Some kind of mom

 

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I am some kind of mom. Ever since my beautiful, strong-willed son was born into this world almost five-and-a-half years ago,  he has been my defining attribute. Of course I am my own person with my own goals and dreams who craves time to myself on a daily basis, but my child will always be my greatest achievement. Because of him, I am proud to be a mom. However, I am not always proud to be this kind of mom.

I am not the kind of mom I always wanted to be. I try my best, but I fall short in many ways. I am not the mom raising my son in a traditional home with two parents who have an equal part in his daily life. I am not the mom who can currently give him the thing he desires so much, which is siblings, and I can’t tell him when that time will be. I am not the mom I once was, who could stay at home all day with him, plan play dates and library story-time as our main outings for the day, have an abundance of time to read together, try out kid crafts from Pinterest, practice flash cards, eat all our meals together, and cuddle him to sleep each night after winding down with an unrushed nighttime routine.

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Currently, I am the kind of mom who lives with my son at his grandparents’ house (and what a blessing that has been). But even now, after almost two years living with them, he’ll sometimes correct me, saying, “Mom, it’s not our home; it’s Grandma and Grandpa’s house. We don’t have a home.” And that stings a little. Of course I re-correct him, saying, “We live there. And while we live there, it’s our home too.” And then he’ll ask me, “Have you saved enough money yet to get our own house? Where we can have our own yard so I can finally get a dog and name him Bark-Bark?” I can’t help but chuckle. “No, not yet, Sweetie.”

Currently, I am the kind of mom who babysits as my day job so I can have those hours with my little boy during his last year before going to school full-time. That time, of course, is not undividedly his, but I am available to him, and I feel that is a huge blessing. Available to wake him up, get him ready, get him to preschool, pick him up, hear what he’s been learning, make his lunch, yell at him for tormenting his little cousin, play a quick game with him or toys or read a few books together before cleaning up the house, getting our dinner prepared and packed up and both of us ready to go to our evening job.

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Currently, I am the kind of mom who works for little more than minimum wage (plus tips! thank the heavens), because I was blessed enough to find a job where my son can come with me and go to the daycare a room away for free. Even though that means we’re at work several hours five days a week, and he doesn’t get to sleep until about two hours after his bedtime most nights, he comes with me even the days he could stay home with Grandma because he prefers the security of being in the same building as me and knowing I’m close by.  And I feel more content and less guilty about our time apart knowing I can say “hi” to him and give him a hug and make sure he ate his dinner the next time I’m not too busy.

Currently, I am the kind of mom who gets home with my five-year-old at almost 10pm, wishing he would’ve fallen asleep in the car so that I can relax sooner rather than have to get him his snack, rush him to eat quicker, chase him to our bedroom because that’s the only way he’ll go willingly, race him to get our pajamas on, brush teeth, read five minutes of scriptures because he’ll never let me skip it, say a prayer, sing two songs, and finally lay next to him stroking his hair until he falls asleep. Occasionally, I fall asleep as well, but that is rare, because I am more eager for some wake-time to myself than I am for sleeping. I have about an hour before I’m ready to crash, and somehow that never feels like enough time to write something heartfelt and profound, lose myself in a good book, find an agent to get my novel published, paint something that makes me happy, organize and declutter to feel a bit less overall crazy, feed myself spiritually through scripture study, work toward my goals and aspirations, achieve my dreams, etc. etc. etc.

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Of course these are all excuses, and I am currently the kind of mom who is full of excuses. My plate is full, and I feel stretched thin. I break down in tears every Thursday because the week has been long but it’s still not over and I am overwhelmed and stressed and frustrated by my load and limitations. Desmond’s dad is able to visit every few to several months, but I am currently the one responsible each day for him and his growth and learning and discipline in all aspects of life. I am the one my son acts out to, cries/yells/kicks at, turns to, confides in, seeks daily assurance from. I am his main source of frustration, anger, love, comfort, stability, safety. His future is in my hands, and I’m doing everything I can to make it great while feeling the burden of planning my own future. It is up to me to make the right choices for both of us. To not mess up. Don’t make a mistake. I can’t make a mistake. He deserves the best and I can’t ruin that for him.

I once made a comment of how being a single mom is hard. I was questioned, “Do you receive child support?” “I do. It pays for Des’ preschool most months.” “Don’t you live with your parents?” “I do. They’re a huge help. I couldn’t do this without them right now.” “Well you’re not really a single mom. You’re just a mom who happens to be single.” (As it turns out, there’s a number of stipulations that must be met to refer to oneself as a single mom.)

I was a little taken aback, so I didn’t mention the fact that I was dating a wonderful man on Saturdays and a few minutes a day a few times a week when we can squeeze each other into our busy conflicting work/parenting schedules, so really I wasn’t even a mom-who-happens-to-be-single, but just a mom. A mom like any kind of mom, no different in title from the mom staying home whose husband works eight to five, comes home for lunch, gives her a break from the kids in the evenings, lets her go on girls’ trip weekends a couple times a year and she doesn’t even have to feel guilty about leaving because they’re just as much his kids as they are hers. She and her husband go together to back-to-school nights, Christmas music programs, she doesn’t have to feel awkwardly alone. They get the kids to bed together, Netflix and chill together, laugh and discuss and pillowtalk together. She has a constant live-in partner to make important decisions with, to share the family financial load with, to turn to when she’s stressed and overwhelmed and he’ll make her crazy by trying to fix her problems when she just wants to vent but she knows how much he loves her and just wants her happy. Yes, I suppose I am more like her than a single kind of mom.

Of course I know not all moms with husbands have it easy. Few moms ever have it easy. Many married moms work and feel just as busy and torn as I do. Some stay at home, but their husbands are constantly working. These moms go to events for their children alone, spend the entire day teaching, disciplining, raising their children alone. Their husbands get home after the kids are already in bed. And sometimes, even though she loves her husband and is grateful for all he does, she almost feels like a single mom–but she better not say that out loud. Many will be quick to tell her she has no right to compare herself to a single mom and how dare she be so insulting. No matter if she often feels like she has no shared parental emotional/physical/spiritual support during the long days of corralling children alone, because she and her kids are taken care of financially.

I know my life would be so so much harder right now if I was living alone with my son, no family around, paying for every. last. thing. from no source other than my own paycheck. To these women, I honestly don’t know how you do it. “Single mom” is not enough for you. “Unfathomably Unparalleled Sole Parent Amazing Super Mom” is more fitting. I mean no disrespect to you when I feel like a single mom. I know you’re doing more than me. You are getting little to no daily support when it comes to raising your child, but I hope you know there are many women out there who can support you. Because they can relate to you. Maybe not in every single way, but they can relate to you in the feeling of parental loneliness and having to carry so many burdens alone.

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Now that I’ve gone on this spiel describing kinds of moms and the kind of mom I am and the kind I’m not and the kind I often feel like… really it honestly doesn’t matter to me what word(s) are most applicable to me in preceding the word “mom.” Mom is what I am first and foremost, and that is one of my best personal attributes. Like any mom, however, I just want to be able to vent occasionally about one of the hardest stages of my life without being reprimanded and told I’m unqualified for how I feel or what broad group of people I think would most relate to me in that moment. Mom-ing is not a competition. Some will always have it harder and some will always have it easier. We all have highs and lows; moments of pure joy and days that drain us until we think there can’t be a drop left to give. But somehow we find more to give, no matter our situation. Whatever kind of mom we may be, we all deserve support, and we all deserve to feel validated.

Marriage is Forever. — Until it’s not.

Marriage is forever. -- Until it's not.

Although divorce is incredibly prevalent, some still manage to hold to the belief that marriage is forever, a commitment meant to be unbreakable. For others, that commitment is finite. Even upon entering the marriage, there are certain conditions mentally in place–even if subconsciously–that determine what it will be strong enough to endure.  The mindset that if life together gets too hard, too stressful, too much of a financial struggle… If the spouse becomes too irritating, changes too much, doesn’t change enough… If the love doesn’t stay romantic enough, passionate enough, sexy enough… Well, then, divorce is always an option.

In contrast, those that believe marriage is forever have no underlying conditions in place. They believe the circumstances which break the feeble and less committed will prove for themselves and their true love to be opportunities for growth, becoming stronger, and improving individually and as a couple. The good times in life will be wonderful and cherished and the hard times will be endured until the good times come again. Live and repeat. Period.

Such a mindset may seem grossly naive, eye roll-worthy, meant only for fairytales, not sustainable in real life. But I believed it was perfectly realistic. Those beliefs developed from childhood, over a lifetime of hearing “families are forever” in my home and in my church. From having the goal at a young age to marry in an LDS temple where ceremonies are done in such a way that we believe marriage is not “till death do us part” but “for time and for all eternity.” From being part of an extended family where divorce is very uncommon. From being a lifelong perfectionist who doesn’t like to quit or fail at anything, who likes to be “above average” in as many ways as possible. From making right choices, living well, being a good enough person that I surely deserved adulthood’s most basic pleasures–a happy marriage and family life. From believing I was better than divorce.

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So when the word “divorce” leaked its way into my mind a couple years into my marriage, got plugged up for a while, came back as a steady trickle to be stopped up only temporarily once again… It was still just a word in my mind. Not an action I ever intended to follow through with. Because obviously, marriage is forever. The thought of divorce was just that–a thought. A coping mechanism, really, the recognition of a reality that could be mine if I ever got desperate enough. But I never expected to. I couldn’t allow myself to. Yet for claustrophobic me, who gets anxiety from any sense of physical or emotional entrapment, identifying the form of my potential exit provided me just enough relief for a long time. Even when “divorce” became a weekly, daily, hourly stream of thought, I only became more and more concerned with my inability to stop it, to get the thought away for good. While it may have been a direct result of particular circumstances, I believed those circumstances could and would change. And the first step was to rid myself of all negativity and any opportunity I was mentally allowing myself and my spouse for failure.

Looking back, it took a very specific and timely chain of events for me to begin the switch, the reworkings of how I’d been wired, the transition from “marriage is forever” to “marriage is finite, and sometimes rightly so.” It wasn’t an easy or quick process to go from considering divorce in imaginary terms to realistic ones; it took most of a year of inner conflict, continually contradicting myself, and beating myself up for being so dissatisfied and not even knowing for certain what would appease me, if anything. Divorce still felt to me like failure, but circumstances kept undeniably nudging me toward it, telling me that “giving up” was perhaps part of my plan.

There was a conversation with a friend in which I shared some things I’d never shared with anyone. Her response felt like a slap in the face, but it brought a sense of reality I hadn’t experienced up to that point. There was a series of emails with another friend who opened up to me, relating to me in a lot of ways, while sending advice and thoughts that I read and clung to like a lifeline providing me with strength and courage and understanding of myself. There was the seemingly random idea to start praying for my spouse regarding something specific, but rather than seeing a positive result of my prayers, I was struck to observe the opposite. There were the physical health issues that came as a result of bottled up stress and inner turmoil that I didn’t release to anyone. There was a miscarriage which taught me humility and that things in life don’t always go as we think they should or how we feel we deserve, but we deal with them and learn from them nonetheless. Also, more kids and the pursuit of the ideal family and home life don’t fix an irreparably cracked foundation. Finally, there was a succession of incidents in a short period of time that made it impossible to deny that something had to change for the good of my son and the betterment of both of his parents. Plans were made to stay with my parents during a separation, and somehow I followed through with them.

The months that followed only got harder. One thing helped me get through them, though. In separating, I had discovered an amount of bravery and independence within me I never knew existed. No way had I summoned up so much courage out of a place of fear, anxiety, helplessness, and resignation simply to cower back where I came from, as if it was all for nothing. No, my uncharacteristic courage would be a catalyst for change. I didn’t yet know what that change would look like, but for once my mantra to get through life would not be an unwavering “marriage is forever.” Instead, my mantra became “find my lasting happiness. Period.”

I’m still here.

I'm still here.

The other day I took a selfie, because after getting ready for the day I felt pretty good about myself and figured I’d capture the moment. Not a big deal– except it actually was. I realized I hadn’t taken a selfie in 9 months, and I got to wondering why.

The reason, I think, is not so different from the reason I haven’t written a blog post in over a year or posted much of anything on Facebook or made any efforts to catch up with old friends and acquaintances in real life or social media. I have been hiding. Keeping a low profile, staying off the radar, because essentially, I have been lost. I have not known who I am, I have not known where I am going, I have not felt proud of what I’m doing, and so I have made efforts to not draw attention to myself.

My life currently is a lot different from what I thought it would be 10 years ago, 5 years ago, 1 1/2 years ago. Different in almost every way, actually. I’ve been through a lot of personal challenges in the past 16 months. A lifetime of emotions. Pain, betrayal, guilt, disappointment, emptiness, misery, self-loathing, disbelief, utter confusion, anger, inner turmoil, hope, relief, empowerment, joy, contentment. And those emotions have been felt over and over again, an ongoing exhausting cycle.

I am a writer. It is my nature to want to write through my problems and challenges. When I had my miscarriage a year and a half ago, I started writing about it almost immediately. The process was healing and it was gratifying to know that I was of help to others; it gave my sorrow a bit of purpose. Unlike my current situation, however, I felt no shame in having a miscarriage. It was not my fault. There was nothing I could have done differently. Nobody would judge me for it. But my recent challenge? People might judge me. Some already have. They might say it’s my fault. I’ve certainly wondered if it is. Certain individuals might be mad at me for making it public knowledge. And so I haven’t said anything. Even though I knew it could be healing and beneficial to me, and probably for someone else. Even though I am a writer and have dreams of being a really good one, I haven’t written anything in months because the thing I really want to write about has been off limits.

But I am tired of all these limits. I don’t want to hide away. I don’t want to feel ashamed. I don’t want to be quiet and in the background and not pursuing anything, being stuck in one place because I’ve been forced into it and I’m not making any efforts to get out. I don’t want to be stuck. I want to be in control of my life, what I do, what I pursue. I don’t want to be shamed into standing still in limboland, not being seen or heard.

I am divorced. That became official just last week. I filed for divorce over 9 months ago. My husband… I mean ex– but I hate that term… My former spouse and I separated over 16 months ago. It has been a long process. One that involved my son and me moving to Kansas to stay with my parents, counseling and therapy sessions, visits back to Utah, lots of prayer, even more tears, working so hard to be able to distinguish the difference between true happiness and where I’d committed myself to trying to find it, and starting a new life almost from scratch.

Although the process of getting divorced has been very long and drawn out, the state of actually being divorced is very recent. I thought I was prepared for it, with all the time that led up to it. But the finality is a whole new experience for me. Slow to sink in. Bringing a sharp pang of sorrow and loss every time it does. Because it’s an “every time” sort of occurrence, not just once or twice. The words “I am divorced” repeating themselves in my mind each day, sinking themselves into that hole in my heart which simultaneously grows bigger and emptier… every time. Because it’s hard accepting myself as someone I never wanted to be. Someone I fought for years against becoming. Someone who is divorced.

But owning up to it seems like a good first step. Not keeping myself hidden and quiet due to shame in my marital status, due to fear of someone who doesn’t know me forming judgments. I am so much more than someone who is divorced. I am strong, I am brave, I am suffering and growing every day, maintaining a compassionate and gentle heart through it all.

I am changed, but I’m still me. And I’m still here. So here I write.

Oreo Cheesecake Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Oreo cheesecake stuffed chocolate chip cookie bars“The Oreo cheesecake stuffed chocolate chip cookie bars are ready,” says your personal baker in your dreams. Except these magical words don’t have to only be in your dreams anymore. And very soon you can will be saying these very words to your loved ones, because very soon you can will make them. These Oreo cheesecake stuffed chocolate chip cookie bars are too good, but they are not too good to be true. They are true, and they are real, and they are deliciously decadent.

Oreo cheesecake stuffed chocolate chip cookie barsOreo cheesecake stuffed chocolate chip cookie barsRecipe adapted (and dare I say, enhanced), from the food blog I’ve been loving and following for six years, Mel’s Kitchen Cafe: Cheesecake Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars.

Ingredients:

Chocolate chip cookie layer
8 Tbs butter, melted
2/3 c. packed light brown sugar
1/3 c. granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 c. chocolate chips

Cheesecake layer
8 oz. cream cheese
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

9-12 Oreo cookies

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat an 8×8-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. For the cookie layer, stir butter and sugars in a large bowl until combined. Add the egg and vanilla, mix well. Add the flour, salt, and baking soda; stir until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  3. Press half of the dough into a thin, even layer onto the bottom of the prepared pan. (Moisten hands slightly if the dough is sticking too much.) Fill in any holes with a bit of cookie dough from the bowl.
  4. For the cheesecake layer, mix the cream cheese and powdered sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla, mix until well combined.
  5. Spread out Oreo cookies over the layer of cookie dough in the pan, 3 rows of 3. If you want, cut another 3 cookies into halves or fourths to fill in gaps. Pour the cheesecake layer over the Oreo cookies, filling in crevices so the bottom layer of cookie dough is not visible.
  6. Using the remaining cookie dough, flatten tablespoon amounts into flat discs in moistened hands. Place these discs over the top of the Oreo cheesecake layer, pressing them lightly together. Fill in gaps the best you can with any remaining bits of dough. It’s okay if there are small spaces–they will fill in pretty well as the bars bake.
  7. Bake the bars for 20 minutes. Turn oven temperature down to 325 degrees F and bake for another 15-20 minutes until lightly browned. Let cool, cut into squares and enjoy your dream come true.

**These Oreo cheesecake stuffed chocolate chip cookie bars are delicious when eaten while still warm, or at room temperature, or after being chilled in the fridge. So basically, what I’m saying is… try all three ways and tell me your preference.

Haircut: Long to Lob

Long hairWhelp, I finally got a haircut. Almost 2 weeks ago actually, and I haven’t even posted a single pic of it, and I’ve decided that feels so anticlimactic since I’d only been growing those hairs out for the past 4 years, you know… Hence, a whole blog post is now being devoted to my haircut, woohoo, because I care and so do you!

I’ve had something of a lifelong tradition of growing my hair out then cutting it short, growing it out again to cut it short again, and so on and so on. I don’t usually like to keep it the same length for long. Which is odd, because I typically hate change in almost all other matters of life–go figure!

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Pregnant mama-to-be haircut, 4 years ago

A year-and-a-half or so ago when my hair was waist-length and I surprisingly wasn’t totally sick of it yet, I decided I might as well grow it to my bum just to say I had and then donate it because I never have before, and it would be a waste not to. So that’s what I did. Long hairLong hair

Since my hair was longer than it had ever been before, I felt more attached to it than I ever had before. I’ve been talking about doing the big haircut for several months, but kept putting it off for one reason or another. Finally I scheduled my haircut in advance, and having that commitment set helped me go through with it at last. I thought I was going to cry when those 15-inch long ponytails snipped right off in a matter of seconds after years of growing. But I didn’t. It actually felt completely normal. Like it was time and I’d been ready for it longer than I’d realized. It felt lighter and somewhat liberating. It also felt nice to know those hairs were going to be put to good use. haircut

Sitting in that haircut-chair I had something of a revelation. Sometimes we put things off in life because we don’t think we’re ready to make the change. We’re scared to go through with it, because it’s easier to stick with what we know. And then finally we make the jump and do the big thing that has seemed so daunting, and just like that, it is done. It turned out to be quite easy. It quickly becomes obvious, in hindsight, that it had been the best thing to do all along, and we wonder why we had felt so afraid. Because, after all, that tired old hair had been hanging there dead-celled and lifeless for 4+ years anyway. It had served its purpose, and it was time to move on. We hang on to things even when they’re no longer doing us any good, because they feel vital and impossible to let go of. When we finally do let go, we expect to feel immediate regret and sorrow. But instead we feel free.

Haircuts are deep.

Anywho, I have no regrets about mine. 15 inches off took my hair to the ever-so-popular (and for good reason) lob level, and I am lobbin’ it. I mean lovin’ it.

Lob haircut lob haircut lob haircut   lob haircutlob haircut

Why Does God Let Bad Things Happen to Good People?

why does God let bad things happen to good people“Why does God let bad things happen to good people? Why would He allow us to suffer?” It seems many of us have asked these questions at some point in our lives. For some, these questions become a kind of evidence that there is in fact no God, because with all the power and love He’s supposed to have, He would never let us suffer so much. And yet the suffering happens, even to people whose actions in no way make them deserving of such suffering. Therefore, God cannot and does not exist.

This line of thinking doesn’t sit right with me. God is real, and He always will be real to me. Yet I still can’t help but sometimes wonder why He allows certain things to happen to me, and then I wonder if there’s something I’ve done to make me deserving of such difficult and trying circumstances. I mean really, why does God let bad things happen to good people? These questions have frequented and puzzled my mind recently–during the hardest period of my life by far, if I’m being honest.

Why does God let bad things happen to good people?

My questions and perspective changed while listening to a particularly meaningful devotional by Jonathan G. Sandberg, Healing = Courage + Action+ Grace. He states, “I have come to realize that [God] cares more about my growth than He does about my comfort. One evidence of His love is that He does not spare me from the suffering I need for my development and progression.”

And with that, a light bulb turned on in my head. I realized that wondering why I was suffering and what made me deserving of it had been the wrong questions. They would always be the wrong questions. Such questions assume that my perpetual comfort is of utmost importance. Turns out it’s not. When it comes down to it, God doesn’t care much about my comfort. He does, however, care about my development and progression.

Do I deserve to grow in my life, to become better, stronger, wiser, more humble, more compassionate? I do. And so in that sense, I absolutely deserve my struggles and hard times, because “Good timber does not grow with ease. The stronger the wind, the stronger the trees” (Thomas S. Monson). Why does God let bad things happen to good people? Because unlike me, He has an eternal perspective. He knows what experiences will lead me to my ultimate potential, and He’s not going to protect me from those hard things if it’s going to hold me back, keep me weak and doubtful and afraid.

As a parent myself, I know all about letting my child experience hard things for his own good. My son is 3 1/2–his life experience is fairly limited. He knows little of what he will face in years to come, and while I don’t know exactly what awaits him, I have a fairly good idea. It’s my job to prepare him for the rest of his life, and some of my biggest goals as Mom are to teach him to be responsible for his own actions, that good and bad consequences are inevitable, that sometimes things happen which aren’t a direct result of anything he did, but he still has to face them head-on and deal with them the best he can.

Why does God let bad things happen to good people?

Some of my son’s greatest challenges currently include eating the vegetables I give him because they’re good for him, going to bed on time because it’s good for him, having limited media time because it’s good for him, practicing politeness and kindness to everyone because it’s good for him. Do I love the tantrums caused when I instigate these “challenges?” Do they make him happy and comfortable, do they make me happy and comfortable? No. But I enforce them because my perspective is much greater than his in-the-moment one. I want him to learn values and proper behaviors, to grow and develop to be the best possible version of himself, and if that means both of us experience unhappiness and discomfort at times, so be it.

Just as my perspective is much greater than my son’s, God’s is much greater than my own. When it comes to having an eternal perspective, my ability and understanding is no greater than a 3 1/2-year-old. And so I’m trusting that God knows what’s best for me. That while it doesn’t make Him happy to see me miserable, He knows this period of time is small when compared to the measure of happiness that will ultimately be mine. I’m choosing to have faith in Him and the joy that awaits me.

This faith doesn’t make my problems go away, it doesn’t make them any less difficult right now in this moment and the foreseeable future. But it makes them a bit more bearable. It gives them some kind of meaning for me to cling to, to know that this hardest-part-of-my-life is not all for nothing. While I have felt alone and abandoned, I haven’t been. Why does God let bad things happen to good people? Because he is loving and all-knowing enough to allow us to struggle for our own good.

That makes sense to me. That line of thinking sits right with me. It gives me a sense of peace in the midst of great turmoil. And so I cling to my newly-discovered truth, that God cares more for my growth than my comfort, and that’s why He allows hard things to happen to me, despite and because of the fact that I’m a good person. I deserve the best possible version of myself.

11 Ridiculously Satisfying Mom Triumphs

11 Ridiculously Satisfying Mom Triumphs

I think the title says it all: 11 Ridiculously Satisfying Mom Triumphs. The kind of triumphs that are ridiculous, but no less satisfying and triumphant. The kind of triumphs that may not seem too extraordinarily triumphant to anyone but moms. We moms, though, we know how to appreciate life’s simplest triumphs… especially when our kids are involved.

  1. When your 3-year-old says he wants mac-and-cheese for lunch, you ask him three times just to be sure, and fifteen minutes later, once the mac-and-cheese is made, he doesn’t start screaming, “But I wanted grilled cheese!” Hallelujah.
  2. Your toddler starts running away from you in a public place, you yell out “Stop, come back!,” and he actually listens the first, second, or even the third time you call without any chasing or tackling on your part. Mom of the year? I think yes.
  3.  When you make plans or schedule an appointment to work around what is 95% of the time your baby’s nap time, and on that day he actually doesn’t decide to not fall asleep until two hours later than usual.
  4. After making and eating dinner with your family, you look at the leftovers, then ponder in front of your avalanche-of-Tupperware cabinet, decide to use the one that holds 3 cups instead of the one that holds 3 1/2 cups (because any unused Tupperware space is wasted precious mess-of-a-fridge space!), and lo and behold, the food fits *perfectly,* give or take zero ounces. Score!
  5. Your toddler is playing independently while his dad’s on the couch with the laptop and you’re doing chores. Once you finish and sit down for a moment of relaxation, your toddler doesn’t immediately tackle you, begging for horsey rides, food, and a metropolitan of building blocks.
  6. You finish at the store sooner than you had anticipated (and not because you ditched a full cart in aisle 18 and raced toward the exit, buying nothing, because someone couldn’t stop screaming).
  7. On a particularly long day your child goes to bed at 11pm when he usually goes to bed at 8pm. The next morning, instead of waking at his typical 8am, he wakes up at 8:25am. BOOM. 
  8. When your kid gets sick with the stomach flu (bless his little soul), and he throws up for the first time at 12pm, not 12am.
  9. You sleep six consecutive hours on a regular basis.
  10. You don’t remember the last time someone kicked you in the face while buckling them in, rammed their head into your jaw while dressing them, bit your nipple while feeding them, or jumped onto your stomach for no other reason than you made the mistake of lying down.
  11. It’s not an occasion of utmost rarity for you to get dressed all the way, i.e., to wear pants with a zipper, possibly even accessories, e.g., a scarf, earrings, a necklace (not your kid’s leftover lunch stains). Look at you just doing it all, and looking so. darn. good doing it.

8 Tips for Getting Chores Done Faster

8 Tips for Getting Chores Done FasterMaybe you don’t need any tips for getting your chores done faster, but if you’re like me, maybe you do. It’s not that I love doing chores so much that I purposely make them take forever or anything, but I am naturally a meticulous perfectionist. When I do something, I want to do it meticulously and perfectly; otherwise, I don’t want to do it. That becomes a problem with everyday chores. Either I take way too long doing them, or I don’t do them at all. Here are my tips for changing that, and getting chores done faster.

1. Don’t Lay Down First

When I know I need to get chores done, I try really hard not to recline around on the couch first with the intention of working my way into the chore-completing mood. It won’t happen. It will only sound more and more like drudgery, and if I ever actually do get up, I won’t be in a chipper or energetic mood about it, but dreadful and slow. Lying on the couch is for after chores are complete (but if you accidentally reverse the two, refer to tip #2).

2. Listen to Upbeat Music

I know cleaning and exercising may not be the same thing (although I feel completely justified when I skip a workout because I cleaned), but I like to listen to the same kind of music for both. I listen to my most upbeat, fast-paced, get-me-moving jams when I’m at the gym, and it turns out rocking to the same tunes while I clean gets me moving quicker and my chores done faster.

3. Set a Time Limit

This may sound silly, because honestly, it’s not that I love doing chores so much that I just can’t make myself stop. But if I set a timer and pay attention to the minutes ticking by and how much more I intend to accomplish, I simply work faster. (This strategy works well for things besides chores, too.)

4. Have a Realistic Plan

Whenever I’ve set out to clean and organize the whole house in one day, I get hopelessly overwhelmed one-and-a-half chores in and end up laying on the couch Netflixing. But when I make a realistic plan with specific chores for the day, I can finish them feeling accomplished, not feeling guilty about everything else I unrealistically meant to get done.

5. Don’t Use the Restroom

This might sound ridiculous, but I seriously start washing dishes all the time when I need to pee. I wouldn’t take this too far to the point of bursting my bladder, but needing to urinate and not doing so until the task at hand is complete causes me to work at near-superhuman speeds.

6. Find Your Rhythm

When it comes to weekly chores, I like to have a routine. Certain chores for certain days, an order for doing them, a specific method for each one. Having this rhythm allows me to get my groove on and get those chores done faster.

7. Have a Cleaning Caddy

Is it just me, or does it totally stink when you start cleaning the upstairs bathroom only to realize the cleaning supplies is in the cabinet of the bathroom downstairs, and once you get to the bathroom downstairs, you realize you forgot the toilet cleaner upstairs? Going back and forth throughout the house is a great way to waste extra time on chores, so a cleaning caddy, stored in one particular place, containing all the most essential cleaning supplies becomes very handy for simply grabbing and going.

8. Reward Yourself

Once all the chores are complete, I like to reward myself. Whether it’s a banana split, reading more of the book I’ve been thinking about all day, wasting time on Facebook, or doing whatever the heck I want for the rest of my kid’s nap time, that reward has been thought about long before the chores were begun. Keeping my eye on the prize like this definitely helps me work quickly and get those chores done faster, because banana split MUST. GET IN. MY BELLY. And now.

How to Make Trips to the Store with a Toddler Enjoyable

Trips to the store with a toddler: how to make it an enjoyable experience for both of youTrips to the store with a toddler — or, heaven forbid, multiple stores… or perhaps multiple toddlers — can seem like a daunting task at times. At least with my son, trips to the store became very much the opposite of fun once he learned to crawl way back when. He’d squirm and scream in the cart, maneuvering his little self out of the safety belt until I’d either force him back down, making him cry harder which is something I usually prefer to avoid in public places for any extended period of time, or I’d pick him up to hold him in one arm while pushing the cart around the store and trying to super-speedily grab the things I needed with the other, while also making an effort to look as graceful and composed and I-totally-got-this as possible.

And then I discovered a trick that seemed pretty obvious, but by some of the looks and comments I’ve received, realized it may not be that obvious. When I’m at any store with a toy section, I like to make my way there first. I tell my Desmond ahead of time, usually while driving, “We’re going to Walmart/Target/Kohl’s/TJ Maxx/etc. Mama needs to get some things, but we will look at the toys first and you can pick out x amount to play with in the cart while I shop–but we are only playing with them at the store. We’re not buying any toys today. Does that sound good?” He says yes, and most of the time, everything goes according to plan with no tantrums or fits, I shop in relative peace and leisure, and my son plays happily with some new and different toys. As with many situations with toddlers, informing him of the plan and setting the rules beforehand is key.

If we have the time and he seems to be getting bored or restless with the toys in the cart, I tell him, “If you keep being good and let Mama finish getting what we need without whining, we’ll go back to the toys once I’m finished, put away these ones, and you can get out of the cart to look at/play with some more toys for x minutes.”

I suppose bribery + toddlers is no new combination, nor is it a standard for good parenting. However, I like and feel okay about the fact that this particular bribery doesn’t involve buying some junky little toy as a be-good incentive at the end of each shopping trip or repeated questions of “Are we done yet?” so we can finally stop by McDonald’s to get that ice cream cone I accidentally promised. At least this way neither of us are crying or wanting to pull our hair out, because the trip to the store with a toddler in itself is a pleasurable experience.

But fair warning: as I mentioned previously, not everyone seems to be aware of this trick. Like me, you may get some shocked and disapproving looks from shopping passersby, to then hear muttered comments like, “Did you see all those toys? You’d think it was Christmas!” or “That’s why kids these days are so entitled; parents are spoiling them,” or “I hope they’re buying gifts for some triplets’ birthday party.” So be prepared. Have a comeback ready if necessary, or just keep on walking like you didn’t even hear, feeling confident as always in your parenting skills. When going to the store with a toddler, you do what you gotta do, and feel pretty darn good when you’ve figured out something that works and makes you both happy.

Happiness is Altering Your Expectations

Happiness is a long fishtail braid and good skin day
Happiness is a long fishtail braid and good skin day

Happiness is altering your expectations. Better yet, happiness is having no expectations at all.

From a young age, I’ve been practicing the “don’t get your hopes up” way of life. It may seem like a negative way to live, but I think of it as realistic and smart, because few things in life lie completely within our own personal control and it’s always nicer to be surprised by good news than bad, or even no news at all.

And having no expectations is actually pretty easy… if you live alone under a rock, and are completely content with living alone under a rock. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: things get hard when the comparison game comes into play, when we see what others have and want it too, when we don’t want to be jealous of the Joneses but how can we not be when they display all the achievements of all their ridiculously high expectations literally right under our noses via social media like: beautiful house by age 21, start decorating with the most stylish and high-end furnishings immediately–check. Travel to five continents by 22–check. Complete PHD by 23, marry most gorgeous of spousal specimens that same year–check. Have amazing career with amazing salary, pay off mortgage by age 24–check. Have perfect, great-sleeping baby at 25, plenty of loved ones around to help take care of baby but still be a super-devoted parent, continue awesome career, exotic travels, write and publish best-selling novel, begin successful modeling side career on a whim–check, check, check, and check.

We all know someone like this, right? Or perhaps this is just the way they appear to us, based upon the culmination of all the good personal news they’ve chosen to share with the world, and perhaps the fact that many of the checks off their lists happen to be the very things we haven’t even yet written down on our own lists because they still seem like such far-off-in-the-future achievements. Everything seems so easy for them. Why can’t it be easy for me too? Happiness is always within their reach but just out of mine. They have everything I want but don’t have, even though I deserve it as much if not more than them… why is that? Why them and not me?

Happiness is your 3-year-old model
Happiness is your 3-year-old model
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Happiness is Saturday afternoon messes…and yet iPad still wins out

Whenever I find myself thinking this way, here’s how I handle it:

First of all, while we may seem to deserve certain things based on our hard work, years in school, admirable qualities, or past struggles, none of us are actually entitled to anything. Certainly not just because our same-aged friend already owns a home therefore we should already own a home too. Or because our friend three years younger than us is already married with two kids therefore we should already have at least two kids or at least one kid or at least be married. Or because our friend who finished school to be a doctor at the same time as us already has a thriving practice therefore we should already have a thriving practice too.

Isn’t that how it usually goes when we find ourselves wondering why we can never seem to keep up with so-and-so? I at least never seem to feel too jealous of friends 5 or 10 years older than me, because it’s easy to believe/wish/hope/pretend that in 5 or 10 years of course my life will look just like theirs. But when it’s friends my age or in a similar stage of life… that’s when it gets hard not to view them all as Joneses.

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Happiness is laughing in a public bathroom stall because you can’t reach the hanger on your tiptoes
Happiness is a healthy stir-fry with all the veggies in your fridge after too many junk food meals
Happiness is a healthy stir-fry with all the veggies in your fridge after too many junk food meals

But similar age or stage of life does not make us all the same. We all face different challenges and fight different battles in life, so doesn’t it make sense that our good fortunes and blessings would be different as well? Whether you believe in God, a next life, the universe, karma, or chance, I find it impossible to believe that any person can get through this life scot-free, without having to endure a number of personal challenges, however they may come.

Your friend may have the nice new house you don’t have, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t trade it for the happy, loving marriage and home-life you do have. Your friend may have the husband and kids you don’t have, but it doesn’t mean they don’t struggle every day with feelings and the resulting guilt that they missed their opportunity to begin a successful career, travel, and/or have the social life that you do have. Your friend may have the thriving career you don’t have, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t give it up to have a loving and close relationship with a still-living mom that you do have. And maybe you have a friend who truly hasn’t yet faced a single large difficulty in life, but just to give some perspective without wishing anything bad on anyone, perhaps they’ll be forced to battle a terminal illness a few years down the road or face the heart-breaking death of a child.

These are random examples from my own imagination given with no intent to jinx anyone, but the point I wish to make is this: I truly believe we all have our own easy breezy, smooth-sailing facets of life as well as our own rocky, tumultuous, how-will-I-ever-come-out-on-the-other-side facets of life. I read a quote by Regina Brett a while back and it’s stuck with me: “If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.” I believe there’s a lot of truth in that. Of course, if we all threw our blessings in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d probably want to pick and choose amongst all of them. But that’s just not fair and that’s not how life works.

So I’m telling myself right now: Stacey, stop trying to gyp everyone else of their blessings and good fortunes if you’re not willing to gyp them of their problems too. Stop being jealous of the achievements others have made in life when you honestly don’t know the hurdles they’ve had to overcome. Stop believing everyone else has it easier than you, making yourself out to be some sort of victim who deserves to be sad and mopey, discrediting them of all the struggles they have and will endure. There are too many people in the world and too many possible problems to really believe you’ve been dealt more than most, while so-and-so is getting through life without a care. So suck it up and be happy. Be happy for yourself and the blessings you do have, the challenges you have and will overcome, and the problems you will never have to face, and be happy for the so-called Joneses.

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Happiness is a like-expressioned photo shoot with your son

Because happiness is having no expectations. Okay, actually, that’s not true… Happiness is having realistic expectations based upon what you can personally feasibly achieve in your individual life according to the blessings and challenges you’ve currently been dealt. Happiness is not formulating expectations for your life based upon what awesome, enviable things the people around you have achieved. Happiness is finding joy exactly where you are right now, and finding it again every day for the rest of your changing life. Happiness changes. Happiness is altering your expectations.