I blinked

My youngest turned one last week. One!

cooper 1

12 months.

52 weeks.

365 days.

8,760 hours.

535,600 minutes.

31,536,000 seconds.

There are several ways to say it – none of them easy.

Don’t get me wrong. I truly love watching my children grow and learn, but birthdays are hard. With each one, they grow a little more independent… and need me a little less. Every birthday – a reminder – they are one year closer to leaving my nest.

My three are young, and that gives me solace…

three but they won’t always be. “Empty Nesters” keep reminding me of that! They say to me, “Enjoy them while they are little. You will miss this.” Trust me – I know how right they are. Look at how fast one year has gone!

I blinked!

17 blinks from now he will be graduating from high school!

IMG_5373

17 blinks from now, his big brother will be 22.

IMG_0151

His sister? 20!

IMG_2516

Ouch. My heart.

17 blinks from now, this house will be quiet…

And clean.

I like “clean.”

I guess I will focus on that… and I will hold him during nap time…

nap

for as long as he will let me.

 

Mom Jeans

My daughter and I went to pick up lunch today. As per the norm, I sported tennis shoes and mom jeans and my hair was pulled back. I know how I looked… like I’ve “let myself go”…

I wear tennis shoes ALOT. They may not be fashion forward, but they are comfortable and help my aching feet. Feet that ache because they’ve spent the bulk of the last four years pacing the floor trying to induce sleep, fetching water and snacks, catching little bodies about to fall, and chasing after little explorers in hot pursuit of anything (and everything) dangerous. Tennis shoes help.

I wear mom jeans. I swore I never would, but here I am – denim up to my belly button. They get the job done though. Truth be told: I lost my butt sometime during one of my pregnancies, and if it weren’t for my mom jeans, I’d be sporting a plumber’s crack daily. If I have to choose between mom butt and plumber’s crack, I’ll take mom butt.

I wear my hair pulled back almost everyday. The baby likes to grab handfuls of it as he’s pulling my face in for a kiss. Baby kisses are the best. They aren’t so much kisses though. In Cooper’s case it’s more akin to him trying to eat my face. It’s the best though, and no matter what kind of day I’m having those “kisses” make my heart feel as though it might just burst.

I am carrying at least thirty extra pounds these days. The number on the scale literally hurts my feelings, but it’s not all bad. My preschooler says I’m squishy… like a marshmallow. I’d like to lose the weight, but until I do, I’m going to enjoy the extra snuggles my “fluffiness” gets me.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not above lamenting the loss of my pre-baby body and hair, I just much prefer the mom version of me to the former me. I don’t have the time I used to. I no longer have empty hours to spend shaving my legs, tweezing my brows, polishing my toes, filing my nails, and smoothing stray hairs… and you know what? I don’t lament those empty hours because they were just that: empty.

This mommy stuff is hard. It’s an oftentimes thankless job…and sometimes it makes me feel invisible…but it simultaneously gives me purpose. My kids are the best things about me, and I will gladly stand in their shadow for the rest of my days… so long as I get to stand there in tennis shoes and mom jeans.

I didn’t really let myself go. I just became a mom.

Laundry: when something is just too hard…

It’s no secret, I really struggle to put our laundry away. It is not (or wasn’t) uncommon to find [in our master bedroom] several laundry baskets of folded clothes that never made it “home.” It just seemed so hard… so I avoided it… like the plague. So there the clothes sat, on the floor, mocking me day after day. Most mornings involved digging through said baskets for clean clothes, and most evenings involved digging for pajamas. Not fun… especially for yours truly whose Type A self loathes (seriously loathes) “digging” for anything. This particular “putting away laundry” problem was really wearing on me to the point that I “analyzed” the problem. In my former life as an EBD teacher, much of my job was to analyze and modify behavior. To do this, I had to dissect the problem as a whole: determine the antecedent (what happens first), the behavior (what the problematic behavior is), determine the consequence (what happens because of A and B), and finally come up with a plan for change. This is what I discovered about my laundry problem…

Antecedent

Laundry gets washed, dried and folded, but it is difficult to put away.

Behavior

Because it is difficult to put away… I don’t put it away (pretty straight forward)

Consequence

The folded laundry sits on the floor… inducing anxiety

When I took a moment to really look at the problem, I discovered that the solution was quite simple. I needed to make it easier to put the laundry away. Enter my new Elfa closet organizer. This thing has truly revolutionized our laundry situation. It was as “investment,” but because I don’t dread putting laundry away now, I actually do it!

Before, there was no rhyme or reason to our clothing storage. It “lived” where it fit, which meant it was in the dresser, chest, nightstands AND closet. Ugh.

IMG_6679 IMG_6680

Now, (after a good purge) all of our clothing (mine and my husband’s) is in this closet and we have room to spare. Putting our laundry away is so easy now.

IMG_6697IMG_6693IMG_6690

Seriously, if you hate putting laundry away as much as I DID (yay for past tense), maybe your clothing storage just needs some tweaking :).

Confession: I have been leaving the doors to the closet open so that I can admire this beauty while I drift off to sleep at night…

Maintaining Organization

Judging by the hoards of people at Menards and Target stocking up on rubber totes and organizers this past weekend, I am quite certain many people have resolved to “get organized” in 2015. For many years, that was me too. I have always loved organizing, but my systems often failed me so “staying organized” was (year after year) always near the top of my list of resolutions. I can honestly say, I have not made that resolution for two years! Sure there are things I would like to improve and some systems always need modifying, but I have found a few key things that have allowed me to maintain order and organization within our home…

1. Decluttering is of utmost importance. Clutter attracts clutter so it is important to keep surfaces clear (save for the items that are really necessary or truly loved). My house may look a little sparse to some, but less clutter leads to less mess and less cleaning, and more time for me to relax.

2. Purge. If you are feeling overwhelmed by stuff you more than likely just have too much of it. Before you start organizing all that stuff, go through it. Donate or sell what you no longer need or truly love. Just pick one room at a time to go through, and grab a box. You will be amazed by all the stuff you own but have ZERO need or desire for, and the burden that will be lifted by removing that stuff will feel amazing!

3. Designate/Define spaces. Paper clutter drives me crazy so I needed to designate a space for bills and paperwork. For me, it was key that my paperwork be easy to put away and ignore. My paperwork is kept in a laptop computer hutch in the family room on the main level (easy to put away), and I can close it so that my paper piles aren’t visible (easy to ignore when they don’t need my attention). The filing drawer at the bottom is where I keep the files I am most likely to need.

4.  If a space is bothering you, determine what the real problem is. In most cases, the solution is highly dependent upon the problem and the person. Look at the mess and make a mental note of what it is comprised of, who the culprit(s) is/are, and determine why/how the mess occurred. Our master bathroom was really bugging me, but when I took a minute to critically and thoughtfully determine why it was bothering me, I discovered that it wasn’t my organization. In reality, It was a small (2 year old) problem with an easy fix. My daughter kept pulling everything out from under the cupboards while I got ready in the morning so child safety locks were a logical and easy solution.   *****I feel like I need to mention that we do not keep any chemicals or medicines in the cupboards which is why we hadn’t already installed the child safety locks)****** 

All in all, I would say getting and staying organized is a lot less about the systems you have in place than it is about your approach. My tip for getting and staying organized is simple: approach your space with a critical, thoughtful eye and never forget that LESS IS ALWAYS MORE.

Out with the old, in with the new…habits

pregnancy announcement

2015 is fast approaching – it is a mere 11 hours away actually! Yikes! Where did the year go? Without question, 2014 was good to us, and I am confident 2015 will be even sweeter as we will be welcoming baby #3 in June!! Happiness. Pure happiness.

While I am beyond elated about our growing family, I would be lying if I said I am not anxious about maintaining some semblance of routine and order when baby arrives in a few short months. For that reason, I have adopted a few new habits that are really helping me on the home keeping front.

-First-

I run the dishwasher every night regardless of how full it is. If I only have half a load, I just choose the half load cycle. While the kids are eating breakfast in the morning, I unload it and then load the breakfast dishes. Ending the day with an empty sink, and starting the day with an empty dishwasher is a really good thing.

-Second-

I start a load of laundry before bed. While my coffee is brewing the next morning, I toss that load into the dryer. I try to do a load during nap time too, but I don’t panic if that doesn’t happen because just doing one load of laundry a day REALLY helps me stay on top of the ever growing piles of dirty clothes.

-Last but not least –

The kids bedroom serve a singular purpose – sleep. We removed all toys from the bedroom level of our home. The kids have a shared bookshelf in the hallway, but their rooms are toy free. This really helps me keep that floor of our home tidy and manageable.

Those three things have really made home keeping more enjoyable and manageable and, frankly, are good for my Type A soul. What are your favorite housekeeping habits? I’d love to hear from you!

Shame on me? No. Shame on her.

Today started quite nice: Coffee, fruit loops (don’t judge), and cartoons. Since we had no plans for the day I suggested to Rex that we spend the morning at the zoo.

Him: “I wanna go to da maaaaaaaaaalllllllll!!!!”
Me: “No mall today, buddy. We can go to the zoo though.”
Him: “humph.”
Me: “I will take that as a yes…”

Since we had a plan, I showered and got myself ready. This task took twice as long as it should have because Sydney kept managing to fall of the bed (where she and her brother sitting and watching a cartoon). It is plausible (and quite likely) that she was being pushed, but a certain three year old swore up and down that he did not, and a certain 20 month old lacks the language skills required to be an informant…

I then got the kids ready. By “get the kids ready” I mean I physically over powered Sydney in order to clothe her. Then she pooped so we did it all over again, but THIS TIME I had the added fun of getting her into a fresh diaper. Bonus points for me because I managed to do so without getting feces on my hands. Rex is at a fun age when it comes to clothes. By this I mean he has strong opinions about what he wears and these strong opinions NEVER reflect the current weather. Somehow I managed to bribe him into seasonally appropriate clothing. As soon as his clothes were on he was overcome by a strong urge to pee. Thankfully, I got him into the bathroom in time for him to make it to the toilet… not that he peed in that though… just near it.

Time for socks and shoes. This actually went quite swimmingly and I was encouraged. I got the kids strapped into their carseats and off we went.

Rex insisted on strapping his teddy bear in. Cute, right?

Rex insisted on strapping his teddy bear in. Cute, right?

Upon getting to the zoo I was informed that I needed a new membership card because the barcode on mine wasn’t working. This resulted in a decent wait at the member services counter. Naturally, this is when Sydney decided crying was in order, and naturally Rex determined this to be the ideal time to run off and do his own thing. Good stuff.

For those of you who don’t know, the wolf pups are now on exhibit at the MN Zoo. I insisted that we see them first. Silly mommy. I should have know that me insisting on anything would send our already “meh” outing into a complete tailspin. Rex started fussing. Sydney continued fussing. I continued walking. We made it to the wolf exhibit only to discover that my efforts were in complete vain. No pups to be seen.

Lunch time. Fairly uneventful despite the obligatory near choking incident and spilled milk.

After lunch we headed to the play area. Lots of laughs, whimpering, and chasing ensued. Of course they cried when we left, but that’s to be expected, right?

Like any good momma I said we could ride the carousel (which was quite a hike from where we were). Sydney refused to ride in the stroller… or walk… so I had to carry her. Rex also refused to walk so I pushed him in the stroller while carrying her. Fun.

While Rex is a huge fan of the carousel, he refuses to sit on the carousel animals so we usually sit on the benches. Not as fun, but still fun. When our turn was over a kind zoo volunteer gave Rex a free token for another ride. Would he thank her? Nope. Would he even smile in her direction? Not even a little. I thanked her profusely for him, and off we went to get in line for a second ride. This time he wanted to ride an animal! Sydney too.

Progress!

Progress!

Honestly, I was already exhausted so I decided it was time to go home. This is when the real crying started. His tears were for a pretzel, hers were in protest of the stroller. She screamed, “I waaaa ow!” (translation: I want out) while he tearfully lamented that he was STARVING! I was trying to keep it together. Really. I asked Sydney if she wanted to walk. “Uh huh,” she responded. I made the poor decision of believing her. As soon as her feet hit the ground she was wailing for me to “Ho her!” (Translation: hold her). Rex continued to cry for a pretzel while simultaneously insisting that I hold his hand. Sydney followed me scream crying all the while.

I refused to carry her...

I refused to carry her…

I was done… I had reached my threshold… At this point I determined I had three choices 1) Cry, 2) Scream, or 3) Laugh.

I laughed. I also turned around to snap a picture of my screaming Sydney (for prosperity of course).

A grandmother and her child were not far behind us. As they passed the grandmother gave me the most chilling, awful stare and muttered something under her breath. It was dripping with condescension and judgement.

I shame spiraled and sulked the rest of the way to the car. Rex fussed, and I caved and carried Sydney.

I was a bad mom. I lacked patience. Because they didn’t leave the zoo smiling, I could only reason that I had failed.

Thankfully, my shame spiral lasted only until I reached the car and my rational brain kicked in. That woman hadn’t seen all the moments leading up to that one. She didn’t know the culmination of things that brought me (and my daughter for that fact) to that point. Who was she to judge me? Perhaps my laughter did seem odd, but given the context it was really quite logical. Laugh, scream or cry. Those were my choices.

I was having a “moment” (as all parents do)… She was just being judgmental. Shame on her.

Sometimes I need a good, swift kick in the…

Butt… I was going to say butt.

I have been feeling especially overwhelmed for some time now, but this feeling of “overwhelm” has come into glaring focus as of late. I am always feeling like I am two steps behind and struggling far more often than I am functioning.

But…

What I realized today after having yet another mini meltdown [with witnesses] is this: I am looking at things all wrong…

I have PILES of laundry.

I have laundry that needs sorting; laundry that needs washing; laundry that needs drying; laundry that needs folding, and laundry that needs to be put away AND those piles mean that we have clean clothes to put on our bodies. Seriously, how lucky are we?!!!!!!  To see those piles as anything other than a blessing is shameful.

My house is strewn with toys.

This one really makes me want to kick my own ass butt. I HAVE KIDS!!!! TWO OF THEM!!! I didn’t think I was going to have kids. Enough said.

I have a graduate assignment due on Wednesday and I don’t even have my text books yet. 

I live in a country that doesn’t in any way restrict  or limit my access to education, and beyond that, I live in a country that will give me a loan so that I CAN pursue an advanced degree! I’m a lucky duck.

I have to go grocery shopping tomorrow.

Oh my. How unfortunate for me [please use a highly sarcastic tone while reading that]. Tomorrow I am going to drive my healthy self to a store to buy fruits and vegetables and all sorts of [mostly] nourishing foods for my family. For goodness sakes, there are people who don’t have clean water to drink!! [Self talk: “Self, you are a dumbass.”]

I need to clean house. 

I have a house… I have a home. Within that home I have a family. It’s not huge, it’s not perfect, but it is MORE than enough.

The grass needs to be cut. 

I have a yard…  beyond that, I am healthy and I can run and jump and play out there with my family (daily if I choose). It need not be said, but I am going to say it again: how lucky am I?

I am surrounded by blessings and opportunity. I have everything I need and MORE! Sometimes, like most of us, I need a good swift kick in the…

butt. I was going to say butt.

Today I kicked my own, and told myself this: burdens only exist when you fail to appreciate the gifts.

IMG_6135