May 15, 2011

First, thank you, Sun. It is nice to see you today, even if it’s still pretty cold out.

Second, thank you, Husband, for getting up with our son this morning and allowing me to sleep in for almost three additional hours. Wowza, did I ever need that!

I am in spring cleaning mode. I’ve been tackling some stuff that I’ve been putting off, such as our “guest bedroom” which has been the catch-all for all of the junk that we haven’t felt like dealing with all winter. It now has a floor again.

I also put the dresser back in my son’s closet, and am going through all of his clothes (AGAIN). However, it is different this time. His growth is (finally) starting to slow down, meaning he isn’t outgrowing things like crazy. I am also more heavily considering what I hold onto and put into his closet… meaning, stuff that isn’t our style and won’t get worn shouldn’t be in there.

I am also working on going through all of his outgrown clothes, which are in overflowing bins in our closet. You see, I get very sad when I pack things away; I am having a hard time letting go of Baby Grant and the fact that he is growing up. So when I have packed away his infant clothes (especially the first few times) I was very emotional and viewed his clothes emotionally. I kept pretty much everything, simply because he had worn it once. Now I am going back through the bins a bit more objectively, and only holding onto the things that I believe will truly get worn with our next child, or really does have a real emotional attachment (sorry, but that first pair of dinosaur pajamas are staying forever!).

It feels good, though. It’s part of a process, I suppose. Letting go and preparing for these next stages, which are exciting (but also bittersweet).

My husband has been wonderful this weekend, and has spent a lot of time with our son while I’ve been decluttering and reorganizing. It’s nice to have him put him down for naps and change diapers and play with him. I love watching their relationship grow, especially now that Grant is getting older and more “interactive.”

I feel like I still have SO MUCH that I want to get done (and I do!) but I’m trying to realize that it needs to be done one step at a time. Our dining room is still a work in progress, but I don’t want to ignore the rest of our house while the spring cleaning bug has bitten me.


Dining Room Reno

May 5, 2011

Oh man, this beautiful, sunny spring weather just makes me want to DO STUFF.

Like clean the house from top to bottom. Except, when I plan on doing that, I am quickly reminded that it’s very difficult to do with a nine month old.

I’ve been itching to do something to our dining room. It’s been the same way since we moved in (September 2009) and the custom window treatments, while neutral enough to stick around through our quick leaps from home-ownership to wedding to pregnancy to baby, look like something that stepped off the set of The Golden Girls.

Our dining room was also very dark, which made the rest of the first floor feel pretty dark, too. The window treatments had become non-operational, so even though there are three widows in there, we had zero natural light.

I wanted to do a little face lift, nothing expensive but something to spruce the place up and make it feel more like our own. I went shopping last night, and only spent about $150 on supplies and window treatments.

Day 1 of my dining room mini-renovation has begun! Those icky old window treatments are officially in the trash! My son is ready for his nap so there’s a pause in the action, but Kizzy (our younger beagle) is enjoying the fact that there are now several sun spots on the dining room floor to snooze on.

Update: I’ve been productive while the kiddo took his morning nap. The woodwork around the windows and the window sills have been cleaned and polished. Everything is off the walls now, too. It looks so bright and airy without anything on the windows! If I wasn’t such a paranoid freak I’d leave them without anything on them, haha. But at least now we’ll be able to open up the new blinds… once they’re installed, that is. Also, it feels great to have some windows open and fresh air coming in. Oh, and Kizzy is still laying on the floor in her sun spot. 🙂

Update #2: All the window treatments are up! And I started stenciling a wall, but only did a little bit because I wanted to make sure it was worth the effort before I did too much. It currently looks like a bomb went off in here, but it’s time to relax for the night.


March 14, 2011

I’ve been feeling creative again. Finally.

I want to write. I want to make things. I want to use my hands. I want to build. I want to create stories and things out of yarn and bake and reorganize and make old things new again.

And it feels so, so good.

Today I’d like to talk about cleaning. More importantly: cleaning products.

I used to be a cleaning product junkie. Maybe because I spent some time during college cleaning on-campus apartments? But I’ve tried to block that from memory. Anyhow, I used to like having a different cleaner or soap or solution for every possible household surface.

I’ve become more conscious of my decisions and how they affect the earth and my budget. Not only that, but how they might affect my family.

Having a child made me so much more aware of all of the chemicals in just about EVERYTHING. Cloth diapering has changed how I do laundry; I no longer like to use things with dyes, artificial fragrances, etc. and I no longer use fabric softener. At first I only made that change to my son’s clothing (and his diapers) but then I thought, ‘Why should I have that stuff on my skin?’ and ‘That stuff is coating my clothes, and my son spends a lot of time in my arms.’

A few years ago, I began using greener and more natural cleaning products in our home, such as Method. I began to cut back on the harsh chemicals I was using. My “harsh” disinfectants of choice include Method and 7th Generation sprays. I use Method mop solution (hardwood floor formula) and have a few of their other products. I like their hand soaps.

The latest thing I am trying is utilizing vinegar as a household cleaner. I already buy distilled white vinegar by the gallon. It has so many uses. I use it for laundry. I use it as an ear wash for one of my dogs (per my veterinarian’s suggestion). I use it to clean out coffee maker. And now, mixed 50/50 with water, I will be using it as an all-purpose spray.

Yesterday, I rinsed out two of my empty Method bottles and added my own special touch with some scrapbook paper (and packaging tape… admittedly, it looked better before the tape was added, but sometimes you have to be practical and I don’t want to wreck the label the first time I reach for the bottle with damp hands). Voila! All-purpose, inexpensive, earth-friendly household cleaner.

I have the following goals to work on in regard to our household cleaning habits:
1) Limit our paper towel use. Use rags for cleaning, cloth napkins more frequently, and hand towels more often (my husband gets a special nudge on this one).
2) Phase out our antibacterial hand soaps, and go back to using our Method soap full-time. Leave bottles of hand sanitizer in the kitchen and bathroom for when hand sanitizing is actually necessary (i.e., far less often than at every hand washing).
3) Switch over to a different type of dishwasher detergent. Something less chemically and more earth/family friendly.

How about you? Do you prefer to scour with bleach and harsh chemicals, or do you like to take the more natural route? Got any favorite homemade cleaners? Did having children change the way you clean your house? (Er, well, beside needing to clean more often yet magically having a dirtier house.)

Check out this blog entry for a great post about managing your time, delegating, and trying to do it all. (Thanks to styleberry BLOG for the tip on facebook!)

This definitely speaks to me. I’m a new mom who is trying to “do it all,” and that usually doesn’t work. Not only that, but overly high expectations mean that I frequently feel disappointed. Having goals that are too large make them feel like a big obstacle to overcome (saying I’m going to get all of our laundry done today, rather than saying “I will do two loads of laundry today” — or saying I’m going to get the entire first floor spotless and organized and write five articles, rather than saying, “This morning I will load and run the dishwasher, vacuum the floors, spend 15 minutes organizing, and research one article”). When you expect too much, it can be hard to even START those tasks. Smaller goals are more manageable (and hey, if you do more, all the better). I’m more motivated when I don’t feel defeat lingering over my head.

I’m a perfectionist, and like things done my way. I’m also stubborn. Those two traits make it difficult for me to ask for help, or delegate tasks. I’m trying to work on that, though.

Anyhow, the blog post I linked to has some very good tips on all of this. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed, especially with the holidays around the corner, so I’m taking it to heart.

G just took a nice long nap (something we’ve been struggling with) so I’m feeling like I got something big accomplished today. While he napped, I put away a load of his clothes, washed another load, put that load in the dryer, and now his diapers are going in the washer. J is working from home, so he made lunch and we were able to eat together. How’s that for delegating and multitasking? 😉

Now it’s time to change the little guy, and then I’m going to let him play in his activity center thingy while I organize two of our bookshelves. This living room “renovation” is still going on and it’s driving me nuts. I want our living and dining rooms back! Baby steps.

We have to make a Target run this evening, so I’m going to take the “me time” advice and grab a bottle of wine for myself, too.

My Own Cooking Show

December 14, 2010

When I was in junior high and high school, I imagined myself hosting a cooking show on tv.

Not in the way I dreamed about being a veterinarian or professional horseperson. But just for fun.

I would make recipes out of my mother’s tattered Betty Crocker Cookbook, and I would narrate as I cooked. I did this while I was home alone, of course; I’m sure my sister would have thought I was nuts.

These days, however, I really do have an audience when I cook. My (almost) five month old son. I get to narrate to the little guy, who is fascinated by everything I do in the kitchen.

I hope he thinks of me the way I thought of my mother (and still think of her). Everything she made was good. Her No Bake Cookies are the only ones I like. She makes the best pumpkin pie. I loved making Christmas cookies with her, eating the frosting and giggling as we decorated with sprinkles and made a mess. We also made memories. And yummy food.

Now, I am the mother. Will G love my cooking? Will he think I make the best banana bread in the world? Will he want to bake Christmas cookies with me? Will he one day, far into the future, argue with his spouse that no one makes better No Bake Cookies than I do?

I’m finding a new love for baking (though I stick to simpler, more basic, harder to screw up recipes). I set G up in the kitchen so he can watch, and I tell him everything I’m doing. “Now I have to mash the bananas up like this.” “The recipe calls for butter but we’re going to use yogurt instead, okay?” And he grins up at me like it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.

So yes, now I have my own cooking show. Most of the time it gets good ratings with its audience, though he thought cooking pasta last night was boring. This week we made banana bread (using this recipe but substituting vanilla yogurt for the butter, and I used brown sugar) and we made a “fruit pile“:



November 10, 2010

To all of you stay at home moms, past and present… what sacrifices have you made in order to stay home?

Personal, financial, mental, whatever. I’d love to hear from you! How do you make it work? What corners do you cut? What have you lost? What do you miss?

There is a lot in my brain, scrambled, as I try to put it all into words that make sense for this blog post. I hope it comes out okay.

My whole life I was told I was going to be successful. And I believed it.

“You’re so smart.” “You’re going to be something great.” “You’re going places.” I was a good student. Papers and exams and classes were, for the most part, easy for me. I was career-minded. I wanted to go to college and do something BIG with my life, even though my ideas changed about what I wanted to be “when I grew up.” From veterinarian to teacher to writer.

I graduated college with a degree in English after changing my major for the umpteen millionth time. And then I began the job hunt. I took a temporary secretarial position for the summer. When that ended, I lucked out and found a job that I loved as a teacher assistant, and helped struggling readers in an elementary school. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get by on 8 hours a week. So I had to jump when I was offered a receptionist position (full-time with bennies)  that left me feeling like I was at the bottom of the totem pole every day.

I knew I wanted more with my life. I had worked so hard to put myself through college, and I felt like I deserved better. I wanted to use my brain, use my degree, and not just spend my days fetching coffee for people and filing papers while my to-do list got longer (not shorter) every day.

I quit my job. I began freelancing from home. And, less than a month later, I found out I was pregnant.

Fast-forward to the present. I am a full-time stay at home mom (SAHM). It’s a job I never imagined myself with. And yet, I love it. I am a good mother and my son is happy and healthy. He’s my life and I couldn’t be more proud.

And yet, it’s a struggle. I see my career-minded friends doing great things. In many ways, I envy them. I definitely admire them. Sometimes I feel like I put myself into great debt to get an education that I don’t use. I feel like I should be doing more than “just” being a SAHM.

Except… no. While this job already feels like the least appreciated job out there (even moreso than that receptionist position), it’s also incredible. I got to see my son roll over for the first time. I got to see his first real smile. He looks at me differently than he looks at anyone else in the entire world. And I know that HE appreciates what I do.

So this is my career. I am still fine-tuning it. I’m still trying to find a good balance. I do need to write, still. That’s my biggest struggle right now. I give so much to my son, as I should, but it leaves me very little downtime. My husband is incredibly busy so I get very few breaks. When I get a break, do I feel like writing articles? Not really. I feel like having a glass of wine and reading blogs and taking a shower.

I struggle with perfection. I want to be the mom that can do it all. Happy, smiling child. Clean house. A career (even if it’s part-time, from home). Happy husband. I want to appear more pulled-together than I feel most days. And I want to do it all without bags under my eyes. Ha, right.

Yesterday I got my hair cut and colored. It made me feel a million times less frumpy than I have been feeling lately. I woke up today and put on some jeans, rather than my sweats, and ran a brush through my hair. And then I picked up the house, and did two loads of laundry, and tended to a fussy baby (please don’t let him be getting sick!). I tried not to worry about how I’m paying my bills this month, since I haven’t been writing. I ignored the fact that I smell like spit-up and that I ate Count Chocula for breakfast and that these rugs could use a vacuuming and that my husband has been stressed and crabby lately.

So here I am. Trying to do it all. Trying to be at peace with not being “successful.” Because you know something? I am successful. Perhaps not in the traditional, textbook definition of the word. But hey, it could use some redefining. Success has taken on a new meaning for me. This beautiful, happy, healthy, smiley baby makes me a success.

Yes, some days I think about that lost career. But then–THEN–I look at this:

And it all makes sense. I have no regrets. I will just work harder at my career. I will get better. I will find ways to do it all and find ways to drop the perfectionism and find ways to get all my work done… my childcare, my housework, my writing.

Before I know it, my son will be in school. Some day I will no longer be needed as a SAHM. I can re-enter the “real” workforce. I know then that I will look back at these days and be very happy with this choice. Be so glad that I was lucky enough to stay home with him and make memories every day with him. Because it’s such a short time in my life, in his life, and in the grand scheme of things.

Until then, I will try my best to find a balance. To redefine my career and the meaning of success. To look past my flaws and focus on what I’m doing right.

It’s nice to hear

October 4, 2010

Dear Husbands (or partners, significant others, spouses, etc.),

Sometimes, it’s really nice to hear that we are appreciated, that we are doing a good job with our babies, that you are thankful for clean laundry or shiny floors, and that you love us.

The Up North Writer Mama