31 March 2009

back to reality

My extended weekend was so fabulous. So very fabulous. I slept past 10. I watched reruns of Felicity. I ate my favorite goodies. I watched Twilight (again) and Ghost Town (so funny). I got a pedicure, lounged in a hot tub, swam in a heated pool in the dark. I worked out in a 5-figure-membership-fee gym. I sipped on melon juice and biscuit cookies and napped in a "tranquility room". I talked until 3 am with my wonderful travelling companion (and sister-in-law) Stephanie. And on the drive there (and back) I blasted all my dark and twisty music from the days of yore... Paula Cole, Tori Amos. Sigh. It was so freeing.

I vaguely remembered what it felt like to be well rested before this weekend. Like you're on a cloud. Like you've got sunshine in your soul. Okay, lol. But it was THAAAAAAAAAAAAAT good. And I need that more regularly!


It's amazing how abruptly life returns to normal when you get home from "vacation". There's no transition period whatsoever. As soon as I walked in the door on Sunday evening my husband needed to "get out of the house". Hmmm, where have I heard that before? And there I was tuning out my own thoughts again and listening to small demands and pleas for my exclusive attention.

I missed my kids and husband, for sure. But honestly? I immediately thought "Why does everything have to be so hard around here? I'm well rested, I'm rejuvenated, and it's all gonna disappear in a matter of minutes. And by the way why don't I have that Bionic Woman feeling I was so hoping for?" Yeah, not so realistic thoughts. I do feel better equipped to deal with the daily stresses than I did before I left, but they are still there, and every bit as demanding. And I love being a mother, but it is hard, hard job. So of course I want to do what is necessary to keep loving it. Here are some ideas I've come up with to help me feel at least a portion of the invigoration I experienced over the weekend. Every day.

Get enough sleep. The main goal for this trip was to rest. I was a blob. No, really. I exercised twice but except for that I didn't move any muscle that didn't require my doing so. :) I needed all 3 days to stock up on rest, I was so deprived of it. I often feel like I have to stay up late in order to completely unwind. But then I am tired and grouchy the next day, and it has a snowball effect until I crash one night at 6pm on the dinner table. So 10:30 pm. That's my new bedtime!

Have some quiet time every day. I'm still working on this one. I am not a morning person, so getting up any earlier than necessary wouldn't work well for me. I can grab a few minutes between getting my kids off to school and getting the 2 little ones up and ready to go, though. I plan to use this time to read an Ensign article, pray or just lie back and think some happy thoughts.

Since I am a high impact exerciser 5 days a week, I've decided that my body needs more balance. I'm starting yoga once a week. To stretch out my body and loosen everything up is very relaxing for me. And I love the free movement of yoga. It reminds me of the years and years I danced.

Have weekly nights out with my friends and/or my husband. I was already getting pretty good at this, out of sheer necessity, but I am going to keep it going for sure. I need to go out and let loose and do the things I enjoy more often. Take in a show, explore new restaurants, or just sit around with my girls and laugh at stupid things. Usually the trouble of finding a sitter discourages me from the time out with my husband. But I'm going to make more of an effort, because it is always worth it in the end. Even if he is snug in bed by the time I get home from dropping off the babysitter. ;)

Go outside more. Take in the sun. It's SO good for you! Of course the weather will be turning brutal here in TX pretty soon, but we have a neighborhood pool now and I am going to use it often!

Teach my children more responsibility. It may take less time to just do it myself, but it's easier on me if I have them help around the house more. And over time they learn to do things properly. And hey, they won't be that roomate everyone hates.

Ask for help. This works especially well for men, who aren't mind readers (who knew?). My husband is happy to help but he's not going to know instinctively what to do. I need to tell him specifically what I need help with. It's not difficult to do - again it's just getting out of the habit of doing everything myself, like some kind of control freak. (Who, me?)

These things are really going to help me out. I want to feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day, not dread that tomorrow is upon me. Hope some of you might join me. :)

24 March 2009

Are we there yet?

I keeping asking myself this question. Why? Because on Thursday I get to take off, by myself, for 3 days. 3 days of no Dora. 3 days of no settling spats. 3 days of no answering the same question times 10. 3 days of quiet. 3 days of not having to share what is on my plate. 3 days of going to the restroom alone. 3 days of doing whatever I want - sleeping, reading, watching movies. In a big hotel room. With spa access (my poor runner's feet cannot wait). And the company of my lovely sister-in-law to whom I owe the accomodations.

Thursday, where art thou? Come swiftly and pass slowly. Rejuvenate me. Give me breath. Grant me rest, I beg thee.

Oh, and be sweet to my husband. Forsake him not. He hath taken time off work for me to do this. And if it be thy will, subdue my children... just enough to keep my spouse sane, though not enough that he is not in awe of me upon my return, and doth lavish me with praise and a promise that I might be let away again once more...

18 March 2009

Somebody needs to bake the cookies.

Check out this article somebody recently shared with me (and tell me what you think in your comments):

It’s funny, the way I get so cerebral about homemaking. You’d think that, after talking to my mom and her friends — now in their 80s — I’d be more down-to-earth about it all. Certainly that’d be the case when I heard what a chore it was and how happy they were when they could finally stop cooking, cleaning, and raising kids (not all did, to be sure, but enough did). Right?

Having been raised in an era of ├╝ber-options for women, I might never have looked back, never considered homemaking a thing to be valued. Or, at the very least, I would understand the socio-political consequences of relegating any one gender to a life without many translatable career skills. It’s risky, to be sure.

I mean, how many women found themselves on the short end of the stick after their husbands took off for greener pastures? Or even if they didn’t leave (and many wished they did), how many women found the daily chores of homemaking brain-numbing to the extreme?

Certainly we know the stories of lonely and frustrated suburban women downing cocktails and Valium in their meager stabs at freedom.
Someone needs to bake the cookies.

So why do I keep revisiting this thing called “homemaking” (or, more rightfully, “householding”) in my head? Well, because I believe we threw the baby out with the bath water.

I believe there is much to be found in a life of home stewardship, but to find it, we will have to challenge many of our assumptions and stereotypes. We will have to question our notions of success and how they have been dialed into an otherwise unexamined economic doctrine.

But mostly, I make the case because I am a woman with enough chutzpah to do so. Without a doubt, if this movement gets any traction there will be legions of naysayers to challenge “the right of return” I am calling for. But I am not afraid. I’m butch, and I bake cookies.

I’m a mother and wife, but not because I’m afraid to be otherwise. I am making a case for revisionist gender politics as it relates to homemaking. Some are good at it and some are not, and it has nothing to do with what’s under your skirt (as it were).

Now that I’ve made that clear, I want to connect the dots, or revise the dots:

1. Householding is not a gender-specific act
2. Householding seeks to revise small-scale systems of home economics
3. Householding eschews fast food, fancy packaging, and marketing hype
4. Householding requires a connection with natural systems
5. Householding sees value in the domestic
6. Householding eschews “economies of scale” as maligned systems
7. Householding seeks a healthy environment, family, and community as a barometer of its success
8. Householding refuses the commodification of everyday skills
9. Householding is something I’m trying to understand.

In essence, I am making a call for a return to the home as a political act, an economic stance, and a spiritual movement. I am making a call for a return because we need one. I am making a call because the more creative minds we put to the task, the better the solutions. I am making a call for a return because someone needs to be home when all the “important” work out there is done. Someone needs to meet our children at the door and listen to their stories. Someone needs to create the quiet, safe, and unhurried spaces of our inner lives.

Who shall it be now?

Let me be honest: Sometimes the effort is brain-numbing, but other times (most of the time) it’s infused with the renewed logic of home stewardship and sustainable economics. Certainly our current economic crisis has shown us just how fragile/corrupt the mainstream system is, but we did not need the crash to see it. Not if we wanted to think through it.

These days, when I go to the grocery store I look at products with new eyes. From an anthropological perspective it amazes me to see how effectively they (whoever they are) have turned everything I can do for myself into something they will do for me — for a price.

But what is the price? What has been the price of jobbing out our lives? What has been made of the environment? What has been made of our families? What has been made of our spirits, our economy, and our souls? Those are rhetorical questions, because most of you know the answers.

Certainly some have found themselves returning home for reasons outside their control and are struggling. Others (and their numbers are growing) are making a conscious choice to do so. Whatever the reason, I believe a great opportunity for transformation is upon us.

Creating new economies, home economies, economies based on reasoned and prudent systems of supply, demand, production, and consumption, will take a hands-on, homemade revolution. It will take a stepping-down from the mainstream marketing matrix. It will require a re-evaluation of wants and needs. In the end, it might well require a radical new legion of butch cookie makers to challenge the dominant economic paradigm.

Oh yeah, now that’s what I’m talking about.

--------------------------------------------

I've been thinking a lot about my decision to be a stay-at-home-mom lately. What has worked for me, to keep that "brain-numbing" feeling at bay, is to find time to do things that I enjoy, that utilize my skills, and that make me feel whole. I could also say more than "just a mother" but nobody is just a mother. Motherhood isn't "just" anything. It is, as Fasonfest said, a contribution to society. I have found joy in balancing motherhood with a life outside of it. But I have always put my family first. And feel it is close-minded, after all women have been through, for this choice to still be challenged on many levels. Which I find interesting, because also as Fasonfest said, I may not have valued the choice I went on to make without having so many more options open to me than perhaps were open (or at least welcome) to generations before me. I feel more open-minded because I've embraced the possibility that "homemaking" just might be a noble cause. Get around the fact that I have 4 (gasp) kids, and look at the fact that I take pride in what I do, in being a woman for which the world is my oyster. My friend Catherine is working on a dissertation and in her research shared with me that there was a brief movement of cultural feminism in the 70s, in which the nature of a woman was glorified, the idea being that spirituality, intelligence and power emerge from the essence of (undervalued) femininity.

Well put an apron on me and call me Donna.

13 March 2009

Inside the mind of a mother...

Let's face it, "some things are better left unsaid". A mother rarely reveals what she's really thinking. Am I right? Because - how embarassing that we might actually have real thoughts of running away, or tossing the china against the wall.

I recently saw a column where a woman had written in to ask why her friend, who had children while she did not, couldn't find the time to just pick up the phone and call her every once in a while. After all she was home all day. She wanted to know what really kept her so busy and tired all the time. Here's a portion of the response given to her: "When you have young kids your typical day is: constant attention, from getting them out of bed, fed, cleaned, dressed; to keeping them out of harm's way; to answering their coos, cries, questions; to having two arms and carrying one kid, one set of car keys, and supplies for even the quickest trips, including the latest-to-be-declared-essential piece of molded plastic gear; to keeping them from unshelving books at the library; to enforcing rest times; to staying one step ahead of them lest they get too hungry, tired or bored, any of which produced check-out line screaming. It's needing 45 minutes to do what it takes others 15. It's constant vigilance, constant touch, constant use of your voice, cosntant relegation of your needs to the second tier. It's constant scrutiny and second-guessing from family and friends. It's resisting constant temptation to seek short-term relief at everyone's long-term expense. It's doing all this while currently teaching virtually everything - language, manners, safety, resourcefulness, discipline, curiosity,creativity. Empathy. Everything. It's also a choice, yes, and a joy. But if you spent all day, every day, with this brand of joy, and then when you got your first 10 minutes to yourself, wanted to be alone with your thoughts instead of calling a good friend, a good friend who wouldn't judge you, complain about you or marvel how much more productively she uses her time."

What was I saying about not revealing all your true thoughts? Well, thank goodness for this columnist who said everything I wish I could say. And more. I could get a lot of use out of this as a rote response to the ever old "What did you do today?".

One of the hardest things for me, at least, is keeping the self talk in check (Surfside anyone?). It's a neverending battle for some of us. We unceasingly compare ourselves to others, or our children to others' children, our homes to others' homes, our husbands to others' husbands, our decision to be moms to others' decisions to, well, not. Add to that this unspoken need to defend that decision. Because if we're going to complain about how hard it is, or be exhausted all the time, then why did we choose to become mothers in the first place?

You can believe in what you're doing, know that you were meant to be a mother in this instance, and still not be to thrilled to face some days. I think that's completely normal no matter what you're doing with your adult life. But oh the mom guilt! The negative thoughts... "You shoudn't feel that way. Motherhood is a beautiful thing, a calling." Phooey. I remember a friend once telling me she needed to take a "mental health day". How clever I thought. And she was dead serious. She did it. I could definitely benefit from one of those every now and then. All I'd need is a quiet house, all to myself, to just sit and think, or not. No biggie.

My children take piano lessons from an older gentleman in our ward. He and his wife have children which are mostly grown and on their own now. So in other words, their house is quiet. Sometimes I sit at the bottom of their stairs and listen to the tail end of my kids' lessons. They have a set of windchimes on their porch that produces such lovely tunes, and has such a calming effect on me. The first time I noticed the sound, I huffed inside of my head "I know I'd never hear those lovely chimes were they hanging on my porch. My kids are too freaking crazy and loud." This thought soured my mood and for the next few days I found myself looking forward to a future when I could enjoy such tranquility.

That day could be now. And I do WANT to live in the now. I don't really want to escape, but for just a few daily moments perhaps. I need to make the time. I need to feel okay with needing that time. I need to speak up every once in a while and say "I need a mental health break!" "I need some time with my windchimes!" Lol. But most of all, it's needs to be heard and respected.

I think most moms feel this way - but we all think we're the only one that feels this way. If we felt important enough to express our needs or our frustration without fear of being misunderstood or judged maybe we'd realize it's normal. We're not alone.

09 March 2009

There's me, and then there's ME

The further I get into motherhood the more I learn about myself. (Don't we all?) Some good, some bad. Lately I've been thinking a lot about how there's this "ideal me", and then there is the "real me". The ideal me is organized... her pantry is pretty, her closet is color coordinated, her refrigerator never has expired products in it, and she uses a label maker.

The real me is carefree and creative. One thing can be done many different ways and coming up with new ways to accomplish things is her specialty. She's tried just about everything, and puts 100% in all that she does. She's spontaneous and so "structure" doesn't come naturally.

I have fought the real me for a very long time. Well, I go in spurts. I relish in the summer months where we can wake up in tandem and there is no homework, virtually no "schedule" (not enough to need a dreadful day planner), and we can satisfy whatever our itch. Love that. And yet when school begins I go out with a big bang. There is a set time for everything and everything is in it's place and all that good stuff. And I feel like I'm on FIRE!

Not surprisingly, these 2 women clash, always fighting for first place. I want to keep things under control, but oh there's a fun race coming up and new boutique in town that might like my Whimsy Wipes and photography techniques to brush up on and auditions for a musical and so-and-so could use a fun baby shower... I am learning to appreciate and utilize us both.

When it comes to my high strung children (and other family members... wink, wink), the real me is the perfect fit. I slow things down and work my calm and am a nurturing giant. When it comes to managing all my creative endeavors the ideal me is the perfect fit. I can multi-task and double dip and I'm like the energizer bunny. (Let me tell you, I am so happy that the ideal me even makes her appearance these days. ;) And I know just how to take advantage of her when she's around, although that lands both of us in a heap of exhaustion.)

What it boils down to is that it's a good thing to have strengths and imperfections. Because you need both... what may be perceived as a weakness may come in handy at just the right time and what may be perceived as a strength, perhaps even at one point in your life an unattainable one, could become one of your most admirable qualities.

Motherhood has its way of shaping you, molding you, and sometimes the process feels more like erosion... but here's to the balance it produces, to embracing your real and your ideal self! And to being whole.

05 March 2009

Maybe it's because they know how bad it is for them?

Dear Abby,

Macaroni and cheese, also known as yellow death, is the fastest, easiest, cheapest food for tired moms to prepare. I admit to serving it once in a while, trying to pass it off as a "real meal" by adding fruit or green beans. That ain't so bad, right? I mean, it's not one of our food groups by any means. Lately, however, my youngest 2 have begun dumping half of theirs on the floor! What kid does that?

Is it time to broaden my horizons? Maybe try hot dogs?

Sincerely,
Desperate for easy meal night in Texas

01 March 2009

Just Can't Get Enough

... of this little girl.
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She has me wrapped around her little finger.
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Can you see why?
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And THIS one.
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Never a dull moment.

Time, please slow down.