway. He’s done it enough times that he knows the drill pretty well. Don’t take a shot unless you know it’s going to land. A disappeared spider is worse than a spider in plain view (you know spiders like to ambush, right?).

Isaiah came forward, shoe in hand, ready to do his duty, but the spider was sly, and stayed in the nooks, crannies and crevices where Isaiah couldn’t get it. Meanwhile, my panic was rising. I called Jeremy, but he didn’t answer the first time… or the second… or the fifth. When I finally got to talk to him, I explained the situation, and told him he needed to come immediately.

While we waited, the boys and I watched that spider constantly. The only time I took my eyes off of it was when I was checking to make sure the State Trooper across the highway was still occupied. I was sure he’d seen us and would come over as soon as he was finished with the semi he’d pulled over, and that was a conversation I didn’t want to have. There’s just no good way to explain that you’re pulled off the road and standing on the running board of your van because you’re scared of a spider smaller than a nickel. I’m all for backing the blue, but I’d rather not be their source of entertainment.

When Jeremy arrived, he asked where the spider was and in less than a minute, the creeper was on the asphalt. Jeremy hugged & kissed me and said, “Now let’s get out of here before the police man comes over here” (read my mind!).

So he rescued me. But that wasn’t the best part. The best part was at 3:08.

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“It was my privilege.”

There could be no better response. He didn’t laugh at me, chide me, or even smirk. He counted it his honor to save me from fright and embarrassment. I’ve thought a lot about that statement. His privilege. How so? Well, he’s the only one I’d have called without hesitation. He sees a side of me, knows depths of me that no one else knows. And not only does he love me anyway, but he considers it a privilege.

And that’s simply… well… I just don’t have the words.

 

 

What to do on a blue day October 27, 2016

Filed under: Depression,diary — Erynn Sprouse @ 10:31 pm
Tags: ,

I’ve written here before about my issues with depression… though, to call it “depression” somehow feels grandiose, like an overstatement. I suppose the label doesn’t particularly matter. Whatever it is, it’s gotten better (so much better!) and less frequent, too. Still… there are days like today. On days like today, I feel… fragile. Scared. Anxious. Small. Incapable. Wilted. I second (and third) guess everything I do. Everything feels much bigger than it really is. A cloak of sadness, melancholy, blue hangs on my shoulders, wraps itself around me, mutes all the colors, casts a fog over my mind, and makes everything difficult…

But it’s just a blue day. It’s nothing like these days used to be before I got my tattoo. It would be hard to express just what an amazingly effective and positive tool my tattoo has been. Even on blue days, I don’t have thoughts of ending my “sentence.” I’m not scared of myself or what I might do. I’m MUCH more in control. And I know the blue will pass (I can say that it’s just a blue day).

Another huge difference between then and now and is that I’ve learned what to do. It isn’t exactly that I’ve learned how to help  dig myself out, but I have learned some things that help me cope, get along, not sink… and I drew this to help remind myself of the tools I can use. I hope it’ll be of use to someone else, too.

 

The first thing I do when I start to feel that cloak settling down on me is to eat. Something. Anything. Usually, if I think about it, I realize that I haven’t eaten in some time. The next thing I do is either sing or put on some music. Then I text my best friend. From there, it’s survival mode. If I were sick with the flu, getting better would be the focus of my attention. It’s kind of like that with a blue day. I’ve learned to give myself permission to shift focus from getting stuff done to meeting basic needs (mine and the kids’). Sometimes the blue cloak comes out of nowhere, but usually I find that it comes when I’ve been neglecting self-care. If I use my tools constantly and consistently, I can pretty much keep the blues away.

If you read this and have questions about any of this, I’d be happy to help in any way I can; just leave a comment with your question or if you’d rather talk privately, just say so, and I’ll contact you by the email address you register with.

In HIS service,
Erynn

 

 

Christmas Season Begins! December 3, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Erynn Sprouse @ 2:24 am

Around here, we have a few favorite traditions, and here are some pictures about them!
  Wall of Thankfulness— throughout the Christmas season, the kids get to draw about things they’re thankful for on a giant piece of paper tacked to the wall. It’s a great way to focus on blessings… and an easy thing to send them to do when they’re making me crazy… err… I mean when they need an activity.

  
Charlie the Christmas Chimp— He’s a (distant) cousin to the Elf on the Shelf, and quite closely related to the Christmas Mouse. Charlie announces fun activities, hands out good deed assignments, praises the kids for good behavior, brings treats… whatever we want him to do. Last year he married Charlene and the boys got to plan their wedding reception (the crazy chimps eloped). Today was Charlie’s debut for this Christmas season and the first assignment was as it has been the last few years: make him a house. This year, Charlie specifically requested the house be decorated (he’s married now, you know. No bachelor pads here!) and the boys came thru. They made plenty of art, complete with Spirograph frames. There’s a Christmas tree, a pet in its own cozy tube, and even bracelets and a necklace on a “stand” for Charlene. They didn’t forget to decorate the chimps’ ceiling either, where they’ve taped a portrait of the happy couple. 

  
Annual Ornament— each year, each kid picks a new ornament. We try to encourage them to pick an ornament that means something, but often it’s simply one they like. It gets labeled with the kids name or initials (depending on space) and the year. Each year, they get to hang their own ornaments on the tree. The rest of the tree gets filled with candy canes– a tradition we carried over from my family. When we’re done decorating the tree, we have cups of eggnog by the tree and this year we added a toast with “clinking” of glasses. 

  
  

Snowball fight— okay… we live in Texas. So obviously, this isn’t a literal snow ball fight. But “snowball fight” sounds much better than “balled up grocery bag fight,” even though the second is more accurate. This happens on Christmas Day and I’m looking forward to it. We run around and throw the “snowballs” at anyone and everyone and it’s just a ton of fun. This is actually a tradition we took up after an ill-advised attempt to establish a traditional silly string fight (silly string stains white walls. Who knew?).

These are some of my favorite traditions. There are more (so many more!) because… I don’t know. Traditions are very important to me. I like the way “we always… (did this or that)” bonds a family and makes the holiday special. Schedules and routines give me hives, but their cousin tradition is a welcome glue and memory maker.

I’d love to hear about your favorite Christmas traditions!

 

Bad Day (Or… I Got a Tattoo, pt 2) September 8, 2015

Filed under: Depression,Uncategorized — Erynn Sprouse @ 11:08 pm

I Got a Tattoo, pt 1

I knew this day would come. I knew that one day IB would be stronger than I could handle with three little words. When I was relying on a bracelet, these are the days when IB declared victory by practically ripping the leather from my wrist. If it had been anything weaker than leather, IB would have shredded it, sending the message that there would never be a day when he was not reigning.

And today was one of those days.

Love was not prevailing. I could find no love for myself, only fallings and flaws. Could find no patience for my husband, only failings and flaws. There is a victory here, though, because even with IB so very loud today, I did not yell. I did not have a single outburst. I found love to give to my children. I saw them smile, cherished their laughter, participated in their sillies and even made time to read to my little redheaded ray of sunshine.

But inside me, inside my head, it was dark today. Even now there is so little hope. And really, that’s why I’m writing. There is a little hope. And I want to capture it, want to fan it.

I knew this day would come and so I took measures to prepare against it.

Tonight I stood beside my bed, mid-diaper change, and wept. Sobbed. My little daughter stared up at me, unsure of what to do and, as even babies will do, wondered how to fix this. It was all there on her little puzzled face. She smiled tentatively, her eyes searching my face… and my face smiled, but my eyes did not. I could find nothing positive about me or my training of my children or my service as a child of God or my role as a wife. And for a moment I wanted to give up on this whole only love idea. And I started to say to myself… or rather, IB started to tell me… “‘Only love today’ Hah! Not today. No love today. That dumb tattoo doesn’t work. Nothing works and you’ll never win.” And that’s when I heard the lie. The tattoo does work. Because I CAN’T give up on trying, on striving for love for me and love for those around me. It’s still there, IB. My pledge is still there. I promised more than just that I wouldn’t end it all; I promised I would try and try and try, that I would strive and I would fight. Yes, today was hard. Yes, today all I see is the wrong and the failings and the flaws and it all seems cracked. Yes, today it seemed that I live in a perpetual state of cards thrown up in defeat.

BUT I DON’T.

I gave that up.

I gave up giving up. I quit being a quitter. I released myself from all of that. I don’t do it any more. I keep on. I trudge on. I promised I would and I sealed it with ink on my body where I see it every day, nearly every moment.

But today I had a bad day.

IB wants to tell me that I don’t get to have a bad day. It wasn’t a found-out-a-dear-one-died day. And it wasn’t a hurricane-destroyed-my-life day. And it wasn’t a fleeing-violent-war day. It wasn’t even a got-a-bee-sting day. IB wants to say that today wasn’t a bad day, that I’m just a baby. He wants me to believe that since nothing bad happened that it wasn’t a bad day and I don’t get to claim it. Because if it wasn’t just a bad day, then this is my life. The failings and the flaws and all the cracks… if this wasn’t just a bad day, then these are my life.

But he lies.

It was a bad day.
But he’s right, also. Or partly right: the failings and the flaws and the cracks are part of my life.

But that’s completely okay. Perfection is not required. Keeping on, trudging on… those things are required, and those things I can do. I promised to do. And you know what? It isn’t a bad day now. IB went quiet when I called him on his lies.

The tattoo was a good idea.

 

What You Don’t See August 13, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Erynn Sprouse @ 7:00 pm

Homeschool moment

I posted this picture on Instagram & Facebook today captioned “#HomeschoolMoment Geography for big boys, Evelyn admiring her cute self, blocks for Ean & Joey.” A friend commented and said I was the bomb [dot] com. Oh me, oh my! That’s very kind… but NOT me!

Whenever homeschooling comes up, one of the most common responses I hear is that the mom I’m talking to couldn’t possibly homeschool her kids because she’s not ____ enough. She says she’s not smart enough, not organized enough, not patient enough, not… enough. And no matter what I say about how you don’t really have to be ____ to homeschool, they never believe me. Now, I really enjoy posting “homeschool moment” pictures, but it occurs to me, maybe these pictures aren’t helping this “not enough” notion. I want them to be a glimpse into our life for friends and family, a show-n-tell of how fun homeschooling is and a record for me of our blessed and privileged days. What I do NOT want is for it to be a magazine perfect image or unrealistic standard-setter for others to beat themselves up with.

So here’s what you don’t see in that picture…

Those are yesterday’s clothes. And not because they woke up and put them back on. They slept in them, then got up and went about the day. All of the kids. Except Joey, that is… yesterday he was wearing underwear (pants too). In fact, I took the picture off of social media because I realized that in the original picture you *do* see some of what you shouldn’t see.

couch piled high with clothes waiting to be folded is on the other side of the room from those intense looking block builders.

That was our third attempt to get the geography lesson done. We’d been interrupted several times already.

Ketchup on the playmat (I wiped it off). About 45 minutes earlier, Ean had squirted ketchup at Joey. No reason. He just thought it would be fun. When I called him in to ask him about it, he was smirking. Ohhhh that pushes my buttons! I *almost* lost it. Instead, I took a deep breath and whispered “Get out of my sight.” Definitely could’ve chosen better words, but I didn’t yell at him. A few minutes later he came back and I got the story out of him, then sent him back to his room to think up three ways of having fun with his brothers that didn’t involve ketchup (or any other condiments) and wouldn’t land him in trouble.

But back to Evelyn… That playmat playing only lasted about 15 minutes. Most of the time, school happens when she’s asleep. Otherwise, she’s hanging out on my hip or in my Boba. Those 15 minutes? Rare and golden.

It was 1:47 PM and we hadn’t had lunch yet. Now, for us, that’s pretty typical. I like to say we run on a European schedule (even though we’ve never been there). It used to flip me out (how will my children ever function in the REAL world where everyone ALWAYS eats lunch at noon?! Oh… wait…) but then I met a friend of a friend whose non-schedule ran a lot like my non-schedule and her nearly grown kids were pretty awesome.

Don’t get me wrong, though… We’re calling this day a victory for sure. I wanted to quit. Almost closed up the books and sent the kids outside. But the lightbulb went on: PRAY! So we prayed. We prayed that I would be patient, that the kids would be patient, that they would understand that their momma is only human and they would learn the good things from my example and somehow miss the bad. We prayed and then we pressed on and we got about half a day’s worth of work done. I guess I’m kind of glad that this picture looks like I’m the bomb dot com kinda mom… because I know what really happened. And I can look at everyone else’s bomb dot com mom pics and remember that maybe what I don’t see is just like what I do see here. :o)