Monday, January 27, 2014

Quality, unquantifiable.

Ah, little blog, how I have missed you. I still feel like I will never get this project of mine off the ground. I think I wrote the last post in October? Well, a semester, a month long break, a new year, a coming home to severe water damage, a move, a replacing a lot of our damaged stuff, and a new semester later, I am finally in a place to pick this back up.

First order of business, I changed the name of the blog, I liked the old one, but something about it was nagging me. I didn't want this to turn into another mommy blog, where my motherly exploits (although awesome and tragically hilarious) became the only topics. I love motherhood with all I am, but there are  times when it utterly exhausts me and I don't want the few people who read this to be exhausted by a  constant barrage of banal mommy anecdotes. I will forever be a Mrs. and a Mommy and a Minimalist, but the new title makes more room for all the other facets of life.

The imagery surrounding a light in the attic is very special to me, and as all symbols, has multiple, layered meanings. It represents my efforts to keep my thoughts clear and unpolluted from the darkness (postpartum depression, SAD, and other mental issues) that sometimes permeates through the rest of my body (the house). It serves as a personal reminder to keep my intellect sharp through the challenges of raising a young family. It represents a desire to have the courage to let others see my little attic light in the hopes that I make at least, a connection, at best a difference.

So without further ado... the first post for the slightly revamped blog:

I am done measuring my self worth in terms of quantity: the number of pounds on the scale, the letter grades I received in college, the number of things I successfully finished on my to-do list, the number of times I lost my temper at my kids. I am making the switch to quality. Quality of live over the quantities of life.

I'll use the pounds on the scale as the main example. Like many insane people do at the onset of January 1 (each and every single, stupid January 1), I started making my list of resolutions. And whaddya know? The very first goal on my list was a number. I had a number in my mind of what I wanted to weigh by the end of the year. Keep in mind there is nothing inherently wrong about wanting to lose a little bit of weight, but I was setting my perceived success or failure of an entire year on an arbitrary, self-imposed number. I was manufacturing a self-destruct button for my New Years Resolution Robot v. 2014. I soon came to my senses and wrote out one single goal for the year: stop drinking soda. Hi, my name is's been 27 days since my last Dr. Pepper....
I didn't want a number to get in the way of what I really wanted to do, which is to exercise, eat well, meditate, de-stress, etc etc. I love to exercise with all my heart, I crave those little endorphins that flood my cranium. I relish the feeling of pushing that bar up over my head one more time than I previously thought possible. Most importantly, I love the feeling of the fog of depression being lifted away from my head and heart after an hour of sweat infused me time. You would think that someone who has such a love affair with exercise would be at it all the time. Truth is, its a good week if I find time to exercise twice, if at all. I could throw a slew of excuses at you, but they are all smoke and mirrors. The real reason I don't want to try is because of that number. What if, despite all my best efforts, the number doesn't move? Or heaven forbid, goes up? I had become so paralyzed with anxiety over a number that I was missing out on the benefits I so desperately need. Well no more.

It's easy-ish to be a perfectionist in theory, but the practical application of life is brutal. Life, for me, is no longer a numbers game.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

....But I won't do that.

If you didn't get the Meatloaf reference in the title, I don't think we can be internet friends anymore. Seriously.

Well, post #2...exciting stuff. I probably won't ever do more than one a month.  1. Because I'm a full-time stay-at-home mom to two kids with a husband in law school.  2. Aforementioned husband takes our only computer with him to school, and brings it home only to work it to death studying at night.  3. I'm a supposed minimalist- If I was bliggity-blogging every single day I would be a fraud (ok maybe that's too extreme but you get the point).

All that being said I am proud to make it to post numero dos. I tend to get all excited about new projects, workout schedules, goals, life dreams, yadda yadda yadda, and then after one heroic plunge into whatever area of improvement du jour, I become full of self doubt and scrub the whole project. Which brings me, in a round about way, to what I actually wanted to address with this post. I am specifically talking about mothers, because that's what I do (most days pretty well) but the principle could be applied to anyone.

In addition to the rampant Mommy Wars....we have another strange parenting phenomena, the Mommy Rubberneck Syndrome. A person with Mommy Rubberneck Sydrome, or MRS (ha see what I did there?) is constantly comparing parenting styles, talents, hobbies, clothes, kids' clothes, dinner menu items, lawns, decor, family pictures, toy organization systems, etc. to every mother that person comes in to contact with. You know you do it. Just as a rubberneck on the road is a danger to everyone, a person with MRS is a danger to herself and ultimately the success of her family as a whole. Most of the time when I try something new, the reason why I typically abandon ship is because my MRS gets in the way big time. There is always someone who does it better, faster, more efficiently, more artistically, more patiently. What's worse is that I have tried things I know I hate and have no natural talent for whatsoever, only because a mom in my circle of friends can do it with ease. I'm not kidding, I once spent an entire 3 days obsessing over how to make this adorable set of felt farm animal puppets I saw on Pinterest before I came to the senses and remembered that I hate sewing with every fiber of my being.

So as part of my search for the cure for my MRS, I have decided that I will use this post as a sounding board for both things I am amazing at, and things I will never again attempt. None of these examples are inherently evil or virtuous, and I'm not knocking on anyone who does or doesn't do them. It's just a realistic portrait of who I am as a mother, a woman, a person.

I won't do that
I don't craft, scrapbook, make vinyl lettering, or repurpose furniture. It stresses me out. I'm not exact enough, I'm too erratic, and if I had the extra time to do any activities of this nature I would probably spend it napping. When I want something cute, I save up money and I BUY IT.

I don't sew, crochet, knit, darn, patch, or hem. In the event of WW3/ the Zombie Apocalypse/ New World Order, you won't find me calmly sewing bandages or making socks. I'll be at the front lines with my rifle, or at the very least, a gnarly kitchen knife.

I don't create elaborate, laminated lesson plans for my preschooler, I don't do sensory buckets for my infant. Learning in our house is more in the moment, experiential, and through reading and real time conversations. I do pull out a coloring book, play dough, chalk, and other super basic tools when we are feeling creative.

I don't have a OneNote filled with ideas for my dream house- The only dreams I have for my future house is that its not a run down mess and we can pay for it in addition to student loans.

I don't put on makeup every day. I always have one or more kids underfoot who would rather I roll around on the floor with them. Plus if its a Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, or Sunday, I will probably end up crying it into makeup oblivion, or having it smeared by the loving hand of my 8 month old, who, at this point, has no future as a personal stylist.

I don't pretend to have it all together.

I'm awesome like that
I am a dancer at heart. It has been years, I mean years, since I have taken formal lessons, but it is still central to my being. Corny much? I was actually pretty good at it, too. I dance in the kitchen, in my Zumba class, in the shower, and in my mind's eye. As soon as life calms enough I will find my way back to the studio and the stage.

I'm a great organizer. Ya the kids undo most of it, but I can balance the budget, bills, weekly meal plan, school deadlines, events, and random bits of miscellaneous info without dropping one detail (95% of the time) Hey, I said I was organized, not perfect.

I feed my kids healthy stuff and they eat it most days. I plan it out, look for deals, and eat the rainbow- the simplified way to get in a variety of vitamins and minerals-NOT lucky charms. Just the other day we had leftover grilled salmon, quinoa with beans and veggies, and peaches for lunch. I'm feeling good about that one.

I love to read. I'm neck deep in Little Dorrit right now; sometimes I want to kiss Dickens on the hand, other times I want to throw Shakespearian insults in his literary genius face. But mostly kisses.

I'm pretty darn hilarious. Hey, you made it this far down a lengthier than intended post about my personal insecurities- maybe the joke is on you. But seriously, I love to make people laugh, mostly through sarcasm and mild self-abuse. I chatter constantly. When I rock my 8 month old to sleep my mind wanders to the time in the not-too-distant future when I will be an award winning satirist and a stand up comedian. (I have a few bits in the making).

I'm good at eliminating the things that don't matter, or worse, will have a negative impact on myself or my family. I'm a sceptic who is building a foundation of faith in Christ. I am a fiercely devoted mother who has serious struggles in finding happiness as a stay-at-home mom. I would honestly rather have a career at this point, but its not about my personal self actualization, it's about creating a solid, blissful childhood for my children.

I love, protect, support, and serve my children.

I am a minimalist

I'm good at that.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Ending the Mommy Wars

We love war. We use the term "war" far too frequently to give more weight and depth to issues that while important, don't deserve the distinction. After all, who doesn't love to soldier up in righteous indignation when there is nothing going on on a Tuesday night?

Enter the mommy wars. If you have never heard of the epidemic that is ravaging the hearts and minds of young mothers everywhere, (read dramatic) then there is simply no hope for you. How on earth do you expect to be a good mother if you have not taken a side in these all important conflicts? Because there is ONE way to raise your child, and if you don't do it THAT way, then there is NO way you are ever gonna be the perfect mom. 

On Facebook, blogs, Pinterest, editorials, and in person, moms, and soon to be moms, all over are becoming casualties of Opinion. Rather than trusting in your own mother instincts, intuition, research, or prayers, it has become far too tempting to constantly see how your parenting compares to that of those around you. After all, why read books written by MDs, use your brain, or pray when you can simply Google "my child won't poop in the toilet and I have no idea how to make him and if he doesn't do it soon I'm going to trade him in for a potty trained child"? Why do we trust an online collective group of strangers, or that hovering mom at Costco more than we trust ourselves? It doesn't end there either. In order for it to be considered a war, there must be casualties of some sort. A winning side and a losing side. There has to be a breast-feeding vs. bottle-feeding, a cry-it-out vs. a family bed, a Gain vs. Downy. 

I used to think that I was above such nonsense. I went into motherhood with what I thought was considerable experience. What with having a degree in human development and growing up LDS (read babies everywhere) I figured I had it all figured out. I had an entire list of things I would always do and things I would never do. Then I had my first baby and it all got blown to hell. Most of my hell centered on how I was going to feed my child. I am saving my experience with breastfeeding for a future post, but long story short, it didn't go well. So I now found myself put on the bottle-feeding side of the line. Breast-feeding moms were the enemy, they couldn't understand me, couldn't tolerate me. Every time I mixed up that bottle, I felt the judgement, the lectures- I was doing it wrong. I would scour the web, searching for women with experiences similar to mine, searching for validation. I wasted so much time that could have been spent enjoying my little bundle. Time spent fighting instead of loving. 

Enter baby #2. Again, breast-feeding did not work. Again, I waged a mental war on those stupid moms whose stupid boobs could put that stupid milk into their babies. It all came to a head when an extended family member made an innocent comment that absolutely rocked me to my core. We were sitting around the table after a dinner and my little girl was sucking away on her binky. One family member commented on how lucky I was that my babies took a binky, hers never did. Another family member (a male family member I might add) jumped into the conversation and said" Oh, ours never took a binky because they had the real thing." In that moment every bit of confidence I had in myself as a mother went right out the window. All the emotions surrounding the choices I had made, even came to peace with, came rushing back with such intensity I had to leave the room. Once I had cried my eyes out, I felt my heart begin to harden against this family member. What did he mean by "real thing"? Just because the milk came out of a bottle and not a boob it wasn't real? And by extension was I not a real mother in his eyes? I continue to stew over the conversation weeks later until I realized that I was letting his comment dictate how I felt about myself as a mother. I was losing a war that he didn't even necessarily know we were fighting. I decided then and there that I was not going to be offended anymore by anything anyone ever said, wrote, or blogged about the choices I make as a mother.

Thats the key to it right there. If all mothers decided they were not going to engage in the mommy wars, we wouldn't have mommy wars. If the mother who gets the stink eye while nursing in public shrugs her shoulders and looks at her sucking bundle of joy instead, there is nothing to fight about. If the mothers who don't vaccinate decide not to judge the mothers who do, and visa versa, everybody wins. If the mother who endures some extremely judgmental remark at the grocery store lets it roll off her shoulders instead of repeating it verbatim on Facebook, there are no casualties. 

I am a bottle-feeding mom who is decidedly pro breastfeeding. I know the benefits; I know the difficulties. It did not work for me, may never work for me, but I can be confident that I made the right choice for my child while simultaneously being glad for the mothers who can nurse their kids into the toddler years. When we celebrate all the different mothering styles and keep our noses in our own parenting business, we have so much more energy to be positive influences on our children on on each other.