1/26/2017

minimalism and motherhood: a fight I'm always going to lose

I've read the books: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, The Nesting Place.

I read the minimalist blogs, read about the capsule wardrobe projects, 10 pieces of clothing for 10 days, more and more and more. People seem to write a lot about minimalism (myself currently included, I guess, ha).


I pin the pins of white pristine bathrooms, of stark white living room walls adorned with nothing more than two black Ikea frames holding abstract art, with a charming fiddle leaf fig plant (or whatever they're called) sitting serenely in the corner.

I read it because it's all so clean. So beautiful. So dreamy. So simple.

And unattainable. For me. Right now.

My motherhood is incompatible with minimalism.


I cannot be a wardrobe minimalist. I have maternity clothes for a VAST array of seasons, climates and belly bigness, then post-partum clothes for the same. I've got the nursing clothes and the non-nursing clothes. And since I'm soooooo open to life (hi NFP!), I've got to keep 'em all. Till I die. (I kid! Kind of!!)

I cannot be paper-clutter minimalist. My 6-year-old produces no less than 8 pages' worth of illustrated maps to imaginary countries, engine diagrams and Autobot renderings, DAILY. And he expects every page of his creation to be available for about... oh, eight weeks, give or take.

I cannot be a toy minimalist. My 4-year-old competes with his older brother's imagination by creating an army of Lego structures each day, and asks me to "keep them safe" on the kitchen counter.


I cannot be a mess minimalist. Gussie's favorite pastime currently is taking anything that's in a basket out of a basket. And then walking away.

I cannot be a baby-gear minimalist. This baby's new phase is "supported sitting"--code word for "not actually sitting but REFUSING to merely lay down anymore"--which means the Bumbo chair, high chair and exersaucer are always in use. And always in the way.

Maybe taken on their own, I could integrate each kid's mess into a minimalistic-looking house. But taken all together, they're train cars on a stopped track, each crashing into the one ahead of them, and I'm the brakemaster who can't hold the lever back against the impact.

But. I am a stay at home mom. I didn't pick this profession so I could have unmarred Benjamin Moore Gray Owl walls and perpetually clean faux-fur white rugs, heh heh.


There's a simple reason why minimalism is popular: white space. To the eye, a design with ample space devoid of content lets the eye focus on one beautiful subject. It's why fashion bloggers pose against white brick walls. It's why they take photos on white sheets. It's the entire reason why a "flat lay" became the MO of so many IG accounts. All these design strategies hinge on white space.

But my children? 

Happy little anti-white space flurries.

They take a freshly wiped table and cheerfully smudge it with fingerprints and ketchup.

They take a freshly vacuumed floor and delight in dumping out the Legos on it.

They dodge into a clean, tidy bathroom and emerge only after leaving the towel on the counter and the soap dispenser sitting in a little pool of suds.

And it's all good. My kids live in a house, not a photography studio.

I want them to come home from school and know they can find their stuff, more or less where they left it.

I want them to know that their mother likes the house to be be clean and tidy, but that she also likes them to be themselves--to the maximum. And that's just as good as the prettiest minimalism, any day.

1/19/2017

3 ways I look at my phone less (and my kids more)

The sweetest friend emailed me and asked how to be more present to her two little kids during the day. She feels terrible seeking the social media distractions that plague us all and wanted some practical tips for severing the iphone-in-hand addiction.


For me, the unholy trinity of facebook, instagram and bloglovin frequently distract me from my kids, sucking me down the online hole. And climbing out of that hole isn't as simple as just putting down my phone. I have to pick something up. 

Depending on the time of day, I try and do one of these alternatives:

1. With the baby

I pick him up, put him in a sling and start two-hands-required household work. It's hard to read blog posts while folding laundry. Or doing dishes. Or drying tangled hair.


Saving my household work for when the baby is up means that I can zone out, guilt-free, during naptime or before everyone's up in the morning. Once the boots are on the ground, though, it's all hands on deck, quite literally.

2. With the toddler

I turn on music on my phone--and set it down.

Amazon Prime has a bunch of Sesame Street albums and playlists that we listen to all through the day. Or I'll turn on a YouTube playlist of Raffi songs. Preferably the Bananaphone playlist. Because it's a phone with a-peel. AHAHAHAHHHAHHHAA.


Every time I get the impulse to pick up my phone, the music reminds me that it's off limits.

3. With the preschoolers

Once the babies are down for naps and I have one-on-one time with my 4-year-old boy, I pick up a deck of cards. Seriously, one deck of Star Wars playing cards that I found for .69 cents at at Goodwill has revolutionized our afternoons here. I taught both boys to play 7-Up. Sean wants to teach them poker next. Pretty soon they'll be running the baccarat table on the school black top at recess. Guard your lunch money, kids.


Amby's also great at playing Memory with me. He tries to help me win. Even so, he usually beats me. :)

Do you have other strategies for engaging with your kids instead of mindlessly staring at your phone? Love to hear 'em.

1/16/2017

my #1 tip for surviving solo parenting when my husband travels


Is it just the plight of the modern mom that she often finds herself alone at home with the kids as her husband travels for work? I feel like more and more of my friends and friends online say that they're in the survival mode that comes with no one walking in the door at 5pm, ready with a full tank of Parenting Fuel to get everyone through til bedtime.

I've survived some pretty long stints of solo parenting (longest was 3 months with 3 kids) and lots and lots of business-week-length trips. I've done it well sometimes, and I've done it poorly lots of times. None of it's easy, though it's better when I have the right attitude.

But though the right attitude counts for a lot, it's not everything.

My top tip for surviving solo parenting is this: KEEP MOVING.


Keep cleaning.

Keep washing the dishes in the sink.

Keep doing a few push-ups each day.

Keep doing the laundry--but do it during the day light, for Pete's sake! Don't do it at night when there are at least 12 axe murderers hiding in your garage.

Keep the playroom tidy. Don't let the kids go to bed until they've picked up.

My mood and my mind feel INFINITELY better when I'm not staring at a mess in every room.

So many times I've cried to Sean on the phone while he's away, sobbing that "it's a mess! Everything is a damn mess! and I can't clean it all up!" I hate that feeling of losing control of my house.

Even if it means letting the baby fuss for 10 minutes while I wash the sippy cups and throw everything else in the dishwasher... even if it means the kids watch an extra Rescue Bots while I bring in the clothes from the dryer and put them away... I do it. Because I've learned that I need it.


Now, all of that is null and void should someone get sick. Last year we weathered two bouts of stomach flu in 30 days--and BOTH happened while Sean was away. And BOTH times, I caught it. And both times, I did zero cleaning for five days, save for the obvious cleaning up of that involves Lysol wipes, paper towels and carpet cleaner. #gross #neveragain #saveyourpeopleohLord

But if I'm not in the midst of sickness, then I make myself move.

Secondary tip for surviving? A bag of Mini Reese's cups in the freezer. Mama needs a reward for all that scrubbin'.

If you've got a way to survive when your dude's away, I'd love to hear it!

1/12/2017

7qt / what I'm loving right now from walmart

I know. Everyone's so glad I began blogging again so I could write these kinds of inspiring posts. : /

I took a leap in December and rounded up every fashion blog to which I was subscribed--all of which engaged in significant wailing and written tantruming after the presidential election--and clicked "unfollow." Quite liberating.

In the wake of that decision, I no longer read about ladies who spend $180 on jeans, $200 on purses and $300 on shoes without batting a mascara-ed eye. Bully for them, but that kind of spending isn't me now, nor do I think it ever will be. It's not a judgement on their spending. It's a reflection of the reality of mine.

What is my reality? Walmart. I love the Savings Catcher feature on their app and have gotten $20-something back to date. I shop there for groceries, household goods and occasionally... clothes. Gasp. Here's what I'm loving right now from the big blue box store:

1 / french terry dress


I bought this one (for $14.88) and have worn it a million times already. Love the length and neckline. Thinking about getting the blue.

2 / colored chambray popover shirt


Current momiform: button down shirt, sweater, jeans. Daily. I want this one in peach stripe.

3 / woven cami


Love this $5 cami. The cut is, shall we say, forgiving, especially for when I was 8 weeks post-partum. This black cami + lightweight cardigan + long necklace was my casual rehearsal dinner outfit for a wedding last October.

4 / pioneer woman vintage bloom kitchen towels 2-pack



Drool. I'll take one of everything she made for this line. All so cute.

5 / pioneer woman country garden rug

As I was saying. One of everything.

6 / Novogratz vintage tufted sofa sleeper

We're in the market for a loveseat. We're also in the market for a new roof, hence the idea of saving our $$$ and buying an inexpensive sleeper sofa sight unseen (say THAT five times fast). But the reviews are great, and that blue color is wooing me! Abbie at M is for Mama is eyeing the pink one.

7 / boys color block rainboot


Amby is my boot lover and woe to the mommy who fails to have his boots ready on a rainy day. I bought him these for $12 but now I see they're down to $9.98!

Happy shopping!

Linking up with Miss Kelly, the hostess.