Motherhood is a journey and there ain't no refunds.

Have you had enough of all this self-care talk?  Thinking to yourself, "Ok, all this talk is nice and all, but I don't really need any of this stuff. I'm good. I feel fine. I take time out for myself. I see my friends. My kids are sleeping through the night. We eat healthy, most... ok some of the time. I'm fine. I don't really need any of this self-care thing."  

Except that you do. Because self-care isn't a destination. You don't actually ever arrive anywhere. "Fine" isn't the end goal. Motherhood is a journey and there ain't no refunds on this ride. 

Consider it like packing for vacation. Getting ready to leave can be pretty stressful for me. I love to travel but the packing of outfits, and jewelry and shoes and hair products and chargers and ALL. THE. THINGS. Into a tiny suitcase. It takes days of preparation which I always leave until the four hours before my flight.

But, the moment I get on that plane, woah! I immediately start to feel different. Relaxed. Calm. I begin to unwind. The vacation is here! I'm nearing my destination! I can finally breathe. 

 Photo by  STIL  on  Unsplash

Photo by STIL on Unsplash

But taking care of yourself is not just about lying on a beach on some beautiful island and getting a massage. Or even having a weekly manicure or standing date night with your girlfriends. That's not to say that that's not a lot of fun and important too. But, it's not enough. And if you don’t establish self-care into your daily routine, all the spa treatments in the world won’t help you be the best version of you.

Self-care is more like packing for the vacation. It requires a little bit of work like deliberate consideration, the creation of a plan and, perhaps most difficult of all, discipline. Laying on the beach and getting a massage can feel incredible, but it’s generally not a long-term solution.

So, how do you start integrating self-care into your daily life? 

1. First, let’s take some time to consider your routines. Do me a favor and skip Netflix tonight. Instead, do this little exercise with me. Find some paper and a pen that you like and squirrel yourself away in a comfy chair on your deck or living room. Grab a cup of tea or maybe some wine. Spend the next thirty minutes or so writing down all of the things that stress you out or make you unhappy over the course of a day or the week or in this past year. No rules on how to do this, just brain dump. Whether it’s how rushed and chaotic your mornings feel with your kids, to the state of your living room, or your difficulty of staying on track with healthy eating at work, or troubles in a relationship, it’s okay if you fill up the page. I almost always do with this exercise.

Getting these thoughts out of your head and onto paper is a great place to start identifying where you want to begin making some changes. Once you have this list take some time to review it. I don’t mean just glace over it, I mean really consider what you’ve written. Do you notice any patterns or themes? Are there any connections? Does anything really stand out to you?

Next, circle three or four things that are most pressing on your mind right now. Follow your heart when selecting these. And if your heart is quiet and nothing is speaking to you at the moment, select the first thing or things that came to mind.

For the record, these don’t have to be life-altering or world-changing things. It could just be that your cluttered countertops are making you bat$hit crazy every day. Or that dinnertime is a disaster every night, which makes you yell at your kids and resent your husband every night. Or perhaps you hate your commute and want a promotion so you can work from home more often. Maybe you’ve just been in a funk lately and want to get out of it. Listen to your heart. Check in with your gut.

Now, look at the stressors that you just circled.  If you were able to eliminate one of these of these stressors with the snap of your fingers, which one would it be? What would have the biggest, positive impact on your life? Select that as your starting point for self-care.

2. Now it's time to create a plan! You thought it was going to be easier than that, didn’t’ you? Snap your fingers and let’s make some change, am I right?

Well, as my fave girl, Rachel Hollis would say, “girl, wash your face.” That means it’s time to brush yourself off, put on your big girl pants and take responsibility and ownership over your life. $hitty things are going to happen. Life is unfair. It can be ugly and hard. But it's up to you to make it what you want. To find beauty. Create your happiness. Make it exactly what you want. And don't stop until you succeed. This applies to your career as much as it does to clean countertops. What do you want? Go. And. Get. It. 

You 100% control your own actions. Which means that you can create the change that you're looking for. You can teach yourself pretty much anything using Google and YouTube. Did you see the video where the mom taught herself how to build a freakin' house using YouTube videos? Your power is infinite, mama. You just have to want it bad enough.

So, ask questions, find the experts, talk to friends, get on Pinterest if that's your jam. Just. Do. Something. Create a plan to change the crappy parts of your day. Because you're not going to wake up one morning and find that things have magically worked themselves out. I'm still working on that invention...

Let me show you how this exercise can work:

Since having children, one of the many things I’ve struggled with is cooking. I love to cook but I do not love to cook for my children. It's a major stressor for me because feeding a family is, as you know, never f*&king ending.

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After identifying the major stressor(s) in your life, jot down the ways that you could alleviate the pain for yourself. Don't worry about how realistic the solutions are right now. And don't worry about money or feasibility. Just write them all down. 

Me? I could use a meal delivery service, order take-out a lot, subscribe to a meal planning service, meal plan on my own, simplify my menu, prepare meals in advance, buy some ready-made meals, or enlist the help of my husband. There are likely many more but they are the first that came immediately to mind.

Now, which ONE of these solutions could you most quickly and easily implement in your life? Select the one that would make the biggest impact on the problem. And don't discount the "expensive" solutions. It may not be as expensive as you think if the end result is less stress, a calmer state, and increased happiness. Think of it as an investment and then consider the return on that investment. It's likely that you can shift your spending a little bit in other areas to make the solution more affordable.

In my case, I love love love grocery delivery and pick-up services. Online shopping, local delivery, all of the above. A good friend of mine even gets Binny's delivered to her house! Genius! Because shopping with three kids makes my head explode. I never get everything I need because I can't think while my kids are shopping with me. And when I go alone it takes FOR EHHHHH VERRRRR because I saunter through the aisles as though I'm on a vacation. 

Delivery costs extra BUT saves me the time and stress of getting the kids into a car, to the store, through the store and back home. It also saves me from a lot of random extra purchases and impulse buys. So, while there is a cost, the ROI is significantly worth it to me. 

This is a form of self-care. Taking care of yourself by eliminating stress from your life. And what works for me is going to be different than what works for someone else. So do yourself the honor of thinking through this with some sincerity.

You may have no problem handling your three kids at the store at once (I've seen you, unicorn mama, galavanting through the store with your brood like it's no thang. Respect.) In your case, a grocery delivery service isn't worth it. But maybe, if cooking is a stressor, you'd gladly pay extra for pre-chopped vegetables. Hmm, now that I think about that, I may add that to my solution toolbox as well.

The point, again, is to come up with a plan that addresses and alleviates your biggest daily stressor(s). If your counters are cluttered and it's making you bat $hit crazy every time you look at them, it's time to address them. Clean it off, get rid of 90% of the stuff, and come up with a system to prevent yourself from putting it all back tomorrow. Maybe you need a table by your door, maybe you need a place for your purse, a desk to sort mail, etc. Look at what is piling up and why and figure out a plan for what to do with it. 

 Photo by  Hannah Olinger  on  Unsplash

A critical component in coming up with your solution is to understand your values. What will implementing a solution free up for you? Time? Mental anguish? Freedom to spend more time doing what you want and love? In my case, having the grocery shopping under control makes me feel more prepared at home and thus more easily able to handle my responsibilities.

3. In order for any of the above to work, you have to actually stick to the new routine that you create for yourself. Discipline is truly where most of us meet our demise. 

Setting yourself up for success means taking baby steps, one day at a time. Every. Day.

There are a lot of theories out there about how long it takes to form a habit and what it takes to achieve "success." Obviously, you have to be the judge of what exactly that is for you, but, forming a new and positive habit is a great start.

The most compelling research shows that habits take approximately 66 days to form.  That's not exactly a short period of time but it's not an eternity either. It's just over two months. If you break that up into ten, one-week increments you're working with something that's more manageable to attain. 

 Photo by  Estée Janssens  on  Unsplash

Also, when coming up with your solution, stay off your phone or computer. I often get caught up in researching "the best organization system for..." or "the best way to..." and I come up with something that doesn't work for me personally. It seems like a great idea on paper but I never actually end up implementing a solution.

You are a smart woman, you know deep in your heart what it's going to take. So think about the best solution to your stressor and then plan the steps to putting that solution into action. 

In my family meal planning example, I'm going to do more meal prep on the weekends but with SIMPLER recipes in order to make the week flow smoothly. I'm creating a basic list of recipes and we're going to eat the same damn thing for two weeks, at which point I will rotate the menu. I can do that for ten weeks. I was pregnant for 120 weeks with three kids (it seems like it was 120 weeks in a row) so I can most definitely try meal planning this way for ten.

 

As I step down from my soap box here, I want to give you the confidence and a little kick in the a$$ to take action towards what you want in your life. Whether it's a change or the creation of a system or a new habit. Whatehver. Because that, mama, is taking care of yourself. 

The thing about the glorious journey that is motherhood is that there's no getting off this ride. There's no refund, no do-over, no rewind. You wake up every day and get ready to run. Hard. You work hard, love hard, and hopefully manage to laugh and play hard too. But there is no destination to reach. You've already arrived. So make this the best place you've ever been. 

Getting Over My Middle Like a Pair of High-Waisted Jeans.

Clowns to the left of me. Joker's to the right. Here I am. Stuck in the middle. With you?

Are you here with me? Feeling stuck? Halfway to the end. Halfway from the beginning. Too far to go back. Still so far to go. 

We're still about a month away from the middle of the year, but this year is starting to feel a little heavy for me. I'm not quite sure why. On paper, things are awesome. The weather has been amazing, I've discovered a new Cider Rose that has made my life, I'm taking a family vacation with my sister and her kids in July, I've even managed to plan a few date nights and some of them even include my husband. Things are good! Great, even. But, somehow, I'm in a funk.

Last December, I got really serious about preparing myself for how awesome this year was going to be. I set goals, made plans, created vision boards, and drafted lists. I got a planner and pens and stickers and washi tape. And then I got ANOTHER planner to help me keep the planner organized. I was ready. 

And now, here we are, a looong way from December, and I sort of feel like I'm trudging uphill through knee-deep mud, carrying a backpack of good intentions and guilt. I'm checking the lists and planners a little less frequently. I'm hitting snooze a little more often. I'm feeling the chokehold grip of the daily grind getting a little tighter around my neck. 

What the hell, June? I've been waiting for you for MONTHS. What gives? 

The perfectionist in me is also really pissed. "If we had just listened to Perfect Renata and let her run this show, we wouldn’t be feeling this way.” she seethes. “I made a lot of plans six months ago, I'll be damned if I give up on them now."

Why is follow through so damn difficult? Where did my momentum go? What happened to those bright, shiny, incredibly inspiring goals? Why do they now feel like baggage? 

The thing is, my goals don't have to be something I have to accomplish in a one-year time frame. I don't have to wait until December to determine whether or not I've been successful. If I break them down into smaller, short-term goals they become more attainable. And I feel less of the burn out because I'm not constantly running a marathon. Occasionally, as one of my favorite inspirational mentors, Lisa Druxman likes to say, it's a sprint.

Druxman (who is incredible btw and if you haven't read her book, get it immediately) has taught me that breaking down goals into smaller sub-goals leads to a greater likelihood that I'll stick to and actually attain the bigger ones. The same thing goes for forming new habits.

I've been trying for years to consistently wake up at the same time. Three or four days per week, I have no difficulty (ok, more like difficulty that I can more easily overcome) getting up at 4:15 to do a 5am work out. But to do it every day? Or at 5am on days I'm not working out? I just cannot drag my a$$ out of bed for the life of me. 

It takes 66 days to form a new habit. That doesn't sound so bad, right? At least not on day 2. But what about day 20? Shoot, I might not make it to day 5! Per Druxman, if you can break the habit down into smaller increments, say a few days or one week at a time, it becomes far more likely that you will attain your desired result. And when you achieve that goal, you're that much more motivated to continue. 

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Unlike me at 5am. See above.

Have you been looking back at the goals you set last January? Are you like me and feeling overwhelmed and like a giant loser because you've stalled in your progress? Don't scrap the goals, embrace the middle. Here we are. 

Now what can we do about it?

What can we accomplish today? THIS week? THIS month? How about in the next 2-3 months? Do it. Then do it again. And again. 

This how I’m going to prevent mid-year burn out. This is how I’ll keep trying to motivate and focus on getting over that hill, through the middle. I don't suck as a person. I'm not lazy or worthless.. I’m entirely capable of achieving the goals I set for myself in January. I'm human. And I just need to reset myself a little bit. To put one foot in front of the other. And keep taking steps.

I’m pulling out the vision board from last winter along with my list of goals and action plans. It's time to shake of the cobwebs and dust a little bit. And start again. Yes, today. In the middle of the week. Because today is as good of a day as any to get through this middle. 

"Good enough" is enough.

I don't have any tattoos but if I were to get one on my forehead, ok, maybe my wrist, I think I would want it to say: "good enough."

Do you feel like that sounds like a cop-out? It kind of feels like one to me when I say it. Like, if I hired a painter to repaint my house, I don't know that I want him to look at his work and say, "good enough!" as he heads home. Or a doctor stitching up a cut on my kid's leg after a fall, "ok kiddo, good enough!" Seems like you've fallen a little short. 

But as a mom, I think we really have to give ourselves the grace to say, "it's good enough." Or we risk driving ourselves insane with anxiety over perfectionism. And that's just no way to spend your time.

Because we are all enough.  I am enough. You are enough. And we are all good. So ENOUGH with the criticism and negative self-talk. I'm calling a moratorium.

Because your kids and your partner, your family, they don't care about perfection. They don't care about that last five pounds, or if the floors aren't as clean as they could be. They won't remember if you baked the perfect cookies or if you attended every baseball game.

What they will remember is whether you laughed, loved and lived your fullest life. What they care about getting the fullest, best version of you. The happy, confident, kind and amazing woman and mom that you are. 

Think about the next time you're feeling guilty about not having spent enough time with your kiddo or made that perfect dinner after work. Or volunteered in the middle of the day for the class field trip. It doesn't actually matter.

What does matter is that you show up every day and make the time you spend with your spouse and your kids, even if its short, meaningful and purposeful. Connect with them by looking into their eyes, listening to their words, and holding their hands. Share sweet and tender moments, even if only at bedtime for a few minutes. Pack a note in their lunch. Send a text during the day. Those moments may seem small and trivial but they make a huge impact. And will be remembered.

It is enough. It is good and enough.

No one does you better than you do it. So step our there and be yourself. And be amazing. 

You've got this, mama.

My favorite words have four letters

Aren't four letter words the best? Short, not-that-sweet, always to the point. But not all of my favorites are salacious. Two of my favorite four-letter words? How'd you guess? Self-Care.

Unlike some of their naughtier counterparts, the meaning of these four-letter words isn't always as understood. Does self-care mean taking a fancy barre class? Getting a weekly manicure or massage? A standing "date night" with your best friend? An extra five minutes in the shower? 

Sure, those can be ways to take care of yourself, but self-care doesn't always require a babysitter or extra money. It just requires planning, a little discipline and a desire to take care of yourself. Three things YOU absolutely possess and can implement today!

Now, don’t punch me, because you’ve actually heard all of these suggestions before. The thing is, you're not doing any of them. Ergo you are overwhelmed, stressed, feeling burned out and disconnected from your life. Stop it. And start doing these things instead. Right now.

1. Fine-tune your evening routine to crush the morning one. 
I really hate this one, but damn it if it doesn’t work. Every. Single. Time. The idea here is that every night, in some way, shape or form, get yourself ready for the next day. That will inevitably make your morning run 100 times better than a typical morning. 

 Photo by  Catt Liu  on  Unsplash

Photo by Catt Liu on Unsplash

For me that means cleaning up my kitchen as much as possible before I go to bed: washing the dishes and running the dishwasher, clearing the countertops and kitchen table, and sometimes packing lunches packed or prepping breakfast (something like overnight oats).

Trust me, the last thing I want to do at 8pm after my kids go to bed is to stand in a room where I have been standing all damn day long. Every ounce of my being is screaming for me to RUN away from the dishes. “It can wait ‘til tomorrow,” the she-devil in my brain coos, luring me towards Netflix or mindless Instagram story scrolling. Every single night, I never ever EVER want to do this.

But, since I'm in charge of the morning routine at our house, setting it up the night before always makes my morning easier. 

Can you think of a way that you can simplify your morning by doing something the night before? 

2. Breathe heavily. Often.
Sex, yoga, meditation, running, taking the stairs at the office, whatever gets you huffing and puffing. Several times a day. Every day. 

I know that I'm not telling you something you don't already know. And while you might say, "oh but I work out," I bet you could probably still benefit from a little more heavy breathing. Consider adding meditation to the mix. Or taking a bike ride with your kids. Are you having as much sex as you'd like? Be honest with yourself. (And then with your partner.) 

 Photo by  Justyn Warner  on  Unsplash

Photo by Justyn Warner on Unsplash

You don't have to spend your day sweaty, just get more in touch with your body. How it moves and feels. What it likes and dislikes. What it responds to and shies away from. Start to pay attention to what your body is telling you and how it responds to the actions you're taking. Or not taking, for that matter.

Consider the state of your sex life. Is it in a good place? A satisfying place? Just because it isn't doesn't mean it has to remain there forever. But, as favorite person of mine always says, "hope is not a strategy." You can't HOPE for things to one day get better. You have to take action.

So listen to your body and then make some changes. You deserve it. 

3. Be the first person in your house to wake up every day.
This tip also really sucks. I mean, getting up in the dark? What in the hell? This self-care thing is super fun, right? No wonder no one is actually doing it. 

Getting your a$$ out of bed is by far the hardest part. Once you're out of bed, it gets exponentially easier to be awake at what probably is an insane hour. When I wake up, I repeat to myself, "I'm so happy to be awake, I'm so happy to be awake, I'm so happy..." to trick my body and brain into thinking that this early wake up stuff is something we actually want to be doing and not some bizarre circadian rhythm mixup. 

 Photo by  Benjamin Voros  on  Unsplash

Once you're awake though, YOU get to choose what to do with your time. Journal, read a book, catch up on some work. Usually, I work out and then read or write with a cup of coffee. But, that doesn't have to be what you do. The key is to find what will motivate you to get yourself out of that deliciously cozy bed. Maybe it's meditating, maybe it's catching up on folding that laundry you just couldn't will yourself to do the day before, maybe you want to write in a journal or catch up on a show, THIS TIME IS ENTIRELY YOURS!  

The trick here, and something I struggle with, is knowing when to stop with the morning me-time and switch into "midweek morning routine crazy mommy." It's almost like getting out of bed: "Don't make me leeeeaaavve!" It's a journey not a destination, right? I'm working on it. So get up before your people tomorrow. You're going to be tired regardless, so you might as well do something for yourself. 

Self-care doesn't require you to leave your house or have to cost you a dime. It just requires a little discipline and maybe some planning. And all the coffee. 

You've got this mama. 

Frere Jacques is not sleeping, and other lies they told us.

I don't know why I set my parenting expectations so high. In college I was in a sorority and our motto was, "Aim High" so maybe that's stuck with me. But somehow, every morning, it comes as a huge surprise that I did not get an uninterrupted night of sleep. I have three children under five, one of which is a baby, of course I'm not sleeping. But, as it turns out, the baby is the least of my issues. 

I could not have imagined the amount of problems that two preschool children can have in the span of a ten-hour's night sleep. From bathroom debacles to fear of monsters, itchy clothing to "daymares," the creativity of excuses and issues and reasons to be anything-but-sleeping is impressive. And obnoxious.

Me: "Get. Into. Bed." 
Son: "My bed is too cozy." 
Me: "It's supposed to be cozy." 
Son: "My bed is too warm/cold/big/small." 
Me: "Sleep on the floor." 

Or my favorite...

Son: "I'm scared."
Me: "Of what?"
Son: "That." Points into his room at nothing in particular. 
Me: "Of what?"
Son: "THAT." Continues pointing. At nothing.
Me: Sighs. "Can you use your words to describe what it looks like?" I know where this is going.
Son: "Like, a THING."  
Me: "Is the thing invisible?" Ok I can work with ghosts.
Son: "No mommy, it's over THERE." Frustration is building. He walks over and points to a chair. Or a window. Or dresser. Or some other totally inanimate and not-scary object in his room. 

Or I pretend to search the room for this "thing" and wave my arm around like a wand, ooing and ahhing. I'm not sure if this is an exorcism or if I'm supposed to be "catching" the unidentified thing or blasting it to outer space so I'm doing it all in the hopes that one of them will be sufficient to quell the kid's fears enough to go the f*ck to sleep.

I manage to get them back into bed only to hear footsteps padding down the hall seven seconds after my head hits the pillow. Is it just me or can you actually feel the change in air pressure as a sleepless child moves through the house at an ungodly hour of the night? I definitely can. This is every damn night in my house with one or the other! The third one can't walk yet, thank GOD. 

Sometimes they manage to silently creep into my room during the night, awakening me with a swift heel kick to the face (because mine like to sleep "upside down" with their feet next to my head). I always struggle with this one because, technically they are quiet and sleeping so why would I mess with this perfection? It doesn't matter if they are sleeping in my bed, hogging my covers and pillow? Right? There is QUIET and STILLNESS! LET. IT. BE. RENATA.

But if I actually want to sleep, I have to move them. This is the point in the night where I elbow the husband to make him move the culprit. That is usually a mistake because he always "accidentally" clips an ankle or bonks a head in the doorway as he's carrying them out. This inevitably wakes the sleeping giant of a preschooler who starts RAGING because (1) they were just woken up with a wall whack to the head and (2) they are being relocated back to their previously mentioned not-cozy-way-too-cozy-bed. They are pissed.

So sometimes just leaving them in your bed is the best option. That, of course, leaves you with like a millimeter of bed. And forget about a blanket. I GAVE BIRTH TO YOU UNGRATEFUL WILD ANIMALS, I DESERVE MORE RESPECT! So, I do what any self-respecting mother does, heads to their room to get into their empty bed. 

This is also generally not a good idea as I always wake up with a sore, stiff back covered by a flimsy dinosaur blanket that manage to only cover my midsection leaving me cold as shit. And, actually, now that I think about it, those mattresses are not very cozy. Thanks to my husband and his "all natural bed" preferences, the kids are basically sleeping on concrete slabs. Hmmm, I may have just discovered the solution to all of my problems here. 

Other parents were not kidding when they said "get some sleep," before I had kids. Newborn life is rough, sure, but who knew that it was going to be at least a decade before I saw a solid night of sleep again!? THAT'S what they were trying to warn me about.  

I suppose until then I'll be catching up with power naps in the Target parking lot while waiting for pick up. Mom so hard. Sleep tight comrades. 

I put the "fun" in functional.

Summer is here! 

Oh alright, I know it's already August and I'm about two month's late to the party. That sounds about right for me. 

So, have you done anything fun this summer? I use the word "fun" loosely here as you'll recall that these days, I'm setting expectations low for myself. We're having our "fun" in 45 minute increments: trips to parks in new subdivisions, adventures to Costco (for toilet paper AND water balloons), scavenging for weeds in the backyard, etc.. I mean, if anyone can put the "fun" in functional, it's a mom!

We've hit the zoo and some splash parks and I even got all three kids to a dolphin show AND on the carousel. By. My. Self. They eat popsicles daily (allergy friendly of course because #allergykids which is another post for another day) and are mostly naked when at home. Sounds like the quintessential summer vacation to me. The kids are having a GREAT summer, they just don't really know it. Which means I'm doing it right. 

Earlier in the summer, I signed the boys up for some park district t-ball and soccer. That was a huge mistake. They loooved running around a giant open field kicking and throwing things, but not in the "organized" fashion required by organized sports. I spent each class running after the other sibling, keeping them out of trouble and from interrupting each other's class, all while wearing 6-month-old baby girl. Side note to the park district people: siblings should automatically be allowed to be in the other sibling's class. We're talking about PARK DISTRICT level sports here! I will pay extra to not have to sit/run through two classes! End rant.

I had good intentions and wanted the boys to try out some new sports. Watching them try to throw a ball with a mini baseball mitt was pretty hilarious. I should have just let them figure it out on their own. They like the programs enough but I'm totally exhausted and frazzled after each class. I pray for rain every Wednesday, I'm that mom. So I think we're done with organized sports until at least first grade. Maybe there's a preschool chess league they can join? Ice skating starts back up soon. At least the temperature in the rink is more my speed. 

We took a road trip in late June to visit our cousins on the East Coast, which was surprisingly fun! We stopped at Cedar Point in Ohio on the way in order to break up the trip. The kids had fun and, for the most part, I didn't want to kill my husband or anyone in my vicinity. The packing and prep was a bit intense (more on road tripping another time) but it was a pleasant trip that, I dare say, I'd do again.

What have you been doing for fun this summer? Let me know if you're up for a playdate at Costco sometime.

My Gifts

She has been a nice breath of fresh air, this sweet baby girl of ours. A lighthouse in a dark, vast ocean trying to swallow me during a treacherous storm; giving me focus, hope, and a light to steady and remind me that I can make it another day at seas. In ten years she will hate my guts but until then, I will hold on to the life preserver she's thrown.

Her sweet coos and easy smiles melt my heart and reenergize my soul. Even at 2am when I have to drag myself out of bed to respond to gentle cries of hunger and sobs of loneliness.

The perfect juxtaposition of crazy and calm, my children they are. Our days are filled with chaos and noise. Talking over one another with expanding vocabularies and make believe stories. Sticky hands and floors. Tiny legos and half eaten granola bars littered on the floor. Shrieks of laughter followed by cries for "mama." The watchful eyes of baby sister following sounds and faces and learning about our family. 

She is a constant reminder of how fast time is flying. As if it's grown wings and taken us on the ride of our lives. We've so quickly gone from baby swings and boppy pillows to bike riding and t-ball mitts. And soon, braids and baby dolls. I breathe in this baby's awesome, sweet new smell. And ruffle the thick blonde hair of those confident and energetic little boys as they hug me with all of their might.

It's taken me a little while to get here. Each baby teaches me more about myself. That I am strong. Fearless. Beautiful. Able. Loving. Creative. Wonderful. It's hard to believe, most days. But I see it in their eyes. And it gives me the breath I need to keep going. 

I am grateful to you, my beautiful babies, for choosing me as your mother. You have been the most wonderful gifts I could ever receive in a lifetime. Happy Mother's Day. 

The circus is not only in town, it's setting up a permanent tent.

A friend came over the other night for a glass (bottle) of wine and remarked at "how clean" my house looked. "Compared to usual," were her exact words. There was shit everywhere. I thanked her. She must have been drunk because, these days, we're nearing a Defcon 1 level shit show. 

I should have known better than to be so boastful. Did I actually use the words "easy" and "three children" in the same post only weeks ago? Those words should really never be spoken together, if at all. Granted, I'm still one or two kids short of a freak show but the Musial Family Circus is only getting louder and messier. 

We have third row-seating in our SUV and I need to get the 4.5 year old a walkie talkie so I can hear what he's saying or crying about over the cries of his siblings. Why does everyone ALWAYS need something? Always at the same time? WHILE I AM DRIVING!? Is it legal to use noise-cancelling headphones in the car?

Then there's the mess. Sure there's some dirty and stickiness and always several pounds of sand in weird places. But I'm actually more irritated by the random items scattered throughout my house that don't belong there. Kitchen items in the bedroom, bathroom items on the kitchen counter, etc..

I've been trying so hard to declutter but somehow the crap continues to multiply. Forget about keeping things organized, these little gremlins have made it their life's work to rearrange my entire house so I can no longer find a single thing. 

Husband: Have you seen the floss? 

Me: Check by the toaster oven. 

Husband: Do we have any Neosporin? 

Me: Second drawer with the forks and knives.

The immediate area surrounding my stove top/cooking area contains no less than five random items from every single room of my house. Dental floss, a bandaid, a flash light, 1/2 a Lego Minifigure ("honey, where ARE my pants?") and a 1/2 eaten dried piece of fruit (which was either dry to begin with or has been there so long that it is now dry).

Every few minutes, a child runs or cries by me with a demand or waving something they shouldn't be waving. A broken tent pole, baby teething toy chewed on by a non-baby, headphones, broken plastic easter eggs, more bandaids, a straw. I keep trying to throw this crap away and yet I still feel like I'm climbing the walls of a dumpster. They are trying to kill me one tiny toy at a time.

The circus is in full swing but I'm not quite sure who the ring master is here. I keep telling them that it's "my house and my rules." Yet, in the distance, I swear that I can hear clown music playing and I feel the strong urge to honk my nose and put on a show. I guess I'll just grab some popcorn and enjoy the next act.

Throwing myself a life preserver.

Simplify. That seems to be my new mantra. Simplify. Routines, clutter, meals, schedules. Simplify.  

It seems to be working. Or helping, anyway. Because, shockingly, the addition of a third child hasn't made as insane an impact on our lives as I thought it would be. My husband would probably beg to differ. And I'm NOT saying it's been easy. But, really, other than some logistical issues (where did we put that baby? which kid is crying? did we feed this one today?) it's sort of been business-as-usual. On significantly less sleep.

So is having more kids easy? Definitely not. It's just that I think that the more kids you have, the less fox you give about things you used to care about and, in hindsight, it was never that important to begin with. Having just said this out loud, I've most definitely jinxed myself, right? 

But think about it. Not dressed for school? Pajamas it is. Don't want to wear a coat outside? Enjoy that brisk breeze, baby. Dinner is "gross?" Don't eat it.

"Zero. Fox. Given." It's a mantra that's been a sort of life preserver these past few weeks. 

Don't get me wrong, it's not a complete free-for-all at my house, I am a type-A personality after all and could never relinquish that much control. But now, I choose to fight fewer battles and let the natural consequences of my kids' actions play out. It's a miracle how quickly they are begging for jackets or slurping down meals when I let them make their own decisions, as if they were in control. Bwaa ha haa. It's me who wins!

I'm also simplifying life with a secret super mom trick: outsourcing. I'm calling grandma to help with bedtime when daddy's not home; I'm asking the neighbor to pick up something for me while she's at Target today (thank you great neighbor!); I'm having the babysitter fold a little laundry while the kids are asleep, etc.. More hours at school, lots of babysitters, drop-off-day care at the mall, you name it, I'm paying for it.

How do you think successful CEOs are running their businesses? They hire others to help them with tasks that unnecessarily tie up their time or stress them out. Why are we as moms working harder? We need to work smarter. 

Life with three kiddos has become exponentially louder and stickier but it's not that much harder. I am a pretty awesome person, this is true, but I promise, I'm not doing anything at home that anyone else can't do. I'm just throwing myself a life preserver more often these days. I'm stressing a little less about the little things and utilizing my time and limited energy better. I still have days when I feel like I'm drowning but, it feels a bit more manageable. Anyway, it's nothing a case of wine can't handle.

What are you doing to simplify your life? As a parent? Or maybe at work? Throw yourself a life preserver, friend. 

Mama's Got a Brand New (Garbage) Bag.

As I've started to settle into life with three kids under five, my new favorite word has become "minimalism." The nesting stage of pregnancy turned into a full blown tirade to "throw away all the things." Basically, if I hadn't used it in the last 10 minutes or if it remotely annoyed me, into the trash/donation pile it went.

I discovered the teachings of two mommy bloggers, the young and trendy Allie Casazza and not-as-young-or-trendy FLY Lady and I quickly learned that less at home most definitely meant more at home. More time, more freedom, more sanity, more happiness.

I began to minimize areas of our home in as many ways as I could find.  I got ride of multiple sets of dishes, tons of clothes, bags and bags of toys, aged home decor, excess paper, and on and on and on. It was liberating to purge the clutter but it actually began to make life easier too.

Instead of a giant mound of dishes to do every night, I now had a manageable pile. Rather than getting out a new clean glass every single time someone wanted a drink, the cup had to be washed or even reused. Less clothes in the closest meant smaller loads of laundry that wouldn't sit on the floor for weeks before being put away. Ok, we're still working on that one... 

Perhaps the best improvement? The elimination of toys! I'm not joking when I say that I've taken at least ten garbage bags of toys out of my house over the last few weeks. And my kids have barely noticed.

Ok they've sort of noticed. The "You want a Lego mini-figure? Here's a wooden block!" conversation didn't go over as well as I had hoped. But they've significantly cut down on the bickering now that mama's garbage bag makes a regular appearance. 

And, importantly, mom is (becoming) happier! There's less to clean up, the kids are actually playing with things, world peace is on the horizon my friends! If you're familiar with Montessori teachings, this sort of "less toys is more toys" concept is not new. Perhaps by Summer we'll be down to just rocks and sticks as play things. Ok, and the occasional ball. I'm not a monster. 

My husband was mostly supportive of my newfound outlook on clutter... except when it came to his personal things. Suddenly, he became very protective of his clusters of tiny "important" papers, loose pocket "treasures," and piles of unworn-in-years "favorite" shirts. Weird how a tiny scrap of paper can sit untouched next to a bathroom sink for weeks but the moment you try to throw it away or ask them to put it anywhere else, it becomes a priceless artifact necessitating preservation.  

I continued to clean and declutter the rest of the house without him and just collected all of his "valuables" into a laundry basket. I then gifted him the basket and asked him to find a home for the stuff. He stared at me blankly, sheepishly realizing that the majority of stuff was junk. I'm happy to report that today he is fully on board with the garbage bag project and even volunteers a few pieces here and there.

We are by no means living a barebones lifestyle, not even close. But our mindset has begun to shift and we're making conscious decisions about things we keep in our home. THAT is the key. Nothing stays or new comes in unless we really want or need it. 

Drink the kool-aid, mama. Stop organizing the stuff! Step away from the Dollar Spot at Target. Put down the cute baskets. Pick up a garbage bag and just get rid of it!

Now excuse me while I get my own bag. Time for another sweep of the house.