Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Guest Post: The 6 Commandments of Maintaining Sanity

*Today's post comes from Stefanie. Stef and I were friends in highschool and have kept in touch all these years. She remembers lots of things about me (my old nickname, my oldboyfriends, my old stunts), and yet has chosen to keep them silently buried for me. I don't know about you, but I think that's the meaning of true friendship! Stef  juggles many things in the air with her career and growing family... so when she sent this to me I knew it would be helpful to others. Enjoy!

Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Stefanie, a mother, wife, short-order cook, maid, carpool driver, math tutor, referee, personal shopper, dreamer, and lunatic. Oh, and I have a full-time profession outside of those roles. My husband, Blake, and I have a combined total of 5 children. It was your classic Brady Bunch scenario: we each had two children, met, fell in love, got married, combined households, and made a baby of our own. Our kids are 3, 9, 11, and 11, and the baby is 4 months old. Chaos is really an understatement. When we go out in public, holding hands like a line of ducks, people stop and stare. Traffic halts. Eyebrows raise. We are instantly labeled as Duggar-wannabes. Our lives are full of more insanity, yet more love, than most people ever have the chance to know.

 I’ve always worked outside of the home. The reality of most women’s situations is that we have to work. There is no entertaining the thought of staying at home once the baby is born. Not that I’m complaining; I’ve accepted this, and have learned to love the little niche I’ve carved out for myself in the professional realm. However, there was a time in my life when I struggled greatly with the “it’s not fair” thing.

“It’s not fair that I have to drop my baby off to be raised by other women while I work.” “It’s not fair that I don’t have a housekeeper. How am I supposed to get all of this done?” “It’s not fair that we don’t have a 7-bedroom mansion complete with a gardener, chef, and au pair.” “It’s not fair that my furniture is thrift store junk that I’ve tried to repurpose.”

You get the idea. I was swimming in self-pity. We’ve all been there, I suppose. I can’t really point out when my a-ha moment in time was, but I do remember praying, praying, praying for contentment and peace to enter my heart. I was so consumed with feeling like a failure for not having it all, that I couldn’t see that, in reality, I have it all. When I decided to see the glass as half-full, I had a renewed sense of self and one mantra that I continually repeat over and over to myself: DO WHAT YOU CAN. If you’re a busy mother like me, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. I’ve come up with the 6 Commandments for Maintaining Sanity:

 1. If it looks clean on the surface, let’s assume it is. I used to waste hours – hours – disinfecting my house. Now I’ve learned to chill on the deep cleaning. If my sheets don’t all get washed every week, so be it. 5 sets of bedding is a lot of laundry. Unless we’re suffering from a fresh bed-bug infestation, nobody’s health will suffer. Time better spent soaking in the tub.

2. Nobody will ever know you paid $2 for those shoes. High-end consignment stores are your friend. Pretty much my entire wardrobe has been purchased at second-hand shops. Every time I wear my $30 BCBG pantsuit, I get nonstop compliments. If you feel put together, you are.

3. Sometimes you have to scream. Don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself losing your temper and raising your voice occasionally. We can’t all be June Cleaver. Ask any mom with preteen hormones running rampant through the house, and I guarantee you she’ll feel the same way. Just take a breath and move on.

4. When in doubt, trash it. I constantly struggle with piles of mail, recipes, memos from school, etc. If you’re not going to use it, throw it away. It’s a freeing concept, really.

5. Sometimes, chicken nuggets and French fries are a healthy supper. One of my biggest challenges is the food situation in my house. We have to buy enough to feed an army on a weekly basis, and cooking large quantities is a daunting task. Sometimes, though, it’s really ok if your priorities aren’t organic, perfectly-balanced meals. More than one child has survived on the occasional Happy Meal.

6. Find moments to reconnect with your spouse. Seriously, my husband is my rock. I couldn’t even manage
a quarter of what I do without his support. Make time to flirt, talk, and communicate. Put each other first – your kids will thank you for this in the long run. Parents (even in the non-traditional sense) who remain stable for one another remain stable for their children, too.

As a natural born control freak, my journey to true maternal sanity is still in the making, and I have a long way to go. But, I’m getting there, one load (mountain?) of laundry at a time.

Monday, July 30, 2012


We redid our bedroom not long after Jane was born.
It was quickly evident that the three of us weren't
going to get a restful night's sleep high atop our
 four poster queen size bed.

All three of us like our space.

So we bought a king size bed.
No bed frame.
I bought the cheapest duvet cover in Target.
And called it done.

It's a far cry from the carefully decorated
room it used to be.
The sheets don't match.
The bedding is usually messy.
Jane likes to wallow.
But it's a restful room.
Instead of arranged and uptight,
it's untucked and unfinished.
But I love it so much more.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Because It's Friday, and My Baby Sister Makes Great Art...

Happy Friday! You can find Rachel's art here.

Carry On

So what's the bee in my bonnet lately?
I'm having a very hard time balancing motherhood and work.
I'm obligated as an employee to do a good job.
I'm obligated as a mother to do a good job.
But what about when Jane has a double ear infection?
Or a stomach virus?
What about opening up the office?
Or meeting a deadline?
Which one draws the short straw?
It's caused me a lot of tears.
And stress.
I'm still not sure what the solution is.
It doesn't appear anyone does.
So I'm doing a lot of praying that God will reveal it.
He always does.
Until then I'll do the best I can.
And hope it's good enough.
It will have to be.

But until then I'll try to focus on the things I love.
Like vintage quilt toppers.
I love this so much.
It's hand stitched.
Anyone want to quilt it for me?

And I'll try to have a sense of humor about things.
Like getting thrown up on.
Cherry yogurt to be exact.
I'm not sure if I can ever eat it again.
Thanks Miss Jane.

And I'll pray my baby is getting the best from me.
I'm her mother.
I only get one shot at this.
It weighs on me heavily when I worry about balance.
And yes.
That's chicken strips and french fries on her plate.
I was stuck in traffic coming home from work.
She was screaming.
The kitchen was dirty from the night before.
Matt was working late for the third night in a row.
We got takeout.
See what I mean?
But I'm going to carry on.
And keep doing what I'm doing.
And no matter what...
my kiddo is more important to me than anything.
More important than quilt toppers.
More important than a clean kitchen.
More important than anything.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Instacation: Everyone Go Here. Now.

Victorian Cottages.
Built into the side of a mountain.
Turn of the century hotels.
Gourmet food.
I'm starting to think I should be on their ad staff.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Cheerful Kitchen

                     Can you think of anything better than a cheerful kitchen?

                              I can't. And my baby sister could help with that.

Oh how I wish I'd received the art gene like her.

   She just finished this series of kitchen art, for sale here.
   I can't wait to see what she does next!

Instacation: A Quiet Pause

You know it's a good vacation when I forget to take pictures with my camera. The only pics I have are from Instagram... so my apologies go out to my followers there. It's a repeat show for you.

In Eureka there are old springs that used to be considered "healing waters." This is my favorite. It's a cave just below the ground. It was 100 degrees above those stairs when I took the picture. Down below it was a gorgeous 65. Had I been living in Eureka during the pre-air conditioner days I'd have parked a chair down in the cool darkness and set up a summer home down there in nature's air conditioner.

There's always a candle lit down there. If feels a bit like church to me. It's impossible not to be reverent when you see unique and beautiful places like this, or when you think about the clear water bubbling under the ground that was once considered magic. I'm so thankful God's imagination is beyond mine.

I'll be honest folks.
Life hasn't been all peaches and roses lately. It's been more like an airplane ride, only I'm strapped to the nose of the plane and the wind speed is making it impossible to close my eyes.

But just for this weekend I forgot about all that. I thought about how beautiful life is. How it's not just parking lots and commutes and stressful work situations. There's a whole big world out there, full of sparkling springs and caves and Victorian homes and restaurants within walking distance. It's seasides and sunsets and crickets chirping at twilight. It's Jane's laughs and giggles at bath time, and Matt making fun of me on road trips because I can't pronounce "ruined" correctly.

It always comes out "rueeened."

I also realized that sometimes when we pray to God for a change in our life, it doesn't happen overnight. It comes on slowly, at it's own pace... in His own time. I think that's happening in my life right now. No overnight miracles... just slow, cautious steps toward something a little different. A little better. A little closer to the feeling of cool calm air I found in this spring, just below the surface.

I look tired in this picture because I am. But it's a tired happy. No matter the trials, no matter the stresses, the Lord is still with me. He has blessed me. He is worthy of our praise.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Matt and I went away together this weekend. We laughed a lot. He bought me a necklace. We ate ridiculously good food. I fell in love all over again with that man.

That's all for now.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Olive Oyle and Weekend Thoughts

Weekends. Whew. I love them, but lately, they're harder than a work week. I've been so tired lately. When I get tired I wear less makeup. And that always makes me think about the time, way back when, I asked my sisters if I looked better with or without makeup.

One of them responded, "Well. You kind of look like Shelley Duval without it."

And it's true.
 I have these great big eyelids, and if they don't have eyeshadow I look just like her.
Olive Oyl.
That's me.

I was going to take picures of olives, but we're out. So avocados will have to do.

Anyway. Tonight Matt is cooking for me. Then we've got a couple of things planned that are a little out of the ordinary. We need it. We need a little change up. Our rut lately is hectic and it feels like I'm standing in a wind tunnel. And not with a superman cape or anything fun.

So that's me. Looking forward to the weekend. Looking forward to a date with Matt.

I'll be sure to wear some eyeshadow.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dinner Soundtrack

I had dinner with my sisters the other night. Matt cooked beef tenderloin and risotto. Jane was asleep to the sound of rain on her noisemaker. The crickets chorused in full force in the yard, and inside there was so much talking. Wonderful, sisterly, giggly talking.

I've missed all three of us being together. It's like my right arm is missing when I don't have it.

It was my favorite soundtrack. Jane's sleep sounds on the monitor. Summertime outside. Sizzling food and laughing inside. I tried my best to soak it all in, storing it up for the ten months we're without Becca again. It was wonderful.

Thank you, everyone, for your kind emails and tweets and hugs when I posted this gloominess. Among those sweet messages was a series of tweets from Tracy (http://mamacreates.com/ )  She was so thoughtful and kind I wanted to share them with you:

"I wish I could say balancing life gets easier, but I struggle everyday. I so want to be the mom I'd envisioned I'd be, but I fall short of that vision daily. So I have to tell myself... Lower your expectations... IT'S OK. Then I remind myself that tomorrow is a new day, free of mistakes. Was it Marilla or Matthew that said that to Anne Shirley? I know you already know this, but the good days will always outweigh the bad.. in quantity, in love, and in your memories."

 I thank God everyday for all you wonderful and uplifting friends. Hugs and blessings to you all.

Monday, July 16, 2012

So Very Tired

I got so frustrated I cried in public today. I never do that. It was humiliating. I don't want to go into the details of it, but life has been hard lately. It seems that Jane is sick with one thing or another all the time (and us). Life is unorganized and chaotic. The little frustrations dog-pile into bigger frustrations. I love my family, and my life, and my job, but sometimes it seems like they're all at war with each other... and there is only so much of me to go around.

Big, deep breaths.
Big, tearful prayers.

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Little Height Please

There are lots of changes going on around the house.
Some big, some little.
After months of subtle hints that went something like this:
"Hey, get the drill, we need to raise the curtain rods"
Matt finally conceded.
Subtly was never my strong suit.
But it looks so much better.
So worth the trouble.
The office is now a guest room.
The bathroom is mid-mini-makeover.
The kitchen is getting a new wall of paint.
And then there's that wallpaper we just can't seem hang.
I guess it's time for more subtly.

In other news I'd like to point out that while Jane
doesn't look much like me...
I can take some credit for the hair genes.
My big ol' head of hair will not straighten these days.
So Jane and I are both poofy.
Have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Morning Still Life

This morning I sat in the kitchen and ate my bowl of cereal. Jane's baby monitor buzzed softly, birds chirped outside the window, and the neighborhood sprinklers made their "tick tick tick" sound up and down the street. Instead of sitting at the dining room table I sat in the rickety turquoise chair in our kitchen, the chair we keep around for standing on to reach light bulbs.

Mabel ate her food contentedly by my feet. She likes company at meal time. I finished my cereal (exactly 110 calories portioned out with a measuring cup) and decided I was going to eat a blueberry muffin too. A dog barked next door and Mabel paused mid chew, made a throaty "grrfff" sound and went back to eating.

 Just then the baby monitor lights flashed and I heard Jane say "hi" in her highest pitched girl voice. She's starting to sound so much more like a tiny kid than a baby these days. I love that. I love that she wakes up and her first reaction is a cheerful "hi" rather than crying. If she cries it means something is really wrong. It looks like my girl might be a morning person too. That's good. I need someone to share muffins with.

*Angela's sister Anna is walking in the Tampa Bay 3-Day Walk For The Cure. If you're interested in making a donation click here. I know she would greatly appreciate any help!